NeoGenomics Laboratories. Rice Insulation & Glass. Scotlynn USA Division. White Cap Supply. What do these companies have in common? Each of them is building shiny new facilities near Alico Road, including at the new Alico Trade Center.
The businesses are drawn to the Alico Road corridor because it quickly puts their goods on I-75 and en route to the rest of America’s interstate system. Alico Road also provides easy access to Southwest Florida International Airport and its passenger and cargo terminals. That also puts China and other Asian markets within reach.
The companies have something else in common: Seagate Development Group is building their facilities using its design-build process that seeks to match the buildings’ designs to the companies’ missions.
Seagate is the latest developer to market the Alico name. In March, it announced the creation of its Alico Trade Center, a 40-acre business park off Three Oaks Parkway and Oriole Road, which connects with Alico Road.
The first corporate facility to be built at Alico Trade Center will belong to Rice Insulation & Glass. Seagate Development Group, which is building the 35,000-square-foot facility, held a groundbreaking at the Trade Center in June.
Seagate bought the land in January with an eye for design-build projects, which means it provides both the design and construction services. Local business leaders and elected officials were on hand for the signature moment. Matt Price—CEO and Partner at Seagate Development Group—says Rice’s facility will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Seagate also just finished building the North American headquarters for Scotlynn USA. The 60,000-square-foot building, just off Three Oaks Parkway near Alico Road, is an 8-acre multinational transportation and logistics facility with a gym, cafeteria, walking track, indoor-outdoor recreational space and eating area, as well as private offices and collaboration centers. The building is created to keep workers happy and productive, said Ryan Carter, vice president of Scotlynn Group.
“We all have to earn a living; why not do it in an incredible facility while working alongside incredible people?” he says. “That is why we built a building with 93 large windows so that there is tons of natural light in the space; we have recreation areas with ping pong, billiards and comfortable lounging areas. We have a full-court, outdoor basketball court, as well as a large turf area for field sports.”
White Cap’s 9.71-acre, 45,000-square-foot headquarters at 16542 Oriole Road—again, just off Alico Road—broke ground in June and is scheduled to be finished in the fourth quarter of 2021.
White Cap’s unique mission to not only provide tools of every kind, but also cut and bend rebar for concrete structures, went into the building’s design, said Mikel J. Valett, district manager of White Cap’s Southwest Florida operations. The company has 200 U.S. locations.
“We are developing a separate 18,000-square-foot crane building, which will be open on all four sides,” Valett says. “We purchased the cranes, and Seagate is constructing the building. We will provide all of the machines for the crane building for cutting and bending fabricated rebar for new construction, which we sell to commercial and residential contractors.”
Seagate is also the developer, construction manager and site contractor for NeoGenomics’ new global headquarters—a 150,000-square-foot, $60 million facility for administration and an expanded laboratory. The first building will be a three-story space for corporate offices, while the second building will contain a 75,000-square-foot wet and dry lab and a molecular lab for physicians and technicians.
“The Alico corridor is a booming industrial area, in terms of easy access to the airport, I-75, other parts of Lee County and all areas in Collier County,” Price says.
Seagate is not the only company building along the Alico Road corridor, said John Talmage, director of the Lee County Economic Development Office. “There are about 40 projects under construction, which represents about 8,500 jobs,” he says. “Future growth is expected to focus on warehousing and distribution, life sciences, as well as retail and office spaces.”
Other developers along the corridor include FL Star Development, D-Squared Construction, GCM Contracting Solutions, CFS Roofing and others. “Southwest Florida International Airport has been a draw for business along the corridor,” says Robert Brown, CEO and founder of GCM Contracting.
Alico Trade Center joins a list of other commercial sites already in development along the corridor. Alico Road Business Park, minutes away from Gulf Coast Town Center and Florida Gulf Coast University, is home to Alico Commercial Group, which was in the Alico Road area before Seagate.
The 40-acre Alico Innovation, Technology, Enterprise, Commerce (ITEC) Park, under construction, will be home to Advanced Hurricane Technology, as well as another company that provides luxury vehicle storage condos. Alico ITEC will also lease flex office/warehouse space.
Carter said Scotlynn also chose the Alico Road area for its proximity to workers. “We liked the location because of its central location to our team members, who live in all areas of Lee County, as well as North Naples,” he says. “From the design of the building to the location, we made the decisions with a focus on what is best for our employees.”
GLOBAL REACH, LOCAL NEEDS
Alico Trade Center is just one of many new commercial construction projects breaking ground in what Lee County government officials and regional planners call the Alico Road Corridor. The area contains more than 8,500 acres of unimproved land—room for construction.
According to John Talmage, director of Lee County Economic Development Office, the Alico Road corridor encompasses 26.3 square miles, including the Tradeport areas of Southwest Florida International Airport.
County officials and business leaders support a 9-mile spur connecting Alico Road with State Road 82 at the intersection of Sunshine Boulevard. Not only would the new route greatly reduce congestion along Daniels Parkway and other roads, it would provide a path for commerce to reach shipping facilities and services at the RSW airport, Tradeport and Skyplex commerce centers.
The connector would also ease traffic flow to I-75, U.S. 41 and other arteries that connect to Southwest Florida International Airport and the businesses of south Fort Myers. Residents of Lehigh Acres and other communities also would have an easier commute to jobs once the connector is finished.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli, a managing partner at CRE Consultants, put it this way: “Geographically, Alico Road serves as a natural, mid-Lee County, east-west corridor. Its location with proximity to I-75 and RSW airport makes it a very attractive centralized location in which to do business and to connect with our existing and growing residential communities.”
Quick access to I-75 also gives companies entry to the nation’s interstate system as well as flights out of Southwest Florida International Airport to Seattle and Los Angeles. It’s a 13-hour flight to markets in China and other Pacific Rim nations from those West Coast airports.
NeoGeonomics Labs has already made the leap to China. “December 30 was an exciting day for NeoGenomics, as we got the keys to our new facility in Suzhou, China,” George A. Cardoza, president of the company’s pharma services, told employees in January. “Suzhou is about 60 miles from Shanghai and is the new home for NeoGenomics’ newest laboratory facility.”
Clevertech, too, has offices in China; its Asia-Pacific subsidiary has two locations: one dedicated to financial and sales functions in Shanghai, and a production site in Changshu.
After a year in which COVID-19 slowed air travel, “We can’t overstate the fact that the international airport is the most successfully recovered airport in the country,” Talmage said, pointing to the planned $80 million air traffic control tower and $250 million terminal renovation at the airport.
Companies that are expanding along the Alico Road corridor face another challenge: Finding employees to fill the jobs they are creating.
Business leaders see the answer in the area’s quality high schools and Florida Gulf Coast University. While high schools prepare local students for college, FGCU is creating next-generation degrees to educate and train future employees of the Alico corridor—as well as other parts of Lee County. The goal is to create a qualified workforce, with as many graduate and post-graduate degree holders as are needed. In fact, half the employees in the Lee County Economic Development Office hold degrees from FGCU, Talmage said.
FGCU business students polled Lee County businesses for its 2020-21 Lee County Executive Business Climate Survey. Respondents were asked about finding trained and skilled employees. Some 67% of the large firms said they had trouble finding qualified, professional employees in Lee County.
Scotlynn also leverages the university’s skills. “The other main reason we chose that area is the proximity to FGCU and where the students live,” Carter says. “We are a major employer of both full-time employees and interns from the university, so making that commute as convenient as possible was critical in our selection of the Alico Road corridor.”
A DEVELOPING STORY
For more than a generation, the lands have stood vacant aside from some herds of grazing cattle. When Jules Freeman and his family moved from Miami to Fort Myers in 1978, construction of Southwest Florida International Airport had yet to begin. Dirt roads spanned what’s now Daniels Parkway. Colonial Boulevard pretty much represented the “edge of town” for Fort Myers.
“It was in the middle of nowhere,” says Alan Freeman, one of Jules Freeman’s three sons. The three inspired the name of “Three Oaks Parkway.” Now, the “middle of nowhere” is more than just the middle of somewhere; it’s the epicenter of business and industrial growth in Southwest Florida.
“Who would have thought that area would have turned into such a hot market for industrial?” says Randy Thibaut, CEO and founder of brokerage firm LSI Companies. Three Oaks Parkway, which runs north-south, allowed the Freemans to develop a residential community in San Carlos Park, south of Alico Road. All their lands north of Alico Road, however, were a no-man’s land for decades. That’s because they were flyover territory, directly below the takeoff and landing patterns for the airport.
So for decades, the lands just sat there, zoned for agriculture for the tax breaks, with cows grazing upon them. Until the cows were moved to make way for the litany of corporate headquarters, medical offices and industrial warehouses that have been built or are under construction.
“It has to be used for industrial, because if you have rooftops, people are going to complain,” Thibaut says of the noise of incoming and outgoing airplanes. “The unique thing about this is the Freemans stayed there, and they executed on a regional plan all the way to now. The market came to them, and they did things right. They set the stage for roads and the big picture. It’s a true success story of doing the right things. He had a vision, and his sons executed it. That’s a trademark of the Freemans.”
Alan Freeman says he’s “just a guy participating in a grand plan.”
“This is a high-growth area,” he says. “As people continue to see that it’s a good business climate, it’s near a state university, it’s near the water—it’s a great area to live in.”
The 2020 U.S. Census showed the combined population of Lee and Collier counties eclipsing the 1,000,000 mark. That boost in people provided a boost in that value to Freeman’s lands. Freeman has had a hand as either an owner or a facilitator in 650 acres near I-75 and Alico Road.
“This is not your grandmother’s Southwest Florida, let’s put it that way,” Freeman says. “We’re still trying to make the dream happen.”
It definitely has been happening. In addition to the construction of corporate headquarters for various companies, other projects are in the permitting phases of development.
- A Wawa gas station and convenience store that will be a 5,943-square-foot building. There will be 16 fuel pumps on the 2.16- acre site with direct access to Alico Road and two unnamed access roads.
- An Avid hotel, part of the British-based Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), that will have 119 rooms on a 2.56-acre site. The building will be four stories and 52,231 square feet. It will have direct access to the two new roads, tentatively named Brian Song Lane and Hilsman Lane.
- Best Home Services, a 62,688-square-foot light industrial/office building on a 19.95- acre site, that will be on the northern end of Three Oaks Parkway.
“What was the middle of nowhere is no longer the middle of nowhere,” Alan Freeman says. — David Dorsey
SCOTLYNN USA DIVISION INC. is a Canadian company specializing in high-tech packaging and hauling of produce in refrigerated trucks. It transports time-sensitive vegetables from North American growers—including Belle Glade and other Florida locations—to markets throughout North America. GPS technology not only lets the company pinpoint the location of loads, but managers remotely monitor the temperature inside refrigerated holds to ensure loads aren’t spoiling. Scotlynn USA also leverages its shipping technology and route management to assist other companies with their products. “We are an asset-based, third-party logistics provider, meaning we manage freight for others through the use of our company-owned tractor trailers and the utilization of outside independent trucking companies,” says Ryan Carter, vice president of Scotlynn Group.
NEOGENOMICS LABORATORIES is certainly a cancer research center, but that’s like saying Home Depot sells hammers. It does much more. The lab creates processes and tools for cancer diagnostics, as well as developing pharmaceuticals and processes for oncologists, pathologists, pharmaceutical companies, academic centers and others with innovative diagnostic, prognostic and predictive testing. Lawrence M. Weiss, NeoGenomics chief medical officer, is credited with discovering the first molecular evidence linking the Epstein-Barr virus with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
RICE INSULATION & GLASS, in addition to insulation, specializes in all kinds of products for homeowners, home builders and commercial builders. You name it, they provide it for finish construction: shower doors and mirrors, shelving and storage, gutter installation, bathroom hardware, garage doors, fire-proofing and weather-proofing, and more.
WHITE CAP SUPPLY is a North American distributor of specialty construction and safety products, with more than $4 billion in annual revenues. It merged with Construction Supply Group last year, which greatly increased its market share. The company sells tens of thousands of construction products, from diamond saw blades to cable lifelines, tool chests, gloves, adhesives, ladders, scaffolding, cleaning supplies—you name it, they have it, relying on 4,500 suppliers and representing such brands as 3M, Bosch, DeWalt, Husqvarna and Knaack.