(Carl Cronan is editor of RealEstateFlorida.)

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LAKELAND, FL-Leasing momentum in the industrial sector of thiscentrally located city is continuing well into this year afterleading all other Florida markets in net absorption through 2007. Abroad range of new distribution projects involving widelyrecognized names were announced during the Lakeland EconomicDevelopment Council's annual breakfast Thursday morning.

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"We are bucking the trend of what's happening in Florida," LEDCexecutive director Steve Scruggs told an audience of more than 300gathered at Interstate Commerce Park along Interstate 4. He citedfigures from Cushman & Wakefield of Florida indicating that theLakeland industrial market posted 1.4 million sf of net absorptionthroughout last year, while the state as a whole totaled 406,000sf.

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Among the year's largest industrial deals is a 700,000-sfaddition to the Rooms To Go furniture distribution center onAirport Road. RTG is reportedly under contract to buy 44 acres nextto its current 1.7-million-sf warehouse.

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Another huge expansion is represented by the facility where LEDChosted this year's meeting. Pepsi Bottling Group is leasing 109,200sf at Interstate Commerce Park, using the space as a regionalrefurbishing center for the soft drink giant's refrigerated vendingmachines and store displays.

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"This is the benchmark for PBG," Jeff Polverine, director ofmarketing equipment, told the audience inside his company'swarehouse. "We are breaking new ground with this facility."

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Joining Pepsi at the newly expanded business park is OutbackEssentials, a manufacturer of laminated panels for hot tubs thatrelocated from Canada last year and occupies 31,000 sf. The park'sowner, BecKryger Capital Partners, stopped short of announcing aforthcoming tenant that will lease 98,000 sf there, though sources tellGlobeSt.com it will be Gtech Corp., a maker of scratch-offlottery tickets.

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Other announcements during the LEDC breakfast include a33,000-sf lease near I-4 by home furnishings retailerWilliams-Sonoma Inc., which will operate a distribution center forits Florida stores. Also, Firmenich, a Swiss producer of flavor andfragrance chemicals, is launching a 12,000-sf expansion of itsexisting plant near Lakeland Linder Regional Airport to be finishednext fall.

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