Highlands County encompasses 1,029 square miles of Florida’s heartland. It’s prime location provides east/west and north/south market accessibility with close proximity to all major tourist attractions. Over 82% of the state’s population is within a 150 mile radius – that’s over 12 million potential customers. “Highlands” appropriately describes the higher elevation of this area, located on the rolling hills of Central Florida’s ridge area and lake country.
Highlands County has three incorporated cities. Sebring is the county seat and has a population of 10,546. Avon Park is the northern-most city with a population of 8,925, and is one of the heaviest citrus-producing areas in the state. Lake Placid is the Caladium Capital of the World, and has a population of 2,496. The population of the unincorporated area totals 61,099. The county is experiencing strong growth, and total population is expected to reach 100,000 by the year 2014.
Over 35,000 working-age people live within 20 miles (an easy 30 minute commute) of the Sebring Airport & Commerce Park. In March of 1997 the county unemployment rate was 8.2%, providing an immediately available work force of over 2,400 persons. The strongest existing industrial sectors are boat building, containers and packaging materials, fruit juice processing, printing and publishing, and fertilizers. A study conducted by the PHH Fantus consulting firm identified Highlands County as an excellent location for the following additional industries: plastics products, surgical and medical instruments and supplies, textile products, mobile homes, and sheet metal work. It would also make an ideal location for distribution of groceries and farm products, or drugs, medical supplies and toilet preparations.
Cost of Living
What is great about living and working in Highlands County—no income taxes, you get a $25,000.00 homeowners property tax exemption, and may qualify for others. Highlands County cost of living is 93.62 (DOE). The average property tax rate for Highlands County is $18.7908 per $1,000 of value.
The median property tax in Highlands County, Florida is $938 per year for a home worth the median value of $122,000. Highlands County collects, on average, 0.77% of a property’s estimated fair market value as property tax.
Florida is ranked 1,586th of the 3,143 counties in the United States, in order of the median amount of property taxes collected.
The average yearly property tax paid by Highlands County residents amounts to about 2.44% of their yearly income. Highlands County is ranked 1,018th of the 3,143 counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.
With a student enrollment of 11,000, the district remains personalized, with faculty and students sharing a sense of family, while it is large enough to offer advanced classes at the secondary level of education. Grades K through 12 are fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Pupil to teacher ratio is 18:1. An aggressive building campaign is in place to assure the continuance of this low ratio. Five of the county’s fifteen schools have been constructed in the past five years. Highlands County students score at or above national average on the California Achievement Test. The district boasts several National Merit Scholars and the district-wide Academic Team have won the state championship twice in the past six years.
South Florida State College (SFSC) takes its responsibility to serve the community seriously and responds quickly to the community’s changing needs. Since its inception in 1965, SFSC has evolved from a small to mid-sized college that serves over 12,000 residents of its service district–Highlands, Hardee, and DeSoto counties. In 2010, SFSC had approximately 2,900 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. SFSC has matured into an institution of higher learning, offering associate degrees, associate in science degrees, associate in applied science degrees, college and technical certificates, workforce training, adult education, community education, and selected bachelor’s degree programs.
Job Training Programs
With funding from the Federal Government under the Jobs and Education Partnership, the Heartland Workforce Investment Board provides education, training and job placement without cost to the employer or employee. Through a cooperative team effort, Heartland and Job & Benefits of Florida work with the Vo-Tech Center at South Florida State College, the Highlands County School District and other vocational training agencies to quickly meet the labor requirements of business and industry. Flexible customized vocational technical services capable of meeting a diverse array of business needs are designed to meet the specific requirements of industry through training and skills development.
Highlands County offers the highest quality lifestyle with all the advantages of the smaller community where it’s great to live and smart to do business. Centrally located in close proximity to metropolitan areas with all major Florida attractions within easy commuting distances, we’re “Florida as it should be.” The pace of life is more relaxed, with a sense of community unique to the small town atmosphere. Highlands County is rural tranquillity spiced with sophistication. The warm fresh air extends an invitation to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities. Area lakes, Arbuckle Creek and the Kissimmee River provide a year-round fisherman’s paradise. Public boat ramps, parks and beaches invite family outings for water skiing, sailing, swimming or just sunning on a white sandy beach. Tennis players can choose from a number of courts, and the avid golfer can tee off at one of 15 courses – from the par 3 to the 18 hole championship course.
Rich in natural resources, Highlands County is home to Highlands Hammock State Park, a 3,800 acre wildlife preserve. A 150,000 acre wildlife management area at the Avon Park Range is a haven for campers and sportsmen with hunting allowed during special seasons. The Archbold Biological Station is dedicated to long term ecological and conservation research. It is well known to scientists around the world.
Cultural opportunities enhance the quality of life. The Cultural Center Complex on the shores of Lake Jackson is the location for the Sebring Library, Altvater Civic Center, Highlands Museum of the Arts and Lakeshore Playhouse. Packed audiences applaud Broadway musicals, melodramas, and Dinner Theater productions by Highlands Little Theater at the Lakeshore Playhouse. The South Florida State College Cultural Series presents programs ranging from individual artist to ballets, opera and Broadway plays. Historical attractions include the Avon Park Museum, the Lake Placid Historical Museum, Museum of Florida’s Art and Culture, Children’s Museum of Highlands and the Sebring Historical Society’s Lakeside Archives at the Cultural Center Complex.
Festivals and special events make up a lively Calendar of Activities. Sebring is home to the most famous activity, the “12 Hour Grand Prix of Endurance“, America’s oldest road racing event, now over 50 years old. This prestigious race, second only to the Indianapolis 500 in international significance, attracts the world’s top drivers. The Highlands Art League sponsors the Annual Arts Festival on the circle in historic downtown Sebring. One of the top ten in the state, this event attracts artists and crafts people from all over the world. Community pride is expressed with enthusiasm as special community events such as Fourth of July celebrations, Christmas Parades, and sailboat regattas. Over 200 organized groups provide opportunities for participation and community involvement.
Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo: Annual Sport Aircraft Event Held in January
Plan to attend the 10th anniversary of this successful annual event. 2016 dates are January 20 – 23. The first major event of the year, the Sebring Expo is the epitome of its slogan: The place to see, try, fly, and buy… all that is sport aviation.
History has annually recorded upwards of 160 exhibitors and 17,500 attendees. Being the first major exposition of the year, Sebring has never failed to unveil a few surprises, ranging from new product on-site debuts to national announcements of long ranging industry plans and goals. The Sebring Expo was the first and is still the largest show of Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers, Sport Pilot certification education, and other LSA related gear and topics. Sebring enjoys a reputation for producing and supporting a top-quality aviation event.
SEBRING CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
HIGHLANDS COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU
AVON PARK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
LAKE PLACID CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
HIGHLANDS COUNTY WEBSITE
U.S. SPORT AVIATION EXPO
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