With a resort like Streamsong, spillover traffic of people into area towns isn’t likely to be very big, but Polk County officials believe the resort can provide an economic boost and they want to be in a position to take advantage of that.
While many guests would be content staying at the resort, the county is planning to erect signs directing guests to places like Bartow, Mulberry and Fort Meade for a start.
Then it’s up to the towns.
“It’s incumbent upon the cities and the Chambers (of Commerce) to work with the Streamsong resort and work with the guests,” said Jim DeGennaro, community development manager for Polk County.
The official opening of the 16,000-acre resort near Fort Meade was Jan. 17, but lodgers have been coming to the resort for a while. DeGennaro said the economic impact can already be felt.
“Early reports from Streamsong indicate that 80 percent of its visitors have not been to Polk County before. This is an opportunity for the cities of Bartow, Mulberry and Fort Meade to acquaint the Streamsong resort guests to the numerous amenities and charms of small-town Florida — we call real Florida — real close,” he noted.
To better acquaint the guests, the community development office is working with the county’s transportation division to put up directional signs.
At County Road 630 and Fort Green Road, a sign will direct people toward Bartow, Mulberry and Fort Meade, he said.
A sign by Fort Meade City Hall will also direct people to Bartow.
A brochure highlighting the history of the area also can help, DeGennaro said. He is working to get one put together with the Polk County History Center. Neal Duncan, the sponsorship sales manager for the Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing Department, talked about the brochure recently at a Committee of 100 meeting for the Bartow Chamber of Commerce.
Placing stacks of brochures at Streamsong could help guests learn about the immediate, DeGennaro said.
“I’m hoping the Chambers in Bartow, Mulberry and Fort Meade have brochures they can put in the resort,” DeGennaro said.
An indicator of an economic boost is increased traffic already seen at the Bartow Municipal Airport that could be due to Streamsong, said assistant director Terry White.
“Five people came in last week and they rented a car,” White recalled as an example.
He said he’s noticed air traffic has picked up, along with fuel sales and car rental numbers.
The airport is also returning to a seven-day a week schedule and 10 hours a day, he said, from the current five-day schedule.
While the resort’s opening will have an economic impact on eastern Polk County, there are no supporting numbers to show its extent.
Mark Jackson, Polk County’s director of tourism and sports marketing, said without really knowing the occupancy of the 216-bed resort, he doesn’t think any estimate at this point would be accurate.
The county and Streamsong are working together to come up with usable numbers when it is appropriate, he said.
He added, “Overall the impact could be in excess of $250 million annually.”
And, DeGennaro said adding to the impact a place like Streamsong may have, there is also Florida Polytech University, Polk State College’s Advanced Technology Center, the opening of the CSX logistics center, all coming to the east side of Polk County which can also help.
“We’ve got some home runs starting to light up the night,” he said.
And, he added, this growth to the east part of the county is not something that should be considered unusual.
Though Lakeland, which has long been the most populated city in Polk County, DeGennaro pointed out, the overall population of Polk is starting to even out on both the east and west sides of the county.
“The east side of Polk Parkway has as many people on this side as the county has on the west,” he said.