Why Putnam County, Florida? A Q&A With Mark Litten

Mark Litten, VP of Economic Development, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce describes this northeast Florida community's dynamic business climate and great quality of life.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2023 Issue
Putnam County, Florida
The riverfront in Palatka, FL, the county seat, offers a desirable quality of life amidst a growing business community. (Photo: Putnam County Chamber of Commerce)


Putnam County, Florida
Mark Litten, VP of Economic Development, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce

“Located just south of Jacksonville, the county is an excellent base of operations and ideal for companies managing the transportation of goods up and down the southeastern United States.”

Business Facilities: Tell us about Putnam County, Florida.

Mark Litten: Putnam County is located in the northeastern region of Florida between St. Augustine and Gainesville. We are a rural county, with a population of approximately 75,000. Our location offers business the opportunity to quickly reach major markets, two international airports, and 20+ colleges and universities. Located just south of Jacksonville, the county is an excellent base of operations and ideal for companies managing the transportation of goods up and down the southeastern United States.

Palatka, the county seat is located on the St. Johns River, one of the few rivers in the world that flows north. The river and its tributaries flow through many of Putnam’s communities. There’s great fishing and other outdoor recreation here. Palatka is known as the “Bass Capital of the World” with major bass tournaments held at the riverfront. Putnam County offers a great quality of life.

Putnam County, Florida
Even for those who don’t fish, the “Bass Capital of the World” and the surrounding county offer residents and visitors a plethora of outdoor recreation options. (Photos: Putnam County Chamber of Commerce)
BF: What is the current business climate? What are the features that site selectors should know about Putnam County?

Litten: Over the past 10 years, activity has ramped up in Putnam County. An exodus from the north brings about 1,200 people per day to Florida, and they’re not all retirees. These are people who are bringing their businesses, or are looking for good jobs.

Over the past decade, Putnam County has seen about four major economic development announcements. In 2017, Georgia-Pacific expanded it production line at its paper and pulp mill in Palatka, and added about 80 employees. The company has operated here since 1947, and makes tissue paper and paper towel products here. They currently employ about 1,000.

We have a lot of available land here, and a nice industrial base of small and large companies. We have Putnam County Business Park, a 200-acre area with 100 acres left to occupy.

The other park is Putnam County Barge Port along the St. Johns River, and companies there include Veritas Steel and New Castle Ship Building. While currently not active, the port on the river at Barge Port is expected to open up once the state builds a new bridge with a sufficient draft height. That’s expected to be built between 2027-30, and when the port opens companies will be able to bring in new materials by barge rather than by truck.

We also have a Class A rail line operated by CSX, a Cargo airport in St. Augustine, and a spaceport in Jacksonville.

Florida Power & Light has built four solar farms in Putnam County, so that is expanding the renewable energy infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Putnam County is home to Florida’s premier Opportunity Zones. The three Zones, two in Palatka and one in Crescent City, are prime for development and investment.

We are an ideal location for the future growth of the economy over the next decade. We are able to assist companies quickly with permitting and all their other needs.

BF: What is a recent project relocation or expansion project that’s chosen Putnam County, Florida?

Litten: A brand-new announcement is from Saint-Gobain North America. Through its building products subsidiary, CertainTeed Interior Products Group, the company announced it plans to invest $235 million over the next two years to expand its CertainTeed gypsum manufacturing facility in Palatka. This investment will more than double the production capacity of an existing manufacturing plant and create over 100 new jobs.

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This project is supported with more than $7 million in cash benefits and high-impact investment tax credits, including a State of Florida Capital Investment Tax Credit, a Career Source Florida Quick Response Training Grant, a grant from Putnam County, and a Clay Cooperative Economic Development Rate.

The Palatka facility currently employs about 150 people and began operations in 2001 here.

This project represents a significant investment in our community and is great news for local small businesses, both retail and services, that are supported by Saint-Gobain/CertainTeed’s investment.

Check out all the latest news related to Florida economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection.


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