BARTOW – On Jan. 23, Bartow Economic Development Council Director Rob Clancey announced that Coca-Cola North America is investing $98 million in a partnership with Peace River Citrus Products to expand the citrus processing facility on U.S.17.

The 320,000-square-foot facility expansion is expected to create up to 175 jobs and to be completed in early 2022.

The expansion was referred to as “Project Eagle” in City of Bartow and Polk County Board of County Commissioners documents over the past few months, as tax incentive negotiations were ongoing and largely confidential. Once the deal was finalized, it was made public Thursday morning.

For their part, Bartow commissioners approved the rezoning of a 37-acre parcel of property adjacent to the existing plant, making the expansion possible.

“The eagle has landed,” Clancey said. “Peace River (Citrus Products) will manufacture select juice beverages – including Minute Maid products for food service customers.”

Staff for Peace River Citrus Products expressed enthusiasm about the development.

“Our Bartow facility expansion greatly enhances our relationship with Coca-Cola North America, a company we have partnered with for decades,” said Andrew Taylor, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Peace River Citrus Products.

Peace River Citrus Products Vice President of Operations Bart Plymale recently told the Bartow City Commission that the expansion would include additional storage, processing and refrigeration space at the existing plant.

The average annual salary of the 175 new employees would be $40,000, Plymale said, with some coming on board within the next 16 months.

Plymale said construction should begin shortly.

Bartow city commissioners voiced concerns about potential odor issues emanating from an industrial operation that sits near residential areas. City Planner Bob Wiegers said that problem is not anticipated with this expansion.

Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer asked City Manager George Long if the city provided electrical service to the plant and learned it fell outside the city's service area. Long said he would research if the city could start selling power to the plant as opposed to Duke Energy and report back to the commission in February.

Catherine Palmer contributed to this story.