Pilot Travel Center to open in South Bay soon; City looks forward to tax infusion

Work to bring a Pilot Travel Center to South Bay began in earnest last year, around the summer, as company officials approached city hall with plans to build a $3.4 million truck stop that caters to the thousands of commercial vehicles passing through the city every year.

Before the end of the year, city hall had site plan and rezoning applications for review, and over the course of the last few weeks the company’s construction work has progressed smoothly.

“It did move quickly, this administration saw an opportunity and we wanted to get this project moving,” reported Leondrae Camel, South Bay city manager.

Now, with the company pushes aggressively towards a possible June opening, the city looks forward to an annual shot in the arm from the business, which city officials say will bring approximately $300,000 more annually in ad valorem, local and fuel taxes, and may be a solid first step in attracting more and diverse industries to the area.

For Mr. Camel, the prospect of job creation – the business will employ approximately 35 people – is positive, but the real opportunity may be in being able to tout the new business in bringing other big name companies to South Bay.

“It’s economic development overall for the city of South Bay,” said Mr. Camel. “The city of South Bay sits on a major distribution route and we have upwards of 15,000 to 17,000 vehicles traveling through the city on a weekly basis.”

In the past, leaders and residents have referred to these numbers to show the need for more amenities to capture traffic long enough to benefit the local economy.

“It is not the city’s goal to be a truck stop community, however we also recognize that we are on a truck route,” said Mr. Camel. One idea considered previously has been a new hotel in South Bay, which could capture business from travelers moving through U.S. 27. Aside from an initial hesitancy on the part of some residents who worried that the travel center would disrupt their homes nearby – the city manager assures that a berm and wall addressed these issues – the creation of dozens of new jobs is welcomed.

The travel center is located on approximately 2.5 acres of land along U.S. 27 in South Bay, almost directly across the street from Southern Bell, another truck stop.

Company officials are informing that they are conducting open interviews for the open positions. One such event was held at South Bay City Hall on Monday, and another is being planned for Thursday, May 12 at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Clewiston, 1024 West Sugarland Highway, Clewiston, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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