Connect with us


Coke Florida celebrates a return to St. Petersburg

Mark Parker



Coke Florida leadership with county and city officials and kids from the Suncoast Boys and Girls Club and St. Petersburg Police Athletic League at Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony. Photos by Mark Parker.

Throughout pandemic-induced construction delays, Coca-Cola Beverages Florida’s leadership insisted their latest $10.2 million facility was more than just another place to sell and distribute products.

The 22,058 square-foot-development at 9500 16th St. N. will increase connectivity from the Black- and family-owned independent bottler’s Tampa headquarters. It will also create local jobs and spur economic activity.

However, Ron Brock, general manager for Coke Florida’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota territory, told attendees at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony that a presence in the local community is equally important.

“This facility is just as much yours,” said Brock. “We open our doors.”

The crowd – which included dozens of workers and their families- and atmosphere at the event embodied that spirit. In addition to several city and county officials, the Suncoast Boys and Girls Club, St. Petersburg Police Athletic League (PAL) and the Pinellas County Urban League participated in the ceremony.

Brock said all were welcome to utilize the expansive sales and distribution center. He noted there was space for meetings and job fairs, or they could bring people to visit and tour the facility.

“This is what this is for,” he added. “When you are truly a partner in the community – it’s all of us working together.”

Travis Warren, senior manager of public affairs and community relations for Coke Florida, then presented checks for $2,500 to the local Boys and Girls Club and Urban League. He said the company – the largest minority-owned business in Florida – would also provide laptops to both organizations.

The St. Petersburg PAL received $5,000 to enhance educational programs. Economic empowerment is one of Coke Florida’s “cultural pillars,” and the company also sponsored a Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco County home in nearby Lealman in June.

Brock became close with the new homeowner, Agnes Jackson, through the process. He introduced Jackson and her grandson to the crowd and relayed that he remains in touch with the family.

“We’re not just here for the day,” said Percy Wells, vice president of corporate development and government relations. “We’re here for tomorrow as well. So, you will see our team reach out to you regularly and ensure we are involved and engaged.”

Thomas Benford (at podium), executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Coke Florida, and Percy Wells II, vice president of corporate development and government relations, in front of the $10.2 million facility.

Coke Florida is also a behemoth in the beverage industry.

The company, founded in 2014, now operates in 47 of the state’s 67 counties. Wells said the certified Minority Business Enterprise serves nearly 21 million consumers and generates between $1.8 and $2 billion in annual revenue.

The St. Petersburg location is Coke Florida’s 19th sales and distribution facility, and Thomas Benford, executive vice president, noted the company had a building in the area several years ago. He said its leadership – Troy Taylor bought the company in 2015 – committed to re-establishing a physical presence across the bay from its headquarters.

Not just from a mindset of efficiency, Benford added, but also a mindset of growth.

“And that’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “We’re here to grow in the community and to be a part of this community in any way we possibly can.”

Commission Chair Charlie Justice called Coke Florida “an economic powerhouse” that employs over 4,600 people. He said the facility represents new opportunities for Pinellas County residents to secure good jobs.

Councilmember Brandi Gabbard’s District 2 includes the site at , strategically located near I-275 and Gandy Boulevard. Like Justice, she relayed the company’s commitment to sustainable environmental practices and philanthropic efforts.

She said Coke Florida officials donated over $500,000 in laptops to state youth organizations since 2015, and “it’s no wonder they were named this year’s best-managed company in the U.S.”

Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, asked attendees to imagine the investment it took to officially open a facility that officials broke ground on in 2019. The sales and distribution center will house over 140 employees, but that doesn’t include the builders, plumbers and electricians that built the building and spent their paychecks locally.

“Business and government need to be on the same page, but we want businesses to lead the way because that’s what they do,” said Steinocher. “They create jobs for your family and for every other family who is eating tonight. And we want every family to eat in St. Pete.”


Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.