Monday August 22, 2022


After a year of construction, employees mixed the first batches of concrete at a 140,000-square-foot industrial complex that opened this month in Belle Glade where Glades Correctional Institution once stood.

Someday soon, that concrete will make its mark in Boca Raton as part of a technology center’s parking garage.

Local officials praised the start of production at the Finfrock facility, off Orange Avenue Circle near Lakeside Medical Center, as it will bring more than 200 jobs to one of the areas in Palm Beach County with the highest unemployment rates.

Steve Wilson, Belle Glade’s mayor. says “It’s going to be a great economic engine for our community.” “There are lots of people who need jobs,”

A designer and builder of parking garages, Finfrock bought the 93-acre industrial site at the Gateway Commerce Park in 2021 for $36 million to build a precast concrete manufacturing facility and offices. About 65 people are working there.

Kelly Smallridge, president and chief executive officer of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. says “It’s the largest economic development project in the Glades region, and that the company will hire for a variety of manufacturing and administrative positions that will pay competitive wages above the area’s median household income. Her office projected the facility will have a $242 million economic impact in The Glades, a largely agricultural region along the shores of Lake Okeechobee.

Smallridge went on to say that This project will attract additional manufacturing operations, as well as small ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses that will establish a location in order to provide services and goods,”

“They built a facility in Belle Glade to manufacture  structures and then transport them to South Florida projects,”

An hour west from West Palm Beach, Belle Glade has long history of economic difficulties. The coronavirus pandemic affected its residents disproportionately, since most work in the service and agricultural industries.

The opening of Finfrock’s manufacturing complex, Wilson said, is a victory both for the company and underserved residents of The Glades.

He said it will help the community recover the 200 jobs that were lost when Glades Correctional closed in 2011. He is eager to see the company hire local residents and hopes it will lift and attract more businesses to Belle Glade.


Jessie Hester never believed he was better than anyone while growing up in the most fertile region of the country when it comes to producing football players.

Hester, the former standout wide receiver, acknowledges there were more talented athletes who never were All-State, who never had a chance to attend a school like Florida State and become an All-American, who never were selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

And he knows what separated many like himself and others who accomplished so much athletically — like his fellow inductees into the inaugural class of the Muck City Sports Hall of Fame — from those left behind came down simple decision-making.

Heaster stated that he was lucky enough to play college ball and play professionally and he knows guys better than myself did not have that opportunity for (different) reasons like bad decision-making,

“Hester went on to say “We didn’t come up in the best circumstances, but that didn’t cause me to go and do the wrong things. There is no reason to do that. there is no shame in hard work. Don’t use anything as an excuse for why things are going bad. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and go get it.”

And for many of those who do, recognition one day could come from the Muck City Sports Hall of Fame.

Hester, who played for four NFL teams and caught 373 passes for 5,850 yards and 29 touchdowns; Pro Football Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson; Super Bowl 43 MVP Santonio Holmes; and 12-year NFL cornerback Jimmy Spencer were recognized Friday during Glades Central’s preseason game against Miami’s Booker T. Washington.

The Muck City Sports hall will honor athletes and contributors from Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay and Clewiston, four schools with a combined 20 state football titles. It was launched by the Muck City Project, which focuses on preserving and recognizing the region’s history.

And the hall of fame that recognizes the best from an underserved community is much more than names on banners and halftime ceremonies.

It transcends sports.

More than anything, this kind of recognition can be an inspiration to the seemingly endless stream of talent coming from an area where resources are limited. Success stories like Hester and Jackson and Holmes and Spencer and many more that will follow can motivate future generations when they hear their stories.


A 19-year-old Immokalee man was arrested for having sex with a minor.

According to Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Zachary Valdez, 19, was arrested on charges of lewd behavior with a victim of 12-16 years old.

According to reports, a deputy observed a red car parked at the end of a cul-de-sac on Bush Street and approached the car.

The deputy said she saw two people moving inside the car and a girl partially dressed in the back seat.

Valdez identified himself and the deputy asked them what was going on and they said “nothing was going on.”

Another deputy arrived and saw that the front seats were pushed forward and Valdez and the girl were in the second row of the car.

Valdez and the girl were removed from the car and taken to Immokalee Sub Station.

The girl’s father was called down to the Immokalee Sub Station, gave a sworn statement, and wanted to press charges.

According to reports, Valdez was interviewed and confessed.

When Valdez was leaving the interrogation room a used condom fell out of his shorts. Valdez said he didn’t know the condom was still in his shorts.

Valdez was arrested and taken to Immokalee Jail Center.