Polk County is strategically located in the center of the Florida peninsula, about equal distance from the east and west coast and half way between the Georgia-Florida border and the Southern tip of the peninsula. Polk lies on the Interstate-4 corridor, 25 miles east of Tampa and 35 miles southwest of Orlando. As the geographic center of Florida, it is estimated that more than 7.5 million people reside within a 100 mile radius of Polk County. This is one of the largest concentrations of population in the southeast.
"Imperial" Polk County was the nickname given to the county by a newspaper editor to recognize the county's prominence in agriculture, phosphate and cattle with the timber, turpentine and naval stores operations making strong contributions. In 1914, the county issued a $1.5 million bond to pave a number of roads. That bond issue was considerable for those days, and allowed for 9-foot-wide roads to start from Bartow to Mulberry, Lake Wales, Fort Meade, Winter Haven, Lakeland and Auburndale. According to historical reports, then-county commission clerk W.S. Wev had the idea of erecting an arch over every paved road at its entrance to Polk County, proclaiming that the motorist was about to enter "Imperial Polk County." The name has since remained.
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