By B.C. Manion
Pasco County has come a long way since those early days when the Pasco Economic Development Council was getting its start, said Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher.
Even before the county had the PEDC to help market the county to potential employers, it had the Committee of 100, Gallagher said.
People used to give the Committee of 100’s leadership a hard time for not attracting more businesses to Pasco, Gallagher said.
But at that point, there really wasn’t much to sell.
Over time, though, Pasco has become a different place and the PEDC has become a more effective organization for helping to market the county’s assets, Gallagher said.
Judith Rochelle, a former vice president of Saint Leo University, was on a four-member committee that helped the Committee of 100 make the transition into the new PEDC.
“The existing board of the Committee of 100 felt that we needed to do some soul-searching,” said Rochelle, who now lives in Sisterdale, Texas.
The four-member committee researched what was happening with other economic development organizations and decided that Pasco’s organization needed a new name and some new goals and objectives.
“The PEDC became the new brand,” Rochelle said.
John Walsh, of the PEDC, was on the Committee of 100’s staff in the late 1980s and early 1990s when there wasn’t much happening.
For a while, the county enjoyed rapid growth, but after the housing crash, activity slowed to a virtual standstill.
Meanwhile the county has been at work to put itself in a good position for future growth, Gallagher said.
The Pasco County Commission has taken new initiatives to help sell the county, Gallagher said.
“We’re using some ad valorem tax money to buy down impact fees,” he said. As a result, he said, “Anything dealing with an office or industry is zero.”
“The PEDC now has some tools they can use to help market the county. We’ve got a good team approach.”
As Gallagher looks toward the future, he envisions the SR 54 corridor to be a magnet for future development.
The completion of SR 56 has been a huge development in the county, said Walsh, vice president of PEDC.
“That whole corridor (of SR 54-SR 56) all of the way over from Little Road all of the way over to Wiregrass and beyond is getting looks from some larger employers, which is very interesting. It’s a very nice trend for us,” Walsh said.
The area is attractive because of its good road access, the availability of sewer and water and its access to high-speed Internet services, Walsh said.
There are also large swaths of land available for development.
“It provides an excellent opportunity for companies to be able to come up and build a corporate campus the way they want to see it built,” Walsh said. “You look at Pinellas County, there are not too many opportunities to be able to do that.
“Along the Suncoast Parkway, from Westshore until you get to (SR) 54, it’s all residential.
“So this is really the first intersection along that corridor where that can happen,” Walsh said.
Along I-75, he added, the opening of SR 56 creates new access to an urban area.
Walsh, who worked for the Committee of 100 in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said in those days, the county focused primarily on attracting manufacturers.
Now, it is chasing a broader array of potential industries to locate in Pasco, or to expand their operations, he said.
It’s also going after the developers of business parks, high-tech parks, medical research parks and industrial parks.
“The real key is being able to create relationships in the relocation consultants’ community. We go out and meet with those people who influence those projects,” Walsh said.
The county has a lot to sell, including a large pool of skilled workers, Walsh said.
“Forty-eight percent of our employees travel out of Pasco to go to work every day. That lets you know that there is a resident labor force here. They have the skills that these types of companies would be looking for,” Walsh said.
Walsh thinks the county’s recent efforts to improve processing for building permits, to clean up its land development code and to increase incentives for business development will yield good results.
“The county is reinventing itself,” Walsh said. “That’s absolutely huge.”
John Hagen, the president and CEO of the PEDC said Pasco is putting itself in a strong posture for growth, when the economy picks up.
“We’re kind of in a sweet spot in Pasco County,” he said. “We’ve laid some really great groundwork.”
Hagen said he’s impressed by the way the private sector has responded to the wakeup call of 2008, when the economy slid into recession.
“There’s nothing like a crisis to get people to rally,” Hagen said.
He thinks Pasco has an unusual advantage because business, education and government all work together as a team.
“I’ve worked in other states. I’ve never seen the degree of collaboration that we have here,” Hagen said.
PEDC celebrates 25 years
- Pasco Economic Development Council’s 25th annual Industry Appreciation Banquet
- Wednesday, Sept. 7
- Trade show and networking, 5:30 p.m.
- Dinner and awards: 7 p.m.
- Tickets: $65 per person
- Where: Saddlebrook Resort Royal Palm Ballroom, 5700 Saddlebrook Way, Wesley Chapel
- Business attire
- RSVP by Aug. 31.
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