The first dollars expected from a renewed Penny for Pasco program is not expected until next January. But John Hagen says there’s no reason to wait to put those dollars to use.
Hagen, president and chief executive of Pasco Economic Development Council Inc., is scheduled to present his economic development ideas involving the tax fund during a Pasco County Commission workshop Tuesday afternoon. He wants the county to allocate $26.5 million toward attracting big business and jobs, including nearly $21 million to construct office buildings and office parks, among other things.
“It’s a 10-year allocation, and we need to think ahead,” Hagen said. “It takes a long time to accumulate that money, but we need to do some things right now. We ned to think about bonding some of those dollars up front, or borrowing them internally, just to get some things going.”
The economy has been improving for Pasco, with unemployment on the decline, but there are still a lot of people who need jobs now, not five to 10 years from now, Hagen said.
The current round of Penny for Pasco funding provided money for schools, transportation and law enforcement — all important things, Hagen said. But nothing was earmarked for economic development, and attracting that kind of business requires a concerted effort.
One idea is to spend $5.5 million on a business park, according to documents the PEDC submitted to the county. These would contain large parcels, as well as all the infrastructure needed to support it, like roads. Another $2.9 million could be used to construct spec buildings that could attract companies with space ready to go without having to wait to build it.
The biggest chunk would be for the county to acquire land, and then prepare it for redevelopment. By having all the administrative hurdles cleared, the county could make such land attractive to companies, helping them choose Pasco over other areas.
Finally, $6 million would be earmarked for a convention center, although it’s not clear where that convention center would be located. It could serve more of the niche convention market, and be the home for business meetings as well, along with some civic uses.
“The numbers we put into our proposal, there is not really any budget behind them,” Hagen said. “It’s more about orders of magnitude to get something going. If we can get some validation here in the workshop tomorrow, we can sit down and figure out what things really cost, and get into that in a more detailed way so that it actually works.”
But it’s a starting point, Hagen said, to get the conversation going. Especially with something as important as the Penny for Pasco funding.
“It is a tremendous gift from the voters to have these kinds of dollars available to dome things that ordinarily we wouldn’t be able to do,” he said.
The commission will hold its workshop April 15 beginning at 10 a.m., at the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive in New Port Richey. Hagen’s presentation is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
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