When it comes right down to it, the sites that are designated for industrial uses and employment centers in Pasco are simply too small and too scattered for the county to attract the kinds of companies that can make a significant difference in the county’s jobs picture.
That was essentially the message delivered to the Pasco County Commission, at its May3 meeting, by Randy Deshazo, chief of staff for the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
In introducing Deshazo to the board, David Engel, director of the Office of Economic Growth, said, “As a result of unprecedented residential demand for land in our region, the Office of Economic Growth and Planning and Development Department engaged the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBPRC) to conduct a strategy analysis for the preservation and optimization of light industrial and employment center properties and zoning in the county.
“The study does an economic analysis of the fiscal and economic impact to the community, when we take industrial land and we modify it to allow residential,” Engel said.
Deshazo said the focus of the study was on land that has been designated for employment center and light industrial uses.
“You want to increase the share of target industry jobs in your economy and this is your main land use tool to do that,” he explained.
“Target industry jobs are those higher-paying jobs that span a range from blue collar manufacturing to high-tech kinds of jobs, that help raise the average wage in the county and provide, what we’ll call, an employment multiplier.
“They create more jobs through their own spending, down through their own supply chains and household spending,” Deshazo said.
Deshazo briefed theboard on the county’s current employment conditions.
“One out of 10 jobs in Pasco is what we would call a target industry job,” Deshazo said.
By comparison, in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, one of every four jobs is a targeted industry job, he said.
He also noted that Pasco has the longest commute in the Tampa Bay region, as well as one of the longest commutes in the state.
It also has the highest imbalance, when it comes to number of housing units compared to the number of jobs.
“About 70% of your employed residents work somewhere else besides Pasco County,” he said. “That is not just a case that there’s not enough jobs in the county. There’s not enough well-paying jobs,” he said.
The key questions, Deshazo said, are: “How many jobs does the county need?
“How many acres do those jobs need?”
Decision-makers must focus on how they allocate the county’s land, he said.
Converting an acre of industrial land to a non-employment use has the impact of about $2 million in lost personal income, direct and indirect, he said.
That number was calculated by taking the average of what those wages might be in a target industry, stretch it over the forecast period of 2050, and doing some financial discounting, he said.
The county wants to increase its share of target industry jobs in its economy, and land use designations are the main tool to achieve that, he said.
Large tracts needed to help generate jobs
Pasco has a significant amount of acreage designated for employment centers and light industrial uses, however, those designations are generally on small parcels, he said.
Employment centers and industrial uses need large tracts.
“The average for industrial parks throughout the country is about 550 acres in size,” Deshazo said.
He told board members: “the really big issue here is that you’ve got a very fragmented pattern of industrial land. The overall distribution is that half of your parcels are less than 4 acres; 40% of all those parcels are actually less than 2 acres in size.
“They’re scattered across the county. They’re not easily assembled. So, that is really your land use supply issue. It’s not so much the total acreage, but where those acres are and how they’re divvied up,” Deshazo said.
His report also identifies current concentrations of industrial land. It adds buffer areas around those, as potential places for expansion of industrial land in the future.
It also identifies areas along railway corridors and truck routes for consideration of adding future employment centers and industrial land.
“The point here is not just to add acres, but to look at larger sites that might better fit the needs of future industrial land use,” Deshazo said.
In Jacksonville, there are areas that have been protected for industrial uses. It has coined the term “industrial sanctuary” to identify that concept.
“These are areas that you want to protect from redesignation to residential or other uses, to consolidate industrial land, so that you can get to those scales that industry needs to operate, and to work with each other and to attract labor,” he said.
“To do that you need to identify some basic criteria, such as perhaps establish a new land use in zoning that has a significantly larger minimum lot size than what you currently allow for light industrial or heavy industrial, which is about 30,000 or 40,000 square feet and talk about a minimum lot size of 50 acres or perhaps higher than that.”
Deshazo said the key takeaways in the TBPRC’s report are:
- Employment centers and industrial land are the key tools for attracting and developing target industries.
- It is important to set job goals; there doesn’t need to be a perfect 1:1 ratio, but every job closer to that is good for the county.
- The county needs to think about where future industrial land should go.
- It’s important to pay attention to the size of potential employment centers and industrial parks, to make sure they’re large enough.
- The county may want to consider creating districts that allow both heavy industrial and light industrial uses.
Engel said the county’s Planning and Development Department, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and his Office of Economic Growth are working together to identify freight corridors, road systems, to look at the marketplace and at available land, to provide information to help inform future land use decisions.
Pasco County jobs picture
- One out of 10 jobs in Pasco County is a target industry job; in Hillsborough and Pinellas, one in four jobs are target industry jobs.
- Pasco County has the longest commute in the Tampa Bay Region and one of the longest in the state.
- Pasco County has the highest jobs imbalance, that is the number of jobs compared to the number of housing units.
- About 70% of employed Pasco residents work elsewhere.
Published May 11, 2022