The Dade City Business Center and Dade City Office Plaza was once the site of one of the largest juice processing plants in the world, teeming with more than 2,000 employees.
It fell into disrepair through the decades, but, in recent years, it has been roaring back to life with myriad companies setting up shop.
Now, plans call for launching Pasco County’s first business incubator at the site.
The incubator will help small companies and startup businesses by providing expert assistance in tackling the various challenges that entrepreneurs face, said John Walsh, vice president of the Pasco Economic Development Council, a key player in the initiative.
Locating the incubator at the Dade City industrial park and office plaza is ideal because of its proximity to expert help from Saint Leo University, the Small Business Development Center and to veteran business people who belong to the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, Walsh said.
When companies are getting off the ground, they often need help on issues ranging from tax law to exports to personnel matters, Walsh said. A business incubator provides technical assistance and a way to connect businesses with people who can offer the kind of expertise they need.
In the long-run, the aim of a business incubator is to create jobs, encourage growth of innovative companies and help Pasco County and Dade City enhance their reputation as a place that can make these kinds of things happen, said John Moors, executive director of the chamber.
The owners of the business center and office plaza — JDR Properties of Pasco — offered attractive rates to help make the incubator affordable to small businesses, Walsh said.
The initiative fits in with the office and industrial park owners’ visionary thinking, said Bobby Van Allen, general manager of the 355-acre site.
The incubator is a combined effort of the PEDC, Saint Leo University, the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center, Pasco County and the Dade City Business Center. It is funded with $50,000 from the PEDC, $50,000 from the city of Dade City and $100,000 from the county.
“This is a great collaboration,” Moors said. Everyone involved in the effort wants the incubator to be successful, he said.
Walsh said the hope is the incubator becomes a model for a couple others in Pasco.
Moors said the industrial park and office plaza was selected to house the business incubator because it has available office space, a common lobby, a common boardroom and ample parking.
Having office and industrial space available is a plus because it allows the incubator to serve a mixture of companies, Walsh said.
It also offers an opportunity for synergy as new companies can benefit from the experience of other tenants at the office and industrial park, Moors added.
“It’s already a major employment center for the county,” Moors said.
The site has a diverse list of tenants, including specialty recyclers, fuel production, decorative and specialty concrete business, furniture refinishing, beverage production and distribution, heavy equipment repair, accounting professionals, financial consultants, freight brokerage, logistical companies, a screen printer and embroiderer, marketing firms and a wheel manufacturer among others.
The park has heavy industrial zoning, a CSX main rail line flowing through it and daily water rights of 3.5 million gallons, Van Allen said. It also has its own wastewater treatment plant and access to six-lane US 301, as well as a central location in relation to Tampa, Orlando and Lakeland, Van Allen said.
Other benefits of the site include easy access to Florida’s major highways, regional and international airports and deepwater ports.
A selection committee will choose the companies that will be allowed to participate in the incubator, Van Allen said. It will be looking at a number of factors, including the company’s business plan and its exit strategy, he said.
Van Allen, who grew up in Dade City, said the site he manages has undergone a systematic rehabilitation with its current ownership.
“This property was very blighted. To be nice, it needed a lot of renovation,” Van Allen said.
Details for the business incubator are still being worked out, but Walsh expects it to begin operating in April or May.
For more information call Walsh or Krista Hakes at the PEDC, (813) 926-0827.