One of the biggest challenges facing the Pasco County Commission in recent years is how to create more jobs here, and not force nearly half the population to travel elsewhere to find work.
It’s likely a problem that won’t be fixed over the next four years, but that hasn’t stopped the two candidates looking for a seat on the commission to share their ideas on how it might happen. They are just quite different.
Mike Moore and Erika Remsberg both want to succeed the retiring Pat Mulieri on the commission, and both believe it’s jobs and growth that will finally put them on the dais.
“Penny for Pasco is giving us $45 million for economic development, and those dollars need to be put to work,” Moore said during a recent candidate forum at Lexington Oaks in Wesley Chapel. “I know the (Pasco Economic Development Council) has some ideas on how to put those dollars to work, and I have some of my own ideas.”
The Pasco EDC has long taken a position of working to attract big employers to the county, competing with Hillsborough, Pinellas and even Polk counties, to get companies here. Earlier this year, Pasco EDC president and chief executive John Hagen suggested using some Penny for Pasco money to assemble chunks of land and make it ready for a large employer.
Companies like Amazon and Bristol-Myers Squibb could have brought many high-paying jobs to the county if they had chosen Pasco over Hillsborough, Moore suggested.
“We need to incentivize those companies to come into the area,” he said. “When you bring in large companies, that helps some of the smaller businesses, too. You’re going to have more people eating at restaurants, and they will have the money to buy goods at mom and pop stores. We need to keep the economic engine going.”
But the county has had little luck in bringing those companies here, Remsberg said. Instead, millions of taxpayer dollars have been put aside for companies like T. Rowe Price, who was supposed to bring 1,600 jobs on the promise of a $30 million commitment from the county, only to change its mind a few years later.
“It’s very expensive to do that, and more often than not, the projects do not work out,” Remsberg said. “It’s an expensive gamble that we should not be taking and using the minimal dollars we already have.”
Instead, Remsberg suggests the county take cues from the Pasco EDC and the communities of Dade City and New Port Richey to fund more small business incubators. Facilities like the one at the Dade City Business Center provide low-cost commercial space for upstarts, as well as advisory help from business experts to help those companies become profitable.
“They are resource centers for these small businesses, and they have training available to help make these businesses successful,” she said. “We should be taking these Penny for Pasco dollars and investing them in provable strategies that we know work here, and which will benefit Pasco residents.”
Because of his own background starting and running companies, Moore said he’s perfect to talk to chief executives of larger companies, and promoting the county to them. Pasco’s push to bring tourism-related amenities like the proposed 20-field baseball complex by Blue Marble Strategic in Wesley Chapel will make it easier to sing those praises.
“We need to gamble, we need to show them our area and how all these people are excited about it,” Moore said. “We want to create lots of opportunities for people who want to come here.”
But the work to wine and dine executives, and to compete with neighboring counties, carries a hefty price tag, Remsberg said.
“The consulting fee alone could’ve helped Meals on Wheels feed the 200 homebound elderly people who are going without food right now,” she said. “We need a steady stream of qualified workers, and we need comprehensive public transportation so that we are able to move those people around.”
Voters will decide between Moore and Remsberg Nov. 4.
Published October 8, 2014
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