The announcement last week of Amazon’s decision to bring 500 jobs to Pasco County prompted a broader discussion by the Pasco County Commission about what it can do to support continued employment growth.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore raised the topic, after Bill Cronin, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council Inc., shared details of Amazon’s planned project.
The company is planning a 517,220-square-foot Robotic Sortation Center, on 127 acres, at State Road 52 and Bellamy Brothers Boulevard.
Moore said that one of his objectives when he ran for a county board seat in 2014 was to bring jobs to Pasco, so residents wouldn’t have to commute daily to work elsewhere.
So, at the county board’s Jan. 25 meeting, Moore asked Cronin and David Engel, director of Pasco County’s Office of Economic Growth, what commissioners can do to help in those efforts.
Moore put it this way: “So, we look at the growth along the (State Road) 54 and (State Road) 56 corridor — what can we do, what should we do — to preserve some of the job-creating sites along that corridor?
“Eventually, we could run out of space,” he said.
He asked: “Can we have more Spec (office) space? Can we have more Ready Sites?
“What can we do, as a board, to assure our residents 5, 10, 20 years down the road that jobs are going to be here. So, we don’t have to leave this area all of the time?”
Cronin said Pasco enjoys an advantage compared to many other places in the state.
“We’re really one of the only places that has land and people. Other places in Florida have people; they don’t have land. And, if they’ve got land, they don’t have people.
“We’re in a really good situation right now,” he said.
However, preserving sites for job-generating activities is important, not just to create more employment, but also to reduce congestion, Cronin said.
“It is the solution to a lot of our transportation problems, to make sure people are employed here and not somewhere else,” he said.
Cronin highlighted the need to ensure that employment centers that were entitled as part of master-planned unit developments are actually developed as job generators and are not converted to residential uses.
The whole idea of a master-planned unit development is to create a self-contained place where people can live, work and play, he said.
The non-residential portion of the project also is important for the county’s tax base, he added.
So, Cronin told the board: “The main thing is to make sure that the developers are continuing to commit and take care of those of entitlements, regarding those employment centers, and not (allow developers to) trade employment center entitlements out for anything.
“The jobs come first. If you’re going to trade it for housing or things like that, it totally throws the whole purpose of an MPUD out the window. Because, if you don’t have the jobs in the MPUD, then you’re getting in your car and you’re driving somewhere else every day,” Cronin said.
Ideally, Cronin added, the employment centers will be built first, before the housing within the development.
When that happens, he explained, “there’s less chance of residents saying, ‘Oh no, we don’t want that company, here.’”
Moore asked Cronin: “How important is it to have employment centers along State Road 54 and State Road 56 — because of access to Interstate 75, to the Suncoast Parkway, to I-275?”
Cronin responded: “Anytime you’re moving people, you want to be close to the highway.”
The economic development expert cited Moffitt Cancer Center’s planned Pasco campus as an example. It’s going to be developed near the Suncoast Parkway, Ridge Road and State Road 52.
“That’s 14,000 (projected) jobs. That is workforce that will be coming from everywhere. So making sure the transportation is there,” Cronin said. “If you’ve got transportation set up to move people, that’s where your jobs should also be.”
Engel told the board that the county’s planning and development party, along with the Office of Economic Growth and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council are working on a Light Industrial, Employment Center Study.
“We want to do an assessment of the county and our land use, and provide adequate guarantees and recommendations to the board to preserve this space,” he said.
Engel also noted a tremendous amount of development potential in East Pasco, moving up from the Interstate 4 (I-4) corridor.
Cronin said: “You’ve got a lot of people that are coming down I-4, going straight up into Pasco County, rather than coming all of the way to I-75 in Pasco County and heading north.”
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey agrees with the county’s need for more industrial sites. But she also wants more attention paid to redevelopment along the county’s busy corridors, such as U.S. 19 and U.S. 41.
Commissioner Jack Mariano agreed: “Redevelopment is a big issue.”
Mariano asked Cronin to look into how Pinellas County treats redevelopment, as compared to Pasco County.
Published February 02, 2022