International business increasing in Pasco

Pasco County has been making strides in the arena of international trade, and Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey provided a briefing on the topic at a recent North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

In introducing Starkey, Hope Allen, president/CEO of the North Tampa Chamber said: “Kathryn Starkey is a huge advocate of Pasco County.

This rendering shows the future campus for TouchPoint Medical Inc. (File)

“It’s wonderful that Pasco now has a seat at the table, now on the global level, and it’s because of her work and the work of Pasco Economic Development Council, making Pasco part of the conversation.

“She is involved in developing international trade, with a focus on Europe and South America,” Allen said.

Starkey has a pulse on what’s happening locally, and also nationally, on the international trade scene.

She is chair of the International Economic Development Task Force at the National Association of Counties (NACCO). She also was nominated by the White House and NACCO to serve on a committee that looks over trade agreements and makes recommendations. She is among four commissioners who represent the voice of local government, she said.

She’s still undergoing her FBI background check, so at this point, she can participate in calls, but can’t read the information.

Starkey said her introduction to manufacturing came in 2004, when she was on the Pasco County School Board and she made a visit to a training program offered in Okaloosa public schools.

“What they had done was they interviewed their business community, and then they figured out how to start programs in their school system that taught the high school kids how to enter into that workforce when they graduated,” she said.

Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey

Because of her interest, Starkey traveled to Germany five times — to see for herself and to show others how the Germans do their system of apprenticeship training.

“It was really important to go and see how the world’s premiere training program works.

“If you don’t see it, you can’t understand it. They have the gold standard in manufacturing,” she said.

“What we have done here in Pasco County, Hernando and Pinellas County, is that we’ve set up a training and manufacturing program based on the European model of apprenticeship training,” Starkey added, referring to a program called AmSkills.

“We take high school students and we take students who have graduated, and we take adults who need retraining, and we take them through the process here and we get them very knowledgeable about manufacturing, training and jobs, and then we help them get meaningful jobs here in the community,” she said.

Over time, Pasco County Schools also has established several career academies. It also opened Wendell Krinn Technical High School this year, on the former Ridgewood High campus.

Mettler Toledo opened its 270,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Northpointe Village, off State Road 54.

In partnership with Marchman Technical College, Wendell Krinn provides students access to 14 different technical education programs, including auto collision/repair, biomedical sciences, commercial art, computer systems, cosmetology, culinary arts, cybersecurity, digital cinema, electricity, HVAC, marine service, robotics, and welding.

Pasco’s workforce development is helping to attract international companies, Starkey said.

She also has been involved with Pasco EDC in trade missions to help local companies find foreign markets, and has helped host events to teach local companies how to grow their business in other parts of the world.

Pasco’s outreach efforts, its workforce development and its willingness to offer incentives to attract companies offering high-wage jobs has resulted in international companies setting up shop in the county.

Some of those companies include:

  • TouchPoint Medical Inc., a global supplier of technology-based health care delivery systems, will bring 116 new high-paying jobs to Pasco County. Company officials plan to relocate their headquarters to prime vacant land in Land O’ Lakes. They will build an approximately 125,000-square-foot facility, including a parking lot, on the northwest corner of Suncoast Parkway and State Road 54. The site is part of the South Branch Ranch property. The facility is expected to open in late 2019.
  • Mettler Toledo: Mettler Toledo opened its 270,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Northpointe Village in April. The Swiss-based company is a global supplier of precision scales and services used in research, and the packaging and production of food and pharmaceuticals.
  • TRU Simulation: TRU Simulation + Training celebrated the opening of a $30 million expansion of its Pilot Training Center in Lutz in February 2017. The facility opened in a 15,000-square-foot facility at 1827 Northpointe Parkway, off State Road 54 at Suncoast Parkway. TRU Simulation has contracts with companies such as King Air, Boeing and Cessna.

Starkey noted that it’s not enough to get international companies interested in Pasco, it’s also important to treat them well after they arrive, and to continue to form relationships.

Taking a page out of book she read about how the international community developed in North Carolina, Starkey makes it a point to take CEOs of international companies to visit assets around Tampa Bay.

It’s a great way for the CEOs to get to know each other and also for them to develop a deeper understanding of Tampa Bay’s strengths, Starkey said.

“I am trying to take really good care of your CEOs here, and they are spreading the word to their friends back overseas, or to their business friends, that Pasco County is a great place to do business,” Starkey said. “We want them to feel very welcome.”

Revised December 5, 2018

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