If you’re looking to start or grow your business, the Pasco Economic Development Council’s microloan program may be able to help. More information can be found at SmartStartPasco.com/about-microloans.
Despite unanticipated challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, Pasco County still had much to celebrate in terms of growth, tourism and economic development.
That was the primary theme of “TeamUp! Building a Strong Economy Together,” an event hosted by Experience Florida’s Sports Coast (FSC) and Pasco Economic Development Council — two marketing organizations charged with driving the success of the county’s economy.
The May 6 event was held at AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, with 175 socially distanced guests attending in person, and others taking part remotely.
The evening ceremony highlighted accomplishments of both marketing organizations, corporate businesses, entrepreneurs, hoteliers, attraction partners and restaurateurs.
The idea for the special gala was spurred from a conversation between Pasco EDC president and CEO Bill Cronin and FSC tourism director Adam Thomas, regarding the economic struggles both corporate businesses and tourism industry partners had faced in the previous year because of COVID-19.
Blending the two brands, TeamUp! featured a figure skating showcase, networking hour, awards dinner and joint economic presentation fronted by Cronin and Thomas, along with other speakers.
Also, FSC and Pasco EDC screened their first collaborative video showcasing Pasco as an attractive place to live, work and play.
The six-minute video takes a bird’s eye and grounded tour around the county, stopping at popular destinations while delving into specific need-to-know information for those looking to relocate their businesses, travel to the destination, or host a conference or event in the area.
Various awards were bestowed, as well, honoring those who have made a lasting impression on the county’s diverse and growing economy:
Experience Florida’s Sports Coast Awards
- Chairman’s Choice Award: Congressman Gus Bilirakis
- Lodging Partner of the Year: SpringHill Suites by Marriott Tampa-Suncoast Parkway
- Tourism Legacy Award: Thomas Dempsey, founder of Saddlebrook Resort & Spa
Pasco EDC Awards
- Leadership Award: Dr. Arthur Kirk Jr., president emeritus of Saint Leo University
- Recruitment Project of the Year: Santander Consumer USA
- Expansion Project of the Year: The Soule Co.
The evening concluded with a special keynote address by Mike Rayburn, who blended comedy, music and thought-provoking messaging — while sharing his story of going from playing guitar for seven people in a bar in Virginia to playing in Carnegie Hall.
New companies, new jobs
Speaking from a well-lit, lifted stage, Cronin detailed how area economic development efforts emerged strong even during 2020’s trials and tribulations.
This included welcoming $104 million in new capital investment and 15 new company projects adding more than 1,400 direct jobs.
In fact, Cronin said these figures yielded the private, nonprofit organization’s “best year so far, for investment and job creation in Pasco County.”
The Pasco EDC’s ongoing efforts required creativity and adaptations to get work done, given various limitations brought about by COVID-19, Cronin explained from the luminated dais.
“The pandemic pushed us all to find new methods to manage old routines,” he said.
“Economic development was no different, and I’m proud to say that our team at the Pasco EDC rose to the challenge and found innovative ways to bring new investment and new jobs to the county.
“Like so many other businesses, we turned to virtual platforms to accomplish things that we could no longer do in person. We hosted site visits, business workshops and special events, all virtually.”
Cronin highlighted other economic-related marks from the past year, including the opening of Pasco EDC’s third small business incubator location — SMARTstart Grove Entrepreneur Center in Wesley Chapel — designed to help entrepreneurs expand their business and turn ideas into realities.
Interestingly enough, desserts prepared for the event were concocted by a trio of SMARTstart restaurant entrepreneur members and alums — Lanky Lassie’s Shortbread in Dade City; Sweet Luminous Bakery in Dade City; and, Hillbilly Farms in Dade City.
Cronin also mentioned how the Pasco EDC partnered with Pasco County government to provide emergency relief to more than 1,200 small businesses struggling to meet the demands the pandemic placed on them.
“Despite the challenges that 2020 presented,” Cronin said, “we kept moving forward.”
Tourism on the rebound?
Likewise speaking to the sizable crowd, Thomas acknowledged Pasco’s tourism “took a hit” from the pandemic, and remains in recovery mode.
However, the county’s tourism brand leader presented a mostly upbeat outlook for 2021 — noting visitor numbers steadily increasing the second half of this year and beyond.
“After a year of strict restrictions, people are itching to get back on the road and back in the air,” said Thomas, also quick to point out tourism industry analysts reporting that nearly 80% of Americans are dreaming of or planning to travel this year.
Thomas added the CDC’s recent guidance indicating vaccinated individuals can now safely travel without risking their health brings “another encouraging sign from our tourism industry for the second half of this year.”
Though the pandemic put a dent into some of Pasco’s original grandiose tourism plans and projections for most of 2020, there were some wins from the prior year.
Among other entertainment venues, shopping and hotels coming online, Thomas in particular highlighted the opening of the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis and Wellness Center in Zephyrhills; AdventHealth Sports Arena at Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County, in Wesley Chapel; and Widow Fletcher’s, a new waterfront restaurant in New Port Richey.
Thomas told the audience how FSC remained aggressive following the pandemic’s initial scare.
It was one of the first tourism agencies in the state to return to marketing after what Thomas labeled “a two-month industry blackout.”
The group ran an outdoor adventure-focused marketing digital campaign promoting the county’s 10-day summer scallop season along the Anclote River.
The campaign resulted in visitation growth of more than 60% and related economic impact, Thomas said.
Pasco, too, was one of Florida’s first to return to hosting sporting events amid the pandemic, Thomas said, with the TORHS 2Hot4Ice roller hockey national championships in July.
The event — with strict pandemic protocols in place — brought together 113 teams who played a staggered schedule over 10 days at AdventHealth Center Ice.
Thomas presented other encouraging tourism-related figures.
More than 25% of county visitors last year were first-timers who plan to return, he said.
Visitor spending was down compared to fiscal year 2019, but tourists still created more than a half-million dollars of economic impact to the county, saving every resident over $260 in their annual taxes, he said.
Though the FSC has mainly focused on youth and amateur sports and outdoor recreational offerings to attract visitation, Thomas indicated the agency next plans to branch into the business meeting marketplace.
The county in October will play host to the inaugural SMERF (Social, Military, Educational, Religious and Fraternal) Express conference — an overnight tourism-based trade show featuring social functions, community service, team building and one-on-one appointments between meeting planners and destination marketing organizations.
And, in January there will be a similar but sports-tourism focused conference called Sports Express-Indoor.
Thomas also discussed how FSC is building on in-state tourism drive markets of Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville, along with out-of-state drive markets of Atlanta and Raleigh-Durham.
The agency also is launching new promotions geared toward people in the New York, New Jersey and the Great Lakes region.
“When they’re ready to travel,” Thomas said, “we’re ready to welcome them.”
The speaker also touted the reach and impact of FSC, which has increased its staffing levels and has received national recognition in the tourism industry for its various campaigns and efforts.
Thomas said: “We focus on telling our community story — the experiences that make Pasco County the best destination in Florida, and the place we all love to call home, whether we’re fishing in the gulf, skydiving in Zephyrhills, or hiking in our nature parks, or playing hockey right here at AdventHealth Center Ice.”
Published June 02, 2021
The Pasco Economic Development Council Inc., helped Mary Katherine Mason celebrate the grand opening of Lanky Lassie’s Shortbread, at 37845 Meridian Ave., in downtown Dade City.
Two days of festivities included a ribbon-cutting attended by area dignitaries, a performance by bagpiper Gemma Briggs, a parade, cookie-decorating for kids, and shortbread paired with various libations, for adults.
Mason, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, launched her business after being furloughed from her design career in the hotel industry, during the pandemic.
Lanky Lassie’s Shortbread has been a member of the Pasco EDC SMARTstart program since it began using the East Pasco Incubator Kitchen in Dade City to help its business grow, Dan Mitchell, SMARTstart program director, said in a news release.
Mason used many of the tools that SMARTstart has to offer, and she grew from a cottage food business to opening her own shop, Mitchell added.
Conveyor Consulting and Rubber Company in Pasco County, which opened in Pasco County in 2014, is constructing two new facilities at One Pasco Center, near Interstate 75 and State Road 52.
The company is investing $2 million to construct a 20,000-square-foot building and a 12,000-square-foot building at One Pasco Center business park, according to an announcement from Pasco Economic Council Inc.
The expansion also includes new manufacturing capabilities for conveyor parts and systems.
“Our company continues to grow, and we are expanding to meet the demand of our clients. Adding to our capabilities to include manufacturing is very exciting,” Ron Fernandes, president of Conveyor Consulting and Rubber Company, said in a release.
“I really appreciate the Pasco EDC and Pasco County staff helping us keep the momentum going by expediting permitting and offering us mobility fee waivers. They are committed to helping businesses grow in Pasco,” he said.
Fernandes looked at numerous locations; however, he found One Pasco Center to have the direct access to major highways he needed to quickly and efficiently distribute to his clients, and provide easy access for business-to-business sales, the release adds.
“I want to congratulate Ron Fernandes and his team on their expansion. The I-75 and SR 52 interchange is rapidly developing, and I think he will find it the perfect fit,” Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley said, in the release.
Bill Cronin, president/CEO of Pasco EDC also weighed in: “The Pasco EDC is always excited to help our current businesses expand and find ways to grow in Pasco County.
“Our road network in Pasco provides a unique transportation network across the county and region. Conveyor Consulting and Rubber Company chose their location because it provides them with quick access for distribution. I am thrilled they were able to remain here and continue to grow with us.”
Published October 07, 2020
The Pasco Economic Development Council has announced that Amazon plans to invest $40 million in Pasco County.
The company is planning a new 110,000-square-foot facility in Lutz, according to a Pasco EDC news release.
The facility will be located on a portion of the Hayman-Fuentes property near the northeast corner of State Road 54 and the Suncoast Parkway, according to Lauren Miceli, marketing and communications manager for Pasco EDC.
“This new facility will add hundreds of direct and indirect jobs to Pasco County,” Bill Cronin, president/CEO of Pasco EDC, said in the economic development agency’s release.
The new delivery station in Lutz “will power Amazon’s last-mile delivery capabilities to speed up deliveries for customers in Pasco County,” according to an Amazon news release.
“Delivery stations enable Amazon Logistics to supplement capacity and flexibility to Amazon’s delivery capabilities,” the company release says.
The Lutz delivery station is expected to open in 2021, according to Amazon.
Local officials are delighted by Amazon’s decision to invest in Pasco.
“Amazon’s jobs are unique in the sense that some will work directly for the company and others can essentially open their own business and work as a third party with them. It’s a great opportunity for our residents to start their own small business,” Cronin added.
“The county and Pasco EDC have worked hard to create mixed-use neighborhoods and attract a variety of industries to Pasco,” Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells said in the Pasco EDC release. “Amazon putting their trust that Pasco is the right place for them shows that our team’s hard work is paying off and we welcome them to our community.”
Amazon’s delivery stations offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to build their own business delivering Amazon packages, as well as independent contractors the flexibility to be their own boss and create their own schedule delivering for Amazon Flex.
Amazon has more than 150 delivery stations in the United States.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore reacted to the news, in an Amazon release that announced the company’s upcoming Tampa Bay plans.
“I am thrilled to welcome Amazon and the additional jobs this facility will bring to our community,” Moore said, in the release. “This is another example of Pasco County government and the Pasco Economic Development Council working together to make Pasco County the premier place for business.”
In addition to its planned Lutz facility, the company also has announced a new fulfillment center in Temple Terrace, which is expected to create 720 jobs. That, too, is expected to launch in 2021.
Amazon currently operates seven fulfillment and sortation centers in the state, in Jacksonville, Davenport, Orlando, Miami, Ruskin and Lakeland, according to a company news release.
Amazon’s new operations facility in Temple Terrace will span more than 600,000 square feet on the ground floor. Employees at the site will work alongside innovative technologies to pick, pack and ship smaller customer items, such as books, electronics, small household goods and toys, the Amazon release says.
Amazon will hire for roles in human resources, operations management, safety, security, finance and information technology.
Amazon offers a minimum starting wage of $15 per hour. Its full-time employees also receive full medical, vision and dental insurance, as well as a 401(k), with a 50% company match, beginning on Day 1.
To learn more about Amazon, visit Amazon.com.
Published August 12, 2020
An economic incentive from Pasco County is supporting the expansion of a manufacturing business in Compark 75, off Wesley Chapel Boulevard.
Soule Company plans to construct a 100,000-square-foot building on a 7.7-acre parcel, at 26543 Wild Fern Circle. The new facility represents an $8 million investment, according to Pasco County figures.
The structure will be built next to the company’s existing 62,000-square-foot building, in the industrial business park.
Soule Company has two divisions: One fabricates packaging products made to customer specifications; the other fabricates disposable foam positioning products for the medical community.
The professional packaging division distributes a full line of packaging and shipping supplies, including corrugated boxes, poly bags, strapping, stretch films, tapes, among others.
The medical division works closely with medical entities to design, develop, manufacture, and distribute products that assist in patient care, recovery, and healing.
The Pasco County Commission approved an economic incentive package worth $177,172 at its Aug. 4, to support the company’s plans.
The new manufacturing building will generate 25 full-time jobs, according to David Engel, the county’s manager of the office of economic growth.
The incentive package includes $50,000 for creating the 25 new jobs; a five-year reimbursement of tangible taxes, which totals $107,171; and, an employee training grant of $20,000 for Pasco-based employees, Engel said.
“The project will generate $4.69 million annually in gross county product, so the return on investment is very substantial,” Engel said, in recommending approval of the agreement.
Jennie Sammurr, who oversees business retention and expansion for the Pasco EDC, told commissioners “the Soule Company is a perfect example of why we have the BRE (business retention and expansion) program and why we do what we do.
“The Soule Company was incorporated in the state of Florida in 1956. This company has been very resilient, has overcome many economic climates that have been challenging — and have continued to grow and expand. Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy, our local economy and they are the backbone of our business community.”
When the Pasco EDC staff met with Jerry Flatt, the company’s CEO, they learned that the company has been considering an expansion for several years, Sammurr said.
“Their company manufactures packaging and shipping supplies and now they’ve added a medical division that allows them to service many of our health care facilities in the area, but also in the Southeastern United States,” she said.
The company has been located in Pasco County since 2001.
Flatt addressed commissioners, via a remote video feed, during the board’s hybrid remote-live meeting.
He told board members: “We’ve grown to the point that we need to add an additional facility.
“We do a lot of packaging with different companies, different manufacturers, both in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough county. We even sell some product on the East Coast of the state of Florida,” he said.
The company’s medical division has grown exponentially, Flatt said.
“We have new contracts with a number of groups purchasing organizations,” he said.
“We’re looking to increase our business. We supply patient-positioning products that are manufactured out of foam. These are used in surgery applications, for positioning the patient, and that part of our business is really growing.
“So, we decided to put up a new building, and we appreciate the help that you all are offering, to be able to accomplish that,” Flatt said.
“In putting up that building, our medical division will move out of our existing building, which will allow more growth for packaging and allow the growth we need on the medical side,” he said.
He expects the company to hire 10 new employees in the first year, and up to 25 within the third year of opening the facility.
Commission Chairman Mike Moore congratulated Flatt on the company’s success.
Commissioner Jack Mariano thanked the CEO for choosing to expand the company in Pasco.
“We’re delighted to have you,” Mariano said.
Published August 12, 2020
Dozens of peaceful protesters stood in front of The Shops at Wiregrass on the rainy evening of June 6 — joining the chorus of voices across America calling for the end of police brutality and systemic racism.
Those gathered in Wesley Chapel were there to speak up in the aftermath of the May 25 death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, according to a video that went viral and national news reports.
Chauvin initially was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison later added a second-degree murder charge against Chauvin. The three other officers — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, news reports say.
Protesters in Wesley Chapel walked from the main street of the mall — which had been closed at 3 p.m., by management — out to the intersection of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
Greg Lenners, the mall’s general manager, said the decision to close was made in an abundance of caution.
“Obviously, we value the beliefs and the opinions of the community,” he said. “It’s just that we have the obligation to protect the safety of the businesses and our employees, and customers,” he added.
So, protesters made their way to the area in front of the mall, which is public property.
They carried signs with messages such as “Silence is Violence,” “Amplify Black Voices,” ”Justice for George,” and “No Justice, No Peace.”
They stood under umbrellas, wore rain ponchos, or simply got drenched.
This protest and others across Tampa Bay came on the same day a second memorial service was held for Floyd, in Hoke County, North Carolina, where he was born. A third, and final service will be held on June 9 in Houston, where Floyd grew up.
Many at the Wesley Chapel event said it was their first protest.
“We feel like this is the time,” said Susan Boyle, who was there with her 16-year-old daughter, Emma. “I’ll cry if I talk.”
She paused for a moment and said, “It’s something black people have experienced all their lives. We really have to say something. White privilege – there’s a huge part of the population who have no idea what’s going on.”
Wesley Chapel resident Tonya Reavis, 52, and several family members walked with a small group that left the mall area and headed to the intersection in front of the mall.
“We’re just tired,” Reavis said. “We’re here showing our solidarity. We want equal pay, equal justice. Every equality. We just want to be treated as human, not three-fifths of a human.”
Tre Moore, 23, who stood next to Reavis, held a sign that said: “Love Black Lives Like You Love Black Culture.”
“We’re peacefully protesting injustice, and against racism,” Moore said.
Protesters alternated chants, repeating phrases including: “We want justice. We want justice. We want justice.” And, “Say their names. Say their names. Say their names.” And, “Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter.”
Cars streaming by beeped their horns. One motorist shouted to the crowd: “I support you.”
Some protesters told The Laker/Lutz News they’d heard about the plan to gather through social media.
Jenifer Pepen, who lives in Live Oak, said it was important to be there.
“I’ve been a supporter of the Black Lives movement for many years now. It was time to come out. George Floyd’s death, I think, punctuated what is really centuries of systemic racism and injustice and brutality, in this country.
“It’s important to not be silent, in moments like this,” she said.
“Even in New Tampa/Wesley Chapel, it’s important to show that black lives matter, and come out. Even on a rainy day.
“The system needs reform. It needs reform in the suburbs. It needs reform in the inner cities. It needs reforming everywhere.
“It’s a system that affects the lives particularly of black and colored communities, but it is a system that impacts all of us, and we really all should be involved in reforming it,” she said.
She advocates the passage of laws to ban chokeholds and knee-holds, and also calls for improved training.
“I believe de-escalation needs to be something that is a part of training in the police departments across the United States. We’ve unfortunately seen the complete opposite in many situations, as these protests have been carried out throughout the United States.
“I also believe that the purging and the suppression of the records that detail the violence and brutality of bad police officers needs to stop. They need to be held accountable. They need the full weight of justice, when things happen. I think police unions play a role in that, as well.
“I also believe every city, every county, needs to reevaluate their budget, as it pertains to how we fund police departments,” she said.
“I don’t think that police departments that have been found to brutalize the community should be receiving funds. I think those funds should be much better allocated in the education system, the health care system, in places where we make positive impacts in the communities of color.
“I also think it’s absurd that taxpayers are the ones that have to pay for the civil lawsuits that are brought against police officers, who brutalize families, brutalize communities.
“We should consider, if I am being perfectly frank, taking it out of certain pension funds,” Pepen said.
Kimberly Morin, who lives in Meadow Pointe, explained her motivation for attending the protest this way: “I am very much against the brutality that is in the police force today, the inhumane way they treat not only citizens, but most black citizens.”
She suggests these reforms: “More training for how to handle situations, not to restrain with their knees on their necks, and not to draw guns on unarmed people for no reason.”
Jasmine Sanchez, who lives in Aberdeen, off State Road 54, came to the protest with her sons, Isaiah and Elijah.
“This is not their first protest,” Jasmine Sanchez said. “Their first protest was for Trayvon Martin.”
Martin was 17 when he was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman acknowledged shooting the teenager but claimed self-defense and was acquitted of second-degree murder, according to news reports.
Isaiah Sanchez explained why he wanted to be at the Wesley Chapel protest.
“I came out today for racial equality, for government change and for justice for all those we’ve lost to police,” Isaiah Sanchez said. “I’d like see reforms in police de-escalation, and the equality of all races in all walks of life — if you’re gay, if you’re black, or you’re white, or you’re Asian. If you’re Hispanic.
“Everybody gets equal treatment,” he said.
His brother, Elijah, added: “I came out here today to bring justice to all of the fallen black people, and just make all of the people who made the black families suffer — they need to pay. They need to be in jail.”
Jasmine Sanchez said she’s sensing a growing awareness.
“You’re seeing everybody coming together for this,” she said. “This group is so diverse. It shows a connectedness that I have never seen before.
“I think a lot of people just didn’t realize what was going on. You live in a quiet community.
“You don’t realize what’s going on in the next neighborhood, in the next city. It’s very easy to become closed off in your own little world.
“Thank God for social media. The information is spreading,” she said.
Others speaking out:
The Pasco Economic Development Council Inc.
Bill Cronin, president and CEO of the Pasco EDC, issued a statement that reads in part: “Today, many of our friends, our families and our neighbors are suffering for many difficult reasons.
“We continue to support everyone in our community who feels they are treated unfairly and that their voices are not being heard.
“We are saddened by all of the recent violence taking place around the country and for all of those affected by it, along with all of those impacted by the global pandemic.
“Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it…and no reaction is still a reaction. For this reason, Pasco EDC is reacting by publicly reaffirming its commitment to the equality of all.”
The statement goes on to offer specifics on the organization’s commitment to equal opportunity, diversity and fairness.
Benedictine Sisters of Florida
The Benedictine Sisters of Florida extend their condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd whose death is a grave violation of the values of justice, equality and peace. Our prayers are with those suffering through this tragedy and the aftermath of the demonstrations and civil unrest. We acknowledge the inequities that once again have been exposed and raise our voices praying for good people to come together to “be the change” that will bring peace, compassion and justice to our communities.
This statement, according to the Sisters, was adapted from the original by Sister Beverly Raway, OSB Prioress, at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota.
The Archdiocese of St. Petersburg
Bishop Gregory Parkes, of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, issued a statement, which says in part:
“The manner in which George Floyd died is an atrocity to the humanity and dignity that each person has as a child of God. As a Church, we stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters who demand justice and respect for black individuals who have suffered the effects of racism for generations.
“As is stated in the 2018 USCCB Pastoral Letter, Open Wide Your Hearts: ‘Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior […] When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Mt 22:39).’
“As Bishop of this local Church, with sincere concern for the souls of all within our Diocese, I urge all people of goodwill to seek peace, unity and just changes that will affirm the dignity of all lives, regardless of color, status, age or stage of life. I also urge an end to violence and destruction that victimizes communities and destroys hope.”
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis
In a June 5 newsletter, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis shared the results of a survey he did on the issue of “the civil unrest that we’ve seen throughout Tampa Bay and around the nation.”
The congressman said he frequently sends out surveys to get feedback from constituents.
“However, last week I was surprised by how an issue that appears in the media to elicit such division actually garnered more consensus than any other survey I’ve sent to date.
“The vast majority of my constituents who responded to the survey on civil unrest indicated that they want to see our Constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful protest protected, they want action to stop the illegal activity that is occurring (rioting, looting, arson, etc.), and they believe that there are systemic racial issues in our criminal justice system that must be addressed immediately.”
Bilirakis goes on: “These lawless actions by a relatively small group of people silence the cries of those who are hurting and detract from meaningful change.”
At the same time, Bilirakis recognizes the difficult work of law enforcement.
“Our law enforcement community is comprised of men and women who bravely place themselves in harm’s way to protect us. Their jobs are dangerous, complex and ever-evolving. “We must always support them as we work to find solutions for how to come together as one nation under God.”
Published June 10, 2020
The Pasco Economic Development Council Inc. (Pasco EDC), received more than 1,400 applications, before cutting applications off, for a grant program aimed at providing $2 million in assistance to small businesses.
Pasco EDC partnered with Pasco County to provide this relief grant program for small businesses affected by coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). Penny for Pasco revenues will be used to provide the relief.
Besides creating a global medical crisis, COVID-19 has caused an economic meltdown, as businesses have been shuttered to prevent potential spread of the deadly virus.
Bill Cronin, president and CEO of the Pasco EDC, outlined the emergency business program during an April 21 virtual Pasco County Commission meeting.
Cronin explained the idea was to provide up to $5,000 grants to eligible small businesses — based on a first-come, first-served basis.
If every business received $5,000, that would provide grants for 400 businesses, Cronin said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano praised the grant program.
“To actually find out a way to help the small businesses, especially in this tough time, I think is phenomenal,” he said.
But, Mariano asked if smaller grants could be given. Some small businesses might not need the entire $5,000, and more could be helped if they don’t.
Cronin responded: “You do need to make sure that it’s able to make an impact. At $5,000, you can actually cover a rent payment or a mortgage payment, or at least something the landlord would be willing to take. Right now, we’ve identified there is $2 million to use for this fund.”
Commission Chairman Mike Moore agreed with Cronin that the grant should be large enough to make an impact.
Commissioner Ron Oakley observed: “Those 400 small businesses are going to go in a hurry, I think.”
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said: “I’m very grateful for this effort.”
The board approved the emergency grant program on April 21 and, by 6 p.m., on April 22 the Pasco EDC stopped accepting applications.
The applications are being vetted and applicants will be informed of their status soon, according to a Pasco EDC news release.
Businesses must meet a number of requirements and cannot have more than 25 employees.
The review committee includes bankers and county staff.
No county commissioners are part of the committee, Moore noted, during the board discussion of the grant program.
Published April 29, 2020
As businesses and individuals cope with sudden losses causes by impacts of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), various agencies and organizations are stepping up to provide information about resources that can help.
The Pasco Economic Development Council Inc., has compiled a list of useful resources for the business community.
There also is useful information on websites maintained by Pasco and Hillsborough counties, and the Pasco and Hillsborough public school systems.
The local chambers of commerce also are offering information that may prove useful.
Here is a look at some of the resources available, as reported by the Pasco EDC:
- The Business Damage Assessment survey assesses the impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s local businesses, including those in Pasco County. The survey, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will evaluate businesses affected by COVID-19 and the impacts the virus has had on the local economy, so actions to implement economic relief programs for businesses can begin.
- The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is available to small business owners in all Florida counties statewide that experienced economic damage from COVID-19. These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer-term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance. The SBDC Tampa Bay can assist companies through the process.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides low-interest, long-term disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters, to repair or replace uninsured/underinsured disaster damaged property. SBA disaster loans offer an affordable way for individuals and businesses to recover from declared disasters.
Published April 1, 2020
Ever wanted to create your own business or startup?
If you do, the Pasco Economic Development Council’s (Pasco EDC) SMARTstart program may be able to lend a hand, or two.
Essentially, the program is designed to assist entrepreneurs — through a combination of guidance, collaboration, funding, education and workspace opportunities.
SMARTstart program manager Dan Mitchell detailed many of those offerings, at last month’s Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting Seven Springs Golf Club in New Port Richey.
Mitchell told those gathered: “If you’re an entrepreneur somewhere in the startup phase, or first couple years, we probably have a program that can help benefit you at some point during that journey. You just have to ask.”
Pasco EDC is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes countywide economic development, and is partnered and funded by corporate and public investors focused on the economic vitality of Pasco County.
Through SMARTstart, it operates two business incubators. One is in Dade City and the other in New Port Richey.
Each offers its own set of unique features, along with affordable desk spaces and professional meeting spaces with Wi-Fi connections.
One of the newer features at the Dade City site, for instance, is an incubator commercial kitchen. It aims to help those looking to launch a food business beyond farmer’s markets and vendor fairs.
Operating at 15029 14th St., the facility features a six-burner range, a single-door refrigerator, a single-door freezer, an under-the-counter ice machine, shelving, and stainless steel work tables. Mitchell said it helps food entrepreneurs facilitate wholesale distribution “to grow to that next level.”
Pasco EDC’s location in West Pasco offers its own digital media studio for podcasting, recording commercials and so on. It comes furnished with a high-quality sound board, four boom mics, green screens and white screens, which can all be used.
In Mitchell’s words, it’s “super neat.”
SMARTstart also offers educational classes, workshops and coaching to aspiring entrepreneurs. The learning sessions cover such topics as cybersecurity, crowdfunding, YouTube and social media marketing. There also are monthly entrepreneur roundtables, often facilitated by retired corporate executives who share their expertise.
Mitchell underscored the value of sessions where fellow entrepreneurs brainstorm, receive mentorship, and discover they’re not alone in their problems or roadblocks of starting a business.
“We know that being an entrepreneur is hard,” he said.
SMARTstart also opens the door for more business-to-business connection for startup entrepreneurs.
The Pasco EDC’s ongoing partnerships with local chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, CareerSource and others, Mitchell said, so it can help business owners make a variety of connections.
In other words, the Pasco EDC’s deep ties throughout the community gives entrepreneurs a chance to network with people they otherwise would never meet.
“We can’t force business to happen, but we can set the table,” Mitchell said.
SMARTstart even has a microloan business financing program, designed for those that can’t secure a loan from a typical bank.
Loans are available for up to $50,000, coming from a revolving fund that must be paid back eventually. To qualify, an entrepreneur or small business owner must demonstrate the experiences and resources to be successful, Mitchell said.
Microloan proceeds may be used for working capital, inventory, supplies, furniture and fixtures, or machinery and equipment.
The program has loaned out a total of $1.5 million to 57 businesses since being established about five years ago, Mitchell said.
The microloan program helps fill a needed niche in business financing, Mitchell said.
“If you’re a startup and the bank says, ‘Sorry, we’re not going to give you money, you’re brand new,’ come to us. We’ll talk to you, we’ll walk you through the process. You still have to have what it takes, but maybe it’s not what the bank is looking for, and just call me and we’ll talk about that,” Mitchell said.
Pasco EDC and SMARTstart also have other initiatives in the works.
They recently sponsored a free mobile application called Startup Space, for Pasco County-based entrepreneurs. It’s similar to a Facebook group, Mitchell said, but just for local entrepreneurs, where they can communicate with one another in real-time, seek advice, post business events and more.
He said of the app, “You can get a little more granular with your questions, and help each other out, ‘Hey, does anyone have a good CPA?’”
The Pasco EDC also is organizing a new event called, “Grow Pasco,” that will bring together about 200 entrepreneurs on May 9 at the Hyatt Place Tampa/Wesley Chapel.
The event’s keynote speaker will be Kevin Harrington, who’s credited with creating the television infomercial and was an original panelist on ABC’s “Shark Tank” hit television series.
The event also will have other guest speakers, panels, workshops and breakout sessions.
For more information, visit PascoEDC.com, or call (813) 926-0827.
Published February 05, 2020