If you’ve ever made a purchase at The Shops at Wiregrass, taken a class at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, or attended an event at the Wiregrass Sports Complex of Pasco County — you’ve benefited from the way the Porter family chose to manage the development of its land holdings.
Acreage once owned by the Porters is now occupied by a multitude of developments — which make up the building blocks of community life.
The family purchased the land in the 1940s, which would become Wiregrass Ranch — a cattle and citrus operation in Wesley Chapel.
The family pursued and obtained permission for a Development of Regional Impact, and, over time, it sold portions of its land for projects such as Saddlebrook Resort, The Shops at Wiregrass, AdventHealth Wesley Chapel, medical offices, apartments, subdivisions and other developments.
It also donated land for Pasco-Hernando State College and the Wiregrass Sports Complex of Pasco County.
The family was honored by the Pasco County Commission on Sept. 20 for its contributions toward improving the quality of life in Pasco County.
In previous interviews with The Laker/Lutz News, J.D. Porter explained the family’s philosophy of growth.
He said the family has been selective about the types of projects it brings into Wiregrass Ranch — making sure the user is a good fit and using care to ensure the pace of development allows ongoing projects to become successful before introducing new ones.
The idea, he added, is to have a mix of large and small users, to avoid relying too much on large users, in case they go away.
The family also has cultivated a mix of uses, such as boutique restaurants, shops, and locally owned businesses — as well as the kind of development needed to address basic needs, such as health care and education.
“We could’ve easily sold out to a bunch of different developers, but none of them represented the legacy that my dad and my grandfather really embraced,” Porter previously told The Laker/Lutz News.
The family has shared a collective vision and a collective will for what has been done so far, and for the foundation that has been laid for the future, he added.
One of the family’s contributions to the community was the donation of 60-plus acres for Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch.
When the Porter campus opened in January 2014, it represented the first opportunity for Wesley Chapel students to attend college in their own community.
In its resolution of appreciation, the Pasco county board recounted some of the family’s history in Wesley Chapel.
James H. and Martha M. Porter established Wiregrass Ranch in the 1940s, raising their sons, Don, Tom and Bill there, the resolution says.
The name Wiregrass Ranch stems from a postcard sent in 1950 by Ed Madill, one of James Porter’s friends. Madill addressed it to “Wiregrass Porter, Gatorville, Florida, USA” and it reached its intended recipient, the resolution adds.
The resolution also notes Bill Porter, the president of Wiregrass Ranch, and the next generation of Porters — including J.D, Quinn, Colby, Haley, Hatcher, Alexis, Rachel, Lynda and Debbie — is continuing the family’s tradition of commitment to the county.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, who sponsored the resolution, said the board wanted to acknowledge the Porter’s contributions, not only to Pasco, but also to the region and state.
Moore characterized the family as being philanthropists, innovators, community-minded and trailblazers.
Moore expressed gratitude for the Porters’ approach.
“They could have sold this land off years and years and years ago. They could have had more money than God, because of this.
“But they’ve been very methodical, in the way they’ve done things, because they wanted to do things right. They want to continue to do things right.”
“They really have this sense of community,” Moore said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano added: “Your family’s commitment from the get-go was always to do this first class. You took your time, you made sure you had it right, you waited for the right people to come in. And the way that you did it methodically, every step of the way, has been fantastic.
“Pasco is so much better off, because of the Porter family,” Mariano said.
J.D. Porter, who spoke on behalf of the family, told the board he appreciated the kind words.
“We still have a long, long path to go,” he said. “We’ve got a long runway that we’re working with, but on behalf of my entire family, thank you guys for making it an environment that we can succeed in, and for continuing to grow.”
“Working with you all and working with staff has become a lot easier and we look forward to a lot more great years, and we’ve got plenty of good stuff to come.”
Published October 26, 2022