Here’s the link to the article referenced above from the Tampa Bay Times.
PEDC President John Hagen presented to County commissioners last week on a project which would spend the County’s allotted $45 million in Penny for Pasco funds sooner rather than later. It essentially would mean borrowing against the promised revenue to spend the capital now instead of waiting for the check to be in hand.
Mr. Hagen proposed $20 million for a package they have titled “product development” which would include a convention center, an industrial park, and workforce training. Smaller amounts were earmarked for other projects, including $5.5 million for a third business incubator in the County. The total for all projects came to the tidy $45 million total sum.
Here’s my own editorializing on the issue with PEDC: How can we go from one business incubator to three (admittedly not built, but still proposed) in the space of a year and justify that amount of spending on a direction that hasn’t even been proven yet? I have some experience with business incubators and I’m not convinced yet that PEDC’s methods in launching theirs will be effective. There are many examples to follow from the University of Florida where I spent a few years working with startups and I’m not convinced that Photography businesses are your ideal candidates. Nor am I convinced that charging rent and not providing scaling internet services is the right way to go. Mr. Hagen has the right of it: the fastest way to recovery is to recruit outside companies. Building up local business is great but we should be attracting investors and inventors from other areas to come here.
I’ve yet to see any indisputable results from Pasco Economic Development Council in the way of real industry in Pasco–the one exception being their work in keeping Applicant Insight in New Port Richey city limits. But that’s just playing defense; we haven’t seen any offense yet. Mr. Hagen admitted himself that they weren’t able to lure Amazon for the originally discussed corporate site. Why would this additional money make any real difference?
Overall, the plan has some merit–and I can certainly see this money being spent in worse ways–but with the amount of residential development being undertaken in other areas in the County it would appear that we’re being pulled in multiple directions. So which is it: continued heavy residential development or economic development money? It wouldn’t appear that there is room for both in Pasco’s Comprehensive Development Plan, and Mr. Hagen’s suggestions stray from the original design.
By Jon Tietz