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Business trends are looking up, PEDC officials say


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LUTZ — With economic recovery finally percolating throughout Pasco County, it was tough for Pasco Economic Development Council leaders to compile their top 10 list of business trends in 2013.

Are the economic tides finally turning? That’s the theme for the PEDC annual Business Development Week Luncheon on Friday, Jan. 31. John Jung, executive director of BB&T Capital Markets will explore where trends could lead this year.

In the meantime, here are the headlines that got the attention of PEDC experts in 2013.

• Giant outlet mall could open by 2015: After some false starts, the Cypress Creek Town Center could become a reality in the empty field near Wesley Chapel Boulevard and I-75.

Saks 5th Avenue’s Off 5th already has pledged to come on board as the first major retailer. J. Crew, Nike, Banana Republic and Calvin Klein might become other major players at the new mall.

Environmental issues created some twists and turns before the project won approval. Construction could crank up in a matter of months.

• Fifth PHCC campus to open: Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch will offer two new certification programs for surgical and pharmacy technicians when the school opens in January.

The seven-story building will include four stories of classrooms on top of a three-story parking deck.

Nursing, computer and science labs will complement classrooms. The campus will have a two-story library as well.

PHCC will change its name to Pasco-Hernando State College when four-year programs begin in fall 2014.

• Highway work to transform southeast Pasco: House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, announced he had secured funding in the Florida Department of Transportation five-year budget to extend State Road 56 all the way to U.S. 301.

The tentative DOT work program includes $39 million in construction money in 2017. Department spokeswoman Kris Carson said the project is a public-private partnership — property owners will donate the right of way and pay for the design of the four-lane road.

Lawmakers also lobbied FDOT to earmark another $100 million for improvements to State Road 54 and $125 million for improvements to State Road 52.

• Pasco County makes permitting a piece of cake: Larry Daly, a local contractor and a long-time critic of Pasco County’s building permit process, is in a state of “shock and awe” after recently using the county’s new “Walk-Through Permitting” system.

A permit that had routinely taken him over two months to obtain was completed in an hour and thirty minutes. Daly can hardly believe it.

“Over the last 10 years it’s been an absolute nightmare to come to Pasco County to get a permit,” said Daly, who is managing member of Construction Management Services in Port Richey. “

“Imagine my reaction when I walked into the Permit Office at 9:15 in the morning and walked out at 10:45 with my permit. It was a jaw-dropping experience.”

• Developer shares vision for sports complex: Blue Marble founder James Talton pledged to deliver the nation’s premier youth sports complex at Wiregrass Ranch.

He showed commissioners the renderings for a $34 million baseball and softball complex in Wesley Chapel.

The massive project includes 19 fields — including nine Major League Baseball regulation-sized fields and a stadium. The number of fields is more than sufficient to attract an MLB spring training site to Pasco, he said.

The parking deck would have retail shops, concessions and training facilities — including batting cages — on the ground level, Talton said.

Blue Marble would put up $23 million while Pasco County would contribute $11 million.

• Urban Land Institute revisits Pasco County: ULI analysts returned in October to judge progress by the county to institute recommendations made in 2008.

U.S. 19 redevelopment still cries out for attention, according to the preliminary ULI report.

But the ULI panel gave thumbs-down to the proposal for an elevated toll road above most of S.R. 54. Somewhat surprised, Pasco leaders nonetheless reaffirmed their support for the privately funded project to link the west and east sides of the county.

Pasco has made strong strides in planning, ULI advisers said. However, approval for more than 300,000 units for construction raised some eyebrows among the ULI analysts. That’s enough for the next 75 years.

• SunWest county park to go out to bid: Pasco County could make a big splash with swimmers and wakeboarders by next spring as plans take shape for a lakefront beach at the proposed SunWest county park.

After years of delays, the county wants to move swiftly to start building park facilities at the former limestone mine site, County Administrator Michele Baker said.

That could allow a private wakeboard operator to open his facility at the lake, Baker said. Wakeboard tournaments also could become possible as the county emphasizes sports to increase tourism.

The concept for the SunWest park was introduced to the public in February 2007.

• New major industrial buildings to be Pasco’s first since recession hit: Auto magnate Larry Morgan learned he would get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers clearing the way for a $15 million expansion at his Compark 75 industrial park.

Two new buildings with 135,000 square feet will be the first major industrial buildings since recession struck.

Morgan bought Compark 75 in 2005 for $6.2 million. The 220-acre complex stretches from Wesley Chapel Boulevard to Interstate 75 at the midpoint between State roads 54 and 56.

Over 35 years, Morgan grew his tire company into the Tires Plus chain with 600 stores. He sold the company in 2000 and later started Morgan Auto Group, which now operates a dozen car dealerships.

• Pasco could gain first private toll road: Gerald Stanley proposed to build the first private toll road in the state along the S.R. 54 corridor to link Wesley Chapel to New Port Richey.

A partner with International Infrastructure Partners LLC, Stanley envisions elevated lanes over a 33-mile route. The partnership would lease the right-of-way from the state.

State and local officials said the toll road could ferry through traffic if the project comes to fruition.

Without an increase in traffic capacity, S.R. 54 could become a parking lot, PEDC chief John Hagan observed.

• Twitter CEO tweets shoutout to Pasco schools: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sent a tweet out to 1,120,837 followers, featuring a video from Pasco County School District.

The video shows how Sunlake High School is changing the culture of the school through Twitter. The school district has developed social media religion.

In addition, several rapidly growing social media firms are setting up shop in Pasco. Ballywhosocial works directly with companies to develop social strategies. Head of Lettuce Media was founded by Antony Francis. Software development firm MB2x won the Tampa Bay Social Madness competition. Artix Entertainment, a video game development firm, boasts 25,000 followers on Twitter alone.

Many of 2013’s top trends likely will spill over into 2014. That’s why PEDC tapped Jung to share insights at the Business Development Week Luncheon.

The event will start at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club, 10641 Old Tampa Road, San Antonio.

Early registration costs $30. After Jan. 17, the price goes to $35.

Reservations are required. See more information at www.pascoedc.com/events.

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