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Pause in Pasco economy puzzles experts

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Published:   |   Updated: April 30, 2013 at 05:13 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY -

The recovery in the Pasco County economy seems to be stuck on pause in recent months. No new projects have closed in the last 90 days, according to John Hagen, president and CEO of Pasco Economic Development Corp.

The worrisome trend has baffled PEDC staff and other observers, Hagen said.

“All we can figure out is the market is just not there,” Hagen said during an appearance before the Pasco County Commission. “Hopefully, this is just an anomaly.”

Hagen noted the widespread speculation about the impact of sequestration that led to federal government budget trimming.

“It’s not due to our own efforts,” Hagen added about fewer leads for startup ventures or companies relocating to Pasco.

The PEDC staff checked with other counties in Florida and several statewide business groups, who also reported slowdowns of late, Hagen said.

PEDC has recorded 103 leads about midway through the current fiscal year. That pace is slower than the 263 leads for the entire, previous fiscal year.

For the fiscal year to date, five companies started projects here, bringing 150 jobs to the area, PEDC stats show. The firms infused $8,275,000 into the local economy and snapped up 121,900 square feet of commercial space.

The firms are Lightport Inc., Communication Concepts Inc., SB Manufacturing LLC, 301 Designs Inc. and JTD Enterprises.

New opportunities could include firms such as an information development company, software integration and support, aircraft parts manufacturer, safety and technology integrator, medical software developer and a social media consultant.

Other bright spots exist, Hagen noted. PEDC now has raised $221,950 in private funds as 11 new investors joined the nonprofit economic agency. The goal is to raise $350,000 this fiscal year to supplement public funding from Pasco County and other sources.

The recent visit by a German delegation was a rousing success, Hagen believes.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, met with several manufacturers to garner their ideas.

Business leaders, including real estate executive Dewey Mitchell, got the best reception Hagen has ever seen during the recent trip to Tallahassee to confer with state lawmakers. Workforce development, roads and infrastructure were among items discussed.

The county’s first business incubator, Dade City, intended to foster business start-ups, is slated to open soon, Hagen said. The incubator program has been branded as SMARTstart.

PEDC eventually could spread the incubator concept to New Port Richey and other parts of West Pasco.

PEDC is laying the groundwork for a second visit by representatives of the Urban Land Institute. The advisory panel from the nonprofit education and research organization spent a week here in April 2008 dissecting the county’s organization.

Pasco continues to follow the institute’s recommendations for changes to Pasco land use management as outlined in the September 2008 report.

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