by LISA MACNEIL
Hernando Sun Reporter
Valerie Pianta, Hernando County’s Economic Development Director, provided an update regarding economic development activities and initiatives for FY 2019 at the Aug. 27, 2019 Hernando County Commissioners meeting.
Pianta reported that roughly half of her office’s efforts are spent on business retention, expansion and growth within the county. Roughly 18% of the time is spent recruiting new business into Hernando.
The Economic Development department is currently involved with 17 current projects, 10 are expansion projects, 7 are new projects. Four projects are aviation-related benefiting the Brooksville Tampa Regional Airport (BKV). Completion of all the projects, will result in 193 new jobs, 472 retained jobs, more than 500,000 square feet of new space and $45 million in capital investment.
Notable business highlights include:
- Frigi-tech will open a 200,000 square foot facility soon
- ICTC Precision Machining launched in 2018
- EliteFence is occupying the Oliver Street facility and is reported to be currently hiring.
- Pianta describes Barrette Outdoor Living a “showcase,” expecting their certificate of occupancy next month.
- Jaguar Coffee is building a 10,000 square foot facility.
- Premier Pharmacy Labs and Flagstone Pavers are also building new facilities.
- Pianta reports working with the PACE School to seek a new location.
Economic Development is also planning an entrepreneurial “think tank,” where prospective business owners and inventors can share feedback to bring new business and products to market.
Trade shows are opportunities for businesses to get in contact with members of their industry one-on-one to exchange ideas and product information. Pianta reported plans to attend the National Business and Aviation (NBAA) and MRO (Maintenance and Repair Operations). Hernando county currently has works with Site Location Partnership, which displays Hernando county banners and information at six additional trade shows which the county cannot directly attend. Site Location Partnership also assists in marketing through email, direct marketing and print advertising.
New initiatives introduced include an Economic Development Technical Advisory Committee which will engage different business sectors to provide feedback and assistance on various issues such as strategic planning, prioritizing goals, policies and incentives. Business sectors being considered are real estate, financial services, construction, engineering, educators, the Chamber of Commerce, and the business community in general.
Pianta told the board that she plans to complete related policies by the end of the year to submit to the board for approval.
On the subject incentives, Pianta recommended remaining with Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) incentives, which is a state program, giving the county access to Enterprise Florida Business Development Managers and projects steered to the department by way of QTI. The county’s financial responsibility is 20% of the total incentive offered.
The Incentive Balance fund through 2028 contains just under $60,000 with all encumbrances. Since the account has not been funded through the new fiscal year, Economic Development is not currently offering incentives for new businesses.
Pianta added that if necessary, she would like to be able to approach the board for discretionary funds in cases where incentives would be beneficial.