Several county commissioner candidates mentioned economic development as a core issue facing the county. As a follow-up we asked them to expand on their ideas for economic development, describe what they consider that to be and what a strong economic development plan looks like. Each candidate was given up to 275 words for their response.
Isaiah Haddon (DEM)
In the General Election, Haddon will run against the winner of the District 1 REP Primary.
Economic development will be immense if we just follow the trajectory of new-age jobs and support careers like electricians and plumbers that are being left behind in a twofold approach.
Our government must offer incentives for start-ups to fill the many vacant office spaces in Hernando. Local leaders need to stop pretending they are experts in every field and lessen government overreach. During this, empowering other organizations to lead (non-profits, churches, and community outreach groups) is crucial. Lastly, we simply must invest in vocational colleges. The emphasis is on investment.
This revival of fields will bring business pouring into Hernando and leave our citizens with careers that they will have pride in. Putting our citizens in the mental mindset of abundance instead of scarcity will mean we will spend more money in our small businesses, thus breathing life into our economy.
Mark Johnson (REP)
A strong economic development plan includes expanding the client base at the airport, implementing the Port of Hernando and workforce training to help those whose employers will not reopen once the pandemic subsides. Below are three of my ideas.
I favor expanding the airport operations to international markets. One example is livestock imports. Quarter-horses and prize bulls are brought into Miami and quarantined, then released, trucked to Central Florida and the Panhandle. It is a win-win to fly them here, hold them, and truck one quarter the distance from our backyard. We have the land and can create the facilities to pen this prize livestock. It would create the need for a Customs Agent which would allow for more two-way international trade.
The Port of Hernando has been in the Master Plan for 2030-2040. Our County Administrator has experience in developing ports. By moving the fishing fleet out of the canals in Hernando Beach two problems are eliminated at one time. With direct access to the Gulf our fleet can grow as needed creating more jobs. A new location for a port will add revenue from ad-valorem, and sales tax increases of revenue in restaurants, marinas, and allow PHSC to establish a Marine Biology Laboratory, expanding their programs in Hernando. There are State and Federal programs that off-set many costs associated with this development.
My public-private partnership is an example of how the County can prepare residents to reenter the workforce in jobs to replace those lost due to the pandemic. Cost and time effective training to get families self-sufficient quickly. Co-operation between the County, School Board and City of Brooksville will expedite this conversion.
Beth Narverud (REP)
I would like to see a strong, robust, and consistent economic development plan to help diversify the economy and broaden the tax base. As a small business owner, I understand the importance of predictability. Having a local government that creates a friendly and stable environment for businesses to open, is what entrepreneurs want.
I’m not sure that “taxpayer funded” giveaways are the best way to attract new businesses. I would rather see us utilize those funds to improve and upgrade community assets we already have. Such as updating the amenities at our parks and public venues. This will bring families together and help our communities grow stronger.
I would like to see us expand our Adult Education programs. This will create more opportunities for ALL our residents to learn new skills and trades thereby increasing an individual’s earning potential as well as strengthening our workforce to attract businesses that offer a more than a living wage.
Ultimately, what I envision for Hernando county is embracing and utilizing each community’s unique assets to create businesses and venues that promote intercounty tourism as well as making us an attractive destination to our neighboring counties.
Joe Swilley (REP)
Economic development is happening in Hernando County. We have the runway being extended at the airport, we have (2) 11,000 square ft. industrial buildings going up, also at the airport. We have numerous homes being built. What we have to do is to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to handle additional growth which at this time I do believe is in place and I believe we can find that future infrastructure is addressed in the 2040 plan. What we have to do better at is bringing higher paying jobs into Hernando County. We have a great central location for distribution, we have lower wages than a lot of states, we are a right to work state, we have no state income tax, we have the airport as well as the railway. We have to look at the codes & regulations that we have in place, if it is not mandated by the state or federal government then why do they exist in Hernando County. Excessive regulations deter businesses from moving to a particular location. A lot of businesses put the ease of working with the local government at the top of their list when considering where to relocate to, yes even before taxes. What is stopping us from contacting these companies now? We can’t wait until they announce they are moving. We have to put Hernando County in their heads before anyone else contacts them. Obviously what we have been doing is not working so we need to stop taking a government approach & take a proactive business approach.
Nick Nicholson (REP)
These are extraordinarily difficult times. And extraordinary times require aggressive action to be taken to not only grow our economy but to also protect it. We have to devise incentives that will contribute to overcoming the problems created by the devastating effects of the Coronavirus.
• My hat goes off to the current Board of County of Commissioners and our Economic Development Team for enacting the Hernando Cares Act: The Hernando Cares Act is a critical current, economic development local stimulus that allows Hernando County employers to receive from $2500- $5000 (depending on the number of employees) to assist with retaining employees and continuing the operation of their business. I would strongly encourage the County Commission and Economic Development to implement additional funding assistance for our current/local businesses.
• I strongly believe in maximizing our efforts and resources to bring new businesses, with incentives, to our wonderful county. For example, the county controls over 200 acres at our Airport Industrial Park. Plus, other well-positioned areas near the 1-75 intersection. We need to incentify businesses to move here with the various tools available to local government plus, our own Economic Development Team.
• I do not believe that any governmental body, local or otherwise, should make a profit. Local government tax surpluses, by statue, should be capped so that, in the event of excess tax collections, a reduction in property taxes would automatically be implemented and given back to ALL property owners. In other words, a tax reduction.
Burton Melaugh (REP)
Specifically, we need aggressive industrial development at the airport area. I’ve met with both the Airport Director and the Director of Economic development, and have taken tours of the industrial area with both of them. There is ample room and opportunity to bring industry to Hernando, and keep it concentrated in one place so as not to intrude on our county’s complexion. Industrial development satisfies two ends, both critical in Hernando: It expands the tax base, with the highest opportunity for county income at the lowest cost, and it brings good paying jobs to the Hernando economy and its citizens. In fact, I’m told that we have corporations that want to come here, but are not willing to build. With the formation of public/private business partnerships, the opportunity for a commercial builder to put up facilities, with a customer waiting to occupy the dwelling, will certainly be very palatable to the members of our local building industry.
John Allocco (REP, Incumbent)
Quality economic development is necessary for a healthy community to create jobs, as well as career opportunities that encourage our children to remain or return to the county to raise their own families here. It also creates opportunities for new families to choose Hernando County as home. If done properly this reduces the tax burden on the homeowner by diversifying the tax base.
The role of the County Commission is to create the environment, not to create the jobs. I am not in favor of “corporate welfare”; therefore, the appropriate role of government is to create an environment that is attractive for businesses to open, to expand, or to relocate here. We can do that by having stable government with adequate reserves, clearly defined business districts, training each county department to have a customer service mindset, and low overall taxes compared to our competition.
When choosing a community, many businesses want to know fast they can be open. By working together with our building department and our economic development department, we have developed a “fast track” permitting process that focuses on getting a new or expanding business open as quickly as possible. Investments into our airport industrial park to make sites “slab ready” is also important.
Businesses do extensive research before choosing which community to invest in. Electing competent and ethical people to office is also extremely important because negative news stories can severely impact opportunities for economic growth and the willingness of a quality company to invest into your community. You have my word that I will have Hernando County’s interests ahead of my own as your commissioner.
Michael Burmann (NPA)
In the General Election, Burmann will run against the winner of the District 5 REP Primary.
When it comes to economic development, not all growth is good. For instance, if a carpet manufacturer wants to come to the industrial park, I would vote against it. The coloring of carpet takes tons of water. I believe this is a resource we need to protect. So what does good growth look like? Well, our airport industrial park does give us an advantage in the area of large distribution. Shippers like UPS, FEDEX, DHL, Amazon, all use large planes that need a long runway to move their product. Other surrounding counties have industrial parks with an airport, but none have both a tower and a long runway. With the right promotion we may be able to land one or more of these companies which provide good high paying jobs. I also believe we missed a great opportunity to increase the size of the pier at Bayport, and create more parking with an additional boat launch when the pier was being rebuilt. I still consider Hernando County to be the Nature Coast and I believe we could have built something special there. I also believe that the county should have kept funding Brooksville Main Street. This organization has brought us Friday Night Live (concerts in the park) and many more programs that are helping small businesses in Brooksville. The Main Street program also funds and puts on one of the best Christmas programs in the region. It’s a month-long program with activities almost every night. You know when we shop local and recreate local, the money we spend cycles back through our community which is good for all Hernando County citizens.
Steve Champion (REP, Incumbent)
A strong economy occurs when the government gets out of the way. For the past four years I have worked hard to reduce regulations that restrict business as well as keeping the government as small as possible. With less government and taxes businesses thrive without these costly restrictions. We have a very attractive county. Lots of open space, low taxes, low crime rates and good schools. We are seeing record housing growth now as well as record new businesses opening. I do not believe in the government paying tax payer dollars to bring a business to the county. We should not be in the business of picking winners or losers. We’ll leave that up to entrepreneurs. Our economics development team is constantly promoting our county as a great place to start a business!
Kevin Hohn (REP)
Economic Development in Hernando County encompasses several of the same issues as economic
growth with additional considerations for socioeconomic or quality of life goals. There are the standard pieces for growth that include job creation, infrastructure, housing, stable and viable budget, etc., but you must also include quality of education, mental health issues, and wage stagnation to name a few.
Job Creation – an evaluation must be done on what types of jobs would most benefit Hernando County. Currently, less than 14% of the county has a college degree. There should be a blend of occupations that are brought into the county such as doctors, and occupations that are currently prevalent but underutilized such as tradesmen. A vibrant job market has a direct impact on the socioeconomic goals such as unemployment and homelessness.
Infrastructure – road improvements, water and sewer, are the first to come to mind but as important are the services provided by the county. Libraries, parks, and trash pick-up etc. are important quality of life issues that must be considered.
Housing – the price of housing rose 7% last year in Hernando County. However, wages only rose 3.5%. The lack of inventory of homes for sale and apartments is artificially driving the prices up. The pace of new homes coming into inventory is not keeping pace with demand. And the county continues to shoehorn subdivisions into already overcrowded areas. While our children are already learning in trailers, many of our roads need to be widened and repaired.
Viable Budget – a healthy government attracts new business and opportunities for investment.
Continuing to eliminate inefficiencies will improve the expense side of the budget.