TreeUmph! coming to Hernando?

Julie Maglio

TreeUmph!, a treetop adventure course attraction will be working with the County to create an adventure park on a 46 acre property on Cedar Lane, 6 miles west of I75/SR50 Intersection. The location is nearby another recently approved tourist destination, Zemplen Winery and Cooperage. The project has been in the planning phase or 13 months.

After a presentation by TreeUmph!, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project with financial guarantees to be worked out with the assistance of the County Administrator.

TreeUmph! will lease the property with the option to purchase. Hernando County is providing the following incentives to the company:
1. The cost of the lease for the first two years will be $1.00/year. During this time, they will be constructing the trails and buildings.
2. The County will provide funding for infrastructure including engineering, road, water, and parking lot construction. The County department engineer estimated approximately $650K would be needed to build out the infrastructure. The work would be done in a draw process- never paying out in advance always paying out after work is done and approved. Those funds would be paid back through a lease agreement. It would take as much as 14 years to pay it back in full, but TreeUmph! would like to pay back sooner. Once it is paid back, they would have the option to purchase the property for $100. The Hernando County Property Appraiser assessed the property to be worth $306,447.

The County's $650K would be protected as county investments through one of three options:
1. bond
2. irrevocable letter of credit or
3. personal guarantee
which would remain in effect until the infrastructure work was completed.

Commissioner Adkins questioned Mr. Coller, the County Attorney, about what is the best form of protection for the $650K investment. Mr. Coller said he is not a big fan of bonds because the County has had problems with them in the past and an Irrevocable letter of credit would probably be the best option. Commissioner Dukes also had concerns about the bond and preferred an irrevocable letter of credit.

Commissioner Adkins asked County Administrator Len Sossamon where the $650K would be coming from. Mr. Sossamon explained that a few years ago during the budget process the Commission put $500K into an economic business development fund. After the last three budget cycles, it has grown to $1.8 million. The $650K would come out of that and leave the County with $1.15 million to go towards other businesses they are trying to recruit.
Commissioner Holcomb asked Mr. Sossamon what the property is currently used for. Mr. Sossamon responded that the property is not in use and mostly wet.

Currently TreeUmph! operates a 14 acre adventure park in Bradenton, FL. Two owners of the business, Aaron and Kathy Corr brought the idea down from Canada where a similar adventure park was built close to their home. The Bradenton park opened in 2012 and features 76 treetop obstacles including ziplines, rope swings and ladders that can be completed in a two to four hour time frame.

Mr. Corr explained to County Commissioners that the park attracts tourists from all over Florida. Eighty-two percent of visitors to the park are from outside of Manatee County. In their 2012 inaugural year they hosted over 25,000 guests and in 2014 that number increased to over 40,000. In 2013 they brought in $1.1 million in sales. Sales increased by 40% in 2014. TreeUmph! co-markets with local businesses and told the Commission that people are hungry and looking for food when they leave the park.

TreeUmph! would be hiring local subcontractors for construction of buildings and grounds development which includes parking lot, approximately 4000 feet of trails, drainage, water supply, septic and security fencing.

They anticipate having 30,000 visitors each year. According to TreeUmph, their economic impact would be $2.35 million broken down as follows:
- $1.1 million in local construction and consulting services
- $750K in payroll, supplies and materials
- $500K in peripheral business from visitors traveling to area

The Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council estimates an economic impact of $2.5 million a year between payroll taxes and gross county product. They predict that 12 induced support industry jobs would be created.

The County is using $650,000 in incentive money to lure TreeUmph! to build a new location in Hernando county. After TreeUmph! repays that $650,000 in incentive money via its lease, they will be able to purchase the land, currently appraised at $306,447, for $100.

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