Economic yearbook 2010
High-speed rail will boost a slowly evolving turnaround.
John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council, says he’s heartened by a growing number of local companies that have actually started to grow again. “We have a lot of small companies here, small manufacturers, and I think it’s kind of interesting that some of them are trying to expand,” Hagen says. To help, county commissioners have appropriated $2 million for an economic development incentive fund “so we have some money to help these companies,” Hagen says.
Person to Watch
» Before Anthony Gaeto came along, you were out of luck if you wanted a fast and easy way to buy a tomato-milling machine. His firm, Web Direct Brands, specializes in creating websites for obscure products from the milling machines — which come in handy for making tomato sauce — to autoharps and driveway gates. The Odessa company recently received a $250,000 economic gardening loan from the Black Business Investment Fund of Florida, which Gaeto says will help the company expand. Web Direct Brands employs 30, and Gaeto plans to hire another five or six by the end of the year. “I’d like to be a $100-million company — possibly beyond that,” he says. “We have a really nice growth model now, and we just want to continue on and see where it takes us.”
Businesses to Watch
» Economic development officials say the $200-million trade agreement that Dais Analytic signed with a Chinese government-owned company last September has the potential to bring 1,000 jobs to Pasco County. The five-year contract calls for the Odessa-based nanotechnology firm to create components for heating, cooling and water clean-up products.
» FreightCenter, a Trinity-based logistics company, plans to hire 75 employees this year and move into a 10,000-sq.-ft. facility. The company’s sales departmentgrew 300% in 2009.
With an uncomfortably high unemployment rate, Hernando County economic development officials are stepping up their efforts to lure businesses and jobs. Mike McHugh, the county’s business development director, has suggested boosting the county’s economic development project reserve — a source of incentives — from $500,000 to $5 million.
Business to Watch
» Last year, local officials showed how highly they think of Brooksville’s Sparton Electronics: They offered the high-tech firm $300,000 in incentives to stay in Hernando County and add 100 jobs. The company, which already employs 179, makes electronic circuit boards used in the aerospace, defense and medical industries.
John Siefert, executive director of the Citrus County Economic Development Council, concedes that the county’s unemployment rate has reached an “unhealthy” level. As a result, he says the newly reorganized development council is focusing this year on creating jobs. Examples include helping local businesses secure stimulus money and bank loans. One positive sign, Siefert says, has been continued job stability at Progress Energy, the county’s largest employer.
Person to Watch
» Within a year of getting elected to the Citrus County Commission, 30-year-old Joe Meek became both president of the Citrus County Economic Development Council and one of the county’s leading pro-business voices. “In the past, Citrus County has gotten a reputation as being not a friendly place to do business,” he says. “We’re working extremely hard to change that. We’re putting a priority on removing excess regulation.”
Business to Watch
» Dixie Hollins won zoning approval earlier this year for a 547-acre, mixed-use development. Called Hollinswood Harbor, the development is to include a marina and residential, industrial, commercial and retail components. Hollins’ grandfather, also named Dixie Hollins, was a former Pinellas County superintendent of public instruction and is the namesake of Dixie Hollins High School in Kenneth City.