by Art Levy
When John Hagen became president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council in January 2010, he already knew the county’s incentives program needed to be improved.
“The program was very complicated,” he says. “It took a lot of legal work and really wasn’t working.”
Later that year, the county implemented a new economic development ordinance that simplified the incentives process, essentially paying relocating or expanding companies between $2,000 and $5,000 for every job created. The higher the average salary of the new jobs, the more money the company gets.
“It’s a pretty aggressive job-creation incentive,” Hagen says. “No one will come here if they can’t get the right labor force, if they can’t get the right building or if they’re unhappy about the regulatory environment. But when you talk about incentives, it really gets their attention, especially when we’re competing against other communities.”
The incentives program has helped attract four technology firms to Pasco so far this year:
» Retail Process Engineering: The information technology firm brings 16 jobs with an average wage of $105,000, more than three times the county’s average wage. The company could qualify for $80,000 in incentives.
» Communication Concepts: The company, which designs, maintains and monitors video security systems, moved into a 5,000-sq.-ft. building in Odessa. The firm brings 20 jobs with a $48,000 average wage, qualifying it for $56,000 in incentives.
» InvestCloud: The financial services technology firm brings 33 jobs and could qualify for $165,000 in incentives.
» MB2x: The software development company, which created 20 jobs, was the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Startup of the Year. It could get $100,000.
Hagen concedes that the county still has a lot of work to do, particularly competing with Hillsborough County for relocations. “Almost half of our workforce commutes,” he says. “You look at those southbound lanes and they’re full of taillights every morning. You look at the northbound lanes and nobody’s there.”