Last year, the economic forecast was so tepid that the keynote speaker put a photo of his dog, Spartan, in his PowerPoint presentation to help cheer everyone up at the Pasco Economic Development Council's annual business luncheon.
"In the meantime, here's a puppy," said Scott Brown, the economist for Raymond James, after mentioning stagnant unemployment rates and tighter fiscal policy for 2013.
This year, organizers hope speaker William Fruth will be able to leave the pet photos at home.
"There's always going to be this wall of worry we climb, but there is this tailwind starting to push the economy," said EDC president John Hagen, referencing recent expert comments. "Things can always derail it but we feel that push starting to happen."
Fruth is the founder of POLICOM, a consulting firm that analyzes economic trends for local governments and helps develop strategic economic development plans. The company counts Pasco County among its clients. The luncheon, set for Feb. 1, concludes Business Development Week, an event organized by the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
"He's doing all the data (analysis) for the county and has a picture of the economy, and an understanding of the Tampa Bay region and our relationship to it," Hagen said.
The week begins Jan. 26 with a business expo at Gulf View Square and includes a kickoff lunch Jan. 28 at Spartan Manor in New Port Richey.
Seminars are offered throughout the week at various locations. Topics this year focus mainly on marketing and technology.
"A large percentage of our members are mom and pop or small businesses," said Dan Sullivan, marketing and events coordinator for the chamber. "They excel at what they do but they don't know how to let people know about it."
The event also focuses on technology, including how to use social media and mobile apps to promote businesses.
"We're rapidly moving into the technological age," Sullivan said. "I'm doing so much more on phones and tablets that I did even two years ago."
He said an attempt to find the neighborhood ice cream truck illustrates the need to be tech savvy.
"I was listening to the bells trying to find it and my son said, 'Let's just use the phone.'"
"If you're going to market to our kids, you're going to do it through electronic devices," he said.
Most of the events are free to attendees, though some that include food do have a fee.