Make us your home page
Instagram

Bright kids not seeing their future back in Hernando County

Eighteen teenagers had gathered Tuesday morning at Chinsegut Nature Center and there wasn't a body piercing in sight — not a single expression of sullen boredom.

The students, chosen from county high schools for their academic and leadership ability, debated how to develop a fictional 250-acre forest as part of a Teen Leadership exercise sponsored by the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce.

They showed business judgment, imagination and concern for the environment.

Watching them huddled around pine-shaded picnic tables, absorbed in discussion, was enough to make you feel almost cheery about our future.

Except when one of the event's organizers asked the students whether any of them planned to return to Hernando after college and, if so, to please stand up.

Not a single one budged.

Maybe it's no surprise that ambitious teenagers plan to leave home. But it did concern the adults who helped put on the event, including Barbara Jensen, a career specialist at Springstead High.

"We chose these kids based on our feelings that they are good leaders,'' she said. "Of course, we hope they will stay in Hernando County.''

Another reason to worry: The students were absolutely right about their main gripe — a lack of opportunities.

Two years ago, economist William Fruth completed a report for a private industry group, Hernando Progress Inc., that never got the attention it deserved. One of his findings — that our economy's dependence on residential development has created a glut of low-paying service jobs — was no surprise. The extent of the problem was.

If Hernando was considered separately rather than as part of the Tampa Bay area, Fruth's report said, its average wage would be at the very bottom of the 361 metropolitan areas in the United States.

Judging by the county's depressed housing market and climbing unemployment rate, good jobs may be even scarcer now than they were two years ago.

Knowing the county's need for economic diversity makes you want to cheer recent signs we are attracting new companies, some of which we wrote about Sunday in our annual Hernando Business section.

The industrial park at the Hernando County Airport, in the midst of a major expansion, is now home to about 100 businesses, said county business development director Mike McHugh.

Several of these, like the Jet ICU Air Ambulance Service, are the kind of exciting companies that might draw talented young people.

Maybe, eventually, even a few of the students I met Tuesday:

Matthew Szaro, taking the role of a timber company representative, helped draw up a logging plan that included an eco-tourism center to preserve old-growth forest and create jobs.

Paige Higginson, an aspiring graphic artist from Hernando High, stepped in so quickly as a newspaper reporter, I thought I might talk to my boss about her. William Holobinka, posing as a planning commissioner, asked better questions than many real commissioners I've heard.

If any of them change their minds in a few years, and decide to bring their talents back home, it would be good for all of us.

Bright kids not seeing their future back in Hernando County 02/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24

    Retail

    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights

    Business

    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.

    Yet.

    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]