Make us your home page

Firm hopes to lure 4,000 high-tech jobs to Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — When officials with Precision Alliance Co. told local business leaders recently of their lofty game plan for Hernando County, they raised more than a few eyebrows.

In the next five years, the company hopes to attract 2-million square feet of industrial business by luring 135 high-tech machine tool companies here and creating more than 4,000 high-paying jobs.

That was the notice sent to the Chamber of Commerce last month. Chamber president Pat Crowley forwarded the information to Mike McHugh, the county's business development director.

According to McHugh, Precision Alliance's concept is a good one worth pursuing, but the idea is in its earliest stages.

Still, that's not stopping company owner Joe Selway from moving ahead with his idea of bringing a cluster of machine tool companies into Hernando County to create a business environment modeled after Europe's "Technic Valley,'' considered the world's largest geographic concentration of CNC or computer numerical control machines.

Selway and his partner, Jeffrey Walz, already have an international machine tooling company formed in 1976 on Cortez Boulevard in Brooksville called Eurotech.

The parts manufactured in these businesses go primarily to the medical, aerospace, energy and defense industries. The manufacturing facilities themselves are not at all like manufacturing of the past. Gone are the assembly lines and dirty environments.

The machines that make these parts, Selway said, are computerized and unmanned. They can create a part in one swift operation while the same part made overseas would require multiple machine runs to complete.

Selway and Walz hope to partner with McHugh and Hernando County as well as local school district officials and Pasco-Hernando Community College. They want to create an educational system to begin to train Hernando youngsters to become the well-paid workers in the industry.

Salaries for workers in these businesses could average $40,000 or more and will require high technical skills. That is why Selway wants to work so closely with McHugh and the school district to develop curriculum that could home-grow the future work force.

Selway has also reached out to the business leaders of Hernando Progress and plans further outreach to draw the community into the process and build up the momentum needed to get the idea off the ground. Already, he said, he has persuaded one business, which he did not identify, to move to Hernando County, and others are exploring the possibility.

While some might question the wisdom of placing competing businesses in the same geographic location, Selway said this is the way to go for the future.

By clustering like businesses together, they will network together and learn from one another's strengths. He said that will allow the group to compete better with machine tooling companies overseas.

"The days of worrying about the guy next door are over,'' Selway said. "What we've really got now is an international competition.''

While Selway isn't quite sure yet how his fledgling company will make money, he is confident the idea will fly because the critical pieces are in his favor.

Location is a plus

He already has a customer base and knowledge about the machine tooling industry since he has been in the business all his life. He also said he has a great product to sell, the Gulf Coast of Florida. Selway said the support of the government and private sector partners in the area also will be an asset.

Hernando County has much to offer these potential new businesses. "Hernando County is unique because of the airport situation here,'' both the local airport and the proximity to Tampa International Airport. The county is also close enough to Tampa, Orlando and Ocala, and "it's still affordable.''

In addition, the county already has set aside large tracts for industrial use. "Logistically, we're set up ideally,'' Selway said.

McHugh was excited about that prospect although he stressed the talks are still very early in the process. Just this week he met with officials from Nature Coast Technical High School to discuss the idea.

''This could become a significant training platform for a much wider industry base,'' McHugh said.

The industry requires people trained in a variety of technical skills, such as computer-assisted drafting and programming. Ideally a program could start in the high school and also include an adult education component through the community college.

All of those details are still to be worked out.

"I think it's an ambitious plan and all the stakeholders mentioned see the potential and the merit,'' McHugh said. "We've had some preliminary discussions where there is a lot more groundwork yet to do.''

Still, McHugh said he saw that if the plan worked, Hernando County could reap some huge benefits down the road. And he was especially encouraged to see the industry promoting the idea and the other partners being receptive to talk about them.

"I think it's a vision at this point that we'd love to see become a reality,'' he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

Firm hopes to lure 4,000 high-tech jobs to Hernando 04/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 2:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.