BROOKSVILLE – At 71, Bobby Meadows insists his entrepreneurial spirit is as strong as ever.
The founder of Brooksville Printing, Meadows ran the shop for 29 years in a building on Main Street that dates back to before the beginning of the last century. After selling the business in 2004, it didn't take him long to start missing it.
"I like to be around people, and I missed seeing old friends who stopped by," Meadows said Friday.
So a few months ago, Meadows began renovating his property at 100 Main St. He stripped a fake facade back to the original brick walls, redecorated and started Bobby Meadows Printing and Antiques.
It's a small operation, but according to Dennis Wilfong, Brooksville's volunteer ambassador of commerce and employment, it and other similar-sized businesses are the backbone to the economic resurgence the city so desperately needs.
To recognize those efforts, Wilfong organized an appreciation breakfast Friday for local business owners in honor of National Small Business Week. And he had good news to share.
He said that in the face of a weak economy, Brooksville managed to attract 56 new businesses, which created more than 250 jobs, since January 2009.
"It shows that more and more, we're becoming an attractive place to people who want to start or relocate a business," Wilfong said. "We think it's a trend that's only going to grow as time goes along."
Addressing the business owners, Mayor Lara Bradburn credited forward thinking by city staff for the city's business-friendly environment.
"We've eliminated occupation fees, upgraded water and sewer in many areas and updated building codes,'' Bradburn said. "All of that sends a positive signal to prospective business owners that we want them here."
That was certainly true for Monster Transmission, a nationally known transmission refurbisher and parts supplier that began operations in 2003 at a 1,000 square-foot facility in Spring Hill.
Owner Achilles Thomas said the positive nature of the city's business climate was one of the major reasons why he moved his growing company with 23 employees to a 22,000-square-foot facility on Oliver Street.
"Had they not been accommodating to our needs, we might have looked elsewhere," he said. "As it is, we're very happy here."
Still, Wilfong believes the city needs to do more to attract new businesses, and to keep the ones already here.
He looks to elected officials to keep property tax rates low and make the city more attractive to merchants.
In addition, Wilfong continues to look for inexpensive ways to promote Brooksville to outsiders. In a couple of weeks, he plans to unveil an interactive video postcard promoting Brooksville as a place to live and work. The project was launched in March with a $5,000 sponsorship commitment from the council.
Patricia Correa, owner of Enchiladas Mexican Restaurant on Broad Street, said she believes the city is ripe for a business boom as the economy continues to improve.
The restaurant, which she and her husband opened last summer, has seen steady growth in the past few months, mainly due to a number of new businesses opening nearby.
"It seems people are beginning to rediscover Brooksville again," Correa said.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.