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Brooksville hopes to lure $25M facility

The German parent of an Odessa industrial company is interested in building a $25-million manufacturing plant in either Pasco or Hernando County, and state officials say Gov. Charlie Crist is poised to help make a pitch.

Economic development officials are lobbying the Bauer Group, an engineering giant with estimated revenues of $1.5-billion last year, to locate a manufacturing facility on 100 acres in one of three possible locations: Zephyrhills, Lacoochee or Brooksville.

The facility could bring 200 jobs paying an average of $45,000 to $50,000 annually. It would make heavy machinery for the oil industry, according to a spokesman for Enterprise Florida, the state's business development arm.

Founded in 1790, the Bauer Group owns Coastal Caisson, which moved its headquarters to Odessa from Clearwater in December. Coastal, a construction services firm specializing in foundations for towers and bridges, also has a plant in South Carolina.

Bauer initially planned on setting up its new facility just outside Houston, until Coastal and Pasco economic development officials made a pitch for Florida, according to the company and state officials.

Now, "our parent company is looking to build a facility either in Houston or here," said Charles Puccini, Coastal's chief executive officer. "They're still talking about it."

Trying to persuade his bosses in Germany to pick the north Suncoast area over Texas, Puccini approached Enterprise Florida and state Sen. Mike Fasano, who in turn asked Crist to help.

"I contacted the governor's office when I heard about it," Fasano said. "They were very supportive to bring the company to Pasco County. Every time I've asked him to help with a situation with Pasco, he's always come through."

But Puccini said Crist has not yet called the Bauer Group. Crist's office did not reply to calls for comment Friday.

So far, Enterprise Florida has taken the lead on courting the Bauer Group. Its spokesman said the deal isn't at a point yet where Enterprise Florida needs Crist's direct intervention.

"It would be a great opportunity for this state," said Stuart Doyle, Enterprise Florida's spokesman. "Manufacturing is one area where we are really trying to bring in more high-paying jobs. That's our interest in it."

State incentives are a possibility, but Doyle declined to specify if any are yet on the table.

If he does intercede, Crist would be the second governor in four months to be involved in Coastal's enterprise.

When Coastal wanted to move to its new Odessa office in December, former Gov. Claude Kirk tried to block the move.

Kirk made an appearance at Pasco's Development Review Committee when Coastal's plans were up for review. Lobbying on behalf of his friends, James and Helen Rosburg, who live next to Coastal's Odessa site, he told Pasco officials that the company was an environmental threat.

But Coastal won the argument, pointing out its efforts to clean up the site, a former illegal dump. The company removed 1,500 truckloads of debris that had been on the site before its arrival, and created a buffer of at least 400 feet between its plant and the Rosburgs' property line. The Odessa facility contains service, maintenance and storage areas for Coastal's equipment.

Mary Jane Stanley, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council, was unavailable for comment Friday.

Puccini said the company may have a clearer idea on its decision in April.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4613.

Brooksville hopes to lure $25M facility 03/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 1:51pm]
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