BROOKSVILLE — With the unanimous approval of an incentives package, the Hernando County Commission this week paved the way for a Clearwater company to expand in Hernando and create 70 new jobs by the end of the year.
Commissioners unanimously approved up to $210,000 in job-creation incentives over the next five years for e-TeleQuote. The company, which has 120 employees in other locations, including about 75 in its Clearwater headquarters, markets and sells Medicare insurance products, which are administered by private insurance carriers, to people over the age of 65.
The company, which was launched in 2011, was looking at options for its latest expansion and finally settled on Hernando County.
The company's chief executive officer, Tony Solazzo, told commissioners that the selection of Hernando was due to the serious engagement he experienced with the county's Economic Development Department, which is composed of County Administrator Len Sossamon and coordinator Valerie Pianta.
County Commissioner Wayne Dukes asked Solazzo whether the county should keep its economic development staff, and Solazzo replied, "I would suggest that very strongly.''
Sossamon has faced some criticism lately about his economic development accomplishments.
Solazzo said that research showed there were numerous people in the Hernando area and to the north who have the skills to do his company's work, but that many now travel further south for similar jobs.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he was pleased that the jobs will now be available locally, and Solazzo agreed, noting, "I feel that we can improve the quality of their life'' by allowing people to work closer to home.
Commissioners were happy to hear the time line for the project, which is for the company to be open in Hernando by August, with hiring in July and August.
The incentives are performance-based, which means they are paid as the company proves it has hired the employees it promised at the wages it described. In the case of the proposal made by e-TeleQuote, the average wage for workers will be $44,900, higher than the county average.
With the approval of the incentives, e-TeleQuote intends to negotiate a lease on an existing Hernando building, renovate the interior and construct an addition. The location was not disclosed, but Solazzo said as he was leaving the meeting that he was going to move quickly to settle the lease.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbe[email protected] or (352) 848-1434.