BROOKSVILLE — The goal: A major employer, with a batch of jobs.
The bait: Up to 100 acres at the Hernando County Airport, at little or no cost.
Under a proposal the County Commission approved unanimously on Tuesday, county airport and business development officials will now prepare a request for proposals to snag a manufacturer, distribution or aviation company for the airport.
The company would have to meet specific criteria, primarily to create 500 new jobs and make a $25-million capital investment. The 50- to 100-acre site would be available to lease for free or at a reduced cost for 20 to 30 years.
The airport has 100 businesses on its 2,400 acres but that accounts for only about 26 percent of the property available for development at the site.
The proposal, which was approved recently by the Federal Aviation Administration, would help the community with jobs as well as benefiting the airport itself, according to airport director Don Silvernell.
Side benefits include building infrastructure for the company that also could be used by other new companies at the industrial park. Landing a large industry would allow the airport to use grants for much of that infrastructure construction, Silvernell explained to the commissioners in his report.
New businesses would also generate money. The leases and fees paid to the airport fund its operation without the need for any dollars from general county monies.
Commissioners were anxious to approve the proposal.
"This is great,'' said Commission Chairman Dave Russell. "We've been talking about this for years.''
"This is a very important piece to bring in the industry that we need,'' said commissioner John Druzbick. "It's extremely important for Hernando County at this time.''
Silvernell and the county's business development director, Mike McHugh, will be working on the details of their request for proposals over the next several weeks, determining such things as the deadline for responses and where to advertise the offer.
While the county might receive 30 or 40 proposals, it all comes down to finding those that are qualified. Silvernell said he would be thrilled to have a half dozen meet the criteria.
While realistic about the competitiveness of other communities trying to lure businesses, especially during the recession, Silvernell stopped short of saying the land offer would be the ultimate incentive.
"The free land is a small portion of it,'' when trying to attract the big industry. But he said every little bit adds to the package.
"Our offer of land will help Mike McHugh,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.