Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando officials working to lure unnamed manufacturer with incentives

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County is trying to lure a global manufacturing company to build a $5 million plant beside the county's Airport and Business Complex.

Next week, both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission will be asked for input on several crucial steps in the process, including financial incentives.

On Monday, the planning and zoning commissioners will consider a rezoning request, from agricultural to heavy industrial, for a 15.3-acre parcel that borders the eastern side of the Suncoast Parkway, south of Downwind Way.

The planning staff is recommending that the planning commission forward the rezoning, with its blessing, to the County Commission.

A year ago, the County Commission agreed to change the parcel from residential to industrial in the county's comprehensive plan because of its location near the industrial park, with access only through the Hernando County Airport property, and its proximity to the parkway and a county wastewater facility.

The county has been talking to the manufacturer for some time, but the discussion has heated up in the past four or five months, said Michael McHugh, the county's business development manager.

The identity of the manufacturing firm, which has several locations throughout the country, is protected under a confidentiality agreement. The Florida Sunshine Law allows the county to keep identifying information private in the early stages of negotiations with companies.

By the time the county signs agreements with the company for various financial incentives, its name will become public, McHugh said.

County commissioners on Tuesday will be asked to apply for a grant through Enterprise Florida's economic development transportation fund to extend Downwind Way to the property. If approved, the grant would provide 100 percent of the funding to engineer and build a 24-foot-wide road 600 feet to the site.

Commissioners also will be asked to approve a resolution supporting the company for Florida's Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program. The county's match would be $120,000, paid over four years.

McHugh said the company will qualify for several state incentives and has also talked to the county about other incentives, including a job-creation incentive, building permit fee mitigation and a high-impact incentive for well-paying jobs. Including the state match, the proposed local contributions to incentives would cost county taxpayers $1.37 million.

While McHugh can't yet say who the recipient of those incentives might be, he said the company, which is represented by a development company called MPH Holdings LLC out of Indianapolis, is proposing a 75,000-square-foot facility and a $5 million commitment to construct a building and buy machinery and furnishings.

The company expects to create 200 jobs within three years, and the annual average wage would be $33,332.

The site is large enough that it could accommodate, in time, a 200,000-square-foot facility, according to county paperwork. McHugh said companies often look for a site that won't lock them in in the future, in case a business takes off and needs to expand.

The size of the facility planned and the proposed size of the workforce would place the company in the top two or three in the industrial park area, he said.

Hernando County has suffered from chronically high unemployment in recent years — 10.9 percent in May — and county officials have focused their economic development efforts on manufacturing as a way to diversify the local economy, which for several decades has depended heavily on the home-building industry.

"We're pushing this very aggressively,'' McHugh said of the company the county is courting. "Even though the company has not made its final decision yet, we want to be sure that we've got everything staged up and ready to go.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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