DADE CITY — County Commissioners found themselves Wednesday where they were two years ago: offering a large incentive package, hoping a major employer finally would fall for them.
In 2006, it was $15-million for the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, which was mulling a move to Wesley Chapel. That deal fell apart when Moffitt decided to expand in Tampa instead.
This time it's a $14.5-million package of county and state incentives to lure T. Rowe Price to Land O'Lakes. With little discussion, the commission unanimously approved its half of the package, with the hope that the firm will move its 435 Tampa employees to Pasco in 2012. Up to 1,215 more jobs would be created as the investment firm expands.
T. Rowe Price hasn't announced a decision, but County Administrator John Gallagher and other officials said the county is better prepared this time — starting with its pocketbook.
"Back then, I didn't have any walking around change," Gallagher said.
This year Pasco set aside $2.5-million to provide incentives to lure large employers with high-salary jobs. Area lawmakers earmarked another $5-million in the state budget for Pasco.
In 2006, there was no such money. Pasco would've had to carve money out of its existing budget and reserves. Pasco's best incentive was its developable land, including a generous price the Porter family offered for the property, Gallagher said.
In fact, Moffitt's spurring of Pasco caused the county to create the incentive pot that would be used for T. Rowe Price.
"Economic development is farming," said Mary Jane Stanley, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council.
"We have to plant the seeds to see what grows."
For T. Rowe Price, Pasco taxpayers will cover up to $2.6-million in impact fees on new construction and permits for up to three 150,000-square-foot buildings in the Long Lake Ranch development, off State Road 54 east of the Suncoast Parkway.
The remaining incentives include matching shares for the state incentives, and the $2.5-million cash payment.
Florida officials are finishing the state's share of the offer, which includes at least $6.9-million in road construction money and tax refunds.
The company filed a report saying it also is considering moves to Houston, Omaha, St. Louis and Tulsa. County officials say they don't have details on offers from those communities. A decision is due by the end of the year.
"So Mr. Harrill, are they coming?" Gallagher asked Ben Harrill, the company's attorney locally.
"We'll tell you later," Harrill replied Wednesday.
David DeCamp can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6232.