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Pasco's package to lure T. Rowe Price takes shape

Pasco County took another step this week toward landing hundreds of jobs with investment company T. Rowe Price by agreeing to provide at least $1.7-million in deal sweeteners.

Top county officials signed off on exempting the company from paying any impact fees on constructing its offices and connecting to Pasco's utility system, if T. Rowe Price agrees to move its Tampa financial services center with 425 employees to Land O'Lakes. Instead, taxpayers could pick up the tab.

For the three-building complex, those breaks would amount to at least $573,000 per office center, chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker said Friday. It's based on construction of the first building in 2012, when the company's Tampa lease expires.

But the value of those breaks would increase as fees rise in later years. Fees for building permits, inspections and reviews of plans would be waived, too.

The county also agreed to pay for a road connecting the offices to Sunlake Boulevard, a north-south artery into Hillsborough County. Baker declined to provide an estimate on its cost, because engineering estimates are still being done.

"This is one of the many things that will assist us," said Mary Jane Stanley, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council. "We are going to be doing all we can to make sure we are a player in the economics arena."

This week's decision is tied to a broader incentive package for T. Rowe Price to ultimately expand to 1,600 employees — a huge coup for Pasco, which has long sought a major employer to call it home.

County officials have estimated the average pay at T. Rowe Price is $50,000 a year. The firm is looking to build 450,000 square feet of office space, triple the amount county officials had suggested last month.

Florida and county officials are negotiating a package of grants and other payouts previously estimated by county and state lawmakers to be worth $14-million. At least one state grant will require a 20 percent match by the county, but Baker did not disclose that cost.

Baker said it's uncertain whether Pasco will pay for the waived impact fees using $2.5-million already set aside as incentives for large employers, or draw on other funds instead. It will depend on what the final package with the state holds, and what so-far unidentified, out-of-state competitors offer.

T. Rowe Price spokesman Brian Lewbart called the sweeteners "part of an ongoing process of due diligence" but said the company had made no final decision.

"It's good for us to be able to maintain a strong presence in the Tampa area," Lewbart said.

But county officials have begun signaling that a deal could be near. The Development Review Committee, a panel of top county planners, approved the incentives Thursday as part of the plans for the Long Lake Ranch neighborhood off State Road 54, about 1 1/2 miles east of the Suncoast Parkway.

Peter Geraci told the Times last month his family signed a contract to sell land to Amprop Development, which would develop T. Rowe Price's new financial center on the northern section of Long Lake Ranch.

According to state records, lobbyists from the influential Southern Strategies firm in Tallahassee registered to lobby for Amprop on Sept. 23. State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who is chairman of a panel overseeing economic development spending, said the lobbying involves dealing with state regulators on the project.

The county's paperwork doesn't mention T. Rowe Price by name. The name of the "office user" is blank on the agreement provided with the panel's agenda. But it makes clear an economic incentive package is related to the land owned by the Geraci family.

The County Commission is slated to vote on the incentive package Nov. 5. The development agreements, including the impact fee payments, will go to the board Nov. 25.

If Amprop doesn't close on the land by July 30, the development agreement says the deal is off.

Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price, a multibillion dollar company, has 14 investor centers nationwide, including Tampa.

Times staff writer Lisa Buie contributed to this report. David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232.

Pasco's package to lure T. Rowe Price takes shape 10/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 24, 2008 8:18pm]
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