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Zephyrhills looks to boost economic development efforts

ZEPHYRHILLS – City Council members unanimously agreed on two deals Monday designed to boost the city's economic outlook.

The city will contribute $50,000 to the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce to help create an economic development coalition, a collaborative effort between the city, the chamber, Main Street and the Pasco Economic Development Council. City officials have been discussing the initiative for more than a year, when a 2011 task force studying ways to increase economic opportunities recommended the coalition.

Council members approved the concept for the coalition when they set aside the $50,000 to assist with start-up costs during September budget discussions; Monday's vote approved a formal contract with the chamber.

Under the terms of the contract, the chamber will manage and house the coalition from its Fifth Avenue office and work with partners on marketing and promotional strategies, as well as outreach and research to support existing businesses and attract new ones.

Council president Kenneth Compton described the coalition as an "unprecedented" effort that should bring more jobs to the city.

"We've been working on this a long time," said council member Lance Smith. "I'm excited to see these groups working together and getting this started."

Immediately after sealing the deal with the chamber, council members gave unanimous assent to spending $20,000 on a one-year contract with the Pasco Economic Development Council. The group will create an extensive marketing program, provide assistance to small businesses, work on bringing a technical education center to the city, and give Zephyrhills a non-voting "seat at the table" with the council's board of directors.

City Manager Jim Drumm said the money for the agreement can be drawn from a $25,000 pot the council set aside in this year's budget for promotions.

Council member Jodi Wilkeson said access to the PEDC's database, containing important contacts throughout the state, makes the deal especially attractive. Council member Charles Proctor said if not for the opportunity to have a city representative attending PEDC board meetings, he would not have voted for the deal.

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In other council business

Dozens of Frontier Acres residents attended the Zephyrhills City Council meeting and spoke against the possibility of their neighborhood being annexed into the city.

City Manager Jim Drumm said he has been holding informational meetings with affected residents while gathering information to help city staff decide on a recommendation. The issue, which wasn't on the agenda, began with a letter from neighboring Forest Lake Estates late last year requesting the annexation.

"We're still in the research mode," said Drumm. "When we're done with that, we'll prepare a report that will be presented to council."

Since coming to Zephyrhills in 2011, Drumm has looked into annexing properties to not only expand the city's boundaries, but to clean up its pockets and enclaves that give the city a "Swiss cheese" shape. In some areas, the uneven boundaries create confusion over which government agency — city or county — is responsible for providing services. Several voluntary annexations occurred last year.

Zephyrhills looks to boost economic development efforts 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:14pm]
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