Editor's note: This is the second in a series of guest columns submitted by the Hernando County Community Relations Department in observance of National County Government Week.
There's a saying that the only thing that remains constant is change. We typically like change if we perceive it as improving our lives, and dislike it if we feel threatened by it in some way. And that's the challenge of economic development: to predict, manage and implement changes that support both community and business goals, while improving the local economy.
The primary focus of the Hernando County Office of Business Development is on the recruitment of new businesses, expansion of existing businesses, job creation and retention, and community investment. These activities may seem solely economy-driven, but without the influx and expansion of revenue in the county, human issues such as quality of life cannot be adequately supported.
The Office of Business Development strives to achieve just the right balance in its economic development efforts. A major consideration is that all businesses are not alike. Some, like the retail and service sector, depend on local residents and tourists for their success. They provide vital services to our community and contribute to our quality of life by providing goods and services needed locally.
On the other hand, manufacturing, distribution, corporate offices, and research and development businesses conduct most of their trade outside the local community, region or even the state. These businesses are called "primary or targeted industries" and they play an important role in the economy because they bring money into the community from outside our local area. Because these businesses are a key component in our economy, they are the primary focus of the Office of Business Development.
Attracting businesses to Hernando County is accomplished through a variety of marketing channels, including local, regional and state resources, as well as existing business referrals. The Office of Business Development works closely with firms considering Hernando County by providing tours of buildings and properties, providing demographic information and arranging meetings with local businesses, service providers, government and educational institutions.
Business and job retention is realized through relationship-building with primary industries. Whether it's a small machine shop or a large distribution center, the Office of Business Development works closely with them to gain an understanding of their business growth plans, and their challenges and concerns, and provides them with the necessary resources to help them continue to prosper right here in Hernando County.
So, how do these recruitment and expansion efforts improve our quality of life? Through something called "community investment.'' This investment plays an important role in broadening and balancing our tax base. Hernando County is highly dependent on its residential tax base. Through additional business investment by stable, clean industries, we can create a more balanced tax base, thereby taking some of the burden off residents.
Partnering with local agencies is a key element. Actively supporting the Hernando County School District as it embarks upon the creation of career academies will ensure the needs of our high-skill, high-wage industries are met in the future. Through alliances with Pasco-Hernando Community College, input is provided from primary industries regarding their post-secondary or continuing education needs. Working closely with Career Central/Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership provides the Office of Business Development with a variety of resources for businesses, such as job placement, testing and training grants.
Many factors are considered when a business chooses to relocate, expand or remain in Hernando County. Generally, the top three items on their checklists are location, work force and education. The Office of Business Development provides this information and addresses these business concerns.
The next decisionmaking factor considered by every business is "Is this community business-friendly? Do they want me here?'' This is where we count on residents and members of the entire business community to come together and show their support for stable, clean, primary industry growth. This will strengthen our community, making it a place where you and your family can live and work.
Remember, these businesses have a choice: they can open their business and provide employment opportunities here, or do so elsewhere. Help us help them to choose Hernando County.
For more information about the Office of Business Development please visit our Web site at www.hernandobusiness.com.
Michael McHugh is director of the Hernando County Office of Business Development. Guest columnists write their own opinions on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.