Hernando Commissioner Jim Adkins knows when to fold a losing hand. Adkins terminated his proposed home-buying program this week, recognizing that public opposition and mounting financial evidence from the county's money team doomed his economic stimulus idea. Adkins was wise to end the discussion and asked the county's Business and Economic Development Committee to kill the so-called Comprehensive Plan for Recovery. More pressing matters are at hand.
Commissioners previously agreed to pull a half-million dollars from its reserves to try to preserve and expand its industrial base. The ill-conceived alternative from Adkins and recently elected GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia was to spend up to five times that amount to spur sales of the existing inventory of homes as a precursor for creating a renewed demand for home construction and the accompanying trades and service industry jobs. It included the hard-to-digest gimmick of giving home buyers thousands of dollars in gift cards, a dubious extravagance considering people acquiring second homes would have qualified under the original proposal.
Better programs are poised to be put in place including one Adkins opposed — a county bid for $5.6 million in federal housing aid, the bulk of which is earmarked to assist low- and moderate-income families buy and repair vacant foreclosed homes, mostly in Spring Hill.
During the debate Tuesday, Adkins asked a question likely bouncing around much of Hernando County. When will the county begin attracting primary jobs? It is not an unreasonable inquiry given the county's priorities and an unemployement rate of 12.9 percent.
The answer to Adkins and others wondering about job creation will come almost immediately if the county acts accordingly. Hernando is now competing with the state of Michigan for jobs at Sparton Corp., a manufacturer of electonic circuit boards that employs 179 full-time workers at its facility near the Pasco County line. The company announced previously it was closing plants in Michigan and Ontario and moving the work to its plants in Hernando County and De Leon Springs near DeLand in Volusia County. The county is now preparing an incentive package to counter a bid from Michigan to retain those jobs there. Commissioners are scheduled to hear the details Tuesday.
The irritant of corporate welfare notwithstanding, commissioners would have a hard time trying to recruit new industrial jobs to the county if they let current ones slip away.