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Zephyrhills should stick with plan to lure industry

The Zephyrhills City Council shouldn't be distracted by its own version of Manny being Manny. In this case, it's council member Manny Funes' anger stemming from his own ignorance of the city he helps govern.

The Monday night council brouhaha also shouldn't deter Zephyrhills from its public-private partnership to lure new industry to the city airport's industrial park. Funes, upset about not knowing of an agreement that predates his November 2008 election to the council, unfairly and inaccurately accused fellow council member Lance Smith of helping the city lose money. Smith is a partner in CLS Zephyrhills, the company that was the successful bidder to work with the city on developing a 50,000-square-foot industrial spec building at the airport. Smith, like Funes, joined the council after the deal had been consummated.

Funes also argued the city should pull out of the agreement since construction of the building was put on hold after the economy turned sour. That idea would be short-sighted and be far more detrimental to the city's economic health than the $2,000 cost of renewing a line of credit.

The partnership dates to a 2007 suggestion from the Pasco Economic Development Council to pursue construction of a spec industrial building as a way to attract tenants eager to relocate quickly. The city partnered with Progress Energy on financing and with CLS Zephyrhills as the developer on the plan that had an estimated cost of $2.2 million. However, the city delayed construction as the economy tanked and now must seek an extension from Progress Energy on paying back an interest-free $400,000 loan. As an alternative, the city could pursue the project on its own since engineering and site plans are completed.

The basics of the agreement are sound and the strategy of having available space to show industrial clients shouldn't be discouraged. A 50,000-square-foot building would allow economic developers to try to attract multiple, smaller companies with 10 to 25 employees each or to lease or sell the entire space to a significantly larger firm.

Industrial Realtors say Pasco County has an insufficient inventory of business and industrial parks compared with other counties. Having a ready-to-go building in Zephyrhills would be a viable asset in trying to land new business and spur job creation. This economic development effort shouldn't be discontinued simply because a council member hadn't done his homework.

Zephyrhills should stick with plan to lure industry 03/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 8:22pm]
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