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Panel asks Tarpon for economic plan money

Plans for the city's economic future soon may be in the business community's lap. The City Commission can put it there Tuesday by agreeing to put up $33,000 of the $55,000 needed to hire a professional to help plan the city's economic development.

The business community would have to come up with the other $22,000.

A seven-member steering committee formed to help plan the city's economic future asked for the money in a report to the commission Tuesday night. Members said they would try to get the rest of the money from businesses.

Without the community's help, they said, the economic planning will fail.

"I'm very excited about getting this off the ground," said Mayor Anita Protos, who expressed concerns about the cost.

City Manager Carey Smith said the city can afford its share of the cost during the current fiscal year.

The commission will vote Tuesday night on whether to spend the money and allow the steering committee to proceed.

Commissioners Blaine LeCouris and George Bobotas expressed their support. Commissioners Glenn Davis and Frank DiDonato did not attend the meeting.

The steering committee was formed in November, based on the suggestion last summer by Smith that the city create an economic development group.

The next step, should the commission give its approval, would be the creation of a larger 25-member group comprising a cross-section of the community.

That group would discuss ideas related to growth. Eventually the group, in coordination with the professional adviser, would come up with a plan, which is expected to take three months.

Economic development could mean promotion, retention and expansion of existing businesses, Smith has said.