Michael McHugh walked out of Tuesday's County Commission meeting with a few new lures in his tackle box.
McHugh, the county's director of business development, hopes to use the bait to reel in some much-needed new business, industrial and manufacturing growth.
Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a new program that will pay employers for creating jobs paying modest and high wages, expands the kinds of companies that would qualify for county incentives and adjusts some of the rules to qualify for such help.
The Job Creation Incentive Program gives a company $2,000 for every job it creates that pays the average Hernando County wage of $13.29 per hour. That goes up to $3,000 for every job that pays 115 percent of that average.
For new businesses setting up in the south Brooksville Enterprise Zone, the payment will be $3,000 per job paying the average wage.
Targeted industries include aviation and aerospace firms, corporate headquarters, green technologies, research and development, and distribution and warehousing businesses.
The commission also gave McHugh the go-ahead to work with the county's other departments to make sure that infrastructure such as roads and utilities are ready in the areas of the county set aside in the Comprehensive Plan for business and industrial growth.
Commissioners praised the new measures.
"That gives us a leg up compared to surrounding counties,'' said Commissioner Dave Russell.
Businesses want to see what a county has to offer, said Commissioner Rose Rocco. "It's important that we get information out there that we are a business-friendly community,'' she said. "They don't want to start from zero.''
Commissioner Diane Rowden questioned whether there is enough educational opportunity available locally so that new businesses could find educated workers.
McHugh said opportunities are here and more are coming through the school district's career academies and expanded offerings at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
He also said the county is drawing up a development agreement for the large tracts of land on Kettering Road slated for big-box industrial development and hopes to see more infrastructure investment for another future business area at U.S. 301 and State Road 50.
Rocco, who has been meeting with existing small-business owners who say they need help, too, asked what was in the package for them.
Any existing business can get the same incentives if they are expanding their operation and meet certain qualifications, McHugh said. These vary by the kind of company and other criteria.
Rocco has also been working with the small businesses on questions about their appraisals for tax purposes. Their complaint has been that, even though the market is dropping, their property values have gone up.
Also during Tuesday's meeting, a report from Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek and his staff shed some light on why that is. Nick Nikkinen, special projects director for Mazourek, gave a presentation about how the office does its appraisals.
He also showed information that indicated that the values residential properties saw on last year's bills peaked last year. Commercial properties appear to have peaked this year.
Property taxes are charged based on last year's values.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.