Pasco, private companies seek to grow industrial space

Published March 10, 2016

LUTZ — A company that successfully marketed industrial space built speculatively, with no clients lined up in advance, is urging others to do likewise in Pasco County.

"It may have seemed risky at one time," said Heidi A. Tuttle-Beisner of Trinity's Commercial Asset Partners. But the lesson learned is "spec buildings can work."

The project she was discussing was ComPark 75, owned by auto dealer magnate Larry Morgan. He announced the 130,000-square-foot building in 2013, broke ground on it in 2014, and Tuttle-Beisner had filled it with five tenants by the middle of last year.

More expansion is following. ComPark 75, located south of Wesley Chapel Boulevard near Interstate 75 in Lutz, will have an additional 57,000 square feet of space available by summer.

Tuttle-Beisner delivered her message to 110 people who gathered last week at the Residence Inn at NorthPointe Village for a Pasco Economic Development Council session dubbed "Meet the Developers: The Future of Real Estate." It brought brokers and leasing agents together to showcase some of the capital investment going on within the economic development circles of Pasco County and attracted people from Ocala, Orlando and Polk County.

Tuttle-Beisner said ComPark 75 has been successful because of its location near I-75 and a 35-minute drive to Tampa International Airport; access to a high-end labor pool in Wesley Chapel and central Pasco; aesthetically pleasing construction; the flexibility to offer light industrial, warehouse, manufacturing or office space; and Pasco County's business incentives.

One of the tenants, Ortho Technology Inc., which moved to ComPark from Hillsborough County, just inked an economic incentive contract with the county, making it eligible for $231,000 if it creates 77 new full-time jobs as planned. Ortho Technology manufactures and distributes orthodontic supplies and patient accessories to 65 countries.

There will be ample opportunity for others to follow ComPark's lead. The county is seeking applicants for low-interest loans to add infrastructure to potential industrial/office sites or to build shell buildings as spec space. The effort is financed with $15 million from the Penny for Pasco sales tax, and interested parties have until April 11 to apply.

Tuttle-Beisner encouraged others to participate because industrial companies are seeking to expand immediately after years of slow or no growth.

"All the companies we've been dealing with want space today," she said.

Trying to attract and retain high-wage jobs has become a long-term goal of Pasco County as it seeks to diversify its residential-heavy tax base, expand a local economy reliant on construction and service-sector jobs and shed its bedroom community label. The county exports nearly half of its workforce, or 84,714 people, to another county each work day, almost double the U.S. average of 27 percent.

Among the other highlights of the Pasco EDC gathering:

• Danielle Ruiz, Duke Energy's economic development manager, said a Louisiana company using GPS data identified four sites capable of being developed into industrial parks of at least 200 acres. One of the sites includes land in and around the city of Zephyrhills containing 64 acres formerly targeted by Sysco Food Services as a distribution center. The other sites include two in northeast Pasco and another in west Pasco.

Duke, through its site readiness program, has focused on the Zephyrhills land, which totals 414 developable acres owned by three entities — Sysco, the Linville family and 4 Rail LLC — as a possible site to attract firms involved in aerospace, light industry/assembly or plastics. The land is near Zephyrhills Municipal Airport and has access to State Road 54 and a rail line but requires a $1.7 million upgrade for sewage capacity.

Duke has done similar technical evaluations on 187 sites in six states that have attracted 20 projects, 4,200 jobs and $3.7 billion capital investment.

• On the residential side, new home buyers have closed on a dozen homes in the Starkey Ranch development, with houses averaging nearly $391,000 for 2,841 square feet, said Matt Call of developer Wheelock Communities.

• Metro Development's connected city corridor is progressing in Wesley Chapel and eastern Pasco County with its signature amenity, the first man-made Crystal Lagoon in the United States, and is expected to open at the end of this year or in early 2017, said Kartik Goyani, Metro's vice president of operations.

The connected city corridor, a state-approved pilot project for a local planning area, includes ultrafast Internet as one of its centerpieces. The 7,800-acre planning area is bordered by Interstate 75, Curley and Overpass roads and State Road 52 and includes Metro's Epperson, Meadow Ridge and Mirada developments. Those project are planned for nearly 7,000 homes, 292,000 square feet of commercial space and 230,000 square feet of offices.

The 6-acre lagoon will be incorporated among some of the non-residential development within the Epperson project, Goyani said, providing workers at the employment center access to the water amenity.