In December, Pasco commissioners agreed to let Rooker Properties LLC of Atlanta purchase approximately 99 acres in Wesley Chapel owned by Pasco County’s Utilities Department. They will use a $3.7 million county incentive, financed by the Penny for Pasco sales tax, to build at least 400,000 square feet of industrial and office space.
The land, a former wastewater spray field, is on the east side of Old Pasco Road, north of State Road 54. The project will be the largest-ever industrial space built on speculation in Pasco County, Rooker said.
Rick Narkiewicz, 45, who lives in Land O’ Lakes with his wife, Megan, and their two sons, is the senior managing director of Newmark Knight Frank and will market the site to new tenants. If the last name seems familiar to old-timers, it is. His father, Joe Narkiewicz, headed the Pasco Builders Association during the 1980s and later became executive director of the Tampa Bay Builders Association. So, father pushed the residential construction industry and now son is advocating for the industrial development of Pasco County.
The younger Narkiewicz recently sat down with Times staff writer C.T. Bowen to talk about the work ahead.
You grew up in Pasco County. How have you seen it change and does that help you in marketing properties here?
“I moved here in 1979. Little Road was called the bypass at that point and I believe most of it was dirt. … I grew up off State Road 52 when it was one lane in each direction. The history of seeing the county evolve, it’s a good thing to have as far as a backstory. But being that I grew up here and I’m raising my family here, it’s pretty personal. So bringing jobs to Pasco is not only a business thing, it’s a personal experience for me. ... To me, seeing the success and the growth of Pasco County’s economic base is personal.’’
Rooker Properties originally looked at a different piece of property near Interstate 75 and SR 52. Why the change?
“I love that site, but we needed some changes to the MPUD (county-approved master plan for the site). The county was all for it; the seller didn’t want to do it. I had known about the spray field potentially coming into play, but I was always told it was four or five years away, which it was. That was always our second acquisition. ... We had to cancel, we didn’t want to. We went back to the (Pasco Economic Development Council) and said, ‘Guys, unfortunately our deal is dead, and it’s no fault of our own. What about the spray field site?’ And here we are.”
What are the attributes about the area that will assist you in trying to lease the spec buildings?
"Often times, the availability of a building determines where a company opens a new location. Most companies do not want to build. They want to move into something. Many companies, especially the large ones, want to lease, because it’s a better use of their capital to put into their business rather than putting it into real estate. ... So one of the attributes that’s going to help us bring jobs to Pasco is that there’s gonna be a building. The number one problem is solved.
"Labor in the last five years has become just as important as the real estate cost, the operating cost of the plant. Pasco County has a fantastic labor story ... We have very little competition for labor. ….You’ve got a great labor base to pull from and very few people who will try to steal your labor that exists today. And a reverse commute. ... Those are really good selling points. A combination of all that we believe (and) a company’s occupancy and operational costs will be less than what they find in other markets.''
Editor’s note: Narkiewicz later touted the quality education system and the county’s recreational amenities for youth sports as additional quality-of-life components for employees that businesses would consider.
Right now that is an out of the way location ...
"You won’t hear me say that.
"Here’s what it is: It’s two miles off State Road 54, one of the most highly (traveled) roads in the region. It’s two miles north of two regional malls. You want to talk about amenities? You go to the south on Old Pasco Road, you’ve got the outlet malls. Ever try to get in that Chick-fil-A? Hey, look. Two miles south you’ve got a ton of amenities.''
Who are your competitors? Other Pasco properties or space in Hillsborough or Polk?
"The competition, if a company coming to West Central Florida wanted 100,000 square feet? We have nothing in Pasco. There are three buildings in Polk that would be considered our competition ... and five in Hillsborough.
Q: Who are your likely tenants?
"My goal is to bring as many high-paying jobs to my home county as possible. So that would be aerospace, medical and technology ... computers, semiconductors. Those are really what we’re aiming for. Our number one choice is manufacturing. ... You’re not going to see a call center or anything like that.''
So give me your best pitch. If I’m looking around for industrial or warehouse space, what makes me want to lease in the Rooker Properties site off Old Pasco Road?
"Most compelling is the labor story. We have an extremely pro-business government. There may be some economic incentives for you, as well. Immediate access to Interstate 75. A world full of amenities within two miles for your customers and your employees. It is a fantastic facility that is likely going to cost you less. We’re going to be less expensive.''
What else should our readers know?
"From a development perspective, we’re pioneering. ... The Penny for Pasco was the silver bullet to encourage someone to put the biggest spec building in Pasco County. We had to have some catalyst. The Penny for Pasco put us in a position to compete with other established markets. It’s a game changer. And a game changer for the county itself.
"You really have to credit the the foresight of the people who started Penny for Pasco.''