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  1. Pasco

Concrete plant signals renewed industrial development in rural east Pasco

DADE CITY — Concrete is replacing cypress as an economic engine in rural east Pasco.

Land that was once home to the Cummer saw mill is poised to become a 25-acre precast concrete plant as part of a new industrial park in Lacoochee. JDR Investments purchased the vacant 67-acre site last week for nearly $1.2 million from Columbia Grain and Ingredients Inc, which had owned the land for the past two decades.

JDR Investments also owns the Dade City Business Center, a 355-acre industrial and office park seven miles to the south on U.S. 301 in Dade City.

Jim Guedry, CEO of JDR Investments, said a concrete company already agreed to lease 25 acres of the Lacoochee land and has an option on 10 additional acres. The remaining 32 acres will be developed in smaller parcels for other potential tenants.

The concrete company, Reinforced Earth Co., currently is located in the Dade City Business Center. Formerly known as Superior Precast, it now employs 35, but expects to double its payroll to 70 after it moves to Lacoochee

The industrial development is a significant boost to a once-booming area that fell into poverty after the cypress tree mill closed 60 years ago. Pasco Commissioner Ron Oakley, whose maternal grandfather operated a crane at the mill, said the county already is encouraging builders to develop so-called workforce housing in the vicinity to accommodate an expected influx of employees.

Both the public and private sector have been investing in the area for the past dozen years following the lead of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. It rebuilt the electrical utility infrastructure after it took Lacoochee into its service area in 2007. Local, state and federal aid helped build a new Boys & Girls Club and community center, pave roads and expand water service and the county set up a special tax district to finance future improvements from a growing tax base.

"It's finally coming to fruition," said David Lambert, spokesman for the electric cooperative. "This is the first good step for the jobs component.''

Guedry said the concrete plant expects to be operational in about six to nine months. Lambert said the company is expected to employ about 70 people when it is operating at capacity.

Contact Charles Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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