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Businesses fight the economy and red tape

Two of four businessmen questioned cite a common gripe: getting permits.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Times asked four area business leaders, "What is the biggest challenge doing business in Pasco County?" Here are their answers:

LARRY RICHEY, senior managing director, Cushman & Wakefield, real estate services firm, Tampa office

A: The phenomenal growth that we're all experiencing and seeing in Pasco recently is almost entirely positive. If there is any negative, it's that when you have as much activity and growth as we're having, with that growth comes some challenges -- bureaucratic, congestion and timing.

Is Pasco (the same as) Hillsborough or Pinellas County?

No, but that's okay. We don't want 900,000 people in Pasco yet. In today's environment, with the changing demographics, people like to live close to where they work. At the same time, people want a more rural, less congested environment, lower priced land and better value when it comes to residential and commercial property.

An hour commute (from Pasco to Tampa's central business district) isn't that bad at all. There are people in larger markets that have much longer commutes every day. And one of these days people are not going to have to commute from Pasco; they'll be able to commute to an office market that's in Pasco. That will come in time. It always does.

We're in an economy that's not so great. The job market is pretty lousy right now, so there are minimal new jobs and minimal increases in pay and take-home income.

But relative to the rest of the country and the state, we're doing okay. I think once things do turn, I think Pasco is poised to do extremely well.

* * *

STEVE JENSEN, president of Optima Technologies, a Port Richey company that makes and services cartridges for printers:

A: Sometimes we run into problems finding a good base of qualified people, technicians especially. Most often, we reach into Pinellas and Hillsborough. Our account base is mostly in those counties too, so being in Pasco just means you have to drive a bit farther to service our accounts. We are and stay involved in different exchange programs with the school system and the college, and have people from our company on different advisory boards. . . . Right now, we've got people who have administrative skills, but we would also love to find people that are more technical oriented.

* * *

BILL WOODARD, owner of Alumi-Guard, a Hudson company that makes ornamental fencing:

A: It's got to be the building department, and getting permits. It takes way too much time to get a permit. I understand that (the county) is having problems getting help, and that they have to compete with the other municipalities, but it takes forever to get a permit.

The new ordinances they put into effect they need to inform us more about. For example, when the landscape ordinance passed, my permit for an expansion was already applied for, and I had the financing. They passed the ordinance and put it into effect immediately. It cost me probably close to $20,000 to go back and change the plan to allow for landscaping. If we would have known about it going into it, we would have planned for it.

But Pasco County is doing some good stuff, too. They rebated my transportation impact fees over a three-year expansion. (Woodard qualified for the county's business expansion incentives).

The labor situation lately has been better, both in terms of accessibility and quality. (The labor pool) is not seasonal anymore. Pasco County used to get so that the streets would roll up in the summer. But it's really changed, and with the average age less, and the younger crowd, I think it's for the better. The Economic Development Council has helped tremendously; they've been a big asset. They keep us posted on what's going on.

* * *

GREG ROE, president of Roe Insurance, New Port Richey:

A: The permitting situation. The way it's done, it's horrendous. Just about every other county has a walk-through process, where you go in and get a building permit within a reasonable time period, a few days. In Pasco County it's months. And the system they have over there is just ludicrous. I happen to see a lot of that because I insure a lot of developers and builders. It forces those that are movers and shakers to go elsewhere, and it costs us in terms of our economic base.

Ultimately, that won't make a difference because eventually Pasco will all be built out. But it's a process, and it takes some good players out of the equation here. People become frustrated and don't want to deal. Ultimately, someone comes along and puts up with it, it just takes time and it adds costs.

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