By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read February 2020 — Successful economic development is a product of consistent improvement of the current situation of a region and consideration of what the long-term future could hold for that same region. In Florida’s Pasco County, economic developers are thinking about what is to come and how to create a sustainable economic growth environment by helping startups get off the ground while training a competitive workforce, taking advantage of the state’s first-rate education system. In a conversation with Invest:, President and CEO for the Pasco EDC Bill Cronin discussed these initiatives and actions at length.
How is Pasco County working to push forward economic development?
We want to make sure we have a good mix of both office and industrial investments in the county since large industry has a different multiplier because it attracts suppliers and others that the office investments do not. We are one of the only Economic Development Organizations to own and operate our own business incubators. These two incubators offer countywide programming, where you don’t necessarily have to be in that co-working space to take advantage of the curriculum that we offer for startups, and even for companies that are going into their second phase.
We offer micro loans through that program, and we have a regional license for CO.STARTERS, which is a curriculum that we use for startups and next-generation companies. We also use those incubators as a soft-landing place for our international FDI prospects. While many of our competitors in economic development are going after these large, established companies that have 100-200 employees, we work with them, but also with the company that says, “Hey, I just want to start sales with one or two people,” and we let them use our incubators as a landing place to get them started.
All areas, whether it is entrepreneurship, land development and making sure we have enough product, our buildings and sites, workforce development in the county as a whole — all of those are now part of the strategic plan, but also with a sense of innovation and smart growth that is interwoven through those protocols. They are verticals in our strategic plan, such as innovation and technology. When we look at a collision between areas, such as logistics and IT, or life sciences or agriculture and IT, life sciences and distribution, all of these can be tied together through innovation and smart growth.
How are you ensuring that your workforce is being trained to survive the changing economic environment?
There is a lot of confusion right now with some of these rapid changes in technology and business models. That also applies to the industries we focus on. Probably 80% to 90% of our workforce is being trained for jobs that do not yet exist. How do we make sure we are prepared for that? We started to hear this theme about competitiveness and we are making sure we have fertile conditions for that type of growth in the future. We may not know everything but what we do know is that we’ve got to be ready and have the right conditions for these things to be deployed.
How are you looking at sustainability regarding the county’s economic growth?
We need to make sure that when it comes to jobs and recruitment, we are creating jobs for everybody. If you put too much emphasis on high-impact jobs alone, they won’t trickle down by themselves. You still need to make sure that every single layer of the economy and socio-economic strata has the right jobs for the right people. That is important because if you don’t do that then people will have to move away, and we will have to import talent to some extent.
In the last couple of years, Florida has been among the leading destination states for migration. We are looking at around 180 people a day coming into this region, and the state sees around 1,300 people a day. With that many people moving in, our business community has been able to take their pick of all the people coming in, and in times of low unemployment it is usually hard to find talent. You have to steal it from someone else or grow it internally. But because of interstate migration, we have been at full employment for a long time now and we still have access to talent. That’s because all these people are moving here everyday. The reason they are moving here is because things are not as good somewhere else, or they prefer it here. We have to make sure that our environment continues to be better than that of our competitors, and that we provide a good tax environment, which we have. We are also the fastest-growing region in the United States and the largest consumer market in the Southeast. You see a lot of that migration because of things like that, and because of quality of life and education. Our state university system is now No. 1 in the nation.
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