Who can help New Port Richey gain momentum on redevelopment of property in the city?
The New Port Richey City Council is willing to bank on the answer being the Pasco Economic Development Council, whose goal is “attracting, retaining and promoting the expansion of business and industry” in the county.
Four city council members were present Tuesday to vote on whether to agree to have the Pasco Economic Development Council provide services to the city. They all voted to move forward with the idea. Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas was absent, but expressed concerns via email.
A proposal presented to New Port Richey’s elected leaders Tuesday suggests the city pay the nonprofit Pasco Economic Development for a package of “economic development” services. The package includes assistance with redevelopment issues, including the city-owned Hacienda Hotel and Residences at Orange Lake projects.
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As part of the package, the economic development council is also proposing creating a marketing plan for the city. It is also offering to bring additional tools and resources to the city, like grant money. It is also suggesting it look at creating a business incubator for the city.
The organization would also pursue teamworking, including partnerships with Greater New Port Richey Main Street, the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and other entities.
Via email, Debella Thomas, a former executive director of Main Street, expressed concern that the services offered in the deal could be handled by resources that are already in place and don't present extra cost to the city. Greater New Port Richey Main Street, which receives a city subsidy, was one resource she pointed out.
The package is being offered for $66,000. The development council proposes to collect that by invoicing the city $6,000 a month starting this month.
"I'm definitely behind you guys coming in and helping us out," said Councilman Bob Langford.
A firm number of how much the city will pay was not set. A contract spelling out the extent of services to be provided hasn’t even been drafted yet.
The city does have funds budgeted to pay someone to help with economic development /redevelopment services. Council members plan to hammer out details of the deal with the development council at some point soon.
Right now, they want the organization to move forward with helping out with negotiations with a developer interested in building the Residences at Orange Lake, assistance with addressing redevelopment of the Hacienda Hotel and crafting a marketing plan for the city.
John Hagen, president of the development council, gave a pitch Tuesday. The development council first proposed that the city pay it to help out with development issues months ago, but a decision was never made on the offer.
“We want to do more work with the cities in general, and we’d love to start getting the ball rolling here in New Port Richey,” Hagen said.
This would be the first time development council had this type of agreement with a municipality, Hagen said.
He pointed out that the city has a “sense of place” and that of all the cities in Pasco, New Port Richey “has the most unrealized potential.”
Councilman Bill Phillips said he believed the development council has the right cross section of experrience to help the city. He pointed out vice president John Walsh, who would be the main point of contact to the city, is a longtime Pasco resident and the city wouldn't be relying on someone from Tampa or Orlando, as it has with consultants in the past.
"Let's get off the dime and do something," he said.