FL: Hernando - The Place to Grow

11 May, 2011

By: Juli Anne Patty

Trade in smog for sunshine. Ditch traffic for tranquility. Is there really a place where practical meets paradise? Just ask Steve Thompson, president of Emery Thompson.

"It's just been a tremendous boon moving to Hernando County from the Bronx," says Thompson. "Emery Thompson has been building American-made ice cream machines for 106 years now, one hundred years in New York and six in Florida. Sales have increased probably four-fold since we moved to Brooksville."

The Business Gateway
The "Business Gateway to Tampa Bay," Hernando County (county seat: Brooksville) occupies a prime location at the geographic center of Florida and offers a full range business-fueling resources, from economic incentives and a skilled workforce to one thing most metropolitan areas can't offer: room to grow.

Projected to increase at a brisk 5.3 percent pace through 2025, the Hernando County population promises a constantly expanding labor force. Currently the area's top labor markets are tourism, health care, retail, government, real estate, finance, manufacturing and construction.

While growth is happening all over Hernando, expansion is really taking off at the Hernando County Airport.

Just an hour from the Port of Tampa and providing easy access from the Suncoast Parkway (toll road adjacent to the airport and direct to Tampa), I-75, I-4 and the Florida Turnpike, the Hernando County Airport clearly has location on its side. An emerging player in Florida's High Tech Corridor, the airport is home to operations for 125 companies.

"We have such a successful leasing program and very good tenants, which means we've been able to remain profitable even during the recent economic downturn," says Don Silvernell, airport manager. "As a result, we're able to do things like a recent road improvement as well aviation and industrial park expansions. We constantly invest in facility improvements, and we're able to pay for them out of the airport fund, so they don't affect the general fund or taxes in the area."

After the close of World War II, the U.S. War Assets Administration deeded to Hernando the land that would become the Hernando County airport, including a clause that restricted the property to public airport use. That includes all revenue generated by leasing airport land, a factor that means big benefits for both the community and the businesses that call Hernando home. Not only does Hernando Airport sustain itself without dependence on the public tax dollar, this steady source of revenue also means that the airport can invest in ongoing improvements that make a critical difference in the success of its business partners.

Those expansions and improvements include welcoming new partners, such as Airdyne Aerospace Inc., a manufacturer of special mission equipment for military use on cargo and transport aircraft. Hernando is also undergoing major aviation upgrades, such as a new $2.5 million air traffic control tower for safety and operational enhancement. Scheduled for completion within 12 months, the tower will benefit many, particularly the airport's air ambulance companies as well as the Air National Guard.

But these expansions are just further examples of Hernando Airport's ongoing mission, one that has generated exponential success for the businesses and community it serves.

The Bird's Eye View
Hernando County Airport is a sprawling 2400 acres with a 7000 x 150-ft. concrete ILS (instrument landing system) runway. All airports have runways, but Hernando offers something most airports its size cannot: the ability for businesses to tailor their office, manufacturing and operational space to their exact specifications. Whether a global corporation or a local start-up, companies locating at Hernando have the option of building to accommodate their exact needs on sites with water, sewer and power already in place, or moving into existing corporate managed hangars. Hernando business partners also enjoy access to abundant ramp and airside parking options.

Once businesses have their operations in place, that's when the real draw of doing business at Hernando kicks in. Costs stay in control with low lease rates and fuel costs, zero landing fees, allowing Hernando's tenants to focus on building their businesses and taking advantage of Hernando County's famous low-key lifestyle.

"Hernando County and the airport industrial park offer an economical place to have a manufacturing facility," Wayne Johnson, CEO Accuform Signs. "It gives us access to a great labor pool, and it's close enough to Tampa so that we have access to all the benefits of the city, but we still get to enjoy the small town of Brooksville. Our employees love it here, and so do we."

Take Flight at Hernando
With hundreds of acres ready for custom development and a range of ready office sites to choose from, Hernando County Airport's benefits are within reach of any business. The case for making the move to Hernando is simple:

  • Value

  • Low building and land lease rates

  • No state income tax

  • No de-icing costs

  • Multiple available business incentives

  • Large local workforce and customized training programs

  • Right-to-work state

  • Strategic Location

  • 35 minutes to Tampa International Airport

  • 60 minutes to Port of Tampa

  • 90 minutes to the Orlando area

  • 125 minutes or less direct to most major business centers by air

  • Space to Grow

  • New control tower in one year

  • Option to occupy or build structure of ample size

  • Direct airside access available

  • Smooth newer roadways throughout

  • Airport Facilities

  • Choice of service providers (American Aviation & Brooksville Air Center)

  • First class amenities

  • Ample ramp and hangar space

  • Onsite RailPark and AirPark

  • Onsite fire station

And while the Hernando County Airport has big business appeal, doing business at the airport also means doing business in Hernando County and its cities of Spring Hill, Ridge Manor, Masarkytown, Weeki Wachee and Brooksville, which come with an impressive range of benefits all their own.

The Hernando Factor
One of the 100 fastest growing counties in the United States, Hernando County has a list of demographic facts that read like a business wish list. A labor force of more than 60,000 combines with a low cost of living to create an appealing package for both businesses and the employees they want to attract.

Rick Woodland, vice president, research and business development for Airdyne, a small, special mission U.S. aerospace company, explains the Hernando advantage.

"It is easy to attract ‘seasoned' engineering and technical professionals to the Brooksville area. In general, they are willing to accept a reduction in salary because their income goes significantly further in the Hernando County Airport area. And, in terms of aerospace education, Florida is unprecedented."

Education is a particular area of focus for Hernando County, providing critical support for business recruitment and retention efforts. Pasco-Hernando Community College (PHCC) is a dynamic, career-centered educational institution and an integral part of the county's educational system. PHCC provides continuing educational opportunities, technical certificates and two and four year programs, with four-year programs that include degrees from International College, St. Leo University, University of South Florida - St. Petersburg and Barry University.

The Hernando County Office of Business Development partners closely with the college to promote its programs and ensure alignment with the needs of the business community as they grow and evolve. This commitment has resulted in a workforce that Hernando's business leaders are eager to employ.

"We have access to a workforce that is skilled and enthusiastic to show up for work," says Thompson. "They give their best and that is reflected in the quality of our machines, the overall stature of the business and the satisfaction of our customers."

It's the Life
A sound, strategic business case certainly tops the site search criteria, but Hernando County also offers one more enticement: the life.

"The overall appeal of escaping the northern climes and living within an hour of Disney World, Busch Gardens and the best beaches in North America remains extremely attractive to employees seeking employment with Airdyne," says Woodland.

The bottom line: Hernando County unites access to major metropolitan resources with the pace, ease and community-centered small-town lifestyle. From cultural events to classic family fun, Hernando County is a launching pad not just for a great business, but also a great life. And that's a surefire formula for success.