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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

County strategic plan unveiled


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BROOKSVILLE - A sports and entertainment village at Anderson Snow Park. An adult technical education facility operating somewhere in the county. A $2-million aviation maintenance facility at the airport.

These are just a few of the longterm goals set out in County Administrator Len Sossamon's long-awaited strategic plan for Hernando County.

Unveiled Thursday, it goes before his bosses on the commission, who will discuss it during Tuesday's meeting.

Sossamon's "Moving Forward" plan has 14 goals, many of which includes several ambitious economic development initiatives that were previously mentioned in the 2012 economic development plan update put together by the Office of Business Development to create jobs.

They include establishing an adult technical education facility (along with an agricultural component at the county extension office) within 18-24 months.

Sossamon also wants to proceed with the Nature Coast Sports Village project to be located on 44 acres of unused land at Anderson Snow Park.

The Office of Business Development and Tourism Department have already said that such an entertainment complex would attract younger, talented professionals to Hernando County and entice them to live and work here.

Sossamon wants to complete the wireless broadband project, identified by businesspeople as a top concern.

Many business owners have complained the lack of high-speed access is detrimental to their operations, and a private-public partnership would help boost economic development in the county.

Sossamon said the plan was 12 months in the making and was developed from suggestions and comments from more than 800 citizen survey responses from previous town hall meetings and his assistant county administrators.

The plan looks at Hernando County five years out and heavily stresses economic development and tourism.

While the plan features an overall mission and vision for moving forward, it also contains three areas: Economic Viability, Environmental Sustainability, and Strengthening Community.

All 14 goals are supported by specific objectives and initiatives for each value area.

"A critical component of the strategic plan is quantifiable indicators to gauge how effectively or efficiently services are being provided," Sossamon said in a press release.

Periodic reports will be presented to track the progress of the plan's implementation.

Sossamon said he was told when he got here the county had a comprehensive plan, which serves as a growth tool. But that is not the same as a strategic plan, he said.

Some of the initiatives in the plan are already being acted on, including the rebranding of the airport, recently renamed the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

Sossamon has focused on several infrastructure improvement projects, including:

Enhancing the water-sewer systems to the State Road 50 and U.S. 310 area to lure industry

Considering using the excess land at the Kettering Road water treatment plant for industry recruitment

Dedicating $2 million to build mid-sized speculative industrial buildings throughout the county and doing it by collaborating with private investors or partners

Dedicating $2 million in airport money and commercial loans to develop a speculative 25,000-square-foot aviation maintenance facility.

Recruiting businesses involved in tourism or agri-tourism.

County Commissioner Wayne Dukes is familiar with plans in his years as a businessman. The strategic plan is similar in that it provides a road map and keeps people focused, especially with the kinds of big-ticket budget items the county deals with, he said.

Dukes said county commissioners and government employees may come and go, so it's important to have a document that stays the course.

"It's like a road map," he said.

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the plan is still on his desk, and he will crack it open before Tuesday's meeting for a full discussion.

"It's been a long time coming," Russell said. "The county has needed this sort of direction and now we have it."

To view the proposed plan, visit the county's website at http://hernando /citizens/

(352) 544-5290

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