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County makes big gains in economic development

The northern outpost of Tampa Bay seeks to gain economic development heft behind an aggressive campaign.

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Pasco County is taking its vitamins.

Known mostly for its multiple Tampa bedroom communities — and growing traffic — the county has gained strength and scored some major economic development wins in the past month, focused on national and regional headquarters projects. The list of new entities varies from a startup pharmaceutical company to a civic infrastructure firm. (See related story on Moffitt Cancer Center’s proposed project in Pasco.)

The county, says Pasco Economic Development Council President and CEO Bill Cronin, is having a moment of notoriety that stems from a decision three years ago to aggressively pursue new businesses and help current business expand. “We have the available land, and we have the workforce,” Cronin says in a mid-September phone call in between meetings with companies in France. He also has a trip coming up to pitch Pasco in China. Most of the funds for the push comes from Penny for Pasco, a two-time voter approved infrastructure surtax.     

One result of Cronin and his team’s past trips and consistent marketing came to fruition in late August. That’s when Phillips & Jordan, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based heavy civil infrastructure contractor, announced plans to build a regional corporate headquarters in the One Pasco Center business park. Just east of the State Road 52 and Interstate 75 intersection, site plans for the five-acre, three-story, $15 million project include a new 47,432 square foot Class A office building. The company plans to move 40 employees onto two floors of the office building, according to a statement, leaving one available for speculative space.

“This is going to be a huge project for the area,” says Cronin in the statement, adding that the firm’s decision to include speculative office space in the project is more high-level validation for Pasco. Phillips & Jordan, founded in 1952, established a Pasco County location more than 20 years ago.

While Phillips & Jordan has been in business for nearly seven decades, another major Pasco County economic development win is a startup pharmaceutical manufacturing company, Fleda Pharmaceuticals Corp. Fleda’s first product, says CEO John Wang, is gummy vitamins. “Our team saw the need to produce something that won’t give you the typical pill fatigue that comes from taking multiple pills and vitamins every day,” Wang says in a statement.

While several gummy vitamins are already on the market, Wang, formerly a physician and CEO of a pharmaceutical company in his native China, says the potential for Fleda to grab market share is “overwhelming.”

“There’s a lot of space for a (startup) like us,” Wang adds in an interview.

Mark Wemple. John Wang moved to the Tampa region five years ago and worked for a medical device firm before launching a startup, Fleda Pharmaceuticals Corp.
Mark Wemple. John Wang moved to the Tampa region five years ago and worked for a medical device firm before launching a startup, Fleda Pharmaceuticals Corp.

Fleda’s new proposed facility, a $4 million project including the land purchase, will be in Odessa, on Byrd Legg Drive. The company acquired an existing office building and a 9,600 square foot warehouse there about a year ago. It plans to build a state-of-the-art Good Manufacturing Practices dietary supplement manufacturing facility there, where, in phase one, it will make gummy vitamins for both other clients and its own line, Wang says.

The company plans to hire 10 people at first, says Wang, and then up to 30 when the process is up and running, according to a statement. The company’s facility will be able to produce 130,000 pounds per month of gummy vitamins, though officials say it will be less at first. It also plans to eventually get into other wellness products, including generic pharmaceuticals. “We have to build up our sales and relationships with distributors,” Wang says. 

While a key challenge going forward will be hiring and retaining top people, Wang, also says a big hurdle has been the process. He credits Pasco County for help with expedited permitting, site consultation, and workforce analysis, among other tasks. Wang projects the Fleda Pharmaceuticals Corp facility could be open by late 2019 or early 2020.

‘We have the available land, and we have the workforce.’ Bill Cronin, Pasco Economic Development Council

“There is a lot of work we have to do,” says Wang, who moved to the region from China about five years ago, seeking a warmer climate and different lifestyle. He worked for a medical device manufacturer in the region for a few years before launching Fleda with some investors, mostly stateside partners. “It’s a long process.”









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