An organization that will focus on growing new and existing businesses in Plant City has been made official. The Plant City Economic Development Corp. bylaws were passed on Tuesday, Sept. 22, by a committee that had originally formed this June.
Former mayor Randy Larson is heading the Plant City EDC as chairman, and David Sullivan, a senior executive vice president at Platinum Bank, is vice chairman.
“This is a whole new sense of energy,” Sullivan said. “It’s all happened really fast, within a three-month period. It’s time for Plant City to shine.”
The City of Plant City has a partnership with the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. Both Larson and Sullivan see Plant City’s EDC as an organization that will work alongside the Tampa Hillsborough EDC.
“We’re kind of working hand in hand with Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.,” Sullivan said.
CITY AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT
When the final budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year was approved at a City Commission meeting Monday, Sept. 28, $175,000 was granted to the new Plant City EDC. Out of that funding, $25,000 will go toward Plant City’s continued membership in the Tampa Hillsborough EDC.
Although Plant City’s EDC has only just been made official, private sector donors have already raised nearly $200,000 for the corporation. For the Plant City EDC’s immediate goals, those funds are coming from the right place.
“We want the EDC to truly be a private entity,” Larson said. “There is no specific special interest the city is looking for, other than overall growth.”
One of the Plant City EDC’s strategic goals is to be a good steward of the city’s money. The Plant City EDC would like for the city to be a member of the organization. As a member, the city would give $5,000 annually to the EDC.
The idea for city membership came from Lakeland’s Economic Development Council.
“One of the things we learned from Lakeland was to work diligently to wean off of the city’s contribution as quickly as possible,” Larson said.
With the city’s initial funding, the Plant City EDC is currently seeking a full-time director, who will become the president of the corporation. The Plant City EDC is searching for a president through a firm, and hopes to have one by the first of the year, at the latest.
Chason Group, the firm hired to search for a Plant City EDC president, will convene with the executive committee about potential candidates. The committee of six members will then vote on who to hire. Mayor Rick Lott and City Manager Mike Herr are ex officio members of the committee. They can participate in the discussion but not vote.
In addition to the executive committee, the Plant City EDC also has 31 board members and 12 general members, with each group still growing.
“We’re excited about that,” Sullivan said. “[We’re] getting a lot of calls every day.”
Board members, mostly made up of businesses, pay $5,000 annually to the Plant City EDC. General members pay $2,500. Board members are allowed to bring an additional guest to board meetings, with one being the designated voter.
“There’s a method to that madness,” Larson said. “It has to do with continuity. We want board members to be active.”
WHY PLANT CITY?
In the immediate future, the Plant City EDC will remain focused on three primary goals: growing membership, attracting new business and expanding existing business, and establishing the infrastructure of the organization.
“That’s the near-term approach to keeping the momentum moving,” Larson said.
To do this the Plant City EDC plans to promote one of the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World’s primary strengths: location.
Next to the I-4 corridor and minutes away from neighboring cities, Sullivan and Larson describe the city as one with a favorable tax, a business-friendly government, and social aspects that are geared toward new businesses or ones looking to grow.
“Our particular region has a huge agricultural interest as well,” Larson said. “Jobs, jobs, jobs. I think if you work off that focus, then the tentacles are far reaching.”
The Plant City EDC plans to not simply create jobs, but to create ones that enhance the skills of Plant City’s workforce.
“We’re here to help the entire Plant City economy,” Sullivan said. “We absolutely want to help [businesses] expand.”
“This is not a private club,” Larson said. “If we can help an existing business add 20 new employees, it’s helped everybody. The rising tide floats all boats.”
Steve Hurley, Stingray Chevrolet
Karen Kerr, South Florida Baptist Hospital
Nate Kilton, Sedita Kilton Life & Wealth Management LLC and Sedita Kilton & Company, CPA, P.L.
Yvonne Fry, Fryed Egg Productions
Jeff Lucas, Central Florida Development
Robert Appleyard, Lakeside Station Logistics Park
Keith Smith is the Plant City EDC’s secretary treasurer.
So far, business involved in Plant City's EDC include, but are not limited to:
Florida Strawberry Festival Association
West Coast Enterprises
Florida Insurance Center
Keel & Curley Winery
Hillsborough Title Company
South Florida Baptist Hospital
Wetherington Tractor Services
Star Distribution Systems
Hillsborough Community College