PASCO COUNTY, Fla. – Robert Goehrig, Budget Director, Pasco County, presented detailed economic information to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday. Data shows that not only has Pasco County thrived during the pandemic but excelled. Overall, both Pasco County and the entire Tampa Bay area, are above the national rate of growth, unemployment rates are now at 5.2 percent and expected to fall in 2022.
Tampa, followed by Miami, leads the country in small business development and job growth at this time and for the foreseeable future. Goehring pointed to the shifts of people and businesses moving to Florida has increased exponentially.
Confidence is strong in the area bringing more than $180 million in start-up investments to Tampa Bay. Goehring reported that this number is above 2019, despite the pandemic. He said with the roll-out of vaccines and a return to more normal habits of dining, events, and travel, the growth is expected to increase beyond eight percent per year.
The construction sector leads in the region and is a substantial driving factor in revenues from new and existing home sales. Goehrig noted that the extreme demand in construction is driving up costs in all aspects of construction. Construction materials in the area have doubled causing inflation in that sector. There is a shortage of homes, explaining why there is also so much construction occurring. The strongest housing markets in Florida, are in the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota.
It was also noted that Pasco County has two of the top fifty, planned-housing communities in the country: Starkey Ranch and Bexley. Goehrig pointed out that at the end of 2020, there were 600 single-family home permits approved which in his words, “was quite a handful to keep up with only to find that in January 2021 we processed 900 homes per month.”
This being said, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said, “Pasco County isn’t just a bedroom community anymore.” Goehrig backed this with statistics showing that the value of commercial development doubled from 2019 to 2020 to historically high rates. All the construction news generates an increase in taxable assessed values. Goehrig noted that the one sector not generating typically tax revenues is the gas industry.
Tourism in Tampa Bay and in Pasco County, particularly due to sporting events, has been a big revenue generator and points to a bright future. While it was noted that the Super Bowl had a wide-reaching effect in Tampa Bay for tourism, in Pasco County two amateur events also added to the spike in hotel bookings and resulting tourist tax revenues. In 2019, visitors spent $500 billion in the local economy which translates to thirteen percent of overall sales tax revenue in the region, Goehring detailed.
Commissioner Mike Moore pointed out that the U.S. Premier Hockey League, “had a great event at the Advent Health Center Ice. A large number of teams stayed at Saddlebrook and occupied about 4,500 rooms,” Moore explained. “I spoke to the league commissioner of the hockey event who said they are very grateful to Pasco County, the region, and the governor for staying open because they really wanted to come to Pasco. Moore added with a smile that many of the kids commented on how they would love to stay.”
A large gymnastics meet in Pasco County also drove room occupancy and tourism dollars. Commissioner Moore noted that amateur sports are as important as professional events.
Lastly of note, Goehrig mentioned that nationally there was quite a spike in the sales of musical instruments and he expects, “some really great bands to come out of this pandemic.”
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