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County incentives help business expand at Brooksville airport

BROOKSVILLE — Another expansion is about to begin for a major employer at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, thanks to a series of incentives and other agreements approved by the Hernando County Commission earlier this month.

Barrette Outdoor Living, Inc., also known as Alumi-Guard, is set to build a 100,000-square-foot building next to its 210,000-square-foot structure at 2401 Corporate Boulevard. It will add another 43 jobs. When expansion plans are complete, the company will employ approximately 290, making it one of the airport’s largest employers. Safety-sign maker Accuform employs about 300.

"From day one, it’s been a success over there,’’ said Valerie Pianta, the county’s economic development coordinator.

Barrette manufactures wood, vinyl and aluminum fencing, as well as railing, outdoor storage buildings and other outdoor living products. Alumi-Guard started in Hernando County with 90 employees a dozen years ago. The new addition is a $6.5 million distribution center, which will free up more room for manufacturing in the existing building, Pianta said.

Chip Howison, vice president of operations, told commissioners his company is working with Duke Energy and other interests to install solar panels on each of the buildings after construction. The solar energy array would be the largest on any private business in the state, he said.

"We’re very proud of that and trying to stay green,’’ Howison said.

Headquartered in Cleveland, Barrette bought Alumi-Guard four years ago. It could have put the expansion at one of many locations, Howison told commissioners, adding "we like Hernando County. We like the support we’ve gotten from you guys over the years.’’

"Thank you very much for what you do for the community,’’ said Commissioner Nick Nicholson. "You provide good jobs with good wages.’’

Commissioners voted to approve a multi-faceted incentive package for the company’s expansion. It includes: a $3,000 bonus for each new job, totalling $129,000 over five years; an impact fee and building permit fee mitigation estimated at $110,620; and use of the county’s rapid-response permitting. The average wage for the new jobs is $37,506, and the incentives are performance-based, so they are not paid until the jobs are created.

Another part of the agreement has Barrette participating in storm water improvement projects, which will help with drainage on the site and around it. The company is building larger buildings than were envisioned, so help with drainage is necessary, county officials said.

Barrette is leasing 4.6 acres from the airport for the expansion, bringing its total lease site to 20.6 acres.

That will allow for a new outside storage area and expanded parking. The monthly lease payment will be approximately $6,033.

The county can afford the incentive package, Pianta assured commissioners, even though its economic development incentive pool is shrinking. With four other businesses close to signing with the county — potentially costing more than $400,000 in incentives over the next several years — the waning fund has been a concern for commissioners, Pianta and county administrator Len Sossmon, who doubles as the county’s economic development director.

Commissioners told Sossamon they want to explore ways to beef up the fund as they talk about the 2018-19 budget. The first budget workshop is May 1.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

>>>Previous coverage:> Hernando Commission approves job-creation incentives for three companies>>

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