A new study from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council shows that the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport and surrounding lands are primed to be a major catalyst for economic development for Pasco County. By creating an aviation cluster around the airport, Pasco County could add jobs and increase average wages.
The Zephyrhills Municipal Airport’s property with two runways, plus the Zephyrhills Airport Industrial Park and adjacent lands, could provide more than 7 million square feet of potential building space for light to heavy industrial use that holds the opportunity to create and support 10,000 jobs.
“Zephyrhills has an economic asset that can serve this community for generations to come,” stated Melonie Monson, President and CEO of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce and Director of the Zephyrhills Economic Development Coalition. “We have ample physical space to build the infrastructure needed to support a vibrant aviation industry and a motivated workforce to staff it.”
Florida’s 109 general aviation airports support 180,000 jobs and $5.4 billion in payroll, while contributing $18.4 billion in gross state product. Zephyrhills is uniquely positioned to create a dedicated air industry cluster, and the resulting jobs and sales would create additional tax revenues for Pasco County.
The Zephyrhills Municipal Airport and Industrial Airpark could develop an airport industry cluster on 860 acres to attract the following types of companies:
- Corporate air fleet and executive jet services
- Recreation (parachuting and flying clubs)
- Law enforcement and fire control
- Medical services such as air taxi and supply deliveries
- Fixed-based operations
- Maintenance, repair and operations for planes
For fixed-based operations, the aviation cluster could create 47 jobs supporting $3.9 million in personal income and $11 million in sales. For operations, such as aircraft parts manufacturing, the number of jobs created could surpass 167 with personal incomes of $6.2 million and sales of $13.7 million.
The properties are served by one of two CSX rail lines and road access, making it particularly attractive for air freight and cargo services. This is a growing industry, as the Covid-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in global and long-distance supply chains when consumer demand for goods and services shifted to online retail. Air freight and cargo provides quicker delivery for consumer and lower costs for producers.
“With community leadership and private and government funding, we are destined to create a critical hub for the region’s global supply chain,” said Zephyrhills City Councilman Ken Burgess. “With responsible budgeting, investment, and planning, we can increase the city’s tax revenues and improve the entire region.”
The Brookings Institute outlines five elements that are key realizing a strong industry cluster:
- Focused on establishing a robust ecosystem, not quick job gains
- Driven by industry, fueled by universities and funded by government
- Placed a collective big bet on a unique opportunity
- Championed by passionate, dedicated leaders
- Anchored by a physical center
The Zephyrhills Municipal Airport and Industrial Park are uniquely positioned to supply these elements.
“The Tampa Bay region is experiencing a robust economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano, Chair of Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. “Recovery is vital, but pairing this recovery with long-term industry and job creation is the key for sustaining the region’s growth and building on our future economic health.”
“Pasco County is well-positioned to benefit from investments in dedicated industry clusters, which could create jobs and have a positive economic benefit,” said Pasco County Commission Chair Ron Oakley. “The TBRPC study will be a useful tool in assessing the opportunities around the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.”
The study was completed with funding awarded through U.S. Economic Development Administration grant under the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which aimed at providing technical assistance to examine economic recovery for regional partners.
Read about the study in the Tampa Bay Business Journal.