Jobs first, economic development after

The stated purpose of the Hillsborough Transportation Plan is to create jobs and reduce congestion.

The timeline for these goals is way out there; 5 to 10 years and the how is not clearly defined. 

I propose that the proceeds from the first two years of the “penny” tax increase be set aside and used to stimulate the creation of jobs now, close to where people live, while a more thorough plan is put into place to bring jobs to downtown Tampa along transportation corridors. This gets people off the roads and into paying jobs 5 to 10 years sooner. 

I suggest funding 25 business incubators located throughout the county with start-up seed money and operating funds. Priority would be given to sustainable business plans that would employ the unemployed and export products that would bring new money into the area. 

Business incubators could be set up to function as venture capital facilities, investing in promising start-ups while taking back a small equity position or royalty on gross sales. This could happen almost immediately by partnering with existing venture capital groups. 

Another example would be an incubator located near an agriculture area, equipped with a commercial kitchen and other facilities and to allow someone to turn a family recipe into a marketable product using locally grown and harvested farm products. The incubator could help someone turn Ruskin tomatoes into Ruskin Spaghetti Sauce, or help an ornamental fish grower transition to food-grade fish such as tilapia. A winery could be established, using local crops to produce and market any number of specialty wines. 

An incubator could be set up to help local outdoor and “walking tour” guides develop and advertise their services to an untapped history tour and eco tourism market. 

The possibilities are only limited by the imagination and the collective will to pull our county up by the bootstraps by investing in our people now and investing in a change now for the immediate future that then will bring long-term, sustainable economic results.

<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen

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