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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Local Breaking News

County funds road extension in Temple Terrace to lure employers

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TEMPLE TERRACE — Hillsborough County leaders have agreed to expedite funding for a road project in Temple Terrace in hopes of luring more companies to the area.

Hillsborough will fund half of the $1.5 million extension to Telecom Parkway, which will create another entrance and exit to the Telecom Park office complex, considered a prime spot for companies interested in relocating near the University of South Florida.

Temple Terrace and county leaders tout Telecom Park and neighboring Hidden River Corporate Park as desirable destinations for companies in the medical-related, high-tech and industrial fields.

“This just made sense,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said. “It helps with economic development, and economic development equals jobs.”

The county plans to match funds with Temple Terrace to extend Telecom Parkway east on Arbor Island Boulevard to connect with Morris Bridge Road, west of Interstate 75.

Commuters currently enter the office park on East Fletcher Avenue at Telecom Park North and Telecom Drive.

Work on the road, which will provide easy access to Fowler and Fletcher avenues, could begin within a year. When completed, the road will cut response times for emergency vehicles and make it easier to market Telecom Park as a safe environment for companies seeking convenient access to major roads.

“I know it was really important to Temple Terrace to get that extension,” Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said. “We were happy to help.”

Telecom Park is home to several major employers, including bank investment giant Morgan Stanley, which earlier this year took over 25,000 square feet of office space to accommodate its 180 employees.

No major tenant announcements are pending, city and county officials said. But public officials are following the advice of business leaders who are encouraging them to invest in new roads and other services now to appeal to more potential job providers in the future.

Some see the road extension is a way to prepare the business park for companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, which has announced plans to move to Hillsborough County but has not disclosed a location.

The county found funding for the project even though it has struggled in the past to pay for improvements to some of its busiest and most dangerous roads.

No county project will be bumped to finance the road extension, Merrill said.

County leaders consider funding road improvements based on three priorities: public safety, preserving existing roads and economic development, he said.

Hillsborough leaders plan to use $500,000 from the county’s capital reserve fund and $250,000 in Community Investment Tax dollars to pay for the extension, said Kevin Brickey of the Hillsborough County Budget Office.

The road project has been on Temple Terrace’s wish list for more than a decade, but its future was uncertain without the county’s financial support. Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura went to Higginbotham to seek his help securing county funds for the road project shortly after he was elected in November.

Higginbotham agreed and led the charge this summer to persuade his fellow commissioners to spend the money on the extension a couple of years earlier than they expected.

Commissioner Victor Crist, whose district includes parts of Temple Terrace, called the project “a priority” and described it as a “great return on investment” to attract quality employers.

“We need to make sure we have the necessary infrastructure in place to do that,” Crist said.

In the past year, elected officials from Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace have been working with the county’s chief economic development group, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., and the state to recruit new businesses and bring more jobs to the area.

kknight@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7413

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