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Strapped for land: Change in Florida law could sway high paying employers away from Pinellas County

Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 17:55:40-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — You may think tourism drives Pinellas County’s Economy, and you wouldn’t be wrong — the beaches are award-winning and attract folks from all over the country.

“But, people often don’t know that we are number three in the state for manufacturing jobs,” said White Blanton, the Executive Director for Forward Pinellas.

The manufacturing industry’s economic impact is double that of hospitality, according to Pinellas County Economic Development, and those jobs pay three times the average wage.

“Were the most densely populated county in the state of Florida. I wouldn’t say congested. We’re densely populated,” Blanton said.

Pinellas County is full and space is limited. Blanton said Pinellas County is already in need of 500 more acres of land for new industries — land they can’t just create. That’s why the goal has been to preserve what they currently have, but some elected officials want to change the law and allow developers to build on that land just as long as 10% of whatever they build is affordable housing.

“Two years ago the legislature passed house bill 1339 that allowed pretty much the same provisions but for only affordable housing,” Blanton said.

And, leaders across the county embraced that and recognized the affordable housing crisis, Blanton said, but he believes this change undermines the 2020 legislation and he doesn’t think it will create affordable homes.

“What do you think is going to happen to affordable housing? Developers know where the profit margins are going to be and it’s not probably going to be in affordable housing,” he said.

He said Forward Pinellas continues to create and sustain affordable housing.

State Senator Ed Hooper attempted to amend the change giving counties an “opt-out” if a majority of members with a county-wide planning authority voted for it but it was withdrawn.

“It’s a failure of Tallahassee to recognize that diversity of our state, and to impose a one size fits all on the entire state,” Blanton said.

We’ve reached out to the lawmaker who filed the bill. It’s currently making its way through committees.