Suzanne Christman, CEcD, Senior Manager, Business Development at Pinellas County Economic Development and FEDC Regional Director of Tampa Bay interviewed Michael McHugh, Director at Hernando County Office of Business Development.
How long have you been in economic development?
I have been the Director of Business Development for Hernando County since 2002. Previous to that I worked in the mining, power and cement industries with responsibilities from management to distribution. My current responsibilities include economic development, tourism and the Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport.
Tell us about a current project or endeavor that you are working on where you are creating results for a company, your community, or your region.
We have a robust business retention program built upon strong relationships. It has resulted in numerous announcements in the last year including HealthSouth Central Billing, Airdyne Aerospace, Accuform Signs, Dynamic Pharmaceuticals and Interconnect Cable Technologies all announcing major expansions.
What do you consider to be the biggest achievement in your career?
The Accuform Signs project is the largest manufacturing announcement in Florida for 2012 at 305,000s.f. Certainly something we are all very proud of.
What tools do you use to succeed in your position? Have connections or education programs offered by FEDC benefitted you? How?
I would say the most important is collaboration. Almost everything we do involves partners that play a role in getting things done. The FEDC certainly plays a role through its education and advocacy efforts. All of that is very important.
Tell us something about your region that our membership isn’t aware of.
We are embarking on the creation of a new adult technical education facility to help us transform our workforce to the new realities of the workforce. This has been very challenging given budget constraints but it is too important not to accomplish.
What are the current challenges you face, and how do you overcome them?
Funding is a huge issue. The concern is that opportunities may arise before our local economy improves. I also think all communities face the constant need to develop talented high-skill workers to meet the changing demands of business.
Where do you see your region in the next 1, 5, 10 years? Where do you want to be in your career?
With a legacy of business success. At the end of the day if I have helped to create and maintain an environment in which businesses are prospering and creating jobs, then I will be satisfied. The Tampa Bay Region has so much to offer, including our community, that the work is never done.
Describe your most recent job creation success. What were the tools used to close the deal? What piece of advice would you pass along to fellow FEDC members?
All of the announcements we have made are from organic growth. I never cease to be amazed at how much opportunity comes from within. Listening is the best tool to use. Your businesses will provide you with valuable insight if you listen closely and the act on their needs.
Describe your current advocacy focus. What tools are you using to gain support of your agenda? How can FEDC members help support your goals?
Certainly a continuation of economic development funding both at a local and state level is very important. We must have the necessary resources to compete on a national and international basis.
What role does economic development education for local and state legislators play in advancing your community?
It is critical. They ultimately craft the budget and priorities for economic development. Having them apprised and engaged is a critical element for them to be effective.
What piece of advice would you offer to someone just beginning their career in economic development?
Listen closely. Whether it is a new business or existing company, each word they convey to you can provide opportunity. So much of what we have accomplished is from conversations that became meaningful three, six or twelve months later. It is a long-term thought process.
How does your organization promote economic development?
Primarily through the web, consultants, real estate professionals and trade shows.
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