MANATEE -- It soon may get a little easier for manufacturers to develop and expand in Manatee County.
A proposed Local Manufacturing Development Program would help Manatee County to remain attractive and be competitive in the manufacturing industry, according to application materials.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the program at its Thursday meeting and now the ordinance will go before the county commission June 4 and June 16 for possible adoption.
The program, which is in response to the Manufacturing Competitiveness Act the Florida Legislature passed in 2013, would allow manufacturers to obtain a master plan approval for manufacturing sites in certain designated areas. Once approved, the manufacturer would not need additional local approvals for future expansions or modifications except for those involving building code, life or safety issues.
The act was established to help local governments in the Florida to "attract, establish and maintain manufacturing enterprises in furtherance of creating a competitive economic environment, resulting in increased employment opportunities and the general economic betterment of the county," according to the agenda supplemental materials.
"We will hopefully be the first county that supports that legislation," said John Barnott, county building and development services department director. "We are the model that the rest of the state is going to follow. We think this is a good thing. ... They don't have to go through this process over and over."
The program is "intended to provide a quick, efficient and comprehensive method whereby new manufacturing businesses may be established within a designated portion of Manatee County and thereafter expanded with minimum further development review," according to the proposed ordinance.
Parcels in Manatee County that would qualify for the program include the area surrounding Port Manatee; the southwest corner of the Interstate 275/U.S. 41 interchange north of Palmetto; and areas surrounding Tropicana off U.S. Highway 301 in Bradenton.
Florida is in the bottom five of U.S. states in its percentage of gross state product that comes from manufacturing, according to the proposed ordinance.
Alan Prather of Tropicana echoed that fact at Thursday's Planning Commission meeting, pointing to Florida's neighboring states -- Georgia and South Carolina -- as some of the more successful states in terms of manufacturing.
"I believe it will be the jumpstart for significant economic development and manufacturing in Manatee County," Prather said. "It should help the state of Florida. Manufacturing is very important. It sustains an economy and sustains labor and people who live in your community."
Barnott said the plan fits right in with the county's focus on economic development.
"It is something that could be held up for the rest of the state to follow," he said.
Also on Thursday, the Planning Commission recommended for approval a rezoning of about 148 acres from suburban agriculture to planned development residential and a preliminary site plan for 299 single-family detached residences. The property is on the west side of Interstate 75 and north side of Mendoza Road at 5000 37th St. E., Ellenton. The project called Willow Hammock Subdivision is scheduled to go before the county commission at its June 4 meeting.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.