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Seaplanes in Tavares

During the recession the City of Tavares in Lake County put in place economic incentives, including waiving impact fees for new businesses.  Now it's considering offering just one industry that sweetener – large seaplane-related businesses.

After All, Tavares has branded itself as America's Seaplane City.

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The Tavares City Commission is set to vote today to remove fee waiver incentives from its economic development provisions, except in the case of "a commercial or industrial enterprise engaged in the sale, manufacture, production, assembly, marketing, or passenger service of or for seaplanes, or their components" if they meet a few criteria, including 25 or more full-time employees in Tavares.

Tavares decided to incentivize investment in 2011, during the recession, when the city was working to pump up its downtown.  At the time it was also competing for the relocation for a large seaplane manufacturer from California.  The company decided not to move.

"We wanted to encourage people to invest in the city," said Joyce Ross, Tavares' director of public communications. "We were trying to rebuild our downtown core."

With downtown improved, new hotels, a new pavilion on Lake Dora, and an improved road system, city officials think the incentives are no longer needed.

But Tavares still craves seaplane-related businesses.  It has one, Progressive Aerodyne Searey, a company that started making kit seaplanes that were assembled by buyers. Now Aerodyne has certification to manufacture and assemble the small planes branded Searey.

Tavares continues to be in discussion with several large seaplane and seaplane-related companies on a regular basis. And it encourages seaplane pilots to land in the city by offering aviation fuel they can pump into the plane without leaving the water, Ross said. It also has regular "fly-ins and other events to attract the pilots.

Dubbing Tavares America's seaplane city was born in a city "visioning" session brainstorm seeking a way to differentiate Tavares from other Lake County small towns. Aerodyne is in town, and almost 100 years ago Tavares had its first seaplane land on the lake.

Ross said the marketing is working. The city celebrated its 10,000th seaplane landing in December.

tburney@growthspotter.com or 407-420 6261

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