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Opening event Wednesday for Trinity Holiday Inn Express & Suites

Suncoast News staff report

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TRINITY Another piece of the development puzzle has fallen into place as, Pasco County government and business officials hope, the State Road 54 gateway corridor in Trinity shapes up to rival Tampa s Westshore district. Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Express & Suites is celebrating its grand opening Dec.

9, as well as a VIP preview party Tuesday. The 86-room hotel is at 2125 Corporate Center Drive, just off State Road 54, about midway between Duck Slough and Trinity boulevards.

People can see for themselves the new Formula Blue prototype of Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Express, sales manager Kristi Smith said in a press release. We will also be the newest hotel in the Northern Tampa Bay market, she said.

People don t always think of Pasco as a place to vacation, Pasco County Tourism Manager Ed Caum has said. But when you look around, there s really quite a lot to do here. The ultimate goal of the Pasco County Tourist Development Council is to coax visitors to spend the night in Pasco, Caum said, hoping to entice visitors to pause in Pasco on their way to Busch Gardens and Clearwater Beach.

When people spend the night, they spend more money, he said. And that s where the real economic impact is.

The county beefed up its VisitPasco.net website and changed its tourism logo and motto to Open Spaces, Vibrant Places. The county also enlisted allies to help with rebranding, such as CBS travel editor and host of the PBS Travel Detective series, Peter Greenberg. With the 1990 adoption of the county s tourist development tax, the tourism council pockets 2 percent every time someone spends the night at a Pasco hotel, motel, resort or campground, a levy Caum has called paltry.

By contrast, Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas have a 5 percent tourism tax. While Pasco spends $105,000 to market its tourism attributes, Hernando spends $300,000, Hillsborough $10.5 million and Pinellas $11.9 million. As Trinity s first hotel, the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Express demonstrated the strengthening of the local economy, business and government leaders said during the December 2014 groundbreaking for the project. Pasco County officials joined representatives from MPH Hotels and Berkshire Hathaway Commercial Real Estate to launch the development.

In addition to Florida, St. Petersburg-based MPH Hotels operates hotels in Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Mississippi. Among speakers were Dewey Mitchell, broker-owner of Berkshire Hathaway Commercial Real Estate, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey and Dan Sullivan, executive director of Trinity-Odessa Chamber of Commerce. Michael Holtz represented MPH Hotels.

Among those grabbing shovels were John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council; Commissioner Jack Mariano; Commissioner Mike Wells Jr.; Richard Gehring, Pasco s planning and development administrator; Pasco Clerk of Court Paula O Neil; and Wells Fargo financial adviser Michael Cox.

Material from the Pasco Tribune was used in this report.