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BUSHNELL, FL-As commercial expansions go, the planned $15 million facelift and new construction at the 176-acre Richloam State Fish Hatchery in this rural part of Central Florida is no headline grabber.

But in growing the venture, the 36-year-old plant, which breeds wide-mouthed bass and other freshwater species, hopes to become a revenue generator for sparsely populated Sumter County and a new tourism magnet for Central Florida.

The plant also anticipates new commercial development will be attracted to the site area, five miles south of Tarrytown, FL on Country Road 471. Bushnell, the county seat, is 60 miles west of Downtown Orlando.

Richloam officials project the expansion, with the state as a partner, would generate an estimated $2 million in new revenue to Sumter County and produce $109,000 a year in additional business taxes.

The existing 25,000-sf structure is expected to double in size, large enough to produce two million to four million fish per year. The fish are placed by the Florida Freshwater Fisheries Division in the 2,000 public lakes that dot Sumter and neighboring Lake counties.

The stocked fish breed other fish that keep the lakes alive. The lakes are natural recreational sites for residents and tourists.

The Fisheries Division wants to partner with Richloam in a joint public-private venture to produce the bass at the proposed Florida Bass Conservation Center. To get the project started, Richloam is asking the legislature for $6.6 million to handle the expansion.

Richloam and Fisheries Division officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But area merchants tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity that local legislators will support the funding request.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” one Bushnell businessman tells GlobeSt.com, “but I would bet the barn on it.”

The only other comparable hatchery in the state is the smaller Blackwater plant in the Florida Panhandle.

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