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Roundup 12-9-2011

December 9, 2011

Port

The Port of Tampa has reported a strong year:

Turbulent economic seas didn’t stop the Port of Tampa from posting record operating revenue of $42 million and eke out a 3 percent boost in operating income, port director Richard Wainio said in his annual State of the Port address Thursday.

That is good news.  Any improvement in economic activity and the performance of public facilities is good.

On the other hand, as we have said, the port is an economic engine – the question is what kind of engine.  Right now it is maybe a Camry.  That is fine as far as it goes.  However, we think it could be much more.   The Port is one of the main connections of the Tampa Bay area to the world economy.  We need it to be a driving force, not coasting, even if it is mildly profitable. We are happy the Port is doing ok, like TIA did under the last director, but the Tampa Bay area should be pushing it much harder.  Once again, we look to the Port Director for his plan to make it high performance vehicle, rather than a serviceable family sedan.

The Importance of Airline Service

Speaking of the importance to connections to the world in driving the economy, NPR had an interesting report today regarding the effect on business on the contraction of service at Cincinnati’s airport (formerly a major Delta hub).   It is definitely worth a read/listen.

Interestingly, the report talks about the importance of incentives in developing service:

A new task force has hired a consultant, and big Cincinnati companies like Procter & Gamble, GE Aviation and Macy’s are lobbying for which airlines and routes they’d like to have.

Aviation writer Jim Ott says Cincinnati certainly isn’t alone with these kinds of challenges. Increasingly, medium-size cities and their taxpayers are going to have to subsidize airlines to get better service,[sic]

We are glad the present director of TIA already understands the area’s need for service, the need for incentives to develop service, and how new service helps to local economy overall.

More on the Economy

To no one’s surprise (or at least is shouldn’t be a surprise), Tampa has the dubious distinction of being high on the list of areas that have local companies bought up by companies from outside the area. This is obviously problematic:

M&A activity is important for any community. It drives business for lawyers, accountants and investment bankers and other deal professionals. An acquisition allows a company to gain volume and clout. A sale provides an exit strategy and liquidity to business owners.

But anytime a local firm is acquired, there’s also a loss for the community. Offices can be closed and jobs eliminated as operations are consolidated at corporate headquarters. Well-known names and ways of operating can disappear. Out-of-town owners are less likely to make philanthropic contributions to local charities.

This harms our economy in many ways.  Aside from what is listed about, some other ways we are harmed include loss of developed talent, difficulty in creating industry clusters around major companies, losing high paying jobs, making our area less attractive to young talent (creating a downward cycle), and harming the arts and sports.

We can no longer conceal the local economy’s structural flaws behind real estate.  It is time to come clean. Most major metropolitan areas were built on solid industries in which they are the leaders. Call centers and back office operations are nice, but until we develop a cluster of headquarters and front office operations, we will not be a primary economic player.

Morsani and USF

News also comes this week that Frank and Carol Morsani are giving $20 million to USF’s medical school to help push building a new building. (here and here)

USF officials intend to leverage the money into a $60 million campaign to replace the medical school’s four-decade-old facilities, seeking additional private donations and state funding. By late next year, they hope to break ground on a prominent building designed to encourage greater collaboration across the USF health professional schools in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health.

* * *

But the $20 million donation mostly will help to replace the medical school’s outdated facilities, whose age and space limits were problem areas in its last accreditation review. Officials hope to begin construction late next year in space that has housed the outpatient medical clinics along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

The $60 million, five- or six-story building will feature an open design, encouraging collaboration between students and educators in USF’s health-related disciplines, including the schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health.

We thank the Morsanis and encourage our legislative delegation to get to work getting more money for the project – especially given:

Leaders said their outdated medical facilities increasingly pose an obstacle to competing with the state’s four new medical colleges. And these newer schools received state building dollars not available to USF in recent years, said Klasko.

We are not sure how that is allowed by our legislative delegation to happen, but it needs to change.  As does this:

A report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that most Floridians donating at least $1 million to a single cause gave to charities out of state. This amounts to a brain drain in Florida for educational, human welfare and cultural endeavors.

Of course, it would be helpful if we retained more of our home grown businesses, too (see above).

Sad Cities

We generally don’t give much credence to the surfeit of surveys about the best, worst, greenest, healthiest, most boring, etc., places to live.  This week, we found out that St. Petersburg is supposedly the saddest place to live in the US.  (Good thing the British are paying attention.)  We also learned that Florida is apparently the saddest state.

We read much about this survey, but there is not much to take note of (we think maybe Gary, Indiana may be slightly sadder . . .), except this:

For that, maybe it’s better to ask the tens of thousands of people who’ve been leaving the state in recent years. Florida actually saw a net population loss of 58,000 in 2009, the first for the state since World War II, and here’s what many of them have been telling us: the peninsula didn’t turn out to be the paradise they’d been promised. The ever-widening gap between what people earn in Florida, a state that continues to rely on low-wage industries like tourism, and what it costs to live there — there actually is a state income tax in Florida, and it’s called homeowner’s insurance — is just one factor clouding the sunshine. Being able to wear flip-flops in January just doesn’t seem to offset lousy government, nonexistent public transit and underachieving schools anymore.

This is how many people see Florida – especially many in the higher wage, creative jobs.  If you don’t like it – do something about it (and we don’t mean some bizarre publicity campaign).  We mean raise your game and show that you are not like that.

Floridan Hotel

One thing that will keep us from being sad is the reopening of the Florida Hotel in downtown Tampa – one the last great, old buildings in the area.

From Tampa Tribune - click on picture for article

Unfortunately, it appears we will have to wait.  Well, we can be patient.  See you in the Sapphire Room.

Quote

Today we  start an occasional feature where we plop down a good quote every now and again.  Recently there has been a lot written about Steve Jobs, so we thought maybe he would be a good first quote:

Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.

[MSNBC and Newsweek interview, Oct. 14, 2006 via WSJ.com].  The same goes for cities – the customers being the present and potential residents, business, and travelers. Do you think the Tampa Bay are gets this?

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