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Roundup 4-5-2012

April 5, 2012

Roundup is appearing on Thursday due to Passover and Easter.  Enjoy.

State of the City

This week the Mayor of Tampa gave the annual State of the City speech.  As a general rule, we do not follow such speeches that closely, as they have a high percentage of political fluff.  However, it is instructive to look peek at some coverage.  What did the Mayor have to say?

“It’s time we put aside political differences or artificial boundaries on a map,” Buckhorn said. “We are all in this together. We are either going to succeed together or we are going to fail alone.”

* * *

Tampa used to be the model for cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., but lately it has fallen behind them in progress and economic growth, Buckhorn said.

Tampa needs to regain its economic footing and its position in the United States, he said.

“I can’t cut my way out of this ditch,” the mayor told his audience. “We’ve got to make this place as competitive as any place in the country.”

And

“As I think about why we have to change Tampa’s economic DNA, I think of Grace and Colleen Buckhorn, I think about these kids from Rampello, I think about the brain drain that has been leaving this community for a decade to Charlotte and Austin and to Raleigh-Durham,” he said.

“To give these kids at Rampello and my two daughters a chance for a different Tampa, we have to change the way we do business, and this starts with transforming the culture at City Hall,” he said.

As we have said on numerous occasions, the Mayor’s themes usually sound good to us, but actions are what count.

So how do we get competitive with places like Charlotte and Austin?

That, Buckhorn said, is why he named an economic competitiveness task force, created a new one-stop service center for developers, is buying user-friendly permitting software and why he wants residents to have higher aspirations than ever.

And, as the Tribune, finally laying out the true nature of the Economic Competitiveness Committee, says:

He’s also following the advice of his Economic Competitiveness Committee, a collection of developers and city officials he drafted soon after taking office in 2011 to recommend changes to the cumbersome review system.

Efficiency is good, but it is not changing DNA, and it is not making us “as competitive as any place in the country.” Let’s look at some examples from cities the Mayor mentioned.

         Economic Development – Austin

As noted previously on Tampasphere, Austin arranged $21 million in state incentives   and $8.6 million in city incentives to bring an Apple campus with up to 3600 jobs.

         Economic Development – Charlotte

So what is going on in Charlotte?

              1. Apple

Apple (AAPL) plans to build the nation’s largest private fuel cell energy project, a nonpolluting, silent power plant that will generate electricity from hydrogen in North Carolina.

Apple filed its plans with the North Carolina Utilities Commission last week to build the 4.8-megawatt project in Maiden, about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte. That’s where Cupertino-based Apple has built a data center to support the company’s iCloud online data storage system and its Siri voice-recognition software. 

* * *

Apple currently has a 500,000-square-foot data center on the 11.5-acre site, and construction recently began on a second building on the campus.

Many people in Tampa Bay speaks of the need for the area to act regionally, but what is the likelihood of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties (not to mention Polk, at this point) getting together to promote such a data center and fuel cell facility in only one county?  We can’t even have a conversation about the Rays.

             2. Chiquita

Chiquita – yea, the banana people – is moving its headquarters to Charlotte from Cincinnati.  What were the big draws?  $22 million in incentives and air connections from Charlotte’s airport.

Chiquita Brands International, an iconic company almost synonymous with bananas, said Tuesday that it will move its global headquarters to Charlotte next year, bringing some 400 jobs [ed. averaging over $106,000].

The company was lured by more than $22 million in state and local government incentives and the promise of easier international travel from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, which has grown as the airport near Chiquita’s current headquarters in Cincinnati has shrunk.

* * *

In addition to the headquarters, the company will also move its research and development to Mecklenburg County, and might open a second location to house those facilities.

We’d take the banana company HQ and all those jobs and investment.

As for the air service draw:

The [Charlotte] airport has direct flights to Frankfurt, which Chiquita has said would be critical, since about half of its business is in Europe.

There is also a direct flight to San Jose in Costa Rica, where Chiquita has a regional headquarters. All five of Chiquita’s main ports are served by nonstop flights from Charlotte.

What this really shows is that economic development involves much more than real estate (yes, it also involves real estate).  It involves providing the services necessary for companies to do their business efficiently.  There should be a large focus on doing so.

         The Lesson

What we learn here is that to change Tampa Bay’s DNA we need more focus on recruiting industries and do so by focusing on meeting their full needs, such as air service.

As we have said before, the buildings will get built.  Anyway, developers need tenants.  Focusing exclusively on real estate developers is not a change in DNA and will risk us getting left farther behind.  Tampa Bay needs to change.  Unfortunately, we are doing so far too slowly, as shown by Hillsborough County.

Economic Development – Hillsborough County

The Tribune and the Times ran articles the same day about criticism of the Hillsborough County’s inaccurately and unwieldily named Economic Prosperity Stakeholder Committee.  The essence of the criticism is that the committee is too developer-friendly.

Commissioner Sandy Murman, who will chair the committee, said she wants the members to make recommendations on transportation, infrastructure and other building blocks of economic prosperity. Murman said she is happy with the committee membership, including her appointee, Richard Harcrow, an executive with Newland Communities, developer of FishHawk Ranch and other planned communities.

“I feel like in order to move this vision forward, we have to have developers at the table,” Murman said. “They’re not going to be sitting there so they can propose this and that to help themselves. They’re going to be providing a vision of what we want our area to be.”

Sure, consult developers, but, once again, there is more to economic development than real estate.

1) First, it seems odd to us that both papers would run stories praising the Mayor of Tampa (see here and here) and other stories critical of Hillsborough County for doing almost exactly the same thing.  In fact, a fact NOT noted in the papers, a good number of the people and/or organizations/companies on the County Committee are the same as on the Mayor’s committee. (Sorry we use a Times article for the member list. We would link to the original list provided on the City’s website here, but the City took it down.) Moreover, at least the County included some environmentalists on its committee, which the City completely avoided.  If it is wrong for the County, it is wrong for the City.

2 ) The second issue is that, just like with the City, the name of the County’s committee is misleading. Just like the Mayor’s economic competitiveness committee, the county’s committee is a real estate committee, as made clear by it’s website:

Purpose:
This Committee will make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on changes to the Land Development Code, the accompanying process and other procedural improvements to eliminate duplication, reduce the permitting time, eliminate outdated and conflicting regulations [sic], and improve customer satisfaction. A Technical Support Group will assist the Committee by providing data and other relevant information.

Our real problem with this committee is not that it is too developer friendly.  We are glad to hear from developers.  Rather our problem is that the Committee has little to do with attracting companies and high paying jobs and seems to think that real estate is the sum total of the economy.   Sadly, in an area known for poor planning and lower salaries, this is the same old DNA.

The essential point has not changed – really for decades.  Just as with the City, the County needs to realize that real estate is a subcategory of the economy.  Just like with the City, until this area gets serious about attracting high paying jobs and providing the services and amenities needed by those companies, we will be well behind our competitors.

Economic Development – The Tampa Bay Partnership

This week saw questions raised regarding the Tampa Bay Partnership’s performance. We are not going to get into that little argument, except to note this about the publicly funded salary of the leader:

At a time when the economy has forced some local governments to slash their workforces, a publicly funded economic development group quietly has boosted its leader’s compensation by more than $110,000 since 2006.

Today, at $393,873 a year, Stuart Rogel of the Tampa Bay Partnership is paid a salary, bonus and other compensation approaching the levels of the top public officials in Tampa – exceeding, for example, the $355,000 that Tampa International Airport chief Joe Lopano receives.

Rogel’s $70,000 bonus alone would pay for nearly three of the jobs his organization is working to bring to the Tampa area; the region’s median pay for workers is about $26,000, according to the Census bureau.

The President of the United States makes $400,000. And, as Tampa’s Mayor said “Tampa used to be the model for cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., but lately it has fallen behind them in progress and economic growth.”  Enough said.

CAMLS

The USF CAMLS facility opened in downtown Tampa last Friday. We have not said much about this facility because, frankly, a lot has been said about it.  Hopefully, all the predictions of success will come true.  One question we have had from the beginning – if it is as big a success as has been predicted from the start, is there any room to expand it? (It does not look like it, but maybe there is a plan somewhere) If not, why not?

HART/PSTA

In a triumph of anti-regionalism, the board of HART asked the Governor to veto the bill that would require them to study merging with PSTA.

This is the key:

Neither transit board is interested in combining operations or decision-making at the top, although the two systems share routes and participate in equipment and fuel purchasing pools.

Frankly, at least a majority of the board seems to forget that is it supposed to provide service to the taxpayers – which never seems to come up in these articles.  Otherwise, they would just do the study and see what comes out of it.

St. Pete Police Station

We have not covered it much, but St. Pete has for years been trying to replace their out of date police station.  Last week, the plan was dropped due to lack of money.

The Times ran an interesting column this week entitled “What will St. Petersburg mayor fight for if not police station?

What a silly question.  We all know he is willing to fight to make sure the Rays are not in Tampa.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ramond Chiaramonte permalink
    April 7, 2012 10:03 AM

    This is a great analysis of a lot of important issues. A lot of good discussions could come out of the insight on some of many things mentioned that are going on. I look forward to being on the list for these reports in the future.

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