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Roundup 4-20-2012

April 20, 2012

Economic Development – Bass Pro Shops

We learned this week that the deal for a Bass Pro Shops in Brandon is off, for now.

Bass Pro Shops has told developers of the Estuary commercial complex in Brandon that it is ending negotiations with them over the prospective construction project.

* * *

The company has expressed an interest in looking for other Hillsborough locations, county Administrator Mike Merrill said.

But a location change would mean the $15 million in proposed tax incentives would likely need to be reworked, county chief financial administrator Bonnie Wise said. That would potentially cloak terms of any new negotiations in secrecy until, and if, a deal is reached.

Good.  Now the $15 million subsidy proposal can be killed.  Once again, we should spend scarce resources to develop manufacturing, high tech, and other high value jobs and industries – attracting them and helping them develop locally.

Economic Development – The Port

President Obama visited the Port of Tampa this week.

Obama’s goal of increasing U.S. exports was the theme of his speech Friday at the port. It meshes with the port’s push to diversify operations as part of a strategy to balance downturns in economic cycles and provide shelter from larger, recessionary problems.

The ties between the West Central Florida economy and business at the Port of Tampa are highlighted in data from the first quarter of the fiscal year.

Total cargo movement from October through December for the entire port, including Port Authority-controlled operations, was down 2 percent from the year-ago period to 7.9 million net tons.

They are certainly tied.  Which makes this other report so interesting.

Two hours into what was evolving as a nondescript master plan workshop for Port of Tampa tenants, Arthur Savage launched a torpedo in the direction of the port’s management strategy.

“Our cargo is in a 20-year decline,” the owner of the A.R. Savage & Son shipping agency in Tampa said. “We need to reverse that.”

Jim Brennan, workshop moderator and partner in the Norbridge, Inc. maritime consultants in Washington, pointed out that seaport competition is fierce. Savannah’s port, for example, provides Interstate 4-corridor businesses with dozens of weekly container cargo shipments compared with less than a handful in Tampa.

Wade Elliott, senior director of marketing at Tampa’s port, acknowledged longstanding heavy cargo, including fertilizer, was in decline but said the port’s strategy of having a diversified mix of business sectors is key to a strong economy.

So the port is diversified.  Good.  But the older bulk cargo is in decline.  And a port from another state is stealing our business.  That is not consistent with this:

“I am not going to sugarcoat the port’s performance,” Wainio said at his state of the port address in December. “Our state and our region are only very slowly emerging from a recession that went deeper and lasted longer than in most parts of the country.”

We have said numerous times that we agree the economy is not what it could be.  It is for that very reason that the Port needs a plan to expand its market and increase service.  Now we know it needs a plan to defend its local market, too.  We look forward to hearing what that plan is.

Economic Development – Where Are They Now?

What do we have in mind when we keep mentioning economic development, targeted subsidies/incentives, and increasing the port’s business?  We have already discussed companies like Apple in the context of other cities’ incentive programs.  Are there local examples?  Back in 2008 there was a brief appearance in the media of the possibility of a Japanese company building a wind turbine plant in Hillsborough County.

Looking for the gold in green, Hillsborough County is trying to lure a wind turbine manufacturer that would invest in a roughly $500-million expansion.

Sweetening the pot with public money, county officials are putting together a package of economic incentives from the county, state and possibly the Tampa Port Authority. If the deal goes through, the company would pledge to create about 550 high-paying jobs, said Hillsborough Commissioner Brian Blair.

* * *

At least one company fits that description.

Mitsubishi Power Systems just completed an expansion in Orlando and is looking to extend its manufacturing capacity in North America. The company established its Lake Mary headquarters in 2001. Tampa was originally in the running for those facilities, but lost out when Mitsubishi lighted on a shuttered turbine factory near Orlando, according to Site Selection, an economic development trade publication.

Mitsubishi Power Systems, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, later opened a service center in Orlando and this summer completed a $64.5-million plant that makes turbine parts.

We could not find news about what happened to these negotiations. Did the company go somewhere else? Did someone local block the incentives or the plan? If so, who and why? How much did the company want?

While we do not know all the details of this particular negotiation (and whether it would have been a good or bad deal), the project as described is the kind of manufacturing that could boost jobs and both exports and imports through the port.  It could also attract other related businesses.

What we do know is that Orlando got a turbine plant and headquarters, and we got nothing.  We also know that this is the kind of manufacturing that this area could use and that would boost and diversify both the economy generally and business at the port.  This is the kind of business that should be targeted for incentives, not a retail store.

Economic Development – How Not To Be Hip and Attractive to Young Professionals

We have mentioned the Mayor of Tampa’s Economic Competitiveness Committee and noted that, while real estate is important to development, there is more to it.

The Committee report is online here.  As mentioned in news articles, it calls for streamlining the development approval and permitting process, which we favor as long as there are good requirements for developments in the first place.

We have also noted the Mayor’s stated goal of making Tampa attractive to young professionals and weave the urban fabric together. (Especially as young people are turning away from driving)  Given that, we were surprised to find the following in the Competitiveness Committee report (see page 12 of the pdf, 11 of the report) regarding sidewalks:



Sidewalk requirements affect a full spectrum of development types and issues, including dense urban development, single-family development, affordable housing, incomplete connectivity networks, and historic districts. The cost of constructing sidewalks increases the cost of building affordable housing. The required construction of a sidewalk along the parcel frontage is an ad hock [sic] approach for providing a safe, walkable community – at best it creates an incomplete sidewalk network. The process is far too expensive and onerous. The in-lieu fee for not constructing a sidewalk ($29/lf) is excessive.


Review the requirements for sidewalk construction. Revise sidewalk provisions to allow exemptions when no sidewalk exists adjacent to a development site. Reconsider the allowance of paver installation as an alternative material. Consider simplifying sidewalk alternative review process and expanding the types of waivers that can be requested.

The key is this: Revise sidewalk provisions to allow exemptions when no sidewalk exists adjacent to a development site.  This seems to say that, when there is no sidewalk network, a new development should not have to build one or pay a fee so the city can build one.  If that is not what is meant, someone should clarify the language.

We understand the City has been remiss in making Tampa walkable, and we do not think the fees should be excessive, but the Tampa Bay area is the second most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. Urban connectivity requires sidewalks.  We doubt those young, hip professionals the City says it so desperately wants are going to want to trip through the weeds or walk in the street while they hang out being creative.  It seems odd to recommend that when the City made the mistake of not building a sidewalk in the first place, that mistake should be compounded by not building any sidewalks now.  Whatever is built can be connected later.

Once last question: how is not putting sidewalks where they are needed but do not exist in a city known for not being walkable changing Tampa’s DNA?

Brand Tampa Bay

We also learned this week that there is a lot of discussion going on to brand Tampa Bay.

But as the community prepares to welcome delegates and 15,000 members of the media, local leaders are trying to determine what message to leave them with, some idea of what Tampa is all about.

It’s a surprisingly difficult task.

So far, the region’s identity isn’t as clear as Orlando’s, with its theme parks, or Miami’s, with its international flair. Instead, the Tampa area is more of a mish-mash: a couple big cities, laid-back beach towns, some cigar history, lots of hospitals, a military base, and a ton of back-office jobs for major banks and corporations.

* * *

So far, it appears they’ve struggling for a unified message, though.

We are fine with branding, but it needs to be really good or not at all.  Having a simply adequate branding campaign is worse than no branding campaign – especially in the internet age.

We recognize that this can be hard. The Tampa Bay area is quite diverse. Does the article provide any suggestions?

Miller and a few other local business leaders have kicked around the idea of Tampa Bay as “America’s Next West Coast,” conveying the American West Coast’s laid-back lifestyle, its creativity and entrepreneurship, and its balance of work and play.

Miller said it’s just an idea at this point.

With all due respect, please keep that slogan just an idea.  To be properly branded, you should be different than somewhere else, not an imitation of somewhere else and certainly not aspiring to imitate somewhere else. (And please do not do anything like “Cool Britannia” – if you are cool, other people know it.  If you have to tell them you are cool – or hip – you aren’t.)

Once again, we know this is hard and commend those trying to do it.  Maybe it cannot be done at this point but remember that nothing is better than something that is not excellent.


We also learned that the streetcar board is considering dissolving.

Local officials created a three-headed partnership a decade ago to operate Tampa’s streetcar, whose start was contentious and whose history has been enveloped in fiscal controversy ever since.

The city of Tampa took ownership of the stations, track and overhead electric power lines. HART provided employees and owns the vehicles. The nonprofit Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc. was created to oversee and manage the system.

* * *

“Why not dissolve the streetcar board?” Hale said after the agency’s lawyers discussed options that might lower a rail-crossing insurance premium that has sucked $4 million from the $5 million streetcar endowment over 10 years.

If either HART or the city of Tampa took over the streetcar, they might be able to secure a far better insurance arrangement than the nonprofit streetcar board, board members said.

This idea has a certain logic, and we are open to examining it.  However, we have some concerns if HART is in charge.  In its present incarnation, it seems unlikely that the HART board will work to make the streetcar the best it can be.


There has been a lot of news recently about the impending sale of Channelside to one of a number of bidders.  Unfortunately, we have not seen the plans for any of the groups.

We are going to refrain from comment right now, expect to point out that the complex was not really designed to optimize its location and we hope the new operator’s plan does that more effectively.  When we see the plans, we will say more.

One thing we will say is that the process is too secretive for our tastes.  We are sure there are complicated legal reasons that it can be secretive, but it is publicly owned land downtown.  The process should be more open.

An Interesting Show

There were a couple of lists out this week, but not really family fare.  Instead, we decided to put a link to a recent episode of Charlie Rose on issues facing cities with the Mayors of Chicago, Baltimore, Louisville and Jacksonville we found interesting.  You can find it here.

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