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Roundup 8-24-2012

August 24, 2012

TIA – Getting More International

We have consistently advocated for more international service at TIA and praised the present director for his efforts along those lines.  We do not accept that there is no demand for international service, an excuse used by many over the years for the lack of effort to make TIA more international. (see here and here) Well, it seems there is demand.

The airport saw a 20 percent jump in international passengers in the first seven months of this year compared to the same period last year, according to data the airport released Friday.

That means that 51,000 more passengers have used Tampa as an international hub so far in 2012 than did so last year. That brings this year’s total of international passengers to 309,000.

In July alone, the airport saw a 30 percent jump in international travelers. That’s an increase of 9,737 passengers compared to the same month last year.

Most of that new business is owed to the establishment of new flights to two international cities the airport wasn’t serving: Zurich, Switzerland, and Havana.

And the increase is not just a matter of more flights, like the Edelweiss flights to Zurich:

The Cuba flights are expected to generate an additional $650,000 in revenue for the airport this year. From January to April, airport officials estimate that the duty-free shop brought in an extra $332,000.

But other international flights are doing well, too. British Airways saw a 9 percent increase as of July, up to 90,457 passengers. Air Canada reported an 8 percent increase, now up to 100,475 passengers.

Moreover, international growth is outpacing domestic service:

But the improved international market has not significantly boosted the total number of passengers at Tampa International, which remained flat at 10,118,060 people as of July. That’s an increase of just 37,754 passengers compared to the first seven months of 2011.

Frankly, we would like to see growth in all service, as we are sure the TIA director and staff would.  We also know they are working on it.  We hope more success will come – the Port and others in the area should learn from the efforts at TIA.

Speaking of the Port

As regular readers know, the Port board is in the process of finding a new director.  It appears that they may have learned something from the airport.  After some stuttering, questionable steps to begin the search process, things are starting to move.

Now Starkey is back to help the Tampa Port Authority pick Wainio’s successor.

Starkey, a retired GTE executive, and two other local business leaders will join the search committee. Port chairman William “Hoe” Brown announced the committee’s lineup at Tuesday’s board of commissioners meeting.

Also joining the search committee will be Vincent Dolan, who will step down at the end of the year as president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida, and Gordon Gillette, the president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. Brown and Arthur Savage, the president of shipping agent A.R. Savage & Son LLC, round out the committee’s lineup.

We are glad the search committee was formed and included a range of backgrounds.  At least one member of the search committee seems understand the real issue (not to say the others don’t, but we just don’t know)

But Savage has been more than a voice for Tampa’s maritime interests. He’s also one of the outgoing director’s toughest critics.

He has repeatedly sounded warnings over the loss of 29 percent of the port’s total shipping tonnage — 14 million tons —in the past six years.

That has put him at odds with outgoing port director Richard Wainio, who has complained that the recession, housing bust and changing cargo market are to blame.

Wainio thinks a better measure is the port’s improving cargo container business. It’s a more lucrative market that saw a 12 percent increase in 2011, but stands at just 1 million tons.

By way of contrast, the Port of Miami had over 7 million tons in 2010. (And that does not include Port Everglades).  That is not a favorable comparison.

Thankfully, the search committee member appears to understand that complacency is not acceptable.

“The process is not about me,” Savage said. “The process is about reversing this trend at the port and improving and increasing traffic through the port.”

Exactly. (Hopefully the other members and the board will also adopt this view) The Port is underperforming. It is a primary economic engine for the area and it needs a director who will push to compete rather than make excuses for why it isn’t competing.  It needs a vision and the will to execute it.

We also hope the board and search committee read this article about how other ports are preparing for the Panama Canal expansion. What are they going to do so we do not become less competitive.

This Week’s Statement of the Obvious

The American Society of Civil Engineers said the Tampa Bay area’s infrastructure is not up to snuff.  You can read about it here. We also want to make clear that when we say it is obvious, we are not indicting the ASCE.  They are right to say something.

The real question is whether anyone is going to do anything useful about it rather than continue business as usual.

Epicurean

Last week, we noted that we heard there was some opposition to the plans for the Epicurean on Howard.  Thankfully, it has not gotten in the way of construction of this project.

Now, the City needs to change the code so the Epicurean is not unique in its urban design outside of downtown (or in downtown, really).  And while they are at it, they need to work on the sidewalk and other features to make Howard truly walkable.

Old Courthouse Hotel

The plans to renovate the Old Federal Courthouse are moving forward.

Plans to convert the former federal courthouse into a luxury hotel go before Tampa’s Architectural Review Commission on Sept. 12.

The city panel, as well state and federal historical agencies, must sign off on the plans before work begins at the 1905 Beaux Arts-style building, 611 N. Florida Ave.

“No one anticipates any real problems, it’s just the time it takes to get everyone on the same page,” said developer Gary Prosterman, president of Development Services Group Inc. of Memphis, Tenn.

He said the project has received a commitment letter for a construction loan from Wells Fargo Bank in Birmingham, Ala. The financing should close in about 90 days. The loan is expected to account for about $16 million of the $27 million project.

Prosterman said work could begin by the end of the year.

We hope that everyone works together to make this an excellent (not just “ok”) project.  The renovation of the few remaining gems in downtown is actually very important – they give it character.

Public Art – It Could be Worse

The Old Federal Courthouse is on a block that touches Zack Street, where the City is spending a significant amount of money making a “Promenade of the Arts.” (Some of that money should have gone to Howard Ave.) While we are not fans of much of the public art in the Tampa Bay area, we feel compelled to point out it could be worse.  Take, for instance, this sculpture from Zhengzhou, China:

From the Daily Dish – click for post

We’d rather have the exploding chicken.

Bridge Lights

Speaking of public art, check out this video of the lighting of the bridges in downtown Tampa. While we do not buy into hyperbole regarding the project, it is nice, even if other cities did it years ago (Like Miami, starting with a Metrorail bridge decades ago – a more recent picture here, and if you do a web search, you will see they expanded the program.)   The only issue we have is the odd, moving shapes projected on the bridges.

Rays

This week St. Petersburg invited the Rays to come hear the proposal for a Gateway stadium which has apparently been in the works for a while. http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/st-petersburg-official-stayed-mum-on-baseball-stadium-plans/1246484   The initial reports said the following:

Rays officials have said they are not interested in talking about new stadium sites unless the city frees them to pursue sites anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. The Rays declined to comment Monday about Friday’s invitation.

The Times editorialized that the Rays should attend the meeting and listen to the plan and the Rays say they will. Good for the Rays, but we do not see how that changes anything in a material way.

In the bigger picture – the logical thing for the area (and, frankly, St. Pete’s taxpayers who are still on the hook) is to let the Rays look in the whole area.  If the Gateway plan is a good plan (and since we have not seen it, we have no idea if it is good or not), it will succeed on its merits.

Coming Out Watch, Cont.

In our continuing effort to monitor the impression we are making before the RNC, this week we have some more links to stories about Tampa:

August 18: Salon

August 19: Daily Beast

August 22: New York Times/Yahoo!

August 23: CNN

More locally, you can also check out the Tampa Bay Partnership’s special website promoting the area: http://frontrowtampabay.com/  We are not sure how much it cost (though we hear that it was quite substantial), but reading the national and international press, we are not sure it is accomplishing its goal.  We shall see.

List of the Week I

We have a number of lists this week.  Apparently the end of summer brings out the list makers.

Our first list is Forbes list of best cities for Gen Y jobs. The list has the usual suspects up north, out west and in Texas. Very surprisingly, given all the other lists we have seen, Tampa comes in 8th.

List of the Week II

Our second list this week, 2012 second quarter CredAbility Consumer Distress Index, contradicts somewhat (but not completely) our first. This index “tracks the financial condition of the average U.S. household by measuring five categories: employment, housing, credit, how families manage household budgets and net worth.” It found that the Tampa Bay area was the second most distressed region, after Orlando. (Miami was #5).

List of the Week III

Our third list this week is really a summary of the Princeton Review The Best 377 Colleges: 2013 Edition. As usual, New College is listed as a great bargain. Florida Southern is pretty.  Oddly Eckerd College isno. 19 for ‘lots of beer’ and no. 3 for ‘reefer madness.’” (Why is it not high on the party school list?)

Unfortunately, USF has some dubious rankings:

The University of South Florida was ranked no. 18 for “is that a dorm?” and no. 7 for “least accessible professors.”

What can you say?

 

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