Skip to content

Roundup 9-19-2014

September 19, 2014

Economic Development – How Are We Doing?

Time to check in on the economy. There was more news about the local gross metropolitan product.  In most rankings, the Tampa Bay area comes in a under its top 20 population ranking, meaning that it is underperforming compared to the competition, even more so when you look at the per capita numbers.  How did we rate this year?

The metro area posted a 2.3 percent gain in its GDP last year, according to newly released figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.

A broad industry category that includes finance, insurance and real estate contributed 1.2 percent of the total, with smaller gains in trade, up 0.44 percent; professional and business services, up 0.21 percent; and educational services, health care and social assistance, up 0.19 percent. There were declines in the government sector and non-durable goods manufacturing.

The Tampa metro GDP for 2013 was $122.5 billion, ranking the area No. 27 in the nation. The 2.3 percent increase in GDP for 2013 was lower than the 3.2 percent increase the area recorded in 2012, but it was substantially higher than the collective 1.7 percent increase for all U.S. metros.

In other words, it was decidedly mixed.  Growth is good, but slowing growth is not, and being 27th is still underperformance.  Let’s do some comparisons of some usual suspects with smaller populations than ours from the Bureau of Economic Analysis website (you can go to the website to do growth calculations for yourself):

GMP in millions 2013 Per Capita GMP 2013
Austin 103,892 52,110
Charlotte 139,022 55,802
Denver 178,860 61,595
Orlando 110,443 45,855
Tampa Bay area 122,515 40,153


So we are still playing catch-up from quite far behind.

In other news, bed tax revenue is rolling in, which is great.  However, that does not really help this:

Median household income in Tampa Bay has sunk lower than it was after the recession ended three years ago, cementing the bay area’s dead-last ranking in income among the country’s 25 biggest metro areas.

* * *

“I’m not surprised,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo who has tracked Florida since the 1980s. “There’s no getting around that a lot of the jobs we’ve added in the past five years are in leisure/hospitality and in the retail trade, and they tend to pay lower wages.”

Yes, dead last.  That will attract young professionals. . .

While tourists and visitors are fine, they will not lead to a broad-based, higher income economy.  To where we need to be we need to change how things are done, how we are built, how we get around, and how we function (politically and otherwise) to attract (a lot more) young professionals and other talent to this area and to keep what we have.  In other words, actual, rather than rhetorical, change.

Economic Development – Startups and more

Speaking of attracting and retaining talent, there was a little buzz last week when it was announced that a company started in St. Pete was getting bought by Ticketmaster.

Ticketmaster, the nation’s juggernaut in ticket sales and distribution, said Thursday that it has acquired Eventjoy, a provider of a free digital ticketing platform for event organizers that launched in St. Petersburg.

The move is good news for anyone involved in the bay area’s startup community, which continues to fight for attention, credibility and — of course — investor money.

For the individuals involved, it was good news.  Of course, there has never been a lack of creativity in this area.

“The talent and ideas coming out of the Tampa Bay area are validated by deals like these,” said veteran entrepreneur John Morrow, who spends much of his time advising Tampa Bay startups and helping build the regional community of entrepreneurs.

The real question is whether any of that creativity will thrive here growing the area’s economy overall. So the key for the area is this:

The two met in 2012 at a StartUp Weekend Tampa Bay. Their business, first known as ExMo, was designed to help convention and workshop organizers, from TED to Home Depot, to offer interactive experiences with attendees in ways that a printed program could not. The business quickly snowballed. ExMo later changed its name and relocated to California for further mentoring at the invitation of Y Combinator, one of the nation’s top business incubators.

That’s where the renamed Eventjoy caught Ticketmaster’s eye. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

It is unclear how it helps the area as a whole to have another example of people who came up with good ideas here but had to move somewhere else to get noticed and have real success.  Isn’t that just reinforcing the impression that this is not the place to be ultimately successful?

Randels hopes Goldberg and White return to Tampa Bay after their time with Ticketmaster and build another company.

“That is what builds a true startup community rather than shiny buildings and venture capitalists,” she says. “If the entrepreneurs who have been successful continue to build more companies in the community, then and only then will we really prosper.”

Exactly.  People starting companies here for the ultimate benefit of other areas is not the goal.  The goal is to have the companies thrive here.  We do not want to be other cities’ farm system.

In a related note:

The University of South Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship started the school year off on a high note, earning a spot on an important Princeton Review list.

The center came in at No. 13 among 2,000 colleges and universities surveyed and published in the 2015 Top 50 Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs. USF was the only school in the South to make the top 20 and the only school in Florida on the list.

Which is great and hopefully will help change things.  The real change in DNA will be when people do not feel the need to leave to get real success.

Of Downtown, Rays, Med Schools, and Money

There was an interesting article in the Times about a potential pot of money for something (no one is clear what) downtown:

Mayor Bob Buckhorn raised his city’s profile in the discussion about the future of the Tampa Bay Rays by saying in 2011 that City Hall could, in theory, contribute up to $100 million toward a new ballpark in downtown Tampa.

Three years later, Tampa still expects to have millions in cash on hand after it pays off its convention center bonds. But it also has other potential contenders emerging for that money.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is working on a master plan for 24 acres he’s bought near Amalie Arena in the Channel District, is expected to be one of them, Buckhorn said.

The University of South Florida, exploring the idea of moving its medical school downtown, could be another.

Buckhorn made clear he still likes the idea of a downtown ballpark, but the city has not committed its downtown development money to that project.

“I’m not going to spend seven years waiting for a stadium deal when we have an attractive option in hand,” Buckhorn said in an interview at City Hall. “We’re going to try to be as helpful as we can to make these things happen.”

First, it is logical not to commit to a stadium when there is no actual stadium proposal.  On the other hand, we are not clear why the City would pay money for the lightning owner’s development or a USF medical school or if those are good uses for the money.  So where is the Mayor on all this?

Asked which he thought would give downtown the bigger economic boost — stadium or medical school — Buckhorn didn’t hesitate.

“In the long run, I think the med school,” he said. “That’s not to say we won’t pursue a stadium given the opportunity with equal vigor.”

But unlike a stadium, which would sit empty most days, a medical school would create “a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week environment that would attract thousands of young professionals” who would fill up apartment towers, shop and dine out downtown, Buckhorn said.

In cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, urban universities like Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon “drive the economy in the downtown area,” he said.

We have already said what we thought of the downtown med school idea generally.  See “USF Medical School – Where to Go”  In sum, if it had been done years ago, it would have made sense, but it is not at all clear that is makes sense now.  And, given the importance of the med school to helping move the area’s overall economy, the decision certainly should be about maximizing the biomed industry and not about urban renewal.

Interestingly, regarding a related urban renewal project, CAMLS, this was announced this week:

The Veterans Administration broke ground for a national medical simulation training center at Lake Nona’s Medical City, as part of the campus of the new Veterans Medical Center under construction.

The new 52,000-square-foot Veterans Health Administration Simulation Learning, Education and Research Network National Simulation Center – SimLEARN for short — will use simulation and other technologies to provide medical training to hospital trainers from throughout the VA system.

The formal groundbreaking took place Sept. 4. Construction is expected to take 15 months, so the center will be opening near the end of 2015, shortly after the medical center itself begins full operation.

The new building will have 10 classrooms, capable of accommodating up to 160 students. They will be able to use mannequin-based simulation, virtual patients and virtual environments to learn to train new procedures in areas ranging from out-patient clinics to intensive care wards.

In addition, the center will provide space for the development of new simulation programs and education curricula to address national VA clinical priorities, such as women veterans’ health and surgical team training.

Yes, you read that right.  Somehow, CAMLS did not get a contract to train VA doctors; Orlando’s medical city complex got a new institution. (We have no idea if CAMLS even tried to get a contract to do it.) From scratch, Orlando continues to build a much more concentrated cluster of medical institutions and organization around their new medical school.  Here, it does not seem logical to break up any cluster that may be developing.  Once again, while if, way back when, the med school was built around downtown it would have been great, we are not sure that using USF medical school as a downtown redevelopment project at this point is really the best use of the asset and money.

And there is a problem with the money anyway.

Tampa now receives all of the money — known as tax-increment financing funds — generated within the downtown community redevelopment area. In 2015, that is expected to total $15 million, of which $13.5 million is budgeted toward paying off the convention center bonds.

At the same time, the redevelopment area is scheduled to expire soon, so city officials are negotiating its renewal with Hillsborough County officials.

At this point, it hasn’t been decided whether the current split of tax-increment revenue — 100 percent for the city, zero for the county — will change. But Buckhorn said that under the worst case for the city, he expects that the city would still get half.

In other words, the pot of future money is not clear.  What it can and should be used for is also not clear. We will see what happens.

— Checking Facts

Having said all that, given the importance of the possible projects and the decision of where to put the med school, we just want to go back to the Mayor’s examples of schools that “drive the economy” in various downtowns.  While we agree that a medical school could create activity downtown, because the location of the USF med school decision is such a potentially important a decision for the whole area and moving it away from where it has grown is so potentially disruptive (and not in the “creative disruption” way), any case for moving it must be rock solid.  Therefore, let’s look at those examples again:

In cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, urban universities like Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon “drive the economy in the downtown area,” he said.

Is that the case?

1) Carnegie Mellon is about four miles from downtown Pittsburgh – basically the distance from downtown Tampa to Dale Mabry. (Not to mention the much bigger Pitt is between Carnegie Mellon and downtown, and Duquesne University is downtown. ) So the effect of Carnegie Mellon on downtown is tangential at best.

2) Johns Hopkins is close to, but not in, downtown Baltimore.  (Though Hopkins medical school is closer to downtown Baltimore than the main campus, ). However, if you have been to Baltimore, you know that neither really drives the downtown.

3) Penn is arguably in Center City Philadelphia but is not even close to the main driver of the quite developed Center City area.   And Thomas Jefferson Medical School is in Center City proper, anyway  Yes, there are two medical schools in relatively close proximity, though we are not sure you would want to walk – and you don’t have to because there is decent transit.

Another thing to note is that Penn  (if you zoom a little to the bottom right you can see the train station nearby) and Hopkins medical schools  (they also have a train station) have hospitals and large research clusters attached to them and, as noted, are served by real transit.  USF would not have a hospital attached to it and, as we have noted before, most of the research surrounding USF med school is already on or near the main USF campus (we doubt it would move).  You would not really be able to walk to TGH. (If USF med school goes anywhere near downtown, a more logical place would be near the planned TGH outpatient complex on Kennedy where there at least will be actual patients, though we have no idea if there is enough land, especially for future expansion.)

In fact, we can look across the Bay where Bayfront Medical Center, All Children’s Hospital, and, don’t forget, St. Anthony’s Hospital are all in downtown St. Pete.  They may add to activity there, but they do not drive it.  Tampa would not even have one hospital actually downtown.

It is also worth noting that UT is much closer to downtown Tampa than Penn, Hopkins or Carnegie Mellon are to their downtowns, but the Tampa has never done anything to really encourage the area around it to be developed to take advantage. If Tampa cannot take advantage of that larger number of people living, working (including going to school), and potentially playing basically in downtown, will it take advantage of a med school detached from most of its related institutions?  Can the area afford to make a mistake?

Again, if USF med school had started downtown, it would likely have a cluster now and would be a good thing, but it is not clear at all that moving it now would make sense. And, while we are not completely opposed, the case for moving it has not been made.

— Oh, Those Crazy Mounds

Finally, we noticed that the picture the Times used on its website for the teaser to the article on downtown money was this:

From the Times – click on picture for Times website

The Mayor standing at the top of the biggest of the mounds in Riverfront Park.  It just goes to show that, as we have noted over and over, if you remove a few of the poorly trees, that mound has one of the best vistas of downtown. 

Downtown – Goings On

— Lightning Owner’s Land

There was mixed news about the Lightning owner’s proposed projects downtown.  First, the hotel/condo proposal moved forward:

The Tampa City Council on Thursday night gave preliminary approval to rezone a property at Old Water Street and Florida Avenue now controlled by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, where he plans a hotel.

Because Vinik’s plan calls for a combination hotel/condo project, there’s a very good chance such a project would be a Ritz-Carlton “or higher” brand combination, said Jan Freitag, a senior vice president with Smith Travel Research.

* * *

Vinik’s new hotel complex would contain 400 guest rooms, 50 residential units and 45,000 square feet of retail space. With the preliminary approval given Thursday night, Vinik’s team will potentially return to the City Council in two weeks for further approvals.

That would be nice.  However, because there is no indication of what kind of hotel will be there – or really anything else – we withhold more comment.  Let’s just see what actually happens. Though here is another rendering (not sure about the need for a skyway between the hotel and the arena when the plaza connects them, but whatever):

From WTSP – click on picture for website

We did note this:

Normally, Tampa’s land development code limits the height of buildings in the central business district to 120 feet unless the zoning includes a detailed site plan. At 325 feet, about 25 floors, Vinik’s hotel would be a foot shorter than the neighboring Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which has 27 floors and 719 rooms.

Kind of odd that the code restricts heights downtown to 120 feet (basically ten stories) without further approval.  We know there are some FAA issues, but that should be left to the FAA.

The other news involved the recently filed application for an office building nearby.

After losing Syniverse as a prospective high-profile tenant, Vinik’s real estate development team has withdrawn a rezoning application to build an office building near Amalie Arena.

It also is dropping, at least for now, a related request to close Eunice Avenue for the project.

That is too bad.  Downtown needs more office development.  Of course, a major part of that issue is transportation and parking (which are very connected).

— Kress/Grant Blocks

Finally, we noticed that there was an application filed for Grant (just north of Kress) block downtown by a potential purchaser/developer of the lot, a lot where a previous, pre-recession proposal did not come to fruition.

Potential developers of the site known as “the Grant block” — which includes 901, 911 and 915 N. Franklin St. — have filed a request with the city to reduce the overall size of the mixed-use project, which is to include residential units and commercial space.

Looking at the information from the City’s website (it shows up as 910 north Florida but searching Franklin Street works better for some reason.), the application seeks 375 multi-family units in a 260 foot, 23 story building with what appears to be ground floor retail. We are not surprised there is renewed interest in that area given the proximity to Tampa Theater, Curtis Hixon Park, the Straz, the museums, and the other apartment/condo buildings – and the small but nice retail they brought – that were built a block or two away before the recession. (Thankfully, at least in some parts of downtown, the City learned from lack of street interaction of the 1980’s and 1990’s office buildings south of Kennedy and their lack of street retail.)

Of the Kress block, the Tribune tells us this:

Jason’s company has been closely watched by downtown observers, as that firm also owns the historic “Kress” block just to the south of the Grant block. Jason said she’s currently marketing the Kress property, but there is no deal on the table yet. Preliminary brochures for the Kress site suggest a plan with residential units, commercial space and a boutique grocery store.

(here is a brochure we found.  It is not clear when it if from.) Of course, the Kress block has historical buildings, so that is a bit trickier.

Until we see more, there is not much to say other than, at first blush, the Grant block idea looks ok.

On a more general note, this is the area where this building might go. (to the left of the Floridan)   While we know there are a number of factors involved with choosing where to build, it sure would be nice to fill in the surface parking before tearing down more of the limited amount of the old fabric that survived decades of demolition which, while kind of haggard now, could be brought back to life.

Channel District – A Look at the Future

Last week, there was news of a proposal for the old Amazon Hose property in the Channel District.  This week, the Business Journal had a rendering:

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

The rendering is remarkably unremarkable.  Hopefully, it is just a preliminary drawing that does not show any of the (once again, hopefully) nice details and retail that will be involved.

Interestingly, the Business Journal article explained the appeal to developers of the Channel District:

The first four speak for themselves.  There is demand for housing in an urban area – no surprise.  The last one caught our eye.

We have nothing against developers making a profit – in fact, we are most definitely for it. And we have nothing against full buildings – we are definitely for that.  However, we are not for poor designs. (Take a drive down 12th Street and behold how Pierhouse deals with that street some time)  It is up to the City to make sure that it does not settle because those buildings are going to be with us for a while and, especially the larger ones, can make or break a street or neighborhood.  They do not have to be palaces, but they should be done properly.

Economic Development – Suckers for Bass Pro Shops

We are not sure how we missed this, but, sadly, we did.  As regular readers all know, there is a Bass Pro Shops store going up in Brandon.  This particular store was the subject of much debate about an incentive/subsidy deal to be given to the developer in the form of offsetting road building costs – which eventually bled to Bass Pro Shops when it bought the property for its store from the developer.  The entire reasoning for giving the particular money was that Bass Pro Shops was “destination retail” that would draw tourists and money, etc., and was a “once in lifetime” economic development opportunity (for the developer for sure).  Being Hillsborough County, the money was given by the County Commission.

Even at the time, the idea that people would flock to Brandon as tourist when there was a Bass Pro Shop in Ft. Myers and one in Orlando was very questionable.  Then, in July, there was this:

SARASOTA — It’s official: Bass Pro Shops will open a retail center in Sarasota, it’s just not where it was expected.

The outdoor retailer announced its future location on the northeast quadrant of Interstate 75 and Fruitville Road. The Bass Pro Shops Outpost store, which will be the company’s 14th store in Florida, is set to open sometime in 2016. New locations have already been announced in Tampa, Daytona, Jacksonville and Gainesville.

In mid-June, Bass Pro Shops had plans to build a 140,000 square-foot store beside the Mall at University Town Center. Bid documents showed that the company was soliciting bids for construction and specialty construction jobs for the store.

Plans for the new store are for a smaller 80,000-square-foot Outpost and, according to a news release issued Monday by the company, it will serve as “the primary anchor” for the new 260,000-square-foot, planned mixed-use Fruitville Commons development.

We understand this is the smaller version of the store than the one in Tampa, but, it will still have many similar amenities like this:

About 200 full- and part-time associates will be hired to work at the new store, according to the release. The store will feature Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill — a 20,000-square-foot nautical-themed center within the store featuring twelve bowling lanes. The menu will feature appetizers, sandwiches, salads and burgers, according to a news release.

According to Google maps, the travel time between the stores is about 45 minutes.  We also saw no evidence of any incentives or subsidies in Sarasota (pretty embarrassing) or, for that matter, for a similar store in Port St. Lucie.

As a Tribune columnist said:

Tourism wasn’t the only argument to give breaks wrapped around the Bass Pro project. Commissioners were vocal about wanting to bring jobs to the county, and Bass Pro will do that for sure. I’ll leave you with a couple of points, though.

First, businesses are going to expand to places where they can make money. The Bass Pro outlet will be successful in Brandon, so that should have been enough to get it here.

More than that, I would ask leaders considering projects like this in the future to stop phony-baloney rationales. Just say you think Bass Pro will make life better here and leave it at that. Everything else is hot air.

The beach is a destination. The ballpark can be a destination. Busch Gardens is a destination.

Bass Pro is a store. 

Indeed – and it was the case when the subsidy was approved, as well.

Finally, at the time the subsidy was approved, the supporters of it argued: Hillsborough County subsidized retail before.

Let’s not do it again.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

We previously mentioned that Orlando is getting a VA simulation center.  Another thing Orlando is getting is the downtown HQ of the recently spun off Red Lobster.

And in Ft. Lauderdale, there was this:

While the New River splits the city’s downtown in half, a new water trolley could provide visitors and locals a convenient way to bridge the divide.

The free service along Riverwalk would shuttle people across the New River between the Broward Center for the Performing Arts to the west and the Cheesecake Factory on Las Olas Boulevard to the east.

The one-year pilot project could be in operation by the middle of October if approved by commissioners at their Oct. 7 meeting.

Interesting.  Why would they do that?

City officials see an inexpensive water service as critical to creating a more popular Riverwalk, the linear park with brick paths that straddles both sides of the river. To get from one side to the other currently, pedestrians are limited to using bridge crossings at Andrews Avenue or Southeast Third Avenue.

Because the bridges are not a convenient connection for their riverwalk on both sides of the river.

As we mentioned in discussing Riverfront Park in Tampa, there is no really good connection of the park to the Riverwalk in Tampa, especially to locations where people will want to go.  We do not know if the “river trolley” is a good idea, but we should learn from others. Something needs to be done to address that connectivity oversight.

List of the week

Our list this week comes from, in a series of articles they have about where educated Millennials are living. (see here and here).  It should be pointed out that these articles include some choices and aspects of a lifestyle that many would not necessarily choose, but that is the way it goes.  If you want to attract a certain group, you need to know what they think is important and want, not what you think they should think is important and want. In any event, because one of the articles had a graphic of the top Millennial neighborhoods, we just thought we’d post the graphic:

From – click on chart for article

Aside from a few missing locations, pretty much what you would expect.

One Comment leave one →
  1. elizabeth Belcher permalink
    September 19, 2014 12:24 PM

    Google “Fishing for Taxpayer Dollars” a study performed by a business school showing the only people who come out ahead on Bass Pro subsidies is Bass Pro. This article was presented to the BOCC more than once. It was included in the county’s documents but not included in the documents for the Bass Pro agenda item. Only very positive comments were included in the back-up to the agenda item. Have you also addressed the special taxing district created by the Estuary that includes Bass Pro?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: