USF Med School – The Beat Goes On
There was more roll out of the idea of moving the USF Med School, including, among a slew of articles, an article in the Times this week entitled “USF to seek money for new medical school; key players favor downtown.” Of course, we knew that. What we did not know is if moving downtown is best for the medical school. As we have noted before – it may be or it may not. Unfortunately, even with the number of articles on the subject, there really are not details.
The Times article does not really shed much light, though it does say:
Freeing up space in the medical school would also allow USF Health to expand enrollment and offerings in its nursing program. This past fall, the nursing program had to turn away 331 of its 431 qualified applicants in the prelicensure nursing program because of space limitations. Enrollment in the nursing school exceeds 2,000 students and “will not be able to accommodate further growth without additional space,” the USF document says.
Of course, we already knew that. It is a question of where that expansion takes place. (And wouldn’t any new buildings create more space, regardless of location?)
USF Health officials would not comment on such details. “A decision of this magnitude, it’s more important we make the correct decision rather than a decision by a particular date,” said spokeswoman Lisa Greene.
Buckhorn said he’s confident talks are moving well based on discussions he has had with Vinik, his business partners, Genshaft, medical school dean Dr. Charles Lockwood, outgoing state House Speaker Will Weatherford and several members of the USF board of trustees.
We have no doubt, but that is not the issue. The issue is that the case that it benefits the USF med school and the institutions connected with them more than leaving it where it is has not been made. As we have said, we understand putting it downtown. If it had originally been downtown, it would be a no brainer because the ecosystem would have been built around it. But it was not built downtown. If you are going to make a decision of this magnitude, at least make the case that the actual institution as it exists and its ecosystem would really benefit. That’s all. It should not be difficult.
Which is a point that must be considered.
USF officials say they are still weighing whether to expand on their current campus or build in downtown Tampa. But members of the Florida Board of Governors’ facility committee said USF risks missing out on state construction money in the next legislative session if it doesn’t make up its mind by the end of the year.
Which, in due course, brought up something else:
USF officials on Wednesday threw another complication in the mix. If the medical school does indeed go downtown, USF would consider adding another project to downtown: the proposed $50-million USF Heart Health Institute that already has a planned location on the current campus on the main campus, on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
After the meeting, Genshaft said it would make sense to move the heart institute with the medical school. The heart institute has already received $34 million in state funds and needs another $15.8 million next year for construction to begin.
USF plans to ask for a total of $62 million in state funds over the next three years, including $17 million next legislative session, for the new medical school project. Total costs would likely top $80 million, but USF plans to make up the difference with private donations, primarily a $20 million gift from Frank and Carol Morsani.
If the medical school goes downtown, Lockwood said he hopes to combine it with the nursing and pharmacy programs, as well as the Heart Health Institute, now planned as a 100,000-square-foot, five-story research center in the university’s medical corridor on the main campus.
And, yes, it would make a certain amount of sense to have the Heart Institute next to the new med school – but then that is the issue with all the other stuff that is located near the present med school – like Moffitt, which has not figured into the (public) conversation at all, and the Byrd Alzheimer complex. If the main institution is downtown, what happens to the other facilities and institutions? So far, no one has said. And moving nursing and pharmacy does not seem to fit with a bifurcated med school program. So how will this all work? No one has said. And how much will it cost?
Committee members told USF that their plans sound necessary, but lacking in key details. “It sounds a little bit like you don’t have an idea of how much it’s going to cost,” said committee member Wendy Link.
We assume they mean the expansion plans – not necessarily the downtown plans. In either case, knowing the cost and how it will all work is part of not only making the case but the actual analysis of whether it makes sense in the first place – Is it cost effective? Does it work properly? Is it the best thing?
Why is there so much discussion without even knowing the costs?
It would be best if the facts were known and the case made before anything is decided, though apparently that is just not going to happen.
— One More Thing
The aforementioned Times article also had this rendering:
With the caption: “A preliminary artist’s rendering shows what the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine building might look like. [State University System of Florida]”
We are just going to assume that this is a generic rendering and not anything that anyone would consider building downtown. You would be hard pressed to build anything less urban or beneficial to an urban area (or even a university campus) than that. If the med school is built downtown, it better not be laid out like that.
— And One More Thing
Finally, the aforementioned Times article had this:
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the university has been exploring the idea of a downtown campus since January. That’s when UCF administrators saw Arizona State University’s campus in downtown Phoenix.
Aside from being downtown, it is not that similar, but regular readers would already know that. See “USF Med School – The Push Begins”
Once again, we are open to the idea of a downtown location, but it would be helpful if, before the decision, the facts were actually determined (which apparently they aren’t), then discussed.
In other words, make the case.
Downtown – Show Us the Money
With all the ideas floating around for downtown, there is almost always a call for public funds to help in things like infrastructure. Most, if not all, of the money for such things will likely come from the CRA. But there is a catch.
Before we get into that, let’s review what the CRA is.
The CRA revenue — often known as tax-increment financing — must be spent to foster private development inside the downtown redevelopment area. In 2015, it is expected to top $15 million. Currently, the city uses most of that money, about $13.5 million, to repay bonds for building the convention center. Those bonds are scheduled to be paid off in October 2015, freeing up the money for other uses.
So the catch is that, when the present system expires, the County Commissioners want some of that money, and they control the existence of the CRA. Now, there may be a deal.
With the downtown Community Redevelopment Area, or CRA, scheduled to expire, Tampa and Hillsborough officials have spent about a year in on-and-off negotiations to extend it.
Frankly, we have no strong feelings about the deal itself. It is hard to believe that the County would do anything particularly useful with the money. (Maybe, they’ll can invest in a tech startup.) On the other hand, there are a lot of requests for the money downtown, but it is pretty clear where it would go:
That’s still possible, but these days Buckhorn first mentions Vinik’s plans to create an entertainment and office district — including, maybe, a new medical school for the University of South Florida — on 24 acres he’s bought around Amalie Arena.
“I think they’re ready to go,” he said of Vinik’s development team. “Once they lay out the master plan, they’re going to have a feel for what their needs are, where the county and the city can be helpful. Out of that will come an opportunity.”
There is some logic to that, though the actual costs and changes are not publicly known (though we assume they have been discussed privately). Nor is it clear that all the money should be tied up for this one, as yet unknown project. (Maybe it should be, but there is no way to know without information).
So what is the time frame on this?
The County Commission could consider the proposed CRA extension as soon as next week. Over the 28 years of the extension, Hillsborough officials estimate — conservatively, they say — that the county could end up keeping at least $280 million that it now gives away.
Of course, why let anyone be able to consider the plan with all the relevant facts? But that’s how this area rolls.
— One More Thing
One thing we will note is the Mayor saying that the money may be required before transit comes up.
City officials have had conversations about doing this kind of infrastructure work in conjunction with Vinik’s master development, but there’s no formal agreement, said Bob McDonaugh, Buckhorn’s top economic development aide.
It would, but there are a limited number of ways into and out of downtown. There are natural bottlenecks. Even if you “fix” the grid, it may not help grid lock in a redeveloped area around the arena because people will have a hard time getting in and out (especially if the City eliminates main exits and entrances to downtown and “calms” traffic, as suggested in the InVision Tampa plan). Transit is key to the success of the Lightning owner’s project and all of downtown.
Greenlight – Calling “Shenanigans”
As we have noted often, the “debate” about the Greenlight proposal in Pinellas has mostly focused on opponents creating distractions, leaving the real issues just hanging out there. This week, that was pointed out by proponents:
Leaders of Connect Tampa Bay on Monday launched an attack on No Tax for Tracks, painting the Greenlight foe as a rebranded extreme wing of the Tea party and saying its leaders have a long history of distorting facts, smears and spreading misinformation.
With far fewer resources — its campaign has raised just over $78,000 — No Tax for Tracks has highlighted that the plan will give Pinellas the highest sales tax in the state, while using email and social media to highlight how few people ride the bus in Pinellas and to criticize PSTA and county leaders.
Willis highlighted a video parody created by a No Tax supporter titled “Hitler loses it over Greenlight train fiasco.” The clip from the movie “Downfall” shows Hitler lambasting his top officers who in the parody are named as Greenlight leaders. The video was briefly posted on McKalip’s website before being removed.
Par for the course. How did No Tax for Tracks respond?
Which is fine, except for the part about completely misrepresenting what was in the picture. But that is the type of thing we have expected all along. Facts are not relevant.
The Connect Tampa Bay guys are on to something. The loudest, most activist opponents, as opposed to just some people who might vote “no,” are ideologically opposed to transit, especially rail. They approach transit from a position that finds it a threat to the American way of life, even though it is in almost every big American city – blue state, purple state, AND red state. (See “Does God Hate Trains?” and “PSTA/HART – Record Ridership For This Bulwark Against the UN.”) It is not an issue of facts or solutions to a problem. It is not logic. Opposition to Greenlight just is.
On the other hand, the proponents approach transit from the idea of solving problems and increasing economic activity. For instance, there was a column in the Times that laid out a strong argument for transit.
Whether approved or defeated by county voters next month, the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit plan that promises more robust bus service and a 24-mile light rail line from Clearwater to St. Petersburg won’t go away. Ultimately, a regional mass transit system, whether kick-started first in Pinellas or in neighboring Hillsborough County, is going to happen.
Well, we do not think it inevitable. There have always been places that just refuse to compete (and usually stagnate), but the basic theme regarding competition is right.
In the long run, if Tampa Bay can’t get it together on an effective mass transit system, its economy will be outdistanced by the likes of Orlando, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Denver, San Diego and any of dozens of other metro areas. These cities boast the leadership and economic desire to embrace a more efficient way to move lots of people around a large, multicounty region.
Many of those like-sized metro areas already outmuscle Tampa Bay with better-paying jobs and more robust economic output. It’s not only because these areas have superior transportation, many with light rail and better bus systems. But there’s no question — it’s already making a difference.
“This area must understand that mass transit is long term and very expensive,” corporate scout and former Largo resident Larry Gigerich of the site selection firm Ginovus, told area business and political leaders last month in Tampa.
And what of the opposition?
Funding in support of Greenlight Pinellas dwarfs the opposition. Recent numbers indicate the pro-Greenlight movement has raised more than $775,000 through August. Contrast that with the $46,000 and change collected by the anti-Greenlight, tea party-flavored group No Tax for Tracks.
This is the organization whose leader has suggested Pinellas’ bus windows are tinted to hide the lack of passengers. Funny. I thought, like Florida cars, windows are tinted to help deflect the intense heat from the sun.
A related group known as Ax the Tax paid $500 to Cato Institute libertarian think tank contrarian Randal O’Toole to write a report criticizing the light rail portion of Greenlight Pinellas as a loser — like other light rail systems in the country that somehow keep expanding. This is the same anti-mass transit guy who, last month in Minneapolis, remarks against a new rail line to St. Paul, called planners the “Ebola of urban living.”
My favorite part of O’Toole’s hatchet job in St. Petersburg last month was his suggestion that people sharing driverless cars will render mass transit “superfluous” as people “simply call for a self-driving car to come to their door.”
Veteran site selector Dennis Donovan’s corporate clients include about a third of Fortune 500 companies. He told a Tampa audience last month that large metro areas that lack the means for young, highly skilled people to commute longer distances easily to their jobs will increasingly be passed over by companies in favor of cities with stronger mass transit options.
It’s not just creative talent that benefits. Beach resorts say they endorse Greenlight Pinellas because a strong bus system will make it easier for more hotel and restaurant workers to commute to the beaches, where parking is at a premium, and leave their cars behind.
And that is all true.
And that is true, as well. But this columnist is looking at goals and how to reach them. The opponents are looking at ideology. That explains the complete disconnect in the debate, which is unlikely to end regardless of the vote.
At least election day is almost here.
Economic Development/List of the Week – A Look at Job Growth
There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding employment growth in the last few years.
Which is interesting. However, what was really interesting was chart that listed 350 metro areas and their job growth numbers from August 2009-2014. We are not going to list them all, but we show the top 50 (because the Tampa Bay area was ranked in the 40’s in percentage growth) in terms of percentage growth (first column) and a second ranking by jobs added (second column). You can play with the chart for yourself to see about other areas.
|Jobs Added||Change||Metro Area||Jobs Added||Change|
|Midland, TX||25,699||36.52%||Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA||389,614||6.8%|
|Odessa, TX||19,692||30.55%||Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||374,474||14.18%|
|Elkhart-Goshen, IN||19,602||26.5%||Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||350,424||14.05%|
|Naples-Marco Island, FL||25,146||20.65%||Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||347,560||11.82%|
|Columbus, IN||6,496||18.86%||New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA||334,817||3.85%|
|Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX||148,481||17.85%||San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||245,056||12.11%|
|Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||41,972||17.61%||Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI||184,354||4.21%|
|Palm Coast, FL||4,740||17.03%||Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV||175,692||6.12%|
|Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI||57,044||16.73%||Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL||151,285||15.27%|
|Holland-Grand Haven, MI||18,808||16.66%||Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX||148,481||17.85%|
|Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL||151,285||15.27%||Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||140,798||9.24%|
|Provo-Orem, UT||31,786||15.27%||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||121,573||10.55%|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||119,565||14.99%||San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||119,565||14.99%|
|Bakersfield-Delano, CA||45,913||14.54%||Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Met NECTA||115,712||4.92%|
|Greeley, CO||15,943||14.24%||Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA||114,755||6.69%|
|Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX||374,474||14.18%||Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO||114,749||8.97%|
|Casper, WY||5,386||14.09%||Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI||108,438||6.35%|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL||350,424||14.05%||San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA||104,193||7.42%|
|North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL||36,509||13.68%||Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA||101,294||4.2%|
|Kokomo, IN||5,093||13.57%||San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||97,464||10.7%|
|Victoria, TX||7,271||13.39%||Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC||87,133||11.25%|
|Punta Gorda, FL||7,920||13.15%||Indianapolis-Carmel, IN||75,058||9.05%|
|Boise City-Nampa, ID||34,140||12.76%||Jacksonville, FL||74,170||12.1%|
|Raleigh-Cary, NC||65,674||12.61%||Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN||72,358||9.99%|
|Auburn-Opelika, AL||7,173||12.11%||Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA||72,013||6.86%|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||245,056||12.11%||Baltimore-Towson, MD||67,931||5.18%|
|Jacksonville, FL||74,170||12.1%||Raleigh-Cary, NC||65,674||12.61%|
|Lafayette, LA||15,111||11.99%||Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI||65,078||3.63%|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||347,560||11.82%||Salt Lake City, UT||57,375||10.22%|
|St. George, UT||6,341||11.62%||Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ||57,045||3.03%|
|Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC||87,133||11.25%||Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI||57,044||16.73%|
|Laredo, TX||9,667||11.24%||Las Vegas-Paradise, NV||56,697||6.63%|
|Anderson, SC||8,335||11.22%||Richmond, VA||53,705||9.04%|
|Port St. Lucie, FL||17,679||10.94%||Columbus, OH||50,431||5.66%|
|Winchester, VA-WV||6,437||10.86%||Bakersfield-Delano, CA||45,913||14.54%|
|El Centro, CA||5,741||10.71%||Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD||45,004||1.64%|
|San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX||97,464||10.7%||Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA||44,269||4.75%|
|Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL||121,573||10.55%||Oklahoma City, OK||43,742||8.23%|
|Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA||10,187||10.46%||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL||41,972||17.61%|
|Boulder, CO||16,440||10.22%||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA||38,850||7.78%|
|Salt Lake City, UT||57,375||10.22%||North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL||36,509||13.68%|
|Columbia, MO||8,501||10.04%||Pittsburgh, PA||34,502||3.02%|
|Tuscaloosa, AL||8,839||10.04%||Boise City-Nampa, ID||34,140||12.76%|
|Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC||28,989||10.02%||Provo-Orem, UT||31,786||15.27%|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA||11,941||10%||Honolulu, HI||31,232||7.54%|
|Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN||72,358||9.99%||Baton Rouge, LA||29,411||8.33%|
|Dubuque, IA||4,763||9.75%||Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC||28,989||10.02%|
|Merced, CA||8,810||9.69%||St. Louis, MO-IL||28,935||2.22%|
|College Station-Bryan, TX||9,790||9.51%||Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||28,892||3.77%|
|Napa, CA||6,603||9.5%||Fresno, CA||28,666||7.59%|
Of course, that does not tell us anything about the quality of jobs. Nevertheless, looking over time, we have job growth, but not at the rate of Florida and most of the usual suspects. On the other hand, raw numbers are relatively high (though it does not indicate how hard the recession hit various areas – the lower the base, the easier to have a higher growth rate).
In any event, it gives a window into how we compare.
Economic Development – Lots of Tourists
It was finally confirmed that tourist tax revenue for the past year was a record high.
The tourist tax is a 5 percent surcharge levied on every hotel room and short-term rental in the county. The tax is considered a reliable indicator of the county’s tourism market because it tracks the volume of accommodations booked in the county.
That is all good, and people should be pleased. And it is not unique to Hillsborough.
In Pinellas County, tourism officials reported that they’re also on the verge of another tourist tax record. Pinellas collected $33.1 million in bed taxes in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014, according to tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. That’s already better than the record $31 million the county garnered in the full fiscal year of 2013.
Once again, great. And that will lead to some jobs, though mostly low income. You can read this article about Orlando’s low wage problems to understand why, while tourism is nice, it should not be that much a cause for celebration.
We can only hope that soon our quest to increase annual income and attract high paying jobs – which are the real key to the local economy – will do as well.
Economic Development – (Part of) A Movie
It seems that parts of a new movie will be filmed in Tampa.
The bulk of the film apparently will be shot in England, which offers government incentives of up to 25 percent and is home to production company Good Films. The company was on the verge of shooting most of the film in Tampa when state incentives dried up during the spring session of the Florida Legislature.
That’s good. We have nothing against movies being shot here (even if it is just part), but just having a few movies shoot some scenes here is really not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things.
Remember that? Of course, there was this:
Huh? $5 billion? Over what time frame and with how much indirect impact? Sounds like an analysis based on the six degrees of Dolphin Tale.
In any event, we are all for a film/commercial/visual arts industry here, but we are realistic.
Harbour Island – New Starts
As we have noted over the last few weeks, the Harbour Island apartment project once called Hiku, was rumored to be breaking ground in October. Well,
Good deal. We look forward to it.
Downtown – Trail in the Mix
The Selmon Greenway, a trail under the Selmon Expressway in downtown Tampa, has started construction.
The expressway authority awarded Ajax Paving Industries of Tampa a $1.6 million contract to design and build the trail. The greenway’s route will start at the Riverwalk near Brorein Street and mostly go east under the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to 19th Street.
That is all fine. We have nothing against the project and filling in blank spaces. Hopefully, at some point, it will connect cleanly to other trails and across the river, though we have to say, with all the cross streets, we think it more likely that it will be more beneficial to walkers than bikes. Either way, it is better than not having it – and at least there should be some shade.
Crew Art – Protection?
The Tampa City Council has begun looking at protecting crew art in downtown.
On Thursday, council members heard a report from City Attorney Julia Mandell on potential actions the city can take, but she noted that the issue quickly delves into concepts such as the first amendment, one’s definition of “art,” and when “graffiti” becomes “art.”
The city will look at limiting the activity to a certain area and whether it can specify what type of art would be allowed. Mandell said currently, graffiti is a crime under both city code and state statute.
This should be interesting.
List of the Week II
While we already had lists above, this week was noteworthy because Travel & Leisure’s America’s Best Cities survey came out this week. We are not going to go over all the rankings, but it was noteworthy because Tampa showed up in some. We didn’t know that Travel & Leisure even knew we existed. (You can look at all the lists here.)
So where did Tampa rank? Cleanliness, #5; Weather, #5; Rude, #2; Beach Getaway, #2; and Family Vacation, #2. Setting aside all the categories which Tampa did not rate (and there are a lot), that is an odd list of rankings.