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Roundup 2-27-2015

February 27, 2015

Economic Development – More Adventures in Branding

As regular readers will know, the Tampa Bay area has long attempted to create a brand, with less than excessive success.  One of the problems – the biggest problem – has been that it is not clear what to emphasize.  What are we?  What do we really want to be?

Recently, the Hillsborough County EDC tried to learn more.

Members of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. learned that Tampa still has a long way to go in telling its story to the world at a joint leadership luncheon meeting on Thursday.

“Tampa is a little under the radar. You’re a little vanilla,” Development Counsellors International President Andy Levine told the group. “This is a highly competitive thing you are trying to do.”

True enough.

The EDC invited Levine to speak to the group’s members to outline one of the many placemaking strategies available to define who we are and to sell our story to the world in an effort to establish the region as a place for robust business growth.

The strategy of earned media, or carefully telling a business story to the right media outlet to get national attention to a community, is Levine’s specialty. He shared some examples of possible story themes that an agency like his could work with as it helped develop earned media impressions. Those examples included Jeff Vinik’s plans for the southern end of downtown Tampa, CENTCOM and even the idea of Millennials and their parents looking for livable cities they can share.

Tampa Bay has a diverse economy and that is a good thing, Levine said. “But a diverse economy is a boring story to tell in earned media.” The message? Somebody will have to pick which story to tell. “There is no doubt in my mind that you have the stories to tell and you have the ability to do this,” he said.

CENTCOM is certainly a story to tell, though it has never really been big on the local economic development radar and it is not clear exactly how you tell that story.  The Lightning owner’s plans are great, though not unique (just recently, there was news of a similar-ish project in Jacksonville. here and here) and do not exist yet.  And, those do not say what we are nor do they define our place as it is.  Look at some of the examples the consultant used:

Chattanooga, Tenn. targeted the New York Times with a story after the city launched an initiative to have the fastest internet in the country. That exclusive story begat more than 850 more stories in newspapers and magazines across the country. The city even has been able to seize on the new reputation to retell its story in targeted ways.

Salinas, Calif., took a sleepy reputation as America’s Salad Bowl (they are famous for lettuce production) and spun that forward relying on the city’s proximity to Silicon Valley to tell the story of ag tech.

Charleston, S.C., has a story that resonates in Tampa Bay. Known as a tourist town with no real business reputation, Charleston has built its credibility as a home of startups, in part, through earned media.

Those are stories about things that have been done.

So where are we?

Tampa does not have a bad reputation weighing it down, but also does not have a good reputation to build from, Levine said. “Tampa is behind what other communities have been doing in earned media,” That’s a good place to start, he said, citing examples from around the U.S. 

So, basically, we are neutral, and we are behind and not just in earned media. When decades have been spent settling for a real estate and back-office based economy enhanced with diminished expectations and a culture of excessive hype that may sell here but does not really fly in other places, it is not a surprise it is hard to tell our story.

But nothing need be permanent.  We have assets, and we have the ability to have solid accomplishments.  Yet, as long as minor achievements are trumpeted as huge successes (and huge successes are not extant) without a critical eye to our deficiencies and the political will to change them, we are only holding ourselves back.  Our real branding will come from real achievement.  And hype just gets in the way.

There is one person with access and something to say, per the Times:

Leveraging his past Wall Street credibility, Vinik used a TV interview on CNBC Wednesday morning to tell a bigger world that Tampa is an “undervalued” asset. He urged businesses to visit and appreciate its new opportunities — and weather.

That’s a powerful message to a critical national investing audience from an individual whose past success as manager of the Fidelity Magellan fund back in its heyday gives Vinik a strong bond with listeners.

* * *

Now he’s traveling to personally recruit a corporate headquarters, and trying to broaden the reach of his “live, work, play” development message.

Last week, Forbes explored many of these Vinik themes. 

And that is all good. (You can see the clip here – video only here. Forbes article here.) We admire the Lightning owner’s willingness to go out and sell his product, which includes selling Tampa. Though, the fact that he has to work so hard to sell the potential of the area is actually a sign of our lack of both major achievement and of a brand.  And, though his pitch necessarily speaks of the present, it is more about what could be (like his project, which we like), not what already is (which is what the usual suspects are selling).  But it is a start and is welcome.

The real issue for the area can be found in this question from Times column:

Who else these days boasts the clout and the message to put Tampa in the spotlight?

Unfortunately, there are not too many.  Hopefully, that will change.

Economic Development – Conference Fest

As if to emphasize the challenge there was this in the Business Journal:

Tampa startup mentor and StartupBus global director Mitch P. Neff has fallen for a different music and barbecue capital of the American South.

This year, the fifth year of Neff’s StartupBus program, he’s chosen to bus local and national entrepreneurs to Nashville instead of Austin, Texas.

StartupBus, which originated when Neff lived in California’s SIlicon [sic] Valley, will head to 36/86.

* * *

The summer tech and entrepreneurship conference is put on by Launch Tennessee, an economic development group. It starts June 4 and lasts four days, according to sister paper Nashville Business Journal.

* * *

In his post, he praises Nashville for landing Google Fiber. Applications to join the Bus will open soon, Neff said.

The reality is that we are not just competing with where we are and used to be.  We are competing with basically every other decent sized city in the country (and other countries) to tell our story, to brand ourselves, and to attract talent and achievement. (Google Fiber anyone?)  And the competition is fierce.  Yes, we have made some progress in changing local attitudes and in some accomplishments, but, as we keep saying, other areas are already ahead and are moving faster.  The only way to succeed is though realistic assessments of where we are and what we need to do to advance.

Economic Development – Something Stirring

Late yesterday, there was this news from the Business Journal:

Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. could bring a headquarters operation and 700 jobs to Hillsborough County.

The company is considering spending $23.5 million to establish a North American shared services headquarters operation.

The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners is being asked to provide up to $2.1 million in incentive payments for the project. The local incentives would be in addition to $7 million in state incentives, as part of the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund program and state appropriation, according to a county commission agenda for the March 4 meeting.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), a New Brunswick, New Jersey-based health care firm, would pay an average wage of at least $75,000 for the new jobs, according to the agenda item.

The job numbers and salaries are good.  We do not know the exact structure of the incentives (especially given the standard very limited time or details given to the public to examine and comment upon any proposed deal – why would the taxpayer care about taxpayer money?), so we cannot speak to that.  If properly structured (per the TribuneIf approved, the county’s portion would be paid on a per-job basis over at least four years, according to county documents.“), it is probably fine based on the job/salary numbers.

Though what exactly is Johnson & Johnson Services? It is not exactly clear other than it is a subsidiary.  From the article it sounds like an administrative/back office type organization (and it seems to have the copyright to all J&J websites), but there may be more.  This is what the Tribune tells us:

So it is admin/back office operations. And that’s fine, but it is not the corporate headquarters many economic development officials seek – more like the hq of their back office operations.  But the jobs and salaries mentioned are still good.

So if they choose to come here and bring those jobs, great.

Economic Development – That’s the Spirit

Staying with that theme, there was a piece in the Business Journal about an interesting idea:

There’s strong bioscience research going on Hillsborough County, but limited options to find out about it.

That’s why the county commission unanimously approved a measure that could lead to creation of a biomedical depository for clinical trials — a sort of one-stop shop for patients to learn about research that could benefit them and an initiative to draw more bioscience companies to the county.

The medical community currently posts data on trials to a federally run website, but it’s difficult and time-consuming to find a specific clinical trial in a local community, said Commissioner Ken Hagan at the board’s Feb. 18 meeting. “The purpose is to create a local depository, which will provide the community with [information about] the trials being conducted, answering basic questions about who is conducting the study, what is being studied, why it’s being studied and when it’s being studied,” Hagan said. “The results of these studies can provide individuals or patients with more options.”

We like this idea.  It is a good way to develop a story to tell while also creating something practical. (And it will enhance any efforts at developing medical tourism.) Depending on the quality of the database and the portal to it, it could be really useful.  We also like this:

“Big companies follow big data,” Hagan said. “This depository would enhance what is going on industrywide in this community and would be an incentive for companies to take notice and want to be located in this cluster.”

That is the way local government should be thinking. What we have is ok – but we can do much better.  Hopefully, something good will come from this proposal.  And note the lack of hype.

Transportation – Allowing Competition is Big Government

There was news about ridesharing this week.

Ride-share companies Uber and Lyft could operate legally in Florida if legislation filed Wednesday by Sen. Jeff Brandes passes this session, bringing an end to nearly a year of feuding with regulators in Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

* * *

Brandes’ bill would create the first statewide requirements for the companies and would likely supersede any regulations in place on a local level.

“We’ve entered this whole new world of transportation options, and the Legislature needs to get its arms around it and recognize that the safety of our residents and tourists are the No. 1 priority,” said Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

That makes sense.  Why not create a uniform, statewide rule?  Transportation stretches beyond municipal or county boundaries so transportation rules should also do so.  Uniform rules will open up the market and create more certainty.  It will also relieve the PTC from having to deal with an issue with which it shows no interest in actually dealing.  One would think they would be happy.

While Brandes advocates having one set of consistent, clear regulations, PTC chairman Victor Crist said he disagrees with legislation that grows “big government.”

“I really prefer to have local rule and local jurisdiction,” said Crist, who said the bill would trump local law if it passed. “I see this as another mandate coming down from big state government without community input or control.”

One would be wrong.

Moreover, the stated objection to the legislation because it creates “big government” is absurd.  Creating uniform, logical standards is not “big government;” it is good government.  Price controls and protectionist measures are “big government.”  Impeding competition is “big government.” Interfering with consumer choice is “big government.” Excessive fees charged to cab companies are “big government.”  The PTC as it functions (really, fails to function) – a completely unnecessary additional level of government regulation – is “big government.”  (As for community input, the PTC shows no apparent interest in community input.)

But the PTC’s rules are not about making sense, they are about protecting vested interests.

Having one set of uniform rules for the whole state is a rational way to deal with a new issue. We have no idea if the law will pass (actually, we think it won’t), but it, or something like it, should.

Rays – Rumblings of Reality

With baseball season rapidly approaching, and time wasting in the Rays stadium saga, there has been much news of late regarding the Rays.

Mayor Rick Kriseman is lobbying the City Council on a revised agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays with the hope of securing enough votes to allow the team to look at possible stadium sites in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

But the mayor won’t bring the new deal to a council meeting unless he thinks he has a chance at success, mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby said Tuesday.

Kriseman and the Rays have agreed on how development rights — which are shared between the city and the team in the contract for Tropicana Field — would play out if the Rays leave the Trop before the contract’s expiration in 2027, Kirby said.

Well, that is a move in the right direction.  Any details?

Council member Darden Rice said Kriseman has described the new deal to her.

“Predictably, it clarifies the intention is not to do that (allow the Rays to profit), but that the city couldn’t just go ahead with a new project and impede baseball traffic or crimp parking,” Rice said.

Good.  Anything else?

But it’s not apparent that development rights are still the main obstacle.

“If that were the reason, I’m optimistic,” council Chairman Charlie Gerdes said. “But then Coach (Bill Dudley) said he wanted a shorter search. That’s a new wrinkle to me.”

Last week, Dudley told the Times that the team should have 18 months — not three years— to find a new site. 

All this needs is new wrinkles.  What exactly does limiting the time accomplish other than annoying people.  If the Tropicana Field site the best, giving the Rays extra time to confirm that on makes them more committed.  If the Rays are not going to go back to that site, no matter how much the time is limited, they are not going back.  And, in any event, St. Pete is losing leverage every day.

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says he remains hopeful he can reach an agreement with the St. Petersburg city council that would allow the Rays to search for a site around the Bay area before the lease expires at a cost of up to $24 million to the team if they found a site by 2018.

But with the initial proposal voted down in December and not much progress made toward reaching a new agreement, Sternberg spoke Monday of the team moving forward on construction of a new stadium without the city council’s approval because the new stadium would have to open no later than 2028.

“We definitely won’t need their approval and we wouldn’t have to pay them anything,” Sternberg said. “Remember now, this (proposed) agreement that we have that we’re paying them for only allows us, which is perfectly fine, to look in the Tampa Bay area. So, at some point we would be open to look, not that we would, that’s not my intent or desire here, most anywhere, but right now we’re only focused on Tampa Bay, and that’s always been our focus.”

Sternberg said the team’s timeline for having a new stadium, wherever that would be, has to begin with the assumption the team would have a stadium in place by the time its contract with the city is over.

“Look, at some point we’re going to have to prepare for a place to play when our lease agreement is over,” Sternberg said. “So if it’s over in 2027, we can’t say the last day of 2027, where are we opening the season in 2028? We have to start planning for a facility at some point, wherever that might be. So the question is when do you start looking at that. You obviously can’t do that during the 2027 season, because you have to build a building.

“What’s the lead up time? Two years? No, people told us to expect five to 10 years.”

A leadup time of 10 years would mean the search is only two years away.

Baseball stadiums are not built overnight, Sternberg noted.

“From a practical standpoint it takes a very long time, relatively speaking, from the time you begin a process to try and build a baseball facility to the time you throw out the first pitch,” Sternberg said. “It takes many, many years.”

And that is the point.  St. Pete basically has only two years of leverage.  All these machinations are just silly.  As noted by a City Council member at a workshop to talk about the situation:

“I’m not sure that as soon as you let them look, they’re gone,” council Chairman Charlie Gerdes said. “I don’t personally accept that premise. I look at it as, the sooner we let them look, the sooner we’re in the game to keep them here.”

Right.  Moreover,

“We have the ability and the desire to maintain St. Petersburg as the home of the Rays much past 2027” when the team’s lease with the city expires, Councilman Jim Kennedy said at a council workshop, though he added, “I realize without the Rays getting on board, it’s more difficult.”

And until the Rays can look around and determine that a St. Pete site is best (if they so determine), they will not be on board.

Of course, this has all been the case for years.  All that has happened is that time has been wasted and any solution made more expensive (kind of like all the transportation issues in the area).  We realize that is the Tampa Bay way, but it really needs to change.

Westshore – More Apartments

There was news of more apartments in Westshore:

Crescent Communities is planning 374 new apartments in the heart of Tampa’s Westshore district, near International Plaza and within walking distance of hotels, restaurants and office buildings.

* * *

Jacksonville-based Summit Contracting is the general contractor on the project and told sister news organization the Jacksonville Business Journal that the apartments are a $44.5 million project.

The site is on North Lois Avenue, near Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Roy’s and several office buildings and hotels and near International Plaza. It is adjacent to a parcel of land that Crescent sold to Orlando-based Parkway Properties Inc. in early January.

Based on the information in the City’s handy Accela portal, the building will be 75 feet tall, which implies not more than 7 stories (we doubt it will top 5 – you can see a rendering here) with a parking garage surrounded by housing.

While it isn’t the city center, the density of office and retail properties gives Westshore the potential to become a live-work-play environment coveted by Millennials. The district started to see an onslaught of new apartment development in early 2013.

Indeed.  Westshore is getting much development.  The potential is great.  Unfortunately, we have not seen any actual developments that will make the area really more walkable.  While the new apartments have a denser style, that which surrounds them is still all car based. (Millennials want to be able to walk.) Hopefully, that will change, but from the projects approved by the City, we are not holding our breath (and with major developments already there, like International Plaza which was inexplicably built in about as anti-pedestrian design as there can be, there is little hope for change).

Rocky Point – New Happenings

There was also news about Rocky Point.

A Sarasota developer is proposing a 14-story residential tower on the water in Rocky Point — a site that’s sat dormant since previous plans crashed along with the real estate market.

Ascentia Development Group has filed plans with the city for a tower adjacent to the Westin Tampa Bay at 3015 N. Rocky Point Drive, on a 3-acre site.

The plans call for 258 residential units on floors four through 14, on top of a three-story parking garage. The units will range in size from studios to four bedrooms, according to the documents.

In 2006, Cortex Resort Living and High Point Development LLC had proposed a luxury condominium development on the site, with units that were to range from 1,500 to 4,300 square feet, with prices ranging between $600,000 to $3 million.

This is a drawing of the project, but you cannot tell much from it.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

And then there is this:

A boutique hotel is in the works for the site of a shuttered restaurant on the Rocky Point waterfront.

Tampa-based Lifsey Real Estate Holdings is partnering with Pinnacle Hotel Management, based near West Palm Beach, on a nine-story, 180-room boutique hotel, said Stan Lifsey, principal.

The project will be built on the site of the former Crawdaddy’s Restaurant, which is now used for overflow parking for events at the Rusty Pelican. Pending city approval of a rezoning request, construction could start in September and October. Lifsey said the group would like to be open at least a month before the January 2017 national football championship at Raymond James Stadium.

From the information on the Accela database (search this address: 2500 N Rocky Point Dr), the majority of the land in the project will be used for parking.

Rocky Point has a unique location with access to Pinellas and Tampa.  It has always held to potential to be a really interesting urban village type area. Though, because it was (is) built with a 70’s/80’s mentality, it never achieved that and much of the land is really underutilized.  Nonetheless, we are all for developing/redeveloping the island.

City Elections – The Column

Since the school superintendent was removed, there has been a lot of talk about how, as we noted, elections matter. (See “Hillsborough County Schools – A Glimpse Into the Future” )  With Tampa city election coming up, there has been talk about turnout, including a column in the Times this week:

Not on voting. But with turnout Tuesday predicted to be somewhere in the pathetic teens, election day seems lackluster. This week, I early-voted at the library. Had the place to myself. Tumbleweeds blew by. No sound but the crickets.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t even a boring election in which one candidate is pretty much like the next.

* * *

“Elections matter,” the departing MaryEllen Elia told the crowd at a going-away this week — words that sound way better than just crickets.

So, as we asked a few weeks ago (see “City Elections – The Column”):  If elections matter and turnout is important, why are the elections in March instead of during the general election? Why incur extra cost to do something that can only push turnout down? 

List of the Week

Our list this week deals with the areas with the “the top large, medium, and small U.S. markets for quick-service restaurant expansion.”  In other words, the best places for new fast food restaurants.

Coming in first is Minneapolis–St. Paul, followed by Salt Lake City, the Tampa Bay area, Raleigh–Durham, Orlando, Miami–Ft. Lauderdale, DC, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh.

We leave it to you to interpret.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. EyesWideOpen permalink
    February 27, 2015 5:37 AM

    With regards to Johnson & Johnson: Why would govt leaders pay millions of taxpayer dollars to relocate back office jobs here that are well on their way to being automated in the coming years for any large corporation? It’s borderline malfeasance. Companies are merging these back office divisions into a single “shared services” division, because the head counts have already been ravaged due to technological productivity gains, and no longer justify continuing to stand alone as their own corporate divisions with their own management teams and facilities. Along with the diminished importance, these non-revenue producing back office functions receive diminished budgets and greatly reduced prestige. In the corporate world, being transferred to shared services, is like being in the military and being sent to Alaska. To cut costs to the bone, companies are moving such divisions to tertiary markets like Tampa. The region’s depressed commercial lease rates allow these firms to set up shop for much less than the cost to renew leases in the stronger office markets they’re currently located in. And with local wage scales that are the lowest of all major metros in the country, and the genuine allure of the climate and beaches, firms can lean hard on transferred employees to either take a pay cut, or added responsibilities for the same pay, or a pink slip.

    This is very likely to turn out like the bad deals local leaders made in the past to bribe firms like Capital One with millions of taxpayer dollars to bring junk ‘back office’ customer service jobs here, only to have those firms outsource or automate most of those jobs just a few years later, leaving thousands of affected local families in the lurch.

    What a pathetic way to claim you’re doing “economic development”… By literally bribing corporations to dump their most expendable business units here until they figure out how to eliminate or offshore them all together.

    • B. Wills permalink
      February 27, 2015 8:58 AM

      Spot-on. Why do we never aspire to higher goals?

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