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Roundup 6-5-2015

June 5, 2015

Economic Development – Something, But Not Exactly As Advertised

We often say that this area is progressing but not as fast as other areas and, thus, falling behind.  This week, the Times had a column that gave a good example.

On any given day, it feels like Tampa Bay’s so called entrepreneurial ecosystem – the complex support system for new idea business startups – is alive, well and making progress. And it is. But perhaps less than we would like to believe.

A nationwide analysis measuring “startup activity” in major metro areas and states was unveiled Thursday. It found that while the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas are reasonably active areas for startups, both are losing ground to other metros – especially Miami, which rose to the No. 2 spot in the nation behind Austin, Texas.

That is not surprising to us.  Progress is relative – what may be much more activity locally may still not be that much compared to other places. (You can half your 100 meter time and still be very slow by collegiate or Olympic standards.)  That’s why it is good to look elsewhere (and get out of the echo chamber) when judging where we are. Let’s look at the details. (You can find the detailed rankings here.)

Tampa Bay fell five spots to No. 20 among metros for startup activity while Orlando plunged 12 spots to No. 33. These are not catastrophic changes. Tampa Bay’s landing at No. 20 among major metros is commendable, and Orlando placing 33rd is hardly a poor showing. But the magnitude of both metro area declines is concerning because they are among the largest drops in 40 major metro markets analyzed. They suggest a loss of momentum.

* * *

The reports are the work of the Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City-based think tank dedicated to entrepreneurship and one of the leading third-party experts on the subject of business startups.

Nationwide, startup activity enjoyed the biggest increase in two decades, the Kauffman reports found, even though overall activity remains lower now than before the recession.

Kauffman researchers measured metro and state startup activity based on the number of new business and entrepreneurs per 100,000 people, differentiating startups created by “necessity” (no job, more common in the recession) or “opportunity” (creating a startup by choice).

The foundation’s look at startup activity across the country is an important and reasonably dispassionate way for places like Tampa Bay to gauge if they remain competitive for entrepreneurial activity. While Tampa Bay keeps adding business incubators, accelerators and university programs for entrepreneurs, the area still suffers as an underdog when it comes to attracting venture capital.

Nothing new there. And the decline is indicative of not keeping up with other areas.

Typical of entrepreneur communities, there’s plenty of debate here whether Tampa Bay spends more time marketing its startup brand than it does nurturing those quality entrepreneurs and more promising startups that have greater chances of building breakthrough businesses.

The short, and obvious, answer is “Yes.”  In this area, hype is almost uniformly ahead of accomplishment. And not only that.  There is more focus on startups than companies that actually make it and then choose to stay here and grow rather than leaving.  The key is not just startups, but what they do after they are started.

Then there was this nugget:

Kauffman research analyst Arnobio Morelix described the components of the best metro areas for startups. They benefit from a high density of entrepreneurs and young firms, a fluidity of population that brings in new skills and new ideas, high connectivity so people know what others are doing, and diversity – “not only in race but in economic diversity of specialized jobs,” he said.

We may have a lot of people trying to start businesses – though that does not say what kind of businesses they are starting.  Moreover, the reality is that successful areas have a variety of ideas and an intellectual curiosity that allows for multidisciplinary interaction and cross-pollination.  The Tampa Bay area is lacking in this – and the things that go along with it, like urban development, proper transit, a thriving music scene, a literary scene, truly notable architecture, etc.  Frankly, it is part of the culture of the area that was nurtured by the sprawl centric, fast buck, low wage, cash-in fast at the lowest cost possible (an associated exaggerated accomplishment/diminished expectation) mentality of the area  and, to a large degree, is also a by-product of that mentality.

The bottom line is that we are still a net consumer of ideas, not a producer. And many of the ideas we produce leave, with their creators, to other areas that provide more intellectual, business, and cultural ferment – and that are more urban.  Until that changes, we are going to lag.  No amount of rhetoric will change that.

— List of the Week

Because this issue involves a list, we figured we would give the top 30.

Coming in first is Austin, followed by Miami, San Jose, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, NYC, Houston, San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Columbus (OH), Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, Seattle, Baltimore, Riverside, Virginia Beach, Tampa, Chicago, Boston, Sacramento, Nashville, Charlotte, Portland (OR), Jacksonville, Kansas City, and DC.

And remember, this is just startups.  It is not about the kind of startups or the already mature companies in the area.

Transportation – N’Synch

Tampa is going to do something about its completely messed up traffic lights:

It may not be glamorous, but when it’s complete, this is one road project that will affect nearly everyone who drives through Tampa.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization has procured funding for an advanced traffic management system that will synchronize some 255 traffic signals on many of the major roadways running through the city, including Kennedy Boulevard and Fowler and Hillsborough avenues.

Design and engineering work on the $37.6 million project is expected to get underway in 2018, with the system operational by 2020.

“This is going to be a game changer as far as improving traffic in the city,” said Jean Duncan, Tampa’s Transportation and Stormwater Services director. “This is excellent news for the city of Tampa that this is getting funded.”

Or maybe it won’t, at least not for a while.

The system will be run from the county’s Traffic Management Center in the Channel District, where specialists monitor local streets using computer screens and software and if necessary, speed up signals for emergency situations and for congestion relief.

“The new system is going to be reacting to situations it reads through the equipment we have out there and will tell us when there is a problem” at a traffic signal, Duncan said. “For instance, if a signal is out, this system will email us with a problem or failure.” Right now, a commuter would have to call and alert the city when a traffic signal is out.

“Also, we’ll have more options for synchronizing the lights, but also individually, where if there is a situation where only two cars are waiting, we can adjust. It allows us to manually change the traffic pattern. It will be much more optimal.”

The city has already been working with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to manipulate traffic signals to move MetroRapid buses more swiftly, and this new system will only enhance that, Duncan said.

In other words, fixing the mess of traffic signals (like at Dale Mabry and 275 – which is beyond cluster status) can already be done.   The new system will be more advanced, but if nothing is being done now, why should anyone think that, even with more tools, things will be done correctly.

The real question is why the lights are such a mess (and not just in Tampa, but also in Hillsborough).  Why wait until 2020 when you can actually do something right now – like from the County Traffic Management Center?

In any event, the promised future traffic light project is also part of this:

Some $1.3 billion in road, bike and pedestrian improvements for Hillsborough County got the green light Tuesday for construction during the next five years.

The transportation improvement plan includes $37.6 million for a signal synchronization system in the City of Tampa and right of way acquisition for major interstate improvement projects and funding for numerous local projects.

Which features such items as:

Also included in the plan are projects through Tampa’s Complete Streets program, adding more walkable and bicycle-friendly corridors in the city. Among those funded are bike lanes and sidewalks on Bougainvillea Avenue from 30th Street to 46th Street. Bougainvillea, the roadway just north of Busch Gardens, is now little more than a strip of asphalt with canals on either side, said MPO Executive Director Beth Alden.

* * *

Another bike path and sidewalk project will go in on the south side of Bayshore Boulevard from Bay to Bay Boulevard to Platt Street at a cost of $2.4 million, to be completed in 2016. Bayshore already has a bike and pedestrian path on the north side of the street, Alden said.

For several years now, the transportation improvement plan has included projects to widen and improve sections of U.S. 301. The new project list includes $44 million to widen U.S. 301 from two lanes to six from State Road 674 (Sun City Center Boulevard) to County Road 672. That work is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Funds are also included in the plan for the state to begin right of way acquisition for major reconstruction on Interstate 275 at State Road 60 in the Westshore area and at the downtown convergence of I-275 and I-4.

The state has budgeted $22 million to acquire right of way at I-275 and State Road 60 in 2016 and another $33 million in 2017, said Debbie Hunt, director of transportation development for transportation department District 7. The state agency has set aside $24 million for right of way acquisition at I-275 and I-4 in 2016 and another $1 million in 2017, she said.

You can read the whole list (and enjoy the cover page graphic that is completely unrelated to anything) here.

This is all fine, sort of – we can’t figure out what the “south” side of Bayshore is unless they mean the bay side (which to us is the “east” side, and which does not seem to need more sidewalks.)

The real question is how does all this relate to the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough process.  What is the coordination if any (can there be any if the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough still does not know what the residents of the County think)?  Will this actually fix anything or will it just be another in a series of small measures accompanied by great hype that just string the problems along?

Ybor City – Not So Fast, Maybe

Last week, there was big news that Ashley furniture’s e-marketing offices would move to Ybor.  (With accompanying hype). (See “Economic Development/Ybor City – A Win”)  Even we called it a “clear win,” apparently prematurely.  It all may well turn out great, but, this week:

Ashley Furniture Industries, the world’s largest furniture business that last week unveiled plans for its e-commerce headquarters in Ybor City, is on the sales block.

The company on Tuesday confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that the family-owned manufacturer in Arcadia, Wis., is working with investment bankers Goldman Sachs to explore a possible sale for as much as $3 billion. Founder and chairman Ron Wanek now lives in St. Petersburg, and son Todd serves as Ashley CEO.

Analysts say the timing is good for Ashley to sell. After a difficult recession, the rebounding housing market means lots of new households are looking for affordable furniture.

We shall just have to see if the Ybor move goes through and if it sticks – or if a buyer decides to consolidate and/or gut the company.  But it is another reason why professions of how great something is should come after it happens, not when it is announced.  (And, yes, that applies to us, too.)

Riverwalk – The Evils of Bike Gangs

A hubbub has now arisen over people biking too quickly on the Riverwalk.

In a city with a poor record for bicycle safety, Riverwalk’s 1.8 mile stretch of car-free concrete is a big draw for cyclists who want to ride without fear of an accident.

But the trail might be more of a crawl than a ride now.

After complaints from pedestrians, the city is putting the brakes on bicyclists who they say are moving too fast and endangering families and people walking dogs on the Riverwalk. New signs on the trail now instruct bicyclists to slow to an almost pedestrian 5 mph.

That’s a speed some find more suitable for bicyclists with training wheels.

“There’s no point,” said Sebastian Balderrama, who uses a road bike to make sandwich deliveries [sic] from Jimmy Johns to Amalie Arena and the Tampa Convention Center. “I might as well be walking.”

Recreational bicyclists average about 10 mph, according to bikecommuters.com. More hard-core bicyclists on road bikes might ride at twice that speed. Pedestrians average about 3 mph.

Our experience is that most of the time there is no issue with bikes.  When the Riverwalk is crowded, bikes can be annoying especially with some of the less considerate riders.  One the other hand, the City has not provided any other bike route – nor would a narrow lane of a surface road likely accomplish anything.

Frankly, we don’t care about a speed limit – especially because bikes tend not to have speedometers, so it is useless.  People who are going to be considerate are going to be considerate, and those who are not are not.  And other people will be hypersensitive. Unless bikes are banned, which we do not recommend, there will always be some issues.  And we totally disagree with this from the Tribune:

Some cyclists think the 5 mph limit is too slow and should be doubled to the 10 mph limit allowed along St. Petersburg’s waterfront, where signs warn bicyclists to yield to pedestrians. But that higher speed doesn’t mix well with the pedestrians who come to wander the Riverwalk and take in the sights and fresh air, or when special events or perfect weather draw big crowds.

* * *

We hope there isn’t much need for that. But if there is, the city should re-evaluate the presence of bicyclists on an attraction called the Riverwalk.

We do not care what it is called. (Westshore Blvd is not actually along the shore, nor does Bay to Bay actually go to both sides of the Interbay Peninsula)  Cyclists are also entitled to fresh air and the sights.  Frankly, any rule for bike speed should just be reasonable and proper.  If no one is in the way, go as fast as you like.  If it is crowded, slow down.

The bottom line is that there is a lesson to be learned for the future.  The biggest problem is that the portion of the Riverwalk over the water is too narrow and has too many sharp turns – otherwise there would be space for both cyclists and pedestrians.  Any Riverwalk/trail on the west side of the river or to the north needs to be wider and have fewer sharp turns.  There is no reason you should not be able to ride a bike along the river.

Downtown – A Little Green

Staying downtown, there was a piece from WTSP highlighting the landscaping and “mini-parks” that will be part of the Selmon Greenway. (The project, under the Selmon Expressway, technically already opened, but it is not really green right now.)

Last month, we told you about the Selmon Greenway, a new walking and biking trail opening under the Selmon Expressway. Now, we’re getting the first look at a dozen parks that will be going in all along that trail.

Right now, most of the spots are essentially empty spaces below or next to the Selmon Expressway — and now they’re set to become a chain of beautiful parks.

* * *

The Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority owns the Selmon Expressway and is creating the Selmon Greenway beneath it. The agency is envisioning a range of relaxing ideas for some of the dusty corners and forgotten spots under the highway. 

Like this:

From WTSP – click on picture for article

The mini/pocket parks are part of the master plan.

We are all for this idea (aside from eating up some parking).  Of course, it just points out the benefit of shade – and shelter (like continuous awnings and real shade trees) from the rain – in Florida.  If only the City would put in requirements for new developments that definitively provide it.

And hopefully, the Lightning owner’s team of experts will be here in June and July so they can get the message.

Westshore – A Groundbreaking

Last week, a new apartment project in Westshore broke ground (we assume):

A North Carolina developer will celebrate the construction of a luxury apartment community in Tampa’s Westshore business district on Thursday.

Crescent Communities, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for Crescent Westshore at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The 374-apartment complex will be built at the intersection of West Boy Scout Boulevard and Lois Avenue, near International Plaza. In January, Crescent divided the site and sold a portion of the land to Orlando-based Parkway Properties Inc.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

Which is fine and urban-ish looking (but not actually urban), but we are not sure to where all those people in the rendering are walking.  There really is not any place to go on foot. (And really, why did the City spend money trying to sandwich a really unappealing bike lane on Boy Scout when they had a ton of space to build a trail-like path that is not in traffic that people might actually want to use?)  Even with multistory apartment buildings going up, the entire development plan and design of Westshore is still very unwalkable.  And with recent decisions by the City,  we see little reason to think that will change.

— Meanwhile, In the Rest of Westshore

The old Austin Center property is getting examined for development potential.

A team of brokers from CBRE Group Inc. in Tampa and Atlanta has been retained to examine possibilities for redeveloping the Austin Center.

Developed by late Tampa civic leader Al Austin in the late 1960s, the Austin Center is an office park in the heart of Tampa’s Westshore Business District. Redstone Investments, which has offices in Tampa and Ohio, acquired the 300,000-square-foot complex on 10 acres in April.

The Austin Center is arguably one of the best urban infill sites in the Southeast: 10 contiguous acres in a highly occupied office district that’s seeing an influx of thousands of residents to new multifamily construction. A successful mixed-use redevelopment of the property could be huge for Tampa, because it has the potential to create a sexy new live-work-play hub and generate significant tax revenue for the city.

Its location in the heart of Westshore makes any number of uses — retail, office, hotel and multifamily — a possibility for the site.  . .

We are not sure it is sexy, but, yes, the location is very good for a number of uses.  The one element that still cannot be confirmed is a transit oriented development – because it is still not clear where the connection to the airport or anywhere else will go.  And it is not clear that the City cares at all about making the area walkable – because everything built in Westshore in the last few years is distinctly not pedestrian friendly.  So, yes, there is great potential.  But there has been for most of Westshore for years.  That is not the issue.  The issue is whether anyone will do anything to realize that potential or will they just settle for the same old pretend urban development.  In other words, are they going to look at actually building something good?

Rays

There were a number of articles about the Rays this week, and we were going to write something about them.  But, really, what is there to say.  The team is playing surprisingly well for a transition year, the attendance sucks, the Trop will never be a successful stadium location, and everyone but the St. Pete City Council knows it.  The Lightning attendance is just more proof of all of that.

Hyde Park – Something

This week, ground was broken on a project on a lot on Howard:

The former Xtreme Athletix site in South Tampa is giving way to a mixed-use development that will bring new retail, residential and office space to the neighborhood.

Demolition on the Xtreme Athletix building, at the intersection of South Howard and West Morrison avenues, started last week. Vertical construction will begin soon on a mixed-use development to include 13,890 square feet of retail, 6,950 square feet of office space and 46 residential units, said Andrew Wright, CEO of Franklin Street.

The development will include a parking garage and surface parking with a total of 240 spaces. It’s not yet been decided whether the residential units will be condominiums or apartments, Wright said. All but one are being built as 1,300-square-foot units with two bedrooms and two bathrooms — a size Wright said is more typical of condominiums than apartments.

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

You may remember that a previous proposal by another developer caused much neighborhood opposition.  Apparently this smaller development is just fine.  Frankly, we think having surface parking lots on Howard is a waste of space.  On the other hand, at least this development is actually mixed use, unlike many of the projects in Hyde Park and north of Kennedy (and Westshore).  If you are going to have a really urban neighborhood, you need street retail.  The City should push for it, especially in essentially blank slates like the area north of Kennedy.

Monuments for All

Clearwater is going to put something on the Causeway to tell you that you are in Clearwater.

As part of its year-long centennial celebration, the city this month plans to erect a towering “Welcome to Clearwater” monument at the west end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

State transportation officials initially approved the 48-foot-tall, obelisk-shaped structure on the north side of State Road 60, and it was slated for unveiling last week. Those plans were canceled when the city ran into a manufacturing delay and zoning hold-up.

Not to worry, says Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos. The taxpayer-funded monument largely has been completed off-site, and city officials simply are waiting for an exact delivery and final assembly date.

This is what it is supposed to look like:

From the Tribune – click on picture for article

We have no real problem with this “monument” (it really isn’t a monument, just a sign – monuments generally honor something) except that it is basically across from a sewage treatment plant and leads to basically nothing for quite a while. (Please note that no one is going to walk up to it like shown in the rendering.)  Nor do we really have any issue with the one in St. Pete, except that it is miles from anything in St. Pete. Welcoming people is great (Orlando has done up an overpass very nicely) and beautifying the highways is also great.  We just think it could be done better – and, since random columns at the side of a road are a bit odd, how about putting a matching column on the other side of the road to make the whole display make some sense and actually feel like a gateway?

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

— Looking at Rail

While the TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough consultants compile opinions about transportation, there are opinions forming in other places in Florida, like Miami:

The population of South Dade is forecast to grow 40% by 2040, Rep. McGhee said, faster than anywhere else in the county, yet plans for rail links to the south seem to be off the table – links that he said were promised in 2002 when county voters passed a half percent surtax on sales to grow transportation infrastructure.

While he told the planning organization – which is responsible for planning any transportation measures that receive federal funding – that he understands the frustration in the north part of the county as well as in the east and west over lack of rail links, more than 250,000 people in South Dade are being left out of rail planning.

* * *

Despite funding problems, Mr. Moss said, “We’ve got to find a way to build the particular projects…. If we’re going to make this work we’ve got to figure out a financial plan that will make this work…. The [bus rapid transit expansion] measures that are on the table are not enough to do all the things we’ve promised.”

* * *

Mr, McGhee called the lack of a funded rail system plan for South Dade a “breach of trust.” He focused on the new museums and cultural institutions in the county that South Dade residents would attend if they had transportation to get there, helping low-income residents move up the ladder.

* * *

South Dade residents, he said, are still paying the county’s transportation surtax, which has brought in $2.5 billion so far, yet they have not received their promised transportation.

* * *

“We need the Metrorail expansion,” Rep. McGhee said. Bus Rapid Transit “cannot solve this issue…. Put this item back on the table. Don’t lock our people down south out of this equation.” 

Miami has rail and it has a BRT in dedicated lanes.  Apparently, people think there is a difference – mainly because there is.  The TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough folks should take note.

And in extremely liberal Jacksonville:

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is studying the viability of a commuter rail system on the Southeast corridor, between Downtown and St. Augustine.

The study, which will be completed this time next year, looks at potential ridership, the cost to build and operate the systems and where the stations would be. The study being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff costs $525,000

Apparently, transportation consulting is growth industry.  In any event,

The railroad would run on Florida East Coast Railway’s tracks, she said, which already has double tracks laid down. That cuts down the cost of having to place new track, although she cautioned some new track may have to be installed in certain areas.

Build it on existing track.  Sounds like a familiar idea.

We have no idea if Jacksonville will build commuter rail or not, but we would not be surprised if the Tampa Bay area was the laggard in transportation in Florida.  Basically, it already is.

— Gateways to Latin America

There was also a development in the race to be the gateway to Latin America:

US major Delta Air Lines has filed for regulatory approval from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to offer a new non-stop link between Orlando and Sao Paulo, Brazil before the end of this year. This will be only the carrier’s second current long-haul international link from Orlando and adds to its flights to Cancun, Mexico from the popular leisure gateway to Florida (it has also served Mexico City, San Juan and Nassau directly from Orlando during the past ten years).

In its formal application, Delta plans to introduce a four times weekly service on the route, with its strategic alliance with GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes extending the reach of this service to 20 interior Brazil destinations via Guarulhos International Airport. The flight is due to commence from December 19, 2015 and will be operated by a Boeing 767-300 aircraft, with 35 seats in Delta One, 32 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 143 seats in the Main Cabin.

And, note:

The new service, which remains subject to final approval, will see Delta face direct competition from Brazilian carrier TAM Airlines on the Orlando International – Sao Paulo Guarulhos route and indirectly via Azul Airlines between Orlando International – Sao Paulo Viracopos. TAM will also introduce a link between Orlando International and Brasilia from June 2015, while Azul will add the first ever direct link between Orlando and Belo Horizonte from November 2015.

Our issue is not with the airport.  We know they are doing their best in trying to expand service.  Nor is it with the goal of expanding Latin American trade – we should (including Cuba).  Our issue is with hyperbolic pronouncements that inflate accomplishments and create in inaccurate sense of what really needs to be done and where we really are.  While that has been the Tampa way for decades, it does not serve our area.  Success comes for a realistic appraisal of where we are and what we need to do.  We have a lot of work to do, and much competition, if we want to really be A gateway to Latin America.

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Ridesharing and the Usual Suspects

We all know the PTC hates ridesharing because it gets in the way of the PTC’s protectionist purpose.  A few weeks ago, we noted that the very liberal Portland, Oregon, is going more free market than the PTC when it comes to ridesharing. (See “Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country” )  This week, Seattle also seems to be tending in that direction. (See here)  If you read the article, you will note that there are still issues to work out.  However, the local officials are not flat-out opposed, unlike the PTC and its elected officials who are members.

Of course, this openness is not universal.  For instance, in San Francisco, there are some calls for more regulation.  Notably, those calls come from local agencies that stand to lose revenue and they are calling for the state – which passed state-wide regulation – to make the rules tougher. (California being more innovation and business friendly than Florida.)

And then there is that innovation economy that the County Commissioners are so found of discussing.  Well (thanks to a reader for the heads up on this),

Uber Technologies Inc. has selected the former Restaurant Depot space in the Strip District as the location for its Uber Advanced Technologies Center, a spokeswoman for the company confirmed Monday.

“The Uber Advanced Technologies Center has leased the space at 100 32nd St. in Pittsburgh, and we expect to move in at the end of the year,” Uber spokeswoman Trina Smith said in an email. “We selected this specific location because of the amenities the neighborhood has to offer as well as its proximity to (Carnegie Mellon University).”

* * *

Uber announced in February it would be opening an advanced technologies center in Pittsburgh to focus primarily on the areas of mapping, vehicle safety and driverless vehicle technology. When the project was announced, Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber, said the company sees the facility as a long-term investment with the possibility for expansion in the future.

(See also here) Good thing for the local economy, jobs, and USF that our elected officials prioritize subsidizing sprawl and protecting cab companies.  We wouldn’t want to have high tech companies invest in the area.

And, strangely, there is also this closer to home:

The First Mile/Last Mile pilot will be used in several areas of the county, like Ruskin, where people have a bigger problem getting that last mile once they get off of a bus. The idea is to use cell phone and traditionally dispatched shuttles from the private sector that connect into the broader transit network to provide rides.

HART is expected to issue a request for proposals this summer for companies interested in providing that service, which could cost up to $600,000 depending on its popularity.

HART CEO Katharine Eagan said her agency has met with several private providers, including taxi companies and Uber and Lyft about providing that shuttle service. The Public Transportation Commission is battling those two companies about which rules they must follow to legally operate in the county. Whether or not that will be a factor in either one doing business with HART remains to be seen, Eagan said.

Well, at least HART is open to the idea of ridesharing.

— What Can 6.5 Billion Dollars Buy These Days?

An item forwarded by a reader (many thanks), provides insight into the competition to the much bandied about idea of making Tampa a medtech hub:

The Mayo Clinic is located in the small city of Rochester (pop. 111,000), about a two-hour drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota. And it is, right this minute, competing fiercely for a small-but-extremely-lucrative slice of the global medical tourism industry. The wealthy American, European, east Asian, and Gulf Arab patients who have been the clinic’s bread and butter have been instead choosing to get treatment abroad or at domestic rivals like Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University or the Cleveland Clinic. But that may be changing—and the reason, if not the construction, is simple: the Destination Medical Center.

That’s an audacious 20-year plan by Rochester, the Minnesota state government, the Mayo Clinic, and their private partners to spend more than $6.5 billion on a kind of real-life version of SimCity, designed to turn Rochester into a global biotech hub, and double its population in the process.

* * *

In an interesting, contemporary twist, foreign companies are funding much of the construction. A recent count of foreign real estate investment in Rochester found the sale of a seven-story office building for $4 million to a United Arab Emirates-based firm that is expected to tear it down for replacement by a luxury hotel. Another Emirates-based firm has bought more than $15 million of commercial real estate in Rochester over the past four years. Other investors include Venezuelan, Saudi Arabian, and Indian companies.

Many of these foreign investors have ties to the Mayo Clinic. Royals from the United Arab Emirates routinely arrive at Mayo for treatment (see below), and others want to invest in American biotech. The Hong Kong investment firm behind a new Rochester office building, for instance, is led by an executive who has organized conferences in mainland China to promote regenerative medicine and stem cell research.

In Rochester, these foreign investments are largely greeted with shrugs. The city is used to dealing with global markets thanks to the Mayo Clinic, and the fact that overseas purchasers are interested in local properties is seen more as a sign of a healthy economy than anything else. 

You can read the article here. Here is a nice map of the proposal.

From Fast Company – click on map for article

And, the article does not even mention Houston or a number of other medtech centers.  While we like the idea of being a medtech hub, there is a very long way to go to reaching that goal.

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