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Roundup 10-21-2016

October 21, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing, Co

— The Congestion Creation Program

— South County-Palooza

— There Is Another Way

— Conclusion

Transportation – Thanks, PTC

Transportation – A (Very) Brief History of Tampa Air Service

— And One More Thing

Economic Development – Let’s Wait for Results

Economic Development/International Trade/Latin America – Cuba Developments

Bayshore – Moving Forward

__________________________________________________________________

Transportation – Persistently Accomplishing Nothing, Cont

Once again, transportation took center stage this week.

— The Congestion Creation Program

This week the County Commission moved on its latest “transportation plan.”

Hillsborough County commissioners are expected to decide next week how to spend the $600 million they set aside for transportation projects over the next 10 years.

“It’s time to get started,” Commissioner Al Higginbotham said.

But not everyone is happy.

The two candidates running for the open District 6 commission seat think their potential colleagues should wait until after the election before finalizing a blueprint.

“I’m stunned that they would try to move forward with such a plan with a lame-duck County Commission,” said Democrat Pat Kemp.

Republican Tim Schock, her opponent, agreed.

“One of the biggest issues in the race is transportation,” he said, “so I would absolutely want to have some input into what that’s going to look like.”

Both also thought the public should have more time to view the plan before a vote is taken. County staff unveiled the list of recommended projects Friday.

“That’s been a big deal with these proposals in the first place,” Schock said. “It was a trust issue.”

Setting aside that the county commission’s “plan” is not really a plan and that it is all roads and nothing else, there is bi-partisan candidate agreement that the County Commission should not act right now. So why act?

“The sooner we get them started, the sooner we get them finished,” he said. “It was under this board’s watch that all this work was done, and a new commissioner that is seated will have opportunities to propose changes, if they want.”

Wait?  It can be changed?  So what is the point exactly?  As far as we can tell, the point is to be seen to do something rather than have to really do something.  And, even if they stick to the plan, since the County has neglected to plan appropriately and is constantly creating more problems on the roads, you get a work list like this:

The spending list, which totals $763 million after adding in new mobility fees, is heavily focused on road work. It includes:

Of course, they are focusing on roads.  (And, of course, the County cut a deal to reduce the transportation improvement that booming Waterset development had to do – like widening Big Bend Road and an I-75 overpass, and will now stick taxpayers with the cost. ) That is what the Commission does while they plan poorly then plead poverty.  (And  make a mockery of the idea of promoting infill development that mobility fees supposedly represented.)

Not only that, but from this screen shot you can see the “congestion relief” portion of the road plan:

From Hillsborough County courtesy of Sunshine Citizens - click on chart for Facebook page

From Hillsborough County courtesy of Sunshine Citizens – click on chart for Facebook page

Yes, there are a few road projects on the outskirts of other populated areas but nothing for the core built up area, and most of the money is for South County and little of East County. If you want congestion relief elsewhere – like where you live and pay taxes (say Dale Mabry or Memorial or Hillsborough or SR 60) – you are out of luck.  The fact is that, when you look at the list, it is congestion creating not congestion relief. It just helps get cars to the congested areas and then abandons them on the already overburdened roads.

And as uninspired as that list is (and it should have been funded by impact fees the county Commission did not enforce anyway), there as this:

County administrator Mike Merrill said Tampa residents will benefit from many of the major road projects planned for unincorporated Hillsborough. The county isn’t going to spend money on city roads it doesn’t own or for transit projects Tampa should pay for on its own, he said.

First, most of the road improvements won’t even benefit most residents of the County.  And, while we understand the County not fixing City owned roads, we completely reject the idea that the County and City are separate when it comes to transit.  The fact that the Administrator would say that just emphasize how broken the system is, though, since he works for the Commission, we assume he is just reflecting their (collectively) views.

Nevertheless, the Commission passed their “plan.” (The lone “no” vote coming from a Commissioner who is leaving office.)

Because it is a 10-year plan, commissioners said it wouldn’t be enough to fund transit, which typically requires long-term local commitments to get the federal government to pitch in.

County Administrator Mike Merrill called it an interim plan until further action — including potential funding for transit — can be taken.

“Transit is a much bigger issue,” Merrill said. “The 10-year time period really makes it difficult to draw down any serious federal money.”

Setting aside the apparent contradiction of saying that transit is up to the City to pay for and then saying will the County address it – someday, the County Commission has manifestly failed to deal with that in a serious way, so that is no excuse.  And why should anyone think that the Commission will magically start dealing with transit in a serious, methodical, and logical way?

Commissioner Ken Hagan, along with others, said there is nothing to stop commissioners from considering additional transit funding in the future.

“This is a starting point,” Hagan said. “We can, and likely will, amend the list going forward.”

Wait.  So is it a firm plan or just something tossed out there to look like the Commission is doing something that will be changed later?  What is the point of passing something they are already talking about changing?  More likely, the Commission will stick to their congestion subsidy.  That is the one thing the County is consistent about regarding transportation.

“Today’s plan was essentially taken from what the board approved six months ago,” Hagan said. “It’s essentially the same list we’ve had for three or four years.”

Exactly. It was bad then.  It is bad now, and does not even have the (not adequate) transit element of Go Hillsborough. Do not expect anything better.

As we said when Go Hillsborough died, the Commission had a chance to go back and create a really good plan, to show us what they can do.  Instead they have done nothing other than prove their critics right – which is sad for all of us.

— South County-Palooza

Coincidentally (or not), the Times ran a series of articles on South County. They are worth a look because they tell us a lot about the County’s priorities, and how its policies helped create the transportation problem in the first place.

As the first houses started going up in the Kings Lake community 15 years ago, there wasn’t much else in Hillsborough County south of the Alafia River.

No Amazon distribution center. No St. Joseph’s Hospital. No Publix within 10 miles.

Now there’s all that and more, including a huge master-planned community, Waterset, directly across Big Bend Road from Kings Lake.

Southern Hillsborough — or SouthShore, as it has been rebranded — has seen an explosion in new home construction since the real estate crash sent one of every five houses in Kings Lake into foreclosure. In the 12 months ended in June, work began on nearly 3,000 SouthShore homes — more than a third of all housing starts in the entire Tampa Bay area.

And the building boom comes as Kings Lake and other communities developed before the crash have yet to fully recover.

“We’re not back to our peak value yet, I can tell you that,” says broker Craig Beggins, whose Century 21 Beggins has handled hundreds of SouthShore transactions. “We’re probably 20 percent off the peak.”

One reason: People trying to sell older homes face increasing competition from new ones in attractive, sprawling communities like Waterset. It is so large that the entrance on Big Bend Road is three miles from the “walking tour” of lavishly furnished model homes by major builders including CalAtlantic, West Bay and Lennar, which built many of the houses in Kings Lake.

Unlike Kings Lake, though, Waterset can boast of two pools, a splash park, a dog park, a fitness trail, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts and a community center with a café. Prices including lot run from the high $100,000s — competitive with Kings Lake prices — to more than $500,000. Most builders also offer generous incentives to help with down payment and closing costs.

Today, with 87 homes sold in a single three-month period this year, Waterset is the fastest-growing new-home community in Tampa Bay. When finished it could potentially have as many as 5,000 single-family homes. That’s in addition to the hundreds of houses going up in other parts of south Hillsborough.

Setting aside that older (though not old) houses have not recovered their value (See also here), note that use of land: miles of underused land for a sprawling entry.  And that not good but we would not completely object if the residents and developer are paying for the full cost of the building and upkeep of all the roads and utilities in the development and their impact.

But the key, for our purposes, is this:

With scores of new restaurants, stores and other amenities, south Hillsborough is in many ways a much more desirable place to live than it was when Kings Lake was developed more than a decade ago. But whether in new homes or older ones, residents share a common gripe: traffic problems that will only get worse as the area grows.

“The traffic on Big Bend is crazy,” says Gail Sisouphone, who rents a house in Kings Lake. “It takes 20 minutes to get to here from the interstate.”

That’s a distance of less than a mile. 

And this keeps coming up:

Back in 2003, the community thought it would need to accommodate a 50 percent population boost through 2023. But by 2010, it had already grown by nearly 500 percent, from 12,035 people in 2000 to 71,050 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

Riverview is now a traffic-ridden hub overwhelmed even with its seven-lane highway, U.S. 301, running through the middle. School overcrowding has become a major concern and the community has added two new movie theaters, a hospital and two Publix grocery stores. The community is in the heart of SouthShore, which has attracted half of new all construction in the entire Tampa Bay region.

The reality is that if the area is so popular, the County should not need to subsidize development.  And, while we don’t have any problem with major development (we are for it), the planning is awful.  Yes, there is a lot of building, but all it is doing is clogging up roads for which everyone else will have to pay.  There is nothing in the South County development pattern that indicates that the County has learned anything from all the mistakes it has made in the past that caused the huge backlog in road work and created the congestion. As the Commission has told us for years, Hillsborough County has billions of dollars in road work to do (not to mention the need for transit) that they can’t fund.  Why are they approving development patterns that make it that much worse?  All the County Commission is doing is digging a deeper hole then coming to the taxpayers in the rest of the County to fund fixing it without giving them much of anything.

— There Is Another Way

What really makes this sad is that it does not have to be this way, even in the suburbs, per the Urban Land Institute:

While urban areas are becoming more and more expensive, the urban lifestyle is becoming more and more popular, so suburban towns and developers are increasingly catering those looking for a more walkable, dense community. A new supply of smaller homes with little or no yards in high-population areas will meet the demand to commute less and live closer to restaurants and entertainment. The report calls this “Surban” development; suburban development that brings the best of city living to more affordable areas.

There’s a wide continuum of suburban development, says Stockton Williams, Executive Director of the ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, and many vibrant examples of denser design, aligning with these predictions, are popping up.

“Plano, Texas, is an example of a suburban area that’s developing a town center while maintaining suburban residential patterns and affordability,” says Williams. “That’s one of the reasons why the city just convinced Toyota to move its North American headquarters to Plano.”

Robert Bowman, President of the Residential Neighborhood Development Council and a ULI member, believes in a model for walkable urbanism he’s calling “The Great American Neighborhood.” These aren’t new ideas, he says, but seeing contemporary suburban developers executing on them in an industry filled with typical developments suggests their seen as a great opportunity. Laying down the old formula won’t work anymore.

What they are basically saying is that suburbs can be built like ring towns rather than blobby messes and still keep housing costs down. (And much of Hillsborough County is actually closer in to Tampa – and indistinguishable from it – than parts of Tampa, though the Commission does not interested in that part.) And there is the added benefit of not having expensive, sprawling roads to maintain (saving old and new residents’ money).  They also would be much more transit ready. As shown by this graphic highlighted by URBN Tampa Bay, urban style development is far more efficient than what the County gives us:

From Public Square - click on chart for website

From Public Square – click on chart for website

But even if you don’t want to live in a fully urban area (and some don’t), as indicated by the ULI, urban ideas can work in the suburbs and be much more efficient in their use of land and resources. So why don’t we get them?  By government choice:

Imagine we have two systems for building communities that exist side-by-side and can be studied empirically—call them System A and System B.

System A works better for the economy, environment, health, and social welfare.

Our policies give advantages to System B.

That sounds like Bizarro world. It is America in most places.

System A is the walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. It has smaller streets, simpler intersections, and small blocks. It includes many kinds of places, from downtowns to main streets to mixed residential neighborhoods and even leafy suburban blocks of single-family homes.

System B is conventional suburban development (CSD), or, simply, “sprawl.” It has very large blocks, intersections, and main roads. These arterial roads are lined with single-use shopping centers, office parks, and subdivisions with looping streets and cul-de-sacs.

Mixed-use communities are more marketable today than they were 20 years ago and planners and many developers have come to favor walkable design, but that hasn’t changed the underlying rules and infrastructure that make CSD the only reasonable option in large areas.

Street construction policies and zoning regulations adopted during the last seven decades make walkable neighborhoods very difficult to build.  If you want System A, you must fight the system and make painful compromises—or use the streets built 100 years ago by our ancestors. The latter option is the route developers are taking to meet market demand—but those old street grids are in finite supply.

Simply put, smaller lot fronts mean a smaller amount of pavement to build and maintain.  Closer retail means people can walk and bike and, once again, less pavement to maintain. It also allows for transit.  (And that last mile that HART keeps talking about gets shorter.)

But that is our problem. The County government is trapped in the 1980’s and 1990’s. (Though, in truth, some areas were already working on new urbanism and transit in the 1990’s.)  It’s planning is flawed.  It has no real transit (and little hope of getting any).  And it costs every taxpayer more money in upfront subsidization and then in road construction and maintenance.  That is a choice made by local officials and paid for by you.

— Conclusion

The bottom line is that the transportation issue is the result of a number of interconnected choices: choices in planning, choices to not build real transit, choices to not make anything walkable (sidewalks to nowhere do not make something walkable), choices for not just road-centric but sprawling road-centric development, and choices to stay trapped in the past and not learn best practices.

We understand why the County passed its road plan – that is the logical continuation of the Commission’s decades’ old economic development and planning policy.  However, it is that very policy that has brought us a low wage, boom and bust economy with the large deficit in transportation funding that Go Hillsborough identified. It is a problem of their own making and the plan passed this week will do nothing to make it better (in most of the County it will do nothing at all), nor will it insulate this area from the next bust.

There is a better way to do planning, development, transportation, economic development – all of it.  It is just a matter of choosing to do it.  Other areas have (you know, the areas we are chasing).  It is well past time that we do, as well.  For all the talk of a booming area, while there is a little movement, we are not on a tear up the metro area population (and we are at risk of being passed by some of the usual suspects on this) or per capita GDP (everyone is already ahead of us on this) charts because other areas are also moving forward.  We could do so much better, if only we would choose to.

Transportation – Thanks, PTC

We have been saying for quite a while that the PTC was a protectionist, anticompetitive, cartel supporting organization that was just protecting the legacy cab and limo companies.  That was clear from its history.  That was clear from its activities.  That was clear when the Executive Director went to Palm Beach County with a cab company owner to speak at a Palm Beach County Commission hearing (he said he would resign soon thereafter, but didn’t . . . surprise).  Well, now you don’t have to believe us.  The PTC has been good enough to write it down for you:

Sting operations conducted by the PTC in May to fine rideshare drivers were coordinated with local taxicab and limousine firms that were invited to attend, records show.

The collaboration didn’t end there.

The taxi and limo firms — which the PTC is supposed to regulate — were active participants in the stings. They provided the pretend “passengers” who used smartphone apps to lure Uber and Lyft drivers to locations where PTC enforcement officers were waiting to dole out $700 fines.

Their involvement took place with the full knowledge of PTC executive director Kyle Cockream, the emails show. Cockream, who is paid about $143,000 a year, also used his work email to apply for other jobs.

* * *

PTC chief inspector Brett Saunders emailed the times and dates of the sting to other inspectors and also to Dave Morris, the owner of the Kings limo firm.

“Shoppers will be provided by Dave Morris and Louis Minardi,” he wrote on April 29, using the term for the pretend passenger.

On May 5, Saunders sent an email to Minardi, who is the owner of Yellow Cab, ahead of another sting.

“Louie, good afternoon. Is everything a go for tomorrow’s operation? We are planning on meeting on Channelside Drive in the parking lot next to the Hooter’s Restaurant at 1:30 p.m. If you can have three assistants, that would be great.” 

Sure, they’ll claim it is evenhanded and fine.  It isn’t.

PTC board chairman Victor Crist called the documents “alarming and concerning.” He said he wants an investigation into the agency’s relationship with the firms that took part in the stings and also Cockream’s role.

“There should be a review or investigation into the appropriateness of his behavior,” said Crist, who is also a Hillsborough County commissioner. “There seems to be a much closer relationship between the staff and the companies we regulate than what would be considered best practices.”

Not quite best practices?  That depends. It is a best practice if you are a protectionist enterprise.  If you are a government, not so much.  But it is not a surprise either – and the Board chairman either knew or should have known.

Cockream said the taxicab and limo staff who participated in the stings were not paid by the PTC. He said using the volunteers saved the agency money. In previous stings, the agency hired Orlando audit firm A & L Associates, which cost up to $4,000 per sting operation.

But Cockream acknowledged it has created a perception problem for the agency.

“In hindsight, I probably would not have done this,” he said. “I can see how it can be perceived in a negative light.”

Yea, usually when one is busted publicly doing something questionable, one would not do it again – at least not publicly.  The problem is that they did it in the first place.  And that is not all:

An analysis of more than 11,000 emails over a seven-month period raises new questions about whether the executive director of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has a blatant bias in support of the taxi industry he is supposed to regulate.

Emails dated between Sept. 4, 2015 and April 2016 show PTC executive director Kyle Cockream repeatedly partnering or siding with local taxi and limo companies.

The emails range from asking staff to play an anti-Uber ad in the PTC lobby to telling taxi and limo heads he’s lobbying local reporters to write about an alternative to transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.

The type of collaboration evidenced in Cockream’s relationships with industry leaders shows what critics have long argued – that the PTC is a puppet for the taxi and limo industries.

And

Cab company owners were privy to emails between PTC executive director Kyle Cockream and his agency’s attorney and lobbying firm. They were reassured that the PTC would fight a bill that would legalize ridesharing.

* * *

Cockream was also involved in a taxicab firm’s lobbying efforts with state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City.

He attended an October 2015 meeting where Yellow Cab Co. of Tampa owner Louis Minardi and his attorney, Seth Mills, pressed Raulerson to make changes to a draft version of his bill to legalize ridesharing in Hillsborough.

But apparently these activities do not bother at least one PTC board member/County Commissioner:

Other PTC board members agreed with Crist that using taxicab staff was ill-advised but said it should not affect Cockream’s leadership.

“Kyle still has my full support and confidence,” said County Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

Cockream was scheduled to step down from the PTC in July but agreed to stay on through the end of the year, in part to help usher the agency through its dispute with Uber and Lyft.

He said almost all of his job-hunting efforts were done outside the office and estimates it took up only about 20 minutes of total work time.

“I think it’s important to keep that in perspective,” he said.

Yes, keep it in perspective:

“This is crony capitalism at its worst,” said State Rep. Dana Young. “Now we have proof.”

So

State Rep. Dana Young is calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to formally launch an investigation into collaboration between the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission and taxi companies uncovered, in a series of emails released last week.

In a letter to the state law enforcement agency, Young asks that PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream, the agency he oversees and members of the local taxicab industry be formally investigated. (Read the entire letter below.)

That’s great, but why not just abolish the PTC?  We all know what it really is, so why wait?

When people speak of “corruption” in government, they usually mean some sort of bribes or criminal activity.  However, something can be legal but degrade the process (especially if the people making the rules are part of it) when it causes decisions or activities that are unfair and by not acting for the benefit for those it is supposed to serve.  Some examples are when decision makers favor their friends over others or write the rules to favor their supporters, even if there is no good basis to do so. (Say when a government allows a whole area to be polluted to support one company.)

We do not know if what is going on at the PTC is corruption in the illegal sense.  That is for investigators, if there are any, to figure out.  But, if the purpose is to protect the consumers, the PTC process, which plainly does not do that, sure seems to be broken.

But we have known that for years. It has been broken from the beginning. Just another in a long list of reasons to get rid of the PTC.

Transportation – A (Very) Brief History of Tampa Air Service

It is time for one of our occasional history lessons. A few years ago (man, time flies), we wrote about how, long ago, Tampa had the opportunity to be the base for the international service of a predecessor of Pan Am, but, despite popular support, local officials chose to blow it off. (See “A Bit of History – Tony Jannus”)  Admittedly, the airline wanted to have an airport off Bayshore, which may have not been the best idea, though something could have been worked out.  In an event, the airline went to Miami. and the rest is history. (See Miami International Airport)

Of course, eventually, the present airport was built, which, ironically was extremely innovative, introducing the people mover concept (real mass transit) to airports. It also introduced color coding for parking and pick-ups and drop-offs. (As anyone who has flown much knows, both ideas are now standard. We can do it when we want to)

Skip forward to 2009, when the airport was under the previous airport director, the Times had an interesting article:

Portland yens for flights to Tokyo. New Orleans had the hots for Mexico City. Tallahassee just wanted a few more planes from Florida cities to bring down fares.

The common denominator: a willingness by local officials to give airlines financial incentives to start or expand service.

* * *

So, are subsidies a good investment?

* * *

Tampa International takes a more conservative approach. The airport waives its $3-per-passenger inspection service fee for new or expanded international service. Officials also kicked in $20,000 for billboards promoting JetBlue’s daily Cancun flights that began in December.

The 100-seat jet service was catching on in the spring when the swine flu pandemic swept through Mexico, said airport director Louis Miller. Passenger loads plummeted. JetBlue stopped flying the route Sept. 9.

Incentives can help bolster a new route, but “you have to have demand for the market first,” Miller says. Tampa International is often handicapped by its proximity to Orlando, a world-class tourist destination with connecting flights to cities across the United States, he says.

That was his line (especially that demand thing), which was supported by much of the local political and business community (though you probably would be hard pressed to find anyone to admit it now), but not all:

A critic of the airport’s efforts to recruit international carriers says more needs to be done.

“The role of incentives is to prove the routes,” says Jason Busto, owner of a Tampa plumbing company who sits on the airport’s committee on developing international air service. “They’re critical to economic development.” 

Thankfully, there was a small group of people who kept pushing, eventually managed to get a new airport director, and, this week, the Times had a very different article:

So far under Lopano’s leadership, the airport has achieved a number of firsts. The Edelweiss Air service to Zurich, Switzerland began in 2012. Copa Airlines’ service to Panama City, which began in 2013, was Tampa Bay’s first nonstop flight to a major Latin American hub. A flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in 2015 connected Tampa Bay to one of the largest international airports in the world. Tampa will become one of the first cities in the U.S. to offer direct commercial service to Cuba on Southwest Airlines beginning in December. Icelandair will begin service next September from Tampa.

As with most economic development, you either choose to compete or surrender the field.  For a years, we had surrendered on international flights (and we are still surrendering on other things), but now we are competing and having success (because there is demand):

The incentive program is one way for Tampa International Airport to generate more revenue in the long run. The airport is publicly owned. The aviation authority runs on revenue generated by airline fees, rent from concession tenants and parking fees in the airport garages. It doesn’t collect taxes to pay for operations but does receive grants funded by federal and state taxes.

“Incentives are one tool we use to support solid business cases that win air service,” said Chris Minner, vice president of marketing at the Tampa airport. “With the support of our partners, our incentive package is often the tiebreaker between new service to TPA and other similarly profitable routes.”

Tampa is unique to other airports, too, in that it has several community partnerships that offer cash to new airlines. The bay area’s two tourism bureaus contribute cash for marketing campaigns for new flights. Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County’s tourism arm, gives $50,000 each year for up to two years, on average, for new international flights. Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, the Pinellas County tourism agency, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to airlines each year, the amount depending solely on the flight.

And they get monetary support from a number of other local agencies – one of the few real signs of regionalism in this area (of course, led by the airport).

The incentive program is one way for Tampa International Airport to generate more revenue in the long run. The airport is publicly owned. The aviation authority runs on revenue generated by airline fees, rent from concession tenants and parking fees in the airport garages. It doesn’t collect taxes to pay for operations but does receive grants funded by federal and state taxes.

“Incentives are one tool we use to support solid business cases that win air service,” said Chris Minner, vice president of marketing at the Tampa airport. “With the support of our partners, our incentive package is often the tiebreaker between new service to TPA and other similarly profitable routes.”

And there is room for more success:

As airline companies have consolidated over the years, there are fewer flights to go around. That has changed the competitive landscape for airports, especially in tourism-driven Florida.

Tampa has benefited in recent years from the saturation of international flights at airports like Orlando and Miami, said Ken Qualls, CEO of Flight Management Solutions in Boca Raton. It has helped put Tampa on par with its competitors. “The demographics are fairly similar across the state, and it’s a much better option to start a new route there than to force travelers to connect in Atlanta,” Qualls said. 

For an area with where complacency is the rule on so many issues, it is really refreshing to have an example where an aggressive, methodical approach to truly compete shows that we can be successful – not just full of hype.  We have actual achievements.

As we keep saying, if only more local officials would learn from the airport.  Yes, there is still room for improvement, but they show all the signs of being dedicated to improvement.  You do not hear the airport staff saying things are good enough or filling up quotes will hype.  They acknowledge successes (as they should) and get to work trying to get the next one.  Like most things, there will be ups and downs, but, from what we can tell, they are mostly moving forward in a methodical, business-like, and decidedly not hype-filled way (like the Lightning owner).

If only we could say that about planning, transportation, and, yes, even, economic development.

— And One More Thing

Just in case you think this competition ever ends (or shrinks),

United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier Emirates Airline is to expand its network in the US state of Florida, but it has again chosen to avoid its largest international gateway of Miami International Airport. After successfully launching flights between Dubai and Orlando in September 2015, Emirates will before the year’s end add a link between its Gulf hub and Fort Lauderdale, with JetBlue Airways’ activities at Hollywood International Airport believed to have been key in the route selection process.

The new daily link between Dubai International Airport and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport will commence from December 15, 2016 and will primarily serve the South Florida area, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach. It will be the airline’s eleventh direct route into the US and will be flown using a Boeing 777-200LR configured with 8 First Class suites, 42 Business Class lie-flat beds and 216 Economy Class seats and a bellyhold cargo capacity of 15 tonnes.

It doesn’t.

Economic Development – Let’s Wait for Results

There was news from the Tampa Bay Partnership.

The “new” Tampa Bay Partnership regional economic development group was unveiled Monday with veteran business leader Rhea Law, Florida head of the Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney law firm, serving as the partnership’s first chairman.

* * *

As planned, the partnership began its new fiscal year on Oct. 1 as a privately-funded advocacy organization, governed by a what it calls “regionally-minded” chief executive officers.

“The great thing about these CEOs around the table is they expect results and they expect big returns,” Tampa Bay Partnerhip CEO Rick Homans said Monday. “They are challenging this organization and this community to move to a different level.”

We hope by “a different level” the Times columnist does not mean this regarding taking away a free lane on the Howard Frankland:

Rick Homans of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a strong advocate for TBX, said business executives care more about the bottleneck at Westshore, where four lanes currently narrow to two, than the number of lanes on the bridge. The plan aims to fix that by adding an extra through lane at the interchange.

Setting aside that the bottleneck fix keeps a bottleneck (See “Transportation – TBX Is Not Set In Stone” ), this area doesn’t need that kind of tone-deaf comment (especially with the seventh worse income inequality in the country).

On a more positive note, there is this:

A transportation working group will examine the current and future state of transportation in Tampa Bay. Vology CEO Barry Shevlin and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik of Strategic Property Partners will serve as co-chairs of the group. A second group chaired by Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes will develop a set of regional economic indicators to help Tampa Bay better measure its progress — or lack of it — on a range of economic development measurements.

The names listed there have given this area some quality ideas and give some hope that the results will be better than the TBX quote above.

Maybe the changes at the Tampa Bay Partnership will create something good.  We shall see.

Economic Development/International Trade/Latin America – Cuba Developments

There were a couple of developments on Cuba last week.  First,

Foreign ships that dock in Cuba for trade purposes can now travel directly to the United States to load or unload freight. Previously, such vessels had to wait 180 days, a trade killer.

The change is seen as a major step toward connecting Port Tampa Bay and Cuba’s Port of Mariel, enabling the local port to use the Cuban operation as a stop for cargo moving to and from major global shipping centers.

“The new regulatory changes announced today represent the continued progress for families and businesses,” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said in an email. “I am particularly pleased to see the changes address the so-called ‘180-day rule,’ an onerous restriction on shipping between our two countries. Port Tampa Bay is ‘Cuba-ready.’ “

The Panama Canal, a major global shipping route, was widened to fit new, larger vessels that carry more cargo.

Port Tampa Bay cannot accommodate these ships, but the Port of Mariel can. Cargo from larger ships that stop in Mariel could be loaded onto smaller vessels and brought to Tampa for distribution in a process called transshipment.

There’s the Port’s transshipment model.  It is a big development, though more needs to be done:

Transshipment might still be blocked by a separate U.S. regulation that forbids any items offloaded in Cuba from entering the United States.

But T.C. Mariel considers the 180-day rule the biggest obstacle to trade with Tampa.

Meantime, eliminating the 180-day rule can connect Port Tampa Bay and the Port of Mariel in other ways.

Cargo lines may now be more interested in using Port Tampa Bay for direct trade with Cuba. An embargo that only Congress can change remains in place, but U.S. companies can still sell goods such as agricultural products and building supplies to the island nation and Port Tampa Bay claims to be the closest U.S. port to Havana.

In addition, as long as nothing new is loaded onto a vessel in Mariel, a ship carrying freight such as automobiles, furniture, toys or clothing can now unload some cargo in Cuba then continue on to deliver some of it to a U.S. port, said Doug Jacobson, a sanctions lawyer with Jacobson Burton Kelley in Washington, D.C.

As we noted previously, the Port of Mariel has indicated a large amount of interest in shipping to Tampa:

In September, a spokesman for TC Mariel, the company the runs the Cuban port’s container shipment operation, said his firm has its eye on Port Tampa Bay as a transshipment center because of its proximity to Orlando, home to regional distribution hubs serving all Florida — the nation’s third most-populous state.

Meanwhile our port has waited to be courted (or just to lose the potential business).  We still have no explanation why. (Are those new big cranes breaking down from overuse?)

In another development,

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been cool to local efforts to bring a Cuban Consulate to Tampa. But on Friday, all six candidates running in City Council District 7 said they like the idea — and not just because they think it would be good for Tampa business.

As the entire City government should.

Bayshore – Moving Forward

There was news about the proposal for a condo on the old Colonnade site:

A condominium tower on the site of the former Colonnade Restaurant took a key step forward Thursday evening — and with that approval, the developers have revealed more details on the project.

Tampa City Council voted unanimously to approve plans for a 24-story tower with 71 units at 3401 Bayshore Blvd., Ascentia Development Group and Batson-Cook Development Co. announced Friday.

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

That’s fine.  This project does not really inspire strong feeling one way or the other, aside from our wish it actually addressed Bayshore as a street.

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