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Roundup 12-9-2016

December 9, 2016


Economic Development – Of Training and Talking

The Port – Study

USF/Downtown – MOSI

Downtown/Hyde Park – Lafayette Place Design Review

Ybor City – Semi This Way Does Not Come

Tourism – Big Number

Rowdies Rally

Meanwhile, in the Rest of Florida

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the Country

— Atlanta and Highways

— A Fortune 500 Company Downtown

Interesting Graphic


Economic Development – Of Training and Talking

There was some interesting news in the tech field this week.

President Barack Obama has named Tampa one of the country’s designated TechHire Communities, indicating the city’s Innovation District in the University of South Florida area has met White House standards for an innovation district and puts the community in a position to achieve job training goals.

The designation comes after the city won a $3.8 million federal grant in July to expand tech training for young adults. The grant is expected to benefit 1,000 trainees.

So what exactly will this do?

Sharpe said in the next three years, the Alliance will host meetings with local businesses, with the help of CareerSource Tampa Bay, to get the word out and train individuals who may not have a four-year college degree but have the talent to work in the tech sector.

That is an admirable goal.  Training people and getting them employment is a good thing, and we are all for it.

So what was the reaction?

“This stamp of approval from the White House is exactly what this community needs to show the world we are a player among innovation districts,” said Mark Sharpe, chief executive of the Tampa Innovation Alliance.


“The city of Tampa is emerging as a tech leader in this nation,” said Mark Sharpe, Tampa Innovation Alliance CEO, at the conference.

“Our goal is to make Tampa Bay recognized as a hotbed for talent and create a pipeline between the community and tech companies,” Sharpe said.

Like we said, we are all for training people and helping place them.  As for showing we are a player, hotbed, leader, etc.:

The following cities and regions were announced on Thursday:

In other words, while the program is a good idea, being included says nothing about our status in tech or innovation.  Period.

The Port – Study

There was a report released by the Port this week:

Port Tampa Bay released a report Thursday that shows it contributes $17.2 billion in economic impact to the region, which grew from the $15 billion reported in 2013, the last time the port commissioned a study.

The economic impact report studied financial figures for 2015, according to a news release, and was completed by the firm Martin Associates. The purpose of the study is to measure the local, regional and state impact of Port Tampa Bay generated by maritime activity at its cargo, cruise and shipyard terminals.

The report outlines that Port Tampa Bay supports 85,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to its operations. Total port-related wages and salaries grew to $5.1 billion and the mean salary for port-dependent jobs was $55,000.

We are not sure exactly why this report was done, but it was, so let’s look at it in a little more depth.  First, we get the idea of trying to determine impact, but whenever you get an impact estimate, you have to separate what is direct impact – what the port actually does directly – from the vague estimates of indirect, induced or “related” impact, which are far more fluid concepts.  It is true that when people work at the port, they spend money elsewhere and operators at the port spend other money.  That is why we do not say you have to exclude those numbers completely, but you have to break it down, which the report actually does.  You can see the report in this Business Journal article.

In terms of jobs, the direct impact is this: Cargo: 12,722; Cruise 703; Shipyard 1,480; Real Estate 1,135; Total 16,040. (pg 9 of the pdf).  Of course, that is far less than 85,034 total for direct, induced, indirect, and related jobs quoted above. Nevertheless, that is fine – as long as it is broken out.

Similarly, the direct salaries are $880,979,000 as opposed to the $5.1 billion figure quoted above.  Once again, that is fine, as long as it is broken out and the indirect, etc numbers are taken with a big chunk of Himalayan salt.   (You can compare Tampa to Port Canaveral in 2012 and JaxPort in 2013 and Port Everglades in 2015 – done by the same consultants.  We do better but remember two things: these reports are mostly from earlier years and by consultants who assess economic impacts of their clients for a living, and we are the “biggest port” in Florida.  Note: We could not find a similar report for Miami.)

The bottom line is that we all know the Port is a major asset and engine to this area’s economy.  We all want it to do well.  Studying how it is doing is fine, as long as it is not overhyped and there is no complacency. Just remember, even if we are doing ok the competition is never-ending.  And if we really want to grow our economy to be where it should be, being ok is not enough.

USF/Downtown – MOSI

There was news about MOSI:

For the Museum of Science and Industry, 2016 was a year of dueling realities.

One was of an institution struggling to make ends meet. Ticket sales dropped 20 percent last year, donations fell well short of annual goals and the museum, known as MOSI, finished its fiscal year with a $1.3 million deficit, according to financial reports obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

The other was of a museum that saw encouraging developments in its plans to move and start fresh in the downtown Tampa project of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment. Notably, Vinik has strengthened his involvement in the museum’s reincarnation, bringing his associates to MOSI’s board and providing input on key decisions.

* * *

In recent months, MOSI also added two board members with close ties to Vinik: Patti Jurinski, Vinik’s sister-in-law who previously worked for a Boston cancer research hospital; and Kimberly Madison, the director of administration for Strategic Property Partners, which is the company owned by Vinik and Cascade that’s overseeing the redevelopment project.

You can read the article (here) about the money issues, but it seems pretty clear that, unless something goes completely sideways, the move downtown is on.  Especially when you consider that the County this:

While the museum’s continuing money woes don’t appear to be threatening its prospects for a move, some officials in Hillsborough County — which owns MOSI’s building and supports the museum financially — are growing concerned.

“There has to be a different approach,” said county Administrator Mike Merrill. “It’s never a good thing to lose money. We have a place we want to end up at, which by all accounts will improve their fortune, but in the meantime we have to maintain the brand and control costs.”

And this:

County officials are encouraged Vinik continues to signal a strong commitment to MOSI’s relocation. Outside of wanting to see MOSI succeed, there’s an ulterior motive: Hillsborough wants to free up the 80 acres of land the museum currently occupies for economic development.

“We need to get access to that land before the end of the five years,” Merrill said. “So how do we transition it to get to where it needs to be?”

Whether the move is the best or not is probably irrelevant at this point – it seems decided.  We are not philosophically opposed to a move (though we have no idea where exactly it would go and what exactly it would involve), but it does look like a typical Tampa/Hillsborough County deal that is only really discussed after the decisions have already been made.

If there is going to be a move, let’s have some real information (like where, what, who pays, and what will really happen to the land on Fowler) about it especially since the County 1) is horrible at planning, 2) ham-fisted in economic development, and 3) keeps pleading poverty about transportation and other issues.

Downtown/Hyde Park – Lafayette Place Design Review

URBN Tampa Bay has posted the City’s review of the design on Lafayette Place.

The city of Tampa’s Urban Design Staff has released comments for Lafayette Place:

Quoted from the staff report…
“• There is no indication on the site plan (Sheet 2) that the KOL sidewalk, landscape treatment, and specialty lighting standard will be installed (Sec. 27-243(f). These streetscape elements shall be incorporated into this design and project.

We are good with pretty much all of that.  Of course, it does not address the biggest issue with the design, though it is not clear that it falls under the design review process: the massive, obvious parking garages.  You can fix sidewalks all you want (and we do want) but that will leave two 15 story parking garages looming over the Grand Central area.  As we have said before, we get they need parking, but what is proposed is just not good.

Ybor City – Semi This Way Does Not Come

Now that the work on 21st and 22nd is done, trucks are finally being rerouted.

On Thursday, the City Council voted to remove 21st and 22nd streets from its list of approved truck routes. It also banned truck traffic along E Fourth Avenue from Channelside Drive to N 22nd Street and on E Seventh Avenue from N 22nd to N 34th streets.

That’s great – and a proper use of highways – namely the Selmon/I-4 Connector.  That road created a needed transportation connection, helps traffic flow, and actually helps the urban area nearby.  We are fine with that.  If only FDOT used ALL those criteria with other projects, like the really bad parts of TBX.

Tourism – Big Number

Hillsborough County, like Florida in general, hit some high tourism numbers.

Hillsborough County hotels set another record for bed taxes in November 2016, according to Visit Tampa Bay. The county tax collector’s office shows nearly $2.5 million was collected, an 8.15 percent jump over the same period in 2015.

The November report covers taxes on room-night sales in the month of October. The November report comes on the heels of a record October report (September sales), when the county collected $1.8 million in bed taxes, up a half-percent from the previous year’s record.

During the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, Visit Tampa Bay reported a record $29.6 million in bed taxes. The destination marketing association is closing out its strongest ever calendar year and preparing for new out-of-state and international marketing campaigns to launch in January 2017.

Assuming nothing changes, next year, Hillsborough will be able to raise the tourist tax by another percentage point.  It is time to start discussing (and not just behind the scenes) whether it will and for what it would go. Of course, with the efficient County Commission we have, it is not clear that conversation will happen, but it should.

Rowdies Rally

Decades after MLS, for whatever reason, decided against reviving the Rowdies name – giving us the Mutiny which were completely mishandled and did not last – there was an unexpected (at least in the specific timing) event in St. Pete this week.

Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards wants to become part of first division Major League Soccer, announcing a campaign toward that goal during a highly-attended event before fans at the Birchwood in downtown St. Petersburg on Tuesday night.

A presentation included renderings of renovated Al Lang Stadium, which would have to be expanded well past its current capacity of around 7,000 for an MLS franchise. Edwards said renovations would be privately funded.

But for any of it to happen, he needs the appropriate fan support. There will be no 18,000-seat Al Lang without an MLS franchise.

* * *

Edwards told the enthusiastic crowd, which included MLS representatives, that Al Lang would remain the site of the Rowdies. Improvements, rumored to be in the $80 million range if they take place, would lead to filled-out east end of the stadium where the old baseball centerfield wall now resides. 

Interesting.  We know he had talked about MLS someday, but we not expecting a push right now.  Here is a rendering of the stadium:

From the Business Journal - click on picture for article

From the Business Journal – click on picture for article

It is a bit unconventional but not bad.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman expressed excitement, calling the city and MLS a “perfect fit” while former Mayor Rick Baker, now president of the Edwards Group, laid out the four requirements for a franchise.

“The first is a strong ownership group, and we own that space,” he said. “Second, a strong media market, we own that space as well. Number three is a stadium site, and stadium plan. We would have the most gorgeous (waterfront) view not just in soccer, but in every sport in the country.”

The fourth — community support — seems to be the stickler.

Isn’t that often the issue?  In any event, how are they going to make this push?

The campaign, centered around the hash tag MLS2StPete, is similar to other cities (Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville) which will be vying alongside St. Petersburg. The league has 20 teams, with four more to join in 2018, and a possible four more beyond that where the Rowdies hope to fall in. 

Which is a bit odd.  The Rowdies were the first “Tampa Bay” team, focusing the idea of the Tampa Bay area uniting around something (and bringing us our first championship under the Tampa Bay name.) We get the owner is a St. Pete guy and a hashtag is not a deal killer to us, but, given the history of the area, it seems unproductive for driving support to not focus on the region (which is how the national media does it. See here.

But setting that aside (for the most part), there appear to us to be a few issues up front.


Garber said during that speech that while Orlando City Soccer controls the MLS territory and TV rights to this region, “it’s something that can be worked out,” a spokeswoman for Edwards said.

So that will take some money.  While Orlando teams generally do not have big followings in the Tampa Bay area, we doubt the Orlando owners would want to give up their media rights with a nice payout.

Second, location demographically.  Yes, the Al Lang site could work, but also runs the risk of having the same issues as the Trop. Physically, it is a nice spot by the water (though a little cramped to get a crowd in an out of on a routine basis with no transit) Demographically, it is not centrally located.  Yes, downtown St. Pete is nice and doing well and USF St. Pete is nearby, but they will still have to draw from the whole area. (That is basically why we do not understand the hash tag.)  Will enough people make the trip?  We don’t know.

Third, location physically.  While it is a good location physically, is the location a bit too tight. 18,000 would be the smallest MLS stadium. There are a few that are about that size, so maybe that is ok.  And having a more intimate stadium is not necessarily bad.  (There is also the question of whether St. Pete overall, not just City Hall, wants to lock up this portion of the waterfront.)  And there is always the issue that a stadium, even privately funded, would have to be approved by a referendum in St. Pete, which is never guaranteed.

Overall, it is very early in this process.  We are all for having the Rowdies in the MLS, especially if the stadium is built with private money.  We just have some concerns.  Then again, it is not our money. It definitely would be nice to have the Rowdies in the highest level of soccer again.

Meanwhile, in the Rest of Florida

There has been a much talk of innovation districts, startup centers and the like, including a relatively large one last week.  Therefore, it was interesting when we saw this in the Wall Street Journal:

A pair of private developers are looking to build a technology and cultural hub in a faded manufacturing neighborhood in Miami.

South Florida-based commercial real-estate brokerage and developer Metro 1 is working with private investment firm Dragon Global to develop a 15-acre mixed-use project, called Magic City, in Miami’s Upper East Side.

The goal is to attract a community of innovators and entrepreneurs to live, work and play in a walkable campuslike neighborhood that attracts technology companies and retailers, said Metro 1 President and Chief Executive Tony Cho.

The project is currently self-funded but over time the developers will look for long-term debt and equity partners, they said.

The $1 billion project, which the developers are dubbing “Innovation District,” will be developed in multiple phases over several years with the initial one focused on repurposing existing dilapidated factory space.

* * *

In all, about 170,000 square feet of industrial space would be repurposed for commercial and retail use, and there are plans to build an office tower that would house an innovation center, an amphitheater and residential units, said Mr. Cho.

We have no idea if it will be built as planned or built at all, but it is an interesting contrast to local plans (though there is an argument for starting small and building up).  Also interesting is this pitch:

In technology hubs such as New York City, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, employers often look for locations that are walkable, said Bob Zangrillo, CEO of Dragon Global, which has focused on internet and technology investments in social networking, e-commerce and entertainment media.

Building smaller apartments without having to build “behemoth garage space” will make the residential units more affordable for workers, Mr. Cho said, noting that ride-hailing apps will help to fill residents’ transportation needs.

We shall see what happens.  But just another sign that everyone is competing for innovation districts and hubs.

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the Country

— Atlanta and Highways

While FDOT (and local officials) work to expand our highways to bizarre size and cut a bigger gash through our urban areas, Atlanta, which has long had large highways is trying to deal with them:

Atlanta has a case of highway-capping fever.

First, Buckhead proposed a park over Ga. Highway 400; then downtown released their vision for capping the Connector with Stitch; and now, Sandy Springs is jumping on the bandwagon with an ambitious vision for an above-freeway park of their own.

According to Reporter Newspapers, the City of Sandy Springs unveiled its intentions to study the potential of a highway-capping park above Ga. Highway 400 at Johnson Ferry Road. Part of their updated land-use plan, the 20-acre park — more than double the size of Buckhead’s hypothetical green space — would be located just south of the Interstate 285 interchange.

The bridge would connect Pill Hill and the Medical Center MARTA Station on the eastern side of the highway with both planned and existing corporate centers on the western side. It would also sit along the planned Sandy Springs portion of PATH400, which is slated to pass through the interchange.

You can read here and here for more about the concept, but there are a couple of notable items.  First, Atlanta has realized that vast highways are not really conducive to an attractive living environment and is working to deal with them (not ripping them up, but at least hiding them and using the airspace for something pleasant).  Second, Sandy Springs is booming and they are looking to have their development connect better to their transit.  We are doing neither of those things.  Maybe we should learn from others’ mistakes and avoid making them in the first place.

— A Fortune 500 Company Downtown

As part of a trend of Fortune 500 companies moving their HQ’s to downtowns:

Johnson Controls spin-off Adient will move its operational global headquarters, along with hundreds of jobs, to downtown Detroit.

The global automotive seat manufacturer on Wednesday officially announced plans to make the Marquette Building — located at 243 W. Congress across from Cobo Center — its new home for 500 employees, including about 100 new positions that were with its former parent company in Milwaukee.

* * *

Adient purchased the 10-story, 164,000-square-foot building as well as a nearby parking garage as part of a $97.8 million investment for the move, including $50 million into renovating the Marquette Building.

The renovations are expected to take two years. In addition to office space, the building is expected to include a product showroom, fitness center, eatery and rooftop terrace.

The Marquette Building is one of the old office buildings in Detroit (you can see it here)  Also note, if you are inclined to too up the forunte 500 list,

though not yet an official member of the Fortune list, Johnson Controls’ $17.1 billion in 2015 automotive revenue would have ranked it 163rd in the Fortune 500 as a standalone company.

We get that it is a car supplier, which makes Detroit more attractive (though it also shows that getting a company to move from its core area is not simply a matter of low taxes and beaches).  Nevertheless, it is another example of the trend of the move to urban areas.

Hopefully, the Lightning owner will be successful attracting one to his project.

Interesting Graphic

One of the big selling points of the Tampa By area and Florida generally is low labor cost and low-cost of living (though that can be measured many ways that make it more or less true).  On the other hand, there has been a lot of news about rising home prices (which is not good with low wages).  Therefore, the following graphic that depicts the size of house one can buy with $300,000 in various metro areas is interesting.

From - click on graphic for article

From – click on graphic for article

You can actually mess around with the full, interactive version here

Just something to keep in mind (and the fact that our wages tend to be lower than most major metros) when considering what our competitive advantage is.

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