Photo: Eve Edelheit/Tampa Bay Times
2015 Economic Yearbook - Tampa Bay
A plan for downtown Tampa?
Waterfront Development: Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik announced plans in December to transform 40 acres in Tampa's downtown waterfront district into what he calls a "live, work, play and stay" environment. When fully built out in five to seven years, the socalled "front door to the city" will feature 1.1 million square feet of office space, 660,000 square feet of residential space, 575,000 square feet of hotel and meeting space, 250,000 square feet of retail and as many as five parking garages. Incorporating the existing Marriott Waterside Hotel and the Amalie Arena, where the Lightning play, the new development will add a 400- room hotel connected to the Tampa Convention Center and include sites for the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Heart Health Institute on land donated by Vinik. An investment fund controlled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates will help finance the plan.
Headquarters: Atlanta edged out Tampa in a competition to land the U.S. headquarters of Mercedes- Benz, which is relocating from New Jersey, but Tampa economic development officials are encouraged that the city stayed in the running as long as it did. As the revitalization of downtown proceeds, landing a "brand name" corporate headquarters remains a priority, and the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. has formed a task force with a goal of accomplishing that task within three years. Meanwhile, Citigroup has announced that it is considering adding more than 1,100 jobs if it can secure $15 million in incentives.
Transportation and Logistics: At Tampa International Airport, the first phase of a $1-billion renovation/ expansion program is under way as new airlines and flights to previously unserved international destinations are added. Most notable: Lufthansa begins non-stop service from TIA to Frankfurt in September. Meanwhile, Port Tampa Bay, named among the top 20 ports by Global Trade maga-zine, is prepping for completion of the Panama Canal expansion with new gantry cranes that will allow for loading/unloading of larger container ships.
Person to Watch
Jeff Vinik: In 2010, Vinik bought a failing hockey franchise, the lease to the team's arena and a few acres of vacant land nearby. The former hedge fund manager not only turned the hockey team around and improved the venue where it plays, but he also snatched up more nearby parcels of real estate, eventually amassing 40 acres of prime waterfront property, including Channelside Bay Plaza and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. Along the way, he formulated a vision for what the city could become.
Businesses to Watch
Tribridge: The technology services firm employs 600 nationwide, including 240 in the Tampa Bay area, and plans to nearly double its local work force with the expansion of its Tampa headquarters. Another 200 local IT jobs are expected by 2016.
LabTech Software: The IT firm plans to add 100 jobs and spend close to $644,000 to expand its Tampa headquarters. Says CEO Matt Nachtrab, "We're thrilled that our commitment to the growth of the LabTech product and our commitment to the local economy can go hand-in-hand."
Quest Diagnostics: Medical testing services provider Quest Diagnostics has opened a 48,000-sq.-ft. national operations center in Tampa to enhance customer service and support human resources activities nationwide; 350 new jobs are anticipated.
Cognizant: This Fortune 500 global provider of IT, consulting and business process services will expand its operations in Tampa, adding more than 400 jobs and investing approximately $5.7 million in its Tampa operations over the next four years.
Big Brothers Big Sisters: The widely respected non-profit mentoring organization announced plans in January to move its national headquarters from Texas to Tampa with the expectation of creating 20 new jobs. Pam Iorio, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, was mayor of Tampa from 2003-11.
St. Petersburg/ Pinellas County
Development: With the resurgence of the economy, real estate development has returned to Pinellas in a big way — particularly in downtown St. Petersburg, where luxury condominiums, townhomes and apartments are rising at a rapid pace. In 2000, there were 5,301 multifamily residential units downtown; at the end of 2014, there were 8,027. Downtown living has become fashionable again as towering residential complexes with names like Bliss, The Salvador and One St. Petersburg take shape within an urban core that also includes upscale restaurants, galleries and shops.
Population: Demographics in St. Petersburg are changing along with the urban landscape. Once known for a large population of retirees, St. Pete today is the top city in Florida for drawing millennials based on job availability, salaries, rent and the number of millennials already living here, according to the website nerdwallet. Com.
Tourism: Tourism continues to be a driving economic force in Pinellas, which set another bed-tax record last year by collecting more than $35 million, up 12.7% over the previous year. Another positive indicator: In January, ground was finally broken in Clearwater Beach for the 15-story, 700,000-sq.-ft. Wyndham Grand Resort that had been tabled since the economy crashed in 2007.
Businesses to Watch
iQor: The global outsourcing firm with 32,000 employees in 17 countries relocated its headquarters from New York City to three floors of One Progress Plaza in downtown St. Petersburg in January. Some reasons for the move: iQor purchased the Aftermarket Services business of St. Pete-based Jabil Circuit in April 2014, and several top executives at iQor, including CEO Hartmut Liebel, are former Jabil employees.
Sundial: A wide range of new and eclectic tenants continues to create buzz for the retail/dining/ entertainment plaza, formerly known as BayWalk, in downtown St. Petersburg. Recent openings include Sea Salt and Locale Market.
PODS: On the heels of winning a $62-million trademark infringement lawsuit against U-Haul International for its use of the word "pods" in marketing materials, the Clearwater-based moving and storage firm has been purchased by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan for a reported $1 billion-plus. PODS headquarters is expected to remain in Clearwater.
GE Energy Management: Construction continues on GE Energy Management's 190,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing Center of Excellence in Clearwater. The $50-million project, which is expected to generate 250 jobs when fully operational by the end of the year, represents a reinvestment in Pinellas County, where GE, which employs 430 locally, has had a presence for nearly 40 years.
Person to Watch
Rick Kriseman: St. Petersburg's mayor was successful in raising the minimum wage for city employees to $12.50 an hour. Now he's focused on pushing through plans for a replacement for the city's iconic Pier attraction and an effort to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in the area.
Lakeland/ Polk County
Real Estate: The housing market in Polk continues to rebound. A total of 6,085 existing homes were sold in 2014, compared to 5,851 in 2013 and the highest total since 2005. At $139,975, December's median home price topped the previous year's by 7.7%. Polk Realtor associations recorded 523 existing home sales in December, up 12.7% from December 2013 sales of 464.
Logistics: Polk County solidified its position as the distribution hub for central Florida with a gathering of local leaders and legislators in mid-October to celebrate the grand opening of CSX's Intermodel Logistics Center in Winter Haven. The 318-acre center has the capacity to process up to 300,000 containers annually and is designed for expansion as freight volume grows. Features include five 3,000-foot loading tracks and two 10,000-foot arrival and departure tracks as well as three electric cranes for loading and unloading.
Tourism: Polk County collected $7.7 million in tourist taxes last year topping the previous year's tax revenue by 12% and breaking the previous record of $7.3 million set in 2008. Tourism officials credited Legoland Florida and the new Streamsong golf resort for helping to bring a record number of visitors into the area.
Person to Watch
Adrian Jones: Legoland Florida opens its on-site hotel on May 15 and officially becomes Legoland Florida Resort, with Jones as general manager of the attraction. With the opening of the hotel, which has been under construction for two years, Jones says, "Legoland transitions from a single-day visit theme park to a multiday resort destination." Inside the five-story hotel will be 2,000 models constructed from about 2 million Lego bricks.
Business to Watch
Southeastern University: A $25-million expansion program slated to begin at Southeastern University this spring will include three buildings, a track and field facility and a parking garage. The additions represent phase two of a master plan launched four years ago to accommodate growth at the Lakelandbased university, which Executive Vice President Brian Carroll says is "bursting at the seams." Student enrollment at Southeastern — 2,500 in 2011 and currently 3,434 — is expected to reach 4,200 next year.
County Population: 639,175 , up 6.0% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 6.1%
Per capita income: $36,984
Development: Pasco County is enjoying rapid growth, says John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council. Under construction are a hockey facility, an outlet mall, a 100-room hotel, a medical office building and four major residential communities in various stages of development along the State Road 54 corridor between I-75 and U.S. 19. Entrepreneurship also is expanding through the efforts of SMARTstart Business Incubators in Dade City and New Port Richey, which, to date, have assisted 33 companies, creating 64 jobs.
New Jobs: Two projects are generating excitement, says Citrus County Economic Development Council Executive Director Don Taylor. One is Duke Energy's plan to build a $1.5-billion natural gas plant on 400 acres near the existing Crystal River Energy Complex; construction, which is slated to begin in early 2016, will likely generate 600 to 700 jobs. "We're excited about the state budget, too," says Taylor, citing Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $148.9-million FDOT allocation for extension of the Suncoast Parkway through Citrus County; currently, it stops at the Hernando County line. "That would be huge for us."
County Population: 149,070 , up 5.5% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 6.7%
Per capita income: $36,455
Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector is looking stronger than ever, says county administrator Len Sossamon. Micro Matic USA, maker of beverage dispensing devices, has broken ground on a 60,000-sq.- ft. Manufacturing facility fronting the Suncoast Parkway near the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, and another manufacturer, not ready to go public with its plans yet, is in negotiations with the county to construct a 100,000-sq.-ft. plant nearby.
Meanwhile, along I-75, a $75-million project to install new ramps for better on-off access is under way, just in time, says Sossamon, to accommodate a planned 50-acre amusement park adjacent to the highway.