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Tampa is nobody’s second city. The metropolitan area might be smaller than South Florida, but the Tampa Bay region is booming with development and an emerging tech scene; a thriving arts, entertainment and food culture; and major communities such as St. Petersburg and Sarasota that have their own unique vibes. The tourism industry generates an $8.5 billion economic impact, says Visit Tampa Bay, much of it traversing through Tampa International Airport, considered one of the nation’s best.
Logistics & Transportation
Situated not far from Port Tampa Bay and with easy access to markets to the north via I-75, City Furniture’s new behemoth of a distribution center complex says much about where the region and the company is going. The warehouse alone has 5 million cubic feet of capacity, and the company’s emphasis on cleaner energy and sustainable practices includes a compressed natural gas refueling facility for its delivery trucks. The facility is 50% bigger than what had been City Furniture’s biggest warehouse, says CEO Andrew Koenig.
The Tampa Bay region is a key logistics and transportation center, benefiting from the intersecting I-75 and I-4, a network of connector roads and Port Tampa Bay, one of the largest and busiest ports in the nation. With direct services to Asia and connections in Mexico and Central America, Port Tampa Bay is a significant container market. The Tampa Bay/Orlando I-4 Corridor has the largest concentration of distribution centers in the state within reach of markets throughout the Southeast and beyond. Tampa officials frequently note that a truck picking up cargo in Tampa’s port can deliver it to New York City without ever encountering a stop light. Less than 40 miles to the south is SeaPort Manatee, the closest U.S. deepwater port to the Panama Canal.
The International Trade Hub at SeaPort Manatee is advancing a leading-edge innovation and technology center in partnership with Oxford Group, a Boca Raton-based leader in facilitation of global business investments. The firm specializes in trade with Brazil, doing business in Spanish, English and Portuguese. The International Trade Hub at SeaPort Manatee provides expert advice and support tools to scores of diverse companies.
Life Sciences & Health Care
For generations, Tampa General Hospital has been an institution central to the lives and well-being of residents. But its expansion from its center on Davis Islands off of downtown Tampa into the city has created an emerging medical district that is shaping Tampa’s future too. John Couris, the hospital’s CEO, says the Tampa General Hospital Medical and Research District will attract the brightest minds in medical research, which in turn will draw startup founders, venture capitalists and thousands of new, high-paying jobs. A Washington Economics Group study estimates the district will produce an $8.3 billion annual economic impact and support nearly 58,000 jobs – with more than 41,000 in the Tampa area. “What’s most important is the economic prosperity of our region and of our state,” Couris says. “And the medical and research communities are a big part of that conversation.”
TGH opened an 80-bed rehabilitation hospital on Tampa’s Kennedy Boulevard in 2022, followed by a $15 million emergency center. It broke ground weeks later on an adjacent psychiatric center due to open with about 100 beds this year. The ER and psychiatric center are about a mile and a half from the hospital’s 30-acre Davis Islands campus, which also is expanding with a $510 million, 12-story surgical neurosciences and transplant tower. A proton therapy center for cancer patients is still to come. The University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine (TGH serves as the teaching hospital for the college) and USF’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) are a short distance away. Tampa’s medical district is modeled after similar, well-established districts in Boston, Houston and Chicago.
In St. Petersburg, legendary tech investor Cathie Wood is shaping the Ark Innovation Center, which will be home to startups and provide programing for the city’s emerging tech community. Working in partnership with the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Wood – who also has shaped STEM curriculum in Pinellas County public schools – is building programs to advance the series of disruptive innovations, like artificial intelligence and robotics, that her investment funds believe will shape the future.
Israeli cybersecurity company Cybecs recently announced Tampa will be its regional headquarters. It is leasing space in downtown Tampa as it builds its operations. Cybecs has more than 100 employees worldwide.
WellnessLiving, a Toronto-based tech company focused on the wellness industry, has set up shop in a 4,000-sq.-ft. corporate office center near International Plaza in Tampa as it serves nearly 5,000 companies and 15 million users. The company’s software works with companies providing wellness benefits to employees, scheduling classes, appointments and increasing engagement.
A new WalletHub ranking puts Tampa at the top of the nation’s best places to retire. The study looked at more than 180 cities and ranked them based on 45 metrics, including adjusted cost of living, taxpayer friendliness, recreational activities, violent crime, property crime, air quality, water quality and health care.
Construction on the massive Gas Worx development in Ybor City is underway. Developer Darryl Shaw is bringing 5,000 apartment units, over 500,000 square feet of office space, and 140,000 square feet of new retail. Overall, Gas Worx will be about 50 acres. Shaw also wants to build a stadium for the United Soccer League’s Super League new women’s professional soccer league team coming to Tampa in August 2024.
Double Branch, a massive mixed-use development that will cost more than $2 billion to complete and is expected to generate an economic impact of more than $600 million, is underway in Pasco County. The venture, located just off I-75 in central Pasco County, will span more than 900 acres when completed.
Lakeland is putting its focus on infrastructure, health care, education and affordable housing as it now ranks as one of the fastest growing cities in Florida. Driven by the expansion of the corporate headquarters for Publix and significant growth from Amazon making Lakeland Linder Regional Airport a distribution hub, Lakeland also is benefiting from young families seeking more attainable housing. Lending Tree, a loan marketplace for businesses, recently ranked Lakeland third in a list of U.S. “boomtowns.”
The University of South Florida is a new member of the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only organization of North America’s leading research universities. With campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF serves more than 50,000 students in a curriculum that emphasizes experiential learning. The university also now has the go-ahead to build an on-campus football stadium in Tampa.