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Trigaux: 5 economic trends that will drive Tampa Bay’s future

By Robert Trigaux
Under recently arrived CEO John Couris,Tampa General Hospital (pictured) in Tampa plans to strengthen its ties to to USF's College of Medicine as it relocates downtown across the water in the rising Water Street Tampa project. Tampa General also plans an aggressive expansion of its clinics across the metro area -- a trend also under way at other major hospital chains here -- to provide more basic care out in the region's communities and away from the more expensive emeregency rooms of its hospitals. All this healthcare expansion will mean more jobs over time. [Times files]

Tampa Bay and Florida are like most metros and states — vying to get bigger, stronger and eager to do more. What they don’t have, they want. And what they do have needs to be remodeled often to remain bright and shiny. (If somebody has the money.) With Florida and Tampa Bay unemployment rates at 3.8 and 3.3 percent, respectively, economic aspirations are predictably high. More jobs. Better airports. More sports stadiums. More spending by the rich. Here are five business trends that shed some light on what’s happening here. And yes, the last trend may deserve the most attention.

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1. Watch healthcare lead region’s job boom

Times file photo

Under recently arrived CEO John Couris,Tampa General Hospital (pictured) in Tampa plans to strengthen its ties to to USF’s College of Medicine as it relocates downtown across the water in the rising Water Street Tampa project.

Tourism and construction employment enjoy much of the spotlight on hiring in Tampa Bay, but the Big Kahuna of jobs in the future will probably be health care. Nationally, that sector will add more jobs than any other sector in the coming decade, while manufacturers are expected to shed the greatest number of positions.

RELATED COVERAGE: Record applicants to USF medical school ahead of new facility.

Health-related jobs in areas such as home health care and hospitals will grow by about 3.7 million jobs by 2026, according to a recent report released by the federal Labor Department. Consider the people trend in Tampa Bay. Lots of people are moving here and many — especially retiring Baby Boomers — will have a high demand for a broad range of medical services. Hiring will be healthy for those with some type of medical skills.

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2. Airports: Must they constantly reinvent themselves?

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Maryann Ferenc of Tampa’s Mise en Place restaurant stands in front of her First Flight wine bar before its recent closing due to ongoing construction at Tampa International Airport.

I’ve traveled a bit in the last year to airports I have never seen before or at least not visited in decades. Sacramento? Philadelphia? Denver? These airports are fresh and sharp looking. They and others on the rebound should serve as a reality check to the notion Tampa International Airport easily outpaces most airports for efficiency and cool, contemporary services.

RELATED COVERAGE: Tampa airport’s shuttle trams arrive from Japan at Port Tampa Bay.

Yes, Tampa Bay’s chief airport is going through massive renovation inside and out. And more is on its way. Let’s just say that more cities with faded air facilities realize a well run and amenity-rich airport can be a huge benefit to broader economic development. Now every significant airport —TIA included — must be more vigilant to remain competitive. What’s TIA’s weak link? Lack of mass transit to get there and back.

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3. We’ve got the fever for ever more sports stadiums

[Courtesy of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan]

Stadium fever is alive and well. Pictured is a rendering of the proposed new Rays ball park location near Ybor City.

Tampa Bay’s never met a stadium idea it did not like. So it seems these days with a flurry of sports stadiums appearing on the wish lists of pro and college sports teams. Hillsborough County in recent days just unveiled a proposed stadium site near Ybor City for the Tampa Bay Rays. Stadium price: About $650 million.

RELATED COVERAGE: Key to Rays stadium? Location, location, location. (Also money, money money.)

The University of South Florida’s sharing a rendering of a $200 million (or so) football stadium of its own near its Tampa campus. The Tampa Bay Rowdies keep improving an old waterfront baseball stadium in downtown St. Petersburg into what may become a pro soccer mecca. And Dunedin is close to an $81 million deal of city, state, county and team funds to keep the Toronto Blue Jays in town for spring training by upgrading Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the team’s training facility.

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4. Really rich guys are calling more of our economic shots

[Photo credit: Corbis, 2011]

Bill Gates observes Jefferson High School students during a chemistry class. Gates visited the school as part of his foundation’s education reform effort.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his mega-money partner Bill Gates (via Cascade Investment) are working on the $3-billion-plus Water Street Tampa project.

RELATED COVERAGE: Patel to focus on philanthropy after sale of Freedom Health.

Kiran Patel — health care entrepreneur, hotel developer, philanthropist and builder of the area’s largest single family home in this market — just committed $200 million to start a new medical school in Clearwater with Nova Southeastern University. Bill Edwards is quick to spend his own money on stadium improvements for his Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team. Tom James, longtime leader of Raymond James Financial, is underwriting a new museum to display his own western and wildlife themed art collection. More than ever, the deep pockets of a wealthy few are driving the area economy.

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5. What economic rebound? Poverty needs more community support

[CHERIE DIEZ | Times, 2016]

A Pinellas Hope resident empties water out of her tent after heavy rain and wind from Hurricane Hermine in 2016.

Just in case we get too giddy reading about rich guys building stuff, new sports stadiums and fashionable airports, consider the status of a too-large portion of Florida’s population. More than 4 of every 10 households in this state — 3.3 million of the state’s 7.5 million households — still struggle to make ends meet.

RELATED COVERAGE: Bowen: Pasco County tries to navigate pitfalls of homelessness.

So says the United Way’s "Alice" (standing for "Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed") report that quantifies the poor and working poor. In Hillsborough County alone, 210,307 of the 503,154 total households live in poverty or have low-wage jobs that make it hard to cover basic living requirements. New data out in recent days say that among the 50 biggest U.S. metro areas, Tampa Bay ranks No. 13 based on a 4.5 percent overall eviction rate. These remain startling figures.