GE brings to light just how far Tampa Bay is slipping behind top tier cities
It's hard to imagine, but there was a time during the 00's that Tampa Bay leaders really believed suburban office parks would be the future.
They planned to make Interstate 4 a "High Tech Corridor" lined with massive office parks, from Tampa to Orlando.
"Economic developers and corridor promoters agree that the coming decade will be the critical time to position Florida's High-Tech Corridor as more high-tech companies nationwide seek out a home base," Florida Trend wrote in 2001. "While not yet on par with the big-league regions, central Florida's manufacturing and high-tech companies have gained real momentum. Says Guy Hagen, assistant director for economic development at USF: 'The (growth) curve is beginning to be visible.'"
Yeah, well, we know how that's turned out. Not only is the jury in, they've gone home. Years ago.
As Robert Trigaux noted last week, GE's selection of Boston over Tampa for the company's new headquarters provides numerous lessons in how effective our high-tech strategy has been. Florida's main pitch of low taxes lost out to Boston's reputation for innovation.
But don't take his word for it.
There's this report from NPR, that explained GE's move from its sprawling Fairfield, Conn. campus was further evidence that "today's knowledge workers want bike racks and subway stops, not country clubs and parking garages."
Or here's a dispatch from WBUR Boston where an entrepreneur says millennials like her want "to work near where we live."
This livablity didn't just happen. Risks were made. Political capital was spent.
Boston withstood so much criticism for investing billions in the Big Dig, but those dividends are now paying off. As one real estate broker told WBUR about Boston's success: "To me, it's the Big Dig and the Greenway getting established, and sort of the beautification of the waterfront connecting to the Financial District. All of a sudden it just becomes a livable city, more than it was in the past. It all sort of becomes together as work-play-live. Boston's right there taking advantage of it."
Infrastructure investment + time = improved connectivity = livability.
There's nothing new here. But when a corporate titan that is fighting hard to retain its 20th century image for innovation decides to move to Boston, it's further proof that the urban marketplace has won, at least when it comes to luring high paying jobs.
Contrast that with how few politicians or corporate leaders in Tampa Bay campaign for any infrastructure project of great expense. It's just too risky. Or just read some of the comments from the modest projects that are proposed.
Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Transportation announced it had bought land for what one day could be a transportation hub for rail and buses near West Shore.
Here's a comment from a reader named Terry Hutchinson:
Yeah! We are replacing a higher end hotel and iconic restaurant with a $50 million++ bus station. That should permanently depress property values for at least 10 square blocks. I hope someone is planning funding for the 20 new cops TPD will have to hire. (And their body armor - have you seen Marion St after dark?) THIS is why taxes are such a horrible thing. It is not just the money they steal from the productive economy. It is the mischief they create with the huge piles of their ill-gotten booty.
Imagine what the reaction would be if a Big Dig were proposed?
Oh, and that dream of the High Tech Corridor? It's still being still being pushed as the future.
So maybe the next generation of workers is our best hope?