Amid dour economy looms Super Bowl promise
For a moment I thought I was moderating the Four Horsemen of the Apocaplypse but it turned out to be four area business leaders Thursday afternoon forecasting rough times ahead for the Tampa Bay economy. Raymond James economist Scott Brown, Echelon Real Estate Service's Michael Talmadge, Progress Energy Florida CEO Jeff Lyash and Visit Florida research director Barry Pitegoff -- all sharp observers of the business scene -- offered gloomy assessments for at least the next couple of quarters. Here's St. Petersburg Times reporter Lorri Helfand's summary coverage of the event.
Small wonder. New data out Friday morning show the Tampa Bay metro area unemployment rose at a startling pace in October to 7.4 percent, up from 7.1 percent in September, according to a monthly report by the state Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Thursday's event, an annual look-ahead sponsored by the Largo Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Largo Library Foundation (have to admit, they have one snazzy library there), came with one bright light. Bob Sullivan. president of the 2008 Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee -- he helped make Super Bowl 42 last February into the second most watched event in TV history (after the last show of the MASH series in 1983) -- shared his enthusiasm for the economic potential of the coming Super Bowl in Tampa in February. Sullivan claimed the Arizona event generated more than a $500-million impact on the area economy in and about Glendale, AZ. He helped create a new Super Bowl mascot called "Spike" the football and praised an ad campaign that featured regular folks wearing eye black (the black smear football players wear under their eyes to cut sun glare), kind of like the popular "Got Milk?" ad campaign.
Overall, Sullivan -- who toured Raymond James Stadium Thursday morning -- is impressed with the Tampa Bay level of preparation so far for the upcoming Super Bowl. Of course, he noted, this metro area has had plenty with Super Bowls. He suggested future Super Bowls would play in the newest stadiums, including the $1-billion stadium going up for the Dallas Cowboys. The Super Bowl in 2011 will play there.
One cautionary note. Sullivan was asked what was his biggest challenge in prepping Glendale and Arizona for the Super Bowl. "Herding cats," he said. It was tough to make sure everybody was happy, including venues and towns around the stadium, metro area and state.
Photo above of Bob Sullivan at the "Focus on 2009 economic forecast" in Largo by Jim Damaske of the St. Petersburg Times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist