Dialing down: TECO pegs 1.4 percent as 'the new normal' for area customer growth
Wake up and good morning. Here's a snapshot of some significant Tampa Bay economic trends through the eyes of TECO Energy, a major energy supplier to portions of the metro region and one of Tampa Bay's major headquartered corporations. These insights emerged in discussions TECO executives held with analysts after the company's recent quarterly earnings release.
* Modest growth: "Since customer growth began to recover at the end of 2009, it has been on a solid trend up and, for the third and forth quarters of this year, reached 1.4 percent, approaching what we expect to be the new normal for customer growth," said Sandra Callahan (photo, right), TECO chief financial officer.
* Improving jobless rates: "All the local and state economic trends we've been showing you over time continue to be positive. In December the unemployment rate in Hillsborough County, which is Tampa Electric's primary service area, dropped to 7.6 percent, which is below the state and national levels for the first time since December 2006," Callahan said. "In 2012, the local area economy added 21,000 jobs, primarily in professional and business services, education and health services, and hospitality services."
* Housing on the rise: "The housing market also continued to strengthen, with more than 4,400 new single family building permits issued in Tampa Electric's service area last year," said Callahan.
* More people: "Despite another mild start to the winter, we saw therm (natural gas) sales increase in every retail segment, residential, commercial and industrial, as previously vacant residential housing was occupied and the Florida economy continued to improve," she said.
Bottom line? All systems are go, even if they remain in the slow lane. Still this all makes for a great take-off point to a stronger year and, most likely, an even better 2014. Read TECO's entire transcript with analysts here.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times