Economic developer Mark Huey trades Tampa hat for Sarasota, ties fate to Jackson Lab relocation
Wake up and good morning. The last time I saw Mark Huey, he was sitting at a roundtable earlier this year at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce HQ talking with a bunch of folks about how to try and save the high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, which was then under sharp criticism by the new state governor. That deal failed to materialize and now Huey, who led Tampa's economic development efforts under Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio for eight years, has decided to move on and take over as president and chief executive of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County on June 27. Current EDC chief Kathy Baylis is retiring.
EDC vice chairman Benjamin Hanan said the EDC’s five-month national search for a new executive was attracted 80 inquiries that were narrowed to five finalists.
The good news for the greater Tampa Bay area is that Huey is already intimate with this region's economic development team and should only reinforce a "greater" Tampa Bay effort to coordinate business and economic expansion.
Huey, 53, told the Tampa Tribune (here) and Sarasota Herald Tribune (here) that he started looking at other opportunities in part because of the collapse of high-speed rail in Florida. And he said he was impressed by Sarasota's public, business and philanthropic leaders rallying around economic opportunities, especially the effort to recruit Maine's Jackson Laboratory, the biomedical institution looking to build a satellite campus in Florida.
Indeed, the fate of Jackson Lab -- will it or will it not expand to Sarasota County? -- may already looming as Huey's legacy even before he starts work. The odds are dicey so far. The Bradenton Herald reports Jackson Lab won’t make a third attempt to win state funding if this year’s efforts are not successful. "We’ve been through the mill of Tallahassee twice," Jackson spokesman Mike Hyde told the Sarasota Economic Development Corp. "We’d be unwilling to lead another charge to Tallahassee."
That seems to be rubbing some local politicians the wrong way. As the Bradenton paper notes, one local legislator says Jackson Laboratories is being too inflexible given the state of the economy. "I always thought they were a long-shot this year because they got started so late," Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, told the Bradenton Herald. "But if they’re not willing to come back next year, that’s their decision. Looking for $100 million in a tough budget year is not easily done in this state or any other."
Good luck, Jackson Lab. And that goes double to Mr. Huey.
Previously, Huey was chief operating officer at Metropolitan Ministries, chief financial officer at the Tampa Housing Authority. He has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a BA in accounting from the University of Florida.
In Tampa, one of the last economic initiatives with Huey's hand on it involved a proposal to offer property tax breaks to new and existing businesses to jump-start the city's slow economy. This week, the Tampa city council gave a tentative nod to the tax breaks, first proposed by Iorio and now backed by Tampa's newly arrived Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The tax breaks were approved by voters in the March 1 election.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times