Imagining a Tampa Bay-Orlando economic plan
Wake up and good morning. What's this? Economic developers trying to look more than 15 minutes ahead? If it was not quite crystal clear yet, the Tampa Bay region and the greater Orlando area are becoming dance partners for the long haul as metropolitan areas with common interests start talking about working together as economic mega-regions to become more efficient in their larger project planning (think transportation and education, for examples) and to compete in an increasingly global arena.
Yeah, yeah. Heard that blather before. But at least the Tampa Bay Partnership and its Orlando counterpart, the Central Florida Partnership, are getting together next month in a precedent-setting meeting to discuss broad, common economic interests. Why now? Here's what those pushing this agenda -- including Progress Energy Florida CEO Jeff Lyash (above, in photo) and Orlando Magic COO Alex Martins (below in photo) -- say:
"While everyone has been impacted by the economic crisis, some regions are feeling the brunt of the storm while others are weathering through. Just as the severity of the crisis has been felt unequally, so too will growth return unequally. The regions that are best aligned to tackle major issues such as transportation, education, land use planning and workforce will emerge faster and grow stronger."
Hmmm. Not a bad argument. Lyash and Martins, by the way, will each chair their respective Tampa Bay Partnership and Central Florida Partnership organizations in 2010. So we'll be hearing more from each of them.
The meeting on May 7, dubbed the 2009 Super Regional Leadership Conference, takes place at the Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate. Here's the agenda which will focus on these topics:
* Understanding the benefit and necessity of moving from region to super-region to mega-region for economic competitiveness.
* Getting on the same page by coordinating the efforts and developing a common language among the Tampa Bay Partnership, Central Florida Partnership, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other groups representing Florida's economic future.
* Realizing metro areas "can't go it alone" any more. The Rocky Mountain area will be used as an example of large regional economies becoming more inter-connected, especially in transportation matters.
* How universities and the life sciences sector can help grow the Central Florida economy. Don't look now, but there's already a mega-region structure emerging of state universities, with mid-Florida becoming dominated by the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida. Imagine: Coordinating university expansion and aspirations with the economic and quality of life goals of this area. What a concept!
Okay. Some of this is pie in the sky. Some folks won't like the threat of regional homogenization. But I think it's a darn good idea to have this conversation. It's really won't be too long before the sprawl of Tampa Bay and Orlando meet and become one and, so far, the bureaucracy of seeking a better transportation system is appalling. Let's get ahead of the game for once. We'll track the Tampa Bay-Orlando mating game more in the coming weeks and months.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist