Reporter's economic notes from wandering the Republican National Convention so far
The recently opened Center for Advanced Medial Learning and Simulation, or CAMLS, in downtown Tampa is getting plenty of attention as an event site during this week's Republican National Convention. Above, CAMLS CEO Debbie Sutherland in one of the training facility's trauma OR rooms. Photo: Daniel Wallace, Tampa Bay Times
Wake up and good morning. With the Republican National Convention now in full swing, here are five items for business readers that help capture at least some of the flavor of this metro area trying to show off its economy.
* FrontRowTampaBay, the regional economic development's live and online equivalent of 16 hours of elevator pitches to RNC attendees stretched over four days, continues livestreaming this morning at 9 am and runs until 1 p.m. I attended the actual production of the show on Monday and caught some of the online segments on Tuesday, including TECO Energy CEO John Ramil talking about the challenges of generating electricity, and entrepreneur Bret Tobey whose latest incarnation called Carvoyant has gone through several names changes (like Auto IQ) since Tobey graduated from USF St. Pete's inaugural Gazelle Lab business accelerator program. (The bad news is Gazelle Lab had to take a break while it tries to raise more funding to support its efforts.) Here's my early take on Front Row? It has great potential. My only criticism is that when I go to the web site other than between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., the site says "Offline" when it should be offering a menu of the dozens of segments it's already done. That's wasted opportunity this week, when attendees are in town and Tampa Bay is more on their minds.
* At the Monday evening reception at USF's classy CAMLS (Computer for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation) in downtown Tampa, many bigwigs attended, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Al Austin and wife Beverly, USF president Judy Genshaft and medical school dean Stephen Klasko among many others. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was supposed to make some remarks but his place was taken by James Lankford, the wiry Republican congressman from Oklahoma whose booming bass voice so clashes with his small frame that Lankford suggests he and ex-boxer/tough guy Mike Tyson should swap voices. Lankford's message? Oklahoma City's 5 percent unemployment rate in June was the lowest jobless rate of any U.S. metro area with more than 1 million in population. Lower rates are possible, Lankford said and encouraged Tampa Bay -- jobless rate now 9.4 percent -- to keep pressing for more and better jobs.
* Anyone who's been in downtown Tampa this week should not be surprised that many businesses caught in the crazy matrix of fences, closed streets, traffic confusion and the military atmosphere are not feeling the financial love from the convention. Just ask David Cullen who was expecting a big business for his Quiznos restaurant in this Tampa Bay Times piece, and similar reports from patch.com and tbo.com. Places that expected to feed lots of people from the RNC swell just are not seeing it happen.
* I caught up with Tampa Chamber chief Bob Rohrlack who had just left Tuesday's Poynter Institute luncheon featuring the two hosts of the MSNBC Morning Joe show, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Rohrlack says the entire team at the chamber has the same job this week: To help the media get the best information about Tampa's economy. It makes for long days. Rohrlack says his wife is asking about this coming weekend's plans. That's easy, says Rohrlack: "To sleep."
* Tampa Bay and Charlotte, respective host cities to the RNC and DNC shows this week and next, have chosen different strategies to pitch their economic potential to convention attendees. Read more about those differences in my column here in today's Tampa Bay Times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times