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Robert Trigaux

Tampa Bay rises from 6th to 3rd in regional economic scorecard

Garysassocolorcarltonfields Wake up and good morning. Holy report card! Among its metro peers, Tampa Bay is on the rise! At 8 a.m in Tampa, the new Spring 2009 "Regional Economic Scorecard" is officially released and Tampa Bay is no longer the bottom dweller. The Tampa Bay Partnership, which crunches these numbers, meets this morning to explain more about the nice uptick. We'll follow up with details after that meeting. Here's the entire report.

And here's what we do know: It is a muted victory. Tampa Bay improved in large part because the recession caught many competing metro areas and dragged them down. Still, that means Tampa Bay held its own better than its peers in the same period. Here's how Gary Sasso (see photo), CEO of the Carlton Fields law firm and the Partnership's business intelligence chair, who leads the scorecard initiative, characterized the new scores:

"While previous scorecards showed Tampa Bay entered a recessionary period earlier that the comparison regions, this edition clearly illustrates how the national recession has affected the economies of the comparison regions, in some cases, more severely than Tampa Bay."

Among six metro areas (Tampa Bay, Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Raleigh/Durham and Dallas), Tampa Bay rose from 6th to 3rd, according to new data in today's scorecard. Here are the quickie rankings but read on for why we improved.

1. Raleigh/Durham (a perennial at the top of the list).

2. Dallas (a powerhouse in employment and good wages).

3. Tampa Bay and Atlanta (tied) (we are weak in "innovation" but Atlanta's strong)

5. Jacksonville (best housing prices, worst in innovation).

6. Charlotte (home to troubled BofA, deposed Wachovia -- need I say more?)

To get out of the basement, Tampa Bay saw big gains in the following economic categories. For the first time since the inception of the scorecard, Tampa Bay’s ranking for Housing improved from sixth to third reflecting the dramatic changes (translation? housing prices have plummeted so dramatically here we're now more competitive) that have occurred in housing in Tampa Bay and all the comparison regions.

Tampa Bay’s ranking for Employment and Workforce improved from sixth to fourth (curious, given our unemployment rate well north of 10 percent, but we'll take it) with rankings for job creation, job growth, unemployment rate and labor force growth advancing.

Education, says the Tampa Bay Partnership analysis, "continues to be an area where Tampa Bay shows strength" (I am not sure whether to laugh or cry on this one).

(Side note: Tampa Bay wages and income remain sub-par and dragged the metro area lower, not higher, in this category.)

Overall, does this mean Tampa Bay's crawling out of tough economic times? Sasso offers some optimism:

"While the overall indicators remain down, there are bright signs that the region may be turning the corner. Of the 25 indicators tracked in the Scorecard, 21 could be updated with new data on this Scorecard. Of those 21 updated indicators, nine rankings remained unchanged, eight improved, and four declined. This is the second consecutive scorecard where improving indicators outnumber the declining indicators."

We'll revisit this topic shortly.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist 

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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