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As 2013 unfolds in Tampa Bay, it's a 2-step-forward, 1-step-back economy

Nuclear plant shutdowns, lofty aquarium ambitions, rapidly shrinking supermarkets and new hospital competition. Tampa Bay's 2013 economy started in the fast lane and never left. Remember all of these?

20. Electricity: Duke Energy opts to permanently shutter a broken Crystal River nuclear power plant. Look for a new natural gas plant to replace the lost electricity and higher rates to pay for it all.

19. Jobs: Tampa Bay's latest unemployment rate hits 7.9 percent, the lowest this metro area has seen in years.

18. Tourists: Florida enjoyed record tourism in 2012. A rising economy and the state celebrating its 500th anniversary may do it again this year.

17. Bankruptcy: Universal Healthcare, once a hot up-and-comer, collapses into bankruptcy and is sold to a New Jersey company. The downtown St. Petersburg firm remains under investigation for possible illegal financial conduct.

16. Fish story: Emboldened by Winter the Dolphin's success, an aging Clearwater Marine Aquarium says it will build a $160 million, 200,000-square-foot home in downtown Clearwater and draw 2.5 million visitors its first year. That's wishful thinking, but we sure like the basic idea.

15. Housing flips: Tampa Bay's housing market goes from buyer's to seller's market.

14. Gas prices: Area gas prices soared 50 cents since Jan. 1 to nearly $3.75. Are we heading to $4 a gallon?

13. Hospital wars: St. Petersburg Bayfront Medical Center, Pinellas County's last independent hospital, joins the for-profit hospital chain Health Management Associates. It means another player stakes a claim in regional health care competition.

12. Startup startup: FirstWaVE Venture Center opens in Tampa as a one-stop entrepreneur shop, fueled by a $1 million federal grant.

11. Medical partnering: Moffitt Cancer Center spinoff M2Gen, once research partner with giant Merck, gets a new drug development partner: Covance of Princeton, N.J.

10. Downsizing: Long dependent on tax revenues from its now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant, cash-strapped Citrus County must fiscally reinvent itself.

9. Meet the new boss: Creative global electronics maker Jabil Circuit of St. Petersburg gains a new CEO, Mark Mondello, to reach the next level.

8. Calling all ships: New port of Tampa CEO Paul Anderson arrives to turn the area's shipping business into a economic and jobs machine.

7. Contain yourself: For 11 more days until red-hot retailer the Container Store opens on March 16 across from International Plaza in Tampa.

6. End of land baron era: More than 5,000 homes plus retail and office space will rise on 2,400 of the 16,000-acre Starkey Ranch as part of a $50 million land deal in Pasco County. Most of the ranch becomes wilderness park land.

5. Call it Shrinkbay: Sweetbay Supermarket sheds 33 underperforming stores.

4. Home at last: USF St. Pete picks a 2.5-acre site for its homeless College of Business.

3. Tone deaf: State-run Citizens Property Insurance executives can't seem to stop living the high life while raising premiums on homeowners.

2. Now pitching: They sure can play baseball. Now the Tampa Bay Rays are out to win a tougher regional game to secure a new stadium.

1. Go fish: Hillsborough County can't resist subsidizing the new Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World site near Brandon.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@tampabay.com.

As 2013 unfolds in Tampa Bay, it's a 2-step-forward, 1-step-back economy 03/04/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:00am]

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