Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Business

Jeff Vinik's toughest task is now attracting corporations to Tampa

TAMPA — Jeff Vinik unveiled his plan to inject $1 billion of new development into downtown this week. Now the Tampa Bay Lightning owner is the talk of the town.

Sharing that vision with eager audiences, though, was the easy part.

The hard part will be finding a Fortune 500 corporation to move its headquarters to Tampa and plant its flag in the middle of Vinik's new development.

"Our number one goal — our full-court press — is to get a corporate headquarters," Vinik told the business executives of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. on Thursday.

The day before, Vinik revealed his plan to redevelop the area around Amalie Arena that he now calls the "waterfront district." He wants to add more than a dozen new structures and 3 million square feet of space to "live, work, stay and play."

That vision has two important bookends: the University of South Florida's new urban medical campus and a new corporate headquarters.

In January, USF will ask the Board of Governors to help pay for the new downtown medical school and heart institute at the corner of Channelside Drive and S Meridian Avenue. Vinik is confident state funding will come through, and he has pledged to build a medical office tower and parking garage next door to complement the medical school.

That construction could start in 2016. But office construction could take much longer to begin. That's because Vinik won't start on his office buildings — the plan calls for 1.1 million square feet of working space — until he signs tenants.

The corporate tenant that Vinik and his team covet most is a large company looking to move its headquarters, executives and employees to Tampa. Vinik already has the space mapped out: a new office tower and parking garage are set to rise at the corner of Channelside Drive and N Morgan Street, right across from Amalie Arena.

Hillsborough County officials have long coveted such a move. So has Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was Vinik's wingman during the unveiling of his vision this week.

"I think the market is increasingly ready for a corporate relocation," Buckhorn said.

The mayor said Vinik's project has a lot to offer the Fortune 500 set: They'll be able to shape their own "signature" building; they'll be in the heart of a new urban neighborhood and entertainment district; and the modern work force is increasingly drawn to such urban areas.

"These corporations are competing for intellectual capital," Buckhorn said. "They're competing for the next generation of workers, and the more competitive they are for young millennials, the better chance they have to attract talent."

John Boyd Jr., the principal of Boyd Co., a corporate site selection firm in New Jersey, believes Tampa is ripe for new businesses.

"That is the next frontier of corporate restructurings and reinventions," he said. "The trend is away from the old suburban office complexes and toward more urban areas.

"That fits in nicely with what Tampa offers with this new development."

He cited several factors in Tampa's favor: expanded international air service to Europe and Latin America; the emergence of high-quality office space; low operating costs compared with other communities; and the absence of a state income tax.

He said those could help Tampa overcome its shortcomings in the business world: lack of mass transit, lack of confidence in the state's public schools and a low-rent reputation.

"I think Tampa has always had kind of a grittier image," Boyd said.

But Tampa's biggest advantage, he said, is Vinik. The Lightning owner and former Wall Street manager said he will personally travel around the country to recruit companies.

"He's a finance wizard and he's very well-connected," Boyd said, "and he is putting in his personal resources, his personal name at stake."

But it will also take public dollars, in the form of incentives, to convince companies to make the move to Tampa. Enterprise Florida and the Hillsborough EDC have both pledged to provide those.

But so are governments across the country.

University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Kenneth Thomas has studied incentive programs offered in this country and abroad, and he's not a fan of them. He said it's bad public policy that forces governments to spend public dollars "cannibalizing" each other by raiding one another's private businesses. And they've been spending even more since the recession.

"There's dozens of governments that would love to get a Fortune 500 headquarters," he said. "It is very competitive right now."

Vinik, though, is ready to start his recruitment drive. Before, while his project was still under wraps, he wasn't able to do that. That's why this week's big reveal wasn't just aimed at the public — it was also aimed at corporate America.

"In the past we had to be prudent," Vinik said. "Now we can sell."

Times staff writer Robert Trigaux contributed to this report. Contact Jamal Thalji at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.

Comments
Pinellas County Commission shows support for CrossBay Ferry

Pinellas County Commission shows support for CrossBay Ferry

CLEARWATER –– The ferry that once linked St. Petersburg and Tampa downtowns took one step closer to returning in November.While the Pinellas County Commission didn’t approve spending money to help pay for the CrossBay Ferry during a meeting Tuesday, ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Louisiana shipbuilder hopes to bring 1,000 jobs to Tampa shipyard through Coast Guard icebreaker program

Louisiana shipbuilder hopes to bring 1,000 jobs to Tampa shipyard through Coast Guard icebreaker program

TAMPA — Tampa Ship could welcome more than 1,000 new shipbuilding jobs if Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards wins a major contract to build up to six Coast Guard polar icebreakers.Bollinger could start staffing up at Tampa Ship, which has 62 acres a...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Robert Traurig, who helped build one of the world’s largest law firms, dies at 93

Robert Traurig, who helped build one of the world’s largest law firms, dies at 93

Robert Traurig helped build one of the largest law firms in the world and, in so doing, swept Miami-Dade County upward.Brickell Avenue skyscrapers. Open-air malls like Cocowalk in Coconut Grove. Residential communities on the edge of the Everglades. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Hard Rock announces new hotel in Ireland in 2020

Hard Rock announces new hotel in Ireland in 2020

Hard Rock International is expanding across the pond. The Seminole Tribe-owned casino and hotel chain announced Tuesday that it will open a Hard Rock Hotel Dublin in 2020, its first hotel in Ireland. It will partner with Irish hotel company Tifco Lim...
Updated: 10 hours ago
New Spring Hill funeral home offers dining, catering services for grieving families

New Spring Hill funeral home offers dining, catering services for grieving families

SPRING HILL — A new funeral home, in response to changing mores, is focused on serving the living, providing homelike conviviality and social amenities that reach beyond attention to death.Yvette and Jim Klausch, licensed funeral directors with 40 ye...
Published: 07/17/18
Want to live on Beeswax Lane? Tampa Bay developers strain to create new street names

Want to live on Beeswax Lane? Tampa Bay developers strain to create new street names

When Newland Communities began developing FishHawk Ranch in Hillsborough County two decades ago, naming streets wasn’t much of a problem."Literally, we would get out our list of Florida native bird names every time a new section came online," said Pa...
Published: 07/17/18
Florida nursing homes have enough staff, numbers show. But the state has shortages in other areas.

Florida nursing homes have enough staff, numbers show. But the state has shortages in other areas.

In most places across America, nursing homes are facing an acute shortage of workers to take care of the country’s growing population of aging and disabled patients. But not in Florida. A Kaiser Family Foundation report published this month found tha...
Published: 07/17/18
Blacks can afford far fewer rentals than Asians and whites, study shows

Blacks can afford far fewer rentals than Asians and whites, study shows

Black and Latino residents of the Tampa Bay area can afford far fewer rentals than Asians and whites can. According to Zillow, blacks can afford just 19 percent of available rentals and Latinos 20.7 percent. That compares to whites being able to affo...
Published: 07/17/18
Tampa Bay business: This is what Prime Day is like as an Amazon seller

Tampa Bay business: This is what Prime Day is like as an Amazon seller

Amazon doesn’t even give its sellers a headsup on which July day the mega online retailer is selecting for its biggest sale of the year, Prime Day. But out of her natural sponges workshop in Tarpon Springs, Theo Prodromitis knew to start getti...
Published: 07/17/18
Another hip hotel in St. Pete? Uptown residents like the idea, but fret about parking.

Another hip hotel in St. Pete? Uptown residents like the idea, but fret about parking.

ST. PETERSBURG — In the past few years, Michael Andoniades has turned two faded hotels — the Hollander and the Avalon — into two of St. Petersburg’s trendiest, most popular lodgings. So it is with mixed feelings that residents of the city’s Historic ...
Published: 07/17/18