Make us your home page
Instagram

Business leaders have high expectations for new Tampa mayor

Business people expect the next mayor of Tampa to shake up city workers in the building department and persuade corporate titans to bring new jobs and investment to town.

The region's most powerful local political figure also must run a tight ship financially. Leading the charge for quality-of-life enhancements that attract bright young professionals to Tampa and keep them here is also important, they say.

That the race includes five candidates with substantial experience in local government and the private sector gives Tampa business leaders some comfort. But many, such as Sykes Enterprises chief executive Chuck Sykes, say old strategies like relying on migration to fuel the city's economic growth won't work now.

"We're going to have to make our own future instead of reacting to things," says Sykes, chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "It's going to take a lot of guts."

As a global call center operator headquartered in Tampa, Sykes Enterprises doesn't deal with City Hall on a regular basis. But Sykes says the most frequent complaint he hears from small businesses is the time and aggravation it takes to get building approvals.

"It's how many people you have to deal with," says Sykes. "You may have a guy that's by-the-book or one that cuts you some slack."

Tampa needs to be more creative in applying development rules, says Deanne Roberts of the public relations and advertising firm ChappellRoberts. Officials could let several businesses combine parking and stormwater retention areas instead of requiring each to build its own.

The Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay Partnership pushed hard for a 1-cent tax in Hillsborough County for a light rail system and other transit improvements. The referendum won in Tampa but lost decisively countywide.

Business leaders will expect the new mayor to help craft a new plan. All five candidates — City Council Chairman Thomas Scott, former Mayor Dick Greco, former City Council member Bob Buckhorn and former County Commissioners Rose Ferlita and Ed Turanchik — voiced support for light rail at a forum last week.

But none offered a different approach, says Tampa lawyer Ron Weaver. Should proponents try for a half-cent or put the tax on the ballot for Tampa voters, he asks.

"The business community believes (light rail) is a signal that Tampa will be the place to come to, and the city is prepared to put its money where its mouth is," says Weaver, a Greco supporter.

A local light rail system connected to a Tampa-Orlando high-speed train would help make the region a "quality place" that attracts and grows high-tech jobs, says Sykes.

The mayor is a key player in recruiting companies to relocate. But it's important to focus on industries the state has targeted with incentive money — such as life sciences — instead of chasing companies willy-nilly, says Roberts, who worked on Turanchik's campaign. "When we have good prospects, then we need the full attention of the mayor," she says.

Running for an unprecedented fifth term as mayor, Greco touts his long experience in the city's top job. Some young professionals don't see his years in City Hall or age — 77 — as a plus.

"I don't think age is the number one issue, but the ideas behind it," says Adam Fitz, 37, an architect who lives in Tampa Heights and supports Turanchik. "We know what we got from the past."

With so many longtime politicians in the field, business people find themselves with split allegiances. Sykes gave Ferlita a $500 contribution in December, then wrote $500 checks Friday to Greco, Buckhorn and Turanchik.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8128.

.FAST FACTS

Following the money

These are the contributions from well-known business leaders to the Tampa mayoral candidates. All contributions were $500, except Guy King, and Mel and Brent Sembler, who contributed $250 each; Henry Gonzalez, who contributed $200; and Analytic Engineering, which gave $100.

Bob Buckhorn: Robert Clark (CEO, Tampa Steel Erecting); Morgan & Morgan (law firm); John Jaeb (venture capital); Guy King (insurance).

Rose Ferlita: John Ramil (CEO, TECO Energy); CF Industries (fertilizer); David Mechanik (attorney); Tampa Bay Pilots (harbor).

Dick Greco: David Straz (financier); Rhea Law (CEO, Fowler White Boggs law firm); John Brabson Jr. (CEO, Lykes Insurance); Mel and Brent Sembler (commercial development).

Thomas Scott: Analytic Engineering; Odyssey Manufacturing (bleach); International Ship Repair & Marine Services.

Ed Turanchik: Bill McBride (attorney); Henry Gonzalez (banker); Thom Stork (CEO, Florida Aquarium).

Business leaders have high expectations for new Tampa mayor 02/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 11:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]