Sunday, April 22, 2018
Business

JD Alexander's bullying will only hurt Polk County economy in the long run

My general belief is Tampa thinks Polk County should be landfills, prisons and things they don't want. I don't see our future that way.

Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, Polk County

•••

Is this Polk County paranoia channeled through its most bullying and unapologetic legislator?

If so, Central Florida's broader economic ambitions may be in trouble.

Alexander expressed his animosity toward neighboring Tampa on Monday in an interview with Tampa's WTSP-Ch. 10. No surprise, he was responding to University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft's remarks at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County.

As Senate budget committee chairman, Alexander this spring threatened deep USF budget cuts and ramrodded through a personal quest to sever Lakeland's USF Polytechnic campus from the University of South Florida umbrella. The goal: to accelerate its becoming the state's 12th separate university, a theoretical coup for Polk County.

Alexander's arm-twisting of USF may well get Polk its own Florida Polytechnic University. The state senator may have won but at the cost of a prolonged accreditation process for the new school and some seriously damaged relations with Tampa Bay.

So is Alexander just a selfish legislator pressing for something before term limits push him out of Tallahassee? Or is his power grab a chance to squeeze Tampa Bay and bolster Polk's no doubt frustrating lack of regional identity?

Polk County lies smack dab between Tampa Bay and greater Orlando with Interstate 4 running straight through it. Lately, Polk is realizing it's less a doormat and more a gateway between two major metro areas now talking to each other about how best to morph into one Central Florida economic region.

That really makes Polk two counties. Western Polk — which includes the county's biggest city, Lakeland, and one of Florida's top businesses, Publix Super Markets — has ties to Tampa Bay. Eastern Polk lies adjacent to the outskirts of Disney's parks.

Polk is also home to Legoland Florida and the Streamsong Resort built by phosphate mining giant Mosaic.

As far back as 1995, Polk County joined the Tampa Bay Partnership as the sixth county of the regional economic development group. Polk also happens to be one of seven counties that make up the Central Florida Partnership, the Orlando area's own economic development group.

Shrewdly, Polk is the only county that belongs to both regional groups.

Alexander's suggestion Monday — that snooty Tampa saw Polk as little more than a dumping ground for undesirables like landfills — might have some truth to it.

But the remark did nothing to mend already bruised relations between neighboring regions. Tampa Bay's business and political leaders fought hard to support USF against Alexander's browbeating.

"I'm going to stand up strong for my district and its needs every day," Alexander told WTSP. "Whether folks in the Tampa establishment think it is a good idea or not for Polk County does not really matter to me."

Wow. Is this the best we can do? While we club each other like Neanderthals, the rest of the rubbernecking world will (gladly) pass us by.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18