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Tampa Bay stuck in last in Southern-city rankings

In the six-city race for economic supremacy, the Tampa Bay region continues to dodder along in last.

So said the regional economic scorecard released Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Partnership, the business marketing arm of the seven counties in and around Tampa.

Job losses and unaffordable housing weigh down Tampa's ranking relative to Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Jacksonville and Raleigh-Durham.

We've lost more jobs the past year — 33,533 — than our competitors. And even after a 30 percent decline in Tampa area housing prices, it still costs too much to live here, relative to local incomes.

"This is like running a race. We're running fast, but they're running faster," Larry Henson, the partnership's business intelligence officer, said in explaining Tampa's decline compared with the other cities.

Henson saw encouraging signs buried among the 25 indicators that constitute a region's business attractiveness. While we've arguably passed through the worst of the housing crisis, places like Atlanta are feeling the pain belatedly.

It now costs more to buy a home in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham than it does in Tampa. Tampa home prices are $5,000 more than Jacksonville's, but two years ago they were $50,000 apart.

Our highways aren't the worst congested. That dubious distinction belongs to Atlanta and Dallas. We've risen to fourth place in the number of patents issued here, ahead of Atlanta and Jacksonville.

"That's not the greatest story in the world, but at least it gives us a little optimism," Henson said.

This is the sixth scorecard the partnership has compiled since early 2006. On Friday, the marketing group will unveil a three-year strategic plan for the region called A Model for Prosperity.

James Thorner can be reached at jthorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.

Regional economic scorecard

Tampa BayAtlantaCharlotteDallasJacksonvilleRaleigh
Jobs/

work force
653142
Income/

productivity
365142
Housing644132
Innovation524261
Education346251
Transportation652241
Overall rank643141

Tampa Bay stuck in last in Southern-city rankings 11/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 4:32pm]
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