TAMPA — A delegation of local political and economic leaders traveled to New York City last week to visit the financial services firms that employ more than 74,000 workers in the Tampa Bay area.
The delegation's message: Hey, we just wanted to say thanks, and in case you're hiring?
Here's our number. So call us, maybe?
Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Rick Homans said the executives they met with seemed pleasantly surprised by the delegation's easygoing nature.
The financial firms were expecting a hard sell to bring jobs to Tampa. Instead, they received gratitude and a no-pressure sales job.
"Our purpose in going there was simply to say thank you," Homans said.
But that thank-you came with a subliminal message: When those firms decide to start expanding and hiring, they should keep the Tampa-Hillsborough area in mind.
"I think it's something we need to do more of," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "The fact that they don't often see mayors coming to them and expressing their appreciation and not asking for anything goes a long way. … Clearly I think we are front and center after this visit, and as we go on, I believe it will be a worthwhile investment."
Leading the delegation was Homans, Buckhorn, Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan; Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura, and EDC Chairman David Pizzo, the West Florida manager for Florida Blue.
They met with companies such as Citi, DTCC, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Time Warner and UBS, which all have operations in Hillsborough County.
Some of those companies are already in the midst of expanding. In 2011, Time Warner announced plans to hire up to 500 workers. In January, Morgan Stanley announced it was adding 110 jobs to its workforce here and building a new $6.6 million office in Temple Terrace. And in April, DTCC announced it was adding 255 jobs and investing $4.8 million in its New Tampa operation.
The delegation also met with a financial services company — Homans declined to name the firm — that is looking to expand to Tampa and bring 100 "high-paying" jobs here. That company will need state and local incentives to seal the deal, however.
Those 74,000 financial services workers are part of the bay area's 280,000-strong professional and business service workforce. That segment represents 28 percent, or the largest share, of the 1 million nonagricultural, private sector jobs in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to the EDC.
Buckhorn said the area's pros seem to outweigh the cons. The state's low-tax, business-friendly climate, the bay area's higher education options, cheaper office space and its direct, two-hour flight time from New York City make Tampa-Hillsborough an attractive choice.
"I think first and foremost," Buckhorn said, "we are a community that understands what their needs are."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404.