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Tampa Hillsborough economic development group considers leadership changes

TAMPA — The nonprofit agency that leads economic development efforts for Hillsborough County and its three cities is looking at expanding its leadership team, including maybe bringing in a new president.

Interestingly, the push to consider the changes comes from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.'s current president, Keith Norden, whose contract expires in January.

"It would be unfair for me to say, 'Let's look at everyone's position except mine,' " Norden said Tuesday.

Norden proposed an agency-wide analysis of administrative positions, including the idea of adding to the leadership team, on July 22. The same day, he proposed two other initiatives:

• A two-year plan to expand international business recruiting, first in Germany and later in the United Kingdom, Canada and Latin America.

• An increase in business recruiting missions to key domestic areas, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California.

Now is a good time to take stock, the agency's leaders say, because the organization has changed a lot in recent years.

It originally was known as the Committee of One Hundred and was part of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Norden was hired in January 2009 to be the committee's executive managing director.

In December 2009, the committee split from the chamber and became known as the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

It is a private, independent group with contracts to lead economic development efforts for Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.

Since the split, the EDC has led an assessment of Hillsborough's strengths, identified clusters of industries it wants to target and changed where it gets most of its money.

At one time, the county and cities provided 70 percent of the EDC's budget, currently about $1.4 million.

Now that has shrunk to 43 percent as funding from private companies has gone up 300 percent.

Also gone is the Committee of One Hundred's five-member governing board.

In its place is a 28-member executive committee that includes the County Commission chairman and the mayors of the three cities. There's also a 31-member board of directors, with executives, local officials and educators.

With all those changes, it makes sense to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs and to consider growing the organization, said Rhea Law, who chairs the EDC's executive committee.

Law expects the process to take about four months and it could end up with Norden in the job he's got, or in another role.

"Keith has been doing a great job of filling the gaps over time," Law said.

Law said the possible changes do not have anything to do with recent controversy over the $1.1 million in incentives that Hillsborough and Tampa elected officials recently approved for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The EDC prepared an application, submitted to the county on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers, that said 1,633 of the firm's jobs in Tampa were "at risk" and that it had competing offers from as far away as India.

Later, an executive of the firm said there was never any thought of moving the Tampa jobs. Last week, PricewaterhouseCoopers withdrew its application.

Norden made his proposal to the EDC after local officials approved the incentives, but before the PricewaterhouseCoopers executive's disclosure that the jobs were not at risk.

"This has nothing to do with that," Law said. "This all predated that. That is not an issue."

Norden also said there was no connection between his proposals and the Pricewaterhouse­Coopers controversy. But he said the EDC has looked at its procedures since the incentive package made headlines.

"The process can always be improved," he said. "The project has made us look at the process and the way things are presented to the political leadership, and hopefully it will improve the way things are presented."

Tampa Hillsborough economic development group considers leadership changes 08/09/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 10:33pm]
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