Make us your home page

Trigaux: A 'shovel ready' list for the president


To: President Obama

From: Tampa Bay's "Shovel Ready" Economic Developers

Mr. President: Respectfully, let's cut through the clutter. We know you're about to be bombarded with thousands of lists of bazillions of economy-jumpstarting projects asking for money from your $825-billion stimulus package. We think you'll like our ideas.

Our goal: To generate 50,000 Tampa Bay jobs — enough to shrink our unemployment rate to about 5 percent.

I'm not keen on the phrase "shovel ready" to describe the types of projects that are, literally, almost ready to start digging and building. The phrase can conjure negative political images of people "shoveling" more than dirt. But the term is now the coin of the realm.

We know how badly Florida and Tampa Bay are hurting. Friday's numbers — state unemployment jumped to 8.1 percent last month from 7.4 percent in November — are getting brutal.

So far, we've got a Tower of Infrastructure Babel in the making. Area cities have their wish lists of projects. So do our counties and schools, health care and transportation industries, and our many chambers of commerce.

How will Washington and Tallahassee thoughtfully sort through it all?

The regional, seven-county economic development group known as the Tampa Bay Partnership wants to help. It's collecting area project lists to offer one regional set of priorities. Now there's a guaranteed minefield of competing interests, but I salute the group for trying.

So far, they've tallied about 350 potential area projects here costing $4.8-billion.

President Obama wants the federal stimulus package to create 3-million jobs nationwide. Tampa Bay wants 50,000 of those jobs to be born here.

"I think we need to do some of these projects and we need to do them pretty quick," says Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel. "Otherwise, there will be little impact."

Broad-based infrastructure projects boosting the Tampa Bay region with lasting jobs are more likely than narrow-interest deals to win the attention of state and federal leaders empowered to dole out big bucks rather quickly.

What kinds of projects are we talking about? Here are just three possibilities:

• Moffitt Cancer Center wants $317-million to build a LEED-certified research, clinical and administrative center. Building it creates 3,000 jobs. Once it opens, add 1,200 researchers averaging $100,000-plus.

• I-4 Crosstown Connector Project would reroute truck traffic from the Port of Tampa directly to the highways and out of downtown Tampa. Why care? Because it would boost the port — a major economic engine — just as the Panama Canal expansion is finished in 2014. Project cost: About $450-million.

• Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority wants $25-million to build a Bus Rapid Transit Line along Central Avenue in St. Petersburg to aid mass transit.

If we're organized, the feds will listen. If we're a mob, we lose.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

Trigaux: A 'shovel ready' list for the president 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  2. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  3. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  4. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]