Make us your home page

Waiting for Tampa and Orlando's royal wedding

While Britain's royal wedding captivated millions worldwide Friday, the ongoing courtship between the Tampa Bay and Orlando metro areas to become a Central Florida "super region" managed to attract a Who's Who of roughly 400 business and government officials to the Tampa Convention Center.

The takeaway? Plenty of suggestions poured off the podium on a day that was part pep rally and part strategy fest for improving Central Florida's business future.

Ideas ranged from marketing Central Florida as a medical mecca for abundant clinical trials (I guess a large pool of aging people with maladies is one of our assets) to reigniting a regional passion for mass transportation in the wake of the recent loss of support for a Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line and voter defeat last fall of a mass transit tax in Hillsborough County.

Sorting through what makes sense for the mission of becoming a megaregion may have gotten a bit muddled at times during the third annual "super region" conference. The event was put on by the regional tag team of the Tampa Bay Partnership and its Orlando counterpart, the Central Florida Partnership.

Still, it's great to have a gathering that lets business leaders all along the state's Interstate 4 corridor get to know each other. Experts anticipate a Central Florida "megaregion" to emerge by midcentury.

Jeff Atwater, elected last fall as Florida's chief financial officer, best summarized the need for economic change in his comments about the Sunshine State's outdated economic engine:

"We mastered the ability to sell cheap, abundant land to people tired of shoveling snow," he told attendees, urging them to keep planning for the future. "What did that do for us long term?"

On a related theme, former state official Dale Brill, now chairman of the Florida Chamber Foundation (affiliated with the state chamber of commerce), suggested Florida's business community has proved "complacent" while the state tries to create a strategic plan.

Attending Friday's conference was former Mississippi economic development chief Gray Swoope, hand picked by Gov. Rick Scott to head the bulk of Florida's consolidated economic development agencies. Swoope's greatest challenge, Brill said, will be truly diversifying a state economy that has tried to be diversified for a hundred years.

"Either we're profoundly poor at this or we've not taken it seriously," Brill said.

Swoope, all of six weeks on the job in Florida, spoke before an audience well aware that he is now the front man on Scott's promise to deliver 700,000 new jobs to the state in seven years. When one panelist spoke of 15,000 jobs being generated by Orlando's "Medical City" cluster rising at Lake Nona, Swoope joked that now he had only 685,000 more jobs to go.

State incentives will never make a bad deal good, but they can make a good deal better, Swoope said.

Tom Murphy, a former 12-year mayor of Pittsburgh, told the group that the Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail line — had it happened — could have transformed the tourism brands of Orlando ("Disney") and Tampa Bay ("beaches") into one with real 21st century pizzazz: "Cities of the future."

That's still possible. This super-regional dating game has only just begun.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

Waiting for Tampa and Orlando's royal wedding 04/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 9:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims


    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  2. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza


    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  3. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  4. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]
  5. Clearwater attorney accused of condo foreclosure trickery fights back

    Real Estate

    The Clearwater lawyer accused of tricking a bidder into paying $458,100 for a gulf-front condo now plans to contest a judge's order tossing out the sale.

    John Houde, left, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground, in August during a hearing Sixth Judicial Circuit court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse. The judge agreed with Houde's allegation that he was duped by Skelton in thinking he bought a Redington Beach condo for $458,100 out of a foreclosure auction. Now Skelton is fighting back.