Make us your home page
Instagram

Headwinds buffet area economy despite brighter 2013 forecasts

If the new year is supposed to usher in fresh economic momentum in Tampa Bay and Florida, some businesses find it's doing so under their radar.

Area businesses speak of fresh "headwinds" buffeting their performances. Those winds come in the shape of lower paychecks due to the return in 2013 of the higher payroll tax, rising gasoline prices now hitting $4 a gallon at some area stations, longer delays in tax refunds and even the recent arrivals of credit card bills bloated by the holiday shopping season.

Others point to renewed uncertainty from the threat of automatic federal budget cuts that may ripple across the state economy in coming weeks. Still others warn the new uptick in Florida's minimum wage to $7.79 dampens the confidence of businesses to consider adding jobs.

Here's a sampling of what a few area business executives see as early 2013 hurdles, based on their recent conversations with Wall Street analysts and their company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

• When will the White House and Congress get their act together? "If certain influential elected leaders can reach consensus on the proper way to manage today's 'crisis of the quarter' — that is the pending budget sequester — and give the American public hope that unbridled government spending will be curbed for the health of future generations, there is reason to believe that our economy may finally shift into a higher gear later this year," Highwoods Properties CEO Ed Fritsch told analysts this month. "That's a big gift, but certainly possible."

In Tampa, one Highwoods priority is to find fresh tenants for commercial space that PricewaterhouseCoopers will vacate at Tampa Bay Park (north of Raymond James Stadium) in May. Fritsch said Highwoods has relet 24 percent and has prospects considering another 65 percent.

• For this time of year, we are paying record prices for gasoline. Average area prices are sneaking over $3.80 as some stations already charge $4 a gallon. That's a problem.

"We are approaching 2013 with a bit more caution than we did 2012," said Liz Smith, CEO of Tampa's Bloomin' Brands (parent of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's and other casual dining chains). She told analysts last week that high payroll and gas prices are hitting at the same time her chains must contend with some sharp hikes in commodity prices. How sharp? Beef prices could rise 10 to 12 percent, pressuring the Outback steak chain's ability to manage costs and margins.

Similar challenges are echoed by Clarence Otis, CEO of Orlando's Darden Restaurants, parent of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains.

Otis says Darden made changes "to be more responsive to the financial realities of our guests" by making menus more affordable.

"Clearly, consumers have less discretionary income to spend on restaurant occasions right now and likely for the foreseeable future," adds Greg Levin, chief financial officer of BJ's Restaurants, a California chain expanding in Florida.

Not all is bleak. Florida's housing market is brightening in 2013. There's even talk that housing just switched from a buyer's to a seller's market.

But headwinds, defined as "winds opposing forward motion," persist. It's the one word tossed around that captures the tone of early 2013.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Headwinds buffet area economy despite brighter 2013 forecasts 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 10:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)

    Business

    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]
  2. Sunday Supper returns with 25 chefs, food fests galore

    Food & Dining

    Save the date: SUNDAY SUPPER

    This just might be the dinner of the year. The Bern's family of restaurants has organized a James Beard Foundation fundraiser to fund the Bern Laxer Memorial Scholarship for culinary students in the state of Florida for a number of years. But this week they announced the …

    Bern’s Steak House located at 1208 S Howard Ave, Tampa on Wednesday 2/19014
  3. Locale Market changes yet again, rebranding the restaurant as FarmTable Cucina

    Food & Dining

    When Locale Market opened in Sundial St. Pete in Dec. 2014, it was the most-hyped, most-anticipated gourmet market/food hall/culinary playground Tampa Bay had ever seen. Since then, celebrity chef-owner Michael Mina has done what every entrepreneur does in the face of challenges: tinker.

    Chef Michael Mina and chef Jeffrey Hileman work in the kitchen at Farmtable Kitchen in 2016. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  4. U.S. home construction tumbles 4.7 percent in September

    Working Life

    WASHINGTON — Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.

    Construction of new homes fell 4.7 percent in September, the biggest decline in six months, reflecting weakness in both single-family activity and apartment building.  [Associated Press file photo]

  5. Agreement means Spectrum won't lose Viacom programming

    Business

    Less than a week after disputes between two cable industry conglomerates became public, the two companies have reached an agreement.

    Viacom and Charter Communications released a joint statement that the companies reached an agreement in principle. Charter also markets itself as Spectrum. [AP file photo]