Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Business

How broadly does 'Tampa Bay' brand reach?

How far can the name "Tampa Bay" extend geographically beyond the core Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area? That's a key question as economic developers and surrounding counties weigh the pros and cons of identifying themselves with the Tampa Bay name.

Few people are closer to this issue than Stuart Rogel, chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Partnership, the regional marketing group that has slowly pushed its member counties to eight. They include the expected counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando, all comfortable with the Tampa Bay name as a regional identifier. But the partnership also represents outlier counties Citrus, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota.

Now it gets more interesting. Citrus is happy to be affiliated with the Tampa Bay name, Rogel says. Manatee County, home to the city of Bradenton, and Sarasota County are still figuring out if "Tampa Bay" covers their economic needs or if they can act more freely.

And Polk County? It was just handed its own Florida Polytechnic university, thanks to state Sen. J.D. Alexander and Gov. Rick Scott. Their deal will sever the school from Tampa Bay's University of South Florida umbrella. Is that the latest sign of Polk's do-it-yourself trend?

• • •

We can talk all we want about the "entrepreneurial ecosystem" that should be taking root in the Tampa Bay market. The reality is that the economy remains tough, and Tampa Bay's infamous lack of early venture capital to help support start-up businesses is taking its toll.

Gazelle Lab, the business accelerator at USF St. Petersburg, mentored six handpicked companies in last year's inaugural 90-day program. Gazelle Lab chief Daniel James Scott, who also teaches at the campus, says there probably won't be a Round 2 for the lab until the program can raise more funds. So far, the coffer is lean.

The good news is the Gazelle Lab extended its reach to Orlando, which apparently does have the initiative and funding to do its own business accelerator program. Details will be out soon.

Meanwhile, the Gazelle Lab is losing one of its six startups and two student stars — Kngroo headed by Jeff Baird as well as Jessica Barnett (both USF Gus Stavros fellowship winners) to New York City. The good news is the remaining five of Gazelle's original startups — AutoIQ (now called Carvoyant), Red Hawk Interactive, Dropost.it, Teburu and Leads Direct are still local. So far, that's a pretty good success rate.

• • •

When is a power company a banking company? An unusual ad from Duke Energy appeared in the Tampa Bay Times this week inviting consumers to consider investing in Duke's "PremierNotes" which sound a lot like a money market account (but isn't). The ad pitches an enticing 1.61 percent annual yield on a minimum $1,000 investment. But the notes' yield will vary. And the notes are not FDIC-insured nor rated by any rating agency.

Duke Energy is based in North Carolina and does not even provide electricity to Floridians. But Duke is trying to buy Progress Energy. Is that why we're seeing it solicit funds in the Sunshine State?

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

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