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It may be time to focus on baby boomers

Is the Tampa Bay area ripe for a new business cluster that caters to the coming wave of baby boomers? Two marketing hotshots with formidable track records of nailing trends ahead of the curve — and doing something about them — think so.

Deanne Roberts and Michelle Bauer, two founders of CreativeTampaBay (the global creative industries movement sparked by Richard Florida), suggest entrepreneurial opportunities abound for building businesses here to serve baby boomers. Boomers (like me), between their mid 40s and early 60s, are expected to come here in droves over the next decade.

To jump-start this notion, Roberts and Bauer are launching a "Florida Boomer Lifestyle" conference to explore boomer services, from health care and personal finance to entertainment and "personal reinvention." It will be held May 12 at the Tampa Convention Center. More information is at www.floridaboomerlifestyle.com.

Roberts founded Tampa's Roberts Communications (now ChappellRoberts), chaired several major economic development groups, and was the driver behind the Emerge Tampa young business people's movement. Bauer runs her own communications/strategy firm called Common Language in St. Petersburg and helped bring to life such events as the Ringling College of Art's annual International Design Summit and Florida's annual technology transfer conferences (where universities talk to businesses about potential products). She also helped get the Tampa Bay Technology Forum off the ground.

Pay attention to this new boomer focus. It's got potential and horsepower behind it. And it's not just about trying to build a new business cluster here. It's also about freshening a stale economic development mantra here that still hangs a bit on the old "enjoy cheap living in the sunshine." That day is over.

"Florida needs a new message," says Roberts.

• • •

Like chastised first-graders hauled off the playground, the CEOs of eight major banking companies, all well endowed with federal TARP funds, were fed large helpings of humble pie Wednesday by members of the House Financial Services Committee. Among those getting their knuckles rapped: Bank of America's Ken Lewis and John Stumpf of Wells Fargo, the California giant just entering the Florida market via its purchase of Wachovia.

Most impassioned was Rep. Mike Capuano, D-Mass., who said banks lack credibility.

"You come to us after selling Girl Scout cookies and helping Mother Teresa," he said. "The problem is America doesn't trust you any more."

His demand? "Start loaning the money we gave you."

• • •

Speaking of Capitol Hill, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau chief D.T. Minich testified Wednesday against oil drilling off Florida's coast before the House Committee on Natural Resources. So how much money does tourism deliver locally? Minich offered more detail than you'd expect:

"On the Gulf Coast, tourism is the engine that drives the local economy. Total direct and indirect visitor expenditures are approximately $7 billion. That is more than $19 million per day, about $800,000 per hour, more than $13,000 per minute and about $220 per second."

In case you wondered.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

It may be time to focus on baby boomers 02/11/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 12, 2009 8:01am]

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