Pitching Tampa's virtues on CNBC, Vinik broadens reach of downtown project

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Jeff Vinik's personal pitch for Tampa is beginning to reach a national audience.

Leveraging his past Wall Street credibility, Vinik used a TV interview Wednesday morning on CNBC to tell a bigger world that Tampa is an "undervalued" asset. He urged businesses to visit and appreciate its new opportunities — and weather.

That's a powerful message to an elite business audience from an individual whose past success as manager of the Fidelity Magellan fund back in its heyday gives Vinik a strong bond with listeners.

Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner, now heads a $1 billion, 40-acre redevelopment project around the Amalie Arena and Channelside areas of downtown Tampa. He managed to squeeze into his CNBC interview the pro-growth qualities of both Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He then shared his own testimonial of relocating from Boston to Tampa.

"Tampa is a great place," Vinik said, after exchanging thoughts with CNBC morning anchor Joe Kernen on the pleasures of pro hockey and downplaying the threat of a looming technology bubble for investors.

"I am a great spokesman for this," Vinik said of Tampa. "I bought the Tampa Bay Lightning five years ago and moved my family here 21/2 years ago. It has been the best years of our lives. People in the Northeast, where I come from, (and) people from the Midwest do not realize how great the quality of life is here."

Vinik credited the weather, reasonable commuting that can "save an hour a day" compared with the congestion of large Northern metro areas, as well as Tampa's culture and growth. "Every day a new restaurant is opening," he told CNBC's audience.

He urged businesses to come see what he sees. "I'll show you around for the day," he said.

These are themes Vinik has shared aggressively to Tampa Bay audiences ever since he unveiled his mega-project in downtown Tampa in December.

Now he's traveling to personally recruit a corporate headquarters and trying to broaden the reach of his "live, work, play" development message.

Last week, Forbes explored many of these Vinik themes.

"Jeff Vinik, a former hedge fund manager, has his sights set on building half a city in downtown Tampa," starts a Feb. 21 article on the Forbes website.

"Vinik's goal is to create America's next great urban waterfront in downtown Tampa," the article says.

It's hardly a leap to predict that some substantive article about Vinik's Tampa plans will probably soon appear in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, among other national media outlets.

Not a bad PR pace in less than three months since the project's unveiling.

Who else these days boasts both the clout and a worthy message to put Tampa in the spotlight?

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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