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Pool public and private resources or forget about big economic development

"Public-private partnerships" — or "P3s" — were the focus of a downtown Tampa panel discussion Wednesday evening. The conclusion: Tampa Bay would have few if any major developments in the works without such risk- and resource-sharing deals.

Consider the giant Encore housing and commercial development on 40-plus acres now well under way on the northeast corner of downtown Tampa. It would not be happening without P3s (the partnering of Bank of America and the Tampa Housing Authority), said panelist Timothy Baker, principal with the Baker Barrios architectural firm that has helped design key parts of the project.

The CAMLS (Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation where the panel, organized by 83 Degrees, happened to be speaking) building is a USF Health project that would not be up and running without P3s, said panelist Karen Holbrook, USF Systems senior vice president for global affairs. She also cited the P3 relationship between the university and Draper Lab, which since 2010 operates a research facility on the Tampa campus.

Said Holbrook: "Draper's one of the most effective partnerships USF has ever had."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn cited the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and the Tampa Bay Times Forum as city anchors that would not be there without P3s. Tampa did P3 projects, he said, "even when they were not a necessity, as they are now."

Buckhorn likes P3s because they spread the risk of bigger projects between private investors as well as taxpayers. But the key reason the mayor endorses P3s? Because, done right, they create jobs. And because they benefit downtown Tampa, which remains too quiet after work hours.

Said Buckhorn: "I want to create an environment here that my daughters will want to come back to."

• • •

Considering other news … The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce unveiled a "Startup Scholars" program where the chamber will pick three entrepreneurs with startup plans and provide them with mentors, networking opportunities and publicity. Chalk it up to another slice of the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem here. What remains to be seen is whether a traditional chamber can both attract and embrace the intensity required of startup businesses these days. . . .

The region's heralded IT work skills gap that's blamed for keeping too many tech people out of work while many tech jobs go unfilled has been the focus of a technology workforce study led by Pat Gehant. The findings will be completed by Oct. 11, so we can all see what potential remedies have been found. . . .

Longtime St. Petersburg developer Darryl LeClair shows off his proposed Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Carillon Park (near the Franklin Templeton building you can see from I-275) at a special St. Petersburg City Council meeting this afternoon. This is the same LeClair who pulled an end run to the city process by presenting his own idea in advance for a new pier to replace St. Pete's inverted pyramid. The Rays stadium, like his pier concept, has some very cool features. I hope LeClair's renegade flair won't undermine some pretty clever ideas.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Pool public and private resources or forget about big economic development 09/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 6:55pm]
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