Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ernest Hooper: Tampa's leader must nurture young talent

It's a conversation embedded in my memory.

One balmy evening on the deck at Four Green Fields, I began lamenting about how so many promising young professionals flee Tampa Bay because established power brokers never open the door to aspiring stars and hopeful newcomers.

I opined that although so many view the area as a major-league city, we really served as a Triple-A affiliate, infusing the up-and-coming with skills and experience and then waving goodbye as they leave for Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte and Houston.

The guy across from me, a fourth-generation South Tampa native who didn't hide the fact he reaped the benefits of successful parents and grandparents, shook his head and asked, "What's wrong with that? What's wrong with keeping it in the family?"

Everything, my man.

When it comes to that mentality, we need civic disobedience.

Objections to such provincial perspectives have been slow to rise. The realization Tampa is starved for an infusion of fresh-flavored ideas incubates among enlightened groups and philosophical friends but seldom truly infects leaders.

Earlier this month, the Urban Land Institute released a report assessing Hillsborough County's economic development client. The wide-ranging report bestowed compliments but also illuminated our glaring weakness, noting that we have a "cultural problem" and to solve it we must "address healing the relationships between and among institutions and citizens by improving trust, connectivity, leadership and cooperation."

That healing comes from expanding the family, not closing off newcomers. It comes from sharing power and creating ascendant paths. It comes from opening doors to success.

I found a snapshot of what's truly needed during an annual reception at the Leaders' Friday Luncheon, a relatively new group headed by four young business making their mark: Nancy Vaughn, Shilen Patel, Jessica Huebner and Aakash Patel.

The "leaders" meet the first Friday of each month with some of the community's most influential. The reception brings together many of those who have attended the luncheons since the group's inception nearly three years ago.

The reception, held at the University of South Florida Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation in downtown Tampa, proved a perfect backdrop: an institute built on innovation housing folks looking to innovate and grow.

I witnessed established leaders not just conversing with aspiring professionals, but truly looking to help. The older folks talked about how much Tampa Bay has grown in the last 10 years and the excitement they shared for the future. The younger types boasted of new business ventures and a drive to succeed for themselves and their young families — right here, right now.

"For the first time in a long time, politicians, business leaders, and young professionals are working together to achieve a common goal," Aakash Patel said. "Leaders' Friday Luncheon is just one small piece of the puzzle, and we hope if more groups start like this, the common goal will become reality."

Still, Tampa Bay's talent drain remains a frustrating community conundrum.

After the RNC, we really need to concentrate greater energy on making Tampa Bay a thriving environment for young and old instead of just a fun place to host big parties. We will have proven to the world we can handle any event, but we will still have much to prove to ourselves.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper: Tampa's leader must nurture young talent 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 12:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  2. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  3. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75


    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  4. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  5. Three-hour police standoff ends, thanks to a cigarette


    TAMPA — A man threatening to harm himself was arrested by Tampa police on Tuesday after a three-hour standoff.