Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Downtown Tampa companies leaning toward business as usual during RNC

What happens when downtown Tampa's 50,000 workers collide with up to 50,000 Republican National Convention visitors in August?

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and area business leaders want the chance to find out.

They hope most companies keep their doors open during convention week, overruling any internal concerns of snarled traffic or possible violence. They want to nationally showcase a vibrant business community.

So far, many companies appear willing to heed their wishes.

"We're just going to be here. We're going to be business as usual," said Sylvia Stephens, business manager of law firm Holland & Knight's Tampa office, with nearly 300 employees in two downtown offices.

Chris McDonnell, chief operating officer of law firm Hill Ward Henderson, echoes the "business as usual" refrain, though his company may shift work hours around peak times.

So far, he sees "no unusual pattern" in summertime vacation scheduling that may indicate the firm's 210 employees are trying to skirt the hubbub.

Brenda Dohring Hicks is downright adamant about keeping her real estate firm at 518 N Tampa St. open to make a statement, and she dismisses concerns of convention-related chaos.

"Right or wrong, we don't buy into those fears," said Dohring Hicks, chief executive officer of the Dohring Group. "We've lived through Super Bowls and other things."

If there is any havoc in downtown streets, Dohring Hicks says, employees will watch it all through office windows. She likened the convention to any event that draws heavy traffic. The company's 12 employees will treat it like navigating around a road closing, she said.

"We don't want to see, at a time when we're trying to create jobs and boost our economy, the RNC come in and close somebody down," Dohring Hicks said.

Some county government offices and courts plan to curtail hours during the convention or temporarily move operations elsewhere. A downtown Tampa school, the Rampello K-8 Downtown Partnership School, is likely to shut down that week as well.

As for companies, there's plenty of talk about cutting hours, letting some employees go home early or work out of home when possible. Carpooling is encouraged, too.

The notion of a widespread shutdown, however, seems remote.

"We're committed to keeping downtown Tampa working and looking good," said Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, which year-round has about eight employees in a downtown administrative office and 20 workers employed as guides, security and cleanup detail.

"The decision today is the partnership will not close," said Burdick, who is withholding a final decision until much closer to the convention.

Being involved on the convention planning committee, Burdick said she's aware of contingency plans under way to mitigate traffic, provide more security and manage crowds. "I'm quite confident we have the best people working on this," she said.

Many of the convention activities begin later in the day, Burdick said. "It seems to me you could get six good hours of work in downtown and avoid the later crunch in traffic," she said.

For some companies, like public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, the decision is partly customer-driven.

"We'll have clients coming in from outside the area who will have to be served, and it will be hard to serve them from home," said Harry Costello, general manager of Hill & Knowlton's Tampa office.

Like others, Costello will hold off his final call until more convention details are released, such as how close the footprint of the convention's security zone is to his office at the corner of Tampa Street and Kennedy Boulevard.

"It's exciting," he said, "but at the same time you have to take into consideration a lot of things and one thing is safety."

At public accounting firm Crowe Horwath, some of the firm's staff of 40 will likely work remotely and some will stay in their offices in the Bank of America Plaza, 101 E Kennedy Boulevard. Building management has suggested employees leave before 3 p.m. to avoid the bulk of traffic congestion. Operations manager Angela Deese acknowledged she doesn't know exactly what to expect.

"What we've been told is this is the biggest event that Tampa has ever seen and ever will see," Deese said.

Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, expects a mixed reaction come August. Some will curtail hours or work from home; some may even shut down entirely.

But he doubts enough companies will vacate downtown to make a difference, given the surge of delegates, media and protesters on the streets.

"I don't think there's any chance it will look like a ghost town," he said.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8242. Stephanie Wang can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

Downtown Tampa companies leaning toward business as usual during RNC 03/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 9:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  4. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse

    Politics

    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …

  5. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.