Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Opinion

Mark Sharpe: The key to growing Tampa Bay's economy

Perfect vision is 20/20, and 2020 can be the year Tampa Bay becomes a permanent top 10 metro area for economic growth. It just takes clear-eyed vision and unrelenting effort.

We know the economy is changing, with new products, new means of production and new modes of service delivery affecting every facet of our lives. We experience it every time we take a trip using rideshare platforms such as Uber and Lyft or book an overnight stay with Airbnb. New developments in 3D printing, artificial intelligence, automated technology for cars, and virtual and augmented reality are going to change how we work and play — and where we choose to live.

Silicon Valley is the progenitor of this technological engine, but other regions are rising across the nation, with approximately 15 "brain hubs" emerging as serious competitors within distinct realms of technological innovation. Those metros that create high-wage jobs also experience an increase in median income for non-high-wage jobs. This means you don't need to wear a lab coat or have a doctorate to benefit.

This is where economic theory becomes strategic opportunity for Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay Times business columnist Robert Trigaux has written extensively of Tampa's lagging median wages as compared to other top metros. This is the bad news as it depresses our ability to attract or retain the highly sought after tech talent necessary to build great businesses. The good news: Trigaux also reports that the Milken Institute's rankings of best cities placed Tampa No. 33 as measured by jobs, wages, salaries and tech output. Tampa Bay ranked 169th in 2009. We are moving in the right direction. Can we break into the top 10 by 2020? Yes, and the newly formed Tampa Innovation Alliance holds the key.

The Alliance anchors — USF, Moffitt Cancer Center, Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital, the University Mall and more than 220 businesses — have been busy shaping a unified innovation district, which is now rebranding the university area into a place of innovation and high-wage job creation. The Alliance has partnered with CareerSourceTampa Bay, University Area Community Development Corp., Tampa Bay Technology Forum, Hillsborough Community College and research and innovation powerhouse USF to become a White House-designated TechHire community to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the digital economy. This means while we are creating high-wage jobs we also are training the workforce that has missed out on the advantages of higher wage jobs. That will help raise our median GDP over time.

The Florida High Tech Corridor partnered with the University of South Florida to study the economic effect of its research activity and found an annual $400 million impact to the state. USF leads the nation in patent production, licensing of patents and startup generation. Digging deeper, we know that there are approximately 12,000 STEM jobs out of the 74,000 jobs in the Alliance area. Our challenge is to connect the Alliance anchors together into a recognized innovation destination that leverages the power of USF, Moffitt and our other partners into a high-tech job-generating machine. A doubling of STEM jobs in the Alliance area would propel Hillsborough County and Tampa Bay as a recognized technology hub, creating the very jobs necessary to lift median wages and help us move from 33rd into the top 10.

I am certain that with clear-eyed focus this can be done. Hillsborough County has put a down payment of $2 million into the planning effort for an Innovation District in the Alliance area, and the state of Florida has committed $1.25 million. An earlier study funded by the Florida High Tech Corridor and USF Research Park stated we can double the number of high-tech jobs in the area. This would propel the Tampa metro into the top 10 of best-performing cities and cement our place as a brain hub, which will draw the best talent from around the world to live, work and play.

Technology is changing our world. The epicenter of job creation is changing as well. Our strategic objective must be to seize and ride this technology wave and plant our region squarely in the top 10 without delay. This effort will generate a huge return in jobs, higher salaries and improved GDP, lifting the quality of life for us all. It is time to focus, because 2020 is not that far away.

Mark Sharpe is executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance and a former Hillsborough County commissioner.

Comments
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

After an encouraging start, the breakdown in America’s reset with Cuba is a loss for both sides and for the state of democracy across the region. Havana and Washington are both to blame, but the Trump administration’s hard line with Cuba is out of sy...
Published: 09/12/18
Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

If the swift departure of CBS Chairman Les Moonves has a bright side, it’s that a major television network took accusations of sexual harassment against its chief executive seriously enough to hold him accountable and obtain his resignation even at t...
Published: 09/11/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Two banks have taken the retaliatory step of closing down the campaign account of a statewide candidate because she received contributions from the medical marijuana industry. Nikki Fried, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, has been...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/14/18