Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Opinion

Tampa powers regional economy

This week the great city of Tampa and the entire region welcomes the Republican National Convention. With its 50,000 delegates, visitors and media members, the RNC is more than just the highest profile convention in the world. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase all that our community has to offer. It is also a once in a lifetime business opportunity.

As the mayor of Tampa, I'm proud to say we have a great story to tell about the metropolitan area's economic leadership, stability and, most importantly, the wide-ranging business opportunities we offer.

At each and every opportunity — and I encourage this entire community to join me — I am going to highlight exactly why Tampa is one of the top 10 cities in America to do business. And at every turn, I will work to ensure that our community continues to work its way out of this economic downtown and to lead this metropolitan area and the entire state of Florida out of this recession.

Tampa is the financial epicenter of the Tampa Bay region, and we are unabashedly probusiness. In fact, Tampa is nationally recognized as "where the jobs are in 2012." Our unemployment is declining in Tampa Bay more rapidly than anywhere else in Florida. In fact, Tampa Bay tied for the second-largest drop in unemployment over the past year among the nation's major metro areas. Ranked as the 14th largest media market in the United States, we have the No. 1 buying power in the state and are No. 1 in retail sales. With both the largest seaport in Florida and an airport widely considered among the top three airports both nationally and internationally, we are a large metropolitan area that can sustain its economic leadership.

Tampa is considered one of Top Ten Cities for Defense Jobs by Forbes. With 18,000 military and civilian employees and a $2.87 billion annual economic impact, the presence of MacDill Air Force Base — the headquarters for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as well as the region's stable of prime contractors (Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, SAIC and others) are strong economic engines for Tampa Bay and key agents of security in our nation and abroad.

Our region also has major strengths in health care research and delivery. For example, the University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation is leading in the future of health care, robotics, simulation, personalized medicine and online delivery of health care services by changing how health professionals and surgical teams learn. With 30,000 people coming through it annually, CAMLS will be the catalyst for an economic revival revolving around USF and its health facilities because it is the only center of its kind.

Listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of "America's Best Hospitals" for cancer, Moffitt Cancer Center is the only Florida-based National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center, a designation that recognizes Moffitt's excellence in research and contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control.

And underscoring the reach and depth of our business community, the Tampa Bay region has attracted significant and varied investments from great companies from around the world. A recent Foreign Direct Investment study identified 480 companies from 41 nations across the entire spectrum of industry and employing 41,500 workers.

We recognize that workforce talent is where the rubber hits the road, and we are teaching, growing and investing — and then keeping — the best and brightest here at home. Our workforce is 1.9 million strong over 175,000 businesses, and 20 percent of our workforce are 18- to 34-year-olds. They are excited, energetic, educated and creative. In fact, Cambridge University considers our community among the top 10 for creative people to live and work.

We have more than 60 institutions of higher learning that conferred 33,000-plus degrees last year. In the heart of Tampa is the University of South Florida, the third-largest university in the Southeast and the ninth-largest in the nation. One of the fastest growing in federal research funding, USF is ranked 50th in the nation for research expenditures by the National Science Foundation among all U.S. universities, public or private, joining the ranks of Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Yale and Harvard. USF ranked 10th among world universities for patents.

The results are real and sustainable, extending beyond a ready, willing and able workforce to $900 million in venture capital investments over the last 10 years to an incredible corporate and industrial depth. Tampa Bay has 19 headquarters with over $1 billion in annual gross revenues, four of which are Fortune 500 companies.

I invite everyone across Tampa Bay to share the great story of our region's innovative and integrated economy with a lifestyle second to none with residents and visitors alike. I invite them to learn firsthand why BusinessWeek considers Tampa one of the best 50 cities in the U.S.

Bob Buckhorn is mayor of Tampa.

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