The Tampa Bay area took another step Monday toward growing its economy through global trade. The region's political and business leaders signed a deal with the federal government that promises to bolster exports and further integrate the region with the world economy. The move is the latest attempt to carve a new course for the region in tourism, shipping and manufacturing.
The agreement, announced by Undersecretary of Commerce (and Tampa native) Frank Sanchez, clears the way for a host of local institutions, from businesses to Tampa's airport and seaport, to take advantage of a new clearinghouse for export-related programs. Local partners would get help navigating the bureaucracy for small business loans or export financing. The government could promote new businesses with trade shows, or provide expansion opportunities by working with local economic development agencies.
The move may be modest in terms of the real investment in time and money. But having a closer collaboration between the local community and America's international trade office will only help the region as it looks to build and diversify the economy. Political and business leaders on both sides of Tampa Bay are busy looking at how to consolidate their efforts and capitalize on the major economic engines in the region, from the ports, beaches and cultural venues to the world-class medical institutes at the University of South Florida.
Tampa's airport is adding flights. Its seaport posted record revenues last year. An expanded Panama Canal will bring new shipping into the Gulf of Mexico. And local officials are working to build commercial applications in the fields of education, national security and the medical arts. So it is timely that a new export promotion comes along just as Tampa Bay began looking at exports in a much broader light. Local leaders need to build on this new spirit of collaboration, for the region will be infinitely stronger by working together.