Economists and business people reacted Wednesday to news of Tampa General Hospital's plans for a state-of-the-art research and medical center near the University of South Florida with cautious optimism, but did not predict a financial bonanza as a result.
"Overall, I'd say the impact will be fairly substantial to the university community, virtually nothing to the Tampa Bay area," said Bill Webb, interim director of USF's Center for Economic and Management Research.
Bruce Siegel, Tampa General president, predicted while announcing his plan Wednesday that the $153-million biomedical complex he envisions could create 1,000 jobs a year.
But Webb has a different view. For the most part, new jobs would not be created because "they're just moving it (the hospital)" from its current location on Davis Islands, he said. "The No. 1 thing we have to understand is what will happen to University Community Hospital, and whether or not there is room out here for two different hospitals."
Other than the effect on UCH, Webb said, the biggest impact would be on nearby commercial property for the construction of labs and doctors offices to support Tampa General.
Jim Hosler, research director for the City-County Planning Commission, echoed that thought.
"There won't be that much that crops up as far as support unless it's medically related. Take a look at Shands (Hospital in Gainesville) _ there's not a lot of retail around it," Hosler said. "Or Jackson Memorial (in Miami). What is around it is primarily lab space, office space.
"It's going to be a big improvement for Tampa Bay, but as far as any national prominence, it depends on (the doctors) they attract.
"The grant dollars follow those superstars _ it really depends on who they recruit," Hosler said.
Besides, he said, "there's already a lot there in the way of retail, although it will help maintain those businesses."
For an area already so retail intensive, the biggest potential is for further commercial and residential development, said Larry Richey, managing director for Cushman & Wakefield, commercial real estate brokers.
"Clearly there will be more development around the facility," Richey said, "with an additional impact on the multifamily and residential markets." Most of that would be felt on "the fastest growing residential market, such as New Tampa, Tampa Palms, Hunter's Green."
For John Dausman, director of economic development for Hillsborough County, putting institutions like USF and TGH together in one spot could have tremendous impact for the bay area's long-term growth.
"If it (USF) creates a center of excellence for the state of Florida, that fame is going to grow," Dausman said. "Over time it can cause the Tampa Bay area to be a desirable place for very educated people to live."
But, he cautioned, "Now, is there a need for more hospital beds out there? I doubt it."
Given the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms, the idea of moving Tampa General from its location on Davis Islands makes sense, Dausman said, although he added, "whether they have the resources to start over again _ I don't know."
As for the possible impact of another hospital on the low-income residential area immediately surrounding USF, the prognosis wasn't optimistic.
A proposed health clinic at Nebraska Avenue and N 139th Avenue would address residents' needs more than another hospital would, said Lori Evans, manager of the Hillsborough County Weed and Seed Safe Haven project.
Evans oversees a collection of free county services in a neighborhood where most residents are below the poverty level.
"A lot of people in the community use the emergency room as their primary care," Evans said. "They need preventative care and checkups, instead of another emergency room."
Besides, she said, if Tampa General goes private, "their target population is not going to be this neighborhood anyway."
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE TGH PLAN:
"No money, no mission. St. Francis of Assisi said that."
_ DR. LOFTY BASTA
"We might not understand the specifics of medical jargon, bu we understand when we are getting shafted . . . We're talking about God, mother and apple pie with the American flag flying in the background when you talk about Tampa General Hospital."
_ OTIS ANTHONY
"I want so much to take beter care of my patients. I've given this building CPR long enough."
_ HEIDI LONDON
TGH registered nurse
"Yes, Tampa General is sick. Yes, Tampa General is dying. Please don't vote on it today because the people will think the hearing (process) is no good."
_ BOB GILDER
"I'm disappointed about discussions of the race issue. Health care is not a black and white issue, it's an economic issue."
_ JOYCE SMITH
small business owner
"What is the rush right now to take formal action?"
_ CARL WARREN