After reviewing many forecasts and predictions of business trends likely to arrive or accelerate in 2017, let's boil them down to ten that are most likely to influence the Tampa Bay business scene in the new year.
These trends are culled from input from consulting firms like Forrester Research, publications like Fortune, Forbes, The Economist and the Harvard Business Review, and are sprinkled with examples of local companies and organizations trying to adjust and keep up in such disruptive times.
Here are the top ten:
1. Rise of wearable technology: Giant cruise company Carnival unveiled this week its Ocean Medallion, a next-generation wireless device — the size of a quarter and designed to be worn as jewelry or wristwatch. The optional device connects individual cruise passengers with a database of their particular likes and dislikes they created in advance, and enables the ship's staff to know 24/7 what might please or enhance an individual's stay on board. Princess Cruise ships will be the first to use the new app and medallion. Watch for a lot more from wearable tech beyond the early forays so far into tourism and theme parks, exercise and personal fitness and health care.
2. Hacking becomes mainstream: Cyber attacks that gained momentum in 2016 with massive hacks at Yahoo and amid the U.S. presidential elections will become even more commonplace in 2017 and beyond. Forrester Research predicts the impact of hacking will be significant, going so far as to expect "a Fortune 1000 company will fail because of a cyberbreach." That's why we are starting to see some law firms — including Tampa-St. Pete law firm Trenam announce this month that it is starting a cybersecurity practice. When law firms start creating teams devoted to such issues, you know hacking issues are here to stay as just another cost of doing business.
3. Tallahassee's war over tax incentives: Led by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and empowered by the Koch brothers, watch for increasingly strident attacks against the state use of publix tax incentives to recruit new companies, market to tourists or provide any public funding to support new sports stadiums. Sounds good, at least until new jobs and visitors dwindle and sports teams leave for better offers elsewhere. Keep an eye on the future of Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays.
4. Shopping malls lose their foundation stores: Consider Macy's decision this month to close its store at Tampa's University Square Mall on Fowler Avenue just the latest crumbling of cornerstone retailers. At Tyrone Square Mall in south Pinellas County, the long struggling Sears is going away. Look for malls to get more creative (or desperate) to keep their spaces leased with unorthodox arrivals to malls — from food stores to health care facilities.
5. What won't be delivered at home within hours? If 2016 saw the arrival of speedier home deliver services from the likes of Amazon, Shipt, Instacart, and Drizly, look for competition in 2017 to get only more heated. UberEats just started delivering McDonald's food in Tampa. Amazon's already started delivery by drone. It's just not offered here. Yet.
6. Here come the bots: Anybody noticing the sharp spike in chatter about robots and artificial intelligence out there? Bots are coming fast to replace more blue collar jobs that involve repetitive motion, and white collar jobs —look out financial advisers — are also becoming targets for automation. This trend may challenge future President Trump's effort to rebuild factory jobs in the United States.
7. Work goes increasingly virtual: Is the phrase "office workers" going the way of the dodo? The boom in coworking space across Tampa Bay, Florida and the world will only accelerate in 2017. It's all about flexibility, cool environment, proximity to home and growing traffic congestion that discourages the age-old daily commute. Work where you want to be most productive.
8. People are flocking to Florida: A new Atlas Van Lines migration analysis by state shows Florida ranked as the largest of nine states experiencing substantially more "inbound" (56 percent) than "outbound" (44 percent) moves. The year 2016 is the third in a row that Florida sustained a big "inbound" advantage over those leaving the state. The biggest "outbound" states of the past decade: New York, Ohio and Indiana, all big feeder states for Florida.
9. Falling jobless rates: Unemployment rates in Tampa Bay seem to have settled in the high 4 percent range in the past year, which is impressive given the influx (see No. 8 above) of more people moving to the Sunshine State. Florida's enjoying healthy job growth. If unemployment drops further, to the low 4's, growing companies will need to find talent by wooing people away from their existing jobs. And that may mean higher wages will be offered to attract people to new opportunities. I know, we've heard this scenario before and job pay still sees little improvement. Maybe 2017 can deliver.
10. Living and working with more uncertainty: A soon-to-arrive new president and the Republican controlled Congress may feel empowered to challenge much of the status quo in the United States. That may prompt many businesses in the country to remain cautious. That said, at the start of 2017, we seem to be heading closer to the Dow hitting 20,000. Consumer confidence is high and rising. Those are good business signs, even if there's more than enough social unrest to remain wary of the country's direction. After all, the new administration does not even take office until later this month.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com. Follow @venturetampabay.