TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Economic Development Council has made a lot of headlines lately, first for changing its name.
Goodbye, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
Hello, surprised and annoyed St. Petersburg officials. They suspect that a corporate recruitment agency with a regional-sounding name but a focus on Tampa will grab companies’ attention at their expense.
Then last week Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson raised the stakes, calling for City Hall to stop giving the economic development council $538,000 a year. Carlson said the council didn’t deliver new jobs.
Economic development council president and chief executive officer Craig Richard countered that Carlson wanted to go on the organization’s trade missions overseas and is now retaliating because Richard told him it’s up to Mayor Jane Castor to say who represents the city on such trips.
While this controversy plays out, the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council is moving ahead with a project six months in the making: to re-think what economic development means. The council was spun off from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce 10 years ago. Since then, it has used a standard economic development playbook: Recruit companies outside the state. Steer them toward available sites. Help them seek government development incentives.
But the landscape has changed, Richard said in an interview last week.
“Now it’s about, ‘Do you have the talent to sustain them and help that company succeed in the future?’ ” he said. "That’s a whole new conversation that economic developers across the country are having with each other.”
So the council, which is nonprofit but receives support from local businesses, Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, is broadening what it means by economic development.
It will still help companies that want to move or expand here, especially if they are in one of its strategic growth areas: cyber-security, financial technology, health technology, supply-chain management technology, and cancer research and treatment. In that last category, economic development officials say the presence of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, along with major pharmaceutical companies like Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson, help position Tampa to build this concentration into a regional or national force.
Over the past year, the council worked on 39 corporate relocations or expansions, resulting in more than 2,500 new jobs and investment in new facilities and capital of nearly $392 million.
In the coming year, it plans to take a larger role in two other areas: talent and place-making.
“Talent is the No. 1 priority for every audience we target,” new council chairwoman Marie Chinnici-Everitt, managing director and chief marketing officer of the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), told the council’s annual meeting last week. “We’ve done well in creating jobs. We have about 50,000 open positions in the market. Now we need to recruit people.”
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To start, the council plans to expand the “Make it Tampa Bay” campaign aimed at attracting millennial workers to the region. But it also says talent attraction needs more than marketing to places outside of Florida. It also wants college students to stay here after they graduate and make people more aware of career and training resources so they can compete for high-demand jobs.
So it is looking to help recruiters and human resource professionals, including at major Hillsborough employers such as MacDill Air Force Base, develop tools to help relocated employees and their spouses and work to boost employer recruitment at universities.
The council also will work to shepherd workers toward skills development efforts under way at CareerSource Tampa Bay, the Tampa Bay Partnership and Hillsborough County schools, and to showcase local opportunities for graduates of the University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College and Saint Leo University.
On place-making, the council plans to ramp up its efforts to help businesses take advantage of federally authorized Opportunity Zones, which would provide investors with tax savings while creating jobs through business expansions and initiatives.
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The organization also plans to form a task force to help make existing properties attractive candidates for redevelopment and to foster more discussion among business leaders about regional areas of competitiveness, such as the cost of doing business, quality of life and infrastructure, that play into decisions affecting corporate relocations.
“Economic development is evolving,” Richard said, “and economic development organizations have to evolve with it.”
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times