CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County Commission is asking the newly renamed Tampa Bay Economic Development Council to reconsider its decision, saying its rebranding “does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration.”
The commission “is deeply disappointed” in the decision by the former Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. “to begin doing business as the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council,” commission chairwoman Karen Seel wrote to council chief executive officer Craig Richard this week. “Years of effort and expense have established ‘Tampa Bay’ as a regional brand for all economic development interests in our area.”
“We feel strongly your action undermines that investment,” she said.
For example, she said, Global Tampa Bay “has had great success in promoting the region to international customers and clients,” with millions of dollars in new revenues flowing to businesses in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. Previously known as the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, Global Tampa Bay has organized multi-county trade missions to Canada, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico in an effort to attract more direct foreign investment to the bay area.
Another initiative, known as Team Tampa Bay, brought together economic development organizations from seven counties to market the region to corporate site selection consultants, Seel said.
But she said the Tampa organization’s “decision to assume the global 'Tampa Bay’ brand puts these and other collaborative programs in jeopardy. We respectfully request the Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. reconsider the recent name change in order to eliminate confusion in our regional marketing efforts and restore trust among all local partners.”
In Tampa, there’s no sign of that happening. A spokeswoman said Richard was unavailable for comment Thursday, but provided a statement from him saying that his organization had not seen Seel’s letter.
“Our name was changed on Oct. 29 per the approval of our board," Richard said. "We look forward to continuing the positive collaboration we’ve always had with our partners in Pinellas as we work toward mutual economic growth and more inclusive prosperity for our region.”
Pinellas commissioners aren’t alone in their discomfort with the name change. Economic development officials in Pinellas and Pasco, as well as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson, also have criticized the move.