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Executive pipeline from Jacksonville to Tampa revs up

Published Jan. 5, 2013

Look out, Jacksonville.

You may call yourself the First Coast, but the Gulf Coast is giving you a run for your money. Or at least for your executives.

An increasing number of Jacksonville's top business leaders are pulling up stakes and making the 200-mile, cross-state trek to relocate to the Tampa Bay area.

Paul Anderson, the short-lived CEO of the Jacksonville Port Authority, is slated to start next week as the new Tampa port director and CEO. Marty Lanahan left her long-time post running the Jacksonville operation of Regions Bank six months ago to become the bank's Tampa-based West Florida area president. Marlene Spalten, an executive with Jacksonville's largest community-owned hospital group, was tapped in the fall to become CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

The latest blow to Jacksonville's civic pride came this week: Shands Jacksonville president and CEO Jim Burkhart is leaving to take the same title with Tampa General Hospital.

"We have to have some kind of get-together as a group. It just seems natural," Lanahan joked.

What's with all these Jaguars-turned-Bucs?

Lanahan credits David Pizzo, West Florida manager for Florida Blue, as BlueCross BlueShield of Florida is now called, for getting the executive pipeline flowing after he moved here from Jacksonville about four years ago.

But she's not surprised at the trend. Jacksonville and Tampa are similar cities with a strong quality of life, Lanahan said, and there's a "natural trend" to move on to a new challenge in a bigger or different market after a while.

"What it does say is that this is a wonderful place to live and work and play," she said. "I think people in other parts of the state are realizing there's some good stuff going on here."

Alas, Jacksonville isn't without some measure of victory in this intrastate rivalry.

After three seasons playing in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Lingerie Football League's Tampa Breeze recently said it is relocating to Jacksonville.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

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