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Trigaux: Can we grasp potential of two new ways to track region's ability to compete?

TAMPA — Two fresh ways to track how Tampa Bay is doing compared to other metro areas were unveiled Tuesday to business and community leaders here during a luncheon held at the University of South Florida. The Tampa Bay Partnership introduced its first (hopefully one of many in the coming years) Regional Competitiveness Report that broadly benchmarks how this metro is doing compared to 19 other competitive areas in the country.

A second forecasting model to help track Tampa Bay's progress using non-traditional but more current data was also demonstrated by the Center for Analytics & Creativity, part of Tampa's USF Muma College of Business.

Mission accomplished? No way. Now the hard part starts in rallying area talent to improve Tampa Bay's weakest links.

RELATED COVERAGE: What's our weakest link? To compete as a region, first fix our talent gap.

Here are five takeaways from this event:

1. Dave Sobush, Tampa Bay Partnership director of policy and research at the Tampa Bay Partnership, bravely discussed from the podium some of this metro area's weakest attributes compared to the other 19 metro areas analyzed in the Regional Competitiveness Report. One large slide behind Sobush highlighted Tampa Bay being 20th (last) among competing metros in college (bachelor) or graduate/professional degrees, as well as this metro's lagging behind in household income. The message that this area is relatively weak on talent was not intended as a downer to the audience of area leaders. Think of it as more of a wake-up call that these issues need improvement before Tampa Bay can really start making more competitive strides. Sobush was the chief assembler of the more than 50 indicators detailing 20 metro areas included the report.

2. Chuck Sykes, who chaired the Regional Competitiveness Report task force and runs call center Sykes Enterprises from downtown Tampa, spoke of how easy it would be for an area like Tampa Bay to just let itself grow naturally — thanks to a steady population of new people moving to the area. "That is not what we want," he told Tuesday's audience, citing a need for "smart and sustainable growth." Sykes, who relocated to this area from St. Louis — a major metro he said was "hard to believe it is shrinking" — and reminded Tampa Bay how fortunate it is to have a growing population.

3. USF business school dean, Moez Limayem, praised the depth of the Regional Competitiveness Report, but added that the indicators raised as many questions as answers. He and two data analytic experts from the school showed how Tampa Bay has struggled over the past decade or so to keep up with the nation's gains in household income, higher graduation rates and gross regional product per capita — how much we produce in value per person. Even Tampa Bay's seemingly low-and-getting-lower unemployment rate actually ranks this metro area 15th among the 20 metros tracked in the report.

RELATED COVERAGE: Troy Taylor: Tackling Tampa Bay's talent challenge.

4. Using non-traditional and nearly real-time measures, the business school's "big data" crunchers Balaji Padmanabhan and Shivendu Shivendu showed how Tampa Bay fares better than most metros based on measuring positive versus negative "Twitter sentiment" about specific metro areas. Based on their analysis, Tampa Bay ranked sixth among the 20 metros, behind Orlando, Nashville, Denver, San Antonio and top ranked San Diego. Charlotte ranked last at 20th while Jacksonville was 19th.

5. Bottom line? An enthusiastic Dean Limayem summarized all the new metro indicators and the predictive potential of his school's new model as "tools" that can boost Tampa Bay's competitiveness ahead. "The best way to predict the future," the business dean said, is to take charge and "shape it."

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.