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Jeff Vinik says transportation improvements key to luring major companies

Jeff Vinik, owner of the Lightning, says transportation is the biggest obstacle facing growth in Tampa Bay.
Jeff Vinik, owner of the Lightning, says transportation is the biggest obstacle facing growth in Tampa Bay.
Published Aug. 25, 2016

A congested road system is the biggest obstacle Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his real estate team must overcome as they try to lure potential companies to downtown Tampa.

"Transportation is top of the list," Vinik said. He added that his company Strategic Property Partners, a joint real estate venture with Cascade Investment, is in talks with several companies about relocating to Tampa.

More than a decade ago, the biggest hindrance to corporate recruiting was likely the state's school system, Vinik said.

"But we've made such strides in education in this community," said Vinik, who spoke on a panel with others in the sports, arts and entertainment industries at a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday. "Companies are having great success with our graduates here."

While the conversation was focused on education and college-level internships with Tampa institutions like Busch Gardens, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vinik made multiple references to the importance of transportation to the region's future.

"Hillsborough County has … population over the next 10 years that will grow'' 25 percent, Vinik told the sold-out crowd at the University Club of Tampa in the Tampa City Center. "Orlando is growing at a similar rate. With 5 to 6 million people in the Central Florida region, we're growing faster than places like Austin or Denver or Silicon Valley."

Vinik said that Tampa Bay's state-leading number of STEM-related, high-paying jobs puts it in a good position for more growth in the economy and injecting more money into the community.

"We're on our way to being a superpower in the U.S. and maybe the world," Vinik said. But "what's absent is a proper plan for transportation."

Last week, Vinik spoke in support of a controversial light-rail transit system in Tampa Bay during an event sponsored by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

Strategic Property Partners is responsible for a $2 billion redevelopment of 40 acres in downtown Tampa. The first phase development includes 1,000 new apartments and condominiums, up to 2.2 million square feet of office space and, it is hoped, a major corporate headquarters.

The University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will move to downtown Tampa. Plans call for updating the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and Channelside Bay Plaza, as well as building a 400- to 500-room luxury hotel.

Road and infrastructure work will start Monday on Morgan Street and will affect Channelside Drive and Jefferson Street in downtown Tampa as construction on the project gets under way.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.