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  1. Business

Tampa issues a record $2B in building permits in 12 months

TAMPA — The last 12 months have been a banner year for construction in Tampa, with builders pulling permits for more than $2 billion in projects.

That's a record, city officials said Thursday, that surpasses the previous high mark of nearly $1.8 billion worth of permits issued in permits during 2007 at the height of the real estate bubble.

For Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the numbers were more encouraging than surprising.

"We knew we were trending this way," Buckhorn said from Pittsburgh, which he was touring with members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "What's exciting for us is that we have gotten to this point this quickly, which tells me that we are really accelerating out of the recession."

When it comes to the total number of permits issued, the total for fiscal year 2014, which ended on Sept. 30, was 34,500. That's below the 39,066 from 2007.

Still, Buckhorn said the upward trends in both the numbers of permits and total values of residential and commercial projects show that Tampa is growing. The pace of the growth, he said, convinces him that changes he's made to make City Hall's permitting faster, more efficient and user-friendly have paid off.

As a candidate in 2011, Buckhorn promised to "change the city's economic DNA."

Once elected, Buckhorn named an "economic competitiveness" committee made up of lawyers, engineers, developers and builders, plus a City Council member and a neighborhood representative.

After seven months of study, the committee recommended changes to development codes and ordinances, staff and organization and process and technology.

The next week, Buckhorn reorganized city departments that touch development review, permitting and construction services.

The city also has spent $2.7 million installing Accela Citizens Access, a digital records system that allows development professionals to file applicants and check the status of their projects online.

One number that hasn't gone up, officials said, is the number of city employees who process those permits applications. It's 58 — about half as many as in 2007.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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