Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for winning the Super Bowl. We have the best team in pro football, even though the Bucs were pretty bad in the previous season. They went from mediocre to marvelous, and how they did so provides lessons about how to lift up the entire Tampa Bay area. After all, while it’s nice to be title town — championships in football, hockey and a near miss in baseball — wouldn’t it be great to be the best at jobs, education, health, transit and all those other things that make life better? And let’s face it, we’re not. So how do we get there?
Quarterback Tom Brady brought a new attitude to the Bucs, it’s true. But he didn’t harass or pressure or tackle Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. That was the Bucs’ defense. What Brady did was instill a mindset of what the Bucs could do — if they believed. Many of the same players were on both last year’s bad team and this year’s championship team. They had the pieces — the personnel — of a champion, but they weren’t winning. That’s true of Tampa Bay as a region. Who are the leaders who will step forward and persuade us that we can be winners? And to show us what it will take?
For years, the Tampa Bay Partnership has compared the area with 19 other peer regions from Seattle to South Florida on a variety of measures to see how we stack up. The short answer? Not well. Yes, our roads are smooth (the third best), our air is clean (also third best), and our crime rate is low (second best). But our median household income is dead last, and our average wage is next to worst. At $49,800, it’s nearly $10,000 below the national average, and absolutely paltry compared with the top peer, Seattle at $84,433. Overall, the Tampa Bay area is not very affordable, when measuring living costs as a percentage of income. We’re 18th out of 20.
We neither innovate, incubate nor educate enough either. Sounds grim. But it’s not. A year ago, who would have honestly believed the Bucs would win the Super Bowl in a blowout? For all of the Tampa Bay area’s travails, we have far more pluses than just beaches and craft beer bars and sunshine. People still flock here. Compared with our peers, we have either the top net migration (last year) or second best (now), behind only Austin. Our economy, as judged by Gross Regional Product growth rate, is rising at the third-fastest rate.
There is a lot to build on, and as the Bucs experienced change can come slowly and then all at once. Just ask Sarah Thomas, the first woman to referee a Super Bowl, or Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar, two assistant coaches on the Bucs’ sidelines Sunday night.
Call us Tampa Bay or Champa Bay. There’s an awful lot to be proud of right now. And there’s a lot to learn. We’ve got the building blocks to assemble a championship area. Let’s invest where it’s needed, ask the right leaders to step forward and let’s become the championship region in life that we already are on the field.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, editorial writers John Hill and Jim Verhulst, and Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news