Tampa Bay leaders discuss strategies to increase economic development

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The gathering's goal was to inform the regional leaders of the new business plans and political actions taken to improve the economic ecology of the Tampa Region. The discussion revolved around the presentation of the four speakers beginning with Stuart Rogel, President and CEO of the Tampa Bay partnership, followed by Representative Will Weatherford, Dr. Susan MacManus, USF Distinguished Professor and Dr. Judy Genshaft, President and CEO of the University of South Florida System.

The presentations were divided into two categories. One focused on the development of new job markets and the expansion of per-existing industries, and the second discussed the political influence of the Tampa region within Florida and the country as whole in the upcoming 2012 Presidential elections.

Rogel's opening presentation presented an overview of the economic development of the Tampa region and argued that the economic downturn impacted the Tampa Bay harshly because the rapid development we experienced suddenly came to a stand still. "We grew too fast but our growth wasn't sustainable," he said, explaining that after years of extensive research into the industrial and business sectors of the region, the Tampa Bay Partnership has identified four "high-potential industry clusters" in the Tampa Bay area: Applied Medicine and Human Performance, High Tech Electronics and Instruments, Business Financial and Data services, and Marine and Environmental Activities. These industry clusters, Rogel further stated, represent more than 350,000 jobs in the Tampa Bay market, that's approximately 23% of the region's employment. Rogel also pointed out that these industry clusters need the support of other industries in order to develop such as transportation, education, health, and public advocacy.

Representative Will Weatherford, who is charged on the House side with the Redistricting of the various congressional and legislative maps and Dr. Susan MacManus discussed the potential assistance that the state's political power will have in the economic development of Tampa Bay. Representative Weatherford said that the new maps will protect the votes of minority districts and will reflect the input of the public, as about 105 maps drawn by individuals have been submitted by the public, as opposed to just four maps submitted the during the last redistricting in 2002. This, along with the importance of Florida as a swing state during the Presidential elections, will bring muchof the national attention to the state.

Finally the combination of these strategies and of advanced research and education provided by universities such as USF the speakers argued, will accelerate the economic growth and the industrial development of Tampa Bay. One of the issues that remains unresolved and for which the speakers could not presently offer a plan or solution is the improvement of transportation system in the region, which one commentator noted costs us the return of many visitors because of the problems associated with an insufficient public transit system.

On Monday, regional stakeholders and business leaders gathered at the Pepin Hospitality Centre to take part in The Congress of Regional Leaders meeting held by the University of South Florida, the Florida Institute of Government and the Tampa Bay Partnership.

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