Tampa forum focuses on upwardly mobile millennials

Some of Tampa's most influential figures actually believe the millennials are our future.

click to enlarge Crowd at the Millennial Impact Forum - Alvin Renz c/o Diamond View
Alvin Renz c/o Diamond View
Crowd at the Millennial Impact Forum

College students and budding young professionals alike gathered Tuesday to hear how members of their generation can have a more integral role in determining Tampa's future. A panel of well-known local figures sat before the young hopefuls to share anecdotes of past failures and successes, their wishes for the future of Tampa Bay and advice on what millennials need to do to help the city prosper.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner and developer Jeff Vinik was the star panelist at the well-organized event. Titled the Millennial Impact Forum, it was the first event of its kind in the area.

The group of nine successful "Tampreneurs" — yep, that is something people are saying now — ranged from business owners like Sing Hurt (owner of Anise Restaurant, who moved to the United States from Vietnam when she was just 2 years old) to key players in the community's nonprofit sector, like Tammy Charles, who heads the corporate relations department at Metropolitan Ministries. The latter had just returned from a mission trip to Haiti. The panel may have ranged widely in advice and occupations, but one thing they all had in common was something Vinik put into the simplest of terms: "The future of Tampa is millennials."

Vinik sought to demonstrate his genuine dedication to the young audience by promising anyone who paid to attend the event — rather than have their admission covered by, say, an employer — two free hockey tickets to see the Bolts.

click to enlarge (L-R) Mike Griffin, Jeff Vinik, and Tim Moore - Alvin Renz c/o Diamond View
Alvin Renz c/o Diamond View
(L-R) Mike Griffin, Jeff Vinik, and Tim Moore

The panel was not entirely focused on what the technologically savvy generation could do for Tampa; discussion also focused on things that are holding the community back. Cesar Hernandez, government relations liaison for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, encouraged the audience to make a difference.

"If you see a credible or tangible solution to a problem at hand...advocate for it and solve it," he said.

Mike Griffin of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce talked at length about a major issue for the region: transportation, something over which city and county leaders have fought for generations.

He said the region must pursue meaningful solutions to its notorious traffic issues so Tampa can be the best city it can be. 

Countering the millennial tendency to communicate primarily via their phone screens, Vinik and others stressed the importance of human interaction. Vinik said cultivating human connections was one impetus behind his purchase of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In recent years, the region has rallied around the team, which has served to reinforce a regional identity for Tampa and surrounding environs.

click to enlarge Young crowd at the Millennial Impact Forum - Alvin Renz c/o Diamond View
Alvin Renz c/o Diamond View
Young crowd at the Millennial Impact Forum

"In an era of mostly cell phone use, I wanted to create more person-to-person contact," he said.

Another member of the panel, Andrew Machota, is the current owner of New Town Connections, a social networking club that focuses on creating real-life connections between individuals rather than communicating via touchscreen. 

Though the crowd was extremely diverse, every person at the event had one thing in common: the desire to make Tampa live up to its potential. When it comes to defeating negative stereotypes of millennials and what they stand for, the group gathered Tuesday was all about shattering stereotypes. At the end of the seminar, the panelists left us with some words of wisdom, including Griffin, advising the crowd of avid cell phone users to "not tweet after midnight." 

To get involved with the Millennial Impact Forum, sign up here.

About The Author

Mady Dudley

Mady Dudley is a born-and-raised "St. Petersburger." She received her bachelors degree in Editing, Writing and Media from Florida State University in May, 2018. Mady enjoys concerts, movies, rollerblading, theater, traveling, food, the company of dogs and spending time with family and friends. 

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