Blazing a New Trail

Sharpe Bytes – October 18, 2016

The Bureau of Economic Analysis just released its annual rankings of metros by GDP and the Tampa Bay Metro came in at number 26. It was pointed out by @urbntampabay on Twitter that we rank #18 in population so we are “hitting below our weight.”

I’ve long chaffed at our mid-level rankings – indeed the Brookings Institute listed Tampa as one of 16 “American Middleweight” metros that make up the global mix of 123 large cities. Robert Trigaux of the Times noted that the next level up, right below the “Global Giants” such as New York and Los Angelos, is the sweet spot called “Knowledge Capital.” Triguax penned that “this is what every aspiring middleweight metro like Tampa Bay wants to become.” He continues that “Brookings says knowledge capital cities are highly productive innovation centers with talented workforces and elite research universities. These regions are at the world’s innovation frontier, and thus challenged constantly to generate new knowledge and ideas to sustain growth.”

Why does this matter? Because we are in a battle to attract talented workers to our region and middleweight just won’t cut it. Middleweight equates to lagging salaries and poor job selections. Indeed, our metro was ranked dead last among the top 25 metros in household median income at $48,000. This comes at a time when other metros are seeing their numbers grow. Seattle recently touted median household incomes of $80,000. I remember a time when Seattle was considered a dreary, rain-sodden town. Today it is home to Amazon, Boeing, and Starbucks. Well dang nab it – we have Buddy Brew. And by the way, Denver sits at $70,000 and even Detroit stands at $53,000.

There is movement on our side as well. 3 points:

1. The Westshore District is embarking on a new Master Plan and is home to one of the best airports in the world.

2. Our downtown is preparing to begin the single largest redevelopment project in Tampa’s history – thanks to Jeff Vinik and the leadership of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

3. The Tampa Innovation Alliance is working diligently to create an Innovation District near the University of South Florida. Partnering with Hillsborough County and the state of Florida, the Alliance is leading efforts to transform Fowler Avenue from a sprawling and dangerous wasteland of speeding cars and pawn shops to a Gateway of Innovation. We have launched an effort to rethink mobility and are partnering with CareerSource Tampa to train and find tech jobs for young workers who yearn to join the tech economy.

What can you do? Easy – join the Tampa Innovation Alliance for its raucous Innovation Gathering on October 26 at The University Mall. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. Our way forward rests with the students, innovators, tech companies and crazy-eyed entrepreneurs who will be attending this year’s event. Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and world’s top urban theorist will be keynoting. This event – which we have labeled the largest community engagement event of the year is an opportunity to join others dissatisfied with our weak rankings and begin to do something positive to bring about change.

If Tampa Bay is going to move out of its middleweight orbit, see median household incomes grow, and attract and retain top talent, we must embrace the uncertainty of the tech economy and adopt an ethos that rewards risk, thinks big, and moves fast. That is why I agreed to lead the Tampa Innovation Alliance and I encourage you to join. It’s time to begin punching above our weight!

Link to the News