F.Y.I. West Florida Economic News: December 2013

December 2013 economic news, notes and commentary from West Florida.

Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay finished 16th out of 363 metros for its economy’s rate of growth in 2013, and the momentum is expected to continue through this year, according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors analysis. Tampa Bay’s growth rate was at 3.2 percent and will increase another 2.8 percent in 2014, the data indicates. Between September 2012 and 2013, nearly 42,000 jobs were generated in Tampa Bay, reportedly more than any other metro area in Florida. The gross domestic product for 2013 was esti- mated at $125.5 billion and could total up to $131.5 billion int he new year.

Tampa Bay has been chosen to join a network of 19 other metropolitan areas that are committed to increasing global trade and economic competitiveness. The recently launched “Exchange” is part of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase’s Global Cities Initiative. The Exchange includes 12 U.S. metro areas already involved in the Brookings’ Metropolitan Export Initiative. The Exchange equips metropolitan leaders with the information, policy ideas and connections they need to bolster their regions’ positions in the global economy.


Covidien, headquartered in Dublin, England, will establish a medical device manufacturing facility in Hillsborough County, reportedly adding 165 new jobs and $18 million in capital investment by 2017. It will occupy a 62,200 -square-foot facility in Riverview by mid-2014. Covidien has pioneered a number of medical advances, including pulse oximetry, elec- trosurgery, surgical stapling, laparoscopic instrumentation and embolization devices.

Port Of Tampa

With officials at the Port Of Tampa expecting to reach the million-passenger benchmark in the near future, they welcomed the Royal Caribbean International Brilliance of the Seas. The cruise ship will home-port for the 2013-14 cruise season at Cruise Terminal 3. Brilliance of the Seas is the 10th Royal Caribbean vessel located in Tampa. In other port news: The Tampa Port Authority hosted its first Tampa Automotive Short Sea Summit, attracting major auto manufacturers, auto parts companies and shipping companies. The Port of Tampa is the largest economic engine in west central Florida, supporting nearly 80,000 jobs and generating almost $15 billion in annual economic impact.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, continues to buy vacant land in downtown Tampa adjacent to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the National Hockey League’s Lightning play. In November, he added another three parcels (totaling roughly three acres) to his porfolio. Vinik now owns 20.5 acres of the Channel District area around the arena. According to industry observers, while the parcels are not all connected, Vinik could still have designs on taking over the Channelside Bay Plaza retail center—a property he sought to purchase in 2012. The Tampa Port Authority has rights to buy the troubled retail/entertainment center but not until a federal bank- ruptcy is finalized.

University Of South Florida

University Of South Florida leaders obviously think more is better. While already raising $621 million during their four-year Unstoppable fundraising campaign, they have upped the goal to $1 billion in a new phase. The original campaign drew more than 140,000 donors and spawned new facilities, along with raising money for faculty, student scholarships, academic programs, athletics and USF Health, among others. USF President Judy Genshaft called the $1 billion goal “truly rare for a university, nationally, globally.” In related news, USF’s part-time MBA program is tops among Florida’s 12 state universities and No. 16 among public schools nationwide, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Overall, the part-time MBA program ranks 36th nationally among private and public universities.

General Electric Co.

In Pinellas County, Clearwater has been selected by the General Electric Co. as the new site to expand manufacturing operations, which could result in 263 new jobs and a $49 million expansion to the current site. Instrument Transformers, a subsidiary of GE, has been in Clearwater for nearly 40 years with 436 employees.

Wiregrass Ranch

Pasco-Hernando Community College’s fifth and newest campus opened in January. The Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, located in Wesley Chapel, offers nursing, business and technology and other general education classes, which can lead to associate of arts or associate of science degrees. The 116,000-square-foot facility features 10 classrooms, four computer labs, four science labs, eight health labs, a library and a college book store, all atop a multilevel 500-space parking garage. PHCC hopes to offer four-year degrees beginning in August, consisting of a bachelor of science in nursing and a bachelor of applied sciences in supervision and management.

The Tampa Bay Partnership

The Tampa Bay Partnership has launched a new digital ambassador program —#WeAreALLTampaBay— designed to help market the region by unleashing the stories of Tampa Bay via various social networks. Digital ambassadors may select which social networks to link to #WeAreALLTampaBay from among LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. On a weekly basis, the Partnership pushes content that digital ambassadors can choose to share with their individual social networks. Essentially, the program is a grassroots approach that gives the Tampa Bay Partnership the opportunity to showcase its region digitally.

The United Services Automobile Association

The United Services Automobile Association plans to expand its presence in Hillsborough County. The move could create up to 1,215 new jobs and $164.3 million in capital investment by 2019. USAA, a provider of insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services for the military community and their families, currently employs more than 1,800 individuals in New Tampa; there are more than 600 additional employees located throughout the state. Headquartered in San Antonio, the Fortune 500 company also maintains operations in Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Norfolk, and the Dallas area.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University has launched the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. The poll’s national findings were first released in mid-December and will continue quarterly. Survey topics for the initial poll included national politics, Florida politics, religion in politics, holiday consumer culture and the impact of technology on daily living. Drew Gold, associate professor of management, is the polling institute’s executive director. Saint Leo is one of the largest and most innovative Catholic universities in the U.S., offering more than 40 academic programs.

Florida State Fair Authority

With responses due just after the new year, the Florida State Fair Authority is seeking development ideas for the 331-acre fairgrounds land. The fair authority is interested in leasing the property. According to fair officials, development proposals must be compatible with the mission and operations of the state fair, which is held east of Tampa each February. If a developer wants
to build on the site of the fair, it would have to plan to relocate and replace that part of the fair (or its parking) elsewhere on the fairgrounds.
By virtue of size and location (near Interstate 4 and U.S. 301), the land offers an enticing development opportunity, authority officials contend. Proposals were required by Jan. 3.