Tampa Bay: Reaching New Heights
A reliable workforce and reasonable costs draw key sector industries to Tampa Bay.
Topping the list of stellar educational opportunities in the region is the University of South Florida. With campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Lakeland and Sarasota-Manatee, USF offers some 200 academic programs at undergraduate and graduate levels.
USF's College of Medicine and the on-campus H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, a National Cancer Institute-designated facility, spur the regional medical economy. The National Science Foundation ranks USF as one of the two fastest growing research universities in the U.S., and USF researchers are on track to receive $300 million-plus in 2006- 07 funding. The university is a leader in genetics and public health, research about Alzheimer's disease, search-and-rescue robotics and bio-defense.
USF's astounding growth includes the new, $42.9 million, 230,000- square-foot Research Park, where university researchers and local businesses share labs; USF set a record by negotiating 20 intellectual property commercialization deals in FY 2005.
The College of Marine Science at USF in St. Petersburg continues to draw international acclaim and interest from private sector scientific institutions for its research programs in biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanography.
Florida's Tampa Bay region is home to more than 20 institutions of higher education, including the third largest university in the Southeast-- the University of South Florida.
In Sarasota, New College was named the nation's No. 1 value in public higher education by Princeton Review's America's 374 Best Colleges. Also in Sarasota, the renowned Ringling School of Art and Design has 1,100 students pursuing degrees in illustration, computer animation, fine arts and interior design.
The University of Tampa, a private, four-year school on 90 riverfront acres in downtown Tampa, offers more than 65 undergraduate and pre-professional programs.
Five community colleges also serve the region, including St. Petersburg College, the first community college in Florida to offer four-year degrees.
Tampa Bay has three international airports, plus dozens of general aviation, municipal and private airports. Tampa International Airport anchors Florida's largest business district, Westshore, with some 9.8 million square feet of office space in more than 100 buildings.
Deepwater seaports are in Tampa, Port Manatee and St. Petersburg. CSX Transportation, which provides rail service throughout the region, has plans to build a massive terminal and inter-modal distribution center in Polk County. The CSX Integrated Logistics Center will employ 8,500.
Interstates I-75, I-4 and I-275 link Tampa Bay to the rest of the state and nation. In addition, the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, with its new elevated express lanes, connects Brandon in east Hillsborough with downtown Tampa, where more than 6,000 new condos are being built or planned.
A city on the move
Downtown St. Petersburg is home to a new office complex being built by electric utility Progress Energy Florida. The first phase, a 16-story building to house 500 Progress Energy employees by 2007, includes retail space and parking.
Existing businesses, like manufacturer Halkey-Roberts Corp., are expanding here, too. This manufacturer of medical, inflation and container components, opened a 72,000-square-foot plant in St. Petersburg in 1980. When it outgrew that space, the company mulled moving to Texas or Alabama. But local economic development officials stepped in, and Halkey, a subsidiary of Atrion Corp., decided to reinvest nearly $20 million in Pinellas County. "The plan put together by the city and county officials was by far the most thorough and sensible," says Atrion CEO Emile Battat.
The result is a new 160,000-squarefoot plant, complete with a large "clean room" for medical manufacturing, at St. Petersburg's La Entrada mixed-use development, plus the retention of 187 jobs and the creation of 79 new ones. In exchange, Halkey accessed several fiscal incentives, including the Quali- fied Target Industry Tax Refund. And because the 10-acre site is in a statedesignated brownfields area, Halkey is eligible for Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus funds.
With aid from the Pinellas Technical Education Center, Halkey also won a Quick Response Training grant of $78,120 to help prepare new employees. Says Battat, "The invaluable assistance we received from Pinellas County and St. Petersburg confirmed that Pinellas was the right choice."
Elsewhere in Pinellas, fast-growing OneSimpleLoan, a student loan consolidator, is adding 52 new jobs and retaining 30 posts at its headquarters in Oldsmar. OneSimpleLoan tapped Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund incentives for a total of $156,000.
The ACCRA index puts Tampa Bay's cost of living at about 6% below the U.S. average.
"We looked at a variety of locations," says Paul Simino, company president, "but expanding in Pinellas County was the best decision."
At 120-employee PostcardMania, a Clearwater direct marketer that mails millions of postcard ads monthly, plans call for a new $5 million headquarters next to the company's existing warehouse. The company also received a $19,000 state Incumbent Worker Training grant, says CEO Joy Gendusa. "Definitely, the grant gave us impetus to do in-house training."