By Stacie Kress Booker
Four years ago, Ed Turanchik, a Hillsborough County commissioner at the time, got a call from a constituent suggesting Tampa bid to host the Olympic Games. Turanchik promised to look into it. Little did he know he'd be spearheading Tampa's regional effort, called Florida 2012, to host the summer Olympic Games in 12 years.
As the group announces proposed sites for Olympic events in Tampa and partner cities St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Orlando and Lakeland, it will need plenty of inter-regional cooperation to achieve its dream. But building a consensus among the sometimes contentious cities may prove to be a tough hurdle to clear.
St. Petersburg officials still rankle when sports announcers place the city's Major League baseball team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in Tampa rather than St. Petersburg. And it was no coincidence that the first proposed Olympic venue sites were announced in St. Petersburg. "That was a way of allaying any concerns the city's fathers had about our commitment," says Turanchik, president and CEO of Florida 2012.
Plans call for St. Petersburg to build just one facility, a center for the diving competition. Other events -- wrestling, gymnastics and baseball -- could be held at the Bayfront Center and Tropicana Field. The triathlon could take place on city streets.
Turanchik, who has vowed not to use taxpayer dollars, believes the St. Petersburg facility as well as others to be named in the partner cities can be funded through private donations.
But Joe Chillura, a former colleague on the Hillsborough County Commission, isn't so sure. Chillura, who is running for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, says he's not opposed to seeking the bid but adds, "I'm not aware of any community that has pulled it off without public guarantees or subsidies."
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer does not support building a permanent diving center on the city's waterfront. He says in the past voters have not been eager to have facilities of that magnitude on the waterfront.
With proposed Olympic venues spread fairly evenly among the other partner cities, Florida 2012 officials are sure to face similar issues. But the stakes are high: Turanchik projects the economic impact will exceed $5 billion for the Tampa Bay region and Orlando. So far the group has more than $8.8 million and about a dozen people on its payroll, including such heavy-hitters in the world of sports as Jose Rodriguez, a major player in organizing the '96 Atlanta Games, which organizers claim generated an economic impact of $5 billion. Other Olympians on board include Michelle Akers, a gold medalist in women's soccer, Brooke Bennett, a gold medal swimmer, and Walter McCoy, a gold medalist in track and field.
Florida 2012 must submit its bid document to the U.S. Olympic Committee by Dec. 15, along with the other competing cities: Cincinnati; Baltimore-Washington, D.C.; New York City; Houston; Los Angeles; San Francisco.
In the News
Beadenton -- The environmental group ManaSota-88 wants regional officials to deny zoning changes that would allow new housing developments in flood-prone areas. The group is also asking that impact fees be imposed on development in hurricane zones. Its efforts come on the heels of a study released by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council that found evacuation times for Manatee, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties are the highest in the nation.
Clearwater -- Countryside Mall, open less than two years, is already bracing for an expansion. Anchor retailers Dillard's and Burdines are adding 82,000 and 70,000 square feet, respectively. In an unusual twist, Burdines will also build a mammography center on site to be operated in partnership with Morton Plant Mease Healthcare and staffed by hospital employees.
DialAmerica Marketing opened its third call center in the Bay area, adding 38 telemarketing and 10 managerial positions. The Mahwah, N.J.-based telemarketing firm sells various products ranging from magazine subscriptions to financial services. The telemarketing positions pay $8 an hour plus commissions from sales.
Lakeland -- National printing chain Kinko's is moving in, joining Sir Speedy and Fletcher Printing Co., owned by Mayor Buddy Fletcher. The Ventura, Calif.-based company, which will employ 18 full-time people, will be the only shop in the city open 24 hours.
Naples -- Residents tired of aircraft noise from the Naples Municipal Airport may get some relief. The city's Airport Authority is moving closer to enacting a full ban of certain private and corporate jets, called stage II jets, from the airport. Manufactured between the mid-1970s and early 1980s and noisier than newer aircraft, stage II jets account for only 1% of air traffic at the Naples airport but nearly 40% of noise complaints. The Airport Authority is expected to make a final decision in September, following a 45-day public comment period.
Pinellas -- Twenty-three delegates representing 12 Pinellas County medical companies returned from Expo Médica ("Across the Gulf," May 2000, www.FloridaTrend.com), a trade mission to Mexico City, with more than $8 million in joint ventures and potential export deals. The mission, organized by Pinellas County Economic Development, coincided with the opening of the county's permanent trade office in Mexico.
St. Petersburg -- Amfinity Business Solutions is the new employee leasing company on the block: the result of a merger between St. Petersburg-based The Global Cos. and Atlanta, Ga.-based Amfinity Capital. The professional employer organization projects revenues of $100 million for the year. It also has offices in Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta.
Euthenics, a St. Petersburg-based interior design and medical equipment planning firm is extending its reach eastward,
opening an office in Boca Raton -- its fourth. The others are in Dallas and Los Angeles.
Primex Technologies, Olin Corp.'s former defense unit spun off in 1996, recently bought Van Nuys, Calif.-based Kaiser Marquardt, a unit of Kaiser Aerospace & Electronics, for $22.4 million. The division manufactures bi-propellant rocket engines and posted $18.1 million in sales last year. The deal strengthens Primex's hold in the aerospace industry as a full-service propulsion supplier.
Tampa -- Building materials manufacturer Celotex Corp. is selling off its business in parts after a short-lived attempt to find a buyer for the entire company. BPB of the United Kingdom is buying Celotex's ceiling products and gypsum wallboard division, and Valley Forge, Pa.-based CertainTeed plans to buy its roofing products division. The two units account for 50% and 25% of Celotex's annual revenues respectively.
A former employee of Utility Partners pleaded guilty in May to sabotaging the company's computer system. When triggered, a destructive programming code disrupted communications for several of the company's clients. The former employee faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Cigna Corp. is scaling back its Medicare HMO in the Bay area, part of an industrywide cutback. Starting Jan. 1, Cigna will not sell its Medicare HMO in the Tampa Bay region. The insurer has about 7,500 subscribers in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties who will be affected.
Pay phone manufacturer Elcotel handed out another round of pink slips in May, bringing the total number of layoffs to 80 since it started cost-cutting measures last fall. Meanwhile, the company has moved forward with the Canadian rollout of its new Grapevine pay phone, which incorporates a small advertising display screen.