September 20, 2014

Economic Yearbook 2008

TAMPA BAY: Battling a Misperception

Art Levy | 4/1/2008

 Tampa Bay

In Tampa Bay, business leaders say the economy remains fairly strong; their biggest challenge is battling the perception that it’s not. Aside from some very real problems associated with the housing slowdown, economic development officials from each of the region’s six counties say Tampa Bay’s economy is diverse and positioned to stay afloat during what could be a difficult year. They point to the growing retail, manufacturing and high-tech sectors as proof.

Sean Belanger
Business View (Clearwater) Sean Belanger
» Sean Belanger, CEO of CSDVRS, which provides communication services to deaf people, is wondering if he made the right decision in moving his company from South Dakota to Clearwater. “The state of Florida has nice incentives for companies to move here, but it has a terrible disincentive for individuals to move here,” he says, referring to the higher property taxes his employees have to pay. [Photo: Mark Wemple]

“We’re still seeing job growth occurring in this region, just not at the torrid pace we saw two, three and four years ago, when all sectors of the economy were running at full speed,” says Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “For the Tampa Bay region, the real key will be when we get this residential market back into some sort of balance. Right now, it’s not in balance, and that’s what’s holding the economy back.”

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When Kim Scheeler, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, meets with business people, he says he hears “an interesting mix” of comments about the economy. “They say, ‘well, our business is still doing pretty well, but we’re a little anxious.’ From time to time, we have to remind people that what they read nationally is not necessarily applying to us here.”

The region and the state still face serious challenges beyond housing. Sean Belanger, a CEO whose high-tech firm recently relocated from South Dakota to Clearwater, says property tax inequities have him second-guessing the move. “The reason we’re not happy with Florida is I’ve moved over 30 people here, and they are finding that their property taxes are higher than their neighbors’,” says Belanger, whose company, CSDVRS, provides communication services to deaf people. “Why should they pay $6,000 or $10,000 a year in property taxes while their neighbor, with the same house, is paying $1,000 or $2,000? It’s really, really making people angry. The state of Florida has nice incentives for companies to move here, but it has a terrible disincentive for individuals to move here.”

POPULATION TREND

Each of Tampa Bay’s counties continues to grow, although four of the six are growing at a slightly slower pace than past years. The region’s most populated counties grew the slowest on a percentage basis, while still taking in more new residents in absolute numbers: Hillsborough was up 2.2%, slightly higher than the state average of 2.07%, and Pinellas just grew .3%. The only counties that grew at a faster pace in 2004-08, compared to 2003-07, were Citrus and Polk.

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