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Tampa & Hillsborough County

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Who Lives Here (see below)
Economic Life
Quality of Life
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Why I Live Here

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Tampa skyline
Panaoramic view of downtown Tampa at sunset [Photo: Tim Healy]

Who Lives Here?

» The Count

Hillsborough County: 1.17 million (6% of state’s population)
Incorporated areas: Tampa: 332,888, Plant City, 32,328, Temple Terrace, 22,461

» Growth

Between 2000-06, the county’s population grew faster than Florida’s population overall (16% vs. 13.2%). The city of Tampa’s population during that period grew by around 10%. Leading sources of residents who move to the area: Nearby Florida counties, New York and New Jersey.

» Ethnicity

White Black Hispanic/Latino
County 78.4% 16.5% 22.1%
Tampa 64.2 26.1 19.3
State 80.2 15.8 20.2

» Young at Heart

Median Age % over 65
County and city 35.5 12%
State 39.6 17%

Nearly a third of the county’s households have children under 18, although school enrollments shrank by more than 2,200 students from 2007 to 2008. Families encompass 57.1% of the population.

» Born Again

The most recent surveys, which date to 2000, reflect a strong evangelical bent in the county’s religious makeup.

Catholic: 166,122
Evangelical Protestant: 159,428
Mainline Protestant: 61,603
Jewish: 20,000
Orthodox: 1,029
Other: 29,243
Unclaimed: 581,523

» Consumer Behavior

The Tampa Bay region includes the heaviest smokers in Florida.

Sales of denture products are 85% above average.

Wine buyers here prefer wine under $10.

Consumers here are 30% more likely than those elsewhere in the state or nation to own a large domestic car.

» Declaring Independence

A bellwether county, Hillsborough has shifted from a heavily Democratic to a highly competitive county with a higher-than-average proportion of independent voters. It has almost equal proportions of young, middle-aged, and older voters.

2008 Presidential Election
Obama: 53.06% (51% statewide)
McCain: 45.93% (48% statewide)

» Home Fronts

Davis Island — Historic, 1920s-vintage neighborhood near downtown where many of the city’s wealthy live. It’s home to the Davis Island Yacht Club and Tampa General Hospital.

Hyde Park — This historic district near the University of Tampa is one of the city’s original neighborhoods, located across the Hillsborough River and west of downtown. Hyde Park Village is an open-air, trendy shopping district.

South Tampa — Old-charm neighborhood south of the downtown area.

Carrollwood — One of the first major suburban developments in northern Tampa.

Brandon/Valrico — Fast-growing sprawl.

Avila — Gated suburban haven for execs and big-money NFL players.


» Immigration Factor

About one in six residents of the county was foreign-born as of midyear 2007 — an increase of 57.4% from the 2000 Census. Most foreign-born residents come from Cuba (25%) and Mexico (11%). One in five residents of the county speaks a language other than English at home — slightly less than the state average of 23%.



A University of South Florida grad student studies at the USF Center for Molecular Diversity in Drug Design, Discovery and Delivery. [Photo: Joseph Gamble]

Economic Life

» On the Job

Tampa and Hillsborough County are a “working center.” Compared to Florida as a whole, there are more working people, fewer retirees. Thus, while the area trails the rest of the state in per capita income, which includes income from dividends and pensions that flows typically to retirees, it leads the state by some $2,200 in average annual wage and salary. Hillsborough County, which has 6% of the state’s population, accounts for 8% of all jobs in Florida. In 2005, median household income in Hillsborough County was $45,084. That median income outpaced the state average by nearly $3,000. The area’s economy is diversified and service-oriented.

» Economically Noteworthy

Tampa is third in the nation among the top 10 cities for growth in women-owned firms.

Since 2004, poverty rates in the county have been below the U.S. average — 11.5% of the population and 9.2% of families.

Income inequality remains pronounced, however: The average income for whites is more than $54,000; for blacks, around $33,300 — a 61% gap.

The University of South Florida ranks among the top 50 U.S. medical schools in funding from the National Institutes of Health, with more than $300 million in research contracts and grants in 2007. The school also ranks 35th nationwide in patent research.

More than 3,200 homes were in foreclosure proceedings in October. The county has among the highest foreclosure rates in the region.

Compared to the nation, Tampa and Hillsborough County have traditionally had higher rates of homeownership and lower house prices.


» Green Acres

More than 40% of Hillsborough’s 1,000 square miles is agricultural. The county has 2,969 farms (the second most in the state) that generate more than $390 million in annual sales. The Plant City/Dover area produces 88% of the state’s strawberries; Hillsborough County produces 11% of Florida’s tomatoes and accounts for 85% of tropical fish.

» Major Economic Engines

University of South Florida

MacDill Air Force Base

Tampa International Airport

Port of Tampa

Call centers, back-office operations

» Big Employers

Verizon, MacDill Air Force Base, University of South Florida, county and city governments, school district, Tampa International Airport, James Haley Veterans Hospital, PBS&J, St. Joseph’s Hospital, JPMorgan Chase, Publix, Bank of America, OSI Restaurant Partners, WellCare Health Plans, TECO Energy, Walter Industries, Busch Gardens, Quality Distribution, Sykes Enterprises, USAA, Port of Tampa


Carnival’s Inspiration leaves the Port of Tampa.

Total Number of Businesses
County: 85,628 (5.6% of state total)
City: 30,097 (2% of state total)

Hillsborough County Tampa Statewide
Black-owned businesses 5.1% 8.1% 6.6%
Hispanic-owned businesses 12.5% 14% 17.3%

Top Industry Sectors Share of Total Jobs
Administrative and waste services 14.4%
Retail trade 10.2
Government/government enterprises 10.1
Healthcare/social assistance 8.2
Professional/technical services 7.4
Finance/insurance 7.2

Trade: The county’s wholesale trade sector amounts to only 3.3% of its overall economy, but the $24.5 billion it generates is nearly 25% of the state’s total wholesale trade.

» Cost of Living

Tampa’s cost of living ranks consistently below national averages.

Pam Iorio
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio

Quality of Life

» Government

Mayor Pam Iorio has brought an honest, professional approach to managing a city government infamous for cronyism and good ol’ boy dealings. She has been slow to define a clear, broad vision for the city but is building momentum behind expanding mass transit. County government has been ineffective in managing runaway growth in the suburbs; the county commission is politically fractious. In recent years, the tax collector’s office has been a notable innovator in improving service to citizens.

» Downtown

Land-use decisions made years ago shut off public access to the downtown waterfront and have kept Tampa’s downtown moribund. But a transformation may be under way: A fine arts museum, a new history center, children’s museum and Rivewalk are opening along the waterfront, and a park has been redesigned to function as a public square.

» Fiscally

Ratings agencies say city and county are sound financially, with low, manageable levels of debt. Bonds are generally high-rated.

» Biggest Strengths

Youth, energy, trend toward better government.

» Biggest Needs

Progressive business leadership, better transportation system, better growth management.

Centro Ybor
Ybor City is a major entertainment venue.

» Amenities

The NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning call Tampa home, and the Tampa Bay Rays play in nearby St. Petersburg. The Ybor City Historic District, formerly a cigar-making center and hub for the city’s Cuban community, now functions, in fits and starts, as an entertainment district. Much of Tampa’s nightlife takes place at the Channelside Entertainment Complex adjacent to downtown. The Tampa Convention Center, St. Pete Times Forum and the Florida Aquarium are all in the district. The city boasts a large number of fine restaurants, including three Florida Trend Golden Spoon Hall of Fame restaurants. The city’s Gasparilla Pirate Festival, held in January, draws close to 500,000 people. The city of Tampa operates more than 165 parks and beaches covering 2,286 acres; the county maintains 42 more in surrounding suburbs, covering 70,000 acres.

» First-Rate Attractions

Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens amusement park
Florida Aquarium
Lowry Park Zoo
Museum of Science and Industry

Florida Aquarium
Florida Aquarium

» Schools

The Hillsborough County School District is rated “A” overall by the Florida Department of Education. More than 100 district schools received an “A” rating, with three “F” schools. More than 54% of the district’s students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Percentage of students countywide performing at or above grade level in 2008:

Grade Reading Math
3 71% 74%
9 46 67
10 41 70


» Air Quality

There were five days in 2007 in which air quality reached the unhealthy range and one day when it reached the very unhealthy range for sensitive groups.

Hillsborough Orange Miami
Superfund hazardous waste sites 72 23 52
Facilities that release air pollutants 393 251 0
Facilities reporting toxic releases 142 101 87
Facilities reporting hazardous waste activities 2,122 2,719 3,935

» Barometers

The city’s crime rate, dramatically higher than the state’s over the past decade, has fallen in recent years to near the statewide rate — 4,900 crimes per 100,000 population vs. a statewide average of 4,700. Tampa ranked No. 1 in hate crimes in Florida in 2007. Of the 13 hate crimes, eight were race-related — nearly 10% of the total in Florida.

The combined Tampa/St. Petersburg area has a broadband penetration rate of 53% — 10th-highest in the country and fourth-highest in Florida.

Tampa rates low on measures of volunteerism, placing 40th among 50 large cities. The city has fewer large and small non-profit organizations per 1,000 residents than the national average.

In 2008, Tampa was ranked as the eighth-cleanest city in America and fifth-best outdoor city by Forbes.

Between 2002-06, the county had the highest number of alcohol-related crashes in the state in three out of five years.

Social researcher Richard Florida rates Tampa a “best buy” for all retirees, including gay and lesbian retirees.

Between 2002-06, the county was second in state in total bike fatalities. The number of bike-lane miles rose from 329 in 2001 to 491 by 2006.

Hillsborough County’s average commute time of 24.2 minutes ranks seventh-longest among Florida counties, 107th in the nation. As of 2006, the county reported nearly 200 miles of deficient roads.

Tampa has a reputation as a center for both adult entertainment and conservative juries.

Tampa ranks 16th on a list of road rage incidents compiled by the Prince Market Research Co. Miami, at No. 1, is the only other Florida city on list.

» Why I Live Here: Jason Busto

Jason Busto
Jason Busto

Every morning I go to Ashley Espresso for eggs, toast and a triple espresso with room-temp milk, and every morning I leave there smarter than when I went in. Each day Tampa people from every walk of life share their ideas about the issues of the day, local news and their lives. In the process, they share themselves, and the best part is they love Tampa and are ready to work to make it better.

I am a fifth-generation Tampa native, but I have also lived in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, Madrid, Hong Kong and Moscow. I left home for college and returned a decade later to spend time with my mom before she passed away. I was 27, unsure about how best to assign myself. I decided to stay in Tampa because I’d heard the expression, “bloom where you’re planted,” and it made sense to me.

Tampa is a young city blessed with a dynamic population and diverse regional economy. It also has a unique history as one of America’s great melting pots with longstanding commercial and cultural ties to southern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. While it has no Fortune 500 headquarters, Hillsborough County boasts more millionaires per capita than any other county in Florida.

Moving forward, Tampa and the region stand to gain by promoting regional economic cooperation; establishing mass transit within the entire seven-county region; implementing urban zoning and land-use reforms with realistic densities; protecting historic structures and our city’s park culture; and rebuilding our historic ties with Cuba, Latin America and Europe.

As I write from my balcony above Bayshore Boulevard, I see so much potential in all directions. In many ways potential is Tampa’s personality — people here are blooming where they found themselves planted.

Jason Busto, 38, born in Tampa in 1970, is vice president, administration and finance for Grupo Busto Hill and has served as COO for Busto Plumbing, a commercial contracting firm. Active in civic issues, he’s sometimes called the “unofficial mayor” of West Tampa.

» A Competitor’s View

Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in a market that competes with Tampa to assess Tampa’s strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths: “The Tampa market is rich and diverse. It has a wide variety of assets and quality-of-life elements ... including an image as a dynamic city. It has a great airport. The Westshore area is dynamic, and the area as a whole presents many real estate growth options. The Tampa Bay Partnership has been a real strength toward solving issues relating to water and other things.”

Weaknesses: “The area struggles sometimes because it’s difficult to get things done in Tampa and Hillsborough County ... difficult to reach consensus around issues, so they can’t get things done that they should get done. Another real challenge is traffic and traffic infrastructure. That makes it an easier place to compete with.”