Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
Citrus • Hernando • Hillsborough • Manatee • Pasco • Pinellas • Polk • Sarasota
In July 2019, Tampa Electric Company became the first investor-owned utility in Florida to offer a shared solar program to its customers. With the launch of “Sun Select,” residential and small business customers may subscribe to receive their power from solar energy at one of three levels: 25%, 50% or 100%; large commercial customers may participate in the program in 1,000 kilowatt-hour increments. Sun Select draws solar energy from a 17.5-megawatt portion of TECO’s newly constructed Lake Hancock solar plant near Bartow in Polk County. There are no upfront costs or contracts to participate in Sun Select; however, once all 17.5 megawatts are reserved by customers, others interested in participating will be placed on a waiting list.
In fall 2018, Duke Energy opened its long-awaited $1.5-billion combined-cycle natural gas plant near Crystal River in Citrus County. The plant serves an estimated 1.8 million customers in 35 Florida counties.
In March 2019, Florida Power & Light Company announced plans to build what it describes as “the world’s largest solar-powered battery system” on a 40-acre site in Manatee County. According to FPL, when the future FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center begins serving customers in late 2021, it will have 409 megawatts of capacity — the equivalent of approximately 100 million iPhone batteries — and will be charged from an existing solar power plant in Manatee County. It’s all part of FPL’s plan to retire two 1970s-era natural gas generating units and replace them with clean, renewable energy.
Meanwhile, construction continues on FPL’s Southfork Solar Energy Center in Manatee County, one of 10 solar power plants the company plans to open in early 2020 as part of its “30-by-30” plan to install more than 30 million solar panels throughout Florida by 2030.
KEY PLAYERS: Duke Energy Florida, St. Petersburg; Florida Power & Light, Juno Beach; TECO Energy, Tampa
University of South Florida – Tampa Bay’s largest university and one of three statewide designated a “Preeminent State Research University” by the Florida Board of Governors — ranked No. 1 among Florida universities and 16th worldwide for patent production with 96 new U.S. utility patents in 2018. And with $568 million in total research expenditures, a National Science Foundation report puts USF among the nation’s top 25 public universities for research spending.
Other Tampa Bay educational institutions are making news too. At Florida’s newest accredited university — Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland — construction has begun on a second academic building. Slated for completion in 2021, the 85,000-sq.-ft. Applied Research Center will house research and teaching laboratories, student design spaces, conference rooms and faculty offices. And thanks to a new partnership between two post secondary schools, students who graduate with an associate of arts degree from Polk State College may enjoy a seamless pathway to completing four-year STEM degrees at Florida Poly. Elsewhere in the region, Florida Southern College — best known for being home to the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture — is ranked No. 20 among southern regional universities by U.S. News & World Report, and in Sarasota County, Cross College Alliance allows students enrolled at one of four area colleges — New College of Florida, USF Sarasota-Manatee, Ringling College of Art & Design and State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota — to cross register for classes at another on a space-available basis.
At the high school level, Pine View School in Osprey is once again Florida’s top-rated high school in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best High Schools 2019” rankings; nationwide, Pine View jumped four spaces to No. 15 from No. 19 a year ago. Hillsborough County’s Plant, Steinbrenner and Newsome high schools were also cited among the nation’s top 875. And while many public school systems choose to offer heavily STEM-oriented curricula, in Sarasota, the arts have a role to play in all classes, including math and science. And every Sarasota County public school, grades K-12, has at least one arts and one music teacher.
Life & Leisure
The 50-acre mixed-use Water Street Tampa project aimed at revitalizing downtown Tampa’s waterfront continues to take shape. In November 2018, the property between the Florida Aquarium and Amalie Arena formerly known as Channelside Bay Plaza began its new life as Sparkman Wharf, a combination dining garden, craft beer garden and “recreational lawn.” And nearby, construction has begun on what is described as Tampa’s first “trophy” office tower in more than a quarter of a century. The new 20-story structure is located next door to the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute. When completed in 2021, the trophy tower will have about 380,000 square feet of office and retail space, a green plaza shared with the USF medical school and a rooftop terrace.
Live as a Local, Play like a Tourist
Tampa Bay is a great place to visit; it’s an even better place to live because there’s just so much to see and do. You can: Get up close and personal with manatees at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge; see live mermaids perform underwater at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Catch an old movie classic at the historic Tampa Theatre and grab a café con leche at a Cuban café in Ybor City. Say hello to movie-star dolphins Winter and Hope at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. View the works of a renowned artist at The Dalí Museum in St. Pete, then drive the Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay to browse affordable art at Bradenton’s Village of the Arts. Run away to the circus — aka, the art and circus museum complex in Sarasota that bears the Ringling name. Dive into a crystal lagoon, play a round of golf or, if it’s spring, catch an Atlanta Braves Grapefruit League game at the team’s brand new CoolToday Park in North Port. Be a kid again at LEGOLAND or a daredevil adult aboard the new Tigris coaster at Busch Gardens. Hunt for sharks’ teeth along Venice Beach. And come late afternoon, simply turn west, find a sandy beach and just stop … because nothing beats a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Beaches Worth Bragging About … Again
Three Gulf coast beaches in the Tampa Bay region have been singled out for recognition on TripAdvisor’s 2019 “Top 25 Beaches, U.S.” list. For the second year in a row, Clearwater Beach takes the top prize. No. 4 goes to St. Pete Beach just a few miles down the road, which is praised for its “silky” sand, and Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota County follows close behind at No. 6 nationwide. Incidentally, Clearwater Beach is ranked No. 6 on TripAdvisor’s 2019 “Top 25 Best Beaches, World” list, the only U.S. beach to make the global cut.