What’s not to like about Tampa Bay? If you follow reviews on WalletHub, not very much. This region gets high marks on everything from “Best Places to Start a Business” (No. 5) and conversely “Best Places to Retire” (No. 2) to “Best Places for First-Time Homeowners” (No. 6) and “Most Pet Friendly” (No. 1). But seriously, Florida’s second most heavily populated region is a great place to live and work. On the Cost of Living Index published annually by the Council for Community and Economic Research, Tampa Bay routinely scores below the national average. And with seamless connections, a thriving job market, outstanding educational options and plenty of things to see and do, Tampa is the right place to settle down and stay awhile.
Tampa Bay is home to 20 corporate headquarters, five of which have been named to the Fortune 500 list for 2020: Publix Super Markets, which moved up four notches to claim the No. 87 position; Tech Data (No. 90); Jabil (No. 121); Mosaic (No. 356); and Raymond James Financial (No. 396). Also scoring recognition by Fortune: Roper Technologies at No. 518 and Bloomin’ Brands at No. 628. Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, No. 155 on Fortune’s 2019 list, was sold earlier this year to St. Louis-based Centene, which is ranked No. 42 by Fortune in 2020.
Among recent activities in this sector:
Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets celebrated its 90th anniversary on September 6, 2020. With more than 220,000 employees, it is the largest employee-owned company in the U.S.
As of June 2020, Tech Data is no longer a public company after it sold itself to private equity giant Apollo Global Management of New York. The worldwide distributor of technical products, services and solutions will remain headquartered in Clearwater.
St. Petersburg-based Raymond James Financial is moving ahead with plans to open a new satellite campus in the Pasco County community of Wesley Chapel.
KEY PLAYERS:Jabil, St. Petersburg; The Mosaic Company, Tampa; Publix Super Markets, Lakeland; Roper Technologies, Sarasota; Tech Data, Clearwater
Innovation & Technology
Home to more than 52,000 technology-related jobs, Tampa Bay is Florida’s top tech market … and it’s growing. Since October 2019, seven companies from as far away as the United Kingdom and Ukraine have announced plans to open sites in Tampa Bay and five other tech firms here are growing in size. For the first time ever, Tampa has cracked CompTIA’s list of the nation’s top 20 best cities for technology workers.
Among tech companies that have recently expanded or relocated to Tampa Bay is NIX United, a Ukraine-based software company, which opened its new headquarters at First Central Tower in downtown St. Petersburg in 2019.
Other tech companies relocating to Tampa Bay include:
• iO Associates, an information technology and digital staffing firm based in the United Kingdom, bringing cloud technology staffing expertise and 40 jobs to Tampa.
• TheIncLab (TIL), hiring up to 15 developers and engineers over the next 12 months as it opens a new human-centered Artificial Intelligence Experience (AI + X) lab — its third nationwide — in Ybor City.
• Drift, a Boston-based company and originator of a Conversational Marketing Platform, opening its fourth U.S. office in downtown Tampa, with plans to grow its Tampa team to 100 employees by 2021.
• Madison Cloud, a cloud and enterprise storage provider, relocating its headquarters from Baltimore to a 2,000-sq.-ft. office in Waterview at Feather Sound.
• Pole Star, a London-based maritime technology company with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Panama has established its U.S. headquarters in St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, five companies that are already prominent fixtures in Tampa’s tech sector are growing in place and, in at least one case, overseas:
• Cybersecurity giant ReliaQuest, which was founded in Tampa in 2007, plans to hire 100 employees at its Tampa headquarters by the end of 2020.
A-LIGN, a cybersecurity and privacy compliance solutions provider that specializes in helping businesses navigate the complexities of regulatory and business-driven security compliance needs has opened an office in Sofia, Bulgaria, its first international expansion.
• San Francisco-based information technology startup NinjaRMM plans to boost employment at its Clearwater office — currently at 42 — by up to 50%.
• Clearwater-based KnowBe4, provider of the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, continues to experience hypergrowth. In August 2020, the firm launched a new research arm for conducting and publishing reports centered around cybersecurity.
KEY PLAYERS: ALIGN, Tampa; KnowBe4, Clearwater; ReliaQuest, Tampa
Logistics and Distribution
ampa Bay excels at logistics and distribution because it has all the right assets: Florida’s largest seaport; a top-rated international airport; superior rail connections; and an interstate highway network that puts 34 million consumers within an 8-hour drive. Many of the most readily recognizable names in distribution — Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, IKEA, Home Depot and Gordon Food Services — are already here, and more are on the way. Third-party logistics providers BlueGrace Logistics, Integrity Express Logistics, Quality Distribution and Total Quality Logistics chose to site facilities here.
So why Tampa Bay? Two words: superior connections …
By air: Three commercial airports serve this region. Tampa International is the largest, handling 22.5 million passengers and 220.9 million tons of cargo in 2019. TIA has made progress on several expansion projects, including the topping out at its SkyCenter One, the first commercial office building linked to the Tampa airport by train. Also providing air passenger and cargo service in Tampa Bay: Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, serving close to 2 million passengers in 2019, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport with 2.3 million passengers in 2019.
By sea: Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest port by physical size and cargo tonnage. In FY2019, 34.5 million tons of cargo passed through the port, including 105,663 TEUs of containerized cargo. During the same period, Port Tampa Bay welcomed 233 cruise ships and, for the second consecutive year, more than 1 million cruise passengers in a single year. On the southern edge of Tampa Bay, Port Manatee — the nearest U.S. deep-water seaport to the expanded Panama Canal — in FY 2019 handled a new all-time high of 10.1 million tons of cargo, and containerized cargo tons were up by a whopping 49.3%, at an all-time peak of 535,176.
By rail: Tampa Bay offers 500 miles of active railroad and siding tracks operated by Florida-based CSX, which maintains a major rail yard, intermodal terminal, TRANSFLO terminal and automotive distribution center in Tampa.
By road: Interstate systems I-4, I-75 and I-275 directly link Tampa Bay to Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Pensacola and all points in between and beyond. A truck ramp from Port Tampa Bay leads directly to and from I-4, which connects to I-75 less than 10 miles away.
A recent study by Colliers International described the I-4 Corridor linking Tampa and Orlando as one of the fastest growing and most dynamic industrial markets in the country. It is estimated that along this stretch of roadway, more than 7 million square feet of new industrial and logistics space are either under construction or in serious planning stages. Three of the biggest names in the distribution business are finding homes in Tampa Bay:
Home Depot, which already has committed to building two facilities here — an 800,000-sq.-ft. e-commerce distribution center in Plant City and a 105,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Pinellas County for last-mile distribution — is making plans for a third, a 400,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Gibsonton.
Ace Hardware Corporation, which has operated a Retail Support Center in Tampa since 1977, is looking to upsize at a new facility in nearby Plant City. Construction on the new 315,000-sq.-ft. RSC is expected to begin in October 2020 with a target completion date of 2021.
Amazon, on July 23, 2020, officially opened its newest regional air hub at Lakeland Linder International Airport with the arrival of its first flight from Sacramento. The Amazon hub, which also includes a 300,000-sq.-ft. warehouse, is Amazon Air’s largest facility in the Southeast. It will service Amazon’s larger-scale regional needs and eventually create up to 1,000 jobs.
Nearing completion elsewhere in Polk County is a 1-million-sq.-ft. warehouse in Auburndale, where hiring the more than 500 people to fill it has begun. Next on the list for Polk: a delivery station; the word on the street is that Amazon has leased the 700,000-sq.-ft. Lakeland Dragstrip Logistics Center. Fast forward to Pasco County, where Amazon plans a 110,866-sq.-ft. structure, most likely a last-mile fulfillment center. And last, but not least, there’s the Tampa region where Amazon has closed on two major transactions — the purchase of more than 80 acres in Temple Terrace and a warehouse lease in Seffner. Amazon’s 120,000-sq.-ft. distribution center north of I-75 near Venice is nearing completion.
Third-party logistics firms with ties to Tampa Bay are also growing:
• Integrity Express Logistics, based in Cincinnati, plans to add 50 or more employees to its current staff of 92 as it expands in Tampa. Integrity’s Tampa office opened in 2016 with a staff of 20.
• BlueGrace Logistics has acquired its crosstown rival Anthym Logistics, bringing its total number of U.S. locations to 15 and adding another 55 employees in the process. The merger, which took place in March 2020, is expected to build BlueGrace’s presence further in Tampa and Chicago and add new offices in Boca Raton and Birmingham, Ala.
KEY PLAYERS: Ace Hardware, Oak Brook, Ill.; Amazon, Seattle, Wa.; BlueGrace Logistics, Riverview; Home Depot, Atlanta, Ga.; Integrity Express Logistics, Cincinnati, Ohio
As the source of innovation for a wide range of industries, manufacturing has a long history in Tampa Bay. Today, more than 63,000 people are employed in this region’s manufacturing sector producing everything from building materials and fertilizers to flight simulators and luxury yachts … and many are growing.
• Flight simulator manufacturer CAE USA broke ground on its new state-of-the-art U.S. headquarters adjacent to Tampa International Airport in fall 2019. Slated for completion in 2022, the new 290,000-sq.-ft. facility will be home to more than 600 Tampa-based CAE USA employees with the capacity to add 150 more.
• Advanced Airfoil Components, a joint venture between Siemens USA and Chromalloy, which produces high strength blades and other parts for the Siemens gas turbines used in electric power generation plants, is hiring more than 40 manufacturing and engineering positions at its 210,000-sq.-ft. advanced manufacturing facility in Gibsonton.
• Zellwood-based Anuvia Plant Nutrients has entered into a long-term strategic relationship with The Mosaic Company to reopen a shuttered Plant City facility where it will manufacture fertilizers for the agriculture, turf and lawncare industries and hire 130+.
• Radiant Power, which makes aviation parts, has expanded its Manatee County factory, where it employs 135, from 40,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet.
• Hine Automation in St. Petersburg has nearly doubled its manufacturing space to 12,445 square feet, its fourth expansion since 2009. The company makes automation systems and robotic components for the semiconductor, solar and flat-panel display industries.
Life Sciences & Health Care
Home to 14% of Florida’s biotech companies and 22% of its pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing workforce, Tampa Bay is both a driving force in Florida’s fast-growing life sciences industry sector and a magnet for medical innovation. While familiar names like Amgen, Bausch & Lomb, Bristol Myers Squibb, Florida Blue, Johnson & Johnson, M2Gen and Quest Diagnostics continue to enjoy success in this region, locally grown firms are expanding their facilities and new companies are arriving:
• Amgen, a biotechnology company headquartered in Thousand Oaks, Calif., has expanded its Global Capability Center in Tampa’s Westshore business district, with the addition of 33,101 square feet of office space.
• Avalon Healthcare Solutions, a health care technology company focused on medical benefit management, is expanding its corporate office in Tampa with plans to add more than 40 jobs.
• Soule Medical, a maker of disposable foam, reusable gel and other items used by health care workers and hospitals, plans to expand in Lutz with the addition of a 106,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant and warehouse.
• Pharmaceutical device manufacturer Formulated Solutions is expanding in two ways: adding approximately 24,000-sq.-ft. of warehouse, office, manufacturing and parking at its Largo facility and 75 jobs to its 300-member workforce.
In downtown Tampa, University of South Florida’s CAMLS — Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation — provides state-of-the-art, hands-on learning opportunities for practicing physicians and medical students. Nearby, USF’s Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute moved into its new 13-story building in downtown Tampa in January 2020. The 395,000-sq.-ft. facility serves as a hub for approximately 1,800 students, faculty and staff to live, work and study along the vibrant downtown waterfront as a key anchor in Strategic Property Partners’ $3 billion Water Street Tampa development. In September 2020, Tampa General Hospital opened its new TGH Urgent Care Powered by Fast Track on the first floor of the Morsani College of Medicine.
Across the bay in Clearwater, the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University’s new Tampa Bay Regional Campus enrolled its first class in August 2019.
For the fifth year in a row, Tampa General Hospital has been named Tampa Bay’s “Best Hospital” by U.S. News & World Report. Also earning top rankings from U.S. News & World Report: Moffitt Cancer Center in three specialties — cancer care, gynecology and ear, nose & throat. In June 2020, Moffitt broke ground on a 10-story, $400-milllion surgical hospital near its main facility that will expand its patient capacity by 65% and allow for about a third more procedures over the next decade. Anticipated completion: 2023. In November 2020, Moffitt will welcome its new president and CEO, Dr. Patrick Hwu.
Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and Sarasota Memorial Hospital tied as seventh best hospitals in Florida on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals, 2020-21.” Other ranked hospitals in Tampa Bay include Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor at No. 28 and AdventHealth Tampa at No. 38.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg is recognized as a “Best Children’s Hospital 2020-21.” TGH and USF Health Morsani College of Medicine announced they would be partnering with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg to expand pediatric general surgery services at TGH’s Medical Center.
Hospitals across the region are expanding too:
• St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, part of the BayCare System, sped up work on a $126-million expansion to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.
• Sarasota Memorial Hospital will start construction later this year on a $65-million project to replace its aging behavioral health hospital. The new 82-bed, 95,000-sq.-ft. behavioral health pavilion is expected to be completed by October 2023.
• At St. Anthony’s Hospital a $152-million renovation is underway, adding 90 rooms and bringing the St. Petersburg hospital’s total bed count to 448.
KEY PLAYERS:: Amgen, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Bristol Myers Squib, New York, N.Y.; Florida Blue, Jacksonville; Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, N.J.
University of South Florida — Tampa Bay’s largest university — ranked 2nd among Florida universities and 16th worldwide for patent production with 108 new U.S. utility patents in 2019. In March 2020, the university began construction on a three-story, $42-million research building at the USF Research Park. The 120,000-sq.-ft. building will house research labs and office space for researchers, high-tech startups and established firms. On U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Public Universities,” USF was among the top 50 nationwide for the second year in a row.
Tampa’s premier private university, the University of Tampa, offers more than 200 academic programs and is ranked No. 17 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Regional Universities South” and No. 8 among “Best Schools for Veterans.”
At Florida’s newest accredited university — Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland — construction continues. The 85,000-sq.-ft. Applied Research Center is scheduled to open in August 2021. Next up on Florida Poly’s master plan: a student achievement center.
Pasco County’s Saint Leo University was ranked No. 25 among U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 “Best Regional Universities South” and No. 14 among “Best Schools for Veterans.”
Florida Southern College — known for being home to the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture — is ranked No. 10 among southern regional universities by U.S. News & World Report. In Sarasota, New College of Florida is pairing up with the University of Florida beginning in early 2021 to offer an innovative five-year dual-degree program: Students earn a B.A. in liberal arts and sciences from New College during the first two years, then a B.S. in engineering from UF during the last three years.
Life & Leisure
Water Street Tampa, the 56-acre mixed use development being constructed in downtown Tampa, is the first neighborhood in the world to be certified as a WELL community by the New York-based WELL Building Institute. Designed with a focus on walkability, sustainability, resiliency, connectivity and innovation, Water Street aims to promote healthy living by providing easy access to fresh foods and drinking water, creating sidewalks and streets that prioritize pedestrians and alternative forms of transportation and making air quality monitoring data readily accessible. The first phase, which is currently under construction, consists of 4.5 million square feet of new office, hotel, retail and residential space across 12 individual buildings; estimated completion: late 2021. Full buildout at Water Street Tampa is anticipated around 2027.
Three beaches along Tampa Bay’s Gulf coast once again dominate TripAdvisor’s 2020 “Best Beaches, U.S.” list; they’ve just switched positions in the ranking. Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota moved up from No. 6 last year to claim the top spot in 2020. Just up the road and not to be outdone, St. Pete Beach, last year’s No. 4 best beach, moved up to No. 2. And last but not least, Clearwater Beach, which took top honors last year, slipped to No. 5. Incidentally, Siesta Beach and St. Pete Beach were also listed on TripAdvisor’s 2020 “Best Beaches, World” list of the top 25 beaches worldwide at No. 11 and No.16 respectively, the only U.S. beaches to make the international cut.
The 24.5 million tourists who visited Tampa Bay in 2019 can’t be wrong. Nor can WalletHub which, in 2020, ranks Tampa the No. 3 best place for a “staycation.” When you live here, every day’s a mini-vacation, so if you haven’t explored Tampa Bay, do it now. Here’s a taste of what you’ll find: Tampa’s Riverwalk, which takes you past four must-see destinations — Glazer Children’s Museum, the Tampa Art Museum, the Florida Aquarium (marking its 25th anniversary in 2020), and the Tampa Bay History Center; Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to the stars of “A Dolphin’s Tale,” Winter and Hope; the newly opened St. Pete Pier; The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art; The Dali (world’s largest collection of Salvador Dali’s art); The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature in Bradenton; The Ringling complex of museums in Sarasota; Busch Gardens, LEGOLAND and Dinosaur World; Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge (swim with manatees!); Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, where real-live mermaids perform underwater; and the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in Lakeland. And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, there are seasonal options too, like spring training baseball — the Blue Jays, Braves, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Tigers and Yankees all play here — plus beaches galore to enjoy year-round.
It took two decades of public debate and more than seven years of planning and construction, but St. Pete finally has a downtown pier again. The new $92-million structure along the waterfront opened to great fanfare in July 2020 along with its 26-acre pier district featuring a pavilion on Spa Beach, splash pads, a Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, a fishing deck, retail shops, green spaces and several pieces of public art. The new structure replaces an inverted pyramid-themed pier, which opened in 1973 and closed in 2013 after years of decline. The site has been home to a pier of one kind or another since the late 1800s.