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Global Tampa Bay highlighted in Brookings report

Margie Manning

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Nine companies from the Tampa Bay region took part in Global Tampa Bay's sales mission to Panama in March 2019.

A 2014 trade mission to Chile by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and then-Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is cited in a new national report as an example of how regions should collaborate to grow their global business interests.

Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (left) and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile on Dec. 3, 2014 (Photo credit: City of St. Petersburg Flickr)

“The two mayors made their trip not as representatives of two separate cities, but as dual ambassadors of the Tampa Bay region,” said the Feb. 13 report from The Brookings Institution.

The report looks at the work of Global Tampa Bay, a regional collaboration between economic development organizations in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, and similar organizations around the United States.

Such partnerships often are needed to position a region for greater economic success and visibility, Brookings said.

Scale matters when it comes to global competitiveness and the creation of Global Tampa Bay was an acknowledgement of that, the report suggested.

“Prior to the trade mission, the economic development organizations (EDOs) of three neighboring Florida counties — Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco — joined forces to create Global Tampa Bay, aligning their international business engagement strategy in a regional economic partnership. This meant pooling resources, sharing a budget, taking turns as chair, and even rotating meeting locations. The new structure did not replace the three existing EDOs, nor did it require a plethora of new staff. Still, Global Tampa Bay goes a long way in reinforcing a common strategy for international competitiveness,” Brookings wrote.

Global Tampa Bay recently announced its next trade mission would be to San Jose, Costa Rica in June 2020.

There can be impediments to regional collaboration, including political changes, consolidations, shifts in mandates or constraints on resources, the report said.

Names also matter. When the former Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. changed its name to Tampa Bay Economic Development Council four months ago, Kriseman said the name change would hurt collective efforts and reverse progress.

Regional collaborations, including the work of Global Tampa Bay, would continue, Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Corp., said in response to Kriseman.

Kriseman continues to oppose the name change, speaking out as recently as the Feb. 6 annual meeting of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp.

“I’m incredibly frustrated and disappointed in our friends across the Bay … My concern is we’ve taken so many positive steps going forward that that action was really in my mind is a step backwards and it’s not what we needed as a region,” Kriseman said. “But truth is, we should look at their actions as a compliment to us. They need us and they need our data to look better. So including us in their name is why they’re doing it. We’re no longer being outshined. If our neighbors across the Bay insist on calling themselves Tampa Bay … it’s up to us to make sure that we are proudly telling our story.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who succeeded Buckhorn in May, also has stressed regional collaborations. St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa all have unique characteristics that are attractive across the world, Castor said during Wednesday at the Synapse Summit.

“I have yet in my very short tenure heard any company say that Tampa was in competition with St. Pete or Clearwater as a headquarters. Tampa is in competition with other cities. St. Pete is in competition with unique cities. We should be able to say, if you’re bringing your business to St. Petersburg, you get the city of Tampa and Clearwater as a bonus. I think it’s incredibly important that we market ourselves as a region,” Castor said.

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