This weekend’s Super Bowl LV presents a huge opportunity for the Tampa-St. Petersburg area to show off its booming economy, according to one of the area’s top investors and real estate developers.
“This is the place to be and we’re so fortunate to have the Super Bowl to broadcast to the world what they’re missing by not doing business here,” Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said on CNBC Friday.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on short-term growth, Vinik likes the long term prospects for the economy.
“I’m extremely bullish about the overall economy looking out over the next 10 years and I’m even more bullish about the Tampa Bay economy. People are moving in here now at a rate of 2 to 3 percent a year. Combine that with the construction and activity going on here and you’re looking at nominal growth in Tampa Bay, Florida of about 7 percent-plus over the next 5 to 10 years. That is booming economic growth. We are going to lead the country in the amount of economic activity,” Vinik said.
The service side of the economy is “in the tank,” Vinik said, but production of goods remains strong and prospects are bright.
“As more people get vaccinated and we come out of Covid, that’s going to turn up and we have a ton of stimulus that’s already occurred and that’s in the pipeline. We have a trillion and a half dollars of savings. We are set up for dynamic strong economic growth over the next two, three, five years. I think we have an economic boom right at our doorsteps,” he said.
Vinik made his name on Wall Street when he managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund in the 1990s. He sees some similarities between the current market and the late 1990s prior to the dotcom bubble burst.
“There is huge speculation going on in some areas of the market. Maybe I’d even call it a mania in some areas of the market. So I think you do have to be very cautious. But overall we have a really strong economic outlook for companies that make good money and have good long-term prospects. I think they’ll just be fine in the market,” Vinik said.
One change he sees coming is how the economy is organized.
“The biggest theme we’re looking for is for finally Main Street is going to beat Wall Street. That means more equality, more jobs, better paying jobs. I think all the trends are going in that direction,” Vinik said.
Water Street Tampa
Vinik is a key backer of the $3.5 billion Water Street Tampa development, a $3.5 billion mixed-use project in downtown Tampa. He’s partnered with Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment LLC on Strategic Property Partners, the Water Street developer.
SPP is seeing “outstanding interest” in leasing office properties at Water Street, Vinik said. Water Street is the world’s first WELL-certified community as designated by the International Well Building Institute, and the pandemic has emphasized the importance of healthy spaces.
“It’s driven the interest of tenants and residents in wellness into hyperdrive. People already were moving very strongly in that direction before Covid and we’ve designed all our buildings as well as our overall district to meet the well building standard,” he said. That includes higher standards for air and water quality, as well as overall walkability, bike paths and runner paths, among other things.
Vinik is not concerned about the impact Covid has had on workers in the office. While employees will continue to do at least some of their job at home, the office remains vital for business, Vinik said.
“I still think having a central office location, there’s no substitute for person to person interaction. The collision of ideas to create better projects and stimulate thinking is an essential part of business,” he said.
Covid had little impact on construction costs of Water Street, which has been under construction for the last three years.
“We’ve locked in a lot of our materials. Labor has eased up a little bit. We’ve got about 4 to 5 million square feet in Phase 1 which is a little bit over $2 billion coming out of the ground now. It’s actually being topped off now,” he said. “Fifteen months from now we’re going to 1,000 new residential units. We have 500,000 square feet of office, USF Med School, two hotels — a four-star and a five-star — retail, galleries, the whole thing. We are very excited with where we’re at and we’re opening soon.”