The concept of regionalism has dominated the conversation around economic development and growth in Tampa Bay in recent months. After years of work toward building trust and cooperation in the Tampa Bay region, 2019 was a year marked by tumult.
When St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was sworn in for his first term, he made regionalism one of his top priorities. In 2017, region-building economic development efforts peaked when Kriseman and Tampa’s then-mayor Bob Buckhorn joined forces in a pitch for Amazon’s second headquarters.
But in 2019, controversy stirred when the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Council, each focused on Tampa and Hillsborough County, made moves to adopt the “Tampa Bay” moniker, becoming Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay EDC.
The move was sharply criticized by Kriseman and Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson, and other regional business leaders, who argued the move would hurt regional collaborative efforts and trust built over the last decade. The Tampa City Council unanimously voted against the Tampa Bay EDC name change, citing similar concerns. Entrepreneurs like Tony DiBenedetto argued that the move would hurt efforts toward building a regional identity. But the change happened anyway.
As 2019 comes to a close, the Tampa Bay region looks toward the coming new year, and the first hints of what 2020 could bring will come with the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club’s annual State of the Bay event, held Jan. 9 at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The event will bring together mayors from the three major cities in the Tampa Bay region, St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, Clearwater’s George Cretekos and Tampa’s Jane Castor.
This year’s event will mark Castor’s first appearance and Cretekos’ last. The event will provide an opportunity for the three mayors to address the same regional topics together in real time, including the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, regional transit and economic development opportunities. Each mayor will also speak to issues facing their own individual cities. Issues likely to surface include St. Petersburg’s soon-to-open pier, its Vision 2050 project and the Central Avenue BRT line due to open in 2020-21; Tampa’s Water Street Tampa project and the All For Transportation funding priorities (and legal challenge); as well as Clearwater’s Imagine Clearwater project and challenges related to the Church of Scientology.
Check back to the St. Pete Catalyst for an update following the event.
Suncoast Tiger Bay Club’s State of the Bay
Thursday, Jan 9, 11:30 a.m.
St. Petersburg Yacht Club
Members $25/ Non-members $35