The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. will go ahead with an announced name change.
The organization will be known as the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council as of Oct. 29, Craig Richard, president and CEO, said in an Oct. 25 letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“Our name will change but our service area will not,” Richard said.
Richard said EDC investors urged the organization to adopt a new name and brand to align it with the family of brands that are marketing Tampa and Hillsborough County nationally and internationally — Visit Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Sports Commission and Film Tampa Bay. The EDC’s executive board unanimously approved the name change in June and the board echoed that approval in August, Richard said.
Kriseman last week asked the group to reconsider the move, and to enter into a regional “economic development mutual aid agreement.” Richard said the EDC would be “delighted” to sign such an agreement.
But Richard would not back down on the name change announced earlier this month, around the same time the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce said it would be known as the Tampa Bay Chamber.
In his Oct. 17 letter, Kriseman recounted a history of competition between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. “There were trust issues and little collaboration, especially when it came to economic development,” he wrote, adding that the situation began to change when he took office in 2014. Kriseman said he worked with former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on joint trade trips and collaborated on the effort to recruit Amazon HQ2.
He said the name change “only hurts our collective efforts and reverses the progress that has been made to date, unless those two organizations intend to focus on all cities and counties throughout the Tampa Bay area. I don’t believe that to be the case,” Kriseman wrote.
Mike Meidel, director of Pinellas County Economic Development, called the name change “a violation of trust.”
“Our biggest concern is people will go their website, Tampa Bay EDC, and think they’re getting information on all the counties in the area, when in reality they’re only seeing sites available in Hillsborough County,” Meidel said at the Pinellas County Economic Development Council meeting Thursday.
Richard said the EDC is proud of the strong partnership with the city of St. Petersburg, Pinellas and Pasco counties, and other local economic development organizations. “Together we have traveled abroad to sell the tremendous advantages of our region while, as you note, sharing the specific aspects of our respective service areas,” Richard said.
He cited several other examples of recent collaboration, including a global trade initiative, Global Tampa Bay, and domestic and international press coverage. And, if another project like the joint Amazon HQ2 opportunity comes up, Richard said he’d like to join forces on a pitch again.
“We remain committed to promoting the Tampa Bay region’s competitive advantages along with our regional partners. Together we have a much stronger story to tell,” Richard wrote.
Under the Economic Development Mutual Aid Agreement Kriseman proposed, the local economic development corporations, agencies and chambers of commerce would formally agree to provide each other with assistance and cooperation as it relates to economic development in the region.
“We would be delighted to sign such an agreement and applaud you for suggesting it,” Richard wrote.
A request to Kriseman’s office for comment was pending return.