Tampa citizens rail against onerous regulations in downtown

02/26/09 Mitch E. Perry
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At a discussion of Tampa’s development in the downtown area, Council members heard from citizens who said city officials seem to do everything in their power to ensure that new businesses can’t thrive.

Ken Sultenberg lives in the Channelside area of Tampa. He says he’s been trying for three years to recruit businesses to Grand Central on Kennedy Boulevard.

Josh Doring works with a commercial brokerage firm in Tampa. He said the city has the assets to excel, but said it’s still not happening. He talks to downtown businesses every day, and hears depressing things.

Doring said even though the city just hosted a successful Super Bowl, followed by hundreds of thousands out the next week enjoying Gasparilla festivities, city government seemed to deliberately try to stifle the downtown corridor from enjoying any of that success.

Ellen Brown has owned the Old Tampa Book Co. on Tampa Street for the past 15 years. The establishment currently is the only retailer in downtown. She told the Council that the city should revisit a program to provide incentives for other businesspeople to invest in downtown.

Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena asked the city’s Director of Development Mark Huey if an ombudsman could be hired to help guide new businessmen and women through the thicket of regulatory hurdles.

Huey agreed that the city doesn’t like having that type of reputation, and said that the planning director does want to roll out such an ombudsmen.

Councilwoman Mary Mulhern questioned Huey about tax incentives being given to an operations center for a New York based financial services organization.

The Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. received approximately $1 million in incentives from Tampa and Hillsborough County, as well as half a million dollars from a state incentive program.

Mulhern said that in the wake of the banking crisis, the city should no longer try to lure financial institutions. But Huey said the company has been a success in Tampa, and has invested a lot into their business in the city.

And Huey said that companies who qualify for such state incentive funds, called QTI, don’t receive such rewards for relocating at one time.

Saul-Sena suggested that Huey look at the idea of an ommbudsman, and he says that will be looked at.

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