Tampa Bay economic scorecard delivers mixed results
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03/18/11 Kate Bradshaw
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A study gauging Tampa Bay’s economy is showing a couple of small gains for the region. When compared to other cities, Tampa Bay isn’t remotely out of the woods.

Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Partnership released results of its semi-annual regional economic scorecard. The prognosis is slightly improved, but far less than ideal. The study rated Tampa, Jacksonville, and four other cities in the southeast on factors like jobs created and housing prices. Overall, the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas ranked fifth and sixth, respectively. Raleigh-Durham ranked first overall. Sweetbay Supermarket Executive Mike Vail, the partnership’s business intelligence chair, said Tampa Bay has lost thousands of jobs in the past year.

"We did lose 5,700 jobs in this scorecard compared to the same scorecard a year ago."

He said that may be a lot of jobs, but it’s a fraction of the amount of jobs lost in Tampa Bay over the prior year.

"The last scorecard we had 6 months ago, it's year over year comparison we had lost 54,000 jobs."

Vail added that home affordability improved, but that was due more to falling home prices than rising wages. As for wages, Vail said for the first time ever, they’ve actually fallen in the region – down nearly one and a half percent to just over $38,000 annually.

"What that's an indication of is that we have seen some erosion on some of our higher paying jobs in addition to some of the lower wage positions."

The two Florida markets measured fell in the same average salary range. The other cities measured were Dallas, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Raleigh-Durham. Each of those averaged salaries of about ten thousand more per year. Vail said one of the culprits behind the lower wages in the two Florida metro areas studied is that the education level in the Sunshine State tends to be lower.

"When you look at the graduate levels, we're still lower on graduate degrees and I really believe that with stronger education scores it leads to a greater level of patents in the market which leads to a greater level of innovation which drives higher paying jobs and it really moves the economy forward."

The study’s findings weren’t all bad for the Tampa Bay area. Tampa Bay Partnership Business Intelligence Officer Dave Sobush said, for one, the area’s gross regional product has increased.

"Our gross regional product did grow by 3.6 per cent which was slightly above the national gross regional product increase for that time period."

The study also moves Tampa Bay’s transportation ranking move up from fifth to second – something that may seem contrary to widespread reluctance in the area to embrace mass transit. Sobush said the findings have more to do with small reductions in commute times and vehicle miles traveled per capita.

"Our congestion metric stayed the same. Our commute time, the mean travel time to work for those people who do commute, went from third to second and that represented 2/10 of a [minute] decrease. In the previous scorecard we were 25.1 and in this scorecard we were 24.9. That 2/10 of a minute decrease put us in front of Charlotte as opposed to behind."

Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel said Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of a federally-funded high-speed rail project for Florida had not direct bearing on the report, but it does impact Tampa Bay’s economic outlook for the coming years, especially when it comes to jobs.

"The high-speed rail decision, obviously, has an impact on job creation both shorter term and longer term. That clearly is and was a job generating project. It also is an infrastructure investment and the scorecard doesn't speak to it directly other than on the transportation measures but when we look at our model for prosperity, infrastructure is one of the key drivers of the economy and growth."

As for the question of when – or if – jobs will come back to Tampa Bay, Rogel said, it’s difficult to predict, given the severity of the recession.

"None of us really had any sense that this recession was going to be as long and sustained and as deep as it was, not just for this region but for the country."

The Tampa Bay Partnership is a group that aims to promote economic growth throughout the region. The partnership develops its Regional Economic Scorecard twice a year by looking like factors like job growth, education levels, venture capital investment, and more. It compares these with five other cities in the Southeast.

Previous WMNF news coverage of high-speed rail

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