Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council looks at a new plan for economic development

08/08/11 Josh Holton
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While the Tampa Bay Region struggles with record highs in unemployment, regional planners are working out ways to attract new business. This morning the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council reviewed a possible new business plan for the 8 county area. Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist once worked as a marketing professional, and says Tampa’s region needs to polish its brand image.

Katherine Johnston is an economist with SRI’s International Center for Science, Technology and Economic Development. She presented a regional business plan that outlines three key sectors of new growth including the health industry, high tech electronics, and environmental activities. A fourth proposed area suggested growth in financial and data services. But Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern said that manufacturing real and tangible goods should be more of a priority than financial services, and Victor Crist agreed.

And protecting the environment is also important for the coastal tourism industry. St. Pete Beach Commissioner Al Halpern was curious as to why tourism was left out of the discussion.

Although high-speed rail in Florida is but a memory by now, but Clearwater City Council member Bill Jonson says that planners are working with local transportation organizations to make the area accessible for new industries.

But Victor Crist says that while it’s important to look at attracting new business, the region should also cooperate more, and take stock of the local assets that are thriving already. He says such venues of opportunity would be attractive to bringing new tourists, residents and employers to the region as a whole.

Success can be found in nearly every corner of the eight county region, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota Counties. Yet Crist says not enough is being done to collaborate and show how unified and powerful the localities are together as a regional economy.

The council voted unanimously to pass a Strategic Regional Policy Plan that is available online at tbrpc.org. Their next meeting will be Monday September 12 at 10:00 a.m.

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