Hillsborough County officials told that transportation is not a main factor businesses consider when deciding where to relocate listen08/15/13 Naveen Sultan
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Hillsborough County Commissioners want to better understand how transportation can increase economic growth.Elected officials met with local business executives yesterday at the County Center in downtown Tampa. Itâ€™s the second in a series of meetings to discuss the future of transportation and economic development.Tampaâ€™s manufacturing executives told elected officials thatÂ their employees have not used public transportation to get to work. Ken Jurgensmeyer is the director of engineering and operations at Heat Pipe technologies.
"At least from our perspective being new here we have people from Plant City, Tampa as well as Temple Terrace, so there is a smattering of people all over theyâ€™re not in one particular location and I donâ€™t believe that any of them use the bus system now when we first came here we wanted to make sure there was secondary transportation but I donâ€™t think they have used it and I have not seen folks coming around to solicit ridership for instance whether itâ€™s through the industrial park that weâ€™re in. It took me a while to actually find a bus station."
Jurgensmeyerâ€™s company is new to the Tampa area and requires all employees to have reliable transportation to get to work on time at 6 in the morning. Steve Meitzen is a board member and past president of the Bay Area Manufacturers Association. He said that nobody in his plant takes public transportation but that itâ€™s important for them to have that option.
"I think all of us what we should do is one day take public transportation to where we work and see what itâ€™s like because Iâ€™ve done that when I been on the road in Dallas and a couple of other cities when light rail was the hot topic. I took the Dallas rail system and that was a very interesting experience â€“ I could write a book. But these are things that if we talked to the people that we work with and our neighbors and our factory owners and the HR people probably hear about it first. Iâ€™m in sales so Iâ€™m the last person to hear about it unless a shipment is late. I know that there are people that would like to take a bus particularly when they work till â€“ like our plant first shifts starts at 7. If they knew that they could take a bus it would be a great way for them to save money when gas is now 3.49 a gallon."
Officials also heard from executives that choose new business locations. Many of them said transportation is not a main factor new businesses consider when they decide to relocate to Tampa. They said availability of the port, good weather, low taxes, and a skilled work force help make Tampa a viable choice. James Garvey is the director of the commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley. He says there is an increase in IT businesses here because ofÂ the growth of qualified workers who studied at USF.Â
â€œTransportation does not seem to be a big factor other than downtown. You know as you look at places those larger users can go and you look at downtown â€“ you know itâ€™s paid parking. Itâ€™s pain in the neck parking for the most part. I drive a truck for me Iâ€™m six blocks away so that will limit downtown from attracting that type of use but when you get out to the suburbs proximity to USF is a good thing. We were just involved with a couple of life science groups that decided to come here and it was the quality of the workforce that they looked at and this was mostly new jobs not people relocating and they were very high on what they saw.â€
Â Commissioner Mark Sharpe suggested a survey of employees to see what it would take for them to use the countyâ€™s HART bus system. He said the meeting helped to clarify the needs of businesses and they will now focus on getting the county to move forward and stay on track with all future transportation and business plans.Â Â
â€œ With the MPO very clear about their 2040 plan, HART talking about their transportation plan, the conversation about baseball, the conversation about port expansion. There are a lot of game changers here. I just hope that we are going to be a on a firm timeline so we donâ€™t lose an opportunity where we know thereâ€™s activity to make a significance difference.â€ Â
The next transportation and economic development meeting will be on September 25th. Theyâ€™ll concentrate on expanding the reach of business through the help of transportation.