WaveMakers: Bemetra Simmons on keeping Tampa Bay competitive

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As Tampa Bay grows as a community, the standards to be met grow along with it. In order to keep up with the competition, the Tampa Bay Partnership helps conduct community research, inform new policies and work for improvements in the overall quality of life in the area. On Feb. 1, Tampa Bay Partnership’s CEO Bemetra Simmons spoke with WMNF hosts Janet and Tom Scherberger on WaveMakers.

Listen to the full episode here:


Discussing the recent publication of their Regional Competitiveness Report, Simmons detailed data trends and what Tampa Bay needs to focus on in order to boost its standings.

“I think the data is important because it allows us to take an honest assessment of where we are and what we’re doing well,” Simmons told WMNF.

What the Tampa Bay area does well: Low crime rates, good air quality and a growing population with housing prices going up. However, there were areas where the region has fallen short: we ranked extremely low with public transportation and infrastructure, and have high poverty rates with consistently low incomes. With a growing population, it can be a double-edged sword. Growth, Simmons said, is good. But the community must keep up with the growth in order to thrive.

“I think that we just have to be mindful of that growth and how we bring it in and how we manage it.”

The Tampa Bay Partnership has narrowed its focus to three priority areas in helping the community. First is public transportation, supporting updated infrastructure and using data to encourage better development. Second is education attainment, which includes groups focusing on early education through the 12th grade and the workforce itself. Their efforts are to change policies regarding certificates of completion, as well as to boost the overall quality of education and hiring practices. Finally, the Partnership has started a research-propelled initiative called Project Opioid, which mobilizes the community to help reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in the region.