Region Must Go Beyond The Allure of Sunshine

   In presenting two new reports at their State of the Region event on Monday, the Tampa Bay Partnership and the University of South Florida Muma College of Business centered on a key phrase: The Allure of Sunshine.

   We’re all too familiar with the allure. The enchanting nature of sea and sand often prove to be an irresistible enticement for Tampa Bay. Tourists become residents, visitors never go home and our economy grows greater.

Aiming For Areas Of Success, Opportunity

   However, the partnership, United Way Suncoast and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay all realize that for everyone to succeed in Tampa Bay, we must rely on a data-driven approach that goes beyond warm weather and scenic vistas and addresses the drivers behind workforce and affordability trends.

Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Bemetra Simmons, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay CEO Marlene Spalten, United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff.

   That’s why the three organizations annually collaborate on the Regional Competitiveness Report. USF researchers also published the 2024 Tampa Bay E-Insights Report, sponsored by Florida Blue. Both reports examine factors impacting eight counties, including four served by United Way Suncoast: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota, as well as Pasco, Polk, Hernando and Citrus. United Way Suncoast’s ALICE Report also helped shape the research.

   Each report revealed key insights into the performance of the region, including areas of success and opportunity associated with education, workforce development, and the impacts that our regional affordability crisis are taking on employee retention and recruitment. Both reports explore how the Tampa Bay area’s eight-county region stacks up against 19 similar-sized peer and aspirational metropolitan areas in key economic and socio-economic metrics.

Celebrate the Attractiveness, Address The Concerns

   The publications also serve as a roadmap for local and state legislators, public and private business leaders, and academic stakeholders to improve the region’s economic health and growth. That’s why it drew nearly 500 business leaders, community organizers and government officials to the USF Marshall Center on Monday, including Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Tampa mayor Jane Castor, Tampa City Councilwoman Gwen Henderson, Hillsborough County Commissioner Gwen Myers and USF President Rhea Law.

   “The annual benchmarks that stem from our data are influential in building consensus and regional priorities and investments,” said Bemetra Simmons, president and CEO of Tampa Bay Partnership. “This year the narrative from the 2024 Regional Competitiveness Report celebrates the attractiveness of the region while walking us through how changes to supply and demand are influencing our housing market, transportation, and workforce recruitment and retention.”

Reports yield mixed results

   Overall, the Regional Competitiveness Report shows that Tampa Bay has had year-over-year improvements in 34 indicators. The research tracks the economic competitiveness and growth of the region in 67 indicators that fall into five categories that drive the regional economy: economic vitality, innovation, infrastructure, talent and civic quality.

   The main findings from the 2024 Regional Competitiveness Report and the 2024 Tampa Bay E-Insights Report show:

  • Tampa Bay, once again, is number one in attracting new residents of all ages and has a strong business start rate.
  • The financial strain on the average Tampa Bay family has increased, with housing and transportation expenses accounting for nearly 57 cents of every dollar spent, compared to 54 cents last year.
  • Tampa Bay topped its competitors in closing the poverty rate gap.
  • Full-time work is not enough to make ends meet, and households are pulling from their savings to cover the gap. A college degree is becoming a financial necessity — 79% of jobs that pay more than $60,000 require a college degree. 
  • Attending college in Tampa Bay is a bargain. Students graduate with some of the lowest debt and graduate tuition is the most budget friendly option among metropolitan peers.
Data Holds Us Accountable

   Brian Auld, president of the Tampa Bay Rays, vice chairman of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership, encouraged the community to collectively embraced the results of the report and use them to chart a new course for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Partnership chair and Rays president Brian Auld 

   “Our data holds us accountable,” Auld said. “Purposeful, unbiased research is crucial for shaping shared goals for the region that will build upon the vision of making Tampa Bay the best it can be – for all of our residents.

   “We often joke that the secret is out about Tampa Bay. The data underscores that we remain an attractive hub for residents and businesses, but there is a cost for this attractiveness. Affordability is a growing concern, and we can only improve the overall quality of life for our residents when we target the two highest areas of expense and increase the pathways to higher-paying jobs. Transportation, housing and education are not partisan issues; they are people issues. Those three things: transportation, housing and education, are critical to the future of our region — economically and socially.”

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