Skip to main content
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 19, 2003 18 years ago

The Future Isn't Now

Bay area leaders have reached a consensus that biomed is how the region can broaden its economic base. But that's not going to happen until well after 2004.
by: Article Author Staff Writer

The Future Isn't Now

Bay area leaders have reached a consensus that biomed is how the region can broaden its economic base. But that's not going to happen until well after 2004.

By Francis X. Gilpin

Associate Editor

Tampa Bay area business, educational and political leaders have decreed that their little corner of the entrepreneurial world is going to be known as a research hotbed for the life sciences. Not a terribly original ambition, since places like Boston and San Francisco enjoy a bit of a head start. But there it is.

When is this going to happen? In our lifetime, skeptics might ask? Perhaps, but certainly not in 2004.

Even the most optimistic among local economic development officialdom concede that a couple of setbacks this year served to remind the region how far there is to go. First, the state declined to award one of three $10 million "centers of excellence" grants to the University of South Florida for a bioengineering project. Second, the Scripps Research Institute, a leading biomed study center in California, bypassed the Bay area in favor of building a heavily taxpayer-subsidized branch in Palm Beach County.

On the more positive side, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, near USF's Tampa campus, opened a $186 million laboratory and clinic that will give its 700-plus researchers more space to come up with medical breakthroughs.

Developments such as the Moffitt expansion had Hillsborough County planning commissioners revising upward their employment projections - for 2025. "There is potential for spinoffs at USF and from Scripps," commission researcher James M. Hosler says of the commercial potential at the two institutions. "But not within five years."

Hosler is more concerned about the immediate future. "We're losing jobs in manufacturing and wholesale trade, the jobs that characterized Tampa's economy back at the mid-century," Hosler says.

The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, the state's name for its labor department, is predicting slight average annual increases - between 0.5% and 2% - in those two categories of jobs in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties through 2010. But that may not be sufficient to employ all the working-age transplants expected to pour into the region.

Stuart Rogel, president and chief executive of the Tampa Bay Partnership, is not fazed by the loss of old-line manufacturing, mirroring a national trend. "I don't worry about that so much," says Rogel, whose organization markets seven Bay area counties to companies around the country that are looking to relocate. "Manufacturing is not value-added anymore."

The corporate push to chop plant costs to the bone before production is moved offshore altogether has rendered old-line manufacturing much less attractive in the company relocation game.

Rogel says companies considering a move to the Bay area are impressed with the high concentration of local craftspeople and technicians, a tribute to the educational output from local community colleges and trade schools. "That's where the strength of our economy lies," says Rogel. "That associate's degree is the core strength of our workforce."

But top-wage jobs continue to elude the area in appreciable numbers. "We still have the lack of high-paying jobs that we've always had," says Hosler.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater was 102nd in per-capital personal income out of 318 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas in 2001, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. The markets against which Rogel says Tampa competes for business relocations - Atlanta (41st), Charlotte (65th) and Dallas (33rd) - were all well ahead of the Bay area.

But the Bay area may start to catch up in 2004. Hillsborough's real per-capita personal income is predicted to go up 2.4%, according to the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. In Pinellas, it is expected to increase by 3.6%.

Groups such as Rogel's are putting the Bay area's best foot forward. But Hosler says they face "incredible competition" from other Southern states that blandish companies with more generous public subsidies.

Economic development researcher Richard Florida, who claims a vibrant arts community and a tolerant social climate attract more high-value industry than subsidies, has inspired the formation of Creative Tampa Bay. The group plans to continue trying to meld the Bay area business and cultural communities for their mutual prosperity in 2004.

So far, however, Florida has failed to land many big employers, says one of the state's most quoted economists, Henry H. Fishkind. Other trends driving structural changes in the Florida economy include a slower migration of retirees and fewer leisure airline passengers coming into the state, Fishkind stated in a recent speech.

June Nogle, a demographer at UF's business research bureau, says Sunshine State population growth will be uneven for the foreseeable future. Big urban counties like Hillsborough will see jumps, with almost 10,500 new housing units being built in 2004.

A torrent of rezoning applications for planned-development subdivisions in south and north-central Hillsborough and central Pasco counties have been filed, according to Hosler.

That will dump thousands of moderately priced single-family houses on the market over the next 12 to 18 months. But, with slow job growth in some employment categories, Hosler questions whether there will be enough buyers.

"If interest rates track up one point, you kick a lot of people out of those homes," says Hosler, who considers a recent drop in mortgage applications to be ominous: "You run out of people who need $125,000 homes."

Chris McCarty, director of UF's Florida Economic and Consumer Survey, says state residents are more upbeat about the national economy than they are about improvement in their own personal financial situation during the next year.

projected economic indicators

Hillsborough County20032004% change2005% change

Population 1,069,850 1,092,728 2.1% 1,117,120 2.2%

Employment 605,716 620,868 2.5% 637,508 2.7%

Income (in billions)$30.5$34.312.5%$35.43.2%

Unemployment rate4.64.4-4.3%4.1-6.8%

Housing starts 12,366 10,453 -15.5% 11,750 12.4%

Single-family starts 9,166 9,096 -0.8% 8,862 -2.6%

Multifamily starts 3,199 1,358 -57.5% 2,888 112.7%

Overnight tourists 2,637,291 2,787,135 5.7% 2,931,933 5.2%

Pasco County20032004% change2005% change

Population 368,187 377,155 2.4% 386,741 2.5%

Employment 76,927 78,753 2.4% 80,917 2.7%

Income (in billions)$9.4$9.95.3%$10.45.1%

Unemployment rate5.24.5-13.5%4.2-6.7%

Housing starts 5,032 4,955 -1.5% 5,290 6.8%

Single-family starts 4,410 4,563 3.5% 5,032 10.3%

Multifamily starts 622 393 -36.8% 258 -34.4%

Overnight tourists 313,996 315,064 0.3% 316,095 0.3%

Pinellas County20032004% change2005% change

Population943,209950,054 0.7% 956,233 0.7%

Employment 457,029 464,093 1.5% 475,080 2.4%

Income (in billions)$32.4$35.49.3%$36.53.1%

Unemployment rate5.14.9-3.9%4.5-8.2%

Housing starts 3,302 3,296 -0.2% 2,787 -15.4%

Single-family starts 2,001 2,063 3.1% 2,036 -1.3%

Multifamily starts 1,301 1,233 -5.2% 751 -39.1%

Overnight tourists 3,967,566 3,994,137 0.7% 4,019,813 0.6%

Source: Fishkind & Associates

Projected job growth

(Average annual change through 2010)

Hillsborough County

By industryFloridaCounty

All industries1.97% 2.06%

Services2.98 3.15

Financial serv. & real estate2.00 2.52

Construction1.89 2.20

Transportation2.11 1.89

Mining-0.80 1.39

Communications & utilities1.54 1.36

Wholesale & retail trade1.67 1.21

Government1.46 1.01

Agriculture1.48 0.94

Manufacturing0.20 0.70

Pinellas County

By industryFloridaCounty

All industries1.97% 2.08%

Services2.98 3.11

Financial serv. & real estate2.00 2.53

Construction1.89 2.31

Mining-0.80 2.27

Agriculture1.48 2.27

Communications & utilities1.54 1.49

Transportation2.11 1.44

Wholesale & retail trade1.67 1.29

Government1.46 1.28

Manufacturing0.20 0.82

Industry Trends

Hillsborough County % change

Fastest-growing industrySecurity and commodity brokerage4.61

Occupation adding most jobsComputer software engineer8.77

Occupation losing most jobsRailroad brake, signal and switch operator-6.44

Pinellas County% change

Fastest-growing industrySecurity and commodity brokerage5.55

Occupation adding most jobsComputer software engineer8.33

Occupation losing most jobsTelephone operator -4.44

Source: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation

Total County Population: April 1, 1970 - 2025County197019801990200020042010201520202025










Palm Beach348,754576,758863,5031,131,1841,233,2021,378,3311,498,2891,619,9451,714,935






Source: Demographic Estimating Conference Database, updated 9/2003.

Related Stories