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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 11, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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Tampa Bay scores slip: The Tampa Bay area slipped from second to fourth among its five other Southeast competitors in the latest economic scorecard dashboard report from the Tampa Bay Partnership, released this week.Gerdau buys Century Steel: Tampa-based Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. has acquired all the assets of Century Steel, Inc.Tampa to sell land: Despite the slow economy, Tampa is trying to sell parcels of vacant land.Building height vote: Charlotte County commissioners, reeling from a pair of recent economic development blows, are considering passing new zoning rulesReds off to the desert: The Cincinnati Reds baseball team signed a contract with officials of Goodyear, Ariz. April 8 to play Spring Training games in that cityBuilding permits reinstatedLee moratorium talk: A moratorium on development of new mines on sparsely populated 83,000 acres in South Lee County will be debated at open forums scheduled for April 17, 22 and 24.

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

Tampa Bay scores slip

The Tampa Bay area slipped from second to fourth among its five other Southeast competitors in the latest economic scorecard dashboard report from the Tampa Bay Partnership, released this week.

The report, which covered winter 2006 to summer 2007, attributed the drop to the softer national economy, the troubled housing sector and better performance in other markets.

The scorecard assigns points for employment and workforce, income and productivity, housing, innovation and education. The other markets measured are Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Jacksonville and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Gerdau buys Century Steel

Tampa-based Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. has acquired all the assets of Century Steel, Inc., a reinforcing and structural steel contractor specializing in fabrication and installation of structural steel and reinforcing steel products, for about $152 million.

Century, headquartered in Las Vegas, operates reinforcing and structural steel contracting businesses in Nevada, California, Utah and New Mexico.

With fabrication facilities that have an annual capacity in excess of 250,000 tons per year, CSI participates in almost all segments of the market in the western United States.

Gerdau Ameristeel is the second-largest mini-mill steel producer in North America with annual manufacturing capacity of about 12 million tons of mill-finished steel products.

Tampa to sell land

Despite the slow economy, Tampa is trying to sell parcels of vacant land.

Herb Fecker, Tampa's real estate division manager says the city wants to get the property, some of which is foreclosed and zoned residential, on the tax rolls.

The majority of the land is in nine Community Redevelopment Areas, which get a special taxing structure that brings money into the area for redevelopment. The city has at least 30 vacant parcels in East Tampa. Some are in Ybor City and other urban areas.

The assessed value of the properties ranges from about $35,000 to about $57,000, according to the city's real estate department.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

Building height vote

Charlotte County commissioners, reeling from a pair of recent economic development blows, are considering passing new zoning rules that would more than double the acceptable height of some commercial buildings, including hotels.

The new zoning code proposal boosts the maximum height allowed to 65 feet. The current limit is 30 feet. Developers and real estate executives have pushed for the change for several years, both to compete better with other counties and cities and to clear up ambiguities in the current rules.

Developers and some county officials hope to recruit a top-tier hotel to the county if the proposal passes.

And a new development project of that size would be especially welcome now in the county, considering two recent business defections in Punta Gorda.

Publix recently decided to pull out of a proposed distribution center in the county for another project in Orlando, while Skybus Airlines, citing market forces, shuttered its nationwide operations April 5, including its facility at the Charlotte County Airport.

The proposed code changes commissioners are debating are for height limits, not density. Yet some groups, specifically residents who live in the county's beaches, have stated some concerns that a hotel could bring increased traffic, which in turn could prolong hurricane evacuation times.

The commission is expected to vote on the proposal by May.

Reds off to the desert

The Cincinnati Reds baseball team signed a contract with officials of Goodyear, Ariz. April 8 to play Spring Training games in that city, officially ending its long run in Sarasota.

Goodyear officials were able to deliver to the Reds what team officials say Sarasota couldn't do: Build a new stadium and practice facility using taxpayer funds from several sources, which in this case, includes the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority.

The final cost of the new facility in Goodyear is expected to be about $33 million.

But while the Reds will be leaving Sarasota after its contract with the city ends in 2009, the possibility lingers that Sarasota city and county residents will still be paying for an upgrade of the Reds' soon-to-be former home, Ed Smith Stadium.

Voters rejected a $16 million bond referendum that would help pay for the project in November, a vote that ultimately led the Reds to look for another Spring Training home.

Sarasota city officials though now say a new $40 million-plus funding package is in the works for Ed Smith Stadium.

The city hopes to use that as a plug in recruiting a replacement for the Reds. City officials also said they plan to conduct a study to explore other uses for the stadium if funding doesn't come through or it can't bring in another team.

LEE/COLLIER

Building permits reinstated

Lee County Commissioners extended a program to reinstate expired residential building permits through Dec. 31. Applicants may have an expired permit reinstated for six months for $100.

The reinstatement allows builders to extend the permit's life beyond the original six months without having to pay additional new-construction taxes. New-construction taxes on single-family homes now total about $15,000 in Lee County.

Lee moratorium talk

A moratorium on development of new mines on sparsely populated 83,000 acres in South Lee County will be debated at open forums scheduled for April 17, 22 and 24.

That area of Lee County contains what some have estimated to be as much as $1 billion worth of limestone rock, an essential ingredient for construction of roads and buildings. Only a few areas of the state have this rock and state legislators are drafting bills that would take away local officials' power to reject new mines.

Despite the fact that the county long ago set aside that area for mining, recently arrived residents and environmentalists are seeking restrictions on any new mines.

The forums will take place at the Lee County Commission chambers and Harborside Event Center in downtown Fort Myers. For more information, contact the Lee County Department of Community Development at 239-533-8705.

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