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Business Observer Monday, Aug. 30, 2021 10 months ago

Regional business organization gets new leader, first woman and Black woman to take the helm

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Bemetra Simmons, executive at United Ways Suncoast, chosen to head the Tampa Bay Partnership.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

TAMPA — Bemetra Simmons has been named president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, replacing Rick Homans who is retiring.

Simmons, 46, is currently the chief strategies and operations officer at the United Way Suncoast and will step into her new job Sept. 27. She is the fourth person to head the Tampa Bay Partnership and the first woman and Black woman, according to a statement.  

According to a biography provided by the Tampa Bay Partnership, Simmons previously worked for Mutual of Omaha as the Florida managing director as well as serving as part of leadership teams at Wells Fargo and BB&T banks.

At the United Way, which she joined in Feb. 2020, Simmons oversees the organization’s COVID-19 Emergency response process which saw $1.6 million in emergency relief funds go to area nonprofits, according to the United Way. She also put into place a paperless accounts payable system and created a collaborative and online budgeting process,

She’s currently on the board for the Tampa Housing Authority, the executive committee for the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and the board of Community Tampa Bay.

As head of the partnership, she will oversee an organization that describes itself as a “coalition of regional business leaders, joined by a shared commitment to improving the personal and economic well-being of Tampa Bay residents.” 

In a statement released by the Partnership, Simmons says that the organization has “helped to identify and address a number of significant, systemic challenges in our region.”

“I look forward to building on that momentum and strengthening the ties between our business, government and nonprofit leaders, so we can work together to solve these pressing issues and create new opportunities for the future.”

Some of those challenges were highlighted in the most recent Regional Competitiveness Report released in January. The report is a set of regional metrics that compare Tampa Bay’s performance to 19 other markets nationwide.

The report found “some serious issues that need to be addressed on a regional scale.”

What raised concerns was that the region’s average wage ranked No. 19 out of the 20 communities, while median household income was dead last. The report also found that only about 40% of area residents have at least an associate degree, putting Tampa Bay No. 19 out of 20 on that measure as well.

Chad Loar, the Partnership’s chairman, says in the statement announcing Simmons’ hiring that she "is a smart and strategic leader” and that she’s a “strong collaborator who, we believe, can unite the diverse voices and interests within our region and help us advance our mission of improving the personal and economic well-being of our residents.”

The Partnership was originally formed in 1992 as an umbrella organization of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and incorporated as a standalone organization in 1994.

Homans, who Simmons is replacing, started at the Partnership in 2015. He helped create the annual Regional Competitiveness Report. He also oversaw, in 2016, the Partnership’s transition from a “publicly-funded regional economic development and marketing organization to a privately-funded coalition of CEOs focused on regional research, public policy and advocacy,” according to the statement.

Simmons' last day at United Way is Sept. 17. A search for her successor has begun.

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