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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 2 weeks ago

EDC under fire for name change

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A city/county organization has adopted a regional brand identity, drawing intense criticism.

What is “Tampa Bay”? Just as important: Who should use the term in their brand?

Those questions are being asked in the wake of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.'s Oct. 10 announcement that it will change its name to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. The transition became effective Oct. 29, according to a news release, and it comes on the heels of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce changing its name to, simply, the Tampa Bay Chamber.

The problem is that the EDC and chamber in question aren’t regional organizations — and they have drawn heat for adopting a brand identity that some critics say doesn’t fit.

Craig Richard, the president and CEO of the EDC, says the organization needed a change after 10 years. “This rebranding — along with our new strategic action plan — will position us for greater success in our second decade,” he states in the release.

The EDC also says its moniker was updated to avoid confusion and align with other business development and destination marketing organizations, such as Visit Tampa Bay, Film Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

But Bill Carlson, a Tampa City Council member and president of Tucker/Hall, a Tampa public relations firm, slammed the move. He tells Coffee Talk that “‘Tampa Bay' should be reserved for regional organizations.”

The Tampa City Council, which authorizes public funding for the Tampa Hillsborough EDC, backed up its feelings with a vote: It unanimously passed a resolution calling for the name change to be rescinded — to no avail.

“We've spent 20-plus years trying to build a region and a regional brand, and this move threatens to pull apart all the collegiality that has been developed over the years,” Carlson says. “We have many partners in the region, and this is a very aggressive act against our partners. It’s a problem you make when you look at things from a marketing point of view, instead of taking into account all of the different constituents.”

Carlson can’t explain the reasoning behind the move, other than to say it was done out of “ignorance or arrogance — and either way, that’s a problem.” Officials with the EDC said Richard wasn't available for comment to respond to Carlson or other critics prior to the Business Observer's deadline. 

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