Tampa Bay leads the nation in attracting new residents of all ages compared to 19 U.S. metro areas of similar size — a list that includes South Florida, Denver, Baltimore, Nashville, Orlando and Atlanta.
That's the good news.
The not as good news: the average Tampa Bay salary is $60,843 in Tampa Bay — 15.6% less than the national average of $70,346, according to a new report by the Tampa Bay Partnership. That average puts Tampa Bay near the bottom of the list of 20 metro areas, at No.18.
Those data points and other new statistics about the Tampa Bay region — defined as Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando, Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco, Polk and Citrus counties — come from joint reports put out Feb. 12: the 2024 Tampa Bay E-Insights Report by the University of South Florida Muma School of Business and Tampa Bay Partnership's 2024 Regional Competitiveness Report.
The reports found that as many new residents are moving to the eight counties, their search for remote jobs is significant. That is perhaps because remote work in other states pays better than Tampa Bay jobs.
The USF report found a high growth rate of early-stage businesses, but the jobs had lower wages. The USF report concluded that the high-tech sector could help lift wages, citing a need for "policy initiatives aimed at attracting high-tech businesses to the region to foster a more robust and equitable economic ecosystem."
Some of that business growth USF seeks is happening, the reports conclude. The partnership report found a strong rate of new business starts, the fifth best among 19 competing metro areas and well ahead of the national average.
Wages were not the only factor to somewhat blunt the positive economic findings of Tampa Bay's overall health. The reports found that as Tampa Bay grows, new and longtime residents are finding the region is acquiring symptoms other metro areas have: longer commute times and pricey real estate among them.
"The region faces challenges with increasing commute times, ranking in the bottom half with a comparatively higher percentage of workers having 30-plus minutes commute times," says the USF report.
Another challenge: the hot Tampa Bay economy had an overall inflationary effect, the reports found. The strain on the average family, for one, increased in 2023, "with housing and transportation expenses accounting for nearly 57 cents of every dollar spent, compared to 54 cents" in the previous year, the partnership's competitiveness report says. Many Tampa Bay workers find "full-time work is not enough to make ends meet, and households are pulling from their savings to cover the gap," the partnership report says.
The reports were unveiled at a Feb. 12 event with USF and partnership officials.
Tampa Bay Partnership president and CEO Bemetra Simmons says Tampa Bay is an attractive place to live and work, retaining many workers, but supply and demand's effects can be seen in the report's examination of housing and transportation.
"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," Simmons says in a statement.
To examine the economy, USF says its research looks at traditional data to understand economic outcomes, affordability and talent pipeline trends. The university used data from Google Trends, Numbeo, Zillow and other sources to get "a holistic picture of the inclusive economic health of the region."
The Tampa Bay Partnership says its research tracks 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.
Jim Stinson is the Business Observer's Tampa Bay business reporter and editor, having previously written about business and policy in Washington, D.C.; Rochester, New York; Gary, Indiana; and Daytona Beach. He attended Boston University for business and Indiana University for journalism.