The Big Ask For RNC: Andrew Smith, Tampa Bay

The Republican National Convention is coming. You can like it, hate it, or be indifferent about it, but in just under 100 days, delegations from across the country and more than 15,000 members of the media will descend on the Tampa Bay region.

I am the 2012 program chair of Emerge Tampa Bay, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's leadership development program for young professionals. In that role, I was granted the privilege of attending a very special meeting of the 2012 RNC Collaborative Summit Task Force on Thursday, May 3, at Mise En Place with regional leaders, such as developer and RNC champion Al Austin, USF President Judy Genshaft, Joe Lopano of TIA, and Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, as well as an impressive representation of business and community leaders from across the Tampa Bay region.

This gathering was organized to discuss what local agencies such as the Tampa Bay Partnership, chambers of commerce and economic development groups are doing to maximize our economic returns from the RNC, how they are working together and with the Host Committee to ensure we secure these returns and their main goal of creating some "Big Asks'' for the delegations while they are regional guests. Topics such as light rail or alternative public transportation, funding for important regional economic drivers such as the Port and local universities, as well as many more were discussed.

All of these topics are very important to our region and I do not envy the person who has to rank these topics in order of importance. However, the most important part of all this is not what our "Big Ask'' will be. It is simply the fact that we are having a regional dialogue. There were no heated discussions about stadiums or funding for failed prior rail projects, but rather, this meeting was a showcase of how everyone in our region can brainstorm positively and focus on the future, collectively rather than divisively.

The Tampa Bay region really is a great place to live, there's no doubt about that. But the mark of a great region lies in its ability to constantly strive for improvement and advancement. We're great now, but imagine what we can do to improve even more. The RNC provides us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the country and the world that the Tampa Bay area is a region to be reckoned with and taken seriously. We will continue to create new jobs, build up our cities and create a region that makes people all over the world take notice and plant the idea that this is a great place to visit and live. By working together, we can accomplish all this and more.

So I have a "Big Ask'' that isn’t directed at delegations and doesn't require money. On behalf of all young professionals, I ask our community leaders to continue ensuring that our region works together, just like we are right now.

Let's keep our focus on the positive future of the region and collaborate with each other, long after the RNC is gone. Stand strong together and make sure our voice is unified to the world. Make decisions that will benefit the region for generations to come. And above all, remember that when we work together, we can achieve anything.

Andrew Smith, cloud services consultant at Bayshore Technologies in Tampa, serves as program chair for Emerge Tampa Bay. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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