1st Annual Millennial Impact Forum shines light on shaping Tampa’s future

More than 900 people gathered at the Amalie Arena Tuesday night to get insight into what the future of Tampa holds.
The 1st Annual Millennial Impact Forum brought together a panel of community leaders to talk about transportation, infrastructure, media, technology, health & wellness, law and government as it relates to the Tampa Bay area.
But, the event was more than just a look at the future of Tampa, St. Pete and surrounding communities. It was also an insightful conversation about the values that are driving Tampa’s emerging leaders and motivating the next wave of community change-makers. 
Many speakers offered advice and insight into how millennial professionals, entrepreneurs and community advocates can embrace the city, achieve their goals and make an impact for positive change that benefits all residents. 
Hosted by New Town Connections, a social club for young professionals looking to meet other like-minded people in their community, and Stand Up Tampa, a project of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation (EDC) , the event put together a diverse panel of community influencers from different backgrounds and industries. 
Members of the panel included: 
  • Jeff Vinik, Owner of Tampa Bay Lightning and Founder of Strategic Property Partners, a real estate development group that is investing $3 billion in redesigning 53 acres of waterfront property in Tampa’s downtown; 
  • Mike Griffin, Chairman of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce; 
  • Erin Aebel, Partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP; 
  • Xuan "Sing'' Hurt, Owner at Anise Gastro Globalbar; 
  • Andrew Machota, Founder of New Town Connections; 
  • Tim Moore, CEO at Diamond View Studios
  • Tammy Charles, Sr. Manager of Corporate Relations at Metropolitan Ministries
  • Rena Frazier, Communications Director at Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office; and
  • Cesar Hernandez, head of Government Relations at HART.
Moderator Roberto Torres, President of Blind Tiger Cafe and Black and Denim Apparel Co., led the panel through questions on a variety of topics. But, even with the diverse panel and questions, there were a few themes that came up time and time again. 
Tampa is a big, little city. … Use it to your advantage
Multiple panelists mentioned the abundance of opportunities for people to make an impact in the Tampa Bay Area. Because Tampa is a small metro city in massive expansion mode, it’s a blank canvas ready to be painted.
“This city, this area, in baseball terms is in the 2nd or 3rd inning of its growth. It’s got so much potential. It’s still young. You can move the needle here. You can make a difference here.” -- Jeff Vinik
Right now there are fewer than 10,000 people living in downtown Tampa. By 2027, it’s expected that number will be 30,000.

Vinik spoke about how in larger cities like Boston and New York, it’s difficult to stand out and make an impact. But in Tampa, you can make a change because there’s still room. 

“This city, this area, in baseball terms is in the 2nd or 3rd inning of its growth. It’s got so much potential. It’s still young,“ he explained. “You can move the needle here. You can make a difference here.” 
Moderator Torres expressed how Tampa’s future is ready to be written. “Tampa has opportunity for people to create their own narrative, to weave into Tampa’s narrative, to make their story Tampa’s story,” he said. 
Moore of Diamond View Studios echoed this sentiment and spoke about the power of Tampa’s accessible community, “This is a small, big city. You are one degree of separation from someone who can change the trajectory of your life.” 
In-person relationships and connections are an extremely valuable commodity 
Further speaking to the power of making connections in this “small big city,” many panel members also expressed the power of building relationships within the community. 
Aebel, a lawyer and founder of Surly Feminist, a social media advocacy group, spoke about the importance of seeking out and using mentors to provide both professional and personal guidance. She stressed the importance of getting involved with a community of people who can push, teach and challenge you.  
“Don’t hesitate to surround yourself with smart, talented people, and people with more experience than you and and people from different generations,” Aebel said. 
Vinik also talked about how in the age of online connectivity, people are beginning to move back to craving real world experiences. He sees that people want to go back to in-person experiences, so part of his new redevelopment plan of downtown is to foster a community where more people can connect in person. 
“We’re going to have 9 million square feet of buildings and a lot of skyscrapers, but what we are trying to create person-to-person interactions and great experiences. That’s really what it’s all about,” Vinik explained. 
Community involvement is essential to city and personal growth 
Panelists also spoke about how connecting with your community needs to happen not only in your personal space, but also in government and community service environments. 
Frazier of the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office encouraged attendees to get involved with public affairs and government. Frazier, who lost her bid for a seat in the Florida Legislature last year, explained why it’s so important for people to get involved. 
“It’s taking what makes you you and using it to serve the community, to better the place where you are, to better the company that you work for or that you own, to better the school that you attend, to you use your voice to fight for the issues that you are passionate about and that are important,” Frazier said. 
Charles of Metropolitan Ministries also spoke of the benefits that come when residents get involved with local charities and causes. She encouraged people to harness their unique skills and find a way to use their talents to give back.
“Use your skills, use your passions to make a difference,” Charles said. 
If you work hard, Tampa will present opportunities 
To highlight the abundance of possibilities in Tampa when residents fully embrace their potential and the opportunities around them, a few panelists shared the stories that led them to their status as community leaders. 
Restaurant Founder Hurt talked about her refugee background and how it gave her the work ethic she needed to start her Anise Global Gastrobar  in Downtown Tampa. Coming to the country as a refugee from Vietnam at the age of 2, Hurt learned from her parents’ economic struggles and their strong work ethic. 
“I’m so grateful for my family’s struggles growing up because it taught me that you have to work hard for the things that you want,” Hurt explained. Hurt used this attitude to grow her business from food truck to successful downtown hot spot to two new concepts that will be a part of the new The Hall on the north Franklin food court. 
Hernandez of HART, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, shared his personal story of perseverance. In 2007, Hernandez was homeless and using the public train system in New York as his temporary residence. Now, he’s leading Tampa’s public transportation initiates and has helped launch innovative programs like Hyperlink, a public ride-sharing program and soon, a 2.7-mile downtown transportation coordinator that will rely exclusively on autonomous, self-driving vehicles
“Something happens here in Tampa. There’s a magic about Tampa. If you’re hungry and you’re here to work, you can make it,” said Hernandez.

Read more about the summit at 813Area.com