Tampa Bay Area thought leaders share what they anticipate most in 2018

83 Degrees asks local thought leaders: What are you most anticipating / most looking forward to experiencing / most excited about / most eager to see (take your pick) for the Tampa Bay region in 2018? Below are their answers.

The continued growth of Tampa Bay through the addition of diverse, talented members of our community’s workforce at every level. Fentrice Driskell

Recently, a local CEO joyfully shared with me that his company had hired three young, diverse individuals who were not originally from Florida and who graduated from architecture schools in the Washington, D.C. area. He expressed that his company has been receiving an unprecedented level of interest from diverse candidates and that he is hearing similar reports from other business owners.

In 2017, various business and political leaders worked collaboratively to protect this region’s brand as one that does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other category. It is this sort of forward-thinking, inclusive environment that helps us maintain a competitive edge as one of the nation’s leading regions and fastest-growing job markets.

We are also starting to see more women step into the political arena and run for office at every level of government. This trend bodes well for enhancing diversity within our political leadership, and I believe we will see the impact of that trend throughout Florida and in Tampa Bay as well. -- Attorney Fentrice Driskell, Partner, Carlton Fields

Steve BernsteinAn enhanced sense of collaboration and inclusiveness throughout the business community on both sides of the Bay, unifying our region around a common voice that resonates from here to Tallahassee and beyond.

I hope that building a field of dreams for our hometown Rays right here in Tampa Bay becomes a part of that vision next year, and that in turn leads to a renewed focus on practical solutions to our transportation challenges to build a vibrant place for our Children to call home.

2018 brings with it a renewed sense of optimism that all things are possible here if we continue to pull together. -- Attorney Steve Bernstein, Chair, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

I’m excited about the various development efforts across the region that are deliberately considering the health of the community in their design.

Donna J. PetersenWhether it’s new visions for downtowns or innovation districts or transportation or neighborhood revitalization, there seems to be a newfound appreciation that the health of the citizens of the Tampa Bay region is essential for economic development and quality of life. I hear “health” issues discussed in nearly every conversation I have now, giving me hope that we might finally be in a position to make the Tampa Bay region the healthiest community in the country.

We have all the elements here to do that; all we need now is to cultivate this new understanding into political and societal will and we can help everyone flourish! -- Donna J. Petersen, Dean, USF College of Public Health

Tonya ElmoreI am most eager to see funding secured for the new Innovation Center in Pinellas County for two reasons. First, the 45,000-square-foot Center will impact the Tampa Bay region in numerous ways, continuing our mission by creating high tech high wage jobs and bringing new technologies to market. Second, it’s a good complement to Jeff Vinik’s recently announced projects which includes an Innovation Hub across the Bay.

Together, the two proposed Innovation Centers, the region’s academic entrepreneurial initiatives and Vinik’s $20M venture fund will provide a stronger foundation for the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial and innovation community. -- Tonya Elmore, President & CEO, Tampa Bay Innovation Center/TEC Garage

Sarah Combs2018 is the year for affordable housing in the Tampa Bay Community. The end-user demand coupled with the government and private sector’s thrust through incentives and capital investment is creating an appetite for affordable housing in the region.

I am eager to see innovation solutions from housing partners and government agencies to address the rising needs of affordable housing in Tampa Bay. And I am hopeful for the families who can be reunited as a result of stable sound and safe housing.

We can do it Tampa Bay! -- Sarah Combs, Executive Director & CEO, University Area CDC

I am most excited to see in 2018, the unfolding of the deliberate and thoughtful efforts by the city's leadership and private investors to add new structures to the city-scape around a hub, and the efforts to connect various parts of the Tampa Bay Area through upgraded and new means of transportation.

Ramesh SambasivanHowever, I am also most eager to see in 2018, a similar and deliberate commitment from the city's and county's leadership to partner with private companies in fostering a pervasive sense of community so that these large public spaces develop an embracing warmth through the cultivation of a grassroots movement.

I recently received a call from yet another entrepreneur and job creator, this time a former Wall Streeter from New York, who is planning a move to Tampa Bay but was unsure of where to find a supportive entrepreneurial community that would provide grassroots referrals to essential services such as banking and legal help for setting up his international business or getting a mortgage.

We need a community-based pathway to easily integrate newcomers into the Tampa Bay Area. Investment in such community-building initiatives to attract and retain talent and economic contributors in the Tampa Bay Area is long overdue.

I remain very optimistic that it will happen in 2018 and am happy to roll up my sleeves to help make 2018 a very special year for the Tampa Bay Area. -- Entrepreneur Ramesh Sambasivan, Former President, TIE Tampa Bay

Roger Germann2018 is an incredibly exciting time to be in Tampa. We’re driving a period of such intense innovation and development, transforming our city and region to be not just a top destination to live, work and play in the state of Florida, but a top city and metropolitan region in the United States.

We take our title of The Florida Aquarium with great pride, and look forward to continuing this momentum and seeking out new and unique ways to make a sincere impact within our community and across the state. To us, this means continuing to promote our mission of protecting and restoring our blue planet through conservation and education efforts, providing new and one-of-a-kind experiences to connect our guests with nature and contributing to Tampa’s rich culture, strong economy, and quality of life.

There is a true sense of community developing throughout the Tampa Bay Area that motivates us. And I'm excited to see that we’re all working together with the same commitment to make Tampa and the metropolitan region the best in the country. -- Roger Germann, President/CEO, The Florida Aquarium

Hillsborough County has come roaring out of the recession and we are riding a wave of new growth and new opportunity for our small businesses and our residents. We have laid a solid foundation Sandy Murmanfor the county by keeping taxes low. Job growth is strong and Tampa and the county are leaders for job creation in our state working together. The property tax base is increasing as a predictor of a healthy future, with record low unemployment and record increases in new permitted values of new construction.

The major initiatives in the county for 2018 are simple: Transportation and Economic Development, which includes bringing back the ferry to assist MacDill service personnel to get to the base; implementing the $800 million that the commission approved into transportation to address road repair and resurfacing and infrastructure; introducing the Premium Transit Plan as the future of transit for the county and Speak with One Voice to leverage our dollars to get state and federal assistance, develop the I-4 corridor which is a goldmine of prime opportunity for economic development and we should see our public transportation system, under HART, begin to transform as an innovative transit agency for our growing community.

Other important initiatives include our E-Factory for the startup community and further expanding our Indigent Health Care Plan into mental health and new programs to fight the opioid epidemic. 2018 will be an aggressive year that will make a difference in the quality of life of our taxpayers and residents. -- Sandy Murman, Chair, Hillsborough County Commission

I am most looking forward to a 2018 with new opportunities to strengthen relationships built with the community, the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County, partnerships of success that can bring even greater development to Tampa’s burgeoning downtown and economic growth across the County.

I see The Tampa Riverwalk further supported as a pivotal destination, a pseudo Main Street connecting people to businesses, parks, and cultural attractions.

And I look forward to participating in every opportunity that can advance the shared and experienced truth about our great region -- there has never been a more exciting time to be a part of Tampa Bay. -- Michael Tomor, Executive Director, Tampa Museum of Art

Yvonne FryI am most looking forward to regional collaboration and forthcoming solutions on issues affecting our quality of life and prospects for our future including education, transportation and economic development.

The Tampa Bay region's leadership has the vision and capacity to finally identify our needs and work collaboratively for comprehensive solutions to propel us to the next chapter for our community. -- Yvonne Fry, CEO, Fryed Egg Productions

Susana WeymouthI am most eager to see a year of unification across the Tampa Bay region.

Our Tampa Bay BCA, one of 11 national Business Committees for the Arts, is uniquely positioned to lead the way by harnessing the power of our private sector network and resources, and promoting programs that unite businesses to champion arts and culture, and arts education.

We most look forward to stimulating and impactful collaborations that connect business and thought leaders -- including our strong Board of Directors and pARTners – in engagement and support of the arts.

We are excited to inspire -- and meaningfully contribute -- to explosive cultural growth across Tampa Bay, emphasizing the creativity and innovation, well-being and diversity, most sought after by successful businesses. -- Susana Weymouth, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Business Committees for the Arts

83 Degrees: What are the most widely anticipated development projects for the urban core or peripheral neighborhoods, either in Tampa or in St Pete, Clearwater, Sarasota?

James T. NozarThe key projects that, in addition to Water Street Tampa, that are shaping the urban core of Tampa, in my opinion, are:
  • New ballpark, this ties to both Tampa and St. Pete
  • Hyde Park Village renovations by WS
  • Tampa Heights, anchored by Armature Works site (SoHo Capital)
There are a number of other large-scale single-building projects that will continue to shape the urban core, such as: ONE in St. Pete, Riverwalk Tower (Feldman), Manor Riverwalk (Related’s project on old Tampa Trib site), etc. And, of course, a lot of huge infrastructure projects that will fuel the growth of the urban core, such as the Airport master plan, Tampa Bay Next, and the Selmon Extension at Gandy. -- James T. Nozar, CEO, Strategic Property Partners

Christine BurdickThis is a hard question!!

In addition to Water Street Tampa, right off the top, I would say the Armature Works opening; Julian B. Lane park; Publix @ Channel District/Grand Central; “Yellow Brick Road” movement in Tampa Heights; and what will develop at the Kress Block. -- Christine Burdick, outgoing CEO, Tampa Downtown Partnership

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Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is a community leader and award-winning journalist with more than four decades of experience reporting and writing about the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. She serves on the boards of the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications Advisory Council, The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council, Sing Out and Read, and StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. She also is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Media. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Tampa Tiger Bay Club, USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Awesome Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Diane and her husband, Sandy Rief, live in Tampa.