Tampa Bay Area thought leaders share what they most anticipate in 2020

To kick off the new year, 83 Degrees reached out to Tampa Bay Area thought leaders to ask: "What are you most anticipating in 2020?'' Below are the responses we received.

Tammy Briant Spratling, Executive Director, Community Tampa Bay

I am excited for the Tampa Bay Area to serve as a model for thoughtful, respectful, and impactful dialogue through the election process. Tammy Briant SpratlingWe are a beautifully diverse community -- a prime reason I moved here for college two decades ago. We are uniquely positioned to show the rest of the country how a community can come together in vigorous yet civil discourse, to advance the position of all community members through the political process. 

In these days of ultra-polarized politics often fed by cable news and social media, we can all benefit from a reminder that in many cases our similarities outweigh our differences -- we all want children to flourish in our schools, we all want safe and healthy transportation options, we all want culture and art to entertain, enrich and educate. I am both hopeful and expectant that at some point our community will solve our most pressing local issues from a starting point rooted in our similarities and strengths.  

Brian Deming, Investor; Board Chair, Tampa Bay Wave; Vice Chair, United Way Suncoast

I am excited to see the continued investment in, and support of, the entrepreneurial and start-up community across the Tampa Bay region. The business community has continued to show Brian Demingsigns of willingness to invest at greater levels in entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) both within the region and across the state, and I anticipate some exciting announcements in this area in 2020.

I believe great things can be accomplished through collaboration across multiple ESOs like Tampa Bay Wave and Embarc Collective, which will have its formal launch early this year.  And at Tampa Bay Wave, we will continue to develop relationships with a variety of organizations, including Embarc, Starter Studio in Orlando, Florida Funders and Synapse, just to name a few.  I believe that this collaboration is key to continuing to build on the momentum we have seen in Tampa Bay in recent years.  

We are beginning to get more recognition on a national level as a leading community in the support of technology, start-ups, and innovation; and the collaboration between ESOs, combined with increasingly strong support from both individuals and companies in the business community, will be critical to our continued rise. I believe local entrepreneurs and businesses will continue to step up their support, and local ESOs will continue to step up their service offerings.  As a result, 2020 has the real potential to be a truly breakout year for the Tampa Bay community!
Susan Glickman, Florida Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Susan GlickmanIt is my greatest hope that 2020 will bring a meaningful response to the climate crisis. This existential threat to the state of Florida requires the Tampa Bay region to both adapt to impacts underway and, more importantly, dramatically reduce the dangerous carbon pollution driving the problem. Our taxes are low because tourism, real estate development, and agriculture flourish.

Jeopardizing those economic engines with sea-level rise, extreme heat, rain, and intensified hurricanes is foolish when transforming to clean energy solutions will create high-paying jobs and keep energy dollars working in our community. Effective collaborations such as the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition and leading organizations such as the Tampa Bay Partnership, helping to bring the business community to the table, will be crucial to protecting the paradise we call home for future generations.

Tyler Hudson, Attorney, Gardner, Brewer, Martinez-Monfort; Chairman, All for Transportation

I am most excited to see the barricades and hard hats around Hillsborough County as the first year of All for Transportation (AFT) projects commence this year. Residents of every part of the county -- urban, suburban, and rural alike -- will see their tax dollars at work building a safer and better-connected community.

Tyler HudsonWhile the AFT funding is a down payment on solving our mobility challenges, much work remains. Housing costs are too high for too many, with too little inventory of ‘missing middle’ workforce housing. New climate challenges make great demands of our old infrastructure. A booming economy does not boom forever. 

Yet I have never been more optimistic about our region’s future for one reason: the power of local solutions. In 2018, Hillsborough County showed that it is a place where citizens unite to solve grave problems. Common sense and pragmatism defeated paranoia and pessimism. This new decade will demand much of us -- both in maintaining successes and confronting challenges. 

If recent past is prologue, 2020 will be but the first year of the most exciting decade in our region’s history. 

Liz Dimmitt, Managing Partner, Dimmitt Chevrolet; Arts Advocate and Philanthropist, Tampa Bay and New York

2020 is about creating opportunities and collaborations as well as celebrating the people, culture, and talent we have here in Florida.

It is a very exciting year for me, and for Tampa Bay!

Liz DimmittThis year, I am working with a team of like-minded artists and entrepreneurs to create an immersive arts experience called Fairgrounds. It's a dream I've had for many years.

Fairgrounds, at the intersection of art, technology, community, and entrepreneurship, is currently under design and will be located at The Factory in South St. Pete.

The Factory will be a hub of diverse, creative enterprises and is being led by the folks at Behar + Peteranecz Architecture. 

If you ask me, there is no better place to be in 2020 than in Tampa Bay.

Mike Sutton, President & Chief Executive Officer, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties

2020 will be the year we make movement on the affordable and workforce housing front! We are fortunate to have leadership in the Governor’s office that sees the importance of encouraging affordable housing throughout the state. 
Mike SuttonAt Habitat for Humanity, we know that a family should never have to spend more than 30 percent of their income on a home. But consider that today most low-income families in Pinellas County pay half or more of their income on a place to live. That means 1 in 6 families are denied the personal and economic stability that safe, decent and affordable housing provides. It also means 1 in 6 families are forced to make impossible choices. Safe homes. Nutritious food on the table. Health care. Access to good schools. Reliable transportation. Which would you choose?
Habitat knows the complexities that surround the cost of homes. We also know the struggle, stress, and pain of far too many families in our community. And we know that those with the fewest resources are forced to make the hardest choices.  
This is a nonpartisan issue. We have to take a stand and declare our commitment that no family should have to pay more than half of their paycheck to cover the cost of a home. Together, our region and community can lead the country with innovative and creative ways to ensure safe and affordable housing for all!
Leroy Moore, COO, Tampa Housing Authority

2020 will see a continuing demand for quality affordable and workforce housing in the Tampa Bay Area, and increasing pressure upon elected officials to deploy innovative, progressive strategies to ensure that the industry is able to deliver more housing with less regulatory and political constraints.

Leroy MooreLocally, I see our elected leaders becoming more creative with city and county resources, not just financial but also real estate assets, zoning, and land-use reform to enable more production. And more innovative with the reuse of real estate within the urban core by using redevelopment strategies to increase residential densities, add diversity of uses, and result in more responsible use of land close to major employment and cultural/recreational centers. Increased densities will support more modern transportation systems such as rail and expanded bus rapid transit (BRT). 

Within the Tampa Housing Authority, we expect to see commercial development picking up at ENCORE! Tampa and resulting in more new residential, hospitality, and restaurants along with additional retail. Across the Hillsborough River at our West River redevelopment, 2019 saw the funding of over 932 apartments. 2020 will see hundreds more residential units added to that total along with retail and office development. 

In 2020, THA will also kick off the official redevelopment of Robles Park Village, Tampa’s last remaining stigmatized and obsolete super-block of public housing. A new Master Plan will take shape as we reimagine a future Robles Park that creates a diverse, sustainable community of choice for future generations while increasing our inventory of affordable housing, creating a mix of both rental and ownership opportunities, and introducing community amenities such as parks, trails, and a necessary connection to a revitalized and protected Zion Memorial Park.
Lisa Brock, Owner, Brock Communications

As Tampa grows into its future, I am paying attention to transportation. Will we be forward-thinking or do the same old same old? It’s never made sense to me to plan for a future based on today -- the whole point is to imagine and cast a vision based on what we know about how the arc will bend. And these days, we know plenty. I am crossing all digits in favor of progress in the form of strategic thinking. It would be nice to see Tampa leading the nation in transportation solutions. And why NOT us? We have connections to major thoroughfares so we make sense to take some risk and think BIG. It isn’t just about Tampa -- it’s about the state. Let’s make it efficient to get from one place to another on this peninsula.

Lisa BrockHaving Jane Castor as a no-drama mayor is also interesting. I don’t live in the City of Tampa, but a forward-thinking Mayor can change the dialogue, switch up the priorities, and address problems that affect the region’s quality of life. I am looking for a big move toward something that favors the planet. It isn’t a joke that it’s the greatest existential threat to our future and EVERYTHING starts locally. I am hopeful she’ll be active in this sphere. What I really enjoyed watching during the mayoral race was how little it mattered to the electorate that she happens to be gay. Maybe we are making some real progress which makes me feel good about the future for LGBTQ kids. Finally, we see them. Hear them. And they are very much ready to contribute -- openly and without fear. 

And speaking of youth, I keep an eye on the University of Tampa. Sitting on prime real estate and growing, I’d love to see more community members accessing more of this unique thriving, learning community. Of course, people know about subject matter experts who are faculty but there is a vibrant arts program, men and women’s sports teams, a tech and business incubator, and a rich history that all our residents should know about. And what a dramatic backdrop it makes for the Tampa Riverwalk and Curtis Hixon Park! (I can remember former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman talking about green space and I love that she has seen it come to fruition.)

Hyperlocal is the new way so Water Street and all the Heights continue to set the pace for change and what it can look like. Neighborhoods with a rich history and the nouveau make for an interesting choice for residents and those who are coming to town. Watching the restaurant business boom and small businesses thrive in the Heights is exciting. And Water Street makes sense for the cruise trade and the corridor of entertaining options nearby. But all of it needs to be thoughtful because development for development's sake does not a charming city make.

Finally, I am watching The Tampa Bay Times. We need journalism but we need fair and professional work. Watching what is happening over there is a tragedy. Having to ferret out exactly who owns a newspaper is about as far from journalism as one can imagine. When the paper can’t be trusted -- and it’s the only game in town -- the apocalypse may just be upon us. I grieve for the people who work there, for those who have left there, and for the future of the very institution. I just don’t want to believe that journalism is dead here locally.

Jacob Kallupura, CEO, G. Cross Medical Labs LLC, Tampa Bay and Boston

2020 is going to be eventful. It is time to rewrite our priorities.
The accumulation of global wealth in a handful of people raises a huge challenge to all of us. Capitalism without compassion is the challenge of our generation. We have to be proactive.

Jacob KallupuraEnvironmental challenges are becoming a reality right in front of us. We cannot keep quiet anymore. Building consensus to fight against our deteriorating environment is a matter of survival and existence.

Let's bring people together to address this issue. America's leadership in fighting injustice around the world is fading. We are now identifying ourselves with tyrants and dictators around the world.

The world we built with great passion is now under attack from the inside out.

We have to define the new world. Hiding our heads and opinions will be a threat to the whole world. We are also falling behind in innovation, science, and technology. We could easily fix this by encouraging our students to prepare for STEM careers by removing the prospect of crushing college debt. American corporations are filling in the gaps using cheaper, educated workers from abroad. 

American students deserve a chance to be competitive with global competition. American corporations should be held responsible for leaving American students behind.

Susan Nelson-Crowley, Realtor, Coastal Properties Group International

Susan Nelson-CrowleyMy husband Dan and I have lived on the periphery of Downtown Tampa for the last 11 years and have witnessed and participated in its metamorphosis. I couldn't be more excited to watch this process continue to expand to include the west river and to fully connect to the neighboring communities.

I'm also looking forward to helping the word get out so that more people learn and experience this wonder for themselves.

And more transit, please!
David Warner, Editor-in-Chief, duPont REGISTRY Tampa Bay

In our biggest cities, I'm excited about the expansion of horizons as development moves into west St. Pete and Tampa Heights and I'm heartened by our leaders (and in some cases our voters) prioritizing the need for better transit and affordable housing.

David WarnerIn non-profit leadership, I'm looking forward to the 50th-anniversary celebration of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and the multi-faceted growth of Creative Pinellas.

In visual art, I'm excited about the new Museum of the American Arts & Crafts Movement, opening in St. Pete this spring, and the venerable Tampa Museum of Art, celebrating its centennial this year. In theater, I'm excited about Stageworks where I’ll be performing in 12 Angry Men (opening in March) and Innovocative Theatre’s Boy Gets Girl (opening in July).

At duPont REGISTRY Tampa Bay, I'm looking forward to broadening our reach, learning new things -- and publishing our first issue of the year later this month, for which I got to meet and interview some delightful people from the worlds of real estate and philanthropy.

And most of all -- in journalism, in politics, in social media, in our everyday lives -- I'm looking forward to a public discourse that values facts, not rumors; civility, not attack; and open hearts, not closed minds.

Erin Aebel, Attorney, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick; co-Founder, Surly Feminists for the Revolution

Erin AebelI’ve always appreciated Tampa Bay’s rich diversity. I hope that it continues to be a place where diverse young professionals and families will want to live and work.

I also appreciate the important leadership roles in 2020 that women play in our region, such as our respected Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and our member of Congress Kathy Castor.

This is a region where women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community can lead and succeed. I hope that this trend continues and increases in 2020 as we all move toward a more accepting and equitable society.
Gene Marshall, Former Banker, University Area CDC board member

Gene MarshallMy interest has always been education, especially in our K-12 public schools. Any community is defined by the quality of education that its children receive. One can see a microcosm of that within both the Hillsborough and Pinellas school districts.

Lower-income minority communities are defined by schools scoring generally below the B level in school assessment ratings. I am looking forward to the school system working harder to raise the achievement of those schools in the C-F range to a sustainable A-B range.

I have worked, and continue to work, with a number of these schools over the years and know that all these kids need is an equal opportunity at a quality education in order to break the stranglehold of poverty.

Jessica Rivelli, Founder, Working Women of Tampa Bay

I am most eager to see the expansion of women-owned businesses in 2020!
Jessica RivelliTampa Bay often ranks in the top metro areas for women entrepreneurs in studies like one done recently by Business.org. Their researchers found that 25% of small businesses in Tampa Bay are owned by women. That's not surprising. As the Founder of the largest women's networking organization in our area, I've seen the interest in female entrepreneurship steadily climb over the past 10 years. In 2020, I'm excited to see the future success of these women business owners as they grow, hire and expand. I believe they'll be a dynamic force in our small business and entrepreneurial community in the coming year.

One way they're giving back is by helping other women start small businesses through the Working Women Foundation. Our non-profit awards seed money to female startups. In the past 4 years, we've distributed $35,000 to 50 applicants. We hope to award at least another $10,000 to women-owned businesses in 2020!

Andrea Graham, Former Board Chair, Stageworks Theatre

I think 2020 is going to be a year of tremendous growth, partnership, and community involvement in Tampa’s small professional theatre community. Both Stageworks and Jobsite had banner years in 2019 and other theatre companies offered dynamic and challenging shows to round out the theatre landscape. 

Andrea GrahamHere is what I hope will happen in 2020 to encourage and support the flourishing of this cherished segment of our community:
  1. We need more effective strategies to get younger people (20s-30s) into live theatre in small venues. We should consider incorporating technology into the experience (i.e, “keep your cell phones on during the show!” Wouldn’t that be a change!). We should vary the hours of shows and add more pre-show activities. We should develop a shared subscription of topical shows for this age group. We should develop leadership opportunities in our theaters for these young professionals to help develop a sense of ownership.
  2. Understand, quantify, and market the role that our smaller theatre companies play as economic engines in our neighborhoods. (Just try to get a reservation at Cena when Stageworks is running a show!)
  3. Develop more targeted marketing strategies to promote the experience of intimate theater.
  4. Stimulate more medium-sized companies to get involved as sponsors, patrons, and leaders in our small theaters. 
In addition to these very specific ideas, I hope that people will increase their support of our local theatre treasures and realize that to “know” a community is to “know” its culture and its arts.  

At the core of our certain accomplishments for 2020 is the continued platform we will provide to educate and to think about others differently. In the darkness of a theater, it is the bright lights from the stage and the piercing power of words that strip us bare and teach us about acceptance and courage. As we continue to grow our community and find our artistic voice, small professional theaters will continue to lead the way. As they sing in “Dear Evan Hanson,” “We Will Be Found''!! 

Maryann Ferenc, co-Owner, Mise en Place Inc.; Chair, Tampa Bay Chamber

Each new day and a new year bring the opportunity to begin again. That doesn't mean to leave everything behind or to dismiss what has been or what is now. Historical perspective and the foundations a community has built over time are essential to a positive future. 

Maryann FerencIt does mean an opportunity to look at our world in a new way and with an honest evaluative eye, providing the chance to let go of what does not serve us and to build upon what is good and strong with a clear sense of vision that shows us all that is possible. 

In 2020, I envision for Tampa Bay an opportunity to truly work for all of the citizens of our community in a collaborative way -- the kind of work you do when no one cares who gets credit and everyone is invited to the table.

We are fortunate because we have done so much exploratory work and so many good things have already begun and taken root. We do not need to spend great time or resources on study or the search for what is wrong.

We can be on a meaningful action stage as long as we use our honest evaluative eye, our hearts, and our heads together to further transform Tampa Bay to the best of what it can be for everyone and everything. That includes people, governments, companies, economies, environments -- natural and built. 

Let's just remember what matters to us. And, let's remember, the best idea may come from the unexpected as we begin again.

What do you think? Are they on to something? Or did they leave something out? Share your thoughts below in the comment section. We'd like to hear from you too! What do you most anticipate for our community?

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is an award-winning journalist with four decades of experience writing about the Tampa Bay region. She is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society, and serves on the board of The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council and the StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. 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 Broadcasting. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Awesome Tampa Bay, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. She lives in South Tampa, is the mother of two adult daughters and grandmother to two amazing grandchildren, and travels whenever possible with laptop in tow.