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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Tampa thinks big. That’s what big cities do

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Published:   |   Updated: August 22, 2013 at 09:16 AM

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The Tampa Bay Host Committee just issued a report that says $404 million flowed into our little slice of paradise last summer from the Republican National Convention.

It says there were more visitors staying in hotel rooms, eating in restaurants and renting cars and office space. I am sure the committee is right. All you had to do was look around that week. There were lots and lots of folks milling about, doing important things.

The host committee said visitors had $214 million in direct impact, and in the world of economics each dollar spent is supposed to give birth to baby dollars that are spent elsewhere to everyone’s great benefit.

I am not an economist so I’ll admit to being a little suspect of estimates like that. There are similar reports whenever big-deal events like the RNC or the Super Bowl come to this or any other city. It’s like planners are saying, “See? All the inconvenience was worth it.”

They don’t have to convince me.

Even if I’m skeptical how much of that impact trickles out of the hotels and restaurants and into the pockets of the vast majority of residents, they don’t have to justify what they did.

I think the RNC was worth it, no matter how much money it generated.

The Super Bowl has been here four times, and that was worth it. We have had the men’s and women’s Final Four in the area before, and that was worth it.

When voters approved a sales tax hike to pay for Raymond James Stadium, it was because they wanted a National Football League team here – not because of the Bucs’ economic impact.

That’s the same logic that led leaders here to pursue the RNC, and they were right. The impact report is supposed to affirm their decision, but it’s unnecessary. We pursue events like that because it’s what a big city does. We feel better. Any place with ambition needs a little swagger.

So I think it was great when the people at Tampa International Airport landed direct flights on Copa Air to Panama. They should go after every international flight they can. We should pursue every reasonable angle to get the Rays a fitting and proper stadium. We should be bold in addressing transportation needs and developing downtown.

People here have proven we can handle big-ticket things, and not every city can make that claim. I remember when Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl a few years ago. It was a mess that probably hurt the city’s image more than it helped. People couldn’t get out of town fast enough.

Tampa, on the other hand, has come light years from the first time it hosted the Super Bowl in 1983. Yeah, it really was 30 years ago.

The planners who staged the RNC were savvy and well-prepared, and I hope they have the chance to do it again. If they want to say gold fell from the sky because the Republicans were here, well, OK.

I don’t think it’s necessary, though.

We do these things because we can, because we should, and because we want to.

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