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Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Good start to a rebound

Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 10:43 AM

In these challenging times, we believe that citizens in our community and around the country want to hear it like it is — no spin, just the facts, cards on the table. We also believe it's never been more important to do the things you said you would do to hold yourself accountable.

As we wrap up this year and try to put it in perspective, we're here to tell you this: We have a good start to the return of improved and stable economic times in our region. It's better than we'd expected but not enough to rest on our laurels. It's a darn good start.

There are still plenty of ugly headlines in Florida and locally — high foreclosure rates, a flat real estate market and a tough job market. But there's reason to again find optimism and, more importantly, to stay the course to seize the momentum we've achieved. This is real momentum, not spin.

In the midst of this prolonged recession, a lot of good and dedicated people have worked to do exactly what we said we would do: to improve our business climate, create jobs and pull off a great start to a turnaround.

Since the beginning of the year, we have announced 4,116 new jobs in our community — the highest number of jobs announced for any year in at least a decade. In fact, Tampa has just been ranked No. 3 nationally among the best-performing large metropolitan areas experiencing the highest job growth rate in the summer of 2011, according to Texas-based Avalanche Consulting Inc. Capital investment associated with these jobs totaled $190,937,300. After four years of a falling ad valorem base, that's a good start.

This didn't happen by chance. We have achieved true collaboration between elected officials and the private sector, focused on improving our business climate. We formed and activated six task forces involving more than 100 investors and partners focused on key strategic job sectors. These special task forces have allowed us to focus on the sectors that best position us for stable and diverse job growth.

We have worked with and facilitated regulatory overhaul and streamlining efforts in the cities and county. We also launched a unique website for location consultants to assist clients in identifying opportunities that meet their needs with space and land available in Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace. As a result, our business leaders have committed more than $1 million of new private-sector funding and resources. Businesses see we are accountable for the dollars they commit and are producing results.

Joblessness is still too high, the recovery still too fragile, and other communities are moving aggressively to match our successes and take our momentum. We will continue to be accountable. We need to keep doing what we're doing. We also need to do more.

To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill: This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end — it is the end of the beginning.

This piece is authored by Al Higginbotham, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners; Bob Buckhorn, mayor, Tampa; Daniel Raulerson, mayor, Plant City; Joe Affronti Sr., mayor, Temple Terrace; Rhea F. Law, chair, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation; and Bob Abberger, chair, Public Private Collaborative Task Force.