Rick Homans, head of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., clearly needs to do some fence mending with the County Commission.
But commissioners, who scolded Homans at their Wednesday meeting for lack of communication and not focusing on the core mission of recruiting jobs, should not overlook the enormous progress the EDC has made since he took over two years ago.
He’s put together a capable, aggressive team and last year helped attract 33 companies that will generate more than 4,100 jobs and $127 million in capital investment.
The EDC is exceeding its recruitment goals, increasing private-sector support and retaining membership. The county, for its part, also has strengthened its economic development effort.
As Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn puts it, “We’re firing on all cylinders.”
This is no time to gum up the works.
This doesn’t mean that commissioners’ concerns should be dismissed. The county is the EDC’s largest contributor, providing $700,000 a year. But some complaints, such as commissioners not being asked on trade mission trips, are petty and largely baseless.
Commissioners criticized Homans’ attention to the MediFutures 24, an annual medical conference that was launched last year.
Job recruitment should be the EDC priority, but making Tampa the focal point of medical care innovations is hardly insignificant.
Commissioner Al Higginbotham stresses this is not another case of the county resenting Tampa’s predominant role in economic development:
“I get it that Tampa is the anchor of the region, and Bob is the CEO. But we should be kept in the loop.”
Homans should make sure that happens.
It is encouraging that Higginbotham says the relationship is “fixable.”
It would be a shame if the economic development momentum Homans has helped create was stalled by political bickering.