The Tampa area needs to do better at presenting a unified front when asking for financial backing for projects, local leaders who want to capitalize on meeting powerful visitors during the Republican National Convention agreed Thursday.
"Orlando does it very well," and so does Jacksonville, said Chris Hart IV, president and chief executive of Workforce Florida Inc., the state's workforce policy board.
It was the second time in a week the notion has surfaced that the region must do a better job at setting and presenting priorities. Board members of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority made a similar point at their April 27 meeting when they agreed the region must sharpen its focus on transportation initiatives.
Transportation — particularly improvements between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — was a popular issue among the 100 business executives and public officials who met in a 2½ hour summit to seek ways to maximize benefits from the August convention in Tampa.
Other ideas include maintaining local control of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, whose role some have proposed turning over to the state, supporting enhanced health services facilities, and seeking more five-star hotel accommodations to better compete for high-end events.
"How about rail between Tampa and St. Petersburg?" suggested Tampa attorney Steve Burton, chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce RNC Task Force, which convened the gathering.
Westshore Alliance Executive Director Ron Rotella said that one critical regional project will be to replace a span of the Howard Frankland Bridge with one that could accommodate some type of mass-transit — bus rapid transit or rail — to link downtown Tampa, Westshore, the Pinellas Gateway area and St. Petersburg.