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Politics

Expert: 4,000 new jobs in "pipeline' for Hillsborough

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Published:   |   Updated: July 26, 2013 at 06:40 AM

TAMPA - A top local employment recruiter said Thursday that a handful of companies are strongly considering locating in Hillsborough County, with the potential of adding 4,000 jobs in the area.

Rick Homans, executive director of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., made the comment while addressing the county commission during a budget workshop.

Homans also told commissioners that to attract even more jobs, and move into the upper echelon of metro areas seen as desirable by employers and talented workers, it needs a mass transit system and a baseball stadium downtown.

"I can tell you our organization would be very supportive of public transportation, mass transit and light rail and very supportive of a baseball stadium downtown," Homans said after the meeting. "Clearly, that's part of the plan as far as the EDC goes, and it supports those measures."

Homans was at the workshop seeking a quarter million dollars more next year for the Economic Development Corp., a public-private partnership that serves as the lead economic development agency for Hillsborough County. He is seeking an increase from $450,000 to $700,000; the commission is set to decide this and other proposals Thursday.

Making the case for his request, Homans listed recent economic development achievements in the county, including the possible location of an Amazon.com assembly and distribution center in Ruskin with 1,000 jobs, the announcement by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb that it will open a business office here with 579 new jobs, and Copa Airlines' decision to begin Tampa-to-Panama flights.

Then Homans talked about the 4,000 potential jobs "in the pipeline." That number includes Amazon's 1,000 jobs, Homans said, because the company hasn't made a final decision on where it will build its three new Florida warehouses.

"The pipeline is very strong," Homans told commissioners. "Right now we have well over ... 4,000 jobs in the very active, imminent pipeline that we will be hearing more about in the next 30 to 60 days."

Homans would not identify the companies or what types of products or services they deliver. But he said the county commission likely will be asked to extend financial incentives, tax abatements or both to get them here.

Homans' comments about mass transit and a downtown Tampa baseball stadium were in response to a question from Commissioner Mark Sharpe. What would it take, Sharpe asked, to have Tampa and Hillsborough County mentioned along with other so-called "hot cities" for growth, innovation and overall desirability?

"I know we're making great strides," Sharpe said, "but what's it going to take for us to be a consistent top five so that ... when businesses and others are looking around and they're looking at other cities and deciding where to go, and they look at that list and they consistently see us and we belong there. What's it going to take to get there?"

In addition to mass transit and the ballpark, Homans listed three other attributes:

Designated economic development areas with permit-ready building sites linked to mass transit.

More corporate headquarters in the county.

And an entrepreneurial community "reeking with innovation" that "attracts venture capital."

The county is in the process of identifying economic development areas and will make those known soon, said county Economic Development Director Ron Barton.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which handles transportation planning for the county, also is looking at ways to link economic development with dedicated mass transit routes.

As for an entrepreneurial culture, Homans said, the Economic Development Corp. is attempting to foster one in health care by embracing the so-called "disruptive innovation" movement, which makes the patient, not procedures, the focus of health care. The goal is to deliver higher levels of care and access at lower costs.

The Economic Development Corp. hosted its first MediFuture 2023 event on May 13, headlined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, a proponent of disruptive innovation in health care.

Homans said Hillsborough is well positioned to lead such a health care movement because of assets already here, including the University of South Florida medical school and research institutions such as the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation and the M2GEN biomarker research institute.

"We have the assets, moving forward, to be one of the centers of this national movement to really transform health care where it's completely focused on the customer," he said.

msalinero@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-8303

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