Tampa’s Surging Growth Leads to Big Moves in Transportation

By staff writer

May 2019

Tampa’s growth from mid-2017 to mid-2018 propelled it into the top tier of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, according to figures released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. Tampa had the nation’s ninth largest increase in population among all U.S. metro areas, and the highest level of net domestic migration in 2018, with 132,602 new arrivals from other parts of the U.S.

Along with Orlando, which came in at No. 5, Tampa leads the way in Florida, a state in which the population growth rate was the fourth highest in the United States between July 2017 and July 2018.

All of that growth leads to growing traffic and higher transportation needs. Solving the ground transportation needs isn’t just a concern for the residents of Tampa, as the effects are also felt at local well-known staples like the Tampa International Airport.  “From the standpoint of the airport, we see our passenger traffic doubling over the next 20 years,” said Joe Lopano, CEO for the Tampa International. “That means that the roadways have to be capable of taking our travelers to the beaches or museums or wherever else they want to go. At the present time, they aren’t capable of doing that, so we’re looking for solutions.”

Plans to expand Brightline’s high-speed rail to the city solves one piece of the solution, Lopano said, “but there’s no silver bullet. It’s going to be a combination of things, and the fact that Uber and Lyft exist has enabled rail to be a viable alternative. Ride sharing solves the first-mile, last-mile problem.”

The main question, of course, is how Tampa Bay will deal with the increased traffic. Beth Alden, the executive director for the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning for Transportation, said that local municipalities are heading in the right direction. After convincing the local public that there was a there was “a multi-billion dollar disconnect” between its current spending plans and the realities of the city’s growing transportation needs,  “last November, Hillsborough County’s voters approved a one-penny sales tax, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward transportation investments.” She said it was a watershed moment. “This sales tax will help us achieve our vision for the future of transportation.”

She said that besides building, expanding and fixing roads, the city is also working on improving transportation options for bicycles and pedestrians across the city, expanding pathways on and off barrier islands, and improving intersections. Improving access to alternative fuel sources and trolley systems are another priority.

“When you look at it from a regional standpoint, we’re the gateway to the west coast of Florida,” Lopano said. We have been able to increase our international travel by more than 125 percent since I started. That’s extremely important because every time we bring in a new international live body on a daily basis it generates $154 million in economic impact to our community. That’s critical.’

“Tourism in Florida is extremely important, and we want to be a part of its growth.”

For more information, visit:

Tampa International Airport  
Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning for Transportation

 

Tampa Bay’s Strong Female Leaders are Changing the Area’s Future

By staff writer

April 2019

Within the Tampa Bay market lies a strong cohort of female leaders looking to enhance their community. Whether it be local government, law offices, performing arts centers, or tech-based companies, these women are taking steps to ensure Tampa Bay’s steady growth.

Take Trenam Law, for instance, which has offices in Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg and is led by managing shareholder Marie Tomassi. “We have seen some growth over the past year or so that we’re very excited about,” Tomassi said. “We acquired five lawyers and two paralegals from another firm in the area that have been a great fit for Trenam.”

As the firm continues to grow, Tomassi sees Trenam Law expanding its reach into fields that have recently fallen into higher demand — such as cybersecurity and solar energy. The firm recently bolstered its land-use practice by adding lawyers who are well-versed in representing alternative energy sources as a means to better the community.

“This group of top-notch professionals has helped us develop our solar practice, which is something that’s fairly unique,” Tomassi said. “As the Tampa-area market grows, our practice groups strengthen. Tampa has seen an increase in tech and a booming real estate market. Our technology and cybersecurity practice groups have been seeing a lot of demand because of the action in the market.”

And as Trenam Law moves into more tech-focused fields, so does the workforce in Tampa Bay.

This is quite evident in regulatory software company Global Safety Management, which is led by their founder & CEO Julia MacGreggor-Peralta who is working to ensure that as the tech space in Tampa continues to grow, so does the number of women working in it.

“More than 60 percent of our employees are women, which is unusual in our space as a regulatory software company. It’s traditionally considered a man’s business,” Julia MacGreggor-Peralta told Invest. “As female business leaders, we’re working to change this.”

The growth in tech is also being stimulated by women like Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective, who felt extremely bullish in relation to the growth in Tampa. “It’s the right time to be in Tampa Bay if you want to be a part of our growth story. I believe the growth of the entrepreneurial community and increase in startup businesses will attract people that maybe weren’t previously interested in Tampa Bay or Florida that want to help grow and build something here.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who was re-elected to a third term in 2016, sees the Tampa Bay area as an up-and-coming destination for tech workers and is intent on making that goal a reality.

Here in Tampa, we’re intent on acquiring higher-wage tech jobs to keep graduates local after they move on from our colleges and universities. We want to be seen as a Charlotte, Chicago, or New York — an attractive city that young professionals want to call home.”

Murman knows that in addition to providing job opportunities, the city also needs to provide an affordable place for said very tech workers and young professionals to live, and the city is putting forth the resources to do just that.

“We just made a large investment in our general revenue budget — an extra $5.2 million for affordable housing,” Murman said. “The plan is to leverage that money with private developers to maximize our impact. Most affordable housing projects cost somewhere between $15 to $25 million, so we have to creatively figure out ways to make our dollars stretch.”

The city also benefits greatly from the economic impact of the Straz Center, one of the country’s largest performing arts centers. President & CEO Judith Lisi is keen on the center remaining a mainstay of a booming community.

“The Straz Center is the largest performing arts center south of the Kennedy Center and the largest cultural organization in Florida with $100 million annual economic impact,” she said. “We are the first performing arts conservatory attached to a major performing arts center in the country. There are a lot of other performing arts centers from around the country looking at us as a model.”

And Lisi intends to capitalize on the prime location of the Straz Center, right along the Tampa Riverwalk, as a means for attracting an even larger and diverse crowd to the center.

“We have a great opportunity in light of the transformation of the Riverwalk,” Lisi said. “Our whole masterplan for the renovation of the Straz Center is being developed to address everything that’s happening on the river.”

With a strong group of female leaders within its business and arts communities and a local government investing in its community, Tampa Bay is establishing itself as the next hot spot in South Florida. Thanks to the efforts of women like Tomassi, Murman,Lisi, MacGreggor-Peralta, and Shenoy, the city is making that dream a reality.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Marie Tomassi with Trenam Law: https://www.trenam.com/people-list/marie-tomassi/

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman: https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/government/board-of-county-commissioners/sandra-murman

Judith Lisi with Straz Center: https://www.strazcenter.org/About-The-Straz-Center/Executive-Staff

Lakshmi Shenoy with Embarc Collective: https://www.embarccollective.com/team/

Julia MacGreggor-Peralta with Global Safety Management: https://www.gsmsds.com/

Growing Up Lakeland: A City on the Cusp

By staff writer

March 2019

Often known as the city sandwiched between Orlando and Tampa or as the host of one of America’s largest aviation shows, the City of Lakeland has been working diligently to accelerate its prominence not only in Polk County but also throughout the state of Florida. With the combination of an expanding economy, growing population and multiple initiatives from local government, Lakeland is primed to be Florida’s next rising star.

It hasn’t even been 10 years since Lakeland’s population crossed into the 100,000 residents range, yet there is a spark of excitement throughout the community that is felt in both the private and public sectors. Invest: Tampa Bay recently sat down with Lakeland’s mayor, Bill Mutz, to discuss the growth and major economic drivers for the city.

“Two of the major drivers are our location between Tampa and Orlando,” Mayor Mutz told Invest:. “We have the DNA of a city that’s geographically been born in a good spot and is on the cusp of a large acceleration of growth.” The mayor went on to speak about the impact of supermarket giant Publix having its headquarters in the city. “Publix is also headquartered here, and they have 1,237 stores and over 210,000 employees, making them a huge influence throughout the region.”

The mayor revealed to Invest: that the strategy for continued growth in the region is “an effective long-term game plan” that is reliant on involving residents of the city in all aspects of the community.

This idea of long-term success was clearly evident when we spoke with Steve Scruggs, president of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, who made it clear that the focus is not only on growth for the city but also for its residents.

“This year we are focusing on entrepreneurship and major groundbreaking work in the downtown area through our catalyst sites project,” Scruggs told Invest:. “We identified areas for redevelopment within our downtown that would embody new commercial, retail and office high-rises, parking garages, a soccer stadium, a promenade and an elevated pedestrian walkway. These plans are getting more traction and are part of a big project happening in downtown.”

Scruggs emphasized the point that supporting entrepreneurs and local business in the area is an essential part of the growth initiatives. “We are building a new facility for entrepreneurs in downtown Lakeland that will open up this year,” he said. “The project is part of our Catapult 2.0 initiative and will host a commercial kitchen, a makerspace with wood and metal working shops, CNC machining, 3D printers and co-working spaces. It is privately funded and a place for entrepreneurs to test out their concepts in a low-risk financial space. It is a nonprofit project to give back to the community and increase the viability of startups through education, collaborative workspace and funding.”

From an outsider perspective, it might seem that these initiatives and ideas for internal growth in Lakeland are far-reaching, but this growth from within is exactly what Mayor Mutz is hoping will push Lakeland to the next level.

“We’re a city that has an unusual heart and the capability of communicating trust across sectors within the community,” he said. “This is increasingly important in today’s society. In a decisive world with much polarization, to model inclusiveness is going to be extremely attractive to future residents.”

Invest: Tampa Bay can’t wait to see what’s in store for Lakeland in 2019 and beyond!

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:
Lakeland Economic Development Council: http://www.lakelandedc.com/
City of Lakeland: https://www.lakelandgov.net/

 

A Hub for Medical Innovation

By staff writer

February 2019

There are certain aspects of a community that will always prove to be true. One such truth is when you have an area like Tampa Bay that is home to nearly 3 million people, and that number is steadily increasing year after year, there is inevitably going to be a need for more medical care. With that comes an increased emphasis on medical education. So how is Tampa handling this increased demand? The simple answer is: innovation.

Tampa is home to a number of highly praised and widely recognized medical institutions, and one of these institutions is Ultimate Medical Academy. The academy is using innovative methods for its online school to better equip those students who might not have the flexibility in their lives to go to an actual campus. Invest: Tampa Bay recently sat down with the school’s president, Derek Apanovitch, to discuss how they are best supporting their medical students.

“It has been a good year at Ultimate Medical Academy,” Apanovitch told Invest:. “We reached 15,000 students nationwide, and we have more than 45,000 graduates across the country. We also received four more years of accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

“We have what we call learner-services advisors who are assigned to individual students on their first day of class and stay with them through the duration of their program to help keep them on track,” Apanovitch continued. “One of the obvious challenges of running an online learning environment is that you don’t have students in front of you. We try to reaffirm that human element through constant interaction with our students, many of whom are single moms who are juggling part-time jobs and child care, so it’s important that someone is always available to help them. Faculty and the student support center employees are always on hand. That’s integral to the success of our students.”

Online institutions like Ultimate Medical Academy are proving successful because of their accessibility. This idea of accessibility has also been adopted by Tampa’s hospitals, making it so their patients have access to the items they need without having to go out of their way to procure them.

Invest: Tampa recently spoke with Tampa General Hospital’s CEO and president, John Couris, to discuss how they are leveraging innovative technologies to improve patient experience.

“We use a system called Epic for our electronic medical records (EMRs), and arguably it’s one of the best EMRs in the world,” Couris said. “It has improved access to clinical information exponentially for patients. Patients can access test results. They can communicate and message their doctors. They can make appointments. They can fill prescriptions. They have a to-do list for healthcare and tracking. They have a healthcare summary. They can see and pay their bills. They can do an e-visit, and they can share their records with any other Epic institution in the world. Not every institution has that kind of technology and infrastructure. We have it, and we’re continuing to get better at it.”

Innovation is not a new concept, but it is one that is necessary for Tampa Bay’s continued success in the medical field. As long as medical professionals and institutions continue to innovate, Tampa Bay will continue to be at the forefront of Florida’s medical community!

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:
Ultimate Medical Academy: https://www.ultimatemedical.edu/
Tampa General Hospital: https://www.tgh.org/

Workforce Development for the Future

By Ian Leigh

February 2019

Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times.

Although Governor Ron DeSantis has asked for Florida’s education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, to help him secure $36 million from the legislature for workforce programs, with an emphasis on computer science classes, several Tampa Bay area college presidents say there are market opportunities in the arts and creative fields as well.

Governor DeSantis, at a recent Tampa press conference, asked for more dollar investment in vocational and technical training, with a special emphasis on computer knowledge. To stress that initiative, he signed an executive order asking for an audit by the Department of Education to learn more about its career and technical education programs. He said he wants to prepare more people for practical market entry.

The goal is to raise Florida from number 24 nationally in vocational training to number 1 by 2030. As part of this effort, he is asking the legislature to put $10 million into programs that will permit teachers to earn computer science certificates. He hopes the end result will be more qualified faculty in this field.

Governor DeSantis also asked for another $26 million for more workforce programs within the state college system and more investment to seed workforce apprenticeships. Several Tampa Bay area college presidents say that there are also alternative opportunities in the arts and other fields — in everything from mental health counseling to the creative arts.

Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College, told our Invest: Tampa Bay team that there are myriad creative paths for students. “Historically, education has focused on the left side of the brain (the logical, analytical and sequential thinking), but with the dawn of AI, the development of the right side of the brain (the creative, holistic and intuitive thinking) will become even more critical. That’s where the future lies; it’s going to become fuel for all industries, the oil of the future.”

Ringling College, based in Sarasota, offers classes in the business of art and design and other creative disciplines.

Jeff Day, president of Argosy University, noted there are new opportunities in the market. “Due to what’s happening in our society right now, clinical mental health counseling is a really booming occupational field,” he told Invest:. “There’s such a growing need for mental health counsellors and clinical psychologists, and even our school psychology program, that we’ve expanded our programs and are seeing more students.”

Governor DeSantis stressed the need for practical education during his press conference. “Florida has many students unprepared for college and workforce success,” he said, “limiting both their career and opportunities, as well as employers’ ability to grow their business.”

Jeffrey Senese, president of St. Leo University, emphasized his belief in internships and practical readiness for work upon entry into the workforce. “Internships are crucial, as are the practical projects in the classroom. We try to ensure both so our students are career-ready upon graduating,” he told Invest:.

A feature for the school is that its faculty members have field experience in addition to academic knowledge. Senese cited the real-world seniority of instructors in his school’s criminal justice department. “The same goes for the business, arts and science, social work and education departments — they’re practitioners; that’s an important part of our model.”

It’s clear that Florida’s leaders recognize the importance of training the state’s future workforce and preparing them to be productive members of a constantly changing economy. Whether it’s technical and computer science training or honing creative and communication skills, Tampa Bay’s educational institutions are rising to the challenge.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Argosy University: https://www.argosy.edu
Ringling College: https://www.ringling.edu
St. Leo University: https://www.saintleo.edu

Tampa Bay Is the Place to Be

By staff writer

January 2019

There is no denying that Tampa Bay is on the up and up; in fact, the region saw 3.98 percent job growth in the last year. With more young professionals coming into the region than ever before and a booming tech scene, Tampa is a hot place for development. In fact, Tampa is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., and according to a 2017 study by NerdWallet, millennials make up nearly a quarter of its total population.

With this substantial population growth and millennial influence comes increased demand for more targeted talent to meet workforce needs and ramped-up construction to provide housing to the influx of new residents. Invest: Tampa Bay spoke with local leaders across Tampa’s major economic sectors to find out where they see the region growing and shining. While they might work in different industries, it is easy see that the general message is the same: Tampa Bay is the place to be.

“We’re working to develop an employee-led, demand-driven workforce strategy. Rather than simply push forward higher graduation rates and certificate completions, we’re starting from the demand side to understand exactly what we need today and in the future. Then we can develop a strategy to produce that. We are looking at five major industries that we think are critical to Tampa Bay’s economic future: healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, information technology and construction.”

—Rick Homans, President & CEO, Tampa Bay Partnership

“Tampa is in a bigger growth position and has a more vibrant construction economy than it has ever had in its history. There are more large projects here than there ever have been — by a large margin. There is great growth from one end of Tampa Bay to the other. Channel Side is exploding. Downtown Tampa and Downtown St. Petersburg continue to be amazingly busy, and the beaches are strong. Growth is steady, and we haven’t seen any leveling off.”

John Bowden, Senior Vice President, Moss Construction

“The Tampa Bay region stands out as Florida’s business destination. We offer a high quality of life with a low cost of living. That’s what we’ve been known for because it’s rare to have both. With that, we’re attracting a lot of talent. When you have jobs and a high quality of life, it makes you very attractive to young professionals. We also have one of the most affordable markets for first-time home buyers.”

—Craig Richard, President & CEO, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:

Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Center: https://tampaedc.com/

Tampa Bay Partnership: https://www.tampabay.org/

Moss Construction: https://mosscm.com/

Small-Town Incubators

By staff writer

January 2019

Pinellas County usually conjures up images of the white-sand beaches and resorts of Clearwater or the eclectic and vibrant downtown St. Pete hubs of Grand Central and Kenwood. Yet as one of the most populous counties in Florida, with 17 cities and dozens more towns and census-designated places, there are plenty of other idyllic communities where increasingly more businesses and individuals are choosing to relocate.

Within the charming confines of these smaller towns and cities of Pinellas County, corporations and small to medium-sized business owners have found the tools that have allowed them to prosper — namely, local government that has been pro-business and pro-growth at sustainable levels, proximity to nearby metropolitan hubs, a qualified workforce, great schools and public benefits, affordable real estate and an overall great quality of life.

Recently, Invest: Tampa Bay sat down with the mayors of three cities in Pinellas County to talk about what they offer to the diverse economic and social landscape of the bay area.

Mayor Woody Brown of the City of Largo explains that Largo was recently ranked the seventh-fastest home sales market in the state of Florida. “There are a couple reasons for that,” Brown told Invest:. “First, it’s a great location; there are still safe, affordable places to live in Largo, and it’s right in the center of Pinellas County. Second, the schools in Largo have really improved over the last 10 years. These are the main drivers that are not only bringing more people and more families here but are also attracting small, medium and large businesses.

“As mayor, my goal is to attract quality employers, regardless of what field they’re in, and improve the quality of jobs available to our residents,” Brown continued. “The school board for Pinellas County is a big employer here, and so is Tech Data. On the east side, we have the Medical Arts District, which is a huge employer as well. There are always some target industries — we mirror the state in that respect — but frankly, it doesn’t necessarily matter which industry relocates to Largo as long as it’s paying a good wage and it feels like it has access to good employees with a good quality of life. Those are the types of businesses we’re looking for.”

Sandra Bradbury, mayor of Pinellas Park, says that one of the reasons her city is such an optimal location for businesses is due to it being situated right in the heart Pinellas County. “You can’t get to St. Pete, Clearwater or Tampa without passing through Pinellas Park,” she told Invest:. “We have one of largest commercial and industrial areas in Pinellas County. Very few cities still have vacant industrial manufacturing land available. We’ve had upticks of job growth and business expansion in Pinellas Park over the last couple of years.”

Last but certainly not least, the City of Oldsmar is also getting in on the action. With the newly announced roller and street hockey rink at Oldsmar Sports Complex, the city government is proudly brandishing its partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We tried to get the Rays, we got the Red Bulls — for one season, at least — and now we’ve got a deal with the Lightning, one of the best franchises in all of sports,” Mayor Doug Bevis told the local newspaper. Mayor Bevis said that after the city lays the foundation, the Lighting will be building the rink, providing equipment for the players, facilitating and operating the camps and taking care of all the marketing.

Pinellas Park, Largo and Oldsmar have made compelling cases for their inherent value as places to live and work. Given their proximity to the hubs of Tampa and St. Pete, they are integral pieces in the larger success story of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. As they continue to grow, city governments will have to focus on keeping the growth in check and not getting too overzealous. Surely they will have their hands full. The days of flying under the radar seem to be long gone, and Invest: Tampa Bay is excited to see what’s in store for these small-town incubators in 2019!

For more information on our interviewees, please visit their websites:

City of Pinellas Park, https://www.pinellas-park.com/

City of Largo. https://www.largo.com/

City of Oldsmar, https://www.myoldsmar.com/

From Bedroom Community to Boomtown

By staff writer

January 2019 – 2 min. read

Located in the northern stretch of Tampa Bay, Pasco County has historically been resigned to the rank of bedroom community for nearby Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Nearly 50 percent of Pasco’s population commutes south every day to the region’s largest cities, Tampa and St. Petersburg. However, Pasco has had a successful run as of late, and developments have been underway to turn the county into a prominent economic engine and job creator in its own right.

As the Tampa Bay Times recently reported, “Over the past four years, the county and the economic development council have used a portion of the Penny for Pasco sales tax proceeds to prime the pump for business relocations. Among other things, they have loaned money for speculative office buildings and sought site-ready property for potential industrial use.”

Bill Cronin, CEO of the Pasco County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), has taken the lead in promoting the expansion of local business and economic development in the county. He brings with him an arsenal of insider knowledge about economic development, having worked in four other emerging markets prior to his current appointment. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with Cronin about the role the EDC agenda has played in this renaissance.

Pasco County had a long-standing reputation as a difficult place to do business, Cronin says. When he first arrived in the Tampa Bay area, most businesses in the region were averse to cutting deals with the county, but the new local leadership has been integral in the shifting economic tides.

“We have the most pro-business county commission that we’ve ever had,” Cronin says. The EDC now gets near unanimous support from all five county commissioners on policy changes designed to promote new and existing businesses, as well as competitive advantages for the area. “In order to be more competitive, we have been focusing on product development and workforce development.”

Cronin notes that Pasco County is one of the few counties in Florida that has both available land and an available workforce. Most other regions have one or the other. “In order to better position ourselves,” he told Invest:, “we hired a consultant to help evaluate and certify land for industrial development. Over the last year, we identified over 1,265 acres of ‘ready sites’ to recruit industry.”

More housing for a growing workforce is great, but under Cronin’s leadership, the Pasco EDC is about business development first and foremost. “We have more rooftops permitted in Pasco County than the market might require. I know everyone has to live somewhere, but what I want to see is more of this land being utilized for job creation activity,” he says.

The Pasco EDC is actively working to recruit companies, but Cronin makes sure that his team is focusing day-to-day operations on working with and expanding existing businesses to help them become more competitive. “We’re probably the only EDC that owns and operates its own business incubators.”

Officials and developers in Pasco County are hoping that recently proposed changes to the land-use plan will facilitate more growth in commercial business parks alongside residential construction. Invest: Tampa Bay will be monitoring the action closely.

For more information on Bill Cronin at the Pasco County Economic Development Corporation, please visit: http://pascoedc.com/

Midterm Madness

By staff writer
November 8, 2018 – 2 min. read

Tuesday’s midterm elections attracted record numbers of voters, with estimates putting the count at 113 million. This historic turnout brought 110 female winners, the country’s first openly gay governor and more than 30 flipped seats in Congress, but it also underscored the deep and often contentious divide facing our nation. Capital Analytics has been keeping a close eye on the results, particularly those affecting our markets in Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

One of the biggest takeaways is the Democrats regaining control of the House, surpassing the 23 seats necessary for majority rule by more than 10. In Florida, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala won the 27th District previously held by Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, edging out Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar. Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell also won over Republican Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th District. Pennsylvania saw three seats flipped by Democrats Mary Scanlon in the 5th District, Conor Lamb in the 17th District and Chrissy Houlahan in the 6th District.

Two congressional races in Georgia remained too close to call Wednesday evening, the first in the 6th District, where Republican Karen Handel is seeking reelection but trailed Democrat Lucy McBath 49.55 percent to 50.45 percent. In the 7th District, Republican Rob Woodall and Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux were in a similar position, with Woodhall holding a slight lead of 50.23 percent over Bourdeaux’s 49.77 percent. Georgia law requires a recount if the final vote margin is 1 percent or less, according to the Associated Press. Both campaigns are waiting for absentee ballots to be counted in hopes of naming a clear winner.

Though the House succumbed to the “blue wave,” the GOP not only retained control of the Senate but also bolstered it with a number of key victories in states like Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri. In Florida, the hotly contested race between Republican former governor Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is heading for automatic recount. According to unofficial returns posted on Wednesday by the state Division of Elections, Scott held a 30,239-vote lead out of 8.1 million ballots cast — a difference of just .38 percent. In Florida, if the margin in a race is less than .5 percent, a recount is automatically triggered. The Senate race might not be the only one to move to recount, either. Florida’s agriculture commissioner contest between Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried is even tighter, with Caldwell carrying a slim .16 percent lead on Wednesday evening.

While Tom Wolf comfortably won reelection in Pennsylvania, the Florida and Georgia governor’s races were much more hotly contested. In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican opponent Ron DeSantis early on Wednesday, but by late Wednesday DeSantis’s lead had narrowed to a margin of just .57 percent. However, this still remained outside of the .5 percent margin that requires a recount under Florida law. Votes were still being counted on Thursday morning, and if the margin falls below .5 percent, a recount will be triggered.

Georgia’s gubernatorial race is even closer, with Democrat Stacey Abrams refusing to concede to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) and vowing to “fight for every vote.” While Kemp’s campaign declared victory to reporters on Wednesday evening, the Abrams campaign readied its legal team to challenge the election results. A runoff, if it comes to that, would be held on December 4.

Even as heated battles underscored the increasingly polarized nature of U.S. politics, culminating in a divided Congress, the 2018 midterms marked a new high for women taking seats in the chamber, with 98 women projected to win in the House and 12 in the Senate. Even more notable is the fact that 34 of these women are newly elected members of Congress. This “pink wave” includes 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman in history to take a seat in Congress, serving New York’s 14th District. In Pennsylvania, a record-breaking four women are projected to win seats in the House. This is particularly momentous considering not a single woman currently represents the state in the House. Women are also projected to win in nine gubernatorial races (not counting Stacey Abrams, who is still vying to become the country’s first female African-American governor).

In addition to the inroads made by women, there has also been a noticeable push for diversity in public office. Two Muslim women and two Native American women will take seats in Congress, and Colorado’s Jared Polis (D) will become the country’s first openly gay governor. Overall, more than 100 LGBTQ candidates claimed victory on Tuesday night, indicating changing attitudes toward how voters think about both LGBTQ candidates and rights. Exit polls suggest that voter diversity also hit all-time highs for midterm elections, with the non-white vote estimated at 28 percent. (For perspective, in 1990 non-white voters accounted for just 9 percent of the vote.)

While some races remain too close to call and others were resounding losses or victories, depending on which side of the party line you walk, the fact that so many people showed up to vote is something all parties can be proud of. We’ll be keeping an eye on the tight races in Florida and Georgia and looking forward to what’s in store in 2020.