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,

City of Largo.

City of Oldsmar,

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:

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.


Tampa Bay’s “Lost Summer”

By staff writer
October 2018 – 2 min. read

There’s no escaping the fact that the 2018 summer tourist season on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been one of the worst in recent memory, both economically and environmentally. The major red tide event has led to record-low occupancy rates for local hoteliers and restaurateurs. In some counties, residents are already referring to it as the “lost summer” due to the estimates of revenue lost from lack of tourists. While mostly restricted to the west coast of Florida, the outbreak of red tide has recently turned up on the Atlantic coast and parts of South Florida as well.

Nearing the end of September, well over 700 tons of red tide debris had been collected in Pinellas County. Similarly, 40 businesses in the area reported losses of at least $128 million. Both figures are still likely to rise as the red tide lingers beyond the summer.

For residents of Pinellas County, the trouble started months prior to the red tide actually hitting local shores. The counties to the southern part of Pinellas were hit the hardest this summer, but news sources mostly from outside of the state more or less lumped all of the central Gulf Coast together in their coverage of red tide, leading many beach-going Americans to believe that the entire Gulf Coast was plagued with toxic blue-green algae.

“It was reminiscent of the [BP] oil spill to some degree. It was here if you watched the national media, but it really wasn’t here. We actually never had oil on our beaches,” Keith Overton, president of TradeWinds Island Resort, told Invest: Tampa Bay when he sat down with our team earlier this week. “The national exposure and media coverage that the red tide to the south of us received killed us, even though we had very minimal red tide for only a few days here on St. Pete Beach. Our year has been destroyed financially when comparing the results to our forecast at the beginning of the year. We know with certainly that we lost somewhere around 1,000 room nights. We’ll never know how many people canceled and didn’t tell us why or never even called to book. You could easily estimate that it had a million-dollar impact on us.”

Understandably, marketing Pinellas County as a tourist destination has been a bit more challenging this year.

“Our goal is to convey the most accurate up-to-the-moment conditions of the shore,” David Downing, president and CEO of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, told Invest:. To that end, the Visit St. Pete-Clearwater website has an online resource titled “Current Beach Conditions,” offering beachgoers real-time information about the local waterways.

The website is both industry-facing and consumer-facing. “It has 17 points across Pinellas County’s coast, updated twice daily with human eyes, ears and noses on the beach, reporting on the conditions in real time,” he says. “It has been a godsend for us because we can send people to the unaffected places.”

As far as marketing and advertising is concerned, Downing suggests that Visit St. Pete-Clearwater has had to tweak its message a bit. “[We’re talking] about many of the other facets of the destination, not so beach-forward,” he said. “We have the mural festival happening, a jazz festival and the culinary and craft beer scene, among many others.”

So what is being done about red tide? As we enter into the fall and winter months (however indistinct that transition might be here in Florida), county officials and business owners are looking forward to putting all of their red tide woes in the rear-view mirror.

A $1.3 million grant from the Department of Environmental Protection has paid for those aforementioned beach and water cleanups across Pinellas beaches, and Governor Scott has pledged a total of $13 million in grants to help affected counties battle the algal bloom.

Keith Overton says that in the future he’d like to see some funds allocated for research purposes. “I really do think that scientific research is a worthy investment to try to figure out how we can minimize the effects of red tide,” he told Invest:. “The only way we can even consider solutions is through government-funded scientific research. If we can better understand what causes red tide, we have a better shot at finding a viable solution and one that has less of an impact on the Gulf of Mexico fishery.”

For more information about our interviewees, visit their websites
Visit St. Petersburg-Clearwater,
TradeWinds Island Resort,



Tampa’s Brewing Economy

By staff writer

December 2018 – 2 min. read

With nearly 100 state-of-the-art breweries (among them, the internationally known crown jewel that is Cigar City Brewing), Tampa Bay has become a destination for craft beer tourists from across the country. Consistently ranked among the country’s top cities for craft beer, the craft beer industry in Tampa has had a positive impact on both the local economy and job creation. A recent report from the Tampa Economic Development Corporation concluded that “craft brewing had a $3.07 billion economic impact in Florida in 2017 and was responsible for more than 23,000 jobs with an average wage of $42,000.”

But for those locals who know a thing or two about Tampa’s history, there is nothing coincidental about this development. Beer production in Tampa is about as old as the city itself. It all started in historic Ybor City at the end of the 19th century, when a group of cigar factory workers decided that they needed a local source of crisp lager to complement all the fragrant maduros they were rolling.

Production obviously slowed during Prohibition, but it is now back and more robust than ever, coinciding nicely with the city’s prodigious redevelopment efforts and sharp rise in popularity.

In Tampa Bay, 2017 marked another record year for tourism, with the region welcoming 116.5 million visitors, up from a 112.4 million visitors in 2016, a 3.6 percent increase. Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, attributes this to the area’s unique flavor.

“Our marketing has been focused on how unique we are — the art, the culture, the history, the diversity,” Corrada told our Invest: Tampa Bay team when he sat down with them earlier this month. “We started with that, and we’ve seen a great evolution of the culinary scene and craft beer breweries. We’ve taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to why you should come here and why we’re so unique. We’re not just about palm trees, the sun and the water. You can have distinct experiences here.”

Among those distinct experiences is sipping a local brew and taking a stroll down Tampa’s newly revamped Riverwalk, which, as Mayor Bob Buckhorn says, really was the lynchpin for reviving the city after the recession.

“The completion of the Riverwalk has transformed our city. It has done exactly what I knew would happen,” Mayor Buckhorn told Invest:. “Once we focused on the water and made the [Hillsborough] River the center of our urban experience, private capital would be deployed in tens of millions of dollars.”

“And now you can grab a beer and walk the entire Riverwalk with that beer in hand,” Mayor Buckhorn added. “It’s a great place to come hang out.”

To celebrate being distinguished by USA Today as the leading craft beer city in the Southeast, Visit Tampa Bay partnered with one of Tampa’s local breweries to launch its very own brew. Treasured Lager is a joint endeavor between Florida Avenue Brewing and Visit Tampa Bay that highlights Tampa’s rich history of commercial brewing and also provides a glimpse of what’s ahead.

“We started working with our craft breweries several years ago, and the success since that time has been tremendous,” says Patrick Harrison, chief marketing officer of Visit Tampa Bay.  “While many cities claim to be craft beer destinations, we are one of the original and best […] Watch for other additions in the near future.”

For casual beer drinkers and snobs alike, Tampa will certainly not disappoint. After sauntering along the Riverwalk, Tampa’s Brew Bus is a great way to sample the rest of the world-class breweries peppered throughout the city. And if you find yourself across the bay, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater offers a similar romp through the many breweries of Pinellas County in its beer passport program. The affectionately titled “Gulp Coast Passport” is a guided tour through the many craft breweries along the coastline and Downtown St. Petersburg. Participants are given a physical beer passport to chart their progress, collect stickers and win prizes.

Some of the notable spots not to be missed are Angry Chair, Coppertail, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Cycle Brewing, 3 Daughters Brewing and, of course, Cigar City. There’s no question that beer has a significant economic impact on Tampa Bay’s economy, so grab a pint and help keep the brew flowing!

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:
A Welcome from Bob Buckhorn:
Visit Tampa Bay:
Visit St. Pete-Clearwater:
Tampa Brew Bus:
Gulp Coast Brewery Tour:


Capital Analytics Spotlights the “Tampa Bay Way”

Invest: Tampa Bay to highlight economic opportunities in the region

September 4, 2018

TAMPA, FL — Following the success of its South Florida annual business guides, Invest: Miami and Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County, Capital Analytics is setting its sights on Florida’s west coast to launch Invest: Tampa Bay in 2019. Innovation is a focal point for Tampa Bay’s inaugural report, the first of an annual series that will underline and assess key issues and opportunities in the Tampa Bay market.

Invest: Tampa Bay will feature insights gleaned from one-on-one, in-person discussions with over 200 C-level executives, tackling the high-impact stories unfolding in the Tampa Bay business community, including the area’s emergence as a tech hub, its strong housing market and its innovative waterfront redevelopment. The report will cover all of the main sectors of Tampa Bay’s economy, such as healthcare, life sciences, education, real estate, technology, banking and finance, tourism, manufacturing, trade and logistics, aviation, transportation and sports.

“Tampa is a natural extension for our Florida division,” said Abby Melone, president of Capital Analytics.  “The metro area is the second-largest economy in the state, making it an ideal location for us to point international investment. The continued growth of opportunities in the Tampa Bay market make it an ideal place for the company’s newest operation.”

The production of Invest: Tampa Bay is underway as the Capital Analytics team has already connected with many high-profile industry leaders in the area. It will be the region’s first and most comprehensive report on the city’s dynamic business climate. Currently in its fifth year of publishing the well-read and highly praised Invest: Miami, Capital Analytics has begun to expand into markets both in and outside of its home state of Florida.

“Tampa Bay is an exciting place to be right now. Investment is at an all-time high, the real estate market is booming and there’s so much commercial redevelopment going on, it’s hard to keep up. Invest: Tampa Bay will keep that momentum going by giving the city’s top executives in all of the major sectors a forum to let the world know why Tampa is such a great place to do business,” said Jaime Muehl, managing editor of Capital Analytics.

With the report expected to launch in the spring of 2019, a number of key players in Tampa Bay’s business community have already expressed their praise and excitement to be included.

The team will be led by Executive Director Alex Wilkinson and Editorial Manager Jordan Blumetti. Wilkinson brings with her an extensive background in business development, while Blumetti, a skilled writer and journalist, will oversee the composition of the guide on the ground. This powerhouse duo is excited to create a high-quality report that showcases the “Tampa Bay Way.”

For more information contact
Jaime Muehl
Managing Editor
TEL: 305-523-9708, ext. 230