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2 min read JUNE 2021 — Optimism, innovation and a vision of long-term success for the Tampa Bay region echoed throughout the official Invest: Tampa Bay 2021 launch conference on Thursday, June 10, with Florida House of Representatives Speaker Chris Sprowls saying there is an excitement permeating the Tampa Bay region but that a focus on people and prosperity is necessary.

Providing the day’s keynote address, Sprowls highlighted House efforts to bolster entrepreneurial, environmental and educational efforts throughout the state. “COVID may have changed the entire way that we as people and business owners have interacted with each other over the course of last year. But, thankfully, our region and our state through smart business people and bold leaders have been able to evolve and flourish,” Sprowls said.

With three panels featuring some of Tampa Bay’s top civic and business leaders, the conference was the culmination of a rigorous research period that culminated in the release of the third annual Invest: Tampa Bay report, a robust analysis of the region’s main economic sectors.

Published by media platform Capital Analytics, the 2021 report showcases the strength and overall resilience of the local economy through C-level insider insights and key business intelligence. The official launch conference took place via Zoom and garnered over 600 registrations.

“In all our discussions with hundreds of businesses and political leaders, a common thread is how far we have come in such a short time,” Capital Analytics CEO Abby Melone said in her opening remarks. “We are looking forward with an optimistic eye, knowing we can apply the lessons from the past year to craft an even brighter future.”

The first panel, “Healthcare of the future: How 2020’s challenges have influenced 2021’s innovations,” focused on how the healthcare industry rose to meet the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderated by Bruce Lamb, shareholder and head of the healthcare practice for Gunster, the panel brought together John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital; Scott Heberlein, partner with HealthEdge Investment Partners; David Pizzo, market president of Florida Blue; and Ravi Chari, MD, president and CEO of HCA Healthcare’s West Florida Division.

For healthcare systems, working collaboratively with each other and government leaders and speaking as one voice was the key in navigating pandemic challenges, Couris said. The expansion of telehealth capabilities has been one of the major silver linings coming from the COVID experience, the healthcare leaders said during their discussion.

The second panel, “How current challenges and the state’s legislative decisions are impacting local growth in Tampa Bay,” was moderated by Hala Sandridge, shareholder of Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney PC. Featuring Ron Pierce, president and CEO of RSA Consulting Group LLC, and Jan Gorrie, managing partner of Ballard Partners, the conversation revolved around the state budget and how to best ensure cohesion in local policymaking. Redistricting will be a key issue business leaders and local residents should keep a close eye on moving forward, Pierce said.

Moderated by Joel Stevens, senior managing director of Bernstein Private Wealth Management, the third panel focused on the impact of financial institutions on equity and economic recovery. The panel, “Regaining Financial Footing: How financial institutions are helping to resolve issues of equity and economic recovery,” included Rita Lowman, president of Pilot Bank; Albert Lee, president and CEO of Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation; Cary Putrino, regional president of Fifth Third Bank; and Greg Kadet, managing director and market head for Greater Florida of UBS.

The leaders touched on important industry developments such as the Paycheck Protection Program as well as the further digitalization occurring in the banking and financial sector. Strong banking relationships and financial literacy rose to the forefront for people and businesses during this cycle. Understanding the landscape and the available products, coupled with financial literacy, are important for a person to be successful in their own personal or business finances, Lee said during the panel.

Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada closed off the event with the closing keynote address. The tremendous success of Tampa Bay’s hospitality and tourism industry over these past few months has been the result of a widespread community effort to make people feel confident and comfortable traveling to the area, he said. Corrada highlighted the importance of the tourism industry in the recovery process and long-term success of the Tampa Bay region.

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