2 min read December 2021 — Ronald Weaver, a partner at Stearns Weaver Miller, P.A., told Invest: that Tampa Bay is the natural center of the sunshine universe that offers “a combination of tax benefits, no income tax, and other ways of saying to America that this is the place to come to.” Tampa Bay is looking at a bright future for the next decade, he said.
What makes Tampa Bay a great place to reside and do business?
I think we are taking the natural perfection of our sunshine and earned a top position as a very attractive place with a combination of tax benefits, no income tax, and other ways of saying to America that this is the place to come to. I think the Austins and the Charlottes are shaking in their boots as Tampa is at the top for migration, as a tech hub, friendliness for women and everyone else to start a business, as well as many other advantages. Tampa Bay has a friendly, welcoming attitude toward newcomers and the diversity and equity that comes from that inclusiveness. I think it has earned its place as the natural center of the sunshine universe, not only for a family but also for any kind of business in Tampa Bay.
What differentiates your firm from the other players in the region?
When we earn access to A+ talent, we hire them. We have 350 folks, 175 of them lawyers, who, quite frankly, represent the energy and the heart and the devotion to not only our clients but also to the community. We find people who have a genuine passion not only for the law but for community engagement. Serving others in not just their legal needs, but their sometimes more important personal, emotional and community needs. It is core to what we do.
What legal issues have arisen during the last year?
We have seen a lot of legal challenges concerning disruptors like artificial intelligence and dangerous, but sometimes needed, government mandates. We have also noticed a lot of need in the pharmaceutical and tech sectors for all kinds of sophisticated advice. Thirdly, employment law. There are a lot of questions about mandatory vaccinations. There are thousands of different mandatory testing, return to work kinds of questions, and dozens of them are related to vaccine requirements, testing, return to office, liability for return to the workplace, and other questions that were never even contemplated before COVID-19. The other big challenge across our five offices relates to continuing environmental issues, including sea-level rise and the consequences to landowners on the waterfront. Regarding sea level rise, for example, who is liable if relocation is required in 5 to 20 years?
How are zoning laws changing Tampa Bay?
South Hillsborough County has been under a partial moratorium for the last three years, which ends on Dec. 31. The Hillsborough County Commission is replacing the old rules with some different rules for how you can and cannot develop in South Hillsborough County. Hillsborough County is going to need to cope with the need to approve development along the I-4 Corridor, from Plant City to Lakeland and Orlando, and look more business-consciously at that gold mine that is the I-4 Corridor. Getting into that gold mine and doing so for the right reasons, including attracting folks here to bring not only their tax base but also their culture and community contributions, attracting more high-paying jobs so that our young people stay here rather than look to move away.
How is the real estate business evolving in your area?
We have seen a greater concentration not only in apartments and industrial, which have been the star-children money-makers for the last three to four years, but also beyond those segments. Last year’s star child is single-family, especially built-to-rent. Hotels are finding their way back. People were looking at the hotel segment as a lost cause for the first six months of COVID-19. In fact, while they’re not completely back, I’ve noticed they are gaining a lot of territory in terms of some of the sales volume and occupancy. The resumption of international travel is greatly helping the once-struggling star child, private hospitality. Also, food and e-commerce are no longer alone in the retail rebound.
What is your near-term outlook for the legal sector in the Tampa Bay region?
I don’t think that we’re going to be able to go back to the pre-COVID status concerning how government and business address health. I don’t think we’re going to be able to go back to the pre-COVID status concerning not only the psychological, but the evolving culture of how we think, do business and govern.
Tampa Bay’s future is extremely bright and it’s extremely bright for the right sustainable and empowering reasons. Our 3,000 miles of shoreline, counting our rivers, combined with sunshine and a great attitude, responsible government, robust community engagement and the genuinely welcoming attitude of our community means we look very bright for the interminable future.
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