Orlando’s economic resilience in the wake of the pandemic

Orlando’s economic resilience in the wake of the pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva 

3 min read October 2020 — COVID-19 quickly spun counties that rely heavily on tourism and hospitality into a flash recession. Due to a statewide emergency order, businesses were forced to close their doors and thousands of people in Orlando lost their jobs. Despite the challenges, the region remains steadfast in its mission toward economic recovery. 

In 2019, data showed that Orlando had the fastest-growing job market in the United States, creating around 43,300 new jobs, according to the Orlando Prosperity Scorecard. With continuous job and population growth of around 1,500 new residents each week, Orlando was on track to build an even more prosperous future.

While the coronavirus may have thrown a wrench in the region’s economic framework, it didn’t destroy it. The loss of international and domestic tourists was perhaps the hardest blow to the tourism and hospitality industry, which Orlando heavily relies on. However, this period allowed other sectors of Orlando’s economy to shine.

“While Central Florida is best known for tourism and hospitality, we also are seeing growth in two sectors in terms of economic development: healthcare and technology — fintech in particular. One other sector we are seeing strong demand in is transportation and logistics,” Marty McAndrew, market executive for Wells Fargo, told the Orlando Business Journal. 

The Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, a Philadelphia-based health system recognized for the treatment of musculoskeletal issues, is just one of the many organizations that have moved its headquarters to Central Florida this past year. Teaming up with AdventHealth, the pair have plans to build a 12-story, 300,000-square-foot medical office building totaling around $100 million. The partnership will merge Rothman Orhopaedic’s research and expertise with AdventHealth’s network in metro Orlando, which sees more than 3.4 million patient visits annually. 

“We are making a major investment to bring more healthcare services to Central Florida, while building a connected, innovative system that is designed around the consumer’s needs,” said Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, in a press release. “Rothman Orthopaedics is a world leader, and together with the AdventHealth Orthopedic Institute, we will push the field of orthopedics into a new phase of research, prevention and treatment.”

Behind the region’s tourism and entertainment district lies a diversified economy. While sectors such as healthcare, aviation and technology continue to grow, city officials are determined to jump-start those sectors most affected by the pandemic. To that end, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer allowed restaurants and local retail stores to expand their operations into outdoor city areas to help businesses get back on their feet.

“We know there are few, if any, businesses that have been immune to the impacts of this global pandemic,” Dyer said in a news release. “Whether closing completely, limiting operations or having employees work remotely, our employers and entrepreneurs have helped us control the spread of this virus and now we can begin to reopen our economy responsibly. Our local businesses provide a livelihood for our residents and are at the heart of everything we do as a community and so we want to do what we can to support them on the path to recovery.”

During this period of economic recovery, sound insights and collaboration between community leaders will be pivotal for Central Florida’s success. To learn more about future developments in Orlando and its healthcare sector, register now for the Invest:Orlando 2020 Virtual Launch Conference.

The conference takes place on Oct. 22 at 11:30 a.m. The virtual conference will feature two robust panels, starting with “Keeping Orlando healthy: Current and future landscape of the healthcare sector,” moderated by Dr. Folakemi Odedina, professor for Florida-California CaRE2 Center, and featuring insights from Tony Jenkins, market president of Central Florida Region Florida Blue, Jennifer Wandersleben, president and CEO of Acute Care Services Advent Health Central Florida and Babette Hankey, CEO of Aspire Health Partners. 

The second panel, “Continued development of Central Florida in the wake of a pandemic,” will be moderated by Jason Perkins, shareholder of Carlton Fields, and featuring insights from Phil Brown, CEO of the Orlando International Airport, Mark Israel, CEO of Universal Engineering Sciences and Gary Huttmann, Executive Director of MetroPlan Orlando. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will deliver the keynote address to close the event. 

To learn more, visit:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_LRrMOxcoTJ211M_YYhzXpw

Industrial investors eager to pounce on faltering retail properties

Industrial investors eager to pounce on faltering retail properties

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read August 2020 — Before April, e-commerce was already a booming business but COVID-19 has skyrocketed digital commercial transactions to a whole new level. Despite the current flash recession, the demand for industrial real estate has grown in almost every market. As a result, industrial real estate investors are eager to pounce on faltering hospitality and retail properties. Vacant or unprofitable large-acre facilities are being eyed up as potential warehouses and distribution centers. 

Businesses like hotels, theme parks, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry have taken the greatest hit financially among all major sectors. In Orlando, tourism disparities are now trickling down to those industrial companies that succor these industries. “Orlando’s weakness is that we’re a community built on tourism and convention services. When those industries suffer, typically our market suffers too,” Bo Bradford, industrial expert and co-president of Lee & Associates Central Florida, told Orlando Business Journal

However, with every crisis comes opportunity. If building vacancies do start to emerge as a result of the current economic slowdown it will give new operations a chance to plant roots in Orlando’s limited industrial market. One example is the area around the Orlando airport. In July, two flex industrial warehouses were proposed on 61.8 vacant acres at 6249 S. Goldenrod Road, according to the Orlando Business Journal. Orlando Office Center LLC are the property owners and Kelly Collins & Gentry Inc. are reported to be the project engineers. 

The increase in demand for industrial properties is making real estate investment companies get creative. Simon Property Group Inc. is considering converting vacant Sears and JCPenney stores into distribution centers, according to the Orlando Business Journal. However, in early June, the group decided not to proceed with an agreement with Taubman Centers that could have added various retail properties to its portfolio. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a uniquely material and disproportionate effect on Taubman compared with other participants in the retail real estate industry,” Simon Property Group said in a press release. The real estate investment company has four properties in Orlando and if it does decide to transform even one of its properties into an industrial building, it could be a win-win for both parties involved in the transaction. 

Since the pandemic began, retail stores have suffered as more and more people shift to online shopping. Within a few years, traditional malls and outlet stores could become a thing of the past. For companies like Amazon, large vacant retail properties provide vital space in a limited market. 

Brightline and Virgin sever rail ties

Brightline and Virgin sever rail ties

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read August 2020 — Brightline is passing on Virgin Trains. On Aug. 7, the high-speed passenger train operator announced that it would not be rebranded as Virgin Trains USA and would continue its operations under Brightline LLC. The withdrawal represents a sudden and apparently astringent end to the link between Brightline and Virgin Group. 

Brightline originally announced its strategic partnership with billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, two years ago. Brightline quickly welcomed this new partnership and underwent a complete makeover. Virgin Trains USA was officially supposed to debut its rebranding transformation this summer. However, COVID-19 related issues looks to have stopped the deal dead in its tracks. 

Originally, the relationship seemed like a match made in transit heaven. Branson and his team have carved out a successful enterprise in the transportation and hospitality industry with a fleet of carriers ranging from airplanes to cruise ships. “It’s already a very good experience,” Branson told the South Florida Business Journal in 2019. “We just need to sprinkle a bit of magic dust over it. We need to make sure the two hours, 45 minutes to Orlando is magical, and we are used to doing that in the UK, where we have longer train journeys.” 

Unfortunately, that seamless experience of having guests fly in on Virgin Atlantic then transported on a Virgin Train to their Virgin Voyage will have to be postponed. Branson’s lucrative business, like many others in the hospitality industry, came to a halt as a result of the pandemic. To make matters worse, Brighline’s 2019 passenger count was less than half what it projected and its revenue was less than a fifth of its expectations, according to The Palm Beach Post. The future of Virgin Atlantic Airways remains uncertain after the airline filed Chapter 15 bankruptcy earlier this week. 

Brightline, however, seems to be moving along. Its current routes consist of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Progress also continues to be made on its fourth station in Florida at the Orlando International Airport. Operations are scheduled to begin sometime in 2022. There has also been talk of building additional stations in Aventura and Boca Raton. 

The Miami-Dade County Commission was negotiating terms regarding proposed stations with Virgin Trains USA but it’s unclear whether the county will agree to a new county commuter service. “We really need to think about what is the future of transit and how people will get around this town…” Mayor Carlos Gimenez told The Real Deal in June. “We may have as many of 20 to 30 percent of people working out of their homes.” How Brightline’s withdrawal from its Virgin deal will impact the commission’s decision remains unknown.

Although the future of the Brightline expansion may be up in the air, if more stations do pop up it could leave a positive impact on the local economy. Brightline’s expansion could bring over 5,000 jobs on average per year after rail-line construction is complete through 2021 and have a $6.4 billion direct economic impact to Florida’s economy over the next eight years, according to Washington Economics Group, Inc. 

Spotlight On: Michael Chin, General Manager and Regional Director for Eden Roc Miami Beach/Nobu Hotel Miami

Spotlight On: Michael Chin, General Manager and Regional Director for Eden Roc Miami Beach/Nobu Hotel Miami

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read March 2020 — The hospitality market in Miami-Dade may have started to feel a level of oversaturation but the market overall is still at an advantage in comparison to other large markets across the nation due to location and a friendly tax environment, Michael Chin, general manager and regional director for Eden Roc Miami Beach/Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, told Invest:. He also discussed embracing the sharing economy as an alternative rather than increased competition in the market and the difference in demographics that options like this attract. 

 

 

With new entries into the region, do you believe the hospitality market in Miami-Dade is nearing a level of oversaturation?  

 

Miami is in a position where some hospitality entities feel a level of oversaturation, but I don’t think we are in that kind of market yet, especially when compared to markets like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Las Vegas. We have a mix of boutique and local hotels, and we are starting to see developments for the larger hotels coming into the area. This includes the expansion of some larger properties in the Downtown  and Brickell areas. The demand is still there in regard to new hotels in Miami-Dade.

 

What is the biggest advantage to your location in Miami Beach? 

 

Our biggest advantage in regard to where we are located is right out our back doors: the beach. The number of properties that have direct beach access is what people come to South Beach for. Right now, some of the hotels, like in Downtown Miami, aren’t as attractive to certain visitors coming to Miami because they don’t want to be in an urban area. They do not want to just see the water, they want to be at the water. This is why our location on the beach is probably our biggest attraction for new guests. We also have an advantage thanks to our offerings in comparison to our neighbors. We thrive off of the proximity to the Fontainebleau. We may not have the capability to have a nightclub on our premises like the surrounding hotels, but the people who come in here and visit us prefer us as an alternative place to go to eat and have a different type of experience.

 

How do you view newer entries into the hospitality market like Airbnb and the sharing economy? 

 

My background comes from a corporate hospitality structure and we addressed the issue of the sharing economy on a corporate level years ago. Since then, my stance really has not changed. We cannot view services like Airbnb as competition, they are simply just an alternative. The consumer is going to stay where they want to stay. If their preference is to have longevity and a lot of space, then they are going to choose an option like Airbnb because it is something that they will not get in a hotel. People who stay at hotels, stay based on what they are looking for. Today, the demographics related to age, income and food preferences are going to determine where a person stays more than the price of a hotel or its location. The hospitality industry has corporate executives who sit in a room and  determine how they are going to capture every type of traveler out there and how they are going to define every generation, demographic and region to find a suitable hotel choice for them. At a hotel like ours, travelers are going to stay here because they want the features of convenience in regard to housekeeping, room service, amenities and entertainment. Hotels have the consistency value. You have expectations when you stay in a hotel. There are a lot of factors that go into why a person picks and chooses where they want to stay but it all comes down to preference. 

 

How does the hospitality sector in Miami have an advantage over other large markets across the nation? 

 

People still want to go to places like Orlando, Dallas or Las Vegas, but every city has its issues, whether that’s overtaxation like in California or overpopulation like in New York. We have the opportunity to attract those tourists to a new market like Miami that doesn’t have these issues. It is about us getting out there to advertise Miami as a viable option to host both tourists and business travelers. Events like the Super Bowl help strengthen this idea.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.edenrochotelmiami.com/

 

 

Face Off: Bringing More Energy to the Bay

Face Off: Bringing More Energy to the Bay

By: Max Crampton Thomas

4 min read February 2020 As the Tampa Bay region continues to grow both in population size and new developments, the need for access to more energy and cleaner energy solutions grows with it. Invest: spoke with the leaders of two of the main sources of energy for the region and their innovative approach to creating cleaner energy solutions. T.J. Szelistowski serves as the president for Peoples Gas, which has provided Florida residents and businesses with reliable, environmentally-friendly, economical natural gas products and service since 1895. Nancy Tower leads Tampa Electric as its president and CEO. The utility has served the Tampa Bay area for 120 years, with more than 5,000MW of generating capacity. 

How is your company innovating in terms of technology?

T.J. Szelistowski: The last time we spoke, we discussed implementing gas-fired heat pumps that use natural gas instead of electricity for air conditioning. We are working with several customers on installations of this technology.  Additionally, we have installed the technology in three of our facilities and have been pleased with the performance.  

In terms of other technologies, we are targeting farming and waste facilities that release methane into the air. Our environmental solution is to capture that methane and clean it up to reinject it into the system. This not only provides a cleaner form of natural gas but also reduces methane emissions. We look forward to announcing some significant projects with this technology in the near future.

Nancy Tower: We believe battery storage is a part of our energy future. The technology is new, and we’re not ready to deploy that on a large scale until we figure out the true impact it will have on our system. We have put in place a battery storage project this year near our Big Bend solar project, which will give us really good information on how solar and battery storage interacts with our system. We’re really looking at how we can integrate battery storage into the complexity of the renewable energy ecosystem.

In other technologies, we are also in the middle of a large-scale installation of smart meters, which provide a lot more information and allow us to provide customers with superior service. 

T.J. Szelistowski

Why has investment in cleaner, more renewable energy and environmental sustainability been such a focus for your company?

Szelistowski: Natural gas is the perfect partner to renewable solar energy to provide capacity when the sun is not shining and to ensure energy is available to customers around the clock. Additionally, natural gas can provide great environmental benefits by replacing diesel fuel usage in large vehicles, such as buses and waste-management trucks.   

 A variety of ships are starting to convert to natural gas because of changing environmental regulations, specifically IMO 2020, which slashes permissible levels of sulfur permitted in fuel for seaborne vessels to minimal levels and opens the door for liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative.

Tower: The biggest factor is that customers want it. When thinking back over the last few years, the number of people focused on a cleaner environment has increased exponentially. This is symbolic of the focus citizens and our customers have on environmental stewardship, and that is not going away. We are very happy with our progress.

I think it’s our obligation on behalf of customers to demonstrate that clean energy is not only our responsibility in terms of an environmental perspective, but also from a cost perspective. We are focused on both of those things simultaneously. As the entity generating electricity, we have the responsibility of doing that in the most responsible way.

Nancy Tower

How would you respond to the argument that clean energy is not yet cost-effective or readily available?  

Szelistowski: Natural gas interstate transmission pipelines are relatively new to Florida compared with the Northeast, having been introduced only in the 1950s. In addition, natural gas is a primary source of space heating in many parts of the country. With limited space heating in Florida, natural gas is primarily used for cooking, water heating and clothes drying in addition to industrial uses. We see a great desire for natural gas by people who have moved from other parts of the country and have enjoyed using natural gas in the past.  

In terms of misconceptions, people do not realize the widespread availability of natural gas in Florida. Additionally, they may not realize the affordable nature of home and business use of natural gas. With low and steady gas prices, natural gas provides a great alternative to both business and homes.  

Tower: It is our job to ensure that our generation portfolio is the most cost-effective for customers. Over the long term, we have carried out extensive cost modeling to ensure we can meet these expectations. In the next number of years, we will add more solar capacity and our generation will include more small-scale methods combined with battery storage. This doesn’t come without hard work and we need to find the right ways to keep costs low. This involves finding the right land close to our transmission infrastructure, ensuring suppliers are providing competitive prices and efficient cost management. Costs have come down, but we need to ensure we tightly manage this.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.tampaelectric.com/

https://www.peoplesgas.com/

Spotlight On: Stan Lifsey, Co-Owner, The Current Hotel

Spotlight On: Stan Lifsey, Co-Owner, The Current Hotel

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read January 2020 — In 2020, creating experiences and innovation are two of the main keys to success in the hospitality industry. Stan Lifsey, the co-owner of The Current Hotel, recognized this and used it to help develop one of the newest hotel offerings in the Tampa Bay region. After receiving an initial positive reception, Lifsey is looking to continue capitalizing on the momentum while also pushing the hotel’s innovative approach to hospitality as customer demands continue to change. 

 

 

 How are visitors and residents in the Tampa Bay community reacting to the newest addition to the hotel scene? 

 

We wanted to take advantage of our strategic location on the water, so all 180 rooms have a waterfront view. We also wanted to partner with the best local brands in Tampa Bay and feature them, along with other local artists, in our hotel. This hotel is a one of a kind product and in a one of a kind location. We have been open for a short while, but so far we are very happy with how we have been received by the local community and the visitor turnout to the hotel. The customer feedback from both locals and visitors has been extremely positive, especially regarding the unique brand and design we have brought to Tampa Bay. We built this hotel with the idea to break the mold and cookie-cutter box that the hospitality sector in this region seemed to be stuck in with regards to architecture, interior design and concept.

 

Do you believe the demand curve will support the multiple new hotels coming online this year in the region? 

 

I believe the demand curve will be able to support all the new hotel inventory coming online, but that is with a caveat. I’d be interested to see how many of the current deals actually end up being built because of rising construction costs. Construction costs are at an all-time high, construction labor is incredibly tight and land is expensive. We were fortunate enough to have built when we did, but this market is becoming increasingly challenging. It requires a lot of equity to get these deals done and built.

 

Having all this new supply of rooms in the market is providing positive momentum and growth to the Tampa Bay Region and certainly makes entities like Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission’s jobs a little easier. Being able to offer this type of innovative product that is coming online really speaks to the evolution of the Tampa Bay hospitality market. We have been an undervalued market for quite a while, but with all the free press that Tampa Bay is receiving thanks to massive development’s like Water Street Tampa, it is driving more people into the region, which increases the demand for more hotels. All of which is ultimately great for the economy of the entire region.

 

How have you seen the hospitality industry adapt to changing customer demands? 

 

The overall hospitality market is moving more toward unique guest experiences. Guests want a different vibe and experience whenever they visit a new hotel. This is where the hospitality market is going not only for leisure travelers but also for corporate travelers. The upfront cost may be more to developers and owners but on the back end, your rate and the desire of people wanting to frequent your hotel is much greater.

 

The idea when building this hotel was that we didn’t want to adapt to anything. We wanted to be  contrarian and blaze our own path. When we started this whole process, we had to engage a branding company and we went through about nine months of branding. Current was not just something that we landed on. The Current name is to do with the fact that we are on the water. It is also a nod to our wave ceiling inside the hotel lobby rotating art gallery and that we want to always be current and innovative in our approach. We always want our brand to shine through in everything we do, which ultimately benefits the customer experience.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/tparo-the-current-hotel-autograph-collection/

 

Spotlight On: Shaun Kwiatkowski, General Manager, The Godfrey Hotel and Cabanas Tampa

Spotlight On: Shaun Kwiatkowski, General Manager, The Godfrey Hotel and Cabanas Tampa

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read January 2020 — The hospitality industry in Tampa Bay welcomed several new hotel offerings into the marketplace in 2019, and 2020 is going to see the introduction of even more inventory. Invest: spoke to Shaun Kwiatkowski, the general manager of one of the newest offerings to the Tampa Bay region, The Godfrey Hotel and Cabanas Tampa.  Besides a bountiful 2019, Kwiatkowski also spoke about the importance and benefits of operating as an independent brand in a market that is saturated with corporate offerings, as well as his view on the impact of the sharing economy in the Bay. 

 

 

 

How would you describe The Godfrey’s performance in 2019? 

 

In 2019, we enjoyed the continued market penetration of our brand. We are still pretty new and usually the ramp-up period for a hotel brand in this market can take up to five years to really penetrate and become established, especially a new, independent hotel like The Godfrey. We do not have the Marriott or the Hilton behind us, so we have to rely on a lot of specific strategies to execute. We feel that we have been able to penetrate the market effectively in a short period of time. We have had a lot of growth, which we measure by ADR growth. We had almost double-digit ADR growth last year, which equates to RevPar growth in the hotel’s revenue results. We’re very thankful and proud that we have been able to grow that ADR a little bit faster than the market as a whole. When you look at the Tampa Bay market this past year, occupancy rates had stayed pretty much flat, but I believe that has a lot to do with the additional room supply coming into the market. 

 

How has operating as an independent brand been beneficial and a challenge to the hotel? 

 

Being an independent brand can create benefits, but there are also challenges to that. As the business and the industry have evolved, demand has changed and today, many people want something different from the corporate type of hotel. Not to take anything away from those brands, but people do want to have the unique and fun experience that an independent brand can provide, similar to our food and beverage experience in WTR Pool & Grill. That is exactly who we are. If we look at the market as a whole, we are starting to see some of those big-name brands evolve into a more independent style. We are seeing those independent, millennial-focused brands growing in popularity, especially in this area.

 

A big challenge for us across the industry is employee retention and finding the right talent. We drive employee retention through the culture that we create within the hotel. If we find a good employee, we reward them and we guide them through their career. When we are looking at recruiting people to fill our open positions, it is more about the person than their skills. I can teach you most of the skills to be a front desk agent or to be a server, but I can’t teach you to smile. I can’t teach you to be positive and warm. This means we always have to be in our recruiting mindset and look for those individuals who have the hospitality spirit.

 

How has the sharing economy impacted your business, if at all? 

 

In regards to the impact from the sharing economy and things like Airbnb, there’s enough room for everyone to play, from our perspective. The Godfrey has not seen a major impact from the sharing economy. If the average person does a normal search of Airbnbs in this region, there is not as large an inventory as you might find in Boston or Chicago. That being said, when we look at what Airbnb is doing and the future of their booking channel, that is something that’s on our radar. If there is an opportunity there that works for us, we are going to investigate it and see if there is enough return on investment to try and implement something similar.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.godfreyhoteltampa.com/

 

Face Off: The Sunshine City’s Future Shines Bright

Face Off: The Sunshine City’s Future Shines Bright

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

 

4 min read January 2020 Deliberate, calculated and fast-moving are just a few of the ways to describe the economic growth happening in the city of St. Petersburg. Long known as the “Sunshine City,” St. Pete has developed into an economic and arts and culture powerhouse within the Tampa Bay Region. This is in large part thanks to efforts by a motivated business community and community leaders. Invest: spoke with two of the prominent figures in the St. Pete community about their organization’s efforts to maximize the potential of their city. J.P. DuBuque, the president of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation, and Alison Barlow, the executive director of the St. Pete Innovation District, also discussed their view of the future and the challenges that await. 

 

How are you working to promote economic expansion in St. Petersburg?

J.P. DuBuque: As an EDC, our primary role is to help grow jobs in the St. Petersburg area. One way we can contribute to that is by attracting new companies into our community. The most effective means of doing this is by telling our story, and to tell the story we have to know what the story is. This means we have to understand what our local community looks like. We are spending a good bit of time focusing on our local community to really understand the targeted industries that we want to enhance and grow. We are working with groups like the data analytics community and marine science community to best understand their needs. This in turn relays to us where the opportunities lie to attract new businesses to the region. Apart from this, we spend a lot of time out of the market, meeting with individual companies and other markets to tell them the great story of doing business in St. Petersburg. Sometimes this is through coordinated business development missions, while other times it is by leveraging non- economic-development-related conferences like South by Southwest or through focused sales development efforts.

Alison Barlow: The entrepreneurial ecosystem and talent development are two big areas of focus for us. We are doing a program called Innovation Scholars, which provides unique job shadowing opportunities for first-year students at USF St. Petersburg. We have already paired 39 students with companies in the Innovation District and around Downtown. We are also exploring ways to incubate more marine technologies, such as sensors, drones and ROVs, as well as encouraging the link between marine and life sciences.

As part of our efforts to attract businesses and talent to the district, we offer a variety of office space types. We are also focusing on connecting people who are located near the St. Pete Innovation District and making them part of the district. We are supporting the creation of social spaces by encouraging restaurants and retailers to come to the area. We are also supporting the full range of housing, from fully-assisted affordable housing to workforce, multifamily and luxury condos.

From your perspective, what is one of the most significant challenges for economic growth in St. Petersburg?

DuBuque: The biggest challenge for us is perception versus reality, and I believe this is a statewide challenge. When you look at what people think regarding some of the things that are necessary to build a successful business, and a successful quality of life, there are some perception challenges for Florida. The perception that Florida is not a good business environment, and that our school systems are not up to par are a real challenge. The perception, and reality, of Florida’s lack of mass transit is a real issue that needs to be overcome. When we have an opportunity to show folks what the reality is, they are typically pleasantly surprised.

Barlow: We are leading conversations with local health institutions about how changes in our oceans have an impact on our people. Human and ocean health are becoming much more related. For example, last year we had a significant red tide, and while the marine scientists were looking at the causes that were making it worse and the impact on marine life, the physicians in our area were seeing an uptick in asthma issues due to the airborne aspect of red tide.

We have some of the best sea level rise experts in St. Petersburg. It is encouraging to see the progress of their research looking at temperature fluctuation, the infiltration of bacteria and nutrients in the water that is contributing to algae blooms such as blue-green algae and red tide. They are turning this deep research into practical knowledge for the community. 

What has you excited for the future economic growth in St. Petersburg?  

DuBuque: It is important to remember that growth is necessary for us to move forward as a society. If we are not growing as individuals and as a community, then we are actually moving backward. That said, the level of proactivity from the Economic Development Corporation allows us to select the types of businesses that we want to really bring here. That in and of itself will help move us forward. We also have a full community commitment to the Grow Smarter Strategy, which gives us a common road map for every person in the economic development game. Those things allow us to maintain the culture and character of St. Petersburg while still moving forward. The worst thing that we could do is to kill the golden goose, which for us is the vibrancy, authenticity, arts, creativity, innovation and “funk” of St. Pete.

Barlow: We are excited about our progress on our smart city project. The St. Pete Innovation District is partnering with Spectrum and US Ignite to test concepts around smart city technology to improve the lives of the people in our community. It is also a chance for us to try sensor technology and think about what it would mean for educational and workforce opportunities. We are getting closer to installing four smart light poles on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus that will have power, internet and the ability to host environmental and traffic sensors.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://stpeteinnovationdistrict.com/the-district/

https://stpeteedc.com/

 

New inventory, worldwide recognition to expand Philly’s hospitality in 2020

New inventory, worldwide recognition to expand Philly’s hospitality in 2020

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — Philadelphia’s hospitality industry welcomed a variety of hotels and restaurants in 2019, and the new year will see that growth continue. The city’s expanding and diversifying hotel inventory is a trend that even industry leaders are keeping an eye on.

“We are closely monitoring the impact of additional supply entering the market in 2020, and continue to ensure we are providing our guests with a unique and personal experience that helps to create the loyalty we know will keep our valued guests staying with us year after year, as the options in our city continue to expand,” Michael Roberts, area general manager at The Windsor Suites Philadelphia told Invest:.

Philadelphia’s growing business community has presented a variety of opportunities for the city’s hospitality sector. According to Visit Philadelphia President and CEO Jeff Guaracino, cities around the world are looking at private and public investments made in Philadelphia and how they’ve positively impacted the city’s tourism ecosystem.

“Recently, we’ve seen enhancements to the city’s historical, cultural and dining options, the Pennsylvania Convention Center and to our stadiums in South Philadelphia. These are just a few examples, but they show us how appealing our city’s product is when viewed holistically,” Guaracino said in an interview with Invest:

Another fact that can have a positive impact in the City of Brotherly Love’s hospitality sector is its recognition as one of the top destinations to visit in 2020 by National Geographic. Philadelphia was one of only two U.S. destinations (alongside the Grand Canyon) among the 25 must-see destinations and travel experiences in this year’s list of the Best Trips to take. “We’re thrilled that Philadelphia is featured so prominently and beautifully in this influential publication that we know drives travel decisions,” said Visit Philadelphia’s Guaracino in a written statement. 

In 2018, the Greater Philadelphia region marked its ninth consecutive year of record visitation and the highest number of passengers through Philadelphia International Airport since 2008, according to Guaracino. 

“The city is fairly evenly split in thirds between corporate, leisure and group business. We value each, and are always working to develop each segment. The type of traveler segment that is most prevalent does vary throughout the year. We experience the same variations in the business cycle,” said Roberts. 

Philadelphia’s new hotel inventory for 2020 includes: 

  • Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City opening in May 2020
  • W Hotel opening June 2020
  • Element Hotel Philadelphia opening June 2020
  • The Hyatt Centric Hotel opening June 2020
  • River House at Odette’s opening June 2020
  • Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia opening December 2020

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

The Windsor Suites Philadelphia: https://www.thewindsorsuites.com/ 

Visit Philadelphia: https://www.visitphilly.com/