Policy & Transportation Digest

Fight for Tourism continues

Industry experts continue to talk about the need for tourism dollars in Florida.  A recent move by the Florida House will reduce Visit Florida and make it difficult for the agency to continue to promote the state’s tourism industry.

The Chamber supports the funding of Visit Florida

See what a Chamber member and small business owner is saying about how important Visit Florida is to her business.

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority releases Economic Impact Report

THEA released a recent report that says the agency has generated $1.2 billion in local and state gross domestic product and a combined 13,200 jobs.


This week in Tallahassee:

Moffitt funding:

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed SB 662 sponsored by Senator Dana Young* unanimously.  The bill has two more committee stops in the Senate before being heard by the entire Senate.

As the legislative session progresses in Tallahassee, there are several important issues and bills that are currently not easily moving through the process, and this includes the House version of the bill, HB 651 sponsored by Representative Jamie Grant*.

As a Tampa Bay asset, Moffitt also serves as a health care provider, entrepreneurial leader and economic driver for the state.  With a $2.1 billion annual economic impact, Moffitt employs more than 5,200 professionals serving more than 53,000 patients with 361,000 outpatients visits annually.

Email your legislators today and tell them you think it is important for HB 651 and SB 662 to advance in both the House and the Senate.

*If your legislator is Senator Dana Young or Representative Jamie Grant, please note they are the bill sponsors.  When sending an email to either Senator Young or Representative Grant, you may want to thank them (you can alter the sample letter in the link) for their leadership in supporting the bill.

Click here and enter your name and home address (click “remember me” if you want to save your information for future calls to action) then hit submit to see a sample letter that you can send immediately.

The Chamber SUPPORTS SB 647/HB 651 as one of the top priorities.

 Regional Transit Authority:

HB 1243 sponsored by Representative Dan Raulerson and SB 1672 sponsored by Senator Jack Latvala, relating to Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, changes the size and scope of the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority including a future plan for the agency to create a plan to implement and operate a multimodal transit options throughout the region.

The Chamber’s Transportation Council discussed the legislation and determined the bill does meet the board approved Transportation Guiding Principles.

The Chamber supports SB 1672/HB 1243.

Currently, HB 1243 has passed Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee and has three more committee stops.

SB 1672 has passed the Transportation Committee and has two more committee stops.

Ridesharing regulations:

The Senate Insurance and Banking Committee passed an amended SB 340 last week.   The bill will allow for a statewide regulation for ridesharing services. The bill has two more committee stops before being heard by the full Senate.

The House companion bill HB 221 has passed all committee stops and is expected to be heard on the floor of the House soon.


As things are changing in Tallahassee, Washington D.C. and here in Hillsborough County, the Tampa Chamber is watching those issues that are important to the community and your business. Here is some of what we are watching:

  • Possible changes to the Affordable Health Care Act
  • Possible changes with the relations between the U.S. and Cuba
  • Appropriations request rule changes in Tallahassee
  • Medical Marijuana and what that means to Tampa Bay
  • Workers’ Comp. Rate
  • Premium Transit Study
  • Regional MPO


LT 2017: Port Tampa Bay & Agriculture Day

Port Ag 1By: John M. Astrab IV

On March 8th, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Leadership Tampa Class of 2017 spent the day at the Strawberry Festival and at Port Tampa for Agriculture and Port Day.  The group boarded the bus from Port Tampa at 8:45am for a land far away known as Plant City to learn about the impact that agriculture has on Hillsborough County at the Strawberry Festival. The program Day Chairs were Tino Provenzano, Senior Environmental Specialist for Mosaic and John Thorington, Jr., Vice President of Government Affairs and Board Coordination of Port Tampa Bay.
At 9:30am the class arrived at the Festival grounds and was greeted on the bus by Lee Bakst, Assistant Manager of the Strawberry Festival, who provided an overview of the day at the festival. His enthusiasm for both the festival and Hillsborough County agriculture resonated throughout the day. After disembarking the bus, the group headed to the festival’s executive board room where Festival President Dan Walden provided information on the history of the festival and its annual production. Dan pointed out that the festival is self-funded, requiring no assistance from government entities, and is a family-friendly, alcohol-free environment.

Festival Statistics:

  • The festival was started as a Country Music venue in 1930.
  • The 2017 Festival theme was “We’re Playing Your Song.”
  • The 10-day festival has approximately 500,000 visitors annually and takes a volunteer staff of approximately 2,000 people to assist the paid staff of 20 to execute.
  • There is an $11 million net GDP increase to Hillsborough County on approximately $26 million in customer spending as a result of the Festival.

After the ovPort Ag 2erview of the festival, the class went to see the Florida Strawberry Field Exhibit. There, the class participated in a discussion with the staff of the Florida State Growers Association (FSGA) on the impact of the strawberry industry on Hillsborough County. The FSGA was created to help growers have a voice on trade with the local, state and federal legislatures as it pertains to international trade.  Currently, Mexican strawberries have been suppressing the price of berries for Florida growers as the crops have overlapping seasons. The FSGA is lobbying for more fair trade practices to support the price per flat of strawberries, which has remained at breakeven level for most farmers in the last 5 years due to the competition from Mexico.

Hillsborough County Strawberry Statistics:

  • Strawberries are grown from October to April each year and are approximately 40% of the agriculture revenue in Hillsborough County.
  • There are two main varieties of berries currently being commercially grown in Hillsborough County: Radiant (70%) and Sweet Sensation (30%).
  • Of the 12,000 Acres of Strawberries planted annually in Hillsborough County, only 250 acres are dedicated to organics. The low organics acreage is due to the challenges that weather and bugs present to growers in Florida.
  • On average, each acre of strawberry fields yields approximately 30,000 flats of strawberries per season.

The festival tour continued to the Livestock Exhibit Show Floor where the class was treatedPort Ag 3 to an overview presented by two Hillsborough County high school students participating in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.  This is a program of approximately 18,000 middle and high school students across the state of Florida, 5,000 of which come from Hillsborough County.  The presenters discussed that FFA educates students on not only the business of livestock but ethics and the dedication and discipline needed to care for animals.  The students in the program purchase and raise animals, including rabbits, sheep, goats and cattle, with the intent to sell them at the end of the school year. At the end of the presentation, the students took the class on a tour of the stables where the animals were being kept for judging during the show.

Port Ag 4After the livestock tour, the class was treated to a fantastic southern comfort meal of pork and chicken back in the executive boardroom. Of course, no trip to the Strawberry Festival would be complete without a gut-busting strawberry shortcake for dessert (which was well received by the class).

As the class was finishing up lunch, Day Chair Tino Provenzano led a panel discussion with Jake Austin, CEO of Plant City Economic Development Corporation and Alex Walter (LT’14), Managing Partner of Walson Ventures, LLC and Owner/Operator of Thundercloud Ranch. During the discussion, the topic of trends in agriculture struck a nerve with both Alex and Jake.  Alex, being a farm owner, discussed how water rights are becoming an increasingly large problem not just for him but for farms nationwide.  He talked about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightening regulations on the definition of clean water to the point that some their standards call for water cleaner than rain water.  Additionally, Alex felt that there needed to be more collaboration between the local and federal levels of the EPA.

Jake, coming from the economic development side, talked about labor and the impact of mechanical harvesting grant funds on agribusiness. The goal of the grant funding is to lower the cost per acre of product harvested by removing the need for unskilled labor and in turn keep more small farmers afloat so they can compete on pricing pressures being caused by foreign product.

The panel discussion concluded at 1:00pm and the class boarded the bus to head back toPort Ag 5 Tampa for a 2:00pm discussion with Paul Anderson, President and CEO of Port Tampa Bay.  Port Tampa can trace its roots back to the early 1800s with the first shipments of goods being cattle to Cuba. Through the early 1900s, it would grow to become a major port along the Gulf Coast, primarily through the moving of agricultural product including cattle and timber. Today, the port moves break bulk, liquid bulk, cargo containers and cruise passengers.  Paul also provided the following facts about the port:

  • In 2016, the port had a $17.2 billion impact on the region and supported 85,000 jobs.
  • In 2016, the port generated $52 million in revenue and $28 million in profit.
  • The port maintains an A-rating by various ratings agencies.
  • The current Port Tampa is a quasi-public entity that was founded in 1945 and is the largest, land acreage-wise, in Florida.
  • Nearly half of the fuel in the state of Florida comes though Port Tampa.
  • The cruise terminal continues to grow with 8 year-round ships and is expected to surpass one million passengers for the first time in 2017.
  • In early 2016 the Port invested $24 million in two new container cranes to support larger cargo ships that will be coming through the Panama Canal as the expansion is completed.

To end the day, the Class went for an hour-long boat tour of the Port aboard the Florida Aquarium’s Bay Spirit II.


Member News 3/16/17 – 3/23/17

Member Events

Member Job Openings

Member New Hires & Promotions

  • Greenberg Traurig Elevates Eight Attorneys to Shareholder, One Of Counsel in Florida Offices

If you would like to submit news, events, job postings, new hires/promotions, or accolades  for the Member News section of eView, please go to http://www.tampachamber.com/Your-Chamber/Newsroom/MemberNews.aspx.

Business Analytics Roundtable Invitation

Business Analytics Roundtable Discussion, April 12th, 12:30p to 1:30p (lunch provided)

Dear Chamber Member,

Business Analytics is at the core of organizational success. What is measured can be improved, but this industry is far more reaching than improvement within the organization. Analyzing data provides decision support to build strategies and it provides the accountability needed to prove effectiveness of programs and business practices. Business Analytics fits into the “Lean” methodology of Build, Measure, and Learn to validate or invalidate ideas.

Please join the Greater Tampa Chamber’s Education Connection interactive and informal Business Analytics discussion between business and academic professionals. This is ideal if you teach or are in the business of machine learning, data visualization, business intelligence, big data, and predictive analytics.

Discussions will focus on:

  • trends, issues, news, and directions in business analytics
  • what businesses need in workforce skills and capabilities
  • student opportunities available in Tampa
  • industry job descriptions
  • resources available to businesses from the academic community

Seats are limited to 10 Chamber member business participants and 10 academic participants, so reservations are on a first come basis.

To reserve your seat, please email cgeeabate@tampachamber.com.


Roundtable details: Wednesday, April 12th, 12:30pm to 1:30pm (lunch provided)

Location: Greater Tampa Chamber office, 201 N. Franklin Street, Suite 201

Parking: Short term parking available on the 3rd floor of the Fort Brook parking garage.

From the parking garage, take the 3rd floor crosswalk to the Tampa City Center Building. The Chamber office is the first door on the right after the crosswalk.

Policy & Transportation Digest

Florida House and Senate begin to talk about health care

Despite the ongoing debate in Washington, the Florida House and Senate are looking at a series of bills and ideas that they hope will offset some of the state Medicaid cost.

Governor continues fight for tourism dollars

This week Governor Rick Scott released a video that takes aim at the Florida House who voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida and drastically cut Visit Florida


This week in Tallahassee:

Economic Incentives:

Last week, the Florida House passed two bills that will 1.  Eliminate Enterprise Florida and all economic incentives that attract new businesses to Florida. 2.  Reduce the scope and power of Visit Florida.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce supports both Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.  We believe there is still time for a thoughtful and productive discussion between the Florida House and Florida Senate that will allow for changes that create transparency without a complete elimination and/or the ability to function in a competitive environment.

The conversation between the House and Senate must begin today and continue until a reasonable solution is found.  Reach out to your Representative and Senator now and tell them that you want and expect them to find a solution that is fair and productive for a stronger Florida

Currently, there is no Senate companion bill.

The Chamber OPPOSED HB 7005.

The Florida House also approved HB 0009 which drastically weakens the capacity of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

Currently, there is no Senate companion bill.

The Chamber OPPOSSED HB 0009

If you would like to encourage your State Representative and State Senator to continue the conversation regarding incentives and tourism, please click here to send them an email. 

Public Transportation Commission:

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee unanimously passed HB 647, a local bill that will eliminate the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.  The bill has one more committee stops before being heard on the floor of the Florida House.

The Chamber SUPPORTS HB 647

Ridesharing regulations:

The Senate Insurance and Banking Committee passed an amended SB 340 this week.   The bill will allow for a statewide regulation for ridesharing services. A strike all amendment was offered by the bill sponsor, Senator Jeff Brandes, which would allow the bill to allow seaports to impose pickup fees on rideshare drivers when picking up or dropping riders from ports, as long as they do not exceed what that particular port is charging taxicab companies to pay.  A second amendment offered by the bill sponsor would require ridesharing companies to contract with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to review their insurance and background check process. The DFS will have the authority to impose civil penalties if the companies are noncompliant. The bill has two more committee stops before being heard by the full Senate.

The House companion bill HB 221 has passed all committee stops and will be heard on the floor of the  House soon.

Moffitt funding:

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed SB 662 unanimously.  The bill has two more committee stops in the Senate before being heard by the entire Senate.

The House version HB 651 has not been heard in a committee meeting yet.

The Chamber SUPPORTS SB 647/HB 651


As things are changing in Tallahassee, Washington D.C. and here in Hillsborough County, the Tampa Chamber is watching those issues that are important to the community and your business. Here is some of what we are watching:

  • Possible changes to the Affordable Health Care Act
  • Possible changes with the relations between the U.S. and Cuba
  • Appropriations request rule changes in Tallahassee
  • Medical Marijuana and what that means to Tampa Bay
  • Workers’ Comp. Rate
  • Premium Transit Study
  • Regional MPO

Member News 3/9/17 – 3/16/17

Member News

Member Events

Member Job Openings

Member Accolades

If you would like to submit news, events, job postings, new hires/promotions, or accolades  for the Member News section of eView, please go to http://www.tampachamber.com/Your-Chamber/Newsroom/MemberNews.aspx.

LT 2017: Sports Day

By Josh Bomstein

Those folks, like me, who grew up a fan of the Bucs, Rays, Rowdies, Lightning, and Bandits (now defunct) know that being a Tampa Bay sports fan takes grit and perseverance. Our teams raise us up with their successes and frustrate us with their losses.  But most importantly, we love them! There is no denying that Tampa Bay is a region imbued with affection for sports, and they play (no pun intended) a significant role in our business community and culture at-large.

Donned in fan gear from our favorite Tampa Bay teams, LT ’17 (GOAT) was pumped up for sports day (sponsored by Troy Atlas of Raymond James and chaired by Scott Garlick of Cushman Wakefield (LT ’10)).  The first stop was the Amelie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sports Day 1

We toured the 20 year old arena and learned some interesting facts about it and the franchise:

  • The Lighnting have invested more than $60M in improvements to the arena since 2011.
  • The Lightning (as of that day) had sold out 94 consecutive home games.
  • They have the largest pipe organ in sports and the second largest tesla coil in the world.
  • Franchise financial performance goal is to break-even in regular season; 2016 the franchise broke-even in the first round of the playoffs.
  • Vinik (principal owner) is intensely focused on good service, fan experience, and always opts for the “best” in decision-making even personally sitting in every new seat option evaluated prior to replacing all seats in the arena.

We heard from Jared Dillon (EVP of the Lightning, Storm, and Amelie Arena); highlights of his talk include:

  • The lightning are relentlessly focused on their fans and treating them to a great experience.
  • With only 1/3 of the fan base from Florida, a challenge is breaking residents of their non-Tampa team allegiances; hence a strong focus on making the youth of Tampa bay lifelong fans of the Lightning.
  • Jared is a fan of Dale Carnegie and Simon Sinek’s theories on effective leadership. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioZd3AxmnE
  • He practices the “golden rule” and focuses on leading with empathy, genuine care and concern for people utilizing eye contact and human contact.
  • An unofficial mantra of the staff of the Lightning is “What Would Jeff Vinik do?” Clearly Mr. Vinik is the heart of the organization and his pursuit of excellence has created a culture focused on victories on and off the ice.
  • The Lightning have an “employee innovation lab” where employees can share their great ideas many of which have been used by the team.

Next we heard from Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. Highlights of his dynamic presentation include:

  • The commission targets the “right” events that will have the best impact for the community.
  • They donated $1M to Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough Schools via their “Extra Yard for Teachers” campaign which ran in conjunction with the NCAA Football National Championship game in January.
  • Though the exact economic impact is still being tallied, the National Championship game was a massive success with major increases in hotel rooms stays and rates and an increase in flights into and out of TIA.
  • The Commission is constantly focused on “raising the bar” and the National Championship game was the penultimate success showcasing Tampa Bay in a great light. Key elements of the fan experience and subsequent media coverage was the Riverwalk, the “Yacht Village”, and the beaches.
  • The Commission hopes for Tampa to be the first city to host the game twice.
  • A big push for the commission is hosting youth sports events which have a large economic impact (i.e. recently the youth volleyball tournament was hosted here with 390 teams!)

Next stop was Al Lang Field in downtown St. Petersburg, home to the Rowdies.

Sports Day 2

We were led on a tour/discussion by Lee Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Highlights of the visit include:

  • The Rowdies have a long history in Tampa Bay preceding the current team. The Rowdies originally played at old Tampa Stadium in the late 70s and early 80s.

Sports Day 3

  • The Rowdies play in the United States Soccer League, a minor league to Major League Soccer.
  • Rowdies are competing for one of four new Major League Soccer franchises to be awarded over the next 18 months.
  • They are highly focused on using technology to maximize results and utilize extensive data analytics to track performance.
  • Minimum salary is $65,000 in the MLS and the average USL player earns $5000/month.
  • The team is made up of players from many countries, and their “designated” player is Joe Cole.
  • Al Lang Stadium currently holds 7000 (average game attendance is 5800); the proposed renovation to the stadium to host MLS team (if awarded one) will add an additional 11,000 seats.

From there we headed to Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sports Day 4

After pictures with Raymond, Josh Bullock (Vice President Corporate Partnerships) led us to the field. Highlights included:

  • An amazing live rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” led by the talented soprano voice of Josh Bullock followed by a tour of the locker room. https://www.facebook.com/kristy.tozer/videos/10209763449415637/
  • Delicious lunch of various Cuban sandwiches and other tasty treats and coffee, finally coffee. Thanks Rays!
  • Josh spoke briefly regarding the organization’s efforts to put employees first creating a strong culture of community involvement.
  • He also addressed the ever-present question regarding a new stadium by simply stating that the team has narrowed their potential sites to two in Pinellas and two in Hillsborough.
  • Josh kindly presented an award to this author for the “Best Rays gear” worn that day, an obvious choice.

Sports Day 5

Jeff Cogen, Chief Business Officer for the Rays, spoke. Highlights of his discussion included:

  • Many innovative new programs to “thank” season ticket holders including a rewards points program similar to those used by credit card companies.
  • Many new options being offered for fans to purchase tickets in addition to new incentive programs to help attract more fans to the games.
  • The goal is to build a season ticket holder base that is sustainable.

Eric Wesiberg, ‎Senior Director of Marketing, also spoke. Key points he addressed include:

  • New video marketing which is being completed in-house. They provide a more “homegrown” and relatable feel than previous campaigns.
  • They are focused on their gameday giveaways and research shows that fans want “wearable” items so mark your calendars for July 22 – DJ Kitty adult onesie giveaway night!

Stephen Thomas. Director of Community Engagement spoke last regarding Rays community involvement and the motto of “making dreams come true.” He discussed some programs including “Reading with the Rays” of which 20,000 kids have participated and the yearly work done with local Little League teams including free jerseys for the youth. Many Rays players are enthusiastic about giving back to the community notably Chris Archer and Evan Longoria.

From the Trop we headed back across the bridge to One Buc Place, the training facility for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There, we received a tour of their impressive facility which has state-of-the-art fitness, health, wellness and administrative components. Brian Ford, Chief Operating Officer for the Bucs, started his discussion with the statement:

“We are a sports town. No doubt about it.”

Sports Day 6

His in-depth look at the Buccaneers on and off the field included the following highlights:

  • Jameis Winston has exceeded expectation on and off the field.
  • He is the first QB with 4000+ yards in each of his first two seasons!
  • With no more long term season ticket contracts, they are focused on exceeding expectations each season.
  • Raymond James is the second longest naming rights of any venue in all of major league sports.
  • The business side of the NFL is extremely organized.
  • There is great sharing of information on business operations across teams.
  • All improvements to Raymond James Stadium are to enhance the fan experience, and they have been ranked #1 for gameday fan experience.
  • He stressed that they are in the “entertainment” business.
  • The Glazers are “fans first.”
  • The Bucs are highly focused on community giving through their “Bucs for a Better Bay” initiative. They encourage players to give back and have strong connections with both military and local schools.
  • He expressed great gratitude that he gets to do what he does every day, and noted that Tampa Bay is not a big city but is a true “community.” Words get around quickly, hence the relentless emphasis on good behavior and giving back.

Brian’s discussion was followed by a panel discussion around ticketing/marketing led by Ben Milsom, Chief Ticketing Officer. The Bucs then graciously hosted us for de-brief, snacks, and beverages in the impressive lobby of One Buc Place.

It was day filled with fun and a lot was learned about the role each team plays in the City of Tampa and larger Tampa Bay region. Our teams emotionally connect the region like no other asset we have. Go Bolts! Go Rowdies! Go Rays! Go Bucs!