By: Owen LaFave, The Bank of Tampa
If you were to design a day to showcase Tampa called “Tampa Day,” perhaps your visioning session would start with thoughts of pirates, Cuban sandwiches, cafés con leche, and hand-rolled cigars in Ybor City. While those things certainly help define our local culture and identity, the Big Guava continues to become America’s next great city right before our very eyes. I believe I can strongly argue that we may arrive there on an international jet.
On March 11, Leadership Tampa Class of 2015 experienced “Tampa Day” the way our insightful leadership and passionate volunteers at the Greater Tampa Chamber envisioned: not where we’ve been, but where we’re going.
“Tampa Day” began before sunrise at one of the region’s most valuable assets, Tampa International Airport. In the off chance you haven’t heard, the new “Mr. Worldwide” (airport CEO Joe Lopano) is spearheading a billion dollar renovation to improve one of the best airports in North America, if not the world, which is now fully underway.
- Why Mr. Worldwide? Since Lopano’s arrival, Tampa now benefits from international flights to/from Panama, Zurich, Frankfurt and Cuba. While this should be no surprise, more are coming! Additionally, TIA recently gained non-stop flights to Seattle with more west coast flights in development. San Francisco? Let’s hope soon we are greeted with service to Napa Valley, Silicon Valley and a direct flight to venture capital.
- We learned about TIA’s commitment to doing business with disadvantaged, women and minority-owned businesses where 39 of 93 subcontracts and a direct commitment of $122.8 million have gone to such businesses.
- We were welcomed to a behind-the-scenes tour of the 5 miles of baggage conveyor belts and the sophisticated and futuristic computer system that operates it all after a thorough, but brief and friendly security search by TSA.
- Into the arts scene? I encourage you to take a quick look around the next time you’re running through the terminals to catch your flight. TIA is home to 30 different amazing art collections valued at over $11 million.
While Tampans are very well aware, we are quickly becoming nationally known as a foodie destination. After the airport tour, we were treated to a mouthwatering lunch by the foodie queen and tourism visionary Maryann Ferenc, and a cooking demonstration by her talented executive chef at Mise en Place. With bellies delighted, we were shuttled off to tour downtown Tampa from the vantage of another one of Tampa’s tremendous assets, the Hillsborough River.
eBoats owner Josh Dohring graciously donated his fleet of electric boats available for rent to anyone. The river tour enabled us to:
- See the progress of the Riverwalk with plans to expand the walk from the Straz Center to Waterworks Park and Ulele;
- Meet Tim Shackton, the head brewmaster at Ulele, who bestowed upon us his vast knowledge of craft beer and the unique brewing process at Ulele that makes their craft beer among the best in Tampa;
- Have a waterside view of Curtis Hixon Park which was host to the Mayor’s River O’Green St. Patrick’s Day Celebration;
- And discuss the West Tampa redevelopment efforts and redesign of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.
From the waters in the heart of downtown, Leadership Tampa was off to Amalie Arena, the southern epicenter for downtown Tampa whose offices are home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Vinik, and his team of visionaries at Strategic Property Partners to hear their plan of transforming the Channelside district and potentially all of downtown as a byproduct. The SPP team led a visioning session where Leadership Tampa 2015 creatively mind-crafted ideas that will no doubt be used in Mr. Vinik’s 18/7 live, work, play and stay concept (not 24/7 because he is expecting you to get at least 6 hours of sleep).
Finally as the sun was setting on the day, we were offered a sneak peak of the new Ferg’s Live Tampa across the street from Amalie Arena. Soon to open, the use of retrofitted 40-foot freight containers and a 10,000-square-foot courtyard designed for live music will add another great venue to America’s next great downtown.