2016 Benchmarking Debrief: Take-Aways

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Downtown Redevelopment

Takeaway points: The key to real change is an investment and commitment by everyone – the community as a whole, the government, and business. The turning point for Minneapolis was having a large company commit to building their headquarters downtown – they invested in the area, and everything else followed. Government also needs to play a part – they need to invest in infrastructure and other “connective tissue” that will support the investments made by corporations and individuals. The architecture needs to be stunning and unforgettable – and we do not need to settle for anything less.

Action items: We need to focus on people rather than things – recognizing that if we invest in the community, these “things” will come. Continue to communicate to our elected officials our desires – we deserve a dynamic, diverse and architecturally incredible business core, and it is attainable. Incentives do play a role in the feasibility of such a project. We need to encourage larger businesses to invest and build in areas that may not quite “be there” yet – knowing that it will follow once those first few steps are taken.

Regionalism and Collaboration

Takeaway points: It’s refreshing to hear that we are not the only ones that struggle with a collaborative and unified front as a region – however, it is possible to get there. The Minneapolis and Saint Paul regions and Chambers have very different focuses and defined roles (tourism vs. advocacy) – and they are complimentary rather than opposing. They embrace a “big brother / little brother” relationship, and are cooperative rather than defensive. They are the first to admit that they are absolutely competitive and will fight to be at the starting line – but once one or the other has “won,” the competition dissolves immediately and collaboration kicks in fully, as they throw their full support behind each other and the region as a whole.

Action items: Take steps to literally and metaphorically bridge the gap between our two regions – continue to open the lines of conversation, work on collaborative events, and redefine our areas of focus. Develop and nurture personal relationships with leadership on both sides of the bay. Understand that competition is acceptable and productive while fighting for an asset – but once it has been allocated, that needs to disappear completely.  Encourage business leaders to get involved in elected office as those elected with business experience has driven success in Minneapolis.  Lead by example.


Takeaway points: We need it! Their system was not perfect at first – they had to build it up to meet everyone’s needs over time. They were able to secure money for “urban development” rather than transit specifically. They invested in a robust pedestrian network before other modes of transit – recognizing that creating a safe and strong pedestrian system allows transit to grow and connect. They had a long-term vision for their transit system, and recognized that it would not happen overnight, and there would be many failures along the way. Transit means different things to different people – it is about community not just a commute.  It is important to have a variety of modes available to meet all needs.

Action items: Continue to explore how it would be possible to fund and pass multi-modal transit options here in Tampa. Messaging that it will not be perfect from the start – but it has to start somewhere. Creating the rail system first and then integrating it into the surrounding communities is an option.   Message that it is about economic development not just transportation.  Set the transportation vision for our community.

Workforce: Diversity & Inclusion / Young Professionals

Takeaway points: Diversity & Inclusion efforts can be applied right now in each of our workplaces. It is important to focus on developing and welcoming not only a diverse workforce, but diverse leadership. Building a “network of networks” in our community to help connect those from different backgrounds and build a sense of belonging is crucial to the retention of talented workers. In order to attract and retain young professionals both nationally and at the local Universities, it’s crucial to connect the academic and professional networks.

Action items: Implement initiatives identified through the Chamber’s Minority Caucus and Vision Plan to help us create this network of networks. Shift our mindsets during the hiring process from looking for a good cultural fit to looking for a good cultural engagement – who will push our organizations outside of the comfort zone into the next level. Utilize Education Connection and other existing programs to connect our academic institutions with our businesses to keep our young talent in the area. Transit is also key – we have to physically connect campuses with the business core and the residential areas.

Downtown Stadiums

Takeaway points: It is possible to create a stadium in very tight spaces (i.e. a 13-acre stadium built on 8 acres of land). Integrated transit is the key to making this a possibility. Downtown stadiums have to be used for more than just professional sports teams – they are available 24/7 for community use and other events to make them a viable investment. They are the result of a public/private partnership and everyone needs to be all in – ownership, community, and elected officials.

Action items: Communicate to elected officials our needs and desires – downtown ballparks are the starting point, not the end point. They can be the catalyst for change in an area, and bring the community into the stadium via retail, public space, etc.







Benchmarking Recap – GTCC visits the Twin Cities

2016 Benchmarking Logo Twin Cities

One hundred Chamber members landed in Minneapolis last weekend excited to walk the streets of the Twin Cities and learn how this comparable region has come to be a great destination to live, work, and play.

This is the 16th year the Chamber has taken an annual Benchmarking trip to investigate new programs and initiatives in a community similar to our own. Past trips include traveling to Denver, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Baltimore, and more. This year’s two city program was specifically designed to introduce our attendees to the region as a whole by diving into how both Minneapolis and Saint Paul have undertaken efforts regarding collaboration, downtown redevelopment, talent retention, transit in action, and more.

Attendees were able to take an inside look at the newly opened $1.1B downtown football stadium, the mixed-use urban redevelopment in Downtown East, and the 13-acre downtown baseball stadium (built on only 8 acres and incorporating a light rail, commuter rail, and highway underneath its structure). We look forward to seeing how we will be able to put these experiences to use and help propel our community to become the next national example.

Special thanks to our presenting sponsor, TD Bank!


Tampa delegation gets military briefing

Steve Stanford, PLANTZ

This morning Greg Celestan and Chase Stockton led a discussion on military issues with information on the economic impact of MacDill Air Force Base on the Tampa community and the Chamber’s military affairs committee.  We also heard from Asunthia Chiang-Smith who is the executive director of the BRAC (base realignment and closure) Committee in Maryland.  The group is off to Fort Meade and then bound for Tampa.

PNC Sponsors WOW Dinner at National Aquarium

Steve Stanford, PLANTZ

Last evening we were treated to a great dinner at the National Aquarium. PNC Bank was a gracious sponsor and in a very short time has embedded itself in the Tampa community. The bank is led locally by Joe Meterchick. We heard from Jacques Cousteau’s grandson Fabien on the status of the world’s oceans. PNC recently unveiled this beautiful living wall in downtown Baltimore – call me at PLANTZ if you want one in Tampa.

Presentations from Tampa & Baltimore Downtown Partnerships

Interesting differences and similarities with Baltimore. Presentations from both city’s Downtown Partnerships this afternoon. Waterfront cities with sports franchises and transportation challenges. We didn’t have to worry about the British bombing our water-front 200 years ago (they’re celebrating the bicentennial of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and the War of 1812).


Light rail in Baltimore

Steve Stanford, PLANTZ

I rode the light rail from the airport to the convention center. It was clean, effective, and got me here safely.The most interesting thing…I bought a ticket but they never took it. I asked a fellow rider and he told me that it’s sort of ‘honor’ system and they only occasionally checked riders for tickets. At the convention center now…more to come.

And they’re off! 2012 Benchmarking Visit starts today in Baltimore

Chamber Chair Chuck Black gives opening remarks at the 2012 Benchmarking Visit to Baltimore, Maryland


Today marks the first day of the Chamber’s Annual Benchmarking Visit, this year’s destination is Baltimore, Maryland.  Over the course of the next 3 days – attendees will hear from elected officials and representatives from Johns Hopkins University, Ft. Meade, Camden Yards and other key institutions in the Baltimore area.

Benchmarking provides an opportunity for us to apply best practices of other regions to our local efforts. Stay tuned to the Chamber blog for updates throughout the trip.