LT’19 Media Day

newsChange. Challenge. Chance.

These three, alliterative words came to light as descriptors of today’s media landscape on Wednesday, Nov. 28 as LT’19 delved into its annual Media Day.

In terms of change, we learned technology has drastically increased the speed of communications. More traditional media outlets – print, TV, and radio – have been forced to rethink their business models and approach. In turn, today’s media is faced with a unique challenge: how to balance providing instant access to information while ensuring credible, high-caliber reporting, all while keeping up with the demands of changing consumer behavior and a now around-the-clock news cycle. Despite the push and pull of this change and challenge, the hope for chance was palpable. Now, more than ever, media outlets are needed to provide vetted coverage; and locally, to supply the demand for locally-relevant news reporting. As the media landscape continues to evolve, outlets expressed the opportunity to reinvent through the strategic building of capacity and capability and the creative expansion of distribution channels.

We made these observations as our class traveled across the Tampa Bay area and visited some local media mainstays, including: iHeart Media Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Times, and WFLA-TV. Following are some highlights of what we learned at each of our stops:

iHeart Media Tampa Bay

  • Consists of 10 stations, 30 production studios, and 145 full/part-time employees across six departments
  • Designated Market Area (DMA) = 2 million+ in the Tampa Bay area
  • WFLZ-FM, a flagship station of iHeart Tampa Bay, is one of the top radio stations in the nation
  • As a brand, has evolved from being a radio company to the largest multimedia company in the U.S.

Tampa Bay Times Printing Plant

  • Boasts the largest newsroom in the Tampa Bay area
  • Every day, delivers hundreds of thousands of newspapers to homes and businesses in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando Counties
  • “The Daily Miracle” = phrase used by the Tampa Bay Times to describe the process of publishing the newspaper every day
  • Vice President/Tampa Publisher and Publisher Joe DeLuca shared that the most important thing for the Tampa Bay Times to demonstrate is that “power flows in the direction of hope”


  • Goal = To put on a newscast that accurately reflects life in Tampa Bay
  • Has shifted its focus from strictly TV to multi-platform
  • Boosts its news content on social media to aid immediacy

Throughout the day, we had the privilege of hearing from many esteemed speakers; especially of note was LT’03’s Ernest Hooper from the Tampa Bay Times. He imparted wisdom on how and why to “dig a well before you’re thirsty”; in other words, how to effectively plan for a communications crisis in today’s ever-changing media landscape. He may or may not have also shared some breaking news. That’s all we’re saying!

To all sponsors, speakers, tour leaders, Media Day chairs and committee members, and LT leaders and staff, thank you for making this opportunity possible.

Jennifer Dunn, APR, Conversa


LT’19 Education Day

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to the think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – MLK, Jr.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats


We saw fire!  Yeats was right. It was a lighting of fires! It’s quite possible that our own fires regarding the power of education were (re)lit as well.  In fact, our own fires ignited an appreciation for those who serve in the education sector, often at a high cost of personal sacrifice and delayed return on investment. To see the fire in their eyes – both the teacher and the student, passion in their hearts, and conviction in their communication was enough to convince us that maybe the sacrifice wasn’t as much as a sacrifice as it appears and the thirst for a return on investment was quenched enough to keep them going back for more. The day’s evidence was a confirmation of what many of us experienced individually during our Teacher Shadowing days that had been completed on the weeks prior to Education Day.

For ten intense hours, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2019 was immersed in the power of education, the local opportunities that are available for many, the challenges that our region has regarding education, and the very honest dialogue about the solutions that make improvement possible.

The timing and subject matter could not have been timed more perfectly for Hillsborough County (and this region) since it was the day after mid-term elections and the historic vote for a school referendum, which passed convincingly.  The passing of this referendum sent a clear message to all onlookers that education is a priority for our area and everyone has bought into the vision to improve our public educational system.

With a limited schedule, LT’19 was privileged to experience multiple area educational options: private educational options (Academy Prep of Tampa and Cristo Rey Tampa High School), public high school options (with emphasis on magnet opportunities at Blake High School’s Theatre and Arts Program and Chamberlain High School’s Culinary Arts Program), and finally, post-secondary options at Hillsborough Community College. While touring Academy Prep, the passion and drive of Mr. Lincoln Tamayo, Principal of Academy Prep, was undeniable.  His fire fuels his staff which impacts his students in a significant way.  The professionalism and brilliance of the students was unmistakable. It was clear that he is not just interested in providing a quality academic education, but a broadened intellectual lifestyle opportunity.  This became clearer throughout the day as we engaged with more educational professionals. They all recognized the importance of a quality, holistic development of each student.

While we did not have an opportunity on this day to tour University of South Florida and University of Tampa, previous days and opportunities have allowed these nationally recognized colleges’ impact to be felt. Time would not allow us an opportunity for a dive into approaches and options for pre-K, kindergarten and middle school for public schools. Not visiting any of these schools did not mean that we did not have an opportunity to hear about the options surrounding them. Our superintendent spoke very adeptly about their impact, potential, and challenges.

It was really our treat to personally engage with speakers and presenters with emphasis on both our school Superintendent, Jeff Eakins, and a group of Blake High School students who provided amazing musical and theatre presentations.  The principals and magnet administrative teams of both Blake High School and Chamberlain High School took time to share about their programs, schools, school history, and future opportunities.  Their fire was unquestionable.  As a part of the day, we were treated to an amazing lunch by the culinary program students at Chamberlain in their Outback sponsored facility – on campus! The students did an amazing job! If they were on Yelp or OpenTable, I’m sure they would have earned a 5-star review.

Superintendent Eakins talked about all levels of our public schools, the recently passed referendum, current statistics on graduation rates, literacy rates, achievement zone schools, teacher salaries and retention, and so much more.  It was also very insightful to have him frame the progress of the school system from a historical context, which at times has not had a positive history for all individuals within our community. It was not difficult to engage in this dialogue and these educational options while seeing some of the glaring challenges that our educational system faces. A very pointed statement from the superintendent that provided fruitful dialogue was, “Although our schools have glaring achievement gaps, achievement gaps aren’t created in our schools. There are so many ‘outside’ issues that affect what happens in our schools.”

As we concluded our time learning about the public school system one of the last statements made was, “Education is clearly an economic driver in our community.”  This statement, in my mind, should have cleared up why a group like Leadership Tampa should be concerned about education and all of the challenges that our current educational system faces. When all students are empowered with a great education, the entire community wins.

This statement was a great transition for us moving into the last component of the day where we were introduced to the strong academic partnerships between our academic institutions and our economic development organizations.  Ms. Bea Bare of Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation led us in a mock presentation of gaining (recruiting) new companies to the area. Representatives from USAA, University of South Florida, University of Tampa, and Hillsborough Community College were a part of this panel mock presentation.  It was an incredibly informative demonstration to see the layers of collaboration necessary to see our community win.

HCC staff then gave us presentations and a tour of several amazing departments who are on the front lines of quickly training our workforce to meet the demands of area businesses and the needs of our community.  Those departments included Auto/Mechanic, Diesel Repair, Fire Academy, Paint and Body/Collision, and Welding (it was interesting to note the emphasis on transportation among these programs). The fire and engagement of each instructor was not only clear, but inspiring.  A fire academy instructor who served 35 years active duty as a fire fighter, a diesel repair instructor who drove trucks for decades, a paint and body instructor who served in the industry for over thirty years, a welding instructor who had an award-winning show in Japan. You could also sense the appreciation and respect of the students towards their instructors. These students, who are adults, were treated with dignity and honor for their unique stories, but most importantly, who they were becoming. Mr. John Meeks, Dean of HCC Workforce Training Center aptly shared, “college is for everybody, we just need to find out which track and program.” After some question and answer, he concluded his presentation with this idea, “You either skill your workforce or you grow them.  We believe we can do both.”

Every person on the planet has been impacted by a teacher. In some way, our unique educational experiences have deeply shaped who we are and how we think.  It has played a role in developing our personal convictions, individual self-concept and confidence, as well as, our created space for incredible relationships and indescribable life moments. The quote of the day summarizes our day, “Our schools are incubators of the next generation of leaders.” The activity, research and history prove this statement true. I hope that the horizon of the future is lit by the fires of Tampa’s educational influence and power.

Author: Christopher J. Harris

LT’19 Arts & Culture Day

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain a child when we grow up.”- Pablo Picasso

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde


On October 24, 2018, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2019 spent the day traveling to various sites throughout the city of Tampa that highlighted some of the many wonderful places where all aspects of the arts are celebrated and shared. We started the day at the University of South Florida Institute for Research in Art Graphic Studio located on the USF campus and part of the Tampa area for over 50 years. Professor and Director, Margaret A. Miller shared with us the history of this wonderful studio and some of the original works from the many leading contemporary artists from around the world who contributed the magnificent collection featured at the studio. We also took a tour of the studio where we were treated to a demonstration of printmaking techniques that have been used by the various contributing artists who visited the studio.

Next up on the agenda was a tour through the Henry B. Plant Museum located on the University of Tampa campus. We were greeted by the Executive Director, Cynthia Gandee Zinober (LT’01) who shared a brief history of the museum and the important impact Henry Plant had on the Tampa community when he built this Tampa Bay Hotel back in 1891. An extra special treat was a performance by local actor Amber Forbes who is part of the Upstairs/Downstairs cast that performs every Sunday at the museum. Amber portrayed Maggie Stroud who was a laundress at the hotel in 1920. She shared with us wonderful memories of what life was like back then at the hotel and in the Tampa area.

After her moving performance, we took a ride over to the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Arts where Julie Britton (LT’ 97), Vice President of Development for the Center shared the great history and impact of the many performances that have occurred at the five theaters located there since it opened in 1987. She also shared with us the great impact the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center has on art education. We were given a tour of the facilities and parts of the Patel Conservatory. All of us were in awe when we stood on the stage and looked out into the magnificent performance spaces.

Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we arrived at the CI Group office located in downtown Tampa, where we were treated to delicious lunch and a lively discussion about Tampa’s Food Scene by Michael Blasco (LT’12), Tampa Bay Food Trucks, and Jeff Houck, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Columbia Restaurant Group. We learned about the impact of Tampa restaurants, the unique contribution of food trucks, and the best place to go for a great Cuban sandwich.

After lunch, we hopped on the bus again and headed down to Stageworks Theater, Tampa’s longest-running professional theatre company, since 1983. Karla Hartley, their Producing Artistic Director, spoke with us about the history of professional theater in Tampa and some of the challenges and joys that come with producing and performing “cutting-edge” plays in Tampa. In addition, Karla and two of the actors from their current production of The Revolutionists shared a moving scene from the production and one our classmates was fortunate to have his name drawn for two free tickets to see the rest of the performance.

Our final stop for the day was the Historical Tampa Theatre. President and CEO, Josh Bell, shared with us the great history of this 1,250 seat movie palace that was built in 1926. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and continues to host many great performances and films. As a part of our time at the theatre, we attended a Film Festival Panel Discussion consisting of Tammy Briant (LT’14), Gasparilla Film Festival, Ed Lally, Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and Sara Scher, Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival.  They all emphasized how film is a way for all of us to experience various cultures and communities via a theater seat. They shared with us the impact that these film festivals have on the Tampa community and how Tampa Theatre was one of the best places to explore the stories told through movies.

We visited and experienced so many aspects of the arts and culture in Tampa on this day but as Julie Serovich (LT’14) our LT’19 Class Chair shared that morning, we could probably “spend five days” on arts and culture in Tampa and still not even begin to see all our city has to offer. How fortunate we are to live in a city that not only values and supports the arts but has also supported artists who have contributed to art and culture throughout the global community.

LT’ 19 expresses our sincere thanks to our Arts and Culture Day Sponsor: Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen and our Day Chairs: Jeff Gibson (LT’13), Partner, Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen and Jim Porter (LT’99 & LT’15 Chair), Partner, Akerman LLP.  Thank you for providing such a delightful experience for our class.

Jeanine Romano, AACSB International

LT’19 Law Enforcement Day

Jennifer Suarez Jankes, Citigroup

On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, fresh off the back of individual ride-a-longs with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa Police Department, LT ’19 set off on Law Enforcement Day during the early morning hour of sunrise.  First stop was Orient Road Jail.  Upon arrival, LT’19 was greeted by the friendly faces of some of the top officers at HCSO and TPD, including one of the senior ranking female officers, Major Melissa Moore, who provided LT ’19 with interesting statistics and facts about the two local jails that service the entire Tampa Bay area – Orient Road Jail and Falkenburg Road Jail.  A few ofthe notable statistics Major Moore provided were the combined capacity of both jails at roughly 4000 and the deputy to inmate ratio under HSCO’s direct supervision model of 1:72 in the General Population.  Colonel Mike Perotti of HCSO’s Department of Detention Services provided an insightful overview of Orient Road Jail, its challenges, and the many programs and services it offers.  LT’19 learned that 80% of the inmates arrive with mental health issues and the Jail provides a robust variety of programs and services to inmates dealing with substance abuse, addiction, mental illness, and physical health issues.  In fact, the Jail spends a staggering $24 million dollars a year in healthcare for inmates. The care and humanity offered to the inmates was unexpected.

After touring the Jail and having a glimpse at the orderly intake, booking, and triage areas as well as the sterile living quarters of the General Population and Solitary Confinement, LT ’19 had the opportunity to lunch with top officials of HCSO and TPD, the two primary law enforcement agencies serving the Tampa Bay area who work closely with one another to protect our entire community.  The opportunity to gain a firsthand understanding of what our local law enforcement does on a daily basis to serve and protect the community along with the constant rials and tribulations they face were eye-opening.  The unwavering commitment and dedication of HCSO and TPD to serve our community was crystalized during LT’19’s ride-a-longs; the jail visit really drove home why they make the sacrifices they do and how deeply invested they are in caring for and protecting all of us.

Later that afternoon, LT ‘19 was whisked away to the TPD’s unassuming training facility.  Unbeknownst to LT’19, the group’s experience there was going to be anything but ordinary.  The visit began with a warm welcome from Chief Brian Dugan who shared an overview of TPD’s organization and remarkable facts like the $5 million dollars that is spent each year on police vehicles and the 72% reduction in crime last year.  Chief Dugan highlighted the Department’s key challenges and accomplishments, including the search for and events leading up to the arrest of the Seminole Heights serial killer.  Following a thought-provoking Q&A with the Chief, TPD introduced LT ’19 to several of the Department’s adrenaline-boosting training techniques.  The group was given rare, first-hand looks at the precision and care of TPD’s expert Training Team through Taser demonstrations, where several brave LT’19 members took part, tactical pursuit driving, simulator video scenarios, the K-9 Unit, the Horse-mounted Unit, and the Bomb Squad.

The action-packed day concluded with a group debriefing where the impact of LT ‘19’s shared experiences, realizations, and appreciation of our heroes at HCSO and TPD were emphatically expressed by the group.  LT’19 came away from the experience with newfound understanding of, respect for, and pride in the brave men and women who serve in our local law enforcement protecting our community in more ways than ever imagined.  A resonating theme that emerged was that HCSO and TPD are truly top notch in every aspect of their jobs.  LT ’19 is honored and privileged to have one of TPD’s very own, Major Ruben Delgado, among them.


Orient Road Jail Colonel Mike Perotti Q&A


Luncheon with HCSO/TPD

TPD Training Facility

TPB overview Chief Brian Dugan

ECD – Taser Demonstration

Simulator Video Scenario Training

Tactical Pursuit Driving

Static Displays – Bomb Squad, Mounted Police, K-9 Unit


LT’19 Community Outreach Day

Elena P. Ketchum, Stichter, Riedel, Blain & Postler,P.A.

“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank

Have you ever taken a moment and really considered your many blessings? Perhaps in these days of technological wonders that can easily consume our every waking minute – Facebook, Twitter, 24-hour news service, constant email contact both personally and professionally, the Internet as a whole – I know that I don’t raise my head as much as I should to appreciate my individual blessings or the depth and breadth of the needs of my community. After participating in Leadership Tampa’s Community Outreach Day, however, my eyes are refocused on the needs of our community and the many organizations that are constantly keeping their focus on a variety of community challenges.

Our Community Outreach Day began with Clara Reynolds, President and CEO of The Crisis Center, and Thomas Mantz, Executive Director of Feeding Tampa Bay, outlining in broad strokes the many social services offered in the Tampa Bay area.  Social services touch upon education, employment, housing, food, health, veterans, the elderly, the homeless population, children, and other vulnerable populations. Our Leadership Tampa Class of 2019 also learned about the poverty cycle and the manner in which those in our community can find themselves in that cycle for many years, if not their entire lives.  For those in need, effective and efficient access to social services is a necessity.  This is where Call 211 comes in.  “2-1-1 Professional Information and Referral Specialists work with callers to assess their needs, determine their options and provide appropriate programs/services, give support, intervene in crisis situations and advocate for the caller as needed.”

LT’19 thanks Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Mantz for giving of their time and talent to lay the necessary foundation for our class to understand the needs and challenges of those in our community.

With this invaluable foundation, members of LT’19 visited various community organizations to experience first-hand the work being performed by each of them on a number of fronts:

  • The Crisis Center Tampa Bay
  • Feeding Tampa Bay
  • I.C.H. Program
  • Sulphur Springs Community School
  • Tampa Police Department
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Frameworks of Tampa Bay
  • Junior Achievement BizTown
  • Dress of Success
  • DACCO Behavioral Health
  • Quantum Leap Farm
  • James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital
  • Quest, Inc.
  • Goodwill
  • YMCA Reads
  • Sulphur Springs YMCA
  • Metropolitan Ministries
  • Redefining Refuge
  • University Area Community Development Corporation

I visited the R.I.C.H. House in the morning, In the afternoon, I met with individuals working to combat human trafficking in our community.  Through both of these experiences, I once again appreciated the instrumental work being done in our community. The R.I.C.H. House is truly inspiring.  This organization, run by three officers with the Tampa Police Department, provides a safe haven for children living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.  Through the R.I.C.H. House, children are provided assistance with homework, access to educational materials, field trips, after school snacks and meals, arts and crafts, and a multitude of other activities.  In the words of Anne Frank, the R.I.C.H. House and the officers working there are not wasting a single moment to improve the lives of the children walking through its doors.  In fact, as a direct result of their efforts, more children are graduating from high school, enrolling in college and the military, and looking forward to a bright future.

Equally inspirational was the work being done by those on the frontlines of battling human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area. Learning the stories of the victims was particularly difficult but important to hear. It was important to learn that human trafficking does not only come in the form of sexual abuse but forced labor.  Most human trafficking victims are U.S. citizens with approximately 50% of the victims being trafficked by their parents. The victims are both girls and boys, with victims being as young as 9 years of age.  It was inspiring to meet those in law enforcement, the legal profession, and in the non-profit arena working to provide an escape and a path forward for the victims.

I know my classmates had equally moving experiences at the organizations they visited. One group experienced walking a mile each way to buy groceries.  Another group experienced a therapy exercise with therapy horses.  These experiences will not only stay with us but also motivate us to refocus our eyes on the needs of our community and use our time, talent, and treasures to shine a light on these issues.  Please visit these organizations’ websites and find one that speaks to you to volunteer your time, talent, and treasures.

Let us not wait another single moment to make our Tampa Bay community one that cares for all of its members. 

LT ’19 extends our sincere thanks to Sykes Enterprises for sponsoring Community Outreach Day.  A huge thank you to Amanda Uliano and her committee members – Melissa Silvest, Laura Frost, Kiana Wilson, Axah McCallah, Mark Segel, and Christopher Rogers – for organizing this extraordinary day and program!  A special thank you to Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa for providing the meeting space for the Community Outreach Day meetings.


LT’18 Sports Day

Emily Farkas, MacDill Air Force Base

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

As a member of the military, there is an unwritten, courteous rule that where ever you are stationed you cheer for the home team.  Thankfully, being stationed at MacDill Air Force Base makes it very easy to support the local Tampa Bay sports teams because what we learned during LT’18’s Sports Day is that the good plays extend beyond the ice, pitch, diamond, or field!

We started our day on the ice at Amalie Arena with LT’17 GOAT providing breakfast and a behind-the-scenes tour of Amalie Arena with Adam Lawson, Manager of Inside Sales and Nikki Gregory, Corporate Sales Manager. LT18 were “benched” for a rare photo opportunity in the players’ area and a fun picture with the Zamboni. After the tour, we received a warm welcome and sponsor remarks from Day Chair, Scott Garlick (LT’10), Senior Director, Managing Principal-Tampa Bay, Cushman and Wakefield, who certainly shared his passion for Sports Day. Next we were introduced and impressed by Jay Feaster, Vice President, Community Hockey Development, Tampa Bay Lightning. He presented the remarkable outreach and impact the Tampa Bay Lightning have on the community through their “Build the Thunder” and “Build the Thunder 2.0” programs, which is made possible by the Industry Growth Fund, a specific allocated fund built into the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement that allocates a portion of league revenues to community programs. Starting in 2015, Lightning Chairman and Governor, Jeff Vinik, committed a 5-yr, $6M plan to put hockey sticks in the hands of 100K youth, 500 sets of hockey gear with Physical Education programs, target 100 7th graders for gear/training, and finally create 10 Junior Varsity Hockey Teams. In 3yrs, it’s clear by the numbers that the Lightning will exceed their goals. Furthermore, “Build the Thunder 2.0” uses the physics of hockey to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) lessons in the schools. These programs as well as the numerous camps and clinics provided in the Tampa Bay community leave no doubt that the Lightning have a strong fan base to cheer them on during playoffs. Go Bolts!

Following Mr Feaster’s presentation, we received a brief on The Value of Sports Tourism from Rob Higgins, Executive Director, Tampa Bay Sports Commission and which he shared the economic impacts of bringing events like the NHL All-Star Event, the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, and the NFL’s Super Bowl to Tampa Bay. For example, the NHL All-Star Event had an increase in hotel reservations by 2K and private/commercial air travel by 60% & 18% respectively. Rob also highlighted that the event had over 5K media mentions that directly supported the overall economic impact of $16M.

Perhaps the best part of the Amalie Arena visit was the special guest appearance by Brian Bradley, Tampa Bay Lightning ’92-’98. His passion for the Lightning makes him the perfect community relations representative and makes you think he could still hit the ice for the playoffs! We even received a special edition, autographed copy of “25 Years of Thunder.”

Our next bus stop was Al Lang Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies pitch, across the bridge conveniently located in downtown St. Petersburg.  Lee Cohen, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President, Tampa Bay Rowdies, provided a welcome & tour of the facilities to include the pitch and ended at the Rowdies locker room. While we only had one LT classmate wearing a Rowdies shirt, all of us left with a generous Rowdies swag bag (including the new “Kick in the Grass” craft brew by Big Storm Brewery) that we could use to support our local #1-ranked USL team. Following the tour, Bill Edwards, Chairman, CEO and Governor, Tampa Bay Rowdies, shared a marketing video about the Rowdies program and shared his enthusiasm for his relatively new found love for soccer. The visit ended with Mr Cohen providing tickets to the next Rowdies match. Note: My young boys and their friends had a great time and enjoyed the access to the players at the end of the match!) Let’s Go Rowdies!

After the Rowdies, we headed down the street to Tropicana Field to visit the Tampa Bay Rays. We heard a State of the Rays brief from Brian Auld, President, Tampa Bay Rays; he spent a good deal of time discussing the pending move of the team to Ybor. We were provided a first-class baseball fare lunch and had the opportunity to watch an inning of the Rays vs. Texas Rangers game (Rays won!). We never left empty-handed all day…we left Tropicana Field with a bobble head and sunglasses.

Our final stop of the day was at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We started with a behind the scenes tour of the practice field, cafeteria and the team locker room. Next we heard from Atul Khosla, Chief Corporate Development and Brand Officer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, about the recent efforts to update the Bucs brand. A panel discussion continued on the brand discussion and allowed Q&A. The end of the day concluded with a debrief in the lobby of One Bucs Place to reflect on the days events and a generous swag bag.

While not mentioned enough during the day, all of the organizations we visited support the military and their families in a way I’ve never seen in 20 years of military service. Along with providing free tickets, youth camps, visits to the base with team members/coaches/cheerleaders, and more, It is easy to applaud these Tampa Bay home teams!

Special thanks to our sponsor for the day Cushman&Wakefield!


LT ’18 Tampa International Airport & Economic Development Day

Rachel Feinman, Florida-Israel Business Accelerator

As someone who recently transitioned to a career that is focused on shining a bright light on innovation with a goal of stimulating economic development, I can say that I was truly inspired and, frankly, a little surprised by the creative ingenuity fueling the current pace of economic development in our awesome town.  It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, but creativity and a little chutzpah (look it up, people) are needed to stand out.

Tampa International Airport

We began Economic Development Day at Tampa International Airport or TPA (just never TIA or so we were told), and it was the perfect place to start. This particular Wednesday morning, the airport was bustling with all kinds of travelers. At a glance, it was clear there were tourists, business travelers, locals, tourists, foreigners, you name it, they were buzzing around TPA that morning.

We were shuttled through the airport hubbub and into the TPA conference room.  We were welcomed by some of the airport’s executive team, Kenneth Strickland (Director of Air Service Development and Research) and Al Illustrato (Executive Vice President of Facilities and Administration).

Al began his remarks with a video produced by the airport back in the 1960s, which revealed that our airport has been innovative and thinking creatively about how to improve the traveler experience at the airport for the past 80 some odd years.  Apparently, TPA was the first airport to implement the hub and spoke model and use the automatic people mover—both of which minimize the amount of time travelers need to walk with luggage and all from terminal to gate.  Al also unveiled details of the airport’s Master Plan, which is currently beginning Phase 2- the gateway development area and curbside expansion.  Phase 1 was the construction of the rental car center and updating the concessions within the terminal and airsides.  The focus with concessions was to include local restaurateurs—what a great way to showcase the best and brightest of our emerging culinary superstars.  Phase 3 will involve a new 16 gate airside that will accommodate the increasing amount of international travel to and from TPA.

As a Tampa native, I have always been impressed by how much better our airport is than EVERY other airport I have ever travelled to or through. There is no better indicator of this than the fact that 9 out of 10 times my checked luggage is looping around the conveyer belt before I even get to baggage claim. I was interested to learn that the baggage handlers are not TPA employees and are managed by the individual carriers rather than the airport.  How do they achieve such consistency and results across all the different airlines?  Well, a pizza party, of course!  TPA management understands that it is their responsibility to create the overall experience for the travelers coming through the airport.  For this reason, they motivate baggage handlers, TSA employees and other groups of individuals with awards, rewards and a healthy sense of competition.  Creative AND effective.

For Ken Strickland, it is clearly all about Big Data.  TPA is in lock step with many other industries in expanding its use of and reliance on data to achieve its goals.  Again, super innovative in the way they leverage this data to identify and recruit additional flights out of TPA is really cool.  I was particularly impressed to hear that we are successful in encouraging airlines to try new flights at TPA because our cost to operate for the carriers is much less expensive compared to other similarly situated airports.

We next went on a tour of TPA with a focus on the results of Phase 1 of the Master Plan—the Rental Car Center.  The space was well-designed, wonderfully lit and full of beautiful public art.  A key aspect of the Rental Car Center is the SkyConnect train, which can effectively transport passengers to and from the terminal.  We saw behind the scenes and heard directly from the TPA and Mitsubishi team members how they service and maintain these vehicles.  The airport is on the cutting edge of transportation in our market. They have the tracks and the plans waiting for integrated rail into the airport—it is just up to the rest of us to catch up!

Armature Works—The Heights

Sometimes innovation isn’t always about what is new and shiny.  Sometimes, it is about seeing opportunity in the old.  The team at Soho Capital quietly amassed a parcel of land approximately 50 acres along Hillsborough River for redevelopment.  The cornerstone of this redevelopment is Armature Works, which long sat abandoned and was previously slated for demolition on more than one occasion.  Thankfully for all of us, the Soho Capital team had the vision to reinvent this incredible space, tell the story of its history and reinvent it into something beautiful and useful.  The first part of this project to open to the Tampa public is the Heights Public Market, where we were fortunate to have lunch sitting outside along the Hillsborough River on a breezy and sunny March day.  It was one of those days that makes you feel almost guilty you get to live in such a beautiful place.  We dined on our choice of ramen, sushi burritos, house made barbeque, artisan pizza, and more.


After lunch we wondered over to Beck to hear from some of the leaders in the redevelopment of the Hillsborough River.  Speaking of creativity, the leaders of Beck were the true trailblazers in recognizing the potential of the Heights.  Mark House and his team built their space long before there were food halls, collective eateries, waterfront parks, craft breweries and art fairs abounding.

Adam Harden, Principal of Soho Capital, spoke to us in more detail about the vision for the Heights project and some of the trials and tribulations of completing a project as ambitious as the renovation and reinvention of the Armature Works.  His story about preserving the history was most impactful to me—it is important to keep in mind that sometimes development means honoring the past, not just building the new.

We were also fortunate to hear from Leroy Moore, Senior VP and COO for Tampa Housing Authority.   Mr. Moore reminded us that the Heights area has long been home to most.

Bob McDonough, Economic opportunity Administrator, City of Tampa, spoke with us briefly about the Mayor’s continued vision to make the river the center of the city.  The soon to open Julien B. Lane park is a true example of this vision and an amazing way to activate the other side of the river.

Hall on Franklin

It was a true pleasure to spend time at The Hall on Franklin for a coffee pick-me-up and an informal conversation with its ingenious founder, Jamal Wilson.  Jamal’s self-effacing style was genuine, but he is clearly an up and coming powerhouse in the Tampa dining scene.  Again, his combination of ingenuity and a new outlook resulted in what he claims is the first full service food hall in the country.  It makes perfect sense—all of the dining options you would want with waiter service to boot!  If only he can secure that pizza concept he claims is still missing from the Hall.  It will be a pleasure to watch his success as the concept undoubtedly expands to other regions.

Tampa Bay Rays 2020

We ended the day back at the Chamber offices for an engaging presentation by Ron Christaldi, Partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.  He, together with Chuck Sykes, President and CEO of Sykes Enterprises, is taking the lead on engaging the private business community in an effort to secure funding and support for the new Tampa Bay Rays stadium.  Acknowledging the Tampa community’s limited tolerance for spending public dollars on the stadium development, the leaders of the Rays 2020 initiative are using innovative techniques to galvanize community support and build funds.  The Rays stadium will be transformative for the Ybor City neighborhood, and the design will be iconic and groundbreaking.

While it is true that we are still a town focused on economic development of the real estate variety, it was encouraging to see that an innovative spirit and risk-taking approach pervades this town’s most recent flurry of economic development.  I see big things for the future of Tampa Bay!