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From 83 Degrees Magazine - Tampa Bay's new media sensation covering the talent, innovation, diversity and economic development of Tampa Bay from 83 Degrees in Tampa Bay.

A Tale of Two Clusters

St Pete’s economic development strategy has an odd and uninvited advocate, BP, courtesy of the worst oil spill in American history.

Before the disaster we media types, those loyal and lazy, spent much time hyping the city’s marine industry describing it as growing. I think we had dozens of people employed in the marine field. The spill brought international attention to the USF Marine Science and Ocean Operations. Since there is nothing Florida economic developers like more the attention it was immediately declared a cluster.

Now that USF St Pete has landed in the spotlight the clustering can begin with gutso. This is a unique and interesting as well as promising cluster.

Let us now look across the bay to Tampa, which in my mind is the center of the Bay and our only important city.

The city of Tamp and Hillsborough County Government are trying to persuade Jackson Labs, a genetic research firm in Maine to overlook the obvious choice in Collier County, to ignore all that opportunity and synergy in Orlando, to instead expand here. We already declare ourselves a biotech cluster with USF offering classes on the subject and South Tampa offering a unique living laboratory into genetic and social inbreeding.

This cluster effort is not just trying to get a few companies to move here like we have been failing to achieve forever. No, it is much more then that, It is a whole new way of selling ourselves to those companies that also simultaneously promotes happy fell good stories of exaggerated even concocted local business opportunities. See the difference?

This is a story about St Pete ad Tampa, out metro’s two biggest cities and their individual delayed quests to do something vague and press worthy about the economy, all in the name of justifying their salaries. The goal here is to use local companies’ accomplishments to attract out of state workers and companies with impressive names that matter to us, and then quickly go back to ignoring the local business people.

But will it work?

Building and sustaining an industry cluster is complicated work, it involves state, regional and city level economic development commitment. It requires sales skills, some one expert in the ways of media marketing and workforce development. It requires tax breaks, exorbitant salaries and close political ties from the old boy network. It requires an economic development boss for all of Tampa Bay, one overlord of economic development, a dynamic executive with an unblinking eye to rule them all.

One economic developer to rule them all, one economic developer to find them, one economic developer to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

In the end it can not be about the actual businesses within the clusters, it must be about the economic development groups and government bodies. As a firmly Republican state from dog catcher to Governor, we know that true economic development and business leadership, the strength of capitalism and the free market itself flows directly from the government bureaucracy outward to the little people.

Lets take a quick tour of the two cities and their clustering strategies:

Saint Petersburg

The city has had meetings, even catered meetings with cocktail service to raise awareness and government involvement. The next cocktail infused buzzword beauty pageant will be in March. The St Pete chamber has subjected itself to the will of the Tampa Bay Partnership by accepting one of their executives as their regent while they are slowly absorbed into the moral ineptitude of the Partnership. That is good clustering abnd long vision. The Partnership has already overrun the Leadership St Pete Alumni Association, absorbing its strength into its own with no plans to use it.


The call center of the Americas, lap dance capital of the world, and the big guava is making news.

The Tampa Economic Development Council is now separate from the Chamber of Commerce making the chamber irrelevant an joke without authority or purpose. Seeking someone to guide and think for the them the EDC has made themselves the subordinates of the convention and visitors bureau (renamed misleadingly as Tampa Bay & CO.). Now with the CVB pulling the strings a new cluster focus has emerged, tourism and sports, the same idiotic mantra that destroyed the Florida economy. Efforts are underway to redefine tourism as economic development and to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into stadiums and making the government the servant of sports franchises.

These all are good clustering steps. We need to grind down these known economic development groups to establish the one true ED group to rule the region. There can be no contenders to the throne, there can be only one.

So where are we? We are competing with Orlando for Biotech, we are competing with a lot of successful established clusters around the country. That is to be expected. When you copy an idea someone smarter then you finished years ago there is no way to avoid competing. So naysayers have no point on that.

From 83 Degrees Magazine - Tampa Bay's new media sensation covering the talent, innovation, diversity and economic development of Tampa Bay from 83 Degrees in Tampa