The arms race for HQ2 is in full swing. Cities across the country submitted proposals to Amazon for their second headquarters site, a $5 billion project that could employ up to 50,000 people at an average annual wage of more than $100,000. St. Pete/Tampa’s approach? There is power in numbers. The counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough, and the cities, St. Petersburg and Tampa, have come together as a region, harnessing the collective power of their respective economic development corporations to make a major bid for one of the largest economic opportunities in the country.
But how does Tampa Bay stack up against the rest of the country? That depends who you ask. Tampa Bay’s location – on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a major benefit, writes Forbes contributor, Adam Millsap. Florida’s business climate is tough to beat, Millsap argues, “Florida performs well on measures of state economic freedom, state business tax climate, and state fiscal health.” Tampa Bay’s work force may not be the most impressive in the country, but Millsap argues that those whose workforces are more qualified may have stronger disadvantages, “The workforces of the San Francisco, Boston, or New York City metro areas may have an edge on Tampa’s, but they are in three of the highest tax, least economically free, and least financially responsible states in the country.”
While some might say our location is key, it also bodes for a logistics problem. According to an article by the Tampa Bay Times, “The biggest hurdle facing the Tampa Bay region may be the lack of a regional transportation system, which other metropolitan areas in the running already have.” The region, bridging mainland and peninsular land masses, poses serious transportation challenges that may make wooing such a massive company very difficult.
Despite the setbacks, According to Craig Richard, president and CEO of Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Tampa Bay’s outlook remains positive, especially to local leaders. “Tampa Bay has the talent, quality of life, lower business costs and affordability that would make it an ideal place for Amazon’s HQ2,” Richard said. “We tick all the boxes Amazon requires for its new HQ2 home: pro-business public sector leadership, a rich supply of talent and the ability to attract more of it, a diverse, welcoming and tolerant community, excellent airport, and unbeatable quality of life. The best part about it is that all of these assets are found in a place that is much more affordable than other major markets Amazon may be looking at.” Time will tell if Tampa Bay makes the short list for HQ2, but in the meantime, this regional partnership could signal the start of great things for the Tampa Bay area.