Tampa Bay, depressed, now distressed — and what we can do about it

in Uncategorized by

By now many of you have heard that Tampa Bay is now categorized across the country as the most financially distressed “city” as reported by the nonprofit credit counseling agency CredAbility.

This news comes just on the heels of St. Petersburg being labeled the saddest city in America by Men’s Health Magazine.

Well, on behalf of the entire Bay area, let me personally thank you CredAbility and Men’s Health for your dark cloud of unhappiness that you have so frivolously spread around our community.

In a recent interview with St. Petersburg local and author of “For the Love of Cities,” Peter Kageyama, he recommended that the city embrace its inner sadness and host a sad fest. Personally, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to the gloom that others have bestowed upon us.

You locals know how St. Petersburg loves a good excuse to throw a party! Let’s bring out our sad art, sad entertainment, gloomy food and tell America what we think of their little boxes of defeat they would like to pile us into based on data that seemed important to them.

Yes, there is no doubt that our local economy has been hit harder than most. Many families are struggling; more children in our community are experiencing unstable housing and food insecurity. Jobs are still too hard to come by for too many unemployed and underemployed people, and the housing market is awful and almost seems stuck there. We know all about it. We live here.

Some data to support our distress

CredAbility compiled and broke out the details for us, though. No need for mere anecdotal evidence from your neighbors and friends. Here are the facts: Out of the top 25 metros, Tampa Bay was, indeed, listed by CredAbility as the most financially distressed, and it was the only major “city” in the lowest category of “Emergency Crisis.” By comparison, Detroit was listed as the second most distressed city, and it was listed one category up as “Distressed Unstable.”

As reported yesterday in the Tampa Bay Times:

Mark Cole, CredAbility’s chief operating officer and publisher of the distressed index, said Tampa Bay’s lagging recovery is across the board. But the biggest obstacles to its financial health are the ongoing housing crisis and still-high unemployment.

“Those two are really the big anchors that weigh you down compared to everybody else,” Cole said. “Over a five-year period, you guys have had some really difficult times there.”

Housing was the single biggest drag on performance, with mortgage delinquencies in Tampa Bay and Miami (No. 3 on the Distress Index) both running higher than any other region.

Unemployment in the region has dropped from its peak of 12.5 percent. However, add in part-time workers seeking full-time jobs and workers who have temporarily stopped a job search, and the bay area’s jobless rate is relatively stagnant at 17.5 percent, Cole said.

An “emergency crisis level,” Cole said, refers to a tipping point when households struggle to pay for their basic needs like food and housing. From a community standpoint, it’s reflected in more homeless and more people seeking social services.

The most encouraging news for Tampa Bay is that many are doing a better job than expected in this environment at handling their household budgets and keeping credit intact, Cole said. 

Plea for sports community to find sympathy for distressed Tampa Bay

There might be one singular positive to this newsbreak, however. Maybe the country will have more sympathy for the poor Tampa Bay citizens when they don’t fill the stadiums for local sporting events?

As reported by the Pewter Plank yesterday, “The national perception of the Tampa sports fan is not kind. And the first place the criticism goes is the empty stadiums. […] No, the perception of the Tampa sports fan is that they are a privileged bunch of beach-dwellers who don’t deserve their professional sports teams.”

Then the article goes on to state, “It’s time for people to start calling the national pundits on their BS. Tampa is not a bad sports city, it doesn’t have bad fans and the criticism has become downright unfair. Everybody is more than willing to excuse Detroit, but Tampa doesn’t get a pass because people romanticize the beach more than the great lakes? Tampa is a city in crisis, but make no mistake about it, they love their sports teams. When the money is there, so too are the fans. But money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Well, thanks for your understanding, sports fans.

Via Daphne Taylor Street. You can reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.