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Tampa officials discuss their business and cultural trip to Ireland

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Last December, Forbes magazine called Ireland the fourth best nation in the world to do business in, based on 11 different factors — property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance.

The island’s low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent has led many American corporations to flee the U.S. to conduct business there, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the U.S. needs to do more to make it more attractive to woo and keep corporations here in the states.

“I think anytime we can make the environment more competitive, we should,” the mayor said, citing how the Tampa Bay area has led the state in jobs created in two of the past four years due to a positive business culture. “Obviously, taxes are a part of that, so the less burdens we can put in the way, the better off we are.”

Buckhorn was part of a group of local officials led by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce that visited Dublin, Ireland, last week. The mayor also met with officials from Citigroup, which recently shifted its head office of its European retail banking operation to Dublin from London to benefit from lower costs and capital requirements.

Citi employs 5,000 people at its campus in Brandon. Along with Tampa businessman Chuck Sykes, Buckhorn said he visited with Citigroup officials in Dublin, which he hopes will help the Tampa Bay area ultimately when the company looks to expand. “I’m looking forward to more announcements coming out of Citi over the next couple of years for potential relocations that could be very, very significant for us.”

There was less talk about jobs, and more about the cultural, artistic, academic and education exchanges between the two (sister) cities at today’s press conference at the Chamber’s downtown headquarters.

The cities of Tampa and South Dublin signed what Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chairman Ronald Christaldi called “a historic” Memo of Understanding that will bring commerce and trade between the cities.

Since Buckhorn has become mayor, he and local business officials have traveled around the globe to attract businesses of some sort or another, including visits to Germany, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Israel and now Ireland.

“You don’t get business by email,” the mayor declared. “You get business by establishing personal relationships and going to places, and interacting and meeting with the decision makers in these various cities and starting that relationship that hopefully will lead to additional trade, additional cultural exchanges, additional business opportunities for both Tampanians and Floridians as well as for the business community of countries that we visit.”

Marca Bear, associate dean of international programs at the University of Tampa, said the trip offered her the opportunity (along with her USF colleague who did not appear at the press conference) to showcase the “academic corridor” between USF and UT.  She said UT has the opportunity through the Institute of International Education to provide scholarships to its students as part of a campaign to double the number of students studying abroad.

Bear said UT is one of 10 universities around the country to secure scholarship grants to send students overseas.

“We will continue to do this as long as I’m the mayor, ” Buckhorn said regarding overseas trips. “We’re going to go tell Tampa’s story across the globe, and over time we will reap the benefits of that story and of the personal relationships.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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