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Tampa Bay Partnership lays out goals in advance of Legislative Session

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Among the many duties that Rick Homans has had since becoming CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership two months ago, was crafting an agenda to lobby state lawmakers regarding major infrastructure projects he says would enhance the Tampa Bay area overall, and not the eight individual counties that comprise the Tampa Bay area.

Friday afternoon the organization made that public, and it’s extensive.

The list includes:

A $22.5 million appropriation request to construct the new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Heart Health Institute in Downtown Tampa.

Funding to construct and equip the Tampa Bay Business Incubator in Downtown St. Petersburg.

And funding to further develop Tampa Bay’s world class athletic and sports performance assets, including the Benderson Rowing Facility in Sarasota County and IMG Academy in Manatee County.

Additionally, they want funding for phase one of the Tampa Bay Express project, for  a Tampa Bay “premium transit” option study that would be conducted by HART, corridor improvements along State Roads 54 and 56, and interchange improvements at I-75/University Blvd.

The Partnership is also fully buying into many of Gov. Rick Scott‘s tax-cutting proposals, such as putting more money into the Florida Enterprise Fund, making permanent sales tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment, and legislation reducing sales and use tax on commercial leases.

Homans said it was critical to put together such an agenda for this upcoming session, and he said it happened in an accelerated fashion. “It should take almost a year to build a consensus to build projects.”

On Feb. 16 and 17 the Partnership is taking a group of about 20 high-profile officials to Tallahassee – including Bob Buckhorn, Rick Kriseman, Joe Lopano, Judy Genshaft and others – to lobby state lawmakers to fund those projects.

Immediately after he was picked the Partnership’s CEO in October, Homans told the Tampa Bay Times Robert Trigaux  “There is a giant vacuum in Tampa Bay when it comes to uniting the business and political leadership in an effective way.”

When asked Friday to elaborate, Homans mentioned how Lopano and his team at Tampa International Airport have been able to get buy-in from the entire Tampa Bay area community, whether it’s advocating for flights or for their massive new master plan.

“When they go after a new destination (for direct flights), the way they do it is like ‘Moneyball,’ ” he said, referring to the 2003 Michael Lewis bestseller. “They built the argument from data from the region that shows these airlines that we are a big market, and that we’re not just Tampa or Hillsborough County or St. Petersburg or Pinellas. We are Tampa Bay or Western Florida, and here’s the market that you can tap. That’s what’s made a difference.”

Homans said the people at TIA have used the market’s power to drive the expansion of their business, and he sees that as a template that other major assets can use.

“Let’s identify the key assets that are critical for our success,” mentioning USF, the airport and Port of Tampa, the urban cores of Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota, the beaches, and the professional sports franchises.

The Partnership represents eight counties – Hillsborough, Sarasota, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Manatee, Citrus and Hernando. Homans says that means that the organization, which is about 120 businesses throughout the region, is all about working on projects that can enhance the economic life of the entire Tampa Bay area region.

In 2010 the Partnership, under the leadership of former CEO Stuart Rogels, became the leading agency to advocate for the 1-cent sales transportation tax referendum that ultimately failed miserably at the polls.

When asked whether the organization will play a similar role should such a measure be on the ballot (which may be determined by next month), Homans played his cards close to the vest.

“The big question for us as an organization is whatever happens of regional significance?” he said. “Does it have regional connectivity? Does it help to advance the idea and the realty of a regional transit system? That’s the filter. That’s the prism through which we will envision any initiative that comes to us is to ask that question, and to be very rigorous in our asking and our answering of that question.”

The Partnership’s board will discuss transportation at their next board meeting, scheduled Jan. 22.

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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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