Momentum is building for a strategic alliance between Orlando and Tampa that would take the best from both areas and use it to bring businesses to the region, on a national level, and form partnerships between entities like educational institutions, on an area level.
Brian Lamb, regional president of Fifth Third Bank, board member of the Central Florida Partnership and past chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership was in Orlando all day Tuesday with Rick Homans, the new president of the Tampa Bay Partnership, discussing with elected and appointed officials how Orlando and Tampa can and should align themselves.
"It starts with building relationships, and that's what today has been all about," Homans said.
The men stopped by GrowthSpotter to discuss their ideas for a "super region," which right now involves better cooperation on education, transportation and workforce development.
"We compete regionally and we compete nationally," Lamb said. "So when you get outside of our market and you talk about the top 20 markets in the country, and you talk about the types of companies and investment that we want to have in Florida, they are not looking at individual cities anymore. Talent is not looking at individual cities anymore. If we are going to compete nationally and globally, we have to market ourselves and build a brand around the Super Region."
Lamb and Homans pointed out that the Tampa/Orlando region has the tenth biggest economy of any other area in the US. By combining ideas, resources and that economic clout, out-of-state companies could make a case for relocating to the region, the men said.
And area resources, like universities and hospitals, would be stronger if they allied themselves, the men said. That's especially true as the region seeks to attract young workers and college graduates with degrees in the tech industry.
"The concentration of degrees of strategic emphasis that are coming out of the I-4 corridor are as strong as they've ever been around STEM," Lamb said. "The trajectory and the sheer number of graduates that are staying around the I-4 corridor after they graduate is becoming, and will likely become over a 5-10 year period, a competitive advantage for the Super Region. And that is something that we've got to do a better job of making sure we're telling that story and also capitalize on that talent."
Joining forces makes sense politically, as well. Central Florida Partnership President Jacob Stuart said he and Homans are already making plans to travel together to Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to lobby state and congressional leaders on behalf of the 8.4 million residents in the two MSAs.
"Why are we doing this? We're doing this to better secure our shared future," Stuart said. His organization's latest direct mail piece features a skyline shot of downtown Tampa at sunset and touts the new alliance. Stuart called the piece "a tangible welcome" to Homans.
The notion of a "super region" is not new. There are 33 other areas around the country that have teamed up to further their similar interests. The Northern California alliance, for instance, says it strives "to identify common transportation, growth and land use issues and to formulate unified strategies."
Lamb and Homans, who was marking his second week as president of the Tampa Bay Partnership, hinted Tuesday that an announcement of some magnitude was imminent, but declined to provide any substantive information about it.
They did say they would prefer the alliance work on a handful of projects together to many because of the unwieldiness that could create. "We believe there's got to be a small number of issues where we can connect the two regions together and be even more competitive on a global basis, and I think that's what it really comes down to," Homans said.
And being a super region did not mean the two areas would not try to outdo each other in certain instances. Homans said the Tampa Bay leaders can learn from Central Florida's success in developing a rail network. Both Hillsborough and Pinellas county voters have rejected measures that would have included rail systems.
"There's so much we can learn from each other in transportation - that's a huge issue in Tampa Bay, and we are many lengths behind Central Florida on that front," Homans said. "We've got to learn from what you all have done here and where's you're headed one day."