As assistant city manager and community development manager of the City of Miami Beach, Stuart Rogel helped oversee the revitalization of much of that now-burgeoning community. For the past nine years, Rogel has been the president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, the 10-year-old organization formed to market a seven-county, 4,200-square-mile area that includes Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Hernando and Polk counties.
For Manatee and Sarasota, that collaboration has flowered into the South Tampa Bay initiative, with the economic development councils of both counties marketing themselves nationally under that name (with their Web site, :www.southtampabay.org) and pursuing joint policy initiatives in Tallahassee.
"They were the first counties to approach us," says Rogel. "They've always understood the value of working together as part of a larger region.
What's the biggest change in the Tampa Bay Partnership region's economy in the past decade?
The fact that we've grown so rapidly. Part of that is fueled by people migrating to Florida; the other part is increasing economic diversity. The Tampa Bay region, more than some others in Florida, has seen this diversity with manufacturing, business and financial services. We've started to see a bit of growth in biotechnology areas also, and electrical and semi conductors. Because of our geographical location on the west coast of Florida, we're also growing in the area of distribution support.
What do Manatee and Sarasota Counties offer economically that would benefit the rest of the Partnership?
Quality of life. Very positive business climate. Availability of land for the kind of businesses that are attracted to the region. Strong support for the university system. They are just great places to live and work.
How does being combined with its larger cousins to the north benefit Sarasota and Manatee counties when marketing this area to investors elsewhere?
There are 3.6 million people in this marketplace, and there is strength in those numbers. We can leverage all the assets that make up the Tampa Bay region and tell a bigger story. The fact that Sarasota and Manatee counties have rebranded themselves as South Tampa Bay lets them take advantage of a broader set of economic assets.
What are some key Partnership initiatives that may impact Sarasota and Manatee?
The idea of "South Tampa Bay." We work together on marketing issues, transportation, USF.
What does this area need to make it an ideal business environment?
I've often said that the Tampa Bay Partnership region has got everything that Florida or the southeastern United States has to offer for a good business or economic climate. We can always still pay attention to the fundamentals of economic development. We've been growing rapidly, and that brings with it the challenges of making sure we can keep track of the growth. We have to focus on the fundamentals-infrastructure, transportation, water, workforce readiness issues, education-and work hard on making sure we've got resources to support those issues.