More Jobs Come to Tampa Bay

A two-year overhaul of local corporate recruitment efforts is paying off this year with a record number of new jobs announced, officials said Monday.

So far this year, 27 companies have committed to relocations or expansions that eventually will create 4,116 new jobs in Hillsborough County.

That’s more than twice last year’s 1,789 jobs and three times this year’s goal set by the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., the nonprofit agency that leads such efforts.

Local officials attributed the number of jobs — more than in any year for a decade — to a better focus on goals, increased commitment from local businesses and a new level of cooperation among public officials.

“We all recognize that we are going to survive together or we are going to fail alone,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a news conference with Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham, Plant City Mayor Dan Raulerson and Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti Sr. — all of whom had dinner with their wives at Higginbotham’s home Friday.

The dinner, believed to be a first, was about “building a foundation and relationships,” Higginbotham said.

As welcome as the new jobs are in a county struggling with an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent, they won’t materialize right away. Generally, they are expected to come on line over the next three years as the companies expand or move to Hillsborough.

Together, the expansions are expected to bring the area $190 million in capital investment, more than double last year’s $83.4 million. Of the 27 companies, 11 sought economic incentives to compensate them for the jobs they plan to create.

The companies range from specialized high-tech firms like the ConvergEx Group and NewLink Genetics, which plan to create five local jobs each, to call-center operator OneTouch Direct, which this month said it would keep its headquarters in Tampa and add 700 jobs over two years.

Also included in the total was an unidentified business services company, soon expected to announce the creation of 800 local jobs paying an average of $41,000 a year, EDC president Keith Norden said.

This summer, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area was the third best of 46 large metro areas in the United States when it came to job creation during June through September, according to consultants at Headlight LLC of Austin, Texas.

Officials said a retooling of the EDC was behind the numbers announced Monday.

Originally, the EDC was known as the Committee of One Hundred and was part of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. But in December 2009, the committee split from the chamber, changed its name and started reorganizing its leadership, its focus and its priorities.

Now it is a private, independent group with contracts to lead economic development efforts for Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. It has gone from getting more than two-thirds of its funding from taxpayers to getting 40 percent from government sources and 60 percent from the private sector.

The EDC also has led an assessment of Hillsborough’s strengths and identified nine industries it wants to target, including medicine and medical management, defense and security, biotechnology and medical devices and hospitality and entertainment.

EDC chairwoman Rhea Law said she is a lifelong resident of Tampa but has never seen this kind of cooperation from local officials and business leaders.

“We pulled them together and said, ‘You know, if we’re going to win, we’re going to win (because) we’re all together, so let’s agree on what our focus is and what we want to do,’ ” she said.

St. Petersburg Times