by Robert Trigaux,
Times Business Columnist
Careful what you wish for
A year ago, Tampa Bay Times business writers asked area executives, economic developers and elected officials to each offer one wish they wanted to come true in 2013. Thirty responded.
Here's how five key wishes fared.
- Funding the USF Heart Institute was Chuck Sykes' wish. The chief executive of Sykes Enterprises and then-chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership said the institute would "accelerate the momentum I believe our community already has going in the field of health."
Wish granted? Yes. Just two weeks ago state and Hillsborough County officials announced they have given USF $21.4 million over two years to create the institute, a five-story, 100,000-square-foot facility in the center of its health campus in Tampa.
- Seeking Internet sales tax fairness in Florida was the wish of Carla Jimenez, co-founder and now former operator of Tampa's Inkwood Books. "It would level the playing field for locally owned independent businesses," she said. The loss of online taxes means less public revenue for schools, parks and police.
Wish granted? No. If an online retailer has no physical presence in Florida, it is still not required to collect sales taxes. Customers are required by law to self-collect and remit their own tax on such purchases by filling out a DR-15MO from the Department of Revenue. Yeah, sure.
Legislators may consider this issue, yet again, in 2014.
- Gaining an international flight to South America. "We just need a route anywhere in South America that would be huge for the destination," D.T. Minich, who heads Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the tourism arm of Pinellas County, told us a year ago.
Wish granted? Close enough. Two weeks ago, Tampa International Airport and Panama-based Copa Airlines kicked off a nonstop service to Central America's Panama City, a move that creates a gateway between Tampa Bay and the rest of Latin America.
- Persuading Florida's elected leadership to support a stronger solar energy policy in the "Sunshine State" was the wish of Scott McIntyre, CEO of Tampa's Solar Energy Management. "We would like to see the state's political leadership get the courage to stand up to the investor-owned utilities," he said, which still resist solar power in favor of traditional gas and nuclear sources of electricity generation.
Wish granted? No. Midyear data show California is the national leader in installed solar capacity with 3,761 megawatts . The Sunshine State, on the other hand, boasts a puny 202 megawatts. Of note: Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist strongly favors supportive solar policies.
- Getting mainstream businesses to get behind area entrepreneurs and startup companies was a wish by Robin DeLaVergne, Tampa General Hospital senior vice president and, it so happens, now the 2014 chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
Wish granted? Yes, but barely so far. Local entrepreneurs want major businesses to be more willing to buy their products. The chamber is helping with a "startup scholars program." But building a startup community is a complex, long-term commitment. Businesses: Prepare to step up. More than once.
Contact Robert Trigaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.