Tampa Bay Economic Development Council celebrates big wins in challenging year

On October 29, nearly 500 business and community leaders from across Tampa Bay tuned in to a live stream of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council’s virtual annual meeting. 

 While 2020 was a nail biter of a year, the Tampa Bay EDC still closed 20 new recruitment and business expansion projects—securing 2,650 new jobs and a near record-breaking $595 million in capital investment. The annual meeting theme, “Onward,” captured the EDC’s spirit, and determination, in these times: to continue propelling Tampa Bay’s economy forward and making a positive difference. 

“I am incredibly proud of our team for the perseverance they’ve shown this year,” said Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay EDC. “Everyone adapted quickly,  to working in a virtual environment, so that we didn’t miss a beat. We still reached many of our goals and are on track with our three-year strategic plan.”

 The annual meeting program also recognized the winner of the second annual Community Transformer Award, presented by Tampa Electric Co. The award honors a company that has either recently relocated to Tampa or expanded in this market, and in addition to creating jobs and capital investment, has contributed their time, talent and treasure toward the betterment of the local community. This year’s winner is global law firm Baker McKenzie.

“The competition for the Community Transformer Award was fierce this year. Our judges had to review six very deserving candidates,” said Archie Collins, chief operating officer at Tampa Electric. “Since opening their Tampa center in 2019, Baker McKenzie has made it a priority to support, and get involved in, our community. They are also some of our biggest ambassadors for promoting Tampa as a great place to live, work and enjoy life. Congratulations to Jamie Lawless and the entire Tampa center team.”

 Baker McKenzie’s all-female leadership team serves on many boards and their employees support numerous organizations and events that serve veterans, the homeless, the food insecure and Alzheimer’s patients. Globally, Baker McKenzie has absolute dedication to diversity and inclusion, and the Tampa center supports the local LGBTQ and transgender community with volunteer time, financial support and awareness activities.

 After recapping the 2020 fiscal year, Tampa Bay EDC chair Marie Chinnici-Everitt and Richard looked to the new year ahead and announced the 2021 slate of officers, which were approved by the board prior to the virtual annual meeting. Those new officers are:

Jim Weiss of Fifth Third Bank

Vice chair:
James Nozar of SPP

Secretary and treasurer:

Angel Gonzalez of CenterState Bank

General counsel:

Ron Christaldi of Shumaker

Weiss closed out the virtual program by discussing his priority for his tenure as chair: activating the placemaking element of the EDC’s strategic plan. Placemaking is about more than creating a quality of place. It’s about an intentional focus on inclusive prosperity and bringing investment, and opportunity, to every corner of the county.

This year, the Tampa Bay EDC will hire a community redevelopment director who will work closely with the organization’s city, and county, partners to market “opportunity zones” to businesses and identify programs that can help residents achieve living-wage careers.

Another priority for Weiss is competitiveness. Without any state job creation incentives, he told attendees that Tampa and Hillsborough County will have to be more creative and resourceful than ever when competing with other states for transformative projects. The Tampa Bay EDC will launch a competitiveness committee to tap into the formidable expertise of its investors. The EDC also will collaborate with the Florida Economic Development Council, and peer organizations across the state, to develop strategies to maintain competitiveness and propel the state’s recovery. 

“We definitely have our work cut out for us this year but I’m confident that our EDC staff, partners and Investors are up to the challenge,” said Weiss. “For those business and community leaders not yet involved in the EDC, I encourage you to get involved, and share your experience, so that we can make our community truly extraordinary.”

Contributed by Laura Fontanills, marketing and communications director for the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. 

Photo above: Baker McKenzie’s award. The custom award was created by local glass artist Susan Gott.

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