As Tampa takes an ever-bigger spotlight, the business community sees major benefits

Spotlight on Tampa International Airport

The sky’s the limit for solar power; here’s a look at the solar panels installed on the roof of the economy parking garage at Tampa International Airport.

Building on big successes with recent events on a world stage and ever-bigger plans getting off the ground – with all the momentum this means – the sky’s the limit for doing business in the Tampa Bay area.

In some sense, however, the story starts in the sky and comes back to earth at Tampa International Airport, where a facility ranked No. 2 in customer satisfaction among airports in North America and No. 5 worldwide is getting world-class upgrades. A new terminal is under construction at an airport that served nearly 19 million passengers in 2015 (that’s slightly less than the entire population of Florida!) as well as a new rental car facility/future multi-modal transportation hub. Capping it off, literally, is a new 2 megawatt (MW) solar array installed by Tampa Electric, a TECO Emera company, atop the airport’s South Economy Parking Garage.

This corner of the Sunshine State is coming into its own in other ways through the further expansion of solar energy. A 23 MW array that Tampa Electric built on land it owns in Apollo Beach is the area’s largest solar generating facility so far, with more to come. Complementing this is the debut of 460 MW of innovative, environmentally responsible power at the company’s Polk Power Station in nearby Mulberry. The two-plus-year effort to build the new Polk Unit 2 and associated transmission infrastructure proved to be a boon to both skilled industrial workers from the local community and internationally renowned partner companies.

Polk Power Station recently added 460 megawatts of power generation with a focus on environmental responsibility.

Tampa, to put it plainly, is more than just a great place to live, visit and do business now – it has the power to ensure big opportunities in the future for companies of all sizes.

“The Tampa Bay area is open for business and TECO Emera has the resources and commitment to help it thrive and grow in some remarkable ways,” said Gordon Gillette, president and CEO of Tampa Electric and president of Florida Operations. “We’ve been part of this community for 120 years, and that showcases our dedication to a place where we believe you can find success whether your business is relocating here or getting its start here. It also spotlights generations of great and ongoing growth that we’ve seen in our community’s economy in partnership with the business and industrial sector.”

TECO’s unique position as part of a top-20 North American energy leader is the bedrock on which countless projects are taking shape. Jeff Vinik’s more than $3 billion redevelopment of 50-plus acres in Tampa’s Channelside district is well underway, adding hotels and residential high-rises as local institutions like the University of South Florida and the Museum of Science and Industry lay plans to join an invigorated cruise industry, The Florida Aquarium, Amalie Arena – home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, in 2016 named the best sports franchise out of all NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB teams by ESPN’s Ultimate Rankings – and other anchors.

Spotlight on The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium, a top local attraction, partnered with TECO for the installation of solar panels, some of which you can see in the foreground of this photo.

Along a brief stretch of glimmering water, under skies that offer sun about 246 days out of the year, the Port of Tampa is preparing to launch a $1.7 billion expansion. As the recently completed Crosstown Connector expressway delivers America to the port’s doorstep – and vice-versa – even more exciting are other opportunities taking shape. You’ll find the savory flavor of the past and possibilities for the future in Ybor City, with its palm-lined, red-brick streets, century-old storefronts where architecture from Cuba mingles with that from Spain and Italy and where the TECO Line Streetcar clatters and dings with trips from Tampa’s entertainment district to the urban core and back – with the urban core increasingly looking like an entertainment district of its own.

If that sounds celebratory, it should – from the annual Outback Bowl game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on New Year’s Day through the close of Gasparilla-related festivities in March, Tampa is essentially in non-stop party mode, welcoming tourists from around the world who are among those who generate about 23 percent of Florida’s annual state sales tax revenue. With its estimated $5.6 billion benefit to the community, tourism goes far beyond being good for the service sector alone: industrial players are the ones building the new hotels and working to take the area’s transportation infrastructure into the decades ahead.

Growth is easy to see here – nearly anywhere one looks, in fact. It’s at the University of South Florida, with its world-class College of Engineering that produces a steady stream of local talent. It’s at the nationally recognized bistros in the revitalized bungalow neighborhood of Seminole Heights. It’s in the widespread growth of neighborhoods in southern Hillsborough County. It’s in the fact that Tampa is the home of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

TECO team members are always eager to take a hands-on approach to promoting the countless things that are great about this community – even as they work to make it better.

With nearby beaches consistently ranked among the most beautiful in the world, Tampa sells itself. In many ways, especially looking ahead, it benefits from being close to – but distinctly different from – Orlando’s theme-park palaces and Miami, often called the Capital of Latin America. Tampa has its own identity, one the world is coming to see more clearly with each global event the city hosts.

Some who live here and thrive in a place so well suited for commercial and industrial success might not even realize Tampa has urban beaches of its own. But while Tampa’s face to the world may revolve around tourism, palm trees and things of that sort, it’s the warm opportunities for doing business that are fueling our present and future growth. TECO Emera is proud to be here to help it all unfold.

“As great as it’s been the last few years, the Tampa Bay area’s best days are still ahead of us,” said Gillette, who also serves on the board of Enterprise Florida and is past chair of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. “Our opportunities for success in growing our economy only go up when we have more people to share it with.”

Welcome, world – the water’s nice.

The business side of Tampa, however, is among its friendliest features of all.