Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on mobility fees:



Developers face bigger bills for road fixes

By Mike Salinero | Tribune Staff 
October 31, 2015   |   Updated: November 1, 2015 at 11:34 AM


TAMPA — As Hillsborough County struggles with the question of whether to raise taxes for better highways and mass transit, people on the fence want assurances that developers will pay their fair share to improve roads.

Their concerns are real. County officials now acknowledge that for decades builders paid a fraction of what they should have to for traffic impacts on roads surrounding new development. The result is a county honeycombed with failed roads that are clogged with more traffic than they were designed to handle.

The issue is important in the context of Go Hillsborough, the county’s proposal to increase the sales tax to raise billions of dollars for transportation improvements. Getting voters to approve a tax increase of a half cent or 1 cent per dollar will be tough — especially if voters think developers are not paying their fair share.

On Thursday, county leaders will try to answer those concerns when they roll out their first detailed mobility fee proposal. Increasingly popular in Florida cities and counties, mobility fees will capture more of the true costs of increased traffic from new development, county officials say. At the same time, they are considered fair, even by the development community, because they apply one formula countywide.

“It’s always been envisioned that developer contributions need to be adjusted,” said Lucia Garsys, the county’s chief development and infrastructure administrator. “They needed to pay a fair and equitable share.”

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For years, county commissioners have refused to raise transportation impact fees, even as the housing boom in the last decade flooded ill-prepared roads with traffic.

Then in 2011, Florida lawmakers passed a sweeping rewrite of growth management laws that steeply reduced what developers had to pay for road improvements.

Called “proportionate share,” the new guidelines said developers who built near congested roads only had to pay for the traffic generated by their new developments. The cost of bringing the roads up to acceptable standards fell to taxpayers.

The degree to which the change hobbled the county’s ability to upgrade roads was revealed at the Oct. 21 county commission meeting.

Commissioners were holding a public hearing on Duke Realty’s planned 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse distribution complex on Big Bend Road in south Hillsborough. Under the original, 2007 development agreement, Duke had to pay to widen Big Bend Road from four to six lanes between U.S. 41 and Waterset Boulevard.

Widening the road would cost about $4 million in today’s dollars. But under proportionate share, the developer now has to pay just $34,000.

“Folks, I’m just telling you out there, the Legislature did a really bad thing when they took away our ability to get fees from developers to help our roads,” commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman said at the meeting.

In the same 2011 law, however, the Legislature gave cities and counties the option of adopting mobility fees. Hillsborough County planners liked the concept but resisted bringing it to commissioners while the economy was still recovering.

“There was a time, during the recession, when there was not an interest in raising mobility fees or any other fees,” Garsys said.

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Though some details remain to be worked out, the fees will be based on three measurements: the number of vehicle trips generated by a subdivision or commercial development, the average length of the trips, and the cost of new roads or road improvements needed to handle the additional traffic.

Mobility fees take into consideration not only the number of new trips, but their length and the cost of expanding surrounding roads or building new ones. That formula captures cost increases for construction and right-of-way acquisition that impact fees do not.

“I do think it’s an improvement over what we currently have,” said Pamela Jo Hatley, a real estate attorney who recently attended a county focus group on mobility fees.

“New development isn’t currently generating enough revenue to offset the impacts it creates,” Hatley said. “I think the mobility fee will be more accurate.”

So far, developers are on board with the new method of calculating their share of transportation improvements, said County Administrator Mike Merrill. The industry’s attitude doesn’t reflect a sudden burst of altruism, Merrill said, but “raw economics.”

“They can’t sell their product without a reliable transportation system,” Merrill said.

David Mechanik, a lawyer who regularly represents developers, said they accept the general concept of mobility fees. But developers also want assurance they will be credited for impact fees they paid or road work they performed on projects that were shelved during the recession.

“I think the development community has realized that the fees have not been looked at in a very long time, so there is an expectation that the fees will go up,” Mechanik said. “I think everybody just wants to make sure the fees are reasonable and there is a mechanism in place so they are fairly administered.”

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In a county with an estimated $8 billion backlog in transportation improvements, the mobility fees are not a silver bullet. Under recently released scenarios, county officials think the fees will bring in $20 million to $30 million a year. In comparison, a 1 cent-per-dollar sales tax increase would generate $224 million a year.

“I believe mobility fees will have to be one component of funding transportation,” said George Niemann, a community activist who attended a county focus group meeting last week. “It’s only one component and there will have to be other fees included to complete the package.”

Merrill agrees, saying a 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase plus mobility fees will enable the county to draw down millions of dollars in state and federal grants. The combination would boost new transportation funding to $300 million a year under the current scenarios, enough to preserve existing roads, build new ones and dramatically expand mass transit.

An added benefit, Merrill said, will be an energized economic climate.

“We’ll now have a road system and transit system good enough so that CEOs won’t say, ‘Your transportation system is not up to snuff. We’re not going to come here and create jobs,’” he said.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on TBX:


Officials: Will Tampa Bay Express get money we want for other priorities?

Friday, October 30, 2015 3:49pm


TAMPA — Could the massive interstate construction project known as Tampa Bay Express siphon money away from smaller projects like faster bus service and bike lanes?

That’s a concern three elected officials raised this week after seeing the Florida Department of Transportation’s tentative five-year work program.

In particular, they questioned FDOT’s proposal to earmark $4.6 million in federal highway funds for Tampa Bay Express, often called TBX.

A long-range, multi-billion-dollar effort, TBX calls for adding tolled express lanes to Interstates 4, 75 and 275, improving I-275’s flow of traffic coming from the Howard Frankland Bridge into Tampa and expanding downtown’s “Malfunction Junction” interchange.

The $4.6 million in federal funds in question is just a sliver of the $522 million FDOT plans to budget in Hillsborough for TBX in its plan, which goes through mid-2021.

Still, Tampa and Hillsborough officials noted, the plan doesn’t include any funding for some projects requested by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, and they want to know why.

“I did not get, to me, a clear answer as to why this is going on,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller Jr. said.

The question of whether money is being shifted from locally important projects to TBX came up during a meeting this week of the MPO’s Policy Committee. Among other things, the MPO’s staff said its requests for FDOT’s plan included:

  • $300,000 for a study of Tampa’s “Green Spine,” a multipurpose trail from the V.M. Ybor neighborhood through downtown and out to West Tampa.
  • $2.5 million for a study about expanding the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s MetroRapid bus service.
  • $1.4 million for an advanced traffic management system on N Dale Mabry Highway.
  • $518,000 for walking and bike safety improvements on Floribraska Avenue.

None of those would be funded in FDOT’s five-year plan.

“It needs to go into things that we could do now,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman said of the federal money earmarked for TBX. The Dale Mabry traffic signal synchronization, she said, “was a top priority on our list.”

A FDOT official said the state has not moved money to TBX at the expense of other projects.

Rather, she said, whether a project is in the plan is often a question of procedure and timing.

A prime example is the synchronized signals for N Dale Mabry, said Debbie Hunt, director of transportation development for FDOT’s district office in Tampa.

Because the Legislature moved up the schedule for producing the work plan by two months, FDOT didn’t have time to complete its review on that request.

“It will be a priority next time,” Hunt said. “We agree with the priority.”

Likewise, FDOT agrees that walking and bike safety improvements make sense for Floribraska Avenue, Hunt said.

But she said the best time to do those is when the I-275 on- and off-ramps at Floribraska are closed as part of the TBX project, and that’s not in the proposed five-year plan.

On the Green Spine, FDOT officials are concerned about whether enough right of way would be available, a key question when using federal funds. For now, they don’t have enough information on that question, but are looking at the project further.

Funding for a MetroRapid study also is getting more scrutiny. Though the MPO proposed it for the federal funds at issue, Hunt said FDOT’s analysis initially put it in another funding category.

In the bigger picture, she said, FDOT’s plan would not short-change Hillsborough County.

While the county accounts for about 44 percent of the population in a three-county area that benefits from the federal funds in question, FDOT’s plan would allocate about 59 percent of those monies in Hillsborough.

“We’re happy to go over that, item by item, with the MPO,” Hunt said.

That may happen.

The Policy Committee voted to recommend that the full MPO board, which meets on Nov. 10, outline its concerns in a letter to the FDOT.

  • ••

Meanwhile, opponents worry their efforts to stop TBX could be in vain.

FDOT is on record saying TBX will go forward when it gets the money to proceed.

That’s one reason more than 400 opponents turned out on Aug. 4 for an MPO vote on whether to include the project on its priority list. The vote wasn’t close, with only Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco voting no.

Still, before the vote Miller made a short speech saying FDOT had to “work with this community” to ease TBX’s impact on urban neighborhoods. He also wants FDOT to make Florida Avenue and Tampa Street better for walking, cycling and transit.

Fail to do that, Miller warned, and he will make the motion to pull project funding when TBX comes back to the MPO.

But the nonprofit group Sunshine Citizens has doubts about the MPO’s decision after obtaining emails sent the afternoon of the Aug. 4 meeting in which MPO and FDOT officials discussed some of the points Miller made that evening.

“Thank you for providing that language, which provides some good insights and background,” MPO executive director Beth Alden wrote to the FDOT on the afternoon before the meeting. “The commissioner has built on it and provided the attached for your information.”

Less than half an hour later, Hunt weighed in.

“Sorry, Beth,” Hunt wrote, “the last condition won’t work. I appreciate your efforts, though. Will address when motion made.”

That last condition was Miller’s demand for changes to Florida Avenue and Tampa Street, which he made anyway.

Still, opponents have felt the public has not gotten a vote on TBX and “saw this hearing as their only means to be heard,” Sunshine Citizens’ secretary Michelle Cookson said. But she said they walked into a meeting where the outcome had been sketched out in advance.

“To me, this demonstrates that they were actively circumnavigating the will of the public,” she said.

That’s not true, said Miller, who chairs the MPO.

“The motion that was made was mine,” he said.

The point of the pre-meeting discussion, he said, was to make sure FDOT tried to address the concerns of residents who were expected to be very unhappy.

“I do understand the sentiments of the residents,” Miller said. He remembers how the construction of I-4 through Ybor City took place with no public discussion or consideration of the African-American neighborhoods it uprooted. Nothing like that, he said, should happen again.

But he said the vote showed there was little sentiment among the elected officials on the MPO to remove TBX from the work plan.

So without someone pressing the FDOT to commit itself to a public engagement process, he said, the project might have moved forward without one.

As for her comment that Miller’s last condition “won’t work,” Hunt said Florida Avenue and Tampa Street are outside the scope of the TBX project, and the changes he wants could have significant costs.

“Committing to a blank check is not something that I have the authority to do,” she said.

Aug. 4 wasn’t the first time that the MPO had considered the TBX plan. It already was part of a long-range transportation plan the MPO adopted last November after inviting public comment, including on the idea of adding tolled lanes to the interstate.

  • ••

Starting Monday, FDOT is holding six community meetings on ways to cushion the impact of TBX neighborhoods.

For example, overpasses could have ornamental brick and other design features like those used on I-4’s new overpasses in Ybor City.

Public art, murals or decorative lighting could make the interstate’s walls more attractive. Amenities like a dog park, athletic courts or other green spaces could be fit under the overpasses.

FDOT also is looking at whether some streets now separated by I-275 should be reconnected during TBX work.

But Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione said some of the projects FDOT has not included in the five-year plan would benefit neighborhoods where expanding the I-275 interchange would have a big impact.

“How is that serving the community?” said Montelione, who chairs the MPO’s Policy Committee. “How is that working with the community to ameliorate the effects on the community of TBX?”

TBX community meetings

FDOT officials have scheduled six meetings to ask neighborhood, civic and business representatives about possible design features to ease the impact of the Tampa Bay Express downtown interchange expansion on adjacent neighborhoods. Except for the Dec. 5 meeting, which will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m., all meetings will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the John F. Germany Public Library, 900 N Ashley Drive, Tampa, on:

  • Monday, Nov. 2 (for downtown).
  • Tuesday, Nov. 3 (West Tampa).
  • Nov. 17 (Seminole Heights).
  • Dec. 1 (Tampa Heights).
  • Dec. 5 (Tampa Heights).
  • Dec. 8 (Historic Ybor City, V.M. Ybor, East Tampa).



Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Bay Times article on EDC:


Tampa Hillsborough EDC celebrates success, but urges raising economic bar

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 9:00am


TAMPA – Hunting for bear? There were none to be found in the bullish crowd of nearly 600 Tuesday evening inside the Amalie Arena gathered for the annual meeting of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Council (EDC).

The theme? Job recruitment and business expansion is on more of a roll than ever in Tampa and across Hillsborough County. As proof, a long line of economic development leaders, airport and port CEOs, managers of expanding corporations, mayors and county commissioners all came to the podium atop the home ice of the Tampa Bay Lightning and essentially tried to outdo one another in saying:

Things are good but are only going to get better.

Incoming EDC chair Colleen Chappell, CEO of the ChappellRoberts marketing firm based in Ybor City, said the organization would keep pushing to attract bigger and better company expansions, and hopefully some corporate headquarters here. But she added there is more to do, especially to encourage more talented and entrepreneurial millennials to find good reasons to stay or move here. Chappell said 42 percent of her firm’s employees are creative millennials (24 to 35 years old) and appealed to her business audience that — when it comes to the increasingly diverse next generation —it will be “hard to plan for the future without them.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn spoke of the rising opportunities in his city’s downtown, a place that’s becoming a live-work-play environment that will appeal to young adults. He also talked of expanding the downtown reach to the distant side of the Hillsborough River with a master plan development.

“Our urban experience in the next five years will change the skyline in ways we cannot imagine,” said Buckhorn.

The mayor of Temple Terrace, Frank Chillura, praised the lack of political bickering so common in the past and endorsed recent efforts by an “innovation alliance” backed by USF, Moffitt Cancer Center and other nearby economic engines to help revive the small city’s broader university area. Plant City Mayor Rick Lott reminded the audience his city was emboldened enough to launch its own EDC to spur local development, saying his town was “in the right place at the right time.”

In turn, County Commission chair Sandy Murman cited multiple locations where job growth was plentiful, and suggested Hillsborough’s economy could become one of the best in the nation.

The evening’s lovefest reflected the strong showing of the EDC’s string of successful job recruiting. In the past six years, the EDC has helped 146 companies expand here with more than 20,000 added jobs and $1.2 billion of investments in Hillsborough County. In fiscal 2015, 22 companies moved or expanded here, investing $120.7 million and creating 3,420 jobs.

The event also featured testimonials from two prominent companies that recently moved or expanded here. Bristol-Myers Squibb area manager Lee Evans, who runs the pharmaceutical giant’s “shared capability” center, volunteered an “A-plus” when asked from the podium what grade he would give the area’s workforce. “We could not have done any better anywhere else in the country,” Evans said. And at fast growing financial services giant USAA, area manager Yvette Segura said 26 percent of the many hundreds the firm employs in this area are veterans (or their spouses), a sign of the deep bench strength of 90,000 military personnel found in this metro area.

Among some lighter moments, the duet of Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano and Port Tampa Bay chief Paul Anderson bantered as buddies at the podium, seemingly trying to out-praise one another’s successes in either bringing more international flights to TIA or running the largest (by acreage) port in the state. Anderson gave a nod to the “cool swagger” of a Tampa “Rat Pack” embodied by Mayor Buckhorn, while Lopano and Anderson debated which characters they might be from the so-called Frank Sinatra-led gang of cool from the mid-1960s.

The event was not without some uncertainty. EDC CEO Rick Homans, after years of elevating the organization’s performance, has already accepted a new job locally as CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership — another economic development group with a broader regional mandate but without a clear mission. A search to find a new EDC leader will start shortly.

As incoming EDC chair for the new year, Chappell closed the annual meeting’s formal presentations with a call for everyone listening from the Arena seats to step up and get more involved in raising the bar of the business sector.

“Economic development is a contact sport,” said Chappell, a perfect reminder inside the home of the Lightning that power plays done well can score jobs as well as goals.



Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Bay Times article on transportation fees:


Big Bend development at center of Hillsborough fight with Tallahassee over transportation costs

Saturday, October 24, 2015 4:14pm


TAMPA — It seems like an ordinary development project: a plan to build warehouses and retail space in booming southeast Hillsborough County.

But the proposal has become a proxy in the county’s fight with the state over who should pay to build roads when new developments emerge.

And it comes as Hillsborough is wrestling with its own plan to pay for other much-needed transportation improvements throughout the county.

Duke Realty has an agreement with Hillsborough to build 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space and 28,000 square feet of retail on Big Bend Road near U.S. 41 in Gibsonton.

The expected rise in traffic will require the widening of Big Bend from four lanes to six between U.S. 41 and Waterset Boulevard at a cost that could reach $5 million.

Six years ago, that expense would have fallen on the shoulders of the developer. However, a change in state law means the county is on the hook for all but $34,000 of the expense, which Duke Realty will pay.

The arrangement has several Hillsborough County commissioners steaming. At Commissioner Sandy Murman’s urging, commissioners voted 5-0 last week to pen a letter to area lawmakers asking for relief and a fix. Commissioner Kevin Beckner told the county attorney to examine whether Hillsborough can rescind its approval of the Duke project.

“The Legislature did a really bad thing when (it) took away our ability to get fees from developers to help our roads,” Murman said. “It is hurting us. And we’ve got to make them aware.”

In 2009, with Florida’s real estate market reeling from the recession, state lawmakers passed legislation that drastically altered how municipalities charge developers for roads and other infrastructure necessitated by new construction.

Previously, if a developer wanted to build homes, businesses or offices along an already crowded road, local government could force the developer to pay to widen the road to create room for more cars. Now that same developer only has to pay an amount that’s based on the proportion of new vehicles the specific project is contributing to overall traffic.

The change has sharply driven down the amount that developers pay in so-called impact fees.

It was one of the legislative session’s most controversial measures. Environmental groups and editorial boards panned it and said it would lead to unmitigated growth. Many counties, including Hills­borough, lined up against it as an unfunded mandate imposed upon cash-strapped local governments with shrinking transportation resources.

But proponents of the law, signed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, said it was needed to jump-start construction and reinvigorate Florida’s economy. It also appeased developers who often complained that localities held off on necessary transportation work until they could dump the costs on whichever developers came along.

The effects of the 2009 law statewide has yet to be seen, in part, because development is just starting to bounce back, said Eric Poole, assistant legislative director for the Florida Association of Counties.

Hillsborough County, particularly in the southeast between U.S. 41 and U.S. 301, may see the effects sooner than most. The nearby Amazon Fulfillment Center in Ruskin, the Hillsborough Community College SouthShore campus and the new St. Joseph’s Hospital-South are driving growth in the area, but the emerging suburbs still have plenty of transportation needs.

“Because of the economy and the population down in that area, it’s probably one of the first communities as we come out of this economic slump where we’re seeing these kinds of challenges,” Poole said, “and it will creep up in other areas as (the economy) gets better.”

The Duke Realty development is a bit of an “anomaly,” said Mike Williams, Hills­borough County’s director of transportation planning and development. The cost to the county is on the higher end compared to other developments.

How pervasive the problem is, however, is unclear. Since the 2009 law went into effect, Williams said the county has collected about $6 million in impact fees — barely more than the cost of the Big Bend widening alone.

The commission last week called for a review of how much the county has spent on infrastructure for new development since the law passed.

The county is weighing ways to extract more from developers as a means to build support for Go Hillsborough, the proposed referendum to increase the sales tax to pay for 30 years of transportation projects. Many residents have said they want to see builders pay their fair share for sprawl before they are willing to tax themselves.

As it is, the county is considering changing its impact fees to mobility fees, an alternative structure that charges developers more the farther they build from designated urban cores. The county hopes that could provide incentives for more in-fill and redevelopment, or at least will bring more revenue to pay for any outward growth.

Williams said county staff hopes to present a plan to commissioners by the end of the year. Pasco County has implemented mobility fees.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said with the economy improving, the Legislature should review the 2009 changes to encourage smart growth and mitigate some of the financial burdens on localities.

But Lee, who also is an executive for a home-building company, said mobility fees that push growth to certain areas might not be a panacea, either.

“It’s incumbent upon government to not just rely on taxing developers to persuade them to build in the urban core,” Lee said, “but also to improve those areas to attract people and businesses.

“Striking that balance, sometimes, can be very difficult.”



Commissioner Murman mentioned, and quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on wage theft:



Hillsborough commissioners approve program to fight wage theft

By Mike Salinero | Tribune Staff 
October 21, 2015   |   Updated: October 21, 2015 at 10:35 PM


TAMPA — Workers who are cheated of wages now have an ally in Hillsborough County government.

County commissioners, by a 5-0 vote, approved an ordinance Wednesday that makes county government the entry point for workers who feel they were illegally denied wages. Commissioners Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham were absent.

Commonly known as wage theft, such practices can include working employees off the clock, denying them their last paycheck or failing to pay tips or overtime. Hillsborough County ranks second in the state in documented cases of wage theft, according to a recent study by Florida International University. Miami-Dade County is first.

The ordinance’s sponsor, Democrat Kevin Beckner, said the plan was a “hybrid” that borrowed from established wage theft programs in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Beckner had originally pushed for an ordinance modeled on Miami-Dade’s version, which handles wage theft cases through its consumer protection department. Pinellas County recently adopted a wage theft ordinance based on that model.

But Republicans, who hold a 5-2 majority on the commission, resisted the Miami-Dade model, saying they didn’t want to grow county government by adding new employees. Beckner’s plan called for hiring one employee in the second year of the program at a salary of $45,000.

The new ordinance makes workers and employers go through mediation in the courts administration office of the 13th Judicial Circuit. The county already funds that office, so using mediators from there wouldn’t cost any additional money, Beckner said.

Based on other counties’ experience with wage theft legislation, about 70 percent of wage disputes are settled in mediation, Beckner said. Those that aren’t will be go before a hearing officer.

“The current hearing officers we use are all volunteer attorneys,” Beckner said in an interview before the meeting. “They do this sometimes to build a resume for a judgeship or some other position. We want people who specialize in employment law.”

Borrowing from the Palm Beach County ordinance, the Hillsborough system will use lawyers from Bay Area Legal Services to represent workers before the hearing officers and, if necessary, in circuit court. Bay Area Legal Services provides free civil legal services to qualified residents and non-profits.

The county will budget $100,000 a year for legal services aiding wage theft victims before hearing officers or in a courtroom.

Though she voted with the majority, commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman again expressed concerns about the ordinance, saying it would be simpler just to send all workers with wage disputes to circuit court and pay Bay Area Legal Services to represent them. That is similar to the way Palm Beach County handles the problem.

It was Murman who, at a May 20 commission meeting, first broached the idea of following the Palm Beach model. Her comments came two months after Beckner had rolled out his ideas for a wage theft ordinance modeled after Miami-Dade’s program.

Public records obtained by the Tribune showed Murman had been communicating with the Florida Retail Federation prior to the May 20 meeting. The retailers’ group generally opposes wage theft laws and sued in state court to kill the Miami-Dade ordinance, arguing that it violated the state constitution.

In an e-mail obtained in the public records request, the retail federation’s general counsel thanked Murman for her “willingness to listen,” and said the group favored a plan modeled on the Palm Beach County ordinance.

On Wednesday, Murman said something needs to be done because current state and federal laws meant to protect wage earners are weak. But Murman said she preferred the Legislature pass a stronger statewide law because leaving counties to craft their own ordinances creates confusion.

“I feel like we’re complicating the situation, not really making it better,” Murman said.

In the spirit of compromise, Beckner also incorporated a suggestion from Republican Commissioner Victor Crist to have the wage law cover self-employed subcontractors who are not paid what they are owed by a larger company or general contractor.


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on museum funding:



Hillsborough sets museum contribution at $325,000 each

By Mike Salinero | Tribune Staff 
October 21, 2015   |   Updated: October 21, 2015 at 09:42 PM


TAMPA — Museums and arts venues that apply now and then for money from the Hillsborough County Commission will get an annual grant of $325,000 from now on to put toward building preservation.

Commissioners voted 5-0 Wednesday in favor of a capital asset preservation matching grant program. Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who came up with the idea, said the program would impose some order on funding for some of the county’s biggest attractions.

And because the grant requires a match, it will encourage fund-raising by the non-profit groups to raise their $325,000 share.

“The challenge we’ve faced every year is these organizations coming to us for money,” Beckner said in an interview before Wednesday’s meeting. “This gives them an opportunity to fund capital improvement projects, protects the county’s investment and solves the budget issues we deal with every year.”

The agencies eligible for the funding are the Glazer Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the Florida Aquarium, Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Theatre and Lowry Park Zoo. Adding other eligible agencies would require commissioners to revise the policy they approved Wednesday.

Julie Britton, vice present of development at the Straz Center, called the new funding policy a “tremendous opportunity and great initiative.”

“First and foremost it’s a tremendous acknowledgment that major cultural institutions need to maintain their facilities in a state of the art, relevant way, over and above our annual operations costs,” Britton said after the meeting.

“It gives us an opportunity to meet our capital needs,” Britton said, “and it’s been crafted in such a way that it will allow us to leverage funding from other public sources and from the private sector.”

Another important facet of the program is flexibility: The non-profit agencies can lend their yearly allotment to another eligible organization that may need more than its $325,000 share for a large building or preservation project. The loan is made with the understanding that the money will be returned later when the lending agency needs it.

“I put that in place to purposely let them work together and encourage collaboration when they come up for their capital improvement programs,” Beckner said.

Matches for the grants must be at least 25 percent cash. The rest can be expenditures, irrevocable pledges and documented, in-kind contributions. Other requirements are that the total project budget will be covered by committed, available funding sources; and that the work must be done by qualified professionals and licensed Florida contractors.

Several commissioners congratulated Beckner on the new policy.

“This helps them to improve their fund-raising and it encourages them to fund raise,” commission Chair Sandy Murman said. “It’s providing them a hand up and matching the grant gives them the muscle they need to get additional funding.”


Commissioner Murman quoted in this 83Degrees article on Tampa Bay Wave:


Tampa Bay WaVe moves into new downtown digs


Tampa Bay WaVE grand opening.



For the local tech community, there are few names as well known as Tampa Bay WaVe. Now, the growing WaVe has settled into a new location in the third floor space at 500 E. Kennedy Blvd.

The “by entrepreneur, for entrepreneur” venture centre, tech accelerator, and coworking space has helped create 107 companies and 424 jobs in the local region, Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman told guests at WaVe’s grand opening on October 16.

“Economic development is where it’s happening — technology is where it’s happening,” Murman said during the event. “We need the startups — we need to help them become bigger and better.”

Tampa Bay WaVe President Linda Olson reminded event attendees “three years ago, we were still a zero-budget, all volunteer organization.”

“Boy, have we come a long way,” Olson said. “I’m so excited to see where we’re going to be three years from now.”

Commissioner Murman praised WaVe’s role in bolstering the local tech community.

“We see this as the place where our Steve Jobs is going to be found,” Murman said.

County, City, Community: Invested in Tampa’s tech future

“This is a big milestone not only for the Tampa Bay WaVe, but also for our community,” WaVe Board Chairman Mark Swanson said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Swanson likened the event to a graduation ceremony, noting, “It takes a village to raise a startup.”

Recruiting companies and helping support growing companies are important aspects of economic development, Swanson says, but “one of the biggest things I’m excited about is how our community has embraced entrepreneurship and innovation as what I call the ‘third leg’ of the stool of economic development. We are growing companies today by helping our startups — helping new companies start new services.”

Mentorship and feedback from members of the local tech community are crucial components to helping startups grow, Swanson says.

Tony DiBenedetto, co-Founder of local tech company Tribridge and a long-time Tampa Bay WaVe supporter, spoke about Tampa’s status as a tech community and the importance of local support during the grand opening.

“Tribridge has 650 employees, and we started as a tech startup here,” DiBenedetto said. “This community lifted our company off the ground from startup.”

The City of Tampa is a first-time investor in Tampa Bay WaVe, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn credits early investors in the local technology community, like Chuck Sykes, for recognizing that “keeping intellectual capital in the Tampa Bay area is dependent upon creating the jobs of the future.”

Taxpayers “need to know that [their money] is being spent wisely and not being wasted on frivolous things,” Buckhorn explained during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “I’m not an easy sell. I’m all about ROI.”

“What we are doing here is creating the jobs of the future,” Buckhorn said.

Build, Launch and Grow: WaVe’s mission to create change

Tampa Bay WaVe has brought $14.2 million in outside capital into the local marketplace, Murman said. “Those are outstanding numbers.”

WaVe was created in 2008 and, with USF as a grant partner, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit won a $1 million U.S. Department of Commerce i6 Challenge grant in September 2012.

That grant helped create the FirstWaVe Venture Center inside Rivergate Tower, a co-working space for local entrepreneurs; it also helped develop WaVe’s Accelerator program, which helps startup businesses succeed.

In spring 2015, the USF-Tampa Bay WaVe partnership announced that it had earned a second i6 Challenge grant, for $500,000, from the 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies program.

In August 2015, WaVe was selected as a recipient of a $50,000 Growth Accelerator Fund Grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This grant will help WaVe grow support for startups led by women, veterans or other underserved populations.

The SBA presented WaVe with the $50,000 check during the grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony.

Along with the SBA funds, TriBridge donated $30,000 to Tampa Bay WaVe; Sykes Enterprises donated $25,000; and Florida Blue, who in 2014 partnered with WaVe accelerator company HealthBox, donated $15,000.

“This is what makes jobs now. It’s not even just about the future,” DiBenedetto said. “We are a tech community. We don’t have to wait.”

Opening doors for startups in Tampa Bay’s tech space

The Tampa Bay WaVe grand opening included ‘chair yoga,’ lunch, an interactive exercise break, tours of the new space, CitySleekers car washes, a FirstWaVe company showcase and product demo, and the product launch of FirstWaVe company iTrekkers.

The event was “bustling, warm, welcoming – and crowded!” says Kiki Schirr, Fittr chief marketing technologist and co-founder. “I couldn’t believe how many people attended.”

Fittr, a company whose mobile application helps users track fitness goals, is in the accelerator program at WaVe.

“The new space is much more flexible, and will be better suited to the varied needs of startups in the community,” Schirr says. “Plus, they’ll be opening a coffee shop on the fourth floor, which will be very nice!”

WaVe’s new space, on the third floor of the building at 500 E. Kennedy Blvd, is owned by the McIntyre Thanasides law firm. It is slightly smaller than their former offices, but longtime WaVe Round Table member Chris Sanfilippo prefers the new offices.

“We’re still downtown, still in the mix of everything,” Sanfilippo says.

Plus, a new break room with a kitchen area, where coworkers and WaVe members can score snacks and unlimited coffee for $5 a month, helps to create a community vibe that the former offices lacked.

“It brings everyone closer together, whereas before, we didn’t have the watering hole to gather. Now we have that, and we’re all kind of together, we’re bouncing ideas off each other,” Sanfilippo says. “Some of the best ideas or recommendations I get come from just chatting with someone while making a cup of coffee.”

For example, Sanfilippo says, his company doesn’t focus on development; but at WaVe, “There are usually half a dozen people around who can help you and point you in the right direction.”

Rank KO, Sanfilippo’s self-funded reputation management company, moved into the former WaVe offices in January 2015. At the new digs, there are two windows, a glass wall, and room to grow. With four full time employees and one part time, Rank KO is currently hiring for a full-time writer.

Along with limitless cups of coffee and a community vibe, working at WaVe means being part of a “pretty positive environment. You get a lot of constructive criticism going on,” Sanfilippo says. “That’s probably one of the biggest takeaways I’ve gotten working at the WaVe. Getting feedback and advice from others who have walked in similar paths is pretty huge.”


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on her County Job Fair:



Job seekers pack County Job Fair on HCC campus



From staff reports 
October 16, 2015   |   Updated: October 16, 2015 at 07:31 PM


About 800 people packed into Hillsborough Community College’s Student Services Building Friday seeking jobs during the County Job Fair held on HCC’s Dale Mabry campus.

The job fair was hosted by Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, in association with CareerSource Tampa Bay and HCC. About 55 employers participated in the free event, including Busch Gardens, Bright House Networks and Amazon.

After the job fair, a virtual job fair was held to allow job seekers to apply for employment online at a special web page. That online job fair will continue through the weekend, said Murman, who spearheaded the event and attended.

“It’s giving people across the county a chance to have access to employers hiring in a different part of the county. We’re trying to offer the employers more possibilities, and the job seekers more options,” Murman said of the virtual job fair . For those who don’t have computer access at home, they can access the job fair from computers at any public library, she said.

“Some people might not be able to get to the job fair location, so we’re hoping this will be another way to join employers with potential employees.”

Murman said that by posting the jobs available in advance, the response was overwhelming. “We had major companies like Mosaic, Progressive Insurance, West Florida Health. We had a lot of the major employers in our community,” Murman said. “The results we got back and the response was overwhelmingly positive and people felt like it was really about the quality of employers we got there.

“It was very successful and we’re very happy we’re getting people back to work,” Murman said.


Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Tribune article on the ferry:



Kriseman pushes ferry linking downtowns in Tampa, St. Pete


Tribune staff 

October 15, 2015   |   Updated: October 16, 2015 at 09:19 AM


A commuter ferry service may be still years away but weekend ferry rides across Tampa Bay could be running in as little as a year through a pilot program pushed by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The city leader is working with ferry promoter Ed Turanchik on a plan to run a ferry service between the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg through the winter months.

One or two vessels would be rented from ferry services in the northeast that close for the winter, Turanchik said. Temporary floating docks could also be rented for the project. The estimated cost is $1 million, with ticket sales offsetting some of it.

Kriseman this week pledged $350,000 toward the plan from the $6.5 million the city received as a settlement in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Voters’ rejection of the Greenlight Pinellas referendum in 2014 highlighted the need for creative solutions to the region’s transportation challenges, he said.

“We need to start providing alternative means of transportation so we can get people out of their cars, reduce our carbon footprint and be more sustainable,” Kriseman said.

Turanchik, a Tampa attorney and former Hillsborough County commissioner, represents HMS Ferries, the firm pushing for a commuter service carrying servicemen and women and civilian employees between South Hillsborough and MacDill Air Force base.

That project is on hold pending an environmental study to find a terminal site in Apollo Beach. The study may not be concluded until July, Turanchik said.

The winter ferry program would be aimed at tourists, snowbirds and residents who want a day out across the bay. The crossing would take about 50 minutes. Tentative sites for the temporary docks are the Tampa Convention Center and the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg.

Ferries would also run some evenings for special events like Tampa Bay Lightning games and the 2017 NCAA National Championship game at Raymond James Stadium, Turanchik said.

On a more practical level, it would give a genuine read on the level of demand for a weekend recreational hops between the two cities, which is also part of the proposed permanent ferry service. “My personal belief is if this gets set up, it’s going to accelerate the other project,” Turanchik said. “It’s an extraordinary way of traveling; you get to have a cup of coffee and enjoy gorgeous sunsets.”

A high-speed ferry service was one of Kriseman’s campaign pledges and he has supported the commuter ferry plan.

“It was amazing to me that coastal communities like St. Petersburg or Tampa don’t have any ferry system in place and don’t have water-taxis of any significance in place,” he said.

His plan to use the BP money must still be approved by St. Petersburg City Council members, some of whom want more of the money spent on sewer improvements.

Other hurdles may include finding political support on the Hillsborough side of the bay.

Turanchik said Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman supports the project. But Tampa officials said Thursday they have heard little about the proposal and are focused on transportation initiatives including Go Hillsborough and the expansion of the TECO Line Streetcar System, seen as important to the success of Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s $2 billion redevelopment of the area around the Amalie Arena.

“This is just one of several transportation initiatives,” said Bob McDonaugh, Tampa Economic Development Administrator.

Kriseman plans to pitch the idea to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a meeting next week.

He said he has no qualms about working with Turanchik, whose failed attempts to bring the 2012 Olympics and commuter rail to Tampa have led some to dub him a dreamer.

“I think if you’re not dreaming and shooting for the stars, you’ll certainly never reach them,” Kriseman said. “You’ve got to try new things and see if you can put it together.”


Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on Rick Homans:



Homans moves from EDC to Tampa Bay Partnership

By Yvette C. Hammett | Tribune Staff 
October 12, 2015   |   Updated: October 12, 2015 at 09:15 PM


TAMPA — Rick Homans, who for the past three years successfully rewrote the handbook for economic development in Hillsborough County, will jump into a more regional role later this month.

Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation since 2012, will take the reins of the Tampa Bay Partnership. He was selected after the Partnership conducted a national search for a new leader. He officially joins the Partnership as president and CEO on Nov. 9.

Homans steps into the vacuum created when former interim CEO John Schueler stepped down in June. Schueler took the position beginning in 2013 following the resignation of longtime Partnership president and CEO Stuart Rogel.

Homans’ move came as no surprise to local leaders, who had known for awhile this change was in the works, said Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman.

And no one appears worried it will be a setback for the robust economic development the county has experienced in the past couple of years.

“My personal thoughts are that Rick really took us to a new level when he came on board and I think he developed a really good economic development machine with a good staff. Everything will run well,” Murman said.

“I’m just happy we’re keeping him here in the Bay area,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “I really have grown to like and respect Rick. He’s been a big part of all the progress we’ve made over the past four years and an integral part of the team that coalesced and convened and executed on the plan and the vision” for jobs and business growth.

“He’s done this without any drama,” Buckhorn said. “The results are speaking for themselves.”

Since becoming leader of the EDC, Homans and his staff have worked to lure more than 12,000 high-paying jobs to Hillsborough County. New and expanding businesses, just this year, planned to spend $121 million in the area, which includes a $23.5 million investment planned by Johnson & Johnson and $18.3 million that Tampa Tank and Florida Structural Steel is investing to expand at Port Tampa Bay’s Port Redwing in Apollo Beach.

The EDC staff remains on the hunt for a Fortune 500 company willing to move its headquarters here. Homans said that hunt, which his team has worked closely on with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s development team, will remain an EDC task once he departs.

“The Lightning and SPP have strong partnerships with both the Hillsborough County EDC and the Tampa Bay Partnership,’’ said Jim Shimberg, chief operating officer of Strategic Property Partners, the joint real estate venture between Cascade Investments and Jeff Vinik. “We look forward to working with Rick in his new role as CEO of the Partnership as well as on a continuing basis with the EDC on our efforts to bring thousands of high paying jobs to Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay area.”

Murman said J. P. DuBuque, who will serve as interim EDC director, has served side by side with Homans as vice president of finance and administration for nearly three years and is up to taking over that weighty task. “I think there will be barely a blip on the screen.”

University of Tampa President Ronald Vaughn, who serves as EDC chairman, said DuBuque has “worked tirelessly to help lead the transformation of the EDC. His institutional knowledge, financial acumen and relationship building with investors, elected officials and partners will ensure a seamless transition as we focus on the continued pursuit of our strategic goals.”

The EDC will conduct a national search for Homans’ replacement.

Homans’ new focus will be on developing a strategic plan to bring the voices of regional business leaders together.

“What I’ve been doing here at the EDC is in the trenches, on the ground economic development,” Homans said. “We’ve built a super strong organization, but our success is driven in large part by the power of the region. I think you look at the things like the Bay Area legislative delegation and the business leadership and we haven’t yet harnessed that power to effect positive economic change. That’s the opportunity ahead of us.”

“Choosing a leader with both an economic development background and public policy experience is a major asset for Tampa Bay,” said Bay Area Legislative Delegation Chair Sen. John Legg. “[The legislative delegation] looks forward to strengthening its relationship with Rick Homans and the Tampa Bay Partnership as it works toward making the Tampa Bay region the pre-eminent business destination in the country,” Legg said in a written statement.

Homans said one of his jobs for the Partnership will also be to work with the CEOs of every economic development corporation in the region to find out how to add “real value and compliment their work and support their activities to help them get even better results. I know from where I sit at the EDC we need that kind of regional support. I look forward to developing that program with these partners.”

“This is a pivotal moment for the Tampa Bay Partnership ,” said Partnership Chairman and Fifth Third Bank (North Florida) Regional President Brian Lamb. “I am confident that Rick is the right person for the job as his extensive experience closely aligns with the strategic direction of the organization, which will focus on solidifying ‘one voice’ for the region.”


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