Celebrating visionary women leaders who shaped the EDC

March 27, 2024

In 2009, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce made the bold – and not universally popular – decision to spin out its Committee of One Hundred business recruiting division and stand up a new, independent organization. The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation was launched on October 23 of that year, backed by funding from the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, and about 100 private companies. In the course of our 15-year history, the EDC has had four trailblazing women serve as chair. Each one led the organization through some significant changes that have transformed the EDC and helped it achieve major goals.


Rhea Law

Rhea Law, current president of the University of South Florida, became chair of the fledgling EDC in 2011. One of the architects of the new entity, she shaped its strategic plan, its governance structure, and the formation of industry task forces that zeroed in on target industry prospects. During her term, the EDC successfully collaborated with Governor Rick Scott, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, Enterprise Florida and many other partners to secure many job and capital investment wins at a time when Tampa Bay’s unemployment rate was north of 11 percent.


Colleen Chappell

Fast forward to fiscal year 2016, and Colleen Chappell, Chair of the Board of creative agency ChappellRoberts, took over the EDC like a force of nature. She began her term dealing with the resignation of the EDC’s prior CEO, and immediately rallied her officers to begin a national search, which resulted in my being hired. I’m especially grateful to her and the entire search committee for choosing me to lead our efforts. Colleen elevated a group of young entrepreneurs to help guide a new research initiative that would help Tampa better understand how it stacked up against other similar markets in attractiveness to Millennial talent. The research resulted in a report, Millennial Matter, that identified Tampa’s competitive advantages for young entrepreneurs and talent. A new partnership was then formed between Hillsborough County and Visit Tampa Bay that led to the creation of the Make it Tampa Bay talent attraction campaign. Now in its seventh year, the campaign has been instrumental in attracting top talent from across the country to our market.


Judy Genshaft (Photo by Matt May/University of South Florida)

In 2019, then-University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft kicked off our Ten Year Journey celebration with the launch of a brand new 501 c 3 organization, the Tampa Bay Economic Prosperity Foundation, created to raise awareness about short term certificate and degree programs for career-worthy jobs and generate transformative investment in low income communities such as East Tampa. Her term culminated with the rebranding of the EDC as the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.


Marie Chinnici-Everitt

Taking the baton from Dr. Genshaft, FY2020 Chair and DTCC Managing Director Marie Chinnici-Everitt rolled out a comprehensive new strategic plan, Opportunity Tampa Bay, that still shapes our organization today. Marie and the team were buzzing with energy and eager to start executing on our new plan when COVID 19 hit. Immediately switching gears, she led the charge as we collaborated with other government and business leaders on the Economic Recovery Task Force. This initiative went far in helping our local economy get back on its feet, and Marie directed it all in countless Zoom and phone calls. True to form, the EDC team still met its financial, jobs and capital investment goals for the year at a time when most organizations were teetering on the brink of collapse.


Thanks to the leadership of these remarkable women, the Tampa Bay EDC is strong, evolving, and on track to achieve more than its founders ever dreamed possible. We are so grateful to them and to all of the powerful and talented women leaders and staff that propel us forward. Our best days are still ahead of us!