EDC premieres new event series, ED Talks!

April 2, 2019

The Tampa Hillsborough EDC recently premiered ED Talks!, a new event series that explores trending topics in business and economic development. The first event featured Bob O’Malley, vice president of government affairs for Brightline, and covered the impact of transit-oriented development.

O’Malley explained that transportation impacts economic development in three ways: workforce access, development, and tourism.

First, traffic congestion reduces the talent pool (and we all know that the availability of top talent is the number one priority of any company considering a relocation or expansion into a new market). Employees hate traffic, and research shows that a bearable commute time is 45 minutes. The impacts of long commutes include increased absenteeism, frequent tardiness, higher turnover rates, reduced performance, reduced applicants, and more.

When you look at Tampa, a 45-minute commute by car encompasses Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and into Pasco County. However, when you look at a 45-minute commute by transit, you barely get out of the city of Tampa limits. This can be very limiting to those looking for a well-paying job and for employers looking to fill positions. Brightline’s planned connection from Orlando to Tampa will allow Lakeland residents, for example, to commute to downtown Tampa companies.

Second, transportation spurs development. For example, Miami’s Grand Central Station now has two office buildings, two apartment buildings and 180,000 square feet of retail. Avis rental car facilities, ride sharing, bike shares, and where available scooters, are available at Brightline stations to help travelers connect to their final destination.

Lastly, with 21 million residents and 126 million visitors, tourism depends on transportation. Orlando is the number one travel destination in the country and its airport is the busiest in the state with 47 million passengers per year. An Orlando to Tampa connection will make it easier for visitors traveling to Disney World and other theme parks to extend their vacations to the Tampa Bay area’s award-winning beaches and arts and cultural institutions.

“We know Florida is right for this and needs this badly,” said O’Malley, who also provided an update on Brightline’s connections across the state. The construction from Miami to Orlando will take about 36 months with service starting in 2020. There is no timeline for the Orlando to Tampa connection at this point, however, there are 4-6 sites being considered for the Tampa station, all of which are ripe for redevelopment.

Florida still needs highways as they’re vital for business, but Florida can’t keep growing without rail. However, more is needed than just Brightline. Rail and other mass transit options locally are needed to better connect people throughout the city and region.