Six local executives share their “why Tampa” stories

February 4, 2019

As the EDC’s senior VP of business development Steve Morey joked at our bi-annual Meet the Projects event, now is about the time of year when our phones light up with people wanting to move their business down south to avoid another harsh winter.


And considering the brutal winter storm that swept across the Midwest and northeast last week, we have no doubt that there will be a few executives who trade in the snow shovels for beach towels.


More than 90 Investors flooded The Verve in downtown Tampa on January 31 to hear why six local executives chose Tampa for their businesses – some who did escape the cold and haven’t looked back, and some whose companies are homegrown, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.


Here are some key takeaways:


Constantine Grapsas, Founder and CEO of Automated Industrial Machinery, relocated his company from the Chicago area to Tampa in 2018. Grapsas, an electrical engineer by trade, started researching neighboring states first for the relocation of his premier CNC wire bending machine supplier and then expanded his search. Tampa ultimately offered the best opportunity for his company’s challenges. He then cited Florida’s low taxes, and since he’s a native of Greece, the proximity to sun and sea was his third reason.


John Wilson, CEO of WilsonHCG, also fled the Midwest after college and settled in Tampa to start his company in 2002. Back then, Wilson mentioned he placed a lot of jobs in Toronto and Manchester, England, but fast forward to today and he’s seeing a lot of people that want to stay in Tampa. People are excited about the growth of Tampa and how it’s grown into the city with a thriving culture and food scene.


Jamie Lawless, executive director of the new Tampa Center of Baker McKenzie, said the move to Tampa followed a more traditional site selection process. The global law firm was looking to reinvent the way they do business. Tampa was a good fit because it offered the depth of talent the firm needed, located in a top business destination that could work in conjunction with other global centers. Tampa ticked a lot of other boxes that were important for Baker McKenzie, too: a city where people wanted to be, an accessible way to get in and out via a top-rated international airport, the opportunity to be a part of the city and its future success, a strong workforce, diversity and culture, robust educational systems, great real estate options, and an enviable quality of life.


Chris St. Peters leads operations for Materials Lifecycle Management Company, an alternative fuel manufacturing company. MLMC announced plans for a new facility in Plant City that would add 45 new jobs and invest more than $10 million. St. Peters said the new facility is a showpiece for innovative technology, which takes raw materials and recycles them into a product called Enviro-Fuelcubes, a clean alternative to coal. Tampa was chosen because it had the needed infrastructure in place to transport the product, and the talent needed to fill high-skilled manufacturing jobs. MLMC Florida is gearing up to start producing its first Enviro-Fuelcube at the Plant City facility in March and ship it to its customer CEMEX in New Port Richey.


For homegrown startup Newgentek, Tampa was never a question said company president Jared Lederhandler. Founder Chon Nguyen grew up in Tampa and already experienced success as an entrepreneur in the market. Lederhandler left an executive position at Samsung to join Newgentek, a move he joked may seem rash to some people, but it’s been a gamble that has paid off. Newgentek has tripled its workforce in the last year and is on pace to triple its revenue. The company focuses on improving efficiency and productivity for companies, CEOs especially, by turning complex infrastructure, network, point of sale, and audio visual requirements into manageable and easy-to-use solutions.


John Doble, Founding Partner of Tampa Bay Brewing Company, joined his family in Tampa after a decorated military career. Started more than 20 years ago, TBBC is one of Florida’s first craft breweries and brewpubs. And while it has grown over the years with the addition of a second location and increased production to keep up with demand, TBBC remains focused on being a Florida brand and brewing beer that pays homage to our unique environment, lifestyle, culture and wildlife. In 2018, TBBC increased its barrel production by 24 percent and projects it to grow by 26 percent this year.


Thank you to our sponsor – Fifth Third Bank!


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