Tampa-area leaders in Toronto to talk trade, tourism, filmmaking

October 19, 2015

Yvette C. Hammett | Tampa Tribune/TBO.com 
More than 70 regional business leaders are in Toronto this week working to grow exports to Canada, develop more commercial business relationships there and gain an understanding of what it takes to become a premier location for filmmaking.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham and Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice are leading the delegation for the Tampa Bay Export Alliance. The alliance is a joint effort between the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and the Pinellas County Economic Development.
“Canada is one of the most important strategic markets for Tampa Bay,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. “It is the number one export destination for our region’s goods and services and our third largest source of foreign direct investment. The opportunities for local companies to expand their North American footprint and find a receptive market for their goods and services in Canada are significant.”
The group will spend two full days in Toronto to promote international business, tourism and film and digital media opportunities between Canada and the Tampa Bay region. The agenda includes a Gold Key program (customized one-on-one meetings arranged by the U.S. Commercial Service for business people) as well as film and digital media and other industry site visits, informational briefings, investment meetings and business roundtables.
Hillsborough County Film Commissioner Dale Gordon is among the delegates. “Any time we travel to a sophisticated film market we try to meet with filmmakers to market Tampa as a destination,” Gordon said by phone from Toronto. “The reason it is so important to incorporate that into the trade mission is incentives.”
Toronto, she said, was the first location to offer incentives to filmmakers, which actually started an exodus from Los Angeles and New York City to Canada. She plans to spend almost an entire day on the film component of the mission, visiting the IMAX headquarters and Cinespace Film Studios, the largest sound stage in the world, as well as Corus Entertainment’s digitial animation studio.
“This isn’t just about getting a Hollywood film made in Tampa Bay,” Gordon said. “It’s long term strategic growth of an industry.” She said she is hoping to come home with more than 50 new advocates for the film industry in the Tampa region.
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is also on the mission trip and will be the keynote speaker Tuesday at the American Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon at the Hockey Hall of Fame where he’ll discuss his $2 billion mixed use development plans for downtown Tampa.
“AmCham Canada is very pleased to welcome the Tampa Bay Export Alliance and (Vinik) to Canada,” said Robert Bathgate, chair of the Toronto-Greater Toronto Area AmCham Canada chapter. “This mission and luncheon will play a vital role in expanding U.S., Canada cross-border opportunities.”
“One of Tampa Bay’s great strengths is the diversity of its businesses, with mission participants representing a cross-section of industries: medical devices, information technology, travel and tourism, aerospace, financial services, health care, manufacturing, filmmaking and more,” said Bruce A. Heyman, U.S. ambassador to Canada. “As such, these firms are well positioned to take advantage of the U.S.-Canada trade and investment relationship.”
Since that list includes tourism, Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada and Visit St. Pete-Clearwater’s Ed. Cassidy are also on the mission trip, along with Chris Minner, vice president of marketing for Tampa International Airport.