Why Tampa was chosen for foreign investment initiative

June 15, 2016

Frances McMorris | Tampa Bay Business Journal

The Tampa Bay metro area has been selected to join a small group of cities and regions that will create new strategies to attract foreign direct investment through the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase.

The region will join Baltimore, Fresno, Houston, Salt Lake County and St. Louis in developing a foreign direct investment plan. The cities were chosen by Brookings after a competitive application process.

“We are confident that Tampa Bay is positioned to take greater advantage of foreign direct investment, and can be a national leader in finding more effective approaches to global economic engagement,” said Marek Gootman, Brookings fellow and director of strategic partnerships and global initiatives.

Tampa Bay was evaluated for its readiness, capacity and commitment to maximize foreign direct investment sources such as greenfield expansions, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, joint ventures, and sovereign wealth funds.

As a result of this project, Tampa Bay will produce a foreign direct investment market assessment; strategic plan with goals, tactics, and implementation commitments; and a policy memorandum. The work will form a complete international trade and investment strategy.

The region will be represented by a team of local leaders including Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Pinellas County Economic Development, Pasco Economic Development Council, Port Tampa Bay, Tampa International Airport and the University of South Florida with additional support from the Tampa Bay Partnership and various other public and private sector entities.

The next step in the process to target 30 to 40 foreign-owned companies in the Tampa-Pinellas-Pasco region and do hourlong, face-to-face interviews over the next 10 months, said Lorrie Belovich, director, International Business Development at the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

“We want to really dive down deep,” she said. “We want to know what is the current ecosystem of foreign-owned companies in Tampa Bay.”

The goal is to attract more foreign companies in ways that allow the Tampa Bay region to compete in the global marketplace, Belovich said. She noted that many foreign-owned companies are here to reach the U.S. market or be closer to trading opportunities with Latin America. With the opening of the expanded Panama Canal that promises to bring more business to Port Tampa Bay and an increased number of international flights at TIA, the region is primed for more foreign investment.

The effort builds on the regional export plan created in 2014 by the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, in order to take full advantage of international trade and investment as a major opportunity for economic development.

“If we expect to compete in today’s economy, we have to put ourselves at the center of international commerce. The strategies identified in this study will help us get there,” J.P. DuBuque, interim CEO and president of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., said in a statement.

Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative is a five-year process that helps metropolitan areas expand their economies by strengthening international connections and competition.