Kiana Wilson, A Sharper U, LLC
Port Tampa Bay and Agriculture Day
The Leadership Tampa Class of 2018 spent a fun-filled day at the Florida Strawberry Festival and Port Tampa Bay learning about the impact that agriculture and port transportation have on the Tampa Bay economy.
Florida Strawberry Festival
The day started like most days - early (although we were able to enjoy a slightly later departure time). With excitement and eagerness in the air, we traveled to our first stop of the day – the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL. Those of us who have attended the festival before, had strawberry shortcake on our minds (YUM)! while first-timers simply took it all in.
Upon arrival, Lee Bakst, Assistant Manager of the Florida Strawberry Festival, welcomed us and provided a bit of history and background.
- The festival began in 1930 as an event to celebrate the harvesting of strawberries.
- As one of the top festivals in North America, this 11-day event draws an annual attendance of over 500,000 people.
- Strawberry shortcake is in high demand with approximately 250,000 served during the festival.
Next, we headed to the Strawberry Field Exhibit led by Tiffany Dale and Kenneth Parker from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. We learned about the growing/harvesting of the strawberry plants, robotic harvesting, workforce shortages, and the overall economic value to Plant City - approximately $1 billion. This engaging session left many of us in awe as we gained a greater understanding of the berry process from field to grocery.
“The greatest challenge to the industry is imported products from central New Mexico.” ~ Kenneth Parker, Executive Director
Our final stop before lunch was to the livestock exhibit where we briefly toured the stables. Then, we headed into the arena where several presenters (including high school students Cole and Maddie) discussed the process of preparing steer to be sold. The presenters also discussed Future Farmers of America organization and the impact it has on middle and high school students in the areas of business, ethics, discipline and scholarship.
Last up on the morning agenda was a roundtable luncheon with members from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Mosaic and the Southwest Cattle Company. We enjoyed a great menu of southern comfort foods, ice tea and a huge piece of strawberry shortcake! With full bellies and smiles on our faces, we headed back to the bus for departure where we recapped the events of the morning as we headed to our next destination.
Port Tampa Bay
Port Tampa Bay was the next stop for the day. We learned about the port’s history, current initiatives and strategic direction from John Thorington and Mike Griffin. Highlights included:
- The port of Tampa is the largest and most cargo diverse port in the state of Florida.
- Approximately 85,000 jobs in central Florida are supported by the port with an economic impact of approximately $17 billion dollars.
- Over the next 5 years, the port will spend approximately $380 million to expand infrastructure and capacity to include new docks and terminals.
Mike concluded his presentation by sharing the port’s 2030 vision of a $1.4 million capital investment over the next 15 years, how the port is preparing for continued growth and why it will remain an economic driver for the Tampa Bay community.
Last up for the day was an hour-long tour aboard the Bay Spirit II from the Florida Aquarium. While cruising the waters and taking pictures of the port and city skyline, one couldn’t help but think about how fortunate we are to reside in this growing and robust community. Today was an experience some of us would have never explored had it not been for Leadership Tampa. As residents, leaders and community advocates, we had the opportunity to shed our perceptions and really see and explore our city in a new light.
On behalf of the 2018 Leadership Tampa class, a BIG thank you to the chairs, sponsors and presenters for this eye-opening experience! #LT18