Posted by: Amanda Jacobson, United Way Suncoast on Thursday, March 3, 2022


Government and Economic Development Day

Written by: Amanda Jacobson, Senior Manager, Individual Philanthropy at United Way Suncoast

Leadership Tampa Class of 2022 kicked off Government and Economic Development Day at the Office of the State Attorney 13th Judicial Circuit of Florida with business turned government leaders, including Luis Viera, Tampa City Council, Pat Kemp, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, Lynn Gray, Hillsborough County School Board and Jen McDonald, Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Committee Member.

The panel reviewed the role impact fees have, redistricting, how to understand which office leads in various issues (city/county/state/national government) and where community members can play a part in government leadership. McDonald, who represented the Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Committee, spoke on how she was appointed and overviewed how to learn more on citizen leadership opportunities. She overviewed how current events can impact how their team advises the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on research and policy.

Later, our Day Chairs, Jennifer Whelihan (LT’18), Hillsborough County Economic Development Manager and Gerri Kramer (LT’16), Chief Communications Officer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office, brought us to the Hillsborough County Election Service Center. Here we met Craig Lattimer and were able to tour the facility that serves as a home base for preserving democracy in Hillsborough County.

We were able to see the machinery and the extensive storage equipment for election supplies- including cleaning supplies for elections to keep our community safe for those who choose to vote early or on election day at their polling place.

Kramer thanked classmates who had served as poll workers and made note of the resources available on the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections website for children and their Facebook page feature, TipTuesday. Tip Tuesday is a weekly series where Craig provides bite-sized videos for residents about voting to encourage more people to participate in elections.

After a presentation from Nic Glover, VP of Advocacy with the Tampa Bay Chamber about how Chamber legislative priorities are identified and presented to elected officials, we departed for lunch with Bonnie Wise, Hillsborough County Administrator and Mayor Jane Castor.

Wise and Castor spoke on the resiliency local government officials had throughout the pandemic and how the challenging circumstances of COVID-19 caused our community to get creative in finding solutions.

They spoke on how affordable housing is a continued priority for Tampa Bay and more needs to be done to ensure that Tampa remains, as Castor described, “the greatest city in the nation”.

This resonated with a classmate who shared that her rent is being raised 25% in the next year, others joined in sharing about the difficulty of buying in the current housing market.

Afterwards, we heard about the work that is being done to keep us there from John DeLaVergne, Workforce Housing Committee Chair, Tampa Bay Chamber, Katie Lopez, Senior Director, Military and Workforce Development, Tampa Bay Chamber and Kayon Henderson, Housing and Community Development Manager, City of Tampa. They shared barriers include rising land and construction costs, misunderstanding of the workforce housing demographic and limited project eligibility for local, state, and federal funding as challenges.

They also spoke of opportunities for development near employment and transportation zones, leverage of opportunity zones including in the East Tampa area, and a call to action for less restrictive regulations & fees to incentivize growth.

We closed out the day by hearing about the great work that is being done by community organizations and addressing the intersectionality between the challenges that ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed) residents face and workforce development needs - particularly for our neighbors of color.

Ernest Coney, President and CEO, Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc. (LT’18), Dr. Byron Clayton, Senior VP and Chief of Sector Partnerships, CareerSource Tampa Bay, and Liz Gutierrez, Founder and CEO, Enterprising Latinas, Inc led the class in an activity that focused on inequalities in financial stability in the region. This concluded in an understanding that leadership in providing employment opportunities which pay living wages with healthy cultures for all is a responsibility that the business, government, and nonprofit sectors of Tampa Bay must respond to as a united force.

The Leadership Tampa Class of 2022 ended the day with the Tampa Bay Wave, an organization that fosters creativity and innovation in entrepreneurs leaving a positive mark in communities across Tampa Bay and the world. Members from the Wave team shared about how COVID-19 has impacted entrepreneurs in our area and how the business community has risen to address challenges. The Wave encouraged each of us to find our way to drive innovation in Tampa Bay and Amanda Uliano, Leadership Tampa Class of 2022 Chair, shared how we can prepare for our visit with elected officials in Tallahassee this month to learn how we can bring more innovation and parity to our neighbors across Tampa Bay.