Saturday, April 25, 2015

More Vinik poaching?

The downtown proponents seem to be having a hard time making the case for their vision of what downtown Tampa should be. They've not shown much success in recruiting outside businesses to relocate downtown. Most that are moving in plan to move into Westshore or elsewhere in the county.

They've already poached the USF Medical school to relocate substantial operations at higher costs to downtown as an anchor tenant of Vinikville, rather than grow in place at USF. As we've discussed before (here and here), this is at best a net zero economic benefit for Hillsborough County to relocate from one part of the county to another.  I recently talked to a very senior Tampa medical leader, and he and most medical professionals continue to see this move as big boondoggle.

Vinik tried to recruit Syniverse to relocate is HQ from New Tampa to Vinikville.  But Syniverse refused, citing quality of life concerns from its highly paid staff.  Sources told us employees reacted quite negatively, started a petition drive, and management quickly backed off.

Now Vinik is going after MOSI?
The billion-dollar neighborhood Jeff Vinik is building downtown may well end up having a notable new addition: MOSI.
Hillsborough County officials confirm they are in advanced talks with Vinik about how to move the now-struggling Museum of Science and Industry from its present site on Fowler Avenue to somewhere in the 40-plus-acre area Vinik is redeveloping on the waterfront downtown.

If successful, the plan would add yet another major attraction to a downtown area that’s already flourishing with new hotel and residential development.
Do Vinik and the downtown proponents not have a real business plan besides poaching existing businesses and facilities to relocate from one part of the county to another? There is no clear win-win here. Any benefit for downtown is offset by the losses from where they came. At best, this is a zero sum game for the county.

We are wasting our time and monies for nothing, other than to sooth the egos of the downtown proponents.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity obviously,” County Administrator Michael Merrill said in an interview. “Obviously there are a lot of details to be worked out ... . But I think the opportunity to be part of the transformation of what’s happening downtown would seem to be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
They don't get it.  Merrill has fiduciary responsibility for the entire county, not just downtown. It's not Hillsborough County's job to continue to subsidize and pick winners and losers across the county.

MOSI has issues -- outdated facilities, wasted space, red ink, annual subsidies of $585,915 from the county, etc. But there is no reason to assume that moving to downtown will magically fix what ails MOSI, nor that the problems cannot be fixed in the current location.

It's not as if the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa has been an overwhelming success over the years. While it's recently doing better, it always receives annual operating subsidies from the city of Tampa, currently nearly $500,000. The city still pays $6.7 million annually on the $84 million construction debt, payments that will continue until 2027. The county chips in another $307,135 per year.

Has anyone asked the questions around moving yet another tax exempt organization to downtown Tampa and the impact on the tax revenues?  Taxable property values downtown are increasing, but how does relocating MOSI downtown from its perfectly suitable current location benefit the county?

Vinik has received a ton of favorable and uncritical press. Many of our local political leaders seem to blindly support whatever he wants.  But his vision is still just a vision.  Beyond buying some downtown land and adjoining properties such as the Marriott, his major success to date is poaching the USF Medical School. We do give him credit for improving the Lightning and Amalie Arena.

Now he's trying to replicate that poaching strategy again.

Recruiting a corporate HQ is high on Viniks priorities.

I suggest Vinik work harder to recruit corporate candidates for downtown Tampa outside of Hillsborough County.  That way, everyone in the county benefits, not just him.


  1. Well let's see Mark and Sharon, would you both rather have had the Channel District continue to be some rotting industrial zone with tons of industrial buildings from yesteryear just sitting and rotting away? Vinik's vision may be preliminary at this point, but it has HUGE potential to be THE GAME CHANGER for the area, and downtown for that matter. Once ConAgra is out of there, the possibilities for redevelopment are really endless. But I guess neither of you want to face the realities of what could be a really good plan. I guess you both would rather just see a sleepy rotting backwater industrial zone...

  2. Hi Walter. Thanks for reading our blog. If you read closely, we only want success for ALL of Hillsborough, not just downtown. We wish Vinik well... as long as he does not seek to enrich himself by poaching nearby businesses which do not benefit the community.

    Oh, and another thing. Why did you block me on twitter, yet you continue to follow us?

  3. If you Poach MOSI, what will happen to their location on Fowler? I suppose it would go to the highest bidder.

  4. If MOSI was relocated to downtown, where would the money come from to tear it down at its current location, and to buy the land and build it at its new location?