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Axios Tampa Bay's Ben Montgomery (L) and Tampa Bay Economic Development Council CEO Craig Richard (R). Photo: Axios

Improving transportation and infrastructure in Tampa could drive significant economic growth, Tampa Bay Economic Development Council CEO Craig Richard said on Thursday at an Axios virtual event.

The big picture: Tampa has buses for public transportation and has improved its biking and pedestrian access in recent years. But the city does not have a rail system outside of the TECO line streetcar, which is not high-speed and has limited reach. Some infrastructure throughout Hillsborough County is also in need of repair.

  • "Transportation and infrastructure is really the seed that creates economic growth. Any time you look at development over the centuries, whether it's been access to ports or access to railroads or access to freeways, you have to have access to these types of... infrastructure systems to support economic growth and development."

Richard further argued that Tampa's current public transit system could hinder the city's competitiveness in recruiting new residents or businesses.

  • Transportation "plays a role in terms of people's access to employment opportunities, and when you're looking at a community and the health of a community, you want to make sure that everybody has access to those economic opportunities, whether it's jobs or education. And your transportation helps fill that role," he said.
  • "It is unfortunate that our mass transportation doesn't stack up very well to some of our other competitor cities."

Watch the event.

Go deeper

Updated Feb 4, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Hospitality and the return to work in Tampa

On Thursday, February 4, Axios Tampa Bay reporters Selene San Felice and Ben Montgomery hosted a Smart Take conversation on the hospitality industry, economic recovery and the return to work in Tampa, featuring Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Tampa Bay Economic Development Council CEO Craig Richard.

Mayor Jane Castor discussed how Tampa has approached public health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • On how the city is supporting its residents during the pandemic. "There's a moratorium on any evictions...In addition, we are working in collaboration with career sources on workforce development. That is one of the larger elements of my administration's platform."
  • On how existing development projects were able to safely progress during the pandemic: "We hired a medical director at the city and individuals had to be screened before they could come on the job site. They had to wear masks, they had to socially distance and there had to be hand washing stations throughout those locations. ..I'm very proud to say, out of the thousands of workers that we were able to keep employed, we had very few COVID-19 cases at those locations."

Craig Richard unpacked economic development in Tampa and the impact it has on the 2021 Super Bowl.

  • On the challenges of economic development during the pandemic: "Tampa Bay's challenges aren't unlike any other big cities challenges right now: the challenges that we're facing are primarily pandemic related. All the obstacles and barriers that are associated with that it difficult to bring in clients and prospects and actually show them the fine city that we have."

Axios Senior Vice President of Client Partnerships Jon Otto hosted a View from the Top segment with 'Dinner Done!' co-founder and CEO Audra Nasser, who discussed the food industry in Tampa.

  • How having a digital presence impacted their ability to operate during the pandemic: "It also gave us inventory controls and that turned out to be very critical in our ability to immediately begin offering curbside pickup to our customers. Additionally, we used a lot of social media like Facebook and Instagram to continuously communicate with our customers."

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

Suzuki's marine division picks location for corporate HQ in Tampa

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Suzuki Motors of America has settled on an office building off Tampa Road near Oldsmar as the corporate headquarters for its new company, Suzuki Marine USA.

Why it matters: The Tampa Bay Economic Development Council said the company will create "numerous jobs over the next several years" and operations are set to begin in April.

The Super Bowl highlights the dark side of Tampa Bay's sex trade

An anti-trafficking poster in Miami ahead of its Super Bowl last year. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP via Getty Images

The Super Bowl has become, well, the Super Bowl of anti-human-trafficking campaigns.

What's happening: Tampa saw 71 arrests last month in a trafficking sting, mirroring similar mass arrests in Miami and Atlanta ahead of their Super Bowls.