Tampa Bay Glorifies Lower Cost Of Living Compared To Silicon Valley. What About Workplace Culture?

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

Leaders in the Tampa Bay tech scene have been claiming to see an increase in the number of
opportunities, businesses, and innovative ideas in the area.

Many organizations, local government offices and the University of South Florida have jumped into the strategy of helping to promote tech growth. This month, we saw what we have suspected to be true, validated via outside sources. Tampa is growing.

Commercial real estate provider CBRE announced that Tampa outranks other Florida cities including Miami and Jacksonville in tech talent. In fact, scoring No. 27 on the list of top 50 U.S. cities for talent is not a bad place to be for this expanding region. It’s almost like saying, “we’re No. 1!”

So, what does this mean? More importantly, what does this say about the Tampa Bay area?

For companies looking to build new offices or launch new headquarters in the area, they can feel more secure about being able to find qualified people to fill various tech positions. They can grow a workforce within the community and not have to spend large resources to recruit from other areas.

In short, the efforts are paying off by local leaders to glorify what the area offers, including a much lower cost of living as compared to Silicon Valley.

Tampa has been great at attracting large global companies and is embracing managed IT services companies like Accenture, ConnectWise, and Vology as well as many others. This is a great time to explore picking up some coding courses at a local school or even consider starting your own technology solution company.

Walter O. Kerce II is a native Floridian and IT professional in the area. He’s a senior IT executive at CampusWorks, Inc.

“The Tampa Bay area is up and coming, offering wonderful weather, beautiful coastal
communities with a fine collection of dining options,” Kerce said. “Additionally, you have your choice of professional sports to follow with the NFL, MLB, and NHL. I was born here, but this is
why I remain.”

He’s not the only one who appreciates what the area has to offer.

Israeli firm Tomobox announced it will be opening a U.S. headquarters in Tampa, co-founder and CEO David Sachs said during the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator presentations last month.

Florida Funders has based its office in Tampa, providing a platform for accredited investors to view and invest in private Florida companies that are poised for rapid growth.

In 2016, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp welcomed its new CEO, Craig J. Richard. Richard came from Invest Atlanta — Atlanta’s official economic development authority. He’s known for driving new companies and job creation to the area.

While the CBRE’s survey may lead some to question how the rankings are designed and if this is a good way to gauge the markets, there is no doubt Tampa is attracting innovative businesses and talent.

Neighborhoods are in development and schools are growing. However, this survey does not provide a look into how this translates into more executive roles being added, or if more women and minorities are in the  C Suite or as owners of the IT companies starting up or locating to the area.

We (Tampa) will take our CBRE rank with pride. However, as we do so, we need to ensure our growth in talent brings about diversity in the workforce as well. As workplace-culture authority Great Place to Work for All states, “better culture means better business.”

The diversity in the culture of Tampa Bay is enriched with ethnicities from all over the world, yet it is a struggle to see this reflected in panels at tech events and in executive leadership in the area. So, what is the diversity and culture like within companies? Are women and minority in leadership roles?

If what we see on occasion at events or in the ballrooms for many workshops is any sign, Tampa has to do better.

With this ranking, leaders have to wonder, are we striving for better culture? Is the observed absence of diversity because of a lack of positions at the top for tech professionals or because of a lack of striving for diversity in hiring practices?

We know the city, county and even local higher education organizations are vigorously seeking out women and minority owned companies. Perhaps this will challenge companies to take a look at their vendors and workforce as well.

For a city that is only 130 years old, we are doing good, but we can always do better.
Again, we will take this CBRE No. 27 rank of tech talent with pride. Our efforts are working and as a community will keep striving to reach the top.

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About Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Ebony T. Grimsley-Vaz is an author and digital marketing and PR expert for consumer brands, retailers, causes and events. Based in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, she owns Above Promotions, a digital marketing, publicity and promotions company. She wrote the book, "Because You're Small: Effective Marketing Strategies for Immediate Implementation."