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Cluster Tampa Bay

A long time ago a young man pondering a job with the dynamic publicly traded company Data Tech in Clearwater called me to learn about Tampa Bay.

He wanted the inside information only a business reporter known for aggressive ass-kissing and soft-ball journalism such as myself has from high level access into the local good old boys network.

It was critical to him that should he ever part ways with Data Tech, who lays off staff regularly, that other tech opportunities with good pay existed in Tampa Bay. He needed to know what other tech companies were in the area.

I told him about our great weather, beaches and lifestyle in Tampa Bay. Were he to call today I would blather around buzzwords I barely understand like “emerging clusters” “creative class” and “innovation economy” while highlighting our fantastic weather, new dog park, and the lifestyle in Tampa Bay,.

His question is even more critical today. Talent is a lot easier to attract to a town when there are clusters of businesses in an industry. They can support each other, hug and nurture each other, make love and give birth to baby companies.

In other words we still want to sell the Florida lifestyle as our main goal in life; we just need to update the spin with buzz words like “Industry Cluster”. To build an industry cluster we need to aggressively buy advertising claiming we already have such a successful cluster as we want.

It is like duck hunting, we need to layout decoy ducks and make duck calls to attract the ducks.

This is exactly the goal of our regional economic developers at the start of 2011. They claim they have grown past the belief that people will relocate here without the opportunity for a meaningful job. Now they are sure in their belief that companies will relocate here without a local workforce commonly educated past the ninth grade level.

They need to layout the decoys and make the duck calls to push the concept of a Tampa Bay cluster that will enslave all local economic development, chambers and government funding into their corrupt and incompetent hands.

The key to clustering is for them to be in charge of the whole region. Let Pinellas be ruled by the regional government in Tampa for the good of all. We must consolidate the power and money of economic development into the hands of a small inept and corrupt self appointed elite who pretend to understand economic development while lining their own pockets.

Our cluster obsession coincides with the worst economy in modern history. Unemployment is stubbornly over 12%. The labor force has shrunk greatly, and labor force participation is very low.

Tampa Bay’s self interested economic leaders want the region to come out of the recession someday sure, maybe it will work itself out in several years, when it does they do not want a divided business-as-usual attitude. Rather they want to be firmly in control for their own personal benefit.

The groups leading this power grab, the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber Partnership and the Planning for Economic Stagnation Council, over-paid RSI consultant Lou Mann to help identify six clusters to “develop” to move the process along. Now anything that happens in these six clusters real or imagined will be attributed to their efforts directly and their divine leadership indirectly. I and the other lemmings in the media will over hype the propaganda they put out without question thought or analysis.

It could be tricky. Churning out phony press releases ahead of the truth could reveal the shallow scam our economic development really is.

But failing to feed the demands of well connected in-breeds from south Tampa no matter how inane and counter-productive would mean I would not be invited back to their cocktail parties which I could not bear at they make me feel special.

At the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber CEO Guido Getsome and Business Shakedown Officer Nikita Breshnov suggests the entire geographic region of Tampa Bay is just the right size for their dominion and their clustering scam to be effective.

At the Florida Power Lighting Company CEO Will Bunderson has been ordered by the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber CEO to make a press statement that looks like action in the immediate future.

Bunderson cautions folks impatient over the inactivity of economic development leaders to even admit a recession for the last four years of economic ruin that nurturing clusters via advertising and branding will take time.

“We need to hire more consultants and study the plans for years to the cost of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I believe that nothing ever can happen till you pay the consultants, we will need media event-planning and political consultants right away.”

Part of this plan is to immediately hire at exorbitant rates, the varied family and friends of Greater Tampa Bay Chamber Partnership board members and directors immediately on no bid contracts.

In its advisory role RSI says a key element of making clusters take hold will be marketing a new brand message for the Tampa Bay region.

“The idea is to convey to outside audiences a factually incorrect vision of what Tampa Bay offers for businesses. Similar to the con job for population growth known as the growth management strategy which has now failed, this new plan will con companies into relocating to Tampa Bay,” RSI stated in a draft report on Cluster strategy.

“The impression of us is more important and easier to manage then the reality” is a key theme repeated through the report.

Naysayers are what I call anyone who disagrees with what I want or am told to want. And the naysayers will come out on this cluster plan and use their accursed logic and common sense to ask questions I do not want to ask the elite and they do not want to answer.

Is this another zero-sum game, another con job that can only fail as some critics have said? Is it just a chance to spend tax payers’ money to help one set of snobs who can’t hold real jobs at the expense of real economic development? Are we cutting our own throats by not even trying for real?

Well yes, we are, but you can’t say that. You were not born here; you don’t love Tampa Bay like we do, so your opinion does not matter. We are entitled to be your leaders and will not be subjected to your whims. Have you not seen it yet? You don’t matter; we will do as we wish till you move away from town for a real job.

This cluster thing is trendy; it makes us feel smart when we repeat what we read in those fancy year-old New York magazines we see at the dentists’ office. We need to jump on the tail end of this dying trend before it is proven wrong.

The idea behind clustering is that these companies will help each other, without our assistance or understanding. But from years of building a ramshackle economy built on bars and hotels we know that the key to government help of business is the advertising of the area as a destination.

We used to be a destination for retirees, but they aren’t coming anymore. We used to be a destination for strip miners looking for sulfur but the EPA shut them down and established 13 superfund sties so that some day our great-great-great-great -grandchildren can drink water in those parts of town without getting sick. Now we can be a destination for businesses that want cheap labor, no hassle from local governments on environment issues and a large desperate uneducated workforce.

Ten years ago 36% of our workforce was college educated; today it is only 24%. So it is time to build on the educated talents of our white collar workers before the few remaining run for better economies.

This is a can-do strategy; it takes no real effort or intelligence yet still maintains what we have been doing for generations. It makes us look like we are trying to grow when in fact we are strengthening the status quo. And the impression is more important then reality.