The ambitious “Innovation District” initiative received a huge boost on Dec. 1 when the White House announced Tampa/Hillsborough County as one of only 20 new TechHire Communities designated throughout the country. TechHire Communities are recognized for demonstrating regional commitment and action to build tech talent pipelines.
A plan by Career Source Tampa Bay, Tampa Innovation Alliance, and other Innovation District partners to train about 1,000 local people, ages 17 through 29, for high-tech jobs is backed by a $3.8-million TechHire Partnership grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this year.
Designating the area a TechHire Community dovetails nicely with the Innovation District’s goal of developing more than 12,200 acres — including and surrounding the University of South Florida campus — into a cohesive economic engine fueled by large high-tech businesses and entrepreneurs.
To guide the evolution of the district, Hillsborough County is investing $2 million to develop a master plan for the sprawling expanse that includes land in unincorporated Hillsborough, Tampa, and Temple Terrace. USF, H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center, Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital, and University Mall are within the boundaries, and are involved in the endeavor.
Much of the land is intensely developed with housing and businesses. But it also includes a large undeveloped parcel at the northeast corner of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fowler Avenue, and the current site of the Museum of Science and Industry that will be available for redevelopment after MOSI moves to downtown Tampa.
The three governments, partnering with the nonprofit Tampa Innovation Alliance, are working to kick-start the undertaking with a collective zoning code, singular transportation plan, and distinctive branding that will make the district highly appealing to the private investors who ultimately will develop it.
County officials are committed to giving everyone now within the District — residents and businesses — an opportunity to participate in the successes of the redevelopment efforts. The boundaries encompass some of Hillsborough County’s poorest neighborhoods, and the County wants to ensure residents receive job training and support to remain and thrive in the area. In turn, these trained workers will help attract companies and entrepreneurs looking for a capable, available workforce.
That's where TechHire comes in. Many jobs in high demand by tech-oriented industries do not require college degrees. Through the federal initiative, people can receive the training they need to find good-paying jobs, and tech sector businesses can find skilled workers to grow.