A City on the Rise Again

By Daniel Nardini

[The following was sent from Tampa, Florida]

TAMPA–When my wife and I visited Tampa, Florida, in 2005, it seemed like a virtually abandoned city. In the downtown area, many buildings had no business, no stores, and there were a good number of signs in the windows that said “for rent,” or “for sale.” With maybe the exception of a few homeless people here and there, my wife and I saw no one walking anywhere in downtown. What bus service there was had almost no people riding the buses, and in order for my wife and I to get something to eat or water to drink we went to a hotel since there were no stores available. The University of Tampa had few students running around, and the whole downtown area seemed like a ghost city with only some cars and no one else.

Fast-forward to 2014, and Tampa could not have been more different. As my father drove us through the downtown area, we saw people everywhere. More than that, we saw stores, shops and businesses in just about every building that nine years before had nothing in them. The bus service now has many people riding the buses, and from the number of buses on the streets the bus service has been expanded. Just as amazing was the construction of new roads, highways and sidewalks. There were tourists all over the place, and many of them were riding in the street cars that had been put back into service for the local residents. There were more homeless people to be sure, but now there were people coming from not just other parts of the United States to live and work in Tampa but visitors from countries like Germany, Switzerland and China.

It was like a city transformed, and teaming with business life the likes I did not think was possible. Yet I learned that many corporations have opened up business in Tampa. Among these this year alone were Edelweiss Air (Switzerland), Copa Airlines (Panama), Trader Joe’s, Bristol-Myer’s Squibb, and Amports. When my wife and I stayed at a part of the Tampa Bay area called Davis Islands, the shops there were doing good business with not only local residents but also tourists. Many of those who owned the shops on Davis Island came from other parts of the country. In fact, many local residents were actually from other parts of the United States who decided to make Tampa their home. My wife told me that many Koreans came to Tampa from California and other parts of the U.S. to settle in Tampa because of Tampa’s growing business sector.

Just as equally important are the number of Latinos and Asians who have moved to the Tampa area. Many of the newer residents are Cuban, but many also come from Mexico, Central and South America. What surprised me were also the recent influx of Chinese and Indian immigrants to the area. Apparently the number of high paying jobs has brought highly trained immigrants from not only other parts of the United States but also directly from other countries as well. Additionally, many Germans and Swiss continue to buy homes and set up businesses in Tampa. Apparently, these affluent German and Swiss entrepreneurs find life in Tampa more affordable than in their native lands—hence why so many Germans and Swiss spend four to six months out of the year staying in Tampa.

With all of the business and investments the Florida Republican Party has brought into Tampa, I am not surprised that so many people are for the Republicans—certainly most business people are for the Republican Party. However, the Tampa area, along with the Miami area, have the largest number of registered Democrat voters in Florida. This should come as no surprise as not all people have shared in the wealth of the current business boom in Tampa (besides all of the homeless, I saw more than a fair share of poor areas in that city). With the growth in the number of people and business comes a huge income disparity. And this leads to crime, poverty and gang activity. Tampa is no exception to this rule. From what I had seen of Tampa when I was last there, this city has really come back from the brink, and it is worth a visit if nothing else.

Comments are closed.