About 100 business leaders from the Tampa Bay region will travel to Charlotte in October. The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce arranges these trips each year to learn what other cities are doing right, and where they fall short.
"A couple of the key things that we're really focused on are workforce development, workforce housing, and transportation, and Charlotte's done a really good job, of digging into those issues” said Chamber board chair Jamie Harden.
Expanding mass transit, and how to pay for it, has been a vexing issue in the Tampa Bay region for years. Charlotte built a light rail line and street car network over the last decade. Planning for a second line and bus rapid transit is underway. Harden says he’s eager to learn how Charlotte got it done.
“It’s one thing to see it, how it is today,” Harden said. “But what are the steps you had to take to continue to build this out and get to where you are?”
He’s planning to meet with the head of Charlotte’s transit agency, John Lewis, who used to run Orlando’s transit system.
Harden says these annual trips also provide a look at problems faced by other cities. In Austin two years ago, Chamber members were impressed by the city’s booming tech sector. But they also learned about the soaring rents and lack of affordable housing caused by Austin’s population growth.