Volume 6 l February 2021
Weekly eConnection
801 West Bay Drive, Suite 602 Largo, FL 33770
Tel: 727-584-2321 Fax: 727-586-3112

Economic Development Edition
We appreciate your continued support and loyalty!
2021 Chamber Business Survey Results…
****Unique to this year’s survey were questions dealing with government response to COVID. Most respondents – about 42% – felt that local and county government have done a positive job in handling the pandemic. This was followed closely by those who were “neutral” in their response.
****At the state level, it was a mixed bag. 30% had a positive response, 19.6 very positive, 19.6% very negative and 14.2% negative. Only 16% responded “neutral.”
               For the first time in five years conducting the survey, workforce development moved out of the top three factors most important to businesses. Quality of life and local infrastructure remain in the top spots joined by local & county taxes. Workforce moved to the 5th spot. State and federal taxes were 4th.
               The findings are being shared with local, county and state officials and are part of the Chamber’s Government Advocacy Panel’s (GAP) action agenda. The survey had a 12% response rate of 461 total delivered by email to Chamber member businesses.
               As to “what are the biggest education and workforce development challenges facing our region?” the top four selections echoed the 2020 survey – failure to prepare students for careers, preparing students for tests and not careers, homelessness/poverty and quality of local schools. Of note, homelessness/poverty moved up to third highest selection from fourth last year and sixth in 2019.
               Other findings: Of 12 selections listed, location in a vibrant economy, ability to recruit talent, and predictable and stable tax/fee environment were the three things most important to the continued success of their business. And local and county government scored a combined 72% as being responsive to the Central Pinellas business community.
               A solid majority – 82% – have a favorable perception of the Tampa Bay business climate (73% last year), with 61% saying they will be adding employees in the upcoming year. Thanks to all of you who took part!
B2B Coffee An’Networking
Thursday, Feb. 18 - 7:30 to 9 a.m.
FREE Member Event! $25 for Non-Members
St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater
12600 Roosevelt Blvd N, St. Petersburg

Start off your day with networking and a leads exercise. Registrations are required in advance. Following Pinellas County guidelines, masks are required to enter, and registration is limited. To place your reservation, click here:

Thanks to our event host and sponsors:
PSTA rolls out four new electric buses…
About half of the agency’s fleet
now electric or hybrid
       About half of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s fleet is now electric or hybrid with the unveiling of four new electric buses last week. The additions reflect the agency’s ongoing commitment to clean energy and sustainability in all aspects of its efforts to serve the community with quality, efficient public transportation.
****“Our electric buses now will be running in all parts of Pinellas County,” Brad Miller, Chief Executive Officer of PSTA said. “We are committed to sustainable choices that are environmentally responsible and financially stable. Our electric bus program will contribute to improved air quality for Pinellas County residents, and it will reduce the costs of operating our fleet.’’
****With the new buses, PSTA now has a total of six electric buses that are battery powered and produce no emissions. The agency also has 88 hybrid buses. That means about half of its buses are now diesel powered.  
****Electric buses cost less to run than diesel, are easier to maintain, and each one saves 135 tons of carbon emissions per year that the diesel bus it replaces produced. PSTA hopes to eliminate all diesel buses from its fleet within the next decade.
****Each electric bus is powered by a rechargeable, environmentally friendly battery and averages 180 miles or about 14 hours of operating time on a single charge. PSTA will save about $20,000 a year in diesel fuel costs with each electric bus, or $240,000 over 12 years.
Chamber Trustees making news…
Valley Bank Donates $50,000 to Tampa General Hospital Foundation for Storing and Administering COVID-19 Vaccines
           Valley National Bank, a longtime Chamber Trustee, has donated $50,000 to the Tampa General Hospital Foundation to help defray the hospital’s significant expenses related to the storage and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Tampa Bay area.
           “At Valley we’re always here for our communities,” said Joseph V. Chillura, senior executive vice president at Valley Bank. “We are proud to take a leading role in providing this critical support Tampa General Hospital needs to distribute and administer the COVID-19 vaccine.”
           “COVID-19 has devastated our communities,” said Ira Robbins, Valley Bank president & CEO. “The quickest and safest way to a full recovery is the expedited distribution of a vaccine. And our healthcare heroes on the front lines, like those at Tampa General Hospital, will lead those efforts.”
           Thanks Valley Bank for supporting our region!
Share info about your business…
Central Pinellas BizReach Connection
For a nominal fee of $35 per issue or $100 a month, you can highlight news about your business opening and specials. Here are the details.
One entry for $35, four entries for $100 (you can edit from week to week).

What: Central Pinellas BizReach 
Who: All Chamber members are eligible to provide business updates and special member-to-member offers/discounts.
When: Central Pinellas BizReach is distributed weekly on Fridays. Provide information/updates by noon the Wednesday prior. 
How: Provide the following via email to Zoe Basheska at membership@centralchamber.biz 
1. Business Name
2. Current business operations (i.e. restaurant with take out only from 9a to 9p).
3. Member offerings/discounts etc. (i.e. 20% off for chamber members, free webinar series on working remote, 20% of for first responders, etc.).
4. Images in jpg or png format with offer will be accepted. Please keep the image 3" x 3" in respect to others.
Tampa Bay COVID Update! February 9, 2021
The COVID-19 Regional Re-Opening Dashboard tracks the critical and official public health metrics that guide Tampa Bay residents and policymakers to safely re-open our economy.
It’s produced by the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Case growth rates in Tampa Bay decreased this past week, to 1,678 per day over the past 14 days, versus the 1,979 reported last week. At 6.77%, Tampa Bay's positive testing rate over the past week is once again below the 10% threshold outlined in state and federal re-opening guidelines, falling from last week’s rate of 7.92%. Statewide, the positive testing rate was also below the 10% threshold and fell from 8.28% to 7.20%. The 7-day rolling average of Tampa Bay patients hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 decreased by 14.9% in the past week and, as of Sunday, 1,136 such patients were hospitalized.
It’s been 20 years since Congress approved the plan to “restore” the Everglades. The plan — behind schedule and over budget — is gathering momentum just as new factors threaten to overwhelm it. What sort of engineered ecosystem will we end up with?
Lack of staffing and high turnover across several agencies in Florida, which consistently ranks among the lowest states in government employees per capita, has led to large gaps in key services as the state attempts to endure and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Florida Department of Health reported 97 more resident deaths on Sunday along with 6,624 new positive cases. To date, 1,777,983 people have been infected statewide and 27,696 Florida residents have died.
Even though state government doesn't have to turn a profit like businesses do, operating efficiently is still a good goal. LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University is suggesting some ways for Florida's state government to function more efficiently and effectively.
Florida AG Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling to reject a Texas-based company’s request for oil drilling permits at Big Cypress Natural Preserve.
Thank you to our Trustees and Newsletter Sponsors
Bay Care/Morton Plant Hospital
Cloud Law Firm PA
Duke Energy
Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital
Home Instead/Be a Santa
Jackson & Associates CPA
Melody Hunter, Charles Rutenberg Realty
MidFlorida Credit Union
National Aviation Academy
Nova Southeastern University - Tampa Bay
Paradise Air
Piper Fire Protection
Platinum Information Services
Regions Bank
Spectrum Reach
The Palms of Largo
Valley National Bank
Wealth Builders
The Weekly E-Connection is made possible by the following generous sponsors: