Bay Area economy showing signs of recovery, but long way to go

When asked how he would characterize Tampa’s economic status in this moment, Craig Richard was quick to respond. 

“Resilient,” he said. “You know? Tampa and Florida in general, we’ve always been resilient.”

Richard, who is the head of Tampa Bay’s Economic Development Council, submitted economic recovery recommendations Friday morning to the city and county. 

Alongside other business, community, non-profit, academic and workforce leaders, he generated recommendations for stimulating the recovery of Tampa’s local economy, hiring dislocated workers, and assisting businesses affected by COVID-19-related circumstances.

“It was about, how can we position businesses to be prepared to quickly reopen and restart and start hiring again,” Richard said. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, nearly 30 percent of Tampa’s jobs are were at-risk industries, like hospitality, retail and service. 

Bavaro’s was one of them.  The Italian restaurant with locations in Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota saw sales drop immediately.

“We lost about 70 percent of our staff, we had to temporarily lay off,” owner Dan Bavaro said.

But as Tampa’s economy has reopened, officials say many of these jobs have seen an uptick in hiring. 

“Right now we’re probably staffing about 25 to 30 people since it’s picked up a little bit with the 50-percent dining inside,” Bavaro said.

As a small business owner, Bavaro says trying to remain ahead of the curve is important, especially being in three different parts of the Tampa region.

“What is next, you know, is it family meals? Is it trying capitalize on Father’s Day, and push on social media?” Bavaro said. “It’s a stressful time right now, and the way to navigate through it is to keep a calm mind.”

Bavaro’s Sarasota and TPA locations closed during the pandemic. Tampa and St. Pete locations shortened their hours during the month of March and April. But as the economy slowly re-opened, they did too. Right now, their Tampa location is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

At just over 12 percent, the Hillsborough County unemployment rate has jumped drastically from its pre-COVID-19 rate, which was 2.9 percent in February. 

Richard says the task force wants training resources for the unemployed, direct job placement opportunities, and an inclusive effort.

“We need to ensure the economic recovery is an inclusive recovery,” he added.