Economists: To judge Tampa's potential, just crane your neck

To figure out the health of the local economy, you could study economic data and trade publications. But why look it up when you could simply look up?

Jonathan Moore with Invision Advisors explained a method used by analysts to measure the economy, and it might be simpler than you’d think.

It’s called the 'crane index.' Construction consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall uses the number of cranes in a city as a financial indicator of how the local economy is faring, like consumer confidence polls or housing starts.

"But we go beyond that to the smaller construction projects; I’m seeing 10,000 currently active in the Tampa Bay area," said Moore.

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Rider Levett Bucknall developed its measurement tool in 2015 for clients to assess hiring trends. The index is comprised of data from 13 major North American cities and serves as a snapshot of the country.

Tampa's not on that index yet, but Bay Area contractors say each crane represents a slew of job opportunities, locally.

Throughout the pandemic, the construction never shut down in the state of Florida. Moore points to the skyline.

"It's exponential. So, every tower crane has one general contractor that may have 10 or 15 working at that firm but there are 20-plus firms that may have 10 people, so there's another 200 people."

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Economists often look to the number of new buildings being constructed in a city as an indication of growth. Multiple cranes are a good sign that the city is putting up a lot of structures, all at once, and there's enough money, resources, and jobs to make that happen.

"The tower crane is a mark of how strong your economy is. Look around, we see a new one Bayshore, downtown, Channelside," said Moore. "I think it’s a phenomenal sign the Tampa market will be strong for a year if not years."