If Tampa mayor Pam Iorio won’t help Hillsborough County, Hillsborough County will help itself.
That’s the message Hillsborough County Commission (HCC) Chairman Jim Norman sent to Tampa’s leaders Wednesday. Norman threatened Tuesday to delay a vote on a proposed $28 million county subsidy if the city of Tampa didn’t expand its commitment from $2 million in cash and land to $7 million.
The money would go to major drug maker Merck and Co. and USF-based H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute as incentive to create a major for-profit cancer center in Tampa. Despite the fact that Iorio refused to increase Tampa’s commitment, the HCC voted unanimously to approve its $28 million portion Wednesday. The Florida State Budget Commission was also slated to vote Thursday on whether to appropriate $15 million of state money toward the project.
The project will be impressive, provided Hillsborough County, the city of Tampa and the state of Florida can get the money together to bring the bioscience center to the area. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the center will be a “50,000-square-foot building … (on) 25 acres south of the University of South Florida.”
Furthermore, the proposed center, which will be a cancer-treatment and drug-creation center that Moffitt has dubbed M2Gen, entails jobs. Moffitt has promised to create 165 new jobs, each of which will pay an average of $80,000 annually. Not only that, but the project received the approval of former Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced the deal as he was leaving office and called it “a milestone day for Florida.”
When asked by the Times, Iorio had no justification for her lack of support. Norman even tried to sweeten the deal, promising that the county would assume the city’s debt and said Tampa would reap “millions of dollars in return before they had to pay the county back.” But Iorio remained unconvinced.
“It is an appropriate investment on the part of the county. The city’s role is to be supportive,” Iorio said.
Being supportive does not entail threatening a major deal that would benefit all parties involved – as well as further the treatment of cancer – by refusing to contribute. Being supportive does not entail relying on the county to create profit engines and employment centers.
Most of all, being supportive does not entail passing up profitable opportunities for public investment. Doing so reeks of the idea that city government doesn’t have to be profitable, as there are always taxpayers to foot the bill. Very few taxpayers (aka voters) are likely to appreciate that assumption.