Punctuated by palm trees and bathed in sunshine, the city of Tampa sits squarely along Florida’s west coast. Though it’s the largest city in Hillsborough County, most people widely recognize Tampa as one of a collection of closely clustered cities and bedroom communities—St. Petersburg and Clearwater, among them—that encompass the Tampa Bay area. Collectively, the region is home to more than 3 million residents, which makes it the second largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in Florida and one of the largest in the country.
While famed Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed in the area now known as Tampa Bay in 1513, the property remained undeveloped for quite some time. The first American settler arrived in 1824, and the U.S. Army quickly sought to use the abundant land and water to its advantage, setting up Fort Brooke as a military post at the mouth of the modern-day Hillsborough River.
Business and industry boomed toward the end of the 1880s when Henry B. Plant’s railroad extension gave access to new attractions and hotels that would entice visitors to make the trek south. Around that time, industrialist and cigar magnate Vicente Martinez-Ybor chose to open a new factory in Tampa. For Martinez-Ybor, the decision was easy; land was cheap and plentiful, the hot and humid weather made for excellent conditions to cultivate tobacco, and infrastructure (thanks to Plant’s rail) was already in place. The city quickly became a breeding ground for cigar production, thanks to Martinez-Ybor, his partners and other cigar manufacturers who capitalized on the same vision Martinez-Ybor recognized. At one point, these businesses were producing tens of millions of cigars annually from Tampa factories. Because of that prominence, many people still refer to Tampa as “Cigar City” to this day, even though local production ceased more than 50 years ago.
Tampa also has a place in the commercial aviation history books with the Benoist, the world’s first scheduled commercial airline service that took flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa on Jan. 1, 1914. The service lasted only a few months, but it made clear just how innovative and industrious the people of Tampa really were.
Since then, Tampa (and the entire region) has become a bustling and diverse metropolis rivaling some of the country’s most noteworthy cities in terms of both business opportunities and leisure activities.
Entertainment/things to do
With year-round sun and a moderate to warm climate, outdoor activities are a popular pick in the Tampa Bay area. Tampa’s neighboring Pinellas County has 35 miles of sugary-soft white-sand beaches that are all within a 30- to 60-minute drive from most parts of the city. Various outlets have named several local beaches the best in the country, including lively Clearwater Beach and the pristine Caladesi Island. Quaint and charming beach towns like Indian Rocks Beach, Reddington Beach and Treasure Island—each of which boasts bed-and-breakfasts, independently owned restaurants, beach bars and dessert shops with sweet treats—dot the entire stretch of coastline. At the county’s southernmost points, you’ll find St. Pete Beach humming with activity and luxe hotels, and Fort De Soto Park, a known respite for those seeking the serenity of unspoiled beachfront.
If coasters are more your speed than coasts, head back inland for a visit to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. You can find some of Florida’s favorite roller coasters and thrill rides at the park, including Falcon’s Fury and its 335-foot freefall, and Cobra’s Curse, the state’s first family spin coaster. The park also has an extensive area for younger guests known as Sesame Street® Safari of Fun with kid-friendly rides, a splash park, and family-themed shows and entertainment. In the warmer months, locals will often cool off at Adventure Island, a sister park of Busch Gardens. This water park on 30 acres is located across the street and features multiple pools, water slides and children’s areas for the whole family to beat the heat.
In recent years, downtown Tampa has seen a remarkable transformation from a purely commercial setting to one that’s known as much for play as it is for work. The 2.4-mile Tampa Riverwalk meanders along the bank of the Hillsborough River and through downtown with access points to the hottest spots. Some highlights of downtown and the immediate area include the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, The Florida Aquarium, Sparkman Wharf, Hyde Park Village, Glazer Children’s Museum, Armature Works, Tampa Bay Lightning games at Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay History Center and the Tampa Theater.
The Tampa economy and what you need to know about moving there
The Tampa Bay area has a growing reputation for being a burgeoning health care hub. Several of its hospitals have received acclaim for patient care and across a myriad of categories. U.S. News & World Report even named Tampa General Hospital (TGH) among its top 50 hospitals nationally in several specialties and doled out “high performing” ratings in several others, including cardiology and heart surgery. The same outlet also named Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute as the No. 8 cancer hospital in America.
Many of the area’s largest employers fall within the health care industry, including BayCare Health System, HCA West Florida, TGH, Florida Hospital, and Moffitt. In addition, one of the southeast’s largest grocery chains, Publix Super Markets, has a substantial presence in the area. The Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida, is also close enough (about 30 miles) for many Tampa-based professionals to commute. Outside of health care, tourism drives much of the economy throughout the Tampa Bay area, particularly for hotel, restaurant and attraction owners who rely on winter-weary visitors seeking sunshine in Tampa Bay to support their businesses. When it comes to business travel, the Tampa Convention Center is a premier meeting space that hosts conventions from organizations all over the world. It houses more than 600,000 feet of space across an exhibit hall, large ballroom and 36 meeting rooms.
There is also a distinct and significant military presence in the Tampa Bay area. Reports have Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base employing about 15,000 people, with many of those living on site and others staying in the area after their assignment is complete. Additionally, the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport houses the largest air station in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Tampa International Airport is the predominant airport serving the Tampa Bay area and one of the country’s busiest, with over 20 major air carrier airlines, four regional airlines and three cargo carriers. The airport services nearly 100 non-stop destinations throughout North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe. The airport was also one of the first U.S.-based airports to resume direct access to Cuba.
Demographic Breakdown (source: City Data)
Estimated median household income in 2016: $50,405
Median resident age: 36.2 years
Estimated median house or condo value in 2016: $216,100
Median gross rent in 2016: $1,067
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