The Regional Competitiveness Report is a regional benchmarking tool designed with the understanding that what gets measured is what gets done. For seven years, it has been a trusted resource by business, government, and nonprofit leaders throughout Tampa Bay who use the data to shape their strategic priorities and investments in the community.
This year, the narrative illustrated through the data is essential to understanding the drivers between workforce and affordability trends in our region. And while some might say it is simple economics, a nod to the balancing act of supply and demand, there is more to the story.
Tampa Bay is once again first in net migration and in the top five for in-migration ages 25-34 and business startup rates. We remain a highly attractive area for migrating talent, families, and businesses, a cornucopia of fresh talent. However, increased volume impacts transportation infrastructure and creates higher demand in the housing market. The places where residents choose to live and work are shifting, and organizations across Tampa Bay feel the challenges associated with workforce attraction and retention.
From a macro perspective, there is much to celebrate. Tampa Bay has improved annual performance in 34 of 61 indicators (excluding six indicators that used new metrics for assessment). Annual performance shows improvements in 75% of the national Talent indicators, including an 8-place lift in our ranking for high school graduation rates. However, there is concern that this lift did not translate to our economically disadvantaged students, whose graduation rates fell.
We also saw improvements in average wages and wages for the service sector, yet poverty rates for full-time workers grew, as did the percentage of ALICE families in Tampa Bay. Additionally, the median household net worth is now $173,619, a reduction from last year, while the national average increased. What used to be manageable, or “enough,” is no longer sufficient, and many households are digging into their reserves to stay afloat. These are flags that indicate a need to expand support to advance equitable opportunities. We must also seek opportunities to alleviate cost burdens where possible to help households build and maintain their wealth.
The research also gives new insights into affordability. On average, Tampa Bay households use 42.61% of their budgets to pay for housing expenditures. This is 12.61% higher than the general rule that housing should not account for more than 30% of a household’s budget. And when we add transportation expenses, the average household spends $0.57 of every dollar earned on those two categories.
Tampa Bay ranks in the top half in 13 of the 58 indicators we can compare against the national competitive set (22.41%). Unfortunately, the region ranks in the bottom quintile in 27 indicators (46.55%). This means that although we are making great strides in areas of importance to our residents in the region, we have opportunities to stand out against similarly sized metros across the nation.
The 2024 Regional Competitiveness Report indicators tell the story of a burgeoning, successful, and bright region on the rise but one with a very real affordability crisis. The Tampa Bay region’s growth is only positive if the cost of doing business in the sunshine does not hinder residents’ well-being.
We look forward to learning how you will apply the data to create a brighter future for Tampa Bay.