Regional Competitiveness Report

A new report released today by the Tampa Bay Partnership reveals that Tampa Bay continues to outperform its peers in attracting new residents and businesses, but falls short of these communities in critical measures of prosperity, including educational attainment, wages and poverty. 

The Regional Competitiveness Report, produced annually by the Partnership’s foundation, in collaboration with Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast, examines Tampa Bay’s strengths and weaknesses across more than 60 indicators of economic growth and opportunity. The report, along with a companion research effort from scholars at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, provides eye-opening data about the eight-county Tampa Bay region and compares its performance to 19 peer communities nationwide.

In 2021, Tampa Bay ranks in the top five in 10 indicators. The region comes in second in Net Migration, a measurement of population growth due to the attraction of new residents, with a 1.72% increase over the previous year. It ranks fifth in Business Establishment Start Rate, an 11.18% increase, which measures the number of new businesses established within the year. The data also highlights the region’s relatively low crime (2nd), clean air (3rd) and good roadways (3rd).

This year, Tampa Bay also ranks in the bottom five in 24 of the indicators, and in most of these, the region stood still or lost ground to its competitors compared to the previous year. Key findings include:

  • Tampa Bay ranks 19th across all levels of Educational Attainment, with just 30.18% of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • The region also ranks 19th with an Average Wage of $49,800 per year, nearly 20% below the national average ($59,202) and more than 40% below top-ranked Seattle ($84,433).
  • Tampa Bay ranks 20th in Labor Force Participation, with just 76.30% of its working-age population either employed or actively looking for a job.
  • While the overall level of Poverty in the region decreased slightly in the past year (to 12.17%), the region’s ranking dropped to 17th. Tampa Bay also ranks 17th in Youth Poverty, with 17.43% of the region’s children living below the poverty level.
  • In Gross Regional Product (GRP) per Capita, which measures the value of goods and services produced divided by the population, Tampa Bay ranks 20th ($42,563) for the tenth consecutive year and falls short of top-ranked Seattle ($96,142) by more than half.

“This report contains some clear warning signs for the regional economy,” said Partnership President and CEO Rick Homans. “We all love Tampa Bay, but we sometimes live in a bubble of false optimism. This data gives us an unvarnished and unfiltered view of what’s really happening in our community, and points to some serious issues that need to be addressed on a regional scale, with a common language and shared strategies. Our leaders need to take note and respond as one.”

The data from the Regional Competitiveness Report does not yet capture the full impact of COVID-19, which has already upended regional economies nationwide, but a complementary project conducted by USF researchers may provide early insight into the long-term effects of the pandemic.

Developed by researchers from the Center for Analytics and Creativity at the USF Muma College of Business, the Tampa Bay E-Insights Report analyzes the real-time signals sent by big data regarding the current economic health of the region, and begins to identify the most impactful policy initiatives to improve its competitive position.

The real-time data drawn from Google Search, Twitter, Womply and other big data tools gives us insights that traditional measures don’t, said Moez Limayem, Lynn Pippenger Dean of the USF Muma College of Business. 

“Most economic conclusions are based on data drawn from a year – or even a decade – ago, and if the pandemic and economic crises have shown us anything, it’s how quickly markets and consumer behavior can change and that fresh data, along with historic data, must drive decisions.”

In addition to looking at real-time data to get a snapshot of the current mood and concerns of the region, USF scholars also conducted econometric research to see what actions might move the proverbial needle when it comes to economic prosperity and regional competitiveness. 

Their findings: transit availability, STEM education and increasing the median household income are the three things that could help the Tampa Bay region make the greatest strides in almost all areas measured in the Regional Competitiveness Report.

“These three things, more than anything else, are the drivers that will improve the region’s GRP and prosperity,” Limayem said.

The collaboration between the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Muma College of Business can help spark and fuel actions region wide, Limayem said.

“We need private organizations to enter public-private partnerships where very high-quality real-time data can be used to accurately measure the health and prosperity of the vulnerable population – if we want to have a better real-time handle on policy issues to promote inclusive growth,” Limayem said.

The Regional Competitiveness Report and Tampa Bay E-Insights Report will both be released today at the State of the Region Virtual Community Event, which will broadcast live from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nearly 1,400 business, government and nonprofit leaders have already registered for the event, to review the latest research, learn from national experts and best practices, and explore the steps the region can take to create a stronger, more inclusive economy.

To view the reports, or watch the event, visit


About the State of the Region

Through a strategic partnership with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, United Way Suncoast and the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business, the Tampa Bay Partnership launched the State of the Region initiative in 2017. Together, we produce the annual State of the Region Community Event and a collection of complementary research projects that provide reliable, objective data to help our community leaders understand Tampa Bay’s strengths and weaknesses, how we compare to communities across the country, and the actions needed to move the needle on our greatest challenges. For more information, visit

About the Tampa Bay Partnership

The Tampa Bay Partnership is a coalition of regional business leaders, joined by a shared commitment to improving the personal and economic well-being of Tampa Bay residents. Formally incorporated in 1994, and re-established in 2016 as a regional research and public policy organization, the Partnership works with the region’s top employers, and a diverse group of government and nonprofit partners, to identify and address the toughest challenges facing our community, and create new opportunities for the future. For more information, visit