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Center for Creativity and Analytics Plays A Major Role in Collecting, Interpreting Big Data in The 2018 State of The Region Report

By Keith Morelli

State of the Region Event

TAMPA -- Exhaustive joint studies comparing the Tampa Bay region to metro areas with similar demographics and business potential used – for the very first time – groundbreaking analytics compiled and interpreted by the Muma College of Business' Center for Analytics and Creativity.

The center's work, presented as part of "The State of The Region," was unveiled in the ballroom of the University of South Florida's Marshall Student Center in front of 260 business and governmental leaders and included recommendations from key faculty members who worked on the project. The event showcased two different research endeavors measuring and comparing the economic health of 20 metropolitan areas across the United States.

The Tampa Bay Partnership's 2018 Regional Competitive Report, the first of its kind, concluded that the region scored well in some economic indicators, while poorly in others.

While the partnership compiled and analyzed data using traditional metrics, the Center for Analytics and Creativity at the USF's Muma College of Business utilized historical and real-time data from both traditional as well as "new age" big-data indicators to compliment the findings, revealing a more complete picture of the quality of life and potential for business prosperity in the Tampa Bay region and identified key drivers of economic growth leading to policy experiments and recommendations.

And the research has legs. The presentation has found its way into classrooms at USF, including the Executive MBA course, and around the Tampa Bay business community, interested in how the region fares against other cities and areas.

Initially, the research was being conducted separately from each other, said Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem.

Center Director Balaji Padmanabhan and Associate Professor Shivendu Shivendu were doing research on the state of the economy in this region, Limayem said, "because of our belief that what gets measured gets done."

Then, during a lunch with Tampa Bay Partnership President and CEO Rick Homans, Limayem found that Homans had undertaken a similar initiative.

"We decided to put our hands together and the next thing you know," Limayem said, "we are working together on this project."

Padmanabhan and Shivendu used real-time information drawn from Google Search, Twitter, Zillow, airline traffic and financial markets to gauge how individuals perceive the area and incorporated that information into their analysis.

And that's the innovation in data collection that has not been done before, Padmanabhan said. Most economic research conclusions are based on data drawn from the previous year or even prior decades.

"We are the first group to do this anywhere, in the context of examining regional prosperity," said Padmanabhan.

The faculty members, along with six graduate students, delved into Google searches and social media to come up with data that illuminates the intentions and sentiment of Tampa's residents and visitors. Personas constructed based on Google Search queries continued to show a substantial interest in the Tampa Bay region from people looking to move to the area. And for Twitter, Shivendu said, downtown Tampa, Tampa history and USF all showed positive tweets. Tampa traffic, not so much.

By gauging that "sentiment," government and business leaders can formulate policies that foster community and business growth. It's a new area, largely unexplored by those looking to spread the brands of regions.

Compiling, analyzing and understanding the data is one thing. How to move upward in the ranking requires identifying drivers of growth and that was the job of Padmanabhan and Shivendu, who made their own presentation during the event.

"We used Panel Data Econometric analysis to identify the key drivers of economic prosperity," Shivendu said, "to provide policy instruments to business and community leaders of the Tampa Bay region."

'Their address concluded that the Tampa Bay area has recovered from the recession that began nine years ago and that, "We seem to be doing well and are right on track. We are getting better, but is that enough?"

Four areas that need to be addressed if the region is to improve its standing are education, business growth, transit availability and patents/trademarks.

Policy experiments were a unique feature of the Muma College of Business presentation. An example: The center made some predictions about what would happen to the unemployment rate, if certain policy interventions were to take place.

If educational attainment, or the percentage of individuals with college degrees, increase by 1 percent, the unemployment rate would drop by an average of .55 percent. If 10 new businesses locate or start up here, the unemployment rate would drop by .01 percent. If public transit's range increases by one revenue mile, the unemployment rate would drop by .34 percent. And if the number of patents and trademarks per 1,000 individuals increases by one unit, the unemployment rate would drop, on an average, by more than a percentage point.

Their analysis also identified key drivers of economic prosperity in terms of Gross Regional Product.

A clear path was blazed through the use of analytics and policy experiments provided by the center, Limayem said.

The right investments would "move us from a horrible position to the top three or four in just two or three years," he said. "The best way to change the future is to shape it."

Both reports agreed the economic landscape of the Tampa Bay region is complicated and multi-faceted and examining the reasons why it is the way it is was both difficult and rewarding.

The Tampa Bay Partnership said its report represented groundbreaking efforts to understand the region's complex economic dynamics in comparison with other metro areas.

"Other regions have performed better on key factors such as (Gross Regional Product) per capita and unemployment rates," the report's summary said. "Competitively, we are doing better when looking at real-time, big-data indicators, which seem to be very a good sign. These indicators are promising ... "

The data compiled in the partnership's report, "identified key metrics that matter to all of us, and it delivers data that benchmarks our community's performance against 19 other communities that we consider peer, or aspirational," said the partnership's summary. "This report provides a platform for us as we develop our common agenda and work collaboratively to solve the complex challenges of our community faces."

The report prepared by the partnership compares metropolitan areas from across the nation to the Tampa Bay region, which is made up of eight West Central Florida counties including Hillsborough and Pinellas. Other metropolitan areas examined were South Florida, Orlando and Jacksonville in Florida and cities such as Baltimore, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta and Denver.

The partnership's report used traditional economic indicators like economic vitality, innovation, infrastructure, talent and civic quality to gauge how the Tampa Bay region – the 18th largest metro area in the United States – fares against those other cities across the nation. The report was the first-ever, locally produced competitive report of its kind and the research summaries can be far reaching.

Among the findings:

  • In the talent department – considered to be among the most important economic indicators – the Tampa Bay region was lacking. The report said the region ranked third from the bottom in high-school graduation rates and second from last in its share of population between 16 and 24 neither employed nor enrolled in school. And the 27.7 percent of residents 25 and older who have a bachelor's degree or higher, put the Tampa Bay region dead last.
  • The Tampa Bay region ranked second only to Orlando in the job growth rate, but ranked second from the bottom in average wage. The only city with lower wages: Orlando.
  • The Tampa Bay region ranked third, behind Dallas/Fort Worth and Baltimore in Gross Regional Product growth but was dead last in median household income.
  • The Tampa Bay region ranked in the middle of the pack when it came to existing home sales price growth rate and in the bottom third in merchandise exports growth rate.
  • The report gave the Tampa Bay region lukewarm numbers in its summary of innovation indicators, ranking the region in the middle when it came to university research and development expenditures and university technology licensing. When it came to patents per 10,000 residents, the Tampa Bay region scored fourth from the bottom, beating out only San Antonio, Texas, Jacksonville and Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Infrastructure indicators were a mixed bag. The Tampa Bay region ranked third-best in driving time spent in congestion, but ranked second to last in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities per 100,000 residents. The region scored in the middle in walkability and pavement conditions.
  • Under the heading "Civic Quality" the Tampa Bay region fared well with its relatively low crime rate, but was near the bottom with its high number of children in foster care.

The collaboration between the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Muma College of Business is what makes this research so important, Limayem said.

"One of our strategic priorities is business engagement," he said. "We strive to be a resource for our business community and we frequently work with businesses across Tampa Bay to solve business challenges and to provide real-world learning opportunities where our students can see how the lessons they are learning the classroom play out in the real world.

"Moreover," he said, "at the Muma College of Business, we emphasize analytics and creativity in everything we do."

(This story originally was published on Nov. 14, 2017 and updated on Jan. 23, 2018.)