Muma College of Business Profs, Grad Students Provide Research for the State of the Region

By Keith Morelli

Dean Moez Limayem speaking from podium

TAMPA (December 12, 2018) -- An exhaustive survey of local tweets over the past two months shows people just love downtown Tampa, but hate the traffic getting there. The findings also included facts such as most of the people in the region work in Hillsborough County, but live elsewhere and that interest in USF spikes each fall, maybe because of football or maybe because fall is the beginning of the academic year.

The goal of the over-arching research project is to rank the Tampa Bay region in relation to 19 other metropolitan areas around the nation. It was conducted by researchers with the USF Muma College of Business’s Center for Analytics and Creativity and the Tampa Bay Partnership the results of which were presented at a luncheon at USF on Wednesday.

To view the Tampa Bay Partnership's Regional Competitiveness Report, click here.
To view the USF Muma College of Business E-Insights report, click here

The ground-breaking analytics research focused on a variety of real-time data collected by a pair of professors and a handful of graduate students whose findings are included in the “State of the Region” report. The reports shed light on what’s good and what’s not so good about the region.  In attendance at the Marshall Student Center’s ballroom were more than 400 community, business and government leaders and policy makers.

“We can provide you with some of the tools that will help you make decisions that could make the Tampa Bay area among the best in the nation,” said Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem. “The best way to predict the future is to shape it.”

The insights, said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, “can guide us to create a more competitive and prosperous region. We always say good research asks more questions than it answers. But behind those questions can be the key to solving our region’s greatest challenges.”

While some indicators comparing the Tampa Bay area to other cities show lots of room for improvement, other data says the Tampa Bay region is well liked by residents and visitors. The Twitter portion of the work puts Tampa third, second only to San Antonio and Orlando in favorable tweets, of which 82 percent voiced approval of the downtown area, but only 9 percent said favorable things about the traffic in the region. But even that was an improvement over last year, when tweets about traffic were mostly negative.

Other data was not so kind to West Central Florida. The number of executive level jobs, for example, put the Tampa Bay region at the bottom of the pack of 20 cities with similar demographics and business potential, which included places as far away as Seattle, San Diego, Denver and Minneapolis. Florida cities included Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville.

The comprehensive study used cutting-edge analytics compiled and interpreted by the Center for Analytics and Creativity Director Balaji Padmanabhan and Associate Professor Shivendu Shivendu. It was the second year the innovative “real-time” data had been compiled to form a glimpse into how this area stacks up against other cities.

Here’s a sampling of other conclusions in the report:

Recommendations from key faculty members who worked on the project also were included. A slide presented by Limayem showing how just a 1 percent increase in educational attainment (graduation rate) would reduce the Tampa Bay region’s unemployment rate from around 10th place among the 20 cities to second place.

“Wow,” one spectator shouted.

While some of the data compiled used traditional metrics, the center used historical and real-time data from both traditional as well as "new age" big-data indicators to compliment the findings. “Real-time“ data included Twitter and Facebook comments by residents and visitors and work data came from and LinkedIn comments. The data also looked at Airbnb units available, and the demand for those units. Together, the information revealed a more complete picture of the quality of life and potential for business prosperity in the area as well as identifying key drivers of economic growth leading to policy experiments and recommendations.

Padmanabhan and Shivendu also used real-time information drawn from Google Search, Zillow, airline traffic and financial markets to gauge how individuals perceive the area and incorporated that information into their analysis. Most economic research conclusions are based on data drawn from the previous year or even prior decades and the collection of this “real-time” data is something the center began last year.

The faculty members, along with six graduate students, collected information that illuminated the intentions and sentiment of Tampa's residents and visitors. 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.

The research conducted by the Tampa Bay Partnership focused on the economic vitality of the area, innovation, infrastructure, talent and civic quality.

Among the findings of the partnership:

The collaboration between USF and the Tampa Bay Partnership is a perfect example of how the two can work together to contribute valuable data and analytics to the community, said USF President Judy Genshaft. Among the attendees were representatives of St. Petersburg and Sarasota and Manatee counties, metropolitan areas where USF has thriving campuses.

“Great cities enhance great universities,” she said, “and great universities enhance great cities.”