Governments across the United States are opening up portals and sharing building permits, pothole maintenance records, employee salary and zoning data. The goal is to both create opportunities for entrepreneurs to use that data in startup businesses, but also to promote more transparent and efficient governance.
Not too many cities, however, are using data from outside sources to plan better services. Tampa (pop. 335,000), in a unique partnership with the social media service Foursquare, is doing just that. The city wants to use all the tools available in developing a more livable city, and create some new tools along the way.
The city aims to preserve its history – such as showcasing its cigar-making heritage in the Ybor City neighborhood, which is now Tampa’s Latin Quarter. But it also strives to create innovative opportunities for businesses and residents alike.
Tampa scored well in health care, partially due to the medical campus of the University of South Florida. Among its research divisions is the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, a medical training and continuing education facility. There, surgeons from around the world can train in combat-like conditions or on a variety of leading-edge simulators and equipment.
The city’s education marks weren’t quite as high as some of our leading cities, but expect that to change in coming years. The school system received a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support reform initiatives. Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, says the program will become the “model for the rest of the nation” and aims to retain and reward the best teachers.
Tampa has all of Florida’s natural advantages – warmth, the bay, the river – but is less tourist-filled than nearby Orlando. It’s not off the beaten path. The city has a full range of museums and attractions and a thriving restaurant scene, which draws strength from the diversity of the city’s residents.
Rohrlack says the Cuban sandwiches are even better than Miami’s. “You can spend your whole visit going to restaurants that you won’t find anywhere else and not have a bad meal.”