While the Tampa Bay area overall is appealing for its cost of living and comfortable climate, the trick for newcomers is deciding just which community and neighborhood fits their interests and lifestyles.
Tampa author Mary Lou Janson hopes sharing her experience here will help.
“When you get to really know a place for a long time, because you spent a lot of time there and made a lot of friends there, there’s a special sense of satisfaction that comes from sharing what you can and what you know with others,” said Janson, who has penned a newly published guide to the area.
People interested in relocating to the Tampa Bay region have a pair of new references for learning what it’s like to live, work and play in the Tampa and St. Petersburg areas, volumes intended for potential and recently arrived newcomers that are gaining attention among local economic development officials.
Janson’s “Moving to Tampa: The Un-Tourist Guide” and “Moving to St. Petersburg: The Un-Tourist Guide” by Cindy Dobyns are available in Amazon Kindle, Nook and iBooks e-book editions for $9.95.
The authors are working with local book outlets that might distribute 136-page print copies that sell for $24.95 and are available online at http://www.movingtotampaguide .com/buy-the-book-now/ and http://www.movingtostpeteguide .com/buy-book-now/.
The premise for the guides by authors well versed in their areas is that prospective or new residents could use a resource to evaluate a potential relocation and better prepare for the myriad issues involved in a move.
The first volume in the series launched by Florida-based Voyager Media Inc. covered Naples in 2013, followed by guides to Sarasota and Charlotte, N.C., then the local releases in the past month. A guide to Austin, Texas, is due in July.
“As frequent movers in years past, we always wished for a book that made it easy to feel at home in a new town,” said Newt Barrett, president and publisher of Voyager Media.
The books provide insights and information including leading industries, cost of living, history, annual events, places to shop and transportation options.
Janson is a University of Florida journalism graduate who has spent most of her life in the Tampa Bay area.
The independent public relations specialist and writer who has assignments with the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association, the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza hotel and Pelagia Trattoria restaurant spent five years in the late 1990s living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area.
When she returned from Berkeley, Calif., to Tampa, she found so much change that familiar haunts were nearly beyond recognition.
“It was a pivotal time for growth and development in Tampa,” Janson said. “The Channel District was up and coming, roads and travel were changing. I’d walk to the grocery and post office and in every way I’d see unfamiliar faces and things.”
That experience provided the basis for Janson to understand what it took to acclimate one’s self into a new community, the foundation for writing the book.
Dobyns, the St. Petersburg guide’s author, founded AboveWater Public Relations and Marketing in Naples, which serves hospitality and travel industry clients nationwide from offices in Naples, St. Petersburg and New Smyrna Beach.
The University of South Florida graduate grew up on Treasure Island and is moving back with her husband, fulfilling long held plans after living in New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Naples, where she promoted Voyager Media’s first volume.
It took her about four months to write the St. Petersburg guide. She found a receptive audience for her book in the business community with Chris Steinocher, president and chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Chris told us many of the businesses that relocate to the area come because owners vacation here and found they like it,” Dobyns said. That dynamic re-enforces the demand for the kinds of guides she and Janson have written.
Rick Homans, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., and Richard Gonzmart, president of the Columbia Restaurant Group, are among contributors to the Tampa volume.
“Collaboration between government and industry has resulted in effective development practices, expedited permitting and a streamlined regulatory process,” Homans wrote. “In the past two years alone, more than 50 companies have selected Hillsborough County as the site of their relocation and expansion activities, generating over 8,700 new jobs and $688 million in capital investment.
“Global market leaders, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Morgan Stanley, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, Time Warner Business Services, USAA and Amazon have expressed their confidence in our community by announcing plans for significant, strategic growth.”
The books show what it takes to get around for work and recreation and how the area compares in crime, medical access and other elements affecting everyday life.
Their contents are heavier on positive attributes than challenges, but the Tampa review includes comparisons on crime rates and notes current trends with serious crime in decline as a favorable trend.
On the other hand, those who are accustomed to getting around without a car, such as someone from Boston or Seattle, will find the area more difficult than those places for mobility, although some hope transit could soon be in for a transformation in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Among the attributes Janson focused on in the Tampa area is what she believes is a relatively underplayed asset — waterfront access and activities.
“We don’t have the beaches of Pinellas County, but one of the great things Tampa has that’s not realized is that more people are engaging in all sorts of waterfront and water activity,” she said.
Those range from paddle boarding to fishing to watching birds, she said.
Janson recalls years ago her father took her on an inflatable boat for a cruise off Bayshore Boulevard, an adventure that remains fresh in her mind because their craft sprung a leak, forcing them to paddle swiftly back to shore.
“Nobody did that back then,” she said. “Now you see sailboats, all sorts of activity. It’s been a really great evolution in Tampa.”