TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners today criticized Rick Homans, leader of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., for failing to communicate on a regular basis with the county government, the EDC’s biggest public funding source.
Commissioner Al Higginbotham led the charge, saying Homans had “lost his way” in ignoring the EDC’s prime government benefactor when Homans launched key initiatives, such as bringing the MediFuture 2024 medical conference to Tampa in September. Higginbotham also said Homans had been talking to surrounding counties about a joint economic development effort, which commissioners learned about through a local business journal.
“He’s ignoring this board,” Higginbotham said. “I don’t like it.”
Homans was not at the commission meeting. He could not be reached for comment.
Other commissioners remarked that none of them had been invited on overseas trade missions, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has gone a number of such trips.
“I would like an explanation of why we haven’t been invited on these trips,” Commissioner Kevin Beckner said. “I appreciate that our largest municipality is Tampa, but Hillsborough County is providing a large amount of these funds and Hillsborough County should be involved, absolutely.”
Beckner said his main concern is that the county, though providing the bulk of public support for economic development, is not being branded as a good destination for companies that want to relocate.
“It has to do with the branding of Hillsborough County,” Beckner said later. “Taxpayer dollars from outside the city of Tampa are (supporting the EDC). I think they need to be used to brand Hillsborough County.”
Homans took over as CEO and president of the EDC in January 2012 after a national search. Before that, Homans was an economic development executive in New Mexico.
The main focus of the EDC, a public-private partnership, is attracting and retaining high-wage jobs and capital investment in the county and its cities.