Why Bill Rain leaving Dayton was front page news

Disclaimer: Bill Rain is a friend of mine. A very good friend.

So when Wright Dunbar Inc. picked former Dayton City Commissioner Idotha “Bootsie” Neal over Bill Rain- this is what they missed out on.

Same goes for head of the Downtown Dayton Partnership- where we have the highly overpaid and under-performing former Dayton acting city manager, Maureen Pero.

Same for the director of Economic Development for the City of Dayton- 3 jobs where we could have had someone with vision who actually creates idea velocity- and instead- we have duds.

Bill has been in Tampa less than 3 months- and already, he’s proposing huge economic development projects- with meaningful impact- with heavy hitters working together.

As we’ve watched “Tool Town” become “Tech Town” and still not have a tenant after 10 years- take note Joe Tuss, Steve Budd, Steve Nutt et. al. this is how it’s done.
Making Armory A Film Studio Would Put West Tampa On Map

Editorial: Tampa Tribune Published: Aug 1, 2006

When reviewing proposals today for redeveloping the historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, members of a city committee should recognize that one exciting project – a film and digital media complex, with adjacent apartments and retail stores – rises above the rest.The proposal by DeBartolo Development, Tampa Digital Studios and Newkirk Ventures would not only create more professional jobs in West Tampa, it could make the region a magnet for film-related businesses and help lure the “creative class” demographic that is so critical for cities striving to be great.

Since first unveiled, the Digital Studios project has been expanded to include a small museum dedicated to the armory’s rich past, the addition of an ice skating complex somewhere in the neighborhood and the possible redevelopment of Villa Brothers Park on Armenia Avenue. Newkirk Ventures, which had supported a separate proposal for an ice rink, joined forces with DeBartolo because it found the armory wasn’t suited to sustain ice.

The collaboration by these respected players could put Tampa on the map while helping grow an industry that marries well with the region’s economic development strategy to grow high-tech businesses.

The second best proposal, Heritage Square at the Armory, would build a Spanish-themed luxury hotel and day spa adjacent to the armory, a West Tampa Cultural Arts Centers and an open-air farmers’ market. This idea is less exciting because hotels offer mostly service-level jobs and while farmers markets are fun on weekends, they go dark during the week.

More exciting than another hotel is the proposal to create a signature sound studio with 25,000 square feet of space and walls that rise 38 feet high with no support columns in the way. Ringing the cavernous core would be another 50,000 square feet of space where small businesses – filmmakers, digital designers, light and sound engineers – could rent an office and work in a think-tank environment with other people interested in film, animation, computer games, commercials and web sites.

The demand for production facilities is growing in Florida. State lawmakers this year increased a pool of money used to lure movie productions to town, recognizing that the industry is clean and pays well.

Beyond converting the armory to a production facility with business offices, the developers would build apartment complexes and shops on the 10-acre site. They want to establish “creative clusters” where people could live near work. They point to surveys that show some 30 percent of West Tampa residents are involved in creative pursuits, such as singing, acting, painting or writing – skills that are needed in the film-video industry.

Bill Rain of DeBartolo Development says he and his partners wouldn’t expect to achieve the same profit margin as a traditional development, but they are excited by the prospect of helping rejuvenate the neighborhood while helping create a powerful new industry in Tampa.

“We want a place where ideas become companies,” Rain said.

The review committee – which includes two city officials, two representatives of the National Guard and two West Tampa residents – should do their due diligence after hearing the proposals today. Then barring unforeseen complications, they should step aside and let Digital Studios transform the armory into a marquee star.

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