Robyn and I moved to Tampa from Seattle in 2005 to help out my family, who’d moved here in 2003. Our plan was always to move home after a few years, and until the last few years that’s what we were gearing up for. Now, we’re loving Tampa, and all in as a part of this community’s growth. Here’s 11 reasons I love living and working in Tampa as a young, socially-focused entrepreneur.

  1. Tampa is excited about it’s present and future. There is not a day goes by I don’t run into people in the community excitedly talking about Tampa. There is a buzz here as we are growing, attracting more young people, and expanding our urban core. It’s catching.
  2. Independent food and drink is everywhere.  In 2005 when we got here, Tampa’s food was dominated by steak houses and chain restaurants. There was a great Cuban (and smaller Italian) presence, but mostly it was… well, a bit redneck for our northern tastes (sorry, Tampa!). But… food and drink are great now! I can grab great cocktails at  Ciro’s speakeasy or Anise (great food too), a cocktail ON TAP enjoyed on the roof at Fly Bar, or visit one of many wine bars (Cru Cellars, Crumb & Cork, SideBern’s turned Haven). Independent food is brilliant in Tampa, from live music on soul food Sundays at Ella’s, to more Seminole Heights greats like The Refinery and Rooster & the Till, downtown goodness like ūlëlē and Bamboozle, and many more. Our absolute favorite Italian food in Tampa is a well-kept secret (don’t tell everyone please) called Osteria Natalina. There’s New Orleans goodness at Roux. We have great coffee at places like Buddy Brew and Kahwa.
  3. There’s music, shows, and art. The Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children’s Museum, and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts are wonderful, as is the Tampa Bay History Center. The Gasparilla Music Festival is in it’s 3rd year for 2015, last year bringing names like The Flaming Lips, Delta Spirit, and J Roddy Walston and the Business. There’s great club shows at places like the Ritz and the Orpheum. The Straz Center has broadway, opera, and theater almost daily.
  4. Healthcare is great. Sadly, we’ve spent more than our fair time at the children’s hospitals around Tampa. Tampa General and All Children’s Hospital (ok, yes, that’s St Pete) are world-class facilities. We love All Children’s, and having toured and spoken to children’s hospitals nationwide, I am confident they’re one of the best. Their recent merger with Johns Hopkins has only served to make them better, bringing a heavier focus on research. Through Because of Ezra Robyn and I are helping to bring more childhood cancer research to Tampa Bay at All Children’s.The healthcare business in Tampa is significant. Not only do we have great hospitals, we have a strong community of innovators. FORE provides world-class orthopedic care through research and education, and is showcasing their new FIVE Labs this week. Moffitt has a powerful cancer research program (although I’m biased and would like to see more childhood cancer research there!). Laser Spine Institute started when we got to Tampa (2005), and now does over 400 surgeries a month nationwide, with 500 employees. I’m barely scratching the healthcare surface with those mentions.
  5. Technology is big, and growing. My for-profit work is in mobile and web technology. As co-founder of the largest iPhone community (aside from Apple) – ModMyi.com, and co-founder of Tampa and Las Vegas based mobile and web tech firm Laicos, I’m a big fan of technology. The startup community in Tampa is not a well-known one, but as I’ve delved more into the community I’ve found a wealth of talent. EXMO turned EventJoy was acquired by TicketMaster. Laicos has angel invested in Check I’m Here. We’ve built Fuse: Social and are pursuing investments now. There are meetups all over town. 1 Million Cups in St Pete fills up their room with startups every Wednesday morning.While the startup scene is beginning, big technology has been in Tampa a while. Companies like Jabil and TechData bring in billions annually. Amazon.com has a presence here, as does Microsoft.
  6. Education is excellent. Speaking of Bill Gates, the Gates Foundation awarded one of it’s largest education grants ever – $100 million over 7 years – to Hillsborough County schools in 2009. It’s the 8th largest district in the US. USF is a powerhouse. Innovative and over 47,000 students strong, USF is a top-tier research university. The University of Tampa is one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve seen, and has been listed in Forbes’ America’s Best Colleges list 5 of the last 7 years. Stetson creates great legal talent.
  7. The weather and the greenery are great. Everyone mentions the weather when talking about Florida, and Tampa is no different. I joke with my Pacific Northwest friends we’re the opposite of Seattle. Up there, you’ve got 3 good months a year – summer. Tampa has 9 great months of 70-80 degree weather and sunshine, with 3 months of summer where I just don’t want to go outside because of the heat. There’s parks everywhere, rivers, beaches, and great fishing. For 7 months out of the year I just open the windows of the house and let the breeze roll through. And hey – there’s palm trees all over the place.
  8. Sports, arenas, and theme parks. So much to do! Tampa Bay has 3 pro sports teams – my favorite the Lightning (hockey), the Rays (baseball), and the Buccaneers (football). But did you know we’ve also got arena football (the Storm) and NASL soccer (the Rowdies)? Newly renamed Amalie Arena hosts everything from Michael Jackson Cirque shows to Tom Petty to One Direction to boxing. Disney World is a 90 minute drive, and Busch Gardens (theme park), Adventure Island (water park), Lowry Park Zoo, and the Florida Aquarium are all in Tampa. Our amphitheater hosts national concerts. Ybor City has a wealth of clubs.
  9. Downtown is finally a thing. When we arrived in 2005, Robyn and I drove downtown one weekend night around 9 to see what was going on. The whole place was closed. Lights out, nothing. It was dead. And disappointing! Now, Tampa is fixing that (albeit slowly). There’s hotel bars like the ones at Aloft, Le Meridien (with it’s excellent French restaurant Bizou), and the Floridan. There’s great restaurants like I mentioned earlier. Pubs like Taps and Paddywagon. The Riverwalk is finally making our waterfront walkable and nice. Curtis Hixon Park is beautiful and has year-round events going on. There is more than just banks downtown now.
  10. Tampa International Airport. I love TIA! We finally got direct flights to Seattle, which helps us when we go visit Robyn’s family. The airport is just 10 minutes from downtown and 15 minutes from our house, and is always extremely easy to get in and out of. Lines are usually short, and the people who work there are friendly. I am not a huge frequent flyer, but I fly often (8-15 times per year) and have found TIA is one of my favorites. Not to mention it’s architecturally good looking, designed by Tampa creatives Alfonso Architects in the curbside and airsides C and F.
  11. Good people. They are everywhere! Through the years we’ve met brilliant, creative people all across Tampa Bay, and are proud to call so many of them friends. There are fiercely proud people here building our community, and there are passionate, caring people changing the lives of those around us. There’s a lot of smiles and conversation.

There’s many more reasons Tampa is growing up to be incredible, on business, culture, and philanthropy fronts. I’ve only listed a few. I’ve become enamored with the idea of community – I find it vital to connect to the people around us. In Tampa, we’re loving getting to know the city as it grows, and be a part of it.

See you around.

Kyle Matthews