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Tampa, Florida: A gradual success story

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    From a small Spanish encampment to a bustling city on the bay replete with condos, Tampa continues to be a city on the move.

    Although Spain claimed Florida as part of New Spain, it would be two centuries before the Tampa area before it stopped being overlooked, with no permanent habitation located there until 1819. The Spanish sold the territory to the Americans in that year and a few minor settlements were established, foremost at Fort Brooke, at the mouth of the Hillsborough River. Another prominent settlement established by pioneers was found at the mouth of Spanishtown Creek on Tampa Bay, where Hyde Park is located today, along Bayshore Boulevard.

    It took the next thirty years for the settlements to grow into a singular village officially incorporated under the name of Tampa in 1849, four years after Florida became a state. Even though Tampa had grown enough to be reincorporated as a town by 1855, it remained primarily a fishing village with very little few other forms of industry.

    The town of Tampa continued to grow during the following decades, especially once the railroad was connected to the town and provided increased opportunities for trade and travel. After years of planning by Henry B. Plant and his South Florida Railroad, the port in Tampa was joined to the railroad in 1883. Until that time, all traders of exported and imported goods had to traverse narrow, sandy and often physically arduous roadways overland to deliver their shipments. The railroad’s ease of travel also brought in a new sort of commerce to Tampa, through tourism.

    Developments like the discovery of phosphate and the emergence of the cigar industry helped the railroad to push the population from 800 to over 30,000 by the end of the 1880s. As phosphate reached high demand by the agricultural industry, the port of Tampa began exporting the mined mineral in great volume. To this day, Tampa remains a high exporter of phosphate.

    The tobacco industry developed into a strong source of commerce during the same period, with the help of the railroad and the land’s access to nearby Cuban tobacco. The government of Tampa was able to convince cigar manufacturer Vincente Martinez Ybor to move his operations to their city from Key West, to the area now known as Ybor City. After the construction of Ybor City’s first cigar factory in 1886, numerous cigar manufacturers and other trades were soon attracted to the area for their own business.

    By 1900, Tampa had become one of Florida’s largest cities as a result of the economic boom from the success of all of the area’s business. The years following World War II saw a huge build-up in population with Tampa’s new business atmosphere drawing many thousands of new residents and the area’s development as a tourist destination. The economic success continued to grow in the following decades, in areas as diverse as finance, healthcare, real estate, retail, defense, professional sports and tourism. The Greater Tampa Bay area now has over four million residents, up from three million in 2000 and continuing to grow. Tampa has been named the fifth most popular city to live in, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report, displayed by the continued population growth, especially in the Millennial age group.

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