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Tampa launches its Website

David R. Corder
January 19, 2001

The choice for users of the newly launched Tampagov.com Website comes down to a decision between cost and convenience.

In a partnership designed to reduce the city's out-of-pocket expenses, the Tampa City Council operates the new site, www.tampagov.com, in cooperation with an operating subsidiary of NIC Inc. (Nasdaq: EGOV), an Overland Park, Kan.-based Web hosting company that calls itself the "eGovernment Company."

"This contract is fee-driven," City Councilman Bob Buckhorn told LocalBusiness.com. "The city is putting out little if any money. The way we structured this contract the provider would be reimbursed through transactional fees."

That additional cost may be minimal, Buckhorn added, if the user considers the cost and time spent negotiating the heavy Tampa Bay area traffic and limited parking available in downtown Tampa.

"Yes, there is an additional cost to pull a permit. But it sure beats getting a parking ticket in downtown Tampa," he said.

The city joins a list of NIC customers that includes the city and county of San Francisco; the states of Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Tennessee and Utah; and agencies like the Texas Ethics Commission and Virginia Board of Elections.

With the support of Mayor Dick Greco, Buckhorn said, the council directed Florida Local Interactive to accomplish two goals in developing the Website.

"One, we wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible," he said. "But secondly, we wanted to make sure we are providing information and access to government in the fashion in which people are doing it now. It should be as easy to pull a building permit online as it is to buy a book at Amazon.com. This is customer service, pure and simple, nothing more."

Notwithstanding the fee-driven services, the site still provides users access to available public documents such as city council meeting agendas, calendars and a log of archives the city maintains on behalf of past and current elected city officials.

Users now may purchase souvenirs, for example, through the Tampa Museum of Art. The museum is marketing more than 50 items and accepting online transactions through MasterCard and Visa.

"The mayor and the council understand this is the reality now of doing business," Buckhorn said. "If you're going to grow a local technology-based economy, as we are, government has to be as conversant in these issues and as nimble as the entrepreneurs.