The Port of Tampa is the county seat for Hillsborough County, Florida, and it is at the heart of one of the State's biggest metropolitan areas. Lying on the northern shores of Tampa Bay, the Port of Tampa is about 285 kilometers southwest of the Port of Jacksonville and almost 330 kilometers northwest of the Port of Miami. Yahoo! Real Estate ranked the Port of Tampa as America's 8th cleanest city in 2008, and Forbes.com ranked it the 5th (tied with Phoenix) best outdoor city in the United States. In 2006, almost 333 thousand people lived in the Port of Tampa, and over 2.6 million called the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area home.
The economy of the Port of Tampa depends largely on the service industry, retail sales, finance, real estate, insurance, and government. The county government employs 740 thousand people. The Port of Tampa is the regional base for many large telecommunications companies and banks. Wikipedia's main server farm and other Wiki projects are located in the Port of Tampa. The port is one of the largest in the United States, handling almost half of the ocean-borne commerce moving through the State of Florida. The Port of Tampa is also a popular cruise destination, serving both regional cruise lines as well as the major cruise lines of Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruises. The Port of Tampa downtown area was undergoing development and redevelopment efforts when the global economic recession delayed projects or caused them to be revised significantly. Not all projects were stopped, however, and the Port of Tampa nears its goal of having a 24-hour downtown neighborhood.
The Port of Tampa (meaning "Great Lighting") got its name from the local Seminole Indians. It was first mentioned in memoirs by Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, who was held captive for 17 years by the Calusa Indians. The Narvaez Expedition from Spain landed near the Port of Tampa to start a colony in 1528, but they abandoned their camp to chase more riches to the north. A survivor of the expedition was rescued by Hernando de Soto 12 years later. When the Spaniards learned no gold would be found in the Port of Tampa and that Indian warriors would not be converted to Catholicism, they abandoned the area. It was largely ignored by colonial powers for the next 200 years.
Acquiring Florida in 1763, Great Britain named the bay Hillsborough Bay, but they were more interested in commerce via the Atlantic Ocean. At that time, only Cuban fishermen used this Gulf of Mexico harbor, reaping the plentiful fish harvest. Spain regained control of Florida in 1783 but still did not appreciate the potential of the Port of Tampa.
In 1821, the United States bought Florida from Spain to stop slaves from escaping Southern plantations and to end Indian raids. One of the first official US actions was to destroy the village of Angola built by escaped slaves on the shores of the Port of Tampa.
The US built a string of forts and trading posts in the Port of Tampa area to get control over the swamps, and the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek established a big Indian reservation in the interior. The same year, Colonels Brooke and Gadsden established Fort Brooke at Tampa Bay where today's convention center stands in the downtown Port of Tampa. The wooden fort attracted settlers, but growth was slow in the uncomfortable climate where the settlement was under constant attack from the Seminoles. However, the fort was important to victory in the Second Seminole War in 1835, and the Port of Tampa settlement began to grow.
In 1845, Florida became the 27th State in the United States. The "Village of Tampa" was incorporated in 1849, with 185 civilians calling it home. By 1850, the Port of Tampa-Fort Brooke supported 974 residents, and it was incorporated as a town in 1855.
Florida joined the Confederate States during the American Civil War. Martial law ruled the Port of Tampa from early 1862, and Confederate troops lodged in Fort Brooke. In late 1861, the Union navy placed several ships at the mouth of Tampa Bay, but blockade runners got through to trade with Cuba. When the war ended in 1865, federal troops occupied the fort and the Port of Tampa, staying there until 1869.
After the Civil War, the Port of Tampa suffered. It had little industry, and land transportation was difficult. Yellow fever invaded the Port of Tampa throughout the 1860s and 70s, forcing many Tampa residents to leave. Residents voted to abolish the Port of Tampa's government in 1869 and, by 1880, the village was literally dying.
In 1863, the Port of Tampa's luck changed when phosphate was discovered southeast of the city. Used for making fertilizers, phosphate was soon being shipped from the Port of Tampa. The same year, the railroad came to the Port of Tampa, giving the overland transportation needed for development and providing another way to ship commercial fish and phosphate to the north. The new transportation routes brought products to the city, created a tourist industry, and attracted industry to the Port of Tampa.
In 1885, Vincente Martinez Ybor moved his cigar manufacturing plant to the Port of Tampa, where Cuban tobaccos were easy to get, making possible shipment of cigars to the rest of the US. Ybor built houses for his factory workers from Cuba and Spain, and other cigar factories soon appeared in the Port of Tampa. In the 1880s, Italian and eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived to operate businesses catering to cigar workers. The cigar-making industry supported the Port of Tampa of through the early 20th Century. In 1929, the factories hand-rolled more than 500 million cigars. When the Great Depression came, the cigar industry shrank, but other industries appeared in the Port of Tampa, particularly shipping and tourism.
In the late 1800s, Port of Tampa workers enjoyed bolita lotteries. In the early 1920s, the illegal bolita grew openly with kick-backs and bribes of local authorities. The bolita lotteries and bootlegging during Prohibition brought organized crime to the Port of Tampa, and it stayed there until the 1950s when Senator Kefauver's brought hearings to town and unmasked the corruption of local officials.
World War II brought rapid growth to the Port of Tampa. MacDill Field was started before the United States entered the war, becoming a major base for the Army Air Corps and Army Air Force. Many auxiliary airfields were constructed in the Tampa Bay area. After the war, MacDill continued to be an active military base. Two of the auxiliary airfields later became the Tampa International Airport and St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport . The most recent growth boom in the Port of Tampa started in 1988 when New Tampa was developed. The Port of Tampa annexed a 6.2 thousand hectare area.
In early 2002, a young amateur pilot few a Cessna airplane into the Port of Tampa's downtown 42-story Bank of America Plaza building. Because it was Saturday, only the pilot was killed. A suicide note indicated that the young man supported Osama bin Laden .