Growing Smarter: St. Pete‘s 2019 State of the Economy Address

St. Petersburg’s 2019 State of the Economy address took place Wednesday, January 15th at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art. The presentation illustrated a vibrant city with growth among indicators like wages, job numbers, and construction value. Grow Smarter was proud to have a special role this year, helping to highlight the city’s growing successes, as well as the importance of narrowing gaps by race and place.

Dr. Sridhar Sundaram, Dean of the USFSP Kate Tiedemann College of Business, presented a few slides on behalf of Grow Smarter. He helped remind the audience that despite recent successes like the city’s significant reduction in poverty, St. Petersburg still has work to do when it comes to racial equity. Key determinants and indicators such as rates of homeownership and household income remain disproportionally higher among White residents—with some of the largest gaps remaining between St. Petersburg’s White and Black residents.

Why is homeownership still so important when it comes to wealth building? Homeownership, especially for low-income families, is like a form of forced savings with each mortgage payment. Studies indicate other possible benefits to homeownership like increased neighborhood stability, exterior property maintenance, and more civic engagement.

As the city continues to develop, Grow Smarter will help make sure that equity remains a focus in conversations about issues important to economic development, such as housing. Grow Smarter looks forward to convening leaders from private, non-profit, and government entities in 2020 to advance conversations about wealth and equity, to build connections and resource alignment, and to help St. Pete keep growing in a way that benefits all residents.

If you’re interested in learning more about Grow Smarter or in getting involved, email our manager, Jocelyn Howard, at


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