About Grow Smarter

Grow Smarter is an economic development strategy with a focus on equity. We operate as a collective impact initiative with the mission to reduce gaps by race and place by creating equitable economic growth.


Grow Smarter began in 2014 as a partnership between the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of St. Petersburg to enhance the city’s ability to support diverse economic growth. The Grow Smarter Strategy identified five target industry sectors primed for growth and development in St. Petersburg: Marine & Life Science, Data Analytics, Specialized Manufacturing, Creative Arts & Design, and Financial Services. The strategy also led to the creation of the Economic Development Corporation and St. Petersburg Innovation District.

In 2018, a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg allowed Grow Smarter to hire staff and bring an equity lens to these economic development efforts.  

What We Do


Grow Smarter operates working groups to convene business, government, and nonprofit representatives around six focus areas: Culture & Community, District & Corridor Development, Coordinated Education & Training, Entrepreneurial Growth, Targeted Job Creation, and Housing. We also host community events, including our annual Grow Smarter Summit.  


Many organizations are already working toward our mission of equitable economic development, and we strive to get them at the same table to align efforts, discuss challenges, and identify solutions. We also educate the community using data and serve as a community connector.


Success for Grow Smarter happens when new connections and conversations lead to action in the community. One example is the St. Pete Pitch Night, which was born from conversations in our Entrepreneurial Growth working group. 


Build an inclusive, multi-sector initiative to create equitable economic growth in St. Petersburg.


St. Petersburg will grow equitably and have a vibrant, diversified economy that benefits all.

Core Values

Equitable economic growth is a shared imperative for our community. Narrowing the economic gaps by race and place in St. Petersburg is critical for our future success.


Collaborative engagement among community members, partner organizations and work groups are essential to achieve the Grow Smarter Vision. The Steering Committee and the backbone organization will actively work together with all community partners (NGOs, funders, businesses, residents, etc.) to achieve our shared vision.


Data measurement is integrated into the Grow Smarter approach to validate if the efforts are on the right track and help identify necessary changes to the strategy. Measures are used to validate success.


Everyone in the community knows what Grow Smarter is and has the opportunity, access and ability to get involved. Communication tools are leveraged to help everyone stay engaged and informed.


Dr. Tashika Griffith

Provost, St. Pete College

2020 CHAIR

Dr. Griffith serves as campus Provost for the Downtown/Midtown Centers and The Palladium Theater for St. Petersburg College. With more than two decades of educational experience, she provides leadership and oversight of students and staff and manages all campus operations.

Dr. Griffith’s years of experience are in both public and private higher education institutions including previous roles within Multicultural Affairs, University Police, Career Services, Student Activities and the Dean of Students Office. She is also a graduate of the 2018 Florida State College Chancellor’s Leadership Seminar cohort and served on the national board of the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Center for Women.

Dr. Griffith received her Bachelor’s degree in English with a Certification in Ethnic Studies from Florida Atlantic University, and her master’s degree in Higher Education and Leadership Policies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). She completed her doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

2020 Steering Committee

Sridhar Sundaram| USF St. Pete
Jessica Eilerman | City of St. Petersburg
Sean King | Habitat for Humanity
Carl Lavender | Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete
Chris Steinocher | St. Pete Chamber of Commerce

Stephen Ponzillo | Regions Foundation
Meiko Seymour | Pinellas Community Church 
Michael Jalazo | PERC
Julie Rocco | Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete
Jason Mathis | St. Pete Downtown Partnership

Leah McRae | City of St. Petersburg
Gypsy Gallardo | 2020 Plan, One Community
Tashika Griffith | St. Pete College
Kanika Tomalin | City of St. Petersburg
Dana Hill | Florida Blue



Jocelyn Howard
Grow Smarter Manager


Justin Johnson
Data Analyst


Marisa Mattingly
Marketing and Administrative Coordinator