Targeted Job Creation & Awareness Building: Create an Economic Development Corporation
The Grow Smarter Strategy specifically outlined the necessity of creating a city economic development corporation for the purpose of growing and supporting existing businesses, as well as building awareness and attracting new businesses to the area in the Strategy report. The St. Petersburg EDC and its website were launched in late 2016 and 2017, respectively.
ACTION 2.1: Effectively support the growth ambitions of established St. Petersburg companies.
In order to most effectively capitalize on growth opportunities of existing businesses, a professionally staffed program must be put in place to leverage their feedback and perspective, but in a non-obtrusive, time-sensitive way. This is done through fostering of structured, informed conversations that speak to companies on their level rather than through a repetitive survey question-and-answer format. Growth in firms in St. Petersburg’s target sectors provides added value because they represent so-called “traded” employment, or jobs that bring outside money into the city where it creates additional opportunities via a “multiplier effect.”
ACTION 2.2: Pursue specific actions to grow St. Petersburg’s target business sectors.
To a large extent, strategies proposed in this Grow Smarter strategy related to existing business programming, advocacy, marketing, entrepreneurial development, talent development, and corridor and district revitalization will drive cluster-building efforts for St. Petersburg’s targeted industries. However, there will also be stand-alone activities customized for one or more existing/potential clusters.
ACTION 3.1: Develop targeted St. Petersburg external marketing capacity and tools.
There is a definitive need for St. Petersburg’s “story” to be told to potential investors, corporate decision-makers, and site consultants. There are multiple options for how this can be accomplished. Regardless of local strategies, efforts must always be coordinated with county and regional economic development partners to ensure messages are consistent and complementary. It is also vital that promotional efforts are funded by a partnership of public and private entities. To that point, the city of St. Petersburg has already allocated funding in its most recent budget for external marketing.
The City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce partnered up to organize the St. Pete Economic Development Corporation as a public/private partnership. As cornerstone members, the City and The Chamber joined the EDC with equal investments, and recruited more than 40 private “founding” investors, primarily area businesses, to commit funds totally about $500,000 to get the EDC up and running.
The EDC will work closely with the Innovation District, which includes USF St. Petersburg, Johns Hopkins All Children’s and a number of other research and education institutions, as well as tech start-ups. The EDC strives to not only nurture and support existing businesses in St. Pete, but also to market St. Pete as a destination for the right businesses to join our quirky, rising city. “We have a unique opportunity to become the preferred destination for those businesses seeking the types of talent attracted by the growth of our downtown environment,” said Michael Vivio, the Chairman of the EDC.
The EDC is also responsible for helping to foster and expand growth in the the Grow Smarter strategy’s five major focus business sectors: marine and life sciences, data analytics, specialized manufacturing, creative arts & design, and financial services. “St. Petersburg already has many great businesses and a deep, talented and diverse workforce. Now we’ll have a full-time focus on fostering their development as well as attracting others to tell the story of St. Pete as the place where an individual can find a great career and lifestyle and a company can find everything they need for success,” said J.P. DuBuque, president of the EDC,