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St. Pete looks to create public-private economic development corporation

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete could soon be more aggressively chasing down employers to expand or open up shop in Mayor Rick Kriseman’s beloved Sunshine City. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the city is looking to capitalize on its downtown boom to attract quality businesses providing jobs in the marine science and healthcare fields.

To do that, city officials are looking into launching an economic development corporation similar to that in Hillsborough County that would be a public-private partnership.

Currently the city’s main business attractor has been the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. A St. Pete EDC would build on the Chamber’s work but function separately.

St. Pete Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, city development administrator Alan DeLisle and St. Pete Chamber president Chris Steinocher told the Times they envision a leader who can be a dealmaker the likes of Tampa Hillsborough EDC Rick Homans in order to recruit companies offering high-skill jobs.

St. Pete is already home to corporate giants like Jabil Circuit, the Home Shopping Network and Raymond James. Jabil Circuit recently announced expanded operations in the Skyway Marina District at the Ceridian building.

It’s growth like that the city hopes to further foster by creating its own EDC.

But there is a catch. The city could find itself having difficulty with funding. The state-level agency Enterprise Florida offers help to local agencies, but only does so on a one-per-county basis. Enterprise Florida already partners with the county level EDC.

And St. Pete may not have quite as much already paving the road toward high-level companies. Tampa will likely benefit by the massive plans being hashed out by Jeff Vinik for property in and around Channelside. They also have the Center for Advanced Learning and Simulation downtown making healthcare industry expansion attractive to prospective companies.

Just recently, Governor Rick Scott announced a Johnson & Johnson headquarters opening in Tampa that represents a $23.5 million investment in the Tampa region.

St. Pete does have a bustling opportunity in the marine science industries with the robust USF Center for Marine Science continuing to thrive. Access to graduating USF St. Pete Students could also be a good attractor for businesses.

It also doesn’t hurt that St. Pete has been at the center of accolades for its booming craft beer scene and strong arts and culture community. Such amenities are considered a viable attracted for a growing desire for young millennials entering the professional workforce.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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