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April 30 Expo to showcase ways to grow ‘black St. Petersburg’ economy

Gypsy Gallardo

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“What can we do to grow the economy of ‘black St. Petersburg?’” With that question in mind, 50 community leaders spent the last year exploring 18 “big ideas” that will be unveiled at VISIONDISTRICT Expo, April 30 at Pinellas Technical College. 

The Expo is part of a one-year planning process for the emerging One Community Plan, a project funded by the City of St. Petersburg to help create a new approach to economic equity for Florida’s 5th largest city. The project is housed at Pinellas County Urban League.

Roy and Izabelle James, owners of James Insurance Solutions, will exhibit their idea for a real estate collaborative investment group like the Tulsa Real Estate Fund, which launched last year and within months had crowdsourced $10 million in investments, ranging from $500 to $40,000.  

Nine-year NFL veteran Louis Murphy, Jr. and NBA Champion Marreese Speights will creatively display their concept for a world-class pro athletic training center similar to O Athletics in Houston. Their vision is for a joint venture among pro athletes born and raised in St. Pete.

Murphy, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, sees the facility as not only a magnet of economic activity and job creation, but a hub for engaging more young people in positive spaces.

Florida Housing Coalition’s Ashon Nesbitt will be on hand to showcase the Coalition’s Smart Hub concept to revitalize the 62,000 square foot Skyway Plaza, which currently sits with its anchor space vacant. Nesbitt is a Lakewood High grad who went on to earn degrees from University and Florida and FAMU.

Technologist James Faison will present his concept for The Mainframe, a Tampa Bay-based initiative to support the growth of black technologists, professionals, innovators and entrepreneurs statewide. This year, he’s launching an innovative workforce development program which will produce a cohort of much needed full-stack developers for local companies. The effort brings together several entities to form a community value chain that delivers recruitment, mentoring, training and full time positions. 

Brother John Muhammad and Jabaar Edmonds will introduce their New Image News concept, which is designed to raise the profile of positive people and news about business, innovation and “community” in South St. Pete.

Dr. Cynthia Johnson, head of the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development, and Nikki Capehart, St. Petersburg’s Urban Affairs Director, will be on hand to answer questions about a possible partnership to promote the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and to create other business incubator spaces in the community.  

Also demoing their concepts: Erica Hardison, Abenah Redwood-Adams and Judith Turner, featuring their One Community Grocery Coop idea, along with Annie Tyrell, who’s agreed to the notion of a pooled equity investment to expand her retail outlet – Annie’s Beauty Supply – to competitive scale. The latter, if successful, could be applied to other local businesses to help them break through in growth.

Julian Riley of We Care LF, Tiffany Moore of Moore Eventful, and Deborah Figgs-Sanders of Personal Agenda LLC are pitching in to market and organize the Expo.

“This expo is about ‘vision’ for the future, and using our collective power to move from what we know to what could be, if we support each other,” said April Harley, one of the event’s producers and co-creator of the VISIONDISTRICT concept, along with Kory Outlaw. The two head a new consulting practice called HarleyOutlaw, which emerged from the One Community planning process.

Attorney Tamara Felton and Bruce Nissen will be available to field questions about the Community Benefit Agreement Policy being spearheaded by The New Deal and the 2020 Plan team under the One Community umbrella. Felton and Nissen are co-chairs of the year-old CBA Policy Workgroup.

Albert Lee will represent the emerging Qualified Opportunity Fund concept by the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, where he is CEO. 

There to debut the idea for a Districts & Corridors Promotions Plan are Tahisia Scantling of Crossroad Consulting,with Veatrice Farrell and Dick Pierce of Deuces Live.

‘Expanding the vision’

The One Community committee has hosted two group trips to learn from practitioners outside of St. Petersburg. Twenty-seven St. Pete leaders ventured to Durham, North Carolina, in June 2018 to visit the famous American Underground incubator, Black Wall Street, Self Help Credit Union, North Carolina Central University’s entrepreneurship program, and the Invictus co-working center.

This April, a group of 31 entrepreneurs traveled to Fort Lauderdale to attend the state’s largest annual minority business expo, which was hosted by the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council at the Broward County Convention Center.  

The One Community planning year will come to an end in late June of 2019.

The City’s development chief Alan Delisle commended the effort: “This package of ideas is comprehensive and far-reaching. It is a very impressive outcome to a great deal of community outreach and creative thinking. I think it establishes the foundation for years to come for additional job growth and entrepreneurship, and it is a very positive compliment to the South St Pete Community Redevelopment Area.”

“This Expo is our way of helping others in the community see the incredible ideas we’ve explored over the past year,’ said Pastor Louis Murphy, Sr., “and to expand the vision of what we see as possible for St. Petersburg.” Rev. Murphy was a key leader in urging the Kriseman administration to fund the One Community planning process.

“We Support Each Other” became the One Community motto (hashtag #WSEO, penned by Kory Outlaw) in the wake of the Durham trip. Indeed, the One Community planning year has already spawned a host of business contracts and partnerships, forged independently among group members.

Members of the 2020 Emerging Leaders corps of Millennials, including Min. Michael Shorter, Jennie Henry, Curtis Blakely, Unisha Bullard, Ashley Green and Kristopher McClendon, will help emcee and direct the Expo. McClendon recently represented 2020 & One Community in Tallahassee, as part of the St. Petersburg Chamber advocacy contingent to the capitol.

The April 30 event (starting at 5:30 p.m.) is free and open to the public. To RSVP, visit www.1CommVisionDistrict.com.

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