Published in 2016, Best of Tampa Bay is an oversized, stylish, full-color hardcover book – yes, it looks weighty and important on a coffee table – with 340 pages of stories and photographs on everything from entrepreneurship and innovation, real estate, development and tourism, to arts, culture, education, healthcare and sports.
You won’t find it in the local Mom & Pop bookstore. Barnes & Noble doesn’t carry it, either.
That’s because Best of Tampa Bay, and its business-centric sequel, Innovate Tampa Bay, were printed in relatively small numbers by an independent publisher – Global Village – and made available only through a special online pre-ordering process.
Ashby Green bought 100 copies of Best of Tampa Bay. The founder of Gazelle Capital and recipient of the Florida Governor’s Business Ambassador Award, CFO of the Year and other accolades, Green used it as gifts for clients, co-workers and potential donors.
And the financial wizard himself read it cover-to-cover. “I love learning about the people and the businesses in the community,” Green says.
“And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if it were just St. Pete businesses in there? I want to provide that to our community.”
Global Village president Sven Boermeester had married and settled in Tampa in 2016 – after years of producing similar books for business and cultural centers around the world – and when Ashby Green was introduced to him, he proposed a St. Pete-centric book.
Best of St. Pete, which will have a tentative run of 5,000 copies, is in pre-production now. Green and his hand-picked team are reaching out to business people in all corners of the city.
“It’s not for me to define who the best of St. Pete is; it’s for people in St. Pete to define that,” Green says. “We’re relying on community leaders and influencers – we can’t get enough feedback. Our team is out and about, we’re talking to the Chamber, talking to the City, we’re looking for other things to be in the book.
“The only thing that caps it, probably, will be the number of pages. So we’re looking for between 150 and 200 business and/or executive profiles.”
He’s also looking for business leaders to commit to purchase a certain number of copies. It’s not, he stresses, a “pay-for-play” arrangement – if you commit to buying books, it doesn’t automatically ensure your business will be included.
“I wanted it to BE the best of St. Pete. I didn’t want financial decisions to drive it; I wanted the best businesses we could find to be the reason why they’re in the book.”
Of course, with the ever-evolving business climate in the city, there’s always the possibility that some Green includes might not exist when Best of St. Pete arrives (hopefully before Spring 2019).
“We’re trying to be careful,” he says, “trying to choose businesses that are in it for the long haul.”
Sometimes, he points out, real estate prices, consumer trends or simply the fickle winds of business cause a project to tank, even though it’d been successful on the surface.
“To mitigate that, a lot of the businesses in Best of St. Pete have been around a long time,” Green explains. “A lot of the newer ones that are in the book are just coming out of the ground, but with the investment they’re making, it would be a pretty big fail not to be around when this book is published.
“I don’t think there’s any way to protect us completely from that occurring, but I feel good about the people getting involved in the book, that it’s going to be a pretty good one when it comes out.”
Much more than a glorified tourism brochure, Best of St. Pete will be a tool – an enjoyable and enlightening tool, to be sure – for all business owners, current and potential, to learn from and to enhance their all-important local networking experience.
“I love meeting the people that I don’t know,” Green relates. “There’s businesses and success stories around every corner. Every day, every week I find something I didn’t know – and it’s almost embarrassing, because I think I’m pretty involved in this community.
“We’re going to have launch parties and book events when this thing comes out, so I know I’ll eventually get to meet everybody in it! And we’re inviting everybody to these parties, even the people who didn’t get in it.”