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City increasingly on the radar of more big companies, says EDC head

Brian Hartz

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J.P. DuBuque

Dynasty Financial Partners’ move to downtown St. Petersburg in 2019 was a breakthrough moment for the city’s corporate recruiting efforts, according to J.P. DuBuque, the president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation. 

Not only did the company — a provider of wealth management and technology platforms to financial advisory firms — set up its corporate headquarters in the Sunshine City, in October last year it shuttered its New York office and consolidated operations at its new home. 

In the process, DuBuque said, Dynasty — particularly CEO Shirl Penney — has become a major cheerleader for St. Pete and a valuable ally in the push to bring more big-name companies to the western side of Tampa Bay. 

“The Dynasty team has been very helpful in talking to folks who we’re trying to recruit,” DuBuque says. “They wave the St. Pete flag.” 

DuBuque, who’s going into his fifth year of leading the EDC, said St. Pete is increasingly on the radar of major companies that are assessing their financial and operational outlook amid the Covid-19 crisis. 

“This year,” he said, “we think that with the economy, the pandemic, the political unrest, the social unrest that exists in the country, I think there are many business owners and business leaders who are considering their current situation.” 

In the past, he said, there was a tendency for St. Pete to get overlooked by companies looking to relocate to the Tampa Bay region. The successful recruitment of firms like Dynasty, iSocrates and CP Communications has played a major role in the EDC’s ability to spread the St. Pete story and get the city “in front of more eyeballs,” DuBuque said. 

He also said the EDC’s emphasis on attracting companies that fit the city’s cultural vibe has paid off in terms of higher visibility. “We still have appeal to those kinds of companies,” he said, “but we’re also getting looks from large headcount projects.” Though he declined to offer a name, DuBuque said he’s been contacted by a Fortune 50 company that’s taking a look at St. Pete. 

This company, he said, “is actively seeking new locations, not necessarily a headquarters move. But through that connection, I was able to speak with one of their senior real estate folks who had never been to St. Pete and didn’t know anything about St. Pete. But we had that conversation to make sure that when they’re thinking about a new location, now St. Pete’s on the list. We may not get the project, but we’re now on the list. That’s the first step. And things like that and the Dynasty move have solidified us as a real player.”

DuBuque expects more and more such looks as the EDC ramps up its use of the Tropicana Field site as a recruitment tool. “We’re going to begin to start talking about the Trop site redevelopment as a potential opportunity … we know that that development is going to have some business components.” 

On that topic, DuBuque declined to offer an opinion about the Tampa Bay Rays’ desire to split their season between the Tampa Bay region and Montreal, but said, “Our community is better off with the Rays here than without the Rays. The Rays are incredible partners of the EDC. The Rays are incredible community partners — they invest in this community far more than I think people give them credit for. And I hope we can find a solution that’s good for them and good for us as a community.” 

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