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Community Voices: Envisioning the Tropicana redevelopment as a tech village

Peter Kent

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The past year has shown corporation managers and employees alike that it is possible for remote workers to be productive via online communication platforms such as Zoom. Silicon Valley (SV) managers I have talked with, including our son and friends from Google and Facebook, think it is not only possible but productive to manage tech teams in a hybrid fashion in lower-cost areas. Their constant complaint is, “Anywhere else, we would be living like royalty.” 

These SV managers felt that young workers need to be clustered together in small, supportive teams rather than working solo. For instance, employees might work on a common software project from their apartments, meeting daily via Zoom and weekly at a common conference room to provide each other support and guidance. Nearby St. Petersburg and entertainment facilities would make the Trop an outstanding location of choice for such workers.  

Already, this concept is so popular with SV employees relocating to Austin that house prices there are up 35.4 percent year-on-year and rents are up 8 percent from the pandemic’s bottom. If remote work in Austin is possible, it should also be in St. Petersburg.

What if the Trop developers designed a number of apartments to facilitate these young employees working remotely and Zooming from home, with common conference room areas in the building? This is simply designing a work area facing a good window light and an appropriate background for singles, and several separate work areas for working couples with kids.

What if the conference rooms could also be used as remote classrooms to allow dedicated students to earn college, Coursera and Google certificates? Perhaps students from local colleges and more senior Trop students could assist these students to learn technical skills and attitudes: There is no better way to learn than teaching someone else. Occasionally, these Trop students could also attend short courses at colleges.

It would also be possible to create several common “maker lab spaces” set up with donated equipment to expand this training into other areas. Silicon Valley employers are really more interested in what knowledge and skills you bring to the table than what degrees you might have. What a potential win this approach could be for smart, disadvantaged youth and for St. Petersburg as a whole! It’s hard to envision a downside.

Peter Kent, a member of ASPEC (the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College), led a professional engineering team who designed The Luther Forest, a 6,000-acre new city around Saratoga Lake, N.Y., which attracted a multibillion-dollar facility from the chip manufacturer Global Foundries.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer only. No endorsement of these opinions by ASPEC or Eckerd College is either expressed or implied. 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ernest Mahaffey

    Ernest Mahaffey

    May 30, 2021at2:46 pm

    Great idea! Such a venture could substantially spark entrepreneurial activity in area. Not just available to one college or entrepreneurial group, this facility could support all of them… and vice a versa. And, if there were a consortium of colleges and universities committed to support the development, wouldn’t a Google equivalent be more likely to underwrite the initial investment?

    The staff and connections of such an organization could become major contributors to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the area. Thanks & regards, Ernie Mahaffey

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