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County plans to form new ‘productive’ CEO alliance group

Veronica Brezina



The downtown St. Petersburg skyline as seen from Tropicana Field. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

If an employer is struggling to stay afloat financially or there’s a shift in the local workforce, Pinellas County wants to track it and form solutions. 

County economic development leaders are proposing to create the One Pinellas Business Alliance, a new CEO-led alliance that would allow business executives to candidly share market insights behind closed doors. 

“We are ready to re-launch a new look at how we do economic development in Pinellas,” County Administrator Barry Burton said during a May 18 Pinellas County Commission workshop meeting. 

The proposed alliance would replace the Pinellas County Industry Council. 

“We’ve had different versions of the Industry Council over the years. You walk in, have breakfast, and do info sharing, but we don’t talk about what’s driving workforce issues, regulatory issues or business decisions. It’s not as productive as it needs to be,” Burton said, stating how employers throughout Pinellas’ communities, such as Pinellas Park and Oldsmar, are somewhat segregated, and a joint alliance would give them a seat at the table.

It would also allow county officials to be better constituents in championing businesses. 

“We need to respond to industries countywide,” Cynthia Johnson, director of Pinellas County Economic Development, said while presenting a breakdown of how the alliance would operate. 

The county would tap 35 executives from a mix of industries, including small businesses, manufacturing firms and financial services companies to lead the alliance. 

The alliance would meet quarterly to host solution-driven discussions regarding the “real issues” sectors are grappling with. 

“If we just share info in a roundtable, people don’t want to participate because they aren’t adding value,” Burton said, explaining the meetings must be equally beneficial to both parties. 

Commissioner Dave Eggers shared the same perspective and called the new initiative a needed “fresh start” on forming economic development strategies. 

At the commencement of the quarterly meetings, members would report on the current status and progression of the area’s workforce demands. CareerSource Pinellas would also participate in the meetings. Additionally, there would also be an annual summit. 

Commissioner Rene Flowers said the county’s educational system could also leverage the results of the alliance’s meetings by incorporating needed critical skills in its tech trade programs. 

Johnson and Burton said they’ve engaged with multiple municipalities, c-suite business executives and leaders of local chambers who expressed support for the proposed alliance. 

Johnson said the county’s legal team is drafting a resolution that would be presented to the commissioners in June.

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