Five Denver companies that are considering expansion or relocation know more about what St. Petersburg has to offer, following a business development mission to the Mile High City by Mayor Rick Kriseman and J.P. DuBuque, president of the Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp.
Kriseman and DuBuque traveled to Denver Dec. 17-18, meeting with the businesses to introduce themselves and talk about the advantages St. Pete offers.
It’s part of a strategy to both grow and recruit business within the sectors St. Petersburg has identified for growth, said Kevin King, chief of policy and public engagement for Kriseman.
“We took a swing at bringing Amazon’s second headquarters here, but Mayor Kriseman is fully aware that the next Amazon could already be here, and it costs a lot less to nurture and support the next Amazon than it does to lure such a huge corporation here. It also feels better as we take a lot of pride in our entrepreneurs,” King said.
“However, relocations are important in that they can infuse new people and energy into our economy. Recruitment and relocations are also an illustration of our new competitive spirit, as stated in our city’s vision.”
The five Denver companies are all in different target sectors — one is a life science firm, two are in data analytics and two are in specialized manufacturing — so the pitch from St. Pete was a little different for each of them. But the city’s story comes down to two things, DuBuque said — access to a quality workforce and a relatively low total business cost.
Kriseman emphasized the lower cost of living in St. Petersburg, King said.
On an index compiled by Best Places, St. Petersburg’s cost of living was 106.9, slightly above the U.S. average of 100, while Denver’s cost of living was 144.
St. Pete is ahead of Denver in other metrics as well, including median home price, median household income, average commercial real estate costs, sales taxes and personal income tax. The only measure where Denver came out ahead was in corporate income tax.
DuBuque isn’t looking for a quick response.
“Some of the companies we spoke with are looking to do something in the next six months, others in the next two to three years,” he said. “It’s about making sure that we’re on the list and at the table and hoping that with continued conversation that when they do decide, we’ll be on the short list.”
It was the second business development trip for the mayor and the EDC in 2018. They talked to seven companies in San Francisco in May and continue to have ongoing conversations with five of those firms, DuBuque said.
Low vacancy rates, cited in the State of the Economy report last week, aren’t a hinderance.
“The assessment that we don’t have available real estate is a bit off base,” DuBuque said. “We don’t have an overabundance of space, but we have so far managed to find space for the all the companies that we work with who are actually looking.”
He’s already identified manufacturing space for both of the Denver manufacturing prospects.
More business development trips are planned this year, but the locations have not yet been determined.
The EDC, which pays for the trips, works with a consulting firm that identifies companies in targeted sectors and are actively looking at relocation or expansion, which increases the odds of success, DuBuque said. Getting to the table is a great start, he said.
The mayor can’t make every trip, but it makes a difference when he’s there and it helps St. Pete stand out from the crowd, King said.
“Having the mayor with us takes things to a different level,” DuBuque said. “It shows the commitment of this community to growing in the right way and with the right companies.”