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Gypsy Gallardo talks Inclusive St. Pete, moving the needle on economic growth in South St. Pete

Megan Holmes

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Photo Courtesy of One Community St. Pete.


Click the arrow above to listen to the full interview between One Community’s Gypsy Gallardo and Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton. 

In early November, a new partnership was launched to expand supplier diversity efforts in St. Petersburg. Cities like Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and Tallahassee have strong supplier diversity and inclusion programs among both government agencies and corporations, said Gypsy Gallardo of Power Broker Magazine, The 2020 Plan and One Community Plan. Those programs have been missing in St. Petersburg – until the launch of Inclusive St. Pete.

“Our new Inclusive St. Pete initiative is about bringing that focus in a major way to St. Pete, working on both the supply and demand side,” explained Gallardo. Inclusive St. Pete, an partnership between The 2020 Plan, the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (FSMSDC), and numerous other partners will fast-track the certification process for minority-owned firms in St. Petersburg and connect those businesses with corporate and government procurement programs. The effort will also help local corporations to increase supplier diversity and inclusion.

The change-making component of Inclusive St. Pete is the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Accelerator, which will help 20 minority-owned businesses complete the rigorous certification and registration process with Florida’s largest supplier diversity programs. The eight week accelerator will seek to provide a combined $20 million in new business opportunities for participants, establish mentorship opportunities with business leaders and equip graduates for sustainable growth. Ultimately, graduates will be helped to secure at least two certifications each with: National/Florida State Minority Supplier Developer Council; Pinellas County Office of Small Business & Supplier Diversity; City of St. Petersburg; State of Florida Office of Supplier Diversity; Florida Department of Transportation; Federal 8a certification.

“We as a city don’t seem to understand/recognize the position, power and potential of our African American community,” Gallardo said. She sees the program as one way of combating the perceived and actual lack of “opportunity on-ramps” in St. Pete. “You look at many African Americans who leave St. Pete and thrive,” Gallardo said. “Part of our work is creating the apparatus of equity – those on-ramps.”

Gallardo said the Inclusive St. Pete program is one component of a shifting outlook toward South St. Petersburg, moving away from the poverty reduction efforts of the 2020 Plan and forward into economic growth through One Community Plan. Gallardo pointed to the successes of the 2020 Plan, which brought 10 new poverty exit programs, income growth programs, and moved the needle in the black poverty rates of South St. Petersburg, one of the largest impoverished areas in the state of Florida. But as St. Pete reaches 2020, Gallardo explained, a more aspirational vision for South St. Pete is necessary to foster and display the “striving and thriving” of the African American community.

This shifting mindset follows a succession of revitalization efforts in South St. Petersburg. During Mayor Rick Baker’s administration, Gallardo said, there was an unprecedented period of brick and mortar revitalization in the community. Five hundred thousand feet of commercial space built was built, historic space preserved, 3000 housing units turned over.

But, Gallardo said, leaders in South St. Pete quickly realized, “You cannot build your way out of poverty, and you cannot build your way into economic growth.” Rather, building an economy that works for everyone, particularly black contractors, vendors, landscape artists and suppliers, means digging into the core of how the economy really works.

Early on, Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration worked to fill the workforce gap, putting a focus on people over places. That administration built workforce development programs like St. Pete Works, micro and small business grant and loan programs through the Greenhouse, and much more. “Unless you get into the nitty gritty of how the economy works contractually speaking – real money in real people’s pockets – you’re not going to see the poverty needle or economic growth needle move,” Gallardo said.

Listen to Gallardo’s full interview with Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton above, and learn more about One Community and Inclusive St. Pete here.

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