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Helping St. Pete Grow Smarter: Join the conversation

Jocelyn Howard

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Welcome to Grow Smarter’s Community Voices page. Grow Smarter is an initiative based at the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, with a vision for St. Petersburg to grow equitably and have a vibrant, diversified economy that benefits everyone who lives here. We’re working toward this goal by building a multisector initiative – with representation from public, private, and nonprofit leaders – to promote equitable economic growth in our city. We aim to reduce gaps by race and place in St. Petersburg, and we believe that economic development is made stronger by a focus on the range of factors that affect the well-being of our residents and of our city, from housing to workforce development to entrepreneurship.

Like so many other organizations, Grow Smarter has spent the past six months pivoting. We pivoted our plans for this year, we pivoted our focus and we pivoted our funding from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg to strengthen St. Pete. We are grateful to all the organizations who helped us act fast and provide this much-needed support. Our efforts included:

  • Working with partners to create the Business Resiliency Team, which provided emergency resource navigation to businesses in need
  • Funding several WiFi hotspots and community events along the Deuces corridor
  • Helping the Arts Alliance provide excellent virtual support to local creatives
  • Contributing to One Community’s wide-reaching #InThisTogether fund for minority business owners
  • Creating the Grow Smarter Scholarship at St. Petersburg College, which is funding 14 students this semester, and is a resource that will serve St. Pete for years to come

These efforts were new to us, but here’s what wasn’t new: our commitment to equity; the dedication and insight of our Grow Smarter steering committee members and our Chair, Dr. Tashika Griffith; and our commitment to building connections, advancing conversations and sparking action around inclusive economic development.

We are grateful to the Catalyst for this space, which will allow us to continue to do just that. For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing stories of local businesses who connected with the Business Resiliency Team. These profiles will lead up to St. Pete’s Small Business Week, Oct. 19-23 (visit the Greenhouse website for a list of programming). After that, we’ll continue to use the column to advance conversations around our mission. Have ideas? Get in touch, and thanks for reading.

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