Out-of-market executives and site selection consultants view St. Petersburg as a popular tourism destination and growing metro, but its identity isn’t as clear as other metros in the business lens, according to a new study.
The St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation released its findings of a perception study initiated earlier this year with Development Counselors International (DCI) to reveal how other markets view St. Pete. The group reached out to executives online and by phone, surveying 172 individuals.
One of the findings included how most executives and their advisors do not view St. Petersburg as being separate from Tampa and the larger metro area.
“The City of Tampa has received a lot of press over the years with developments, companies moving there and it’s in very close proximity to St. Pete. We have these shared assets that people view as a positive,” St. Pete EDC President and CEO J.P. DuBuque said, adding that more than 80% of those surveyed knew about St. Pete and had a positive outlook.
However, the perception that Tampa and St. Pete are one of the same indicates the city could enhance its messaging with a heightened focus on promoting why executives and decision-makers should “cross the bridge” from Tampa to St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg has historically been viewed as having a high quality of life and as a top tourism/retiree destination, while Tampa has secured more of the limelight in the business proposition, according to the findings.
“One of the things we are taking away from this is the need to clarify our brand and to get into the nuts and bolts of it,” DuBuque said, stating Visit St. Pete/Clearwater does a phenomenal job on promoting the “play assets.”
“With the results, we are going to get with our partners and at least agree on aligned messaging and forming the same model whether we are talking about the local business community, recruitment or our downtown,” he said, noting how the City of Columbus, Ohio is a prime example of how development partners are using the same business messaging all around.
“There are trickle-down perceptions from the state and metro level – both positive and negative – and the city should be prepared to leverage assets and provide counter-messaging on issues like the pro-business climate and regulatory environment, weak state incentives, and the state’s social/political climate,” the findings read.
“The issue of incentives is a complex one,” DuBuque said. “I will say incentives have never made a bad deal good and most companies are not going to make a decision solely on incentives. Nonetheless, it is still a good asset to have in the toolbelt that the state could take advantage of.
“Incentives can be a very good tool. I think we are winning deals right now without incentive programs, but we don’t know the deals we could be missing out on. The lack of a major state incentive program is a deterrent to Florida when site consultants are searching locations for their clients.”
While there are some aspects the city can improve on – according to the study – overall, the city’s quality of life and culture are viewed as differentiators, particularly from other Florida locations.