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Out-of-market execs give St. Pete high marks – but there’s room for improvement

Veronica Brezina

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A bicyclist navigates traffic in downtown St. Pete. Photo by Mark Parker.

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. 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Danny E White

    March 24, 2022at3:37 pm

    I am not sure St. Petersburg or Tampa can be relieved of the sting of state legislation that incumbers the voting process, denies the true history of the United States, and prohibits school districts from allowing discussions about non-binary/LGBTQ human beings. Both cities are viable business hosts; yet surely any conscious business entertaining a move to Tampa Bay will weigh the climate of the STATE, and the CITY.

  2. Avatar

    John Donovan

    March 24, 2022at4:07 pm

    Among the many fundamental reasons, lower taxes and a rational approach to dealing with covid (polar opposite to NY and California for example) is attracting lots of people of all kinds with entrepreneurial spirt and goodwill to Florida and St Petersburg. In other words, people are voting with their feet. Which makes suspect the wild claims about the social / legal circumstances of life in Florida made by some.

  3. Scott Wagman

    Scott Wagman

    March 24, 2022at5:49 pm

    Economic development leaders are paid to help a city grow through business relocation and expansion. Their role is not to decide just how much growth and expansion is needed or warranted to “improve” a city.
    First and formost, the St. Pete City administration, EDC, Downtown Partnership and the Chamber need to give real thought to the strategic issues to mesh controlled growth with maintaining our renowned quality of life.

  4. Avatar

    Steve D.

    March 25, 2022at3:29 pm

    Well said, John. As a member of the LGBTQ community, my husband and I aren’t offended at all by limiting teachers from discussing these issues with kindergarten through 3rd graders without parental guidance. Fortunately, polls indicate that most Floridians have seen through the disingenuous reporting on this mislabeled legislation.

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