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With Just Getting Started, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Dr. Kanika Tomalin is “telling the St. Pete story” through one-on-one conversations with change-makers. With many exciting plans and projects on the horizon, St. Petersburg’s upward trajectory remains strong. “So much has been done, but here’s the secret: We’re just getting started.”

08/15/2020 | Episode 05 | 24:55

Just Getting Started: Resiliency, inclusion and Grow Smarter

Just Getting Started: Resiliency, inclusion and Grow Smarter

Dr. Tomalin's guest is Dr. Tashika Griffith, provost of St. Pete College downtown and midtown, and the Palladium Theater. She is also the 2020 Chair of the city's Grow Smarter initiative - a comprehensive economic development strategy that is focused on inclusive prosperity and equitable economic growth. Now in its sixth year, Grow Smarter has been a tremendous success - but, as Dr. Griffith points out, the pandemic has made certain pivots increasingly necessary: "We want to be sure, as the needs evolve, that we're right there to make sure that we understand it and contribute to the solution."

Key Insights

  • The goals of the Grow Smarter initiative, Dr. Griffith says, "align with what I do as provost. So it just made sense" to accept the position as chair. She previously served as the vice chair of the Grow Smarter education committee.
  • The five targeted sectors for Grow Smarter are: Data Analytics, Marine and Life Sciences, Creative Arts and Design, Financial Services and Specialized Manufacturing.
  • Since 2014, says Dr. Tomalin, income across the city has increased by 10 percent, and poverty is down 14 percent.
  • The Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete is a major funder of Grow Smarter. "A lot of the work this year, we wouldn't have been able to achieve without that financial backing."
  • Through St. Pete College, Grow Smarter awarded 14 "re-training" scholarships to local residents who lost their jobs in the service, retail and hospitality industries due to the pandemic.
  • In April, Grow Smarter conducted a "Community Needs" assessment among 200 businesses, working in partnership with the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
  • Dr. Griffith says the results of that assessment will inform our economic landscape in the post-Covid world. "It has to," she says. "Moving forward, when we talk about this new normal, that has to be a long-term strategy."
  • Racial inequities are still a major cause for concern in St. Pete. "There is a huge disparity - what are we going to do about it?"
  • "Work to create such inclusive prosperity is percolating fro our business community," says Dr. Tomalin. "In partnership with our public sector."
  • And the work continues: The virtual Grow Smarter Summit will be held Nov. 20 (tentatively), according to Dr. Griffith: "We're looking, again, to really hear from our community to inform us for 2021."

Dr. Tomalin’s guest is Dr. Tashika Griffith, provost of St. Pete College downtown and midtown, and the Palladium Theater. She is also the 2020 Chair of the city’s Grow Smarter initiative – a comprehensive economic development strategy that is focused on inclusive prosperity and equitable economic growth

The importance of Grow Smarter is: How can we bridge the gap? How can we truly reduce the inequities, so that no matter what areas, everyone's prospering?"

Downtown St. Petersburg

A lot of people don't realize that a part of the initiative for Grow Smarter was to extend a reaching hand of help from business leaders, and they stepped up ... a lot of business leaders came in and said 'As a big business, how can I help small businesses?"

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1 Reviews on this article

Carl Lavender
15. 08 2020, 03:15:2323
Dr Griffith has demonstrated smart Leadership in her Chairperson role. The team at Grow Smarter has also made a significant leap forward. Compliments to the St Pete Chamber and the City of St Petersburg for the forethought necessary to imagine a City that Grows Smarter. What’s next? Stay tuned. We are “Just Getting Started”. Peace.

About the host

Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a thought leader, policy-maker, community ambassador, and health advocate.

As the first African-American, female Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of one of Florida’s largest cities, Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a role model for women from all walks of life and an advocate for innovative policies, equitable community revitalization, healthy families, at-risk youth and education.

Her signature initiative, Healthy St. Pete, which launched in 2014, has made community health a priority and impacts the lives of thousands of Sunshine City residents. By creating access to healthy food options, implementing free fitness zones in city parks and adding resources for individuals and families to make healthy living easier – Dr. Tomalin has made a tangible difference.

Dr. Tomalin’s understanding of the critical role health plays as a determinant of overall quality of life was shaped prior to her career in the public sector. She quickly climbed the ranks in the healthcare industry, most recently serving as the regional vice president of External Affairs for the Bayfront Health Network and director of Strategy for Health Management Associates’ 23-hospital Florida Group.


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