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St. Pete EDC welcomes new companies to the city

Veronica Brezina



Downtown St. Petersburg. All photos: Veronica Brezina.

Entrepreneurs, collaborators and officials, including St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and former mayor Rick Kriseman, were among hundreds of attendees recognizing the homeruns the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp. has achieved in helping attract more than 2,000 new jobs to the city. 

Inside The Vinoy, J.P. DuBuque, the outgoing founding president and current CEO of the St. Pete EDC, hosted the organization’s annual event Wednesday, shedding light on the new businesses calling St. Pete home. 

Since the EDC’s founding in 2016, it has supported more than 351 job creation projects for companies considering relocating/expanding in St. Pete, and has assisted 58 companies with their openings.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks during the St. Pete EDC’s annual event at The Vinoy. 

Relic Tickets, which has built a smart ticket system on the blockchain for event venues, was one of the businesses spotlighted as it is moving its headquarters to St. Petersburg. 

During the event, CEO Hunter Abramson said he was initially “completely sold” on either growing the company in Lakeland’s Catapult co-working space or moving the HQ to Miami or Austin, Texas – two well-known startup hubs. 

However, the EDC’s new business development manager Christopher “Beau” Giles, who led the community engagement division for Synapse Florida at the time, introduced Abramson to Meghan O’Keefe, who formerly held Giles’ current role at the EDC. 

Abramson said after he connected with O’Keefe, now the executive director of Tampa Bay Tech who’d helped Abramson bridge relationships in the community, his focus shifted to St. Petersburg as the ideal site. 

Abramson also listed the city’s competing attributes, such as its diverse workforce pipeline, quality of life, walkability, weather, business benefits and proximity to Tampa International Airport.  

While Abramson announced that St. Pete will be Relic Ticket’s new home base, the company is still searching for a physical office location and will be operating out of St. Pete’s Thrive co-working building in the interim. 

Relic Tickets was created in 2021 to solve the frustrations felt by both the venue and end user’s experiences in booking tickets online by providing a secure and consistent system. It also provides customers’ data to the venues, which can leverage it to further engage with customers and track their experiences. 

The company, which has a hybrid remote team, plans to grow its headcount to 20-30 employees in St. Pete within the next few years. 

“I have lived and worked in Silicon Valley almost my whole career. I know what innovation looks and feels like. St. Pete has an innovative spirit coursing through its veins,” Kenny Lauer, Relic Ticket’s chief strategy officer, said in a statement. “To me, when a city demonstrates this spirit in addition to great resources and a crystal-clear understanding of what a startup needs to grow and scale, this is the place to be.”

The EDC also took the opportunity to introduce other companies that have made the move to the Sunshine City. 

Haddy is a new company founded by longtime innovators Jay Rogers and Kyle Rowe that 3D prints modern furniture from recycled materials.

Rogers has secured a long-term lease for a 20,000-plus-square-foot warehouse at 1921 5th Ave. S., near the Morean Arts Center and Brick Street Farms, to launch his company. 

At the EDC event, Roger said the St. Pete site will be the referenced model when his team prepares to open micro factories throughout the United States. To date, the company has raised over $2.5 million through angel investors. 

Hunter Swisher with Phospholutions was another executive who shared his experience in selecting St. Pete as the HQ for his agritech startup. 

Phospholutions is a sustainable fertilizer startup founded in State College, Pennsylvania, focused on developing technologies to enhance efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of phosphorus.

The startup opened its new office at 360 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg last year and is currently raising its Series B funding round. 

Swisher was previously considering moving the HQ to Denver, but he fell in love with St. Pete’s welcoming business climate when he moved to the area several years ago, knowing the state is a major supplier of phosphate. 

In addition to introducing these new companies to local movers and shakers, St. Pete EDC Chair Marcus Greene said the group is forming a strategic plan that will outline how the EDC can evolve its mission and reflect on current market trends, which follows the completion of the EDC’s perception study measuring how out-0f-market business executives and consultants perceive St. Pete. 

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1 Comment

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    Jonathan Kind

    February 23, 2023at8:17 pm

    Glad we are drawing these companies to St. Pete, but what is the EDC doing about the major pay gap between our market and other markets? We are no longer a low-cost city, but knowledge worker wages are 50-80% lower than all these other markets mentioned in this article

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