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St. Petersburg leads Florida in NAE Cities Index, touts successful immigrant integration

Megan Holmes



(Left to right): Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, J.P. Dubuque of St. Pete EDC, Mayor Kriseman (speaking), Jason Mathis of St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. Photo by Megan Holmes

Of the largest 100 cities across the United States, St. Petersburg ranks No. 13 nationally and first in Florida for the successful integration of immigrants into the community, according to a recent report by New American Economy.

In a press conference held Monday, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced St. Petersburg’s ranking and touted the entrepreneurial spirit of the city’s immigrant community, alongside Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, St. Petersburg EDC’s J.P. Dubuque, and St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership’s Jason Mathis.

The index examines data points of the largest 100 cities in the United States by total population, and ranks them based on 31 local governmental policies and practices, as well as 20 socioeconomic outcomes. An overall score of 3.65 out of 5 puts St. Petersburg just outside of the national Top Ten.

“Knowing the mayors of some of these other cities, like Austin [ranked No. 79] and Boston [ranked No. 27], it feels good to be ranked higher than them,” laughed Kriseman.

St. Petersburg achieved 5.00 scores in Civic Participation, Livability, and Economic Prosperity. Its lowest scores were in Legal Support (2.00) and Policy (2.8).

According to the City Index, St. Petersburg ranks above other Florida cities, including:

  • No. 29: Miami (3.30)
  • No. 42: Orlando (3.08)
  • No. 46: Jacksonville (3.00)
  • No. 79: Hialeah (2.60)
  • No. 84: Tampa (2.55)

“We’ve really worked hard to create that atmosphere here where everyone feels welcome,” Kriseman said following the press conference. “We don’t care who you are, if you want to be a part of our community, we want you here.”

Kriseman placed special emphasis on international students studying at local universities. “There’s a lot of talent that is getting trained here and leaving,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose this kind of talent.”

The diversity of St. Petersburg’s immigrant populations is also worth noting. While Hispanic populations are larger in places like Tampa, Orlando, and Miami, St. Petersburg’s immigrant community is comprised of many small communities.

“I think it’s fascinating when you start looking at all of these numbers,” said Kriseman. “When you walk around the streets of downtown, you’re hearing a lot of different languages being spoken.”

“We have a large Vietnamese community,” he added. “A large Bangladeshi community, a large Russian community and Serbian community and Croatian community. It’s nice to see those communities really growing here, because it means folks feel very comfortable being here.

“The Serbian and Croatian community is larger here than it is in South Florida,” Kriseman continued. “So you get a different flavor, but in my mind that’s what kind of makes it cool.

“The more welcoming your community becomes, the more flavors become a part of your community.”

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