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Talent attraction is key priority for St. Petersburg Area EDC this year

Margie Manning

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Shirl Penney, co-founder and CEO, Dynasty Financial Partners, speaking at the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp. annual meeting (Photo credit: Allie Felix, Embarc Collective)

A comprehensive talent attraction campaign will be a key focus in 2020 for the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp.

Jill Wilkinson

Talent availability and skills are the biggest areas of concern for companies already in the area as well as those considering relocation, said Jill Wilkinson, senior vice president, SunTrust Bank now Truist, and the newly elected chair of the EDC.

“I’m excited to share with you a major focus this year is our comprehensive talent attraction campaign called Become St. Pete,” Wilkinson said Thursday night at the EDC’s annual meeting. “Our hope is this will position St. Petersburg as a destination for innovators, job seekers and highly-regarded tech talent around the country.”

A new website focuses on promoting major corporations in the area, job openings, industry meetings, community amenities, information about relocations and what it’s like to live in St. Petersburg, she said.

The new initiative was unveiled as the EDC begins its fourth year.

In its first three years, the EDC has worked with 22 companies that plan to create nearly 1,000 jobs, said J.P. DuBuque, EDC president and CEO.

In the last year alone, the organization has closed 10 projects and created over 400 targeted industry jobs, said Chad Loar, regional president, PNC Bank, and immediate past chair of the EDC.

Job creation remains a key focus, Wilkinson said.

“With each job created there’s a ripple impact to our local businesses. Whether you are a dry cleaner, restaurant, realtor, you name it, you are getting benefit from the jobs that are being created here, whether it’s local expansion or new businesses to our community,” she said.

The EDC wants to build on its successful efforts to recruit companies from the New York, New Jersey and Tri-state area, especially in the financial services and data analytics industries, she said.

One of the organization’s biggest successes in 2019 was attracting Dynasty Financial Partners, which provides wealth management and technology platforms for independent financial advisory firms, to St. Petersburg.

Shirl Penney, co-founder and CEO, told the EDC that Dynasty looked at a number of other communities, but St. Petersburg stood out because of its infrastructure, talent, quality of life and culture.

“The thing that stood out the most was the people,” Penney said. “The more we heard about the vision, the more we realized it totally aligned with who we are as an organization.”

To keep attracting companies from out of town, St. Petersburg and Tampa, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties need to work together, said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, alluding to the moves last year by organizations in Tampa to change their names to the “Tampa Bay Economic Development Council” and the “Tampa Bay Chamber.”

“We have shined above them and outgrown our older brother. We’re taller and better-looking and attracting all the wonderful things,” Steinocher said. “But with that comes responsibility to act like the leaders we know we are, to rise above it all. When we hear that conversation that goes negative, we say that’s not our conversation to have. We’re the most positive community in the country. We talk positive stuff. If it’s negative we turn the other cheek, and we move forward for the next success for our community.”

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