Innovation, Transformation, and Collaboration Make Community ‘Bullish on St. Pete’ at St. Pete EDC Annual Meeting

Innovation, transformation, and collaboration were the themes of the day as the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation celebrated companies that have relocated during the past year at its 7th Annual Meeting. Since its founding in late 2016, the St. Pete EDC has:

  • Announced more than 2,400 jobs
  • Opened 409 job creation projects for companies considering relocation/expansion in St. Pete
  • Assisted 67 companies with relocations, expansions, or openings

New Faces in St. Pete Spaces

The EDC highlighted some of the companies it worked with during the past year, including applied tech company Digital Twin Marine, software solutions providers Dynabyte, sustainable furniture manufacturer Haddy, podcast-monetizing tech company PodRoll, kidney prognosis life sciences company Renalytix, investment, real estate and education platform Skytian, and fintech firms Tech & Flow and Webull. For more about each company, see the EDC's Annual Report.

Relocated Innovators Panel

St. Pete EDC President & CEO Mike Swesey, who joined the EDC in November, moderated a panel of companies that relocated their headquarters to St. Pete discussing why they decided to “Become St. Pete,” and what they’ve discovered here. The panelists were:

  • Nicky Bruger, CEO of Digital Twin Marine, a company that essentially makes Google View, but for boats. Instead of scanning your neighborhood and seeing your neighbor’s house and car, you see the inside of a 600-foot ship. She and her husband relocated Digital Twin Marine to the Maritime Defense and Tech Hub last August following a visit to St. Pete to visit her husband’s family here. St. Pete has finally become a place people move home to. Bruger’s favorite meal in St. Pete is anything from Craft Kafé, with their gluten free treats being an absolute staple in the Bruger household.
  • Anthony Nagendraraj, who announced the relocation of his company Spontivly from Canada to St. Pete at the EDC’s annual meeting in 2022. Since then, his company has been funded by Marc Cuban, Tampa Bay Ventures, and the founder of HootSuite among others, and he has gained the NHL as a client of the community management data analytics platform. Nagendraraj and his co-founder Marissa Huggins have been active in promoting and growing St. Pete’s tech community. Based on his Instagram, one of Nagendraraj’s favorite outdoor activities is inline skating while posting pictures of the temperature here to the envy of his Canadian counterparts.
  • Dynasty Financial Partners relocated to St. Pete from New York City in 2019 with about 50 employees and has grown to more than 120 employees today due in large part to Chief Talent Officer Mason Salit. Dynasty provides a wealth management and tech platform for Registered Investment Advisors. Salit says one of the biggest surprises about moving to St. Pete is that everyone knows everyone!
  • Cathie Wood, Chief Executive and Investment Officer and Founder of ARK Invest, an investment advisor focused solely on investing in disruptive innovation. St Petersburg garnered international headlines in publications like the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s when ARK announced its relocation from New York to St. Pete in 2021, when they also announced a $1 million investment in the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. At a TBIC panel last year Wood noted that even when her business or her life is having ups and downs, “every day I walk out of my condo, I just feel joy — no matter what’s happening, there’s something about this community.” At the event she said that the themes of innovation, collaboration, and transformation completely represent St. Pete.

New Officers

In addition, the St. Pete EDC confirmed its officers for 2024:

  • Chair: Bill Kent, President, George F. Young
  • Chair-Elect: John Moore, President, Bayfront Health
  • Secretary: Morgan Holmes, Executive Director, Corporate and Foundation Engagement, University of South Florida
  • Treasurer: Nick Hess, Vice President, Fifth Third
  • Immediate Past Chair: Marcus Greene, Market President, Truist
  • Vice Chair, Strategic Planning: Danielle Ruiz, Director of Economic Development Industry Recruitment, Duke Energy
  • General Counsel: Bob Warchola, Partner, Shumaker

The Mayor of St. Petersburg Ken Welch, St. Pete Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Chris Steinocher, and St. Pete EDC President & CEO Mike Swesey round out the organization’s Executive Committee.

See St. Pete EDC Leadership for more.

Plans for 2024

Newly elected Chair Bill Kent reviewed the EDC’s 2024 scope of work, which reflects the themes of innovation, transformation, and collaboration throughout. With a new leader and many changes in St. Petersburg, the EDC sees 2024 as the first year in a 5-year approach. Kent highlighted:

  • Business recruitment: With Orange Station, 400 Central, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, and the Historic Gas Plant District all bringing new Class A office space online, as well as the repurposing of space in the Gateway District, the EDC now will have new opportunities to attract more and larger companies.
  • Access & diversity: The challenge of the Sunshine City’s transformation is helping St. Pete to grow while keeping St. Pete St. Pete. A big part of that is making sure that the changes here benefit everyone. The EDC will be focused on embodying the St. Pete principles of inclusion and intentional equity and will participate the St. Pete Chamber’s Leadership Alliance and incorporate successes by and opportunities for minority, women, and LGBT+ businesses and their employees into its new website.
  • Organizational operations: As the EDC moves from being a startup organization into its next phase, the EDC will focus on expanding its Investor pool, collaborating with its economic development partners, and reviewing and improving internal operations.

You can find more in the EDC's Annual Report.

Importance of "Here to Stay" and Historic Gas Plant District Development

The program concluded with remarks by Swesey about the importance of keeping the Tampa Bay Rays as a major employer in St. Pete and of the development of the Historic Gas Plant District as a source of new office space, jobs, housing, and other community benefits.

Interested in learning how St. Pete helps innovative companies to thrive in our vibrant and authentically warm business community?

Download your copy of our Become St. Pete brochure.

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