Site Selectors Give St. Pete Insights: Get a Signature Win and Fill Your ‘Clean Slate’ with the Story of Talent, Connectivity, and Community

St. Petersburg has a unique opportunity to put itself on the map with consultants who advise corporations on relocation and expansion options according to two site selectors who recently provided an analysis of the Sunshine City. After looking at data and touring St. Petersburg, Tom Stringer, Site Selection & Incentives Principal and Practice Leader at BDO, and Ron Starner, Executive Vice President at Conway Data, shared their findings with a group of St. Pete Economic Development Corp. Investors at an Investor event hosted by Trophy Fish.

The Historic Gas Plant District is an Immense Opportunity; Important to Land a Signature Win

The consultants characterized redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant district as one of the most exciting growth opportunities in the country. To them, this is a “civic” redevelopment project that happens to have an MLB franchise as the anchor tenant, rather than a stadium project. Both Stringer and Starner noted that this provides St. Petersburg with a chance to put St. Pete on the map with the corporate site selection community, encouraging the city to aggressively pursue and land a signature win. A brand name company announcing a relocation to or expansion in the Historic Gas Plant District would “move the needle” for St. Petersburg’s consideration as a prime business location. Additional Class A office space is also imperative; St. Pete’s current lack of Class A space removes it from initial consideration by site selectors, who typically work with larger companies seeking more space.

St. Pete is a “Clean Slate”

Stringer said the Sunshine City reminds him of Scottsdale, Arizona from 15-20 years ago. It’s primed for major business, jobs, and population growth.


He noted that while we share this vibrancy with some of our competitor cities, such as Austin, Charleston, Nashville, and Raleigh, our identity as a business location is not as strong. Fortunately for St. Petersburg, there are no negative impressions to overcome—St. Pete is a “clean slate” with the opportunity to define and market St. Pete as a premier business destination. He also noted that the age of St. Pete feels much lower than expected; there is a “hip, fun feeling” along the Central Avenue corridor.

Talent is the Great Equalizer

Starner reported that state and local tax policy ranks as the most important location factor for site selectors, followed closely by workforce. Florida has the fifth best business climate in the country according to Site Selection magazine.

Starner noted that “talent is the great equalizer,” and that Pinellas County ranks in the top 15% of large counties in the United States for talent attraction, and in the top 10% for migration according to a 2024 talent attraction scorecard.


Site Selection Trends Affecting St. Pete

Remote work has peaked and the hub-and-spoke organization model for companies with a central business location surrounded by working spaces accessible to local employees is in. This gives St. Petersburg the opportunity to pursue divisions or employment centers to relocate or expand—it doesn’t have to be headquarters or nothing.

Starner and Stringer noted the importance of transportation, emphasizing the need for nonstop service to London as a long-term priority for the financial services companies that are some of St. Petersburg’s prime prospects. When asked about mass transit, Stringer responded that most people are not getting out of their cars, and that St. Pete is car-friendly and walkable, saying “what you’re doing downtown is outstanding.” Both consultants agreed that the Cross-Bay Ferry connection across Tampa Bay would be of benefit.

Surprises for the Site Selectors

When asked what surprised him most about St. Pete, Stringer spoke about the unique feel of St. Petersburg. He had been to Tampa many times, but didn’t realize the walkable culture that pervades St. Pete, saying, “You don’t see that in Florida,” and urging the city to tap into that connectivity.

Regarding the Historic Gas Plant District, Starner was surprised by the complete buy-in by the Tampa Bay Rays and how the plans for the stadium and the surrounding district are so well-integrated. Beyond that, he was impressed by the welcoming nature of the community, saying “this is a community that embraces outsiders. You can come in and be integrated. There are no barriers to entry—come join this club.”

“[T]his is a community that embraces outsiders. You can come in and be integrated. There are no barriers to entry—come join this club.”
Ron Starner, Conway Data

Site selection consultants are experts who work with companies to help them evaluate locations for relocation or expansion. They bring experience and analysis of demographics, workforce talent, environmental conditions, physical characteristics, business climates, taxes and incentives, and other data to allow companies to make the best decisions for their operations.

BDO's Tom Stringer is one of the top site selection and incentives professionals in the country, having secured his clients over $2.2 billion in some of the most high-profile economic development projects of the last decade. Tom leads BDO's Site Selection & Incentives practice and has more than 20 years of in-depth industry experience in all phases of the site search and incentives negotiation process for a wide range of clients such as major defense contractors, professional sports leagues, privately held manufacturing companies, and startups pushing ground-breaking new technologies into commercialization.

Conway's Ron Starner has worked in international trade and development for more than a dozen years and writes extensively for Site Selection Magazine. He served as the Executive Director of the Industrial Asset Management Council, a leading industrial real estate association, offering dynamic professional development, networking opportunities, and news and resources for professionals in the industrial and manufacturing real estate industry. Prior to joining Conway, Ron was the publisher of the Florida Real Estate Journal, and he received his MA from the University of South Florida, so he is very familiar with St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay region.

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