St. Pete Study Reveals Business Perceptions are Strong

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Out-of-market executives and site selection consultants give St. Petersburg’s business climate strong marks and note the City’s unique quality of life coupled with the region’s assets as appealing for companies considering corporate relocation or expansion, according to a recent study released by the St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation.

St. Pete stacked up well in comparison with comparable cities like Nashville, Raleigh, Fort Worth, Durham, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Denver, with quality of life, workforce, and location highlighted as some of the City's perceived strengths.

Key findings included:

-- Perceptions of St. Petersburg as a business location are strong, and the City rates well against key competitors.

--Most executives and their advisors do not view St. Petersburg as being separate from Tampa and the larger metro area.

--The City’s unique quality of life and culture are differentiators, particularly from other Florida locations.

--A location must make “business sense” before other qualitative factors are considered (depth/breadth of talent, operating and labor costs, local incentives and taxes, overall regulatory environment)

--There is an opportunity to expand messaging on select factors and why decision makers should “cross the bridge” from Tampa (talent pool, depth/breadth of industry sectors, local incentives/tax breaks/special districts, overall image/brand)

--There are trickle down perceptions from the state and metro level —both positive and negative—and the City should be prepared to leverage assets and provide counter-messaging on issues like the pro-business climate and regulatory environment, weak state incentives, and the state’s social/political climate.

Some common themes that emerged from the study’s qualitative interviews included:

--Strengths: quality of life, thriving downtown, talent pool, part of large and growing metro area, pro-business climate, assets of Tampa but different, strong leadership in the City and its business organizations

--Weaknesses: Perception of St. Pete as a tourism/retiree destination, a lack of a strong brand and well-articulated business proposition, Tampa securing more of the limelight

--Opportunities: Post-pandemic mindset among executives, leveraging regional assets while differentiating St. Pete’s lifestyle attributes, St. Pete as “different” than the rest of Florida, the perception that St. Pete is more “business-friendly” compared to other regional locations

--Threats: Insufficient differentiation within the region/state, lack of state incentives, lack of a regional economic development organization, strong competitors

Innovation emerged as a strategic topic for St. Pete to promote, as it provides an opportunity to showcase St. Pete’s entrepreneurial climate and the regional tech ecosystem with examples of industry disruptors like ARK Invest, Dynasty Financial Partners, Intrinio, and Code-X.

The St. Pete EDC engaged Development Counselors International (DCI) to conduct a survey to develop baseline metrics and understand the current perceptions of St. Petersburg business climate among corporate executives, site selection consultants and local stakeholders. DCI conducted a nationwide online survey and a series of one-on-one interviews with site selection consultants and internal and external business leaders. This research will inform the St. Pete EDC’s marketing efforts to drive leads, jobs, and capital investment.

The Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation promotes the St. Pete region as a world-class business location, helping companies relocate to and expand in the heart of Tampa Bay. The St. Pete EDC is a private-public partnership that stemmed from St. Pete’s Grow Smarter strategy of driving equitable economic prosperity by targeting key sectors primed for growth. Supported by more than 65 leading Investor organizations, the St. Pete EDC helps attract, retain, and expand businesses with high quality jobs in the innovative, collaborative, and inclusive community of St. Petersburg.  These companies create opportunities for the people of St. Pete and encourage others to relocate our area.

For more, see the Tampa Bay Business Journal article "St. Pete has an opportunity to stand out within the Sunshine State, EDC survey finds."