Ford unveils new economic development plan
ST. PETERSBURG -- Looks like mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford wants to change the topic of discussion.
After being criticized by the St. Petersburg Times editorial board this weekend for not having a firm economic development plan and being called racially insensitive by a handful of political leaders for using the term H.N.I.C., here's what her campaign sent out this afternoon:
An Economic Healthy St. Petersburg
Mayoral Candidate Kathleen Ford Outlines Economic Growth Plan
St. Petersburg, FL (Oct. 19, 2009) – Like the rest of the nation, St. Petersburg has been devastated by the worst recession in a generation.
- Tampa Bay’s unemployment rate was 11.3% in August.
- The dollar value of construction projects for the first nine months of the fiscal year is $206-million compared to $653-million for fiscal year 2007.
- The citywide retail vacancy rate is 8.5% for the first nine months of the fiscal year, the highest rate since 2002.
What has City Hall done about it? Very little.
St. Petersburg’s Economic Development Plan has not been updated in a decade.
“Now more than ever, St. Petersburg needs an Economic Development Plan that will help businesses keep their doors open today, while forging a path of economic prosperity for the future,” Kathleen Ford said.
Ford’s two-part Economic Development Plan addresses current business needs, while creating opportunities for the future.
1. Cut Property Taxes: The City needs to relieve taxpayers of unnecessary expenses. An 8.5% property tax cut will put dollars back into the local economy and reduce the tax burden on business. The prospect of lower property taxes will also attract new business to St. Petersburg.
2. Help Small Business: The lifeline of our City’s economy needs help. Ford will form a Small Business Advocate Team to help restructure the way the City does business with small business – streamlining permitting, zoning and reducing regulatory obstacles. The Team will also explore any and all Federal grant money available to assist small business.
3. Reduce Crime: Businesses in St. Petersburg can not survive if the crime rate continues to rise. The City’s crime rate is higher than Tampa and Miami. Reducing the crime rate is Ford’s number one priority.
4. Lessen Panhandling: Aggressive panhandling negatively affects our business community and current laws must be strictly enforced, while researching what additional steps can legally be taken to protect businesses and their customers.
5. Eliminate Parking Meters: Ford’s plan of replacing parking meters with time-limited parking will make if easier for shoppers or diners, thus attracting more customers to downtown businesses.
6. Expand Tourism Efforts: The City’s Budget for Arts & International Relations Programs in 2010 has been reduced by 77 percent since 2007, yet we all know tourism creates jobs and generates tax dollars that help fund public services and pump money into our local economy. We must increase our share of international and U.S. visitors by using the latest marketing technologies (Online advertising partnerships, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to emphasize our award-winning beaches, nationally recognized museums, numerous sporting attractions, and world class parks and recreation facilities. St. Petersburg must be marketed as a place for visitors to go to maximize their stretched vacation dollars.
Long Term Growth
1. Preparation For A Changing Economy: The City needs to position itself to take advantage of the shifts in national policy focusing on energy, education and health care.
2. Create a Clean Technology Initiative: Clean technology could become a $156 billion market within 10 years, according to research by Clean Edge, Inc. As the Sunshine City in the Sunshine State, St. Petersburg is in a unique position to lead the Country in advancements in solar power. Together with development in wind power, fuel cell technology, tidal and wave power, bio-diesel and green building materials, clean technology offers new business opportunities, job creation and technological innovation for St. Petersburg.
3. Grow and Promote A World Class Medical Center: St. Petersburg already has a world class pediatric hospital and research center in downtown St. Petersburg as well as many other fine hospitals throughout the City. Ford’s plan is a comprehensive approach to unite the City’s medical centers, universities, research and health care facilities and grow other medical services and related businesses which will create more job opportunities. St. Petersburg can be a leader in providing world class medical care.
4. Maintain and Expand City Attractions: Three specific items that do, and can attract more visitors to St. Petersburg.
- The Pier – A symbol of St. Petersburg on postcards, travel brochures and all other marketing efforts since the 1930s, the Pier now needs $50 million for repairs to the approach road jutting out into Tampa Bay. It is City Hall’s responsibility to figure out the most economic way to keep it operational.
- Baywalk – Downtown’s once retail success story is now home to empty storefronts. Guaranteeing a safe experience at Baywalk for residents, families and tourists is key to its success. Ford’s plan will increase police patrols in the area, including the parking garage, as well as add additional street lighting to eliminate dark areas that are attractive to criminals.
- Baseball – Major League Baseball is an economic benefit to our City and Ford’s plan fully supports efforts to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg. Before a new stadium can be built, the public must have a say in this matter and Ford was the first candidate to call for a public referendum on this issue. Keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg is vital to the City’s economic future, but it must be done openly and in a way that the citizens can support.