Kriseman touts city as business-friendly, acknowledges work to do
Mayor Rick Kriseman reached for culinary metaphors to describe his city's economic resurgence at a hour-long exhaustive look at the city's demographic and economic data, suggesting the best is yet to come.
"We're getting the recipe right," Kriseman said. "St. Pete is really cooking."
The state-of-the-city's economy presentation at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg had some of the trappings of a pep rally, complete with a slick video touting the city's arts community, craft beer scene and recent mural festival.
But Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin along with top economic development officials Alan DeLisle and Dave Goodwin didn't just reel off evidence of the city's renaissance.
They also pointed to high retail vacancy rates in areas like the Skyway Marina District, a relatively low patent rate and a persistent tendency for city residents to leave the city to buy things.
And DeLisle pointed to a relatively low-paying wage base as a reason for the city to focus on recruiting better jobs in financial services, data analytics, creative arts and design, marine and life sciences and specialized manufacturing.
Many of the powerpoint slides compared St. Petersburg to Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. Depending on the data in question, the city punches above its weight in some areas, but generally lands in the middle of the pack, consistently trailing Orlando, which recently passed St. Petersburg in population.
But even that metric might change. Since 2010, the city has added thousands of new residents.
"For the first time in 35 years, the city is growing faster than the county," DeLisle said.
And it's getting younger. Although, still 6.5 years older than the national average, the city is now 6.3 years younger on average than it was in 1970.
That demographic shift accounted for the Pier Park momentum, DeLisle suggested.
"You gotta change with the times," he said.
Another weak spot? Rehab of existing residential property is lower than before the recession.
But downtown residential construction is on fire, office space is getting tight and development is moving west and south. All good signs, they said. And the city still remains affordable with a lower cost of living than other Florida metro areas.
Kriseman said it's never been a better time to be living in the 'Burg. The Chamber of Commerce, the business community and City Hall are all on the same page.
"We all share the same vision of opportunity and that's rare," he said.
Here's the video: