Former St. Petersburg economic development chief Ron Barton ousted in Jacksonville reorganization
Wake up and good morning. Ron Barton, who spent the first half of this decade as economic director of the city of St. Petersburg, was just ousted as the head, since 2005, of Jacksonville's economic development efforts. Barton was dismissed in a reorganization by Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. who reportedly has ordered a complete review of economic development activity. Barton was hired six years ago as executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission by former Mayor John Peyton. Read more from this Jacksonville Times-Union story.
A perhaps overly flattering portrait of Barton's time spent in St. Petersburg (Rick Baker, St. Pete mayor at the time, might claim some of this credit) was captured in this 2005 Times-Union profile, written in anticipation of Barton relocating to Jacksonville and starting his new job there. The story says:
"In four years, Barton negotiated key projects for the (St. Petersburg) downtown area, helping it transform into a hot spot for jobs, homes and entertainment. The city was recently named to Florida Trend's list of resurgent 'hot' downtowns. A big part of the transformation came under Barton's watch. Among his accomplishments: bringing a grocery store to the city's poorest neighborhood (that would be the Sweetbay grocery story to Midtown's Tangerine Plaza, at right in photo); rehabilitating the Manhattan Casino, a historic night spot for blacks in the early 1930s and 1940s that closed in 1966; and acquiring about 16 acres to redevelop into an industrial park -- not an easy task in a city that's 97 percent built out."
The Times-Union story continues: "His crowning glory, however, may be the $150 million redevelopment of a critical city block that eventually will include a 200,000 square-foot headquarter office for utility company Progress Energy (that building did happen), a 250-room hotel (that Kessler project fizzled in the recession and the spot is still an empty lot), condominiums (well, some arrived, some did not), retail boutiques (ditto), a college campus (St. Petersburg College did come to downtown) and a museum (which tried hard but did not last)."
Barton's not the only economic development chief to leave his job. Gene Gray, Hillsborough County's economic development chief with 34 years at the county, just decided to speed up his retirement. (Read more here). The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. (formerly known as the Committee of 100) is considering a new president (interestingly at the request of its current president, Keith Norden. Read more here.) And Mark Huey, who was Tampa's top economic development officer, recently left to become CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times