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Is Jabil missing link for St. Pete core?

Even to skeptical columnists, it's hard to deny the economic momentum under way in downtown St. Petersburg.

A key puzzle piece by the name of Jabil Circuit is still missing. But let's first celebrate some of the good things happening.

A brand new business incubator, dubbed the TEC Garage, is in the works that will house space for 30 startups. A waterfront master plan will help preserve the city's trademark park space but better organize nearby business opportunities. Sundial, the revamped BayWalk shopping plaza, is starting to roll out new stores and restaurants. A brand new building for USF St. Petersburg's college of business will soon rise.

Want more? The Tampa Bay Rowdies, rejuvenated by new owner and St. Pete's one-man economic development machine Bill Edwards, now play at Al Lang Stadium. And fresh plans for a new, more viable Pier are under way.

I did not even mention downtown's biggest boom. New apartment and condo complexes are exploding. They range from the Beacon 430, a four-story, 326-apartment complex, to Modera Prime 235, an eight-story, 309-apartment building. And coming soon is the Hermitage, a $65 million project expected to open by late 2015 with 348 apartments.

Those complexes, and others in the works, will bring a vast supply of modern housing to a downtown lifestyle in demand for its walkable options in entertainment, education, shopping, restaurants and people gazing.

What's missing? More jobs. Significant jobs. Headquarters jobs. St. Pete's getting back on the economic development wagon, so some company expansion deals should be announced over the summer.

Don't forget Jabil Circuit.

It's the Fortune 200 global electronics manufacturer based off Roosevelt Boulevard in north St. Petersburg. It's also downtown's big question mark ever since this newspaper reported last July that Jabil might move its headquarters to land near Tropicana Field on the western edge of downtown St. Pete.

At that time, a draft plan for the downtown site included a 360,000-square-foot campus of Class A office space and parking that would make it downtown's largest commercial complex. While Jabil employs 1,600-plus workers at its headquarters, a good portion of them work in an adjacent manufacturing facility. If Jabil chooses a downtown HQ, those workers will likely stay where they are.

Initially, Jabil said it hoped to choose a headquarters site by the end of 2013. Now that decision feels overdue. It could stay where it is or build on land near its HQ. It could pick a different site. Or it could come downtown.

This much we do know: A Jabil headquarters in downtown St. Pete would a fill critical gap in the city's downtown renaissance. Highly trained, well-paid managers running a 177,000-employee worldwide corporation would be a feather in the workforce cap of just about any downtown on the planet.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Is Jabil missing link for St. Pete core? 05/27/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 6:56pm]
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