Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

City leaders, job seekers welcome start of Midtown Walmart

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — A refrain made popular by a former mayor turned into a chorus Monday, as speaker after speaker celebrated the opening of a Walmart hiring center in Midtown.

"Today is absolutely another great day in St. Petersburg," said former Mayor Rick Baker, adding a superlative to his trademark greeting from his years in office.

Joining him in anticipation of a Walmart Neighborhood Market set to open in late January in a space vacated by Sweetbay Supermarket were Mayor Bill Foster and other officials.

The scene was a far cry from the despair and anger that followed Sweetbay's announcement this year that it would close in Midtown. For the struggling community, which had been without a grocery store until Sweetbay arrived in 2005, the decision was devastating.

While other places fight to keep the big-box store out of their communities, for those who live in Midtown, Walmart's promised arrival is welcomed.

On Monday morning, minutes before the speeches to open the hiring center — a two-minute drive north of the new store at Tangerine Plaza, 1794 22nd St. S — Julia Mizell, 38, hurried along the sidewalk to join more than 100 job hopefuls.

"I'm looking for a closer job," said the telemarketer, who commutes to Clearwater. Last week, her car broke down.

Keyla Pinkney, 36, tried to increase her chances by arriving before dawn. The mother of five works at a laundry, where she barely gets 25 hours a week.

Her friend Mary Cummings, 69, waited on a plastic chair near the door. She works at the same laundry.

"I've been working all my life. I'm trying to make some money," she said.

The growing line of job seekers was evidence of an important fact, said Watson Haynes, president and chief executive officer of the Pinellas County Urban League.

"Folk in this community do want and need jobs," he said.

Community activist Theresa "Momma Tee'' Lassiter said her daughter was among the hopefuls.

"Most of these people don't have a vehicle to drive to Pinellas Park, to Largo or to Tampa for a job," Lassiter said. "Having this Walmart is a big thing for them where they can walk to work."

Walmart officials said they are committed to hiring from the community. Most of the 95 jobs at the new Walmart Neighborhood Market range from cashiers to managers and will be full time. Walmart's average full-time hourly wage in Florida is $12.98 an hour. Most new hires will begin in December.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch thinks the demographics of the area "certainly will" support the new store. "I think it is a wise investment by Walmart," he said.

Larry Newsome of Urban Development Solutions, the shopping center's landlord, said the deal has been in the making since March, in the weeks after Sweetbay closed. On Monday, everyone seemed to be given credit for its replacement, including Foster and the city staff, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Craig Sher of the Sembler Co., Haynes, Baker and the Bill Edwards Group.

"Many pieces of the puzzle" came together to make the deal possible, Foster said. Monday, though, was "about those in line" for jobs, he said.

Baker placed his arm around Foster in greeting and said Foster "took some hits" for the loss of Sweetbay. "That's what you get when you're mayor," he said.

Baker's boss, Bill Edwards, donated $300,000 to Newsome's company to help secure the Walmart deal, some of which will go to upgrade the center.

"We lost a good store, but we're getting a better one," Newsome said.

Said the store's new manager, Carl Spady: "We will not disappoint you."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.

 
Comments
Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.Th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Monday approved a lease for the Manhattan Casino, a landmark building in the city’s historic African-American business and entertainment community.It was a controversial decision for some of the city’s black resid...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

APOLLO BEACH — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.T...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this year is expected to be particularly kind to retailers.The Florida Retail Federation’s holiday shopping forecast predicts that a combination of high consumer confidence, strong tourism numbers and a littl...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you’re not trying to swim somewhere.Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands — parent company of such prominent restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

The New York Times said Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations that Thrus...
Published: 11/20/17
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17

Search suspended for missing Cortez boater who left from Egmont Key

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing 63-year-old boater on Sunday evening, two days after he and his dog were reported missing 5 miles northwest of Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island.On Friday, Fraser Horne of Cortez le...
Published: 11/19/17