Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

City leaders, job seekers welcome start of Midtown Walmart

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
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18