Monday, November 20, 2017
Business

St. Petersburg, chamber embark on new mission to help businesses

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ST. PETERSBURG — Help is on the way for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, Mayor Bill Foster said Thursday.

The city and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce announced that they have partnered to recruit, retain and expand business opportunities in Florida's fourth-largest city.

The name of the new venture: The Greenhouse, which will replace the city's business assistance center.

"This is the business assistance center on steroids," Foster said. "This is a huge endeavor."

The Greenhouse will operate in the City Hall annex and be headed by Sophia Sorolis, an economic development manager. Claude Williams, an economic development coordinator, will oversee business services in Midtown and neighborhoods south of Central Avenue.

The city will save about $34,000 by shifting and downgrading several open positions, Foster said.

Besides the chamber, other participants include Eckerd College, the University of South Florida and USF St. Petersburg.

The new center will have a wide range of offerings, such as holding classes and partnering with financial institutions and nonprofits.

The chamber will handle marketing and a website for venture.

Talks of the collaboration started about a year ago, city and chamber officials said. The chamber also will provide a full-time staffer to work in the annex.

Chris Steinocher, head of the chamber, thinks the venture will help eliminate red tape and enable businesses to expand or open in St. Petersburg.

He pointed to similar partnerships in Austin, Texas; Littleton, Colo.; and Atlanta. The chamber, he said, will work to bring together large and small businesses.

"Economic development is a major priority of our board," he said. "We're trying to create a village square, a town center."

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