ST. PETERSBURG — Remember the movie Captain Phillips, when Tom Hanks, the skipper of a cargo ship being taken over by Somali pirates, lunges for a button to signal the ship’s exact location at sea?
That emergency button is on big ships because of Pole Star Global, a maritime technology company that’s opening a new office in St. Petersburg.
Pole Star, based in London, with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Panama, provides satellite tracking of ships around the world for the maritime industry.
As part of its work with the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, Pole Star recently began looking for a location for a national data center for the Coast Guard. It’s one of 60 maritime national data centers that Pole Star operates for governments worldwide.
“This is a really good company to have in our back yard,” Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp. president J.P. DuBuque said Tuesday. “It’s the U.S. headquarters location of a global company.”
Initially, the company considered Florida, the Carolinas, Texas, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
The factors that narrowed the choice to St. Petersburg included its proximity to a maritime environment, cost of office space, Florida’s business and tax climate, the local housing market and the ready supply of technical talent coming out of MacDill Air Force Base.
“The majority of the people that we hire are quite specialized in what they do,” Pole Star USA president Ben Minichino said. “The positive part about that is we’ve been able to find that here locally, except for one person. That’s a good sign when you’re able to find folks like that without having to necessarily engage with expensive recruiters.”
Pole Star expects to spend about $1 million setting up the data center and offices in 5,500 square feet at the Ceridian building on 34th Street S. As the former headquarters of Florida Power Corp., the Ceridian building comes with a built-in redundant electrical supply, so there are no concerns about losing power.
So far Pole Star has hired about 13 staff members, most of whom will work at the offices when they open in a couple of weeks. Over the next 12 to 18 months, it might hire another 10, Minichino said.
Pole Star did not receive any state or local economic incentives to assist with its expansion into Florida, but Minichino said DuBuque and Pinellas County economic development officials were "incredibly helpful getting us connected to the right people in the right hiring agencies.”
“It’s an exciting company,” said Scott Talcott, the county’s business development manager for advanced manufacturing, aviation and aerospace, information technology, and defense and homeland security industries. “They’ve been doing this for a really long time and they continue to evolve and make changes to what they’re doing, so who knows what’s on the horizon?”