St. Petersburg’s economy keeps improving with room to grow, data shows

The city released its State of the Economy report Wednesday.
The St. Petersburg skyline looking west from the waterfront.
The St. Petersburg skyline looking west from the waterfront. [ Times (2018) ]
Published Jan. 15, 2020|Updated Jan. 16, 2020

St. Petersburg is larger, wealthier and slightly better educated than a few years ago. Construction set records. Employment was up. Poverty was down.

City officials presented those findings and more at the annual State of the Economy event held at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in downtown St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin led off by saying the city had improved in most categories. She liked the prospects for 2020.

“If construction crews are an indicator of economic outlook than things are looking pretty nice in the 'burg,” she said. “I have the hard-hat hair to prove it. I haven’t had a good hair day in two years because I spend all my time on construction sites.”

City development administrator Alan DeLisle walked the audience through most of the numbers. He emphasized the city was growing, but it wasn’t “wild growth.” Downtown was doing well, he said, but it wasn’t the only area of the city to see improvements.

A few of the indicators DeLisle showcased:

  • The population grew almost 5 percent in five years, from 256,681 in 2015 to 269,357 last year. St. Petersburg accounted for almost 39 percent of the population growth in Pinellas County over that time.
  • St. Petersburg’s median age is 41.2, down from 48.1 in 1970. The number of residents aged 20 to 39 grew at nearly 17 percent over the last five years. DeLisle credited the increasingly younger population for helping attract companies like Dynasty Financial Partners and L3 Technologies and allowing corporate heavyweights including Jabil and Raymond James Financial to stay and expand.
  • The median household income in the city was $58,087, up 26.1 percent in the last five years. Tampa’s median income grew 19.4 percent over that same time. Despite the steady growth, St. Petersburg still lagged the U.S. median of $61,937.
  • For African Americans, median household income hit $48,587, up 72 percent from 2014 to 2018. That was higher than the median for the Tampa Bay metro area and the country (both about $41,600), but far lower than the median for the city. “We still have a gap, and we still have work to do,” DeLisle said.
  • The poverty rate was 12.3 percent, down from 13.9 percent the previous year.
  • The city created nearly 6,700 jobs in the last five years, a 6 percent increase. City officials highlighted the increases in “Grow Smarter” industries, which pay more and can attract companies to the area. Marine and life sciences, specialized manufacturing, financial services, data analytics and creative art and design grew by 11.5 percent. Those industries represent almost one out of every three jobs in the city.
  • St. Petersburg’s residents are also slightly better educated. The number of people with a bachelor’s degree rose from 34 percent to 36.6 percent in a year. For the 24-to-34 age group, the number climbed from 38 percent to 42 percent.
  • The value of all the construction in the city last year increased 12 percent, topping $782 million, an all-time record. Almost 35,000 permits were issued, also a record. Zoning reviews jumped 15 percent from a year earlier; zoning inspections rose 23 percent.
  • Projects already approved will add about 1,000 parking spaces in downtown.
  • The Greenhouse, which the city helped set up to attract, retain and expand businesses, served 8,504 clients last year, up from 3,346 in 2014.