Economic development organizations share 2022 wins, goals for 2023

To get a snapshot of what is happening in the Tampa Bay region, Tampa Bay Business & Wealth reached out to as many relevant economic development organizations as possible to ask them about wins, challenges and things that are exciting them in 2023.

This is the second installment of “TBBW checks in with the EDCs.”

Bill Cronin

President and CEO,

Pasco Economic Development Council

What were the major wins of the EDC in 2022? How do they affect our region? 

Life sciences has been a big “win” for us. Moffitt Cancer Center is building a new campus under the base of Speros. It’s like a small city. 

Moffitt is being very vocal about making sure it isn’t portrayed as just “Moffitt’s campus.” They’re looking at it as, what are we going to do with this campus after we cure cancer? It gives me goosebumps when I hear that kind of attitude and vision. 

They’re not just building a medical city but a campus that goes beyond the immediate need of curing cancer, and it is focused on innovation and technology. 

They moved out here so they would be able to court companies that will be partners in clinical trials for research, with real-time information. Whereas over at the University of South Florida, they were encroached by the university and really had no room to be able to bring a company, or a partner, to co-locate with them. They’re trying to develop a synergy to become a true medical life sciences corridor. So that, for us, is exciting. 

We’re one of the few places that have both land and people so we can go after some of those big projects. We’re in a neat position, right now, in being able to leapfrog different technologies and to go for the cutting-edge opportunities that help us to shape what Pasco is going to look like in the future. 

Collaboration is a common theme I hear when talking to EDCs. How does Pasco collaborate with its neighboring EDCs? 

Pinellas County, Hillsborough County and Pasco County all work together for foreign direct investment and export trade. Of the three counties, we will do at least one trade mission and at least one foreign direct investment mission, per year. And then each of us all have our own international programs, too.

We share a lot of regional assets. We share the port. We share the airport, we share the university but, most important, we share our workforce. So when we go overseas, it doesn’t make sense for Pasco to go to Mexico and then Hillsborough to go to Mexico. They will look at us and say, don’t you guys all use the same port? You’re telling us the same story. 

Usually, it’s a region that they’re focused on. So, it’s quite a ways down the road that we have to be competitive between ourselves and even then, after they’ve made that final decision of where to locate, we’ll come back together as a group, because they will, especially the international companies, will likely be participants in trade missions going forward. 

Denise Sanderson

Denise Sanderson 


City of Clearwater Economic Development & Housing Department

What are your wins for 2022? What did it mean for the region? 

Our marketing and engagement efforts in 2022 generated more inquiries than 2020 and 2021, combined, and led to many encouraging conversations about Clearwater’s development potential. While some of these leads may be the result of pent-up demand, our analytics show we’re reaching, and connecting, with our targeted stakeholders in a more meaningful way resulting in increased inquiries and lead generation.

What’s next for your organization? What are you working on in 2023? 

The U.S. [Highway] 19 corridor and the city’s downtown area are poised for revitalization, though for different reasons. The U.S. 19 corridor was rezoned, in 2017, and is arguably the next great destination in the region for office and mixed-use development. As a major north-south roadway through Pinellas County, with easy access to two international airports, businesses, and the region’s labor market, investors are taking notice. We’re focused on making strategic investments and have developed targeted marketing campaigns to reach site selectors, brokers, developers, property owners and influencers. 

Similarly, Clearwater’s $84 million investment in the downtown waterfront park and amphitheater has generated renewed interest in city-owned properties overlooking the park. Successful negotiations with the preferred developer(s) and the passage of a recent voter referendum will allow the development of two parcels framing the park and will change the way the park and downtown are integrated.

What are the issues you think are most pressing in your area? 

Attainable housing. Whether housing is subsidized (income-restricted), “naturally-occurring affordable” (older, smaller homes) or supply/demand driven, access to attainable housing has become the most challenging issue for residents and employers. While new construction of multifamily rental housing and inflationary pressures will mitigate some of these challenges over time, current rent rates are driving would-be employees to more rural areas of the region. With rising gas prices, employees are finding opportunities closer to home leaving many employers in Pinellas County struggling to fill critical positions. Over time, employers may choose to relocate to areas where the labor market can meet employer demands. Solutions to this challenge requires a multipronged approach, including increasing the supply of multifamily rental, increasing down payment assistance, financially supporting the rehabilitation of homeowner-occupied homes, amending the development code to support accessory dwelling units and “missing middle” homes and exploring opportunities for the development of tiny homes.  

J.P. DuBuque

J.P. DuBuque

President and CEO,

St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp. 

What were the major wins of the EDC in 2022? How do they affect our region?

We announced 13 innovative companies last year, including relocations and expansions by community management firm Spontivly, agtech startup Phospholutions, specialty manufacturer Engineered Fluids, pharma company Cybin, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing institute, retail media company CitrusAd and procure-to-pay business Bedrock—we saw everything “from farm tech to fintech.” 

There’s tremendous potential for St. Petersburg, and our region, with the emergence of St. Pete as a hub for [financial technology]. We’re collaborating with USF’s Muma College of Business and Tampa Bay Wave on a multiyear fintech initiative that launched last spring with FinTech|X, a cohort for innovative fintech startups. This, coupled with USF’s new Fintech Center, positions our region as a leader where financial se vices and technology converge and we hope to recruit some of these innovators to St. Pete. In addition, in January this year, we announced the opening of Haddy, another new company in St. Pete that uses AI-powered robots to manufacture sustainable furniture, combining our region’s strength in manufacturing with its focus on sustainability.

 What’s the next big goal you can speak on for this year? 

The good news is that there’s an overwhelming demand for office space in downtown St. Pete. The better news is that developers have broken ground on more than 150,000 square feet of Class-A office space projects downtown. These include Orange Station at the Edge, 400 Central, the ARK Innovation Center at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. The Maritime and Defense Tech Hub is already full, so we’re encouraging the St. Pete Innovation District to look at adding another site. And of course, we’re eager about the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant site, which will now advance with the mayor’s selection of a developer. 

What are the major issues affecting our region that you are noticing?

Talent and housing. Our region is growing, attracting new companies and new workers. That said, like everywhere else in the country, employers here are having to be creative to cope with the fact that there are more open positions than there are workers nationwide. We recently held an event for our investors where companies shared some of their creative strategies for recruiting, training, and retaining talent in the new age of work. Companies here have the benefit of our great quality of life as a recruiting tool, and they’re also learning to adapt to the changing market. One panelist compared human resources to housing: you have to decide your “must haves” versus “nice-to-haves,” and you have to be prepared to act fast when you see someone or something you like.

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