The St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp., entrusted with attracting new firms and assisting existing ones, has announced over 2,000 new positions in the city since its founding five years ago — and it expects that number to skyrocket in the coming years.
At its fifth annual meeting Thursday at the Don CeSar, the St. Pete EDC honored its five years of successes and the region’s progress.
“The EDC was established to promote St. Pete as an excellent business destination in order to attract new businesses.” But marketing alone isn’t always enough; a coordinated effort by a team of people is required to show the company we’re working with that St. Pete could be a great fit for them and to continue to assist them long after the relocation is completed,” said J.P. DuBuque, president of the St. Pete Economic Development Corporation.
According to the EDC’s data, 94 new companies were added to the city’s pipeline in 2021, and 630 target industry positions were created. Data analytics, financial services, manufacturing, and marine and life sciences are among the businesses listed as potential targets in St. Pete.
Companies that have made St. Pete their home in 2021 or have announced plans to relocate to the city in the near future were featured by the EDC.
Spontivly, a Canadian startup noted for its community management platform, is the most recent example. It stated this year that it would relocate its headquarters from Canada to St. Pete.
“To tell you the truth, St. Pete and the Tampa Bay area were not on our radar.” During the event, co-founder Anthony Nagendraraj said, “We were looking at areas like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle.”
In 2021, the company was presented to the region as part of the Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity cohort. Spontivly was a finalist in the Startup of the Year Summit as well. “We wanted to be a part of this community because of the booming IT environment,” Nagendraraj added.
Spontivly announced in late January that it had finished its six-figure pre-seed round and will be raising another round.
Over the next three years, the company expects to add 65 workers.
Shamrck, a tech business that announced last month that it was relocating from Mississippi to St. Pete, was among the other companies in attendance and acknowledged. Shamrck is an artificial intelligence-powered job exploration platform that connects students with employers to assist schools construct better career and technical education programs.
CitrusAd, a worldwide e-commerce media company, was also honored. It employed 50 people for its U.S. headquarters in St. Pete and is still hiring.
The list went on to include cybersecurity firm Code-X, which relocated its worldwide offices to St. Pete, and CodeBoxx, a Canadian-founded software company that provides coding education classes, which also relocated its headquarters to St. Pete.
“When we chose to look at the Tampa Bay area, we spent a couple of days on the other side before coming over to this side.” CodeBoxx co-founder Meg Charles observed, “The contrast in terms of energy could not be any more distinct.”
“It was all about the community,” she said. This is such a diverse group of individuals. The art scene in this town is fantastic. She giggled, “I was honestly astonished by the cuisine culture — I’m from New York.”
She had lunch with DuBuque one day amid a thunderstorm. Nonetheless, DuBuque’s plans to take her on a site-scouting tour from the Carillon area to downtown were unaffected. DuBuque also introduced Charles to Rick Kriseman, the former mayor of St. Petersburg, and presented CodeBoxx to Seedfunders, a company that funds and mentors pre-revenue technological initiatives.
The EDC highlighted the progress of other projects and key announcements in the region, including the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub and its main and largest tenant, Pole Star, during the annual event.
The Maritime and Defense Technology Hub is located at 450 8th Avenue Southeast, which was once home to SRI International. It is Tampa Bay’s first-ever hub of its sort. The complex, which is adjacent to the Coast Guard station, was built to provide space for businesses looking for a waterfront location to deploy vessels as well as a highly secure area for secret operations.
Pole Star is a nautical enterprise established in London that collects real-time data on everything from active vessels on the ocean to concerns like piracy, crashes, and weather forecasting. The company collaborates closely with the US Coast Guard and other maritime authorities. During the ceremony, Ben Minichino, President of Pole Star, remarked, “We had to identify a high-security location that would allow us to conduct 24/7 operations and help the Coast Guard.”
Minichino said he was in Barcelona, Spain, when the company began looking for a new location. “We came across the Ceridian campus and made it our temporary home.” We began discussing [locating to] the SRI building with [Innovation District Director] Alison Barlow, the mayor’s office, and the city council. “It was custom-made for us,” Minichino explained. “As we’ve moved into the Maritime and Defense and Technology Hub, we’re really happy to not only be here in St. Pete, but also to be collaborating with some incredible tech businesses who are facing the same [sector] challenges as us, and we’re all figuring it out together.”
He also stated that the organization has found “great talent” in St. Pete.
The news of business magnate Cathie Wood relocating her ARK Invest firm from New York to St. Pete was another huge triumph that put St. Pete in the national spotlight.
Wood said in October that she had signed a lease for 10,000 square feet of office space at the 200 Central building in downtown St. Pete. She also purchased the naming rights to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, which will be the first of its kind in Pinellas County and dedicated to entrepreneurs.
Her team and she feel the city has the potential to be “the next Austin.”
Following the EDC’s relocation and expansion success stories, the group announced a number of new efforts for the coming year, including a perception survey to evaluate how out-of-market firm executives and site selection consultants perceive St. Petersburg.
The results of the perception research will be disclosed this year.
The EDC is also upgrading its strategic strategy and making investments in new technology.