St. Petersburg: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

St. Petersburg's economy has traditionally been fueled by tourism. More than 4 million visitors flock to the greater Suncoast area annually, generating more than $2 billion in direct revenue. But the city's economy is actually more broad-based. Major growth industries in the metropolitan area include financial services, manufacturing, medical technologies, information technology, and marine sciences.

St. Petersburg's economy is rooted in financial services. Not only does the city and extending area serve as base for many financial companies, these companies in turn stimulate growth in other industries by providing the financial resources for development and expansion. Manufacturing companies are attracted to the region's transportation infrastructure. Pinellas County ranks second in the state for the number of manufacturing employees, and ranks first for the manufacture of such items as computer and office equipment and electronics components. The area's research hospitals make it a logical site for medical technology firms, with more than half of all such companies in Florida's High Tech Corridor based in Pinellas County. Similarly, information technology companies cluster in the region, and downtown St. Petersburg is home to numerous small- and medium-sized software and Web development enterprises. The city's proximity to Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico make it a prime spot for marine science; in fact, it is the largest marine science community in the Southeast. This segment in the economy is augmented by local research facilities, including the Florida Institute for Oceanographic Research and the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science.

Items and goods produced: computer and office equipment, electronics components, industrial and commercial machinery, plastic products, sensors, defense-related products, micro-electronics, lasers, medical devices, printed circuit boards, pharmaceuticals

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The city of St. Petersburg administers various programs to assist business start-up, expansion, and relocation. The Business Retention Program offers consulting services to already existing businesses with an emphasis on the Enterprise Zone adjacent to Tropicana Field. The Business Revolving Loan Fund assists businesses in acquiring or renovating real property, and for the purchase of capital machinery and equipment through loans with flexible terms at below market rates. The city offers tax credits or exemptions for businesses in the Enterprise Zone for material used in rehabilitation projects, business property used in the zone, creation of new jobs, hiring of zone residents, and credits for increased property taxes on improved properties. The city helps manufacturing or industrial plants, health care facilities and public works projects to obtain financing below the conventional borrowing rates through Industrial Revenue Bonds. An incentive program offers reduced taxes to employers who hire target groups of individuals for employment.

State programs

Enterprise Florida is a partnership between Florida's government and business leaders and is the principal economic development organization for the state of Florida. Enterprise Florida's mission is to increase economic opportunities for all Floridians by supporting the creation of quality jobs, a well-trained workforce, and globally competitive businesses. It pursues this mission in cooperation with its statewide network of economic development partners.

Among the incentive programs managed at the state level is the Economic Development Transportation Fund, which provides up to $2 million to fund the cost of transportation projects, such as access roads and road widening, required for the establishment, expansion, or retention of businesses in Florida. The state's Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund rewards the creation of jobs in certain industries. Florida also offers various sales and use tax exemptions for machinery and equipment purchase, electric energy, research and development, and other aspects of doing business in the area.

Job training programs

WorkNet Pinellas provides employment services to employers and job seekers throughout the county. Among its training services are the Quick Response Training Program, which provides customized employee training grants to new and expanding businesses, and Incumbent Worker Training, which offers customized training to existing companies in need of training for incumbent employees. The Industry Services Training Program provides basic employee training, consulting, and technical assistance through the Pinellas County School Board. The Success Training & Retention Services program extends intensive skills and development training to inexperienced, unemployed, or underemployed job seekers. The HB-1 Technical Skills Training Grant Program was designed to fill the gap in skills between U.S. technology employees and those entering the U.S. workforce via HB-1 visas. The Entrepreneurial Academy provides business training to new business owners or those who are planning to establish a business.

Development Projects

St. Petersburg remains one of the fastest growing regions in Florida, and has been called the "megamarket of the South." Among the top growth areas is the Gateway Region, located in the northeast portion of the city, which was dubbed the "Hottest Business Address" by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Over the past 20 years, it has grown from 4 companies with 26 employees to 350 companies with 30,000 employees. Recent development projects include a 14-acre expansion of the Home Shopping Network's campus, construction of Carillon Outpatient Center, which is a $37 million expansion by St. Anthony's Hospital, and a 9-story Hilton hotel, which will add more than 200 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. The new Brighton Bay development boasts 120 single-family homes, 150 townhomes, and 780 apartments.

Similar commercial, retail, and residential development occurs in other areas of St. Petersburg. All Children's Hospital announced the largest expansion plan in its history, a $270-million project to build a new 8-story hospital and add almost one million square feet of space. The St. Petersburg campus of the University of South Florida plans to create on-campus housing for nearly 750 students within the next 6 years. In 2004 the Poynter Institute for Media Studies nearly doubled its size by adding 26,000 square feet of space. That year also saw the completion of University Village, a 60,000-square-foot shopping center in downtown St. Petersburg.

The city is also dedicated to redeveloping brownfields, areas where environmental contamination exists in the soil, surface water, or ground water. Among the largest redevelopment projects are the Dome Industrial Park, a $1.5 million pilot project that is the first to be undertaken with grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Florida Brownfields program. Atherton Oil and Mercy Hospital are two other redevelopment projects, with a combined clean-up cost of nearly $600,000.

Other development projects are aimed at improving the quality of life for residents. In the early 2000s, the city allocated $325,000 to 33 different neighborhood improvement projects. Pedestrians and bicyclists will benefit from CityTrails, a project that will add 150 miles of new pathways, 38 miles of new sidewalks, and better crosswalks at 81 intersections through 2008. A $2.5 million plan to clean up Lake Maggiore will result in the development of a waterfront park. St. Petersburg established a goal of providing a playground within a half mile of every child in the city. The city is also attempting to secure funds to link U.S. Highway 19 with Interstate 275 to create a north-south corridor through the county.

Economic Development Information: City of St. Petersburg Economic Development Department, Municipal Services Center, One 4th St. N., 9th Fl., PO Box 2842, St. Petersburg, FL, 33731; telephone (727)893-7100; toll-free (800)874-9026; fax (727)892-5465; email St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, 100 2nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33701; telephone (727)821-4069

Commercial Shipping

Port Tampa and Port Manatee serve Pinellas County's shipping needs. Port Tampa, a crucial link between the United States and Central and South America, is the largest port in the Southeast and the nation's 10th largest by tonnage handled. Port Manatee, one of the state's busiest, is the closest of the area's deepwater ports to the Gulf of Mexico. Both ports provide custom house brokers, freight forwarding, and other services. St. Petersburg also has a port, though it is a "non-operating" port whose shipping activities are managed by the city.

Three airports—Tampa International, St. Petersburg/Clearwater International, and Albert Whitted—serve the area, with Tampa International Airport being the largest. Through it, Florida's top exports are shipped, including industrial and commercial machinery, computers, optical instruments and lenses, medical and dental equipment, and photographic equipment. Freight is shipped by rail via CSX Corp.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The Economic Development Department of the City of St. Petersburg reported in 2005 that the regional workforce numbered more than 1.2 million. This abundant labor pool will only rise, as the region is expected to experience a growth in its population by 15.3 percent over the next 10 years. In 2004, 16 percent of the St. Petersburg workforce was engaged in finance, insurance, and real estate, representing nearly double the figure for the state's workforce as a whole. The city also surpassed Florida in the percentage of workers engaged in manufacturing, with nine percent of the city's workforce so employed.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 1,225,700

Number of workers employed in . . .

manufacturing: 71,500

trade, transportation and utilities: 216,400

information: 34,700

financial activities: 94,000

professional and business services: 296,700

educational and health services: 142,300

leisure and hospitality: 108,100

other services: 48,200

government: 147,000

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $14.09 (2003 statewide average)

Unemployment rate: 3.5% (December 2004)

St. Petersburg: Economy

Major private sector employers Number of employees
Home Shopping Network 2,500
Raymond James & Associates, Inc. 2,300
Raytheon E-Systems 2,300
Times Publishing Co. 2,255
Bayfront Medical Center 2,100
All Children's Hospital 2,100
Bright House Networks 2,000
Jabil Circuit Inc. 1,900
Progress Energy, Inc. 1,800
Mortgage Investors Corp. 1,200

Cost of Living

Housing and food costs in St. Petersburg and the rest of the Tampa Bay area are slightly below national averages. Florida home owners do not have to pay taxes on the part of their property that is valued at less than $25,000 under the state's Homestead Exemption law.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the St. Petersburg area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $245,109

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 95.7 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: None for personal; 5.5% for Type C corporations

State sales tax rate: 6.0% on most items

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 1.0%

Property tax rate: 24.3064 mills (2004)

Economic Information: City of St. Petersburg Economic Development Department, Municipal Services Center, One 4th St. N., 9th Fl., PO Box 2842, St. Petersburg, FL, 33731; telephone (727)893-7100; toll-free (800)874-9026; fax (727)892-5465; email