Economic Yearbook 2007
TAMPA BAY: Fulfilling the Promise
Focusing on SRI International and a Merck venture.
CONSTRUCTION: A slew of construction cranes still frame St. Petersburg's skyline, indicating that, despite the housing and condominium slowdown, the city's economy is still growing. "The super boom era has probably come to an end, but we still are seeing projects get out of the ground," says Dave Goodwin, St. Petersburg's economic development director. "We're still seeing a nice pace as far as the value of permits being issued during the first quarter of 2007. It didn't keep up with last year, which was far and away our record year, but it's pretty much on par with 2005, which, until 2006, was a record year."
COMMERCIAL: The city's office vacancy rate was at 7.9% during the third quarter of 2006. In 2005, it was 7.2%, which is way down from 16.5% in
2002. "Our office vacancy rate is very low. The inventory is just not there," Goodwin says. "We would love to see someone build a new office building in St. Petersburg."
CHALLENGES: The rising cost of housing is turning some prospects off. "There are probably certain companies, with certain wage rates, that probably aren't going to be looking at St. Petersburg, anymore," Goodwin says.
TARGET: Officials are setting their sights on attracting more high-paying jobs. "Our target industries include advanced manufacturing, IT and the financial services," says Mike Meidell, director of Pinellas County Economic Development.
Innovators (St. Petersburg)
? SRI International, among the world's leading independent research and technology development institutes, opened its St. Petersburg marine technology unit in January. The facility will focus on developing technologies related to marine technology and ocean science. Local officials hope SRI will attract research, development and manufacturing firms to Tampa Bay. Over the past decade, the California-based institute has sponsored more than $2 billion in research and development.
? The Tampa Bay Technology Forum named Kurt Long its 2006 entrepreneurial leader of the year. Long is founder and CEO of EpicTide, a St. Petersburg maker of healthcare industry software.
? St. Petersburg College will open a building for its College of Orthotics and Prosthetics this fall. "This is a crucial program because of an increase in diabetic patients and injuries from the Middle East war," says Carl M. Kuttler Jr., the school's president. The college is also working to boost lagging enrollment among men. Just 37% of SJC's students are male, compared to state and national averages of 43%. Its Man to Man program aims to change that.
? Housing Slowdown (St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater)
53,183 -- Realtor sales for single-family homes in 2005
34,322 -- Realtor sales for single-family homes in 2006 (down 35% from 2005)
13,094 -- Realtor sales for existing condos in 2005
8,510 -- Realtor sales for existing condos in 2006 (down 35% from 2005)
Source: Florida Association of Realtors