Economic yearbook 2010
High-speed rail will boost a slowly evolving turnaround.
St. Petersburg/Pinellas County
Mike Meidel, Pinellas County’s economic development director, looks at the bright side: “This year, we’ve had an unusual amount of development for as bad as the economy has been.” Meidel sees orders picking up — and companies adding staff — in the county’s medical device manufacturing industry, which has weathered the downturn well. He also sees the mixed-use development of Toytown, a former landfill site in north St. Petersburg, moving forward this year. The project will include 70 acres for recreational/civic uses, including possibly a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. Downtown St. Petersburg’s BayWalk development continues to struggle, but Dave Goodwin, the city’s economic development director, says the city’s arts cluster is “going gangbusters.” The Morean Arts Center, for example, announced it is bringing a permanent collection of glass artist Dale Chihuly’s work to a 10,000-sq.-ft. gallery on Beach Drive, and the Salvador Dali museum, located south of downtown, is building a $36-million facility nearby. In Clearwater, Bob Clifford, president and CEO of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, sees positive signs with the recent opening of a Hyatt hotel in Clearwater Beach.
People to Watch
» Kelly Bosetti, president of CEA Marketing Group in Clearwater, says her firm fits the profile of the sort of company that has gone under during the bad economy. She depended on the home building industry for 80% of her business, for instance, and says many companies have been cutting their marketing spending or eliminating it altogether. So how did CEA Marketing Group win the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 midsized business of the year award? For one, she diversified her client base and then learned all she could about social media. “We spent the majority of last year jumping in and learning all the new technologies out there,” she says. “As a company, if you don’t, you’re kind of going to be left in the dust.”
» Sheila C. Johnson, owner of the Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort, recently oversaw $26 million in renovations at the Pinellas County resort, including upgrades to meeting areas and restaurants and a new spa. Johnson, named this year by President Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, also worked with the University of South Florida to create the Innisbrook Leadership Institute, a business leadership program.
CEO Abdul Lateef’s Plasma-Therm has thrived since a management buyout last year. [Photo: Mark Wemple]
» Previously owned by a Swiss conglomerate, Plasma-Therm didn’t thrive until a management buyout in early 2009. Since then, the company has grown its workforce from 75 to 81 and has plans to add 10 more jobs this year. The company creates semiconductor equipment that goes into a variety of devices, from cell phones and missile-guidance systems to sensors contained in Wii remote controls. CEO Abdul Lateef says that kind of diversity has helped the company grow even through the down economy.
» After plans to build a waterfront stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in downtown St. Petersburg fizzled last year, a task force evaluated other potential sites, including some in Hillsborough County. St. Petersburg officials, noting that the team’s lease at Tropicana Field doesn’t run out until 2027, won’t discuss locations outside the city limits.
» Cigar maker Oettinger Davidoff Group is opening its world headquarters in Pinellas Park. The company will hire 90 people to work in a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility that it purchased for $7.1 million. Salaries will average $55,000 a year.
» Jabil Circuit is hiring IT project managers, supervisors and engineers.
» Progress Energy has open positions for combustion turbine technicians and commercial energy efficiency auditors.
» Morton Plant Mease is hiring nurses, patient care technicians and social services specialists.