November 1, 2014

community portrait

St. Petersburg & Clearwater

More than just gathering data, we're trying to capture elements that make each community distinctive.

Economic Life

Bob Dutkowsky
Bob Dutkowsky heads the state’s biggest publicly traded company, Clearwater-based Tech Data.

» Economic Engines

» Tourism: The traditional economic base for Pinellas County has suffered during the recession but is still a huge driver, accounting for more than $6 billion worth of economic activity countywide each year, along with more than 80,000 jobs. In addition to area beaches, the Dali Museum, a comprehensive collection of the surrealist’s artwork in downtown St. Petersburg, attracts visitors internationally.

» Financial Services: This sector employs more than 20,000 professionals at firms that include Raymond James, the brokerage firm and bank, and Fidelity Information Services, a provider of software and information services to the banking and real estate industries. Mutual funds firm Franklin Templeton and Ceridian Benefits Services, an employee benefits administrator, also are headquartered in St. Petersburg.

» Manufacturing: St. Petersburg’s biggest manufacturer, Jabil Circuit, designs and builds electronic circuit boards worldwide. Draper Labs, an offshoot of MIT that develops microchips for military and medical technology, has opened a facility in St. Petersburg that will employ at least 65. The county’s roster of manufacturers includes Raytheon and Honeywell, which both do defense-related engineering and manufacturing. The Clearwater area also boasts a number of medical device manufacturing firms; as a whole, Pinellas County ranks second in the state in manufacturing employment and third in the number of manufacturing firms.

» Marine Science and Research: The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science has become a national powerhouse in marine research and technology. In 2007, the school spun off 40 faculty members from its Center for Ocean Technology into a local partnership with Silicon Valley research firm SRI. In the 1990s, research at the center generated a firm, Ocean Optics, which later sold for $50 million.

» Healthcare: Bayfront Medical Center, just blocks from the water in downtown St. Petersburg, is a non-profit teaching hospital and a level-two trauma center. Adjacent to Bayfront is All Children’s Hospital, which is opening a $400-million state-of-the-art facility early this year. The 259-bed hospital is the only specialty licensed children’s facility on the state’s west coast and features neonatal and pediatric intensive care units. The hospital landed government funding to strengthen its heliport to accommodate military helicopters — a feature that FEMA found missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. BayCare Health System, a network of 10 hospitals in the region, includes Morton Plant Hospital and Mease Countryside Hospital in Clearwater and St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

» Transportation Infrastructure: Road transportation infrastructure is good throughout the county south of Clearwater, particularly for north-south travel. Commuting times don’t rank among the top 15 in Florida. The St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport lives in the shadow of the much larger Tampa International but has attracted several discount airlines and charter service providers. It’s unclear how a small general aviation airport, Albert Whitted, located in downtown St. Petersburg, may evolve in the transportation picture. St. Petersburg has a number of good public and private marinas; the city’s port, however, is a non-entity.

Largest Employers Local employees
Fidelity Information Services 4,000
Home Shopping Network 4,000
Raymond James Financial 2,600
Tech Data Corp. 2,500
Agora Marketing Solutions 1,800
Jabil Circuit 1,700
Western Reserve Life Assurance 1,500
Ceridian Benefits 1,200
Franklin Templeton Investments 1,200
Progress Energy 1,000
Other notable firms include Sembler Co., a shopping center developer; Danka, a copier firm; insurer Mercury Group; and surgical equipment maker Bausch and Lomb.

» Politics

The mayor’s office in St. Petersburg — under a strong mayor system — is non-partisan. Voters recently elected former City Councilman Bill Foster as mayor. The city has frequently butted heads with the county commission over various issues, including the city’s moves to annex a number of unincorporated areas.

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama carried Pinellas County, considered to be the birthplace of the Republican Party in Florida, over John McCain 53% to 45%. As the county has grown less popular for Midwestern retirees, voter registration trends have shifted, and in 2008 registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans for the first time since the mid-1980s.

Tags: Southwest, Tampa Bay

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