St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
This is the fourth of an eight-part series detailing the Rick Baker Blueprint for St. Petersburg
From the Rick Baker BLUEPRINT for St. Pete
For more than eight years as Mayor, Rick Baker worked to transform St. Petersburg into a modern, prosperous, safe, neighborhood- friendly and seamless city. From jobs and economic empowerment, to schools, neighborhoods, the arts, our environment, and public safety, this “blueprint” will guide Rick Baker’s efforts to restore competence, commitment and honesty to City Hall.
Any successful city must have great jobs and a vibrant economy so all residents can earn the type of living that provides the greatest opportunity for themselves and their children. That is why I want St Pete to once again become a dynamic leader on this front, leaving no one behind.
- SUPPORT OF EXISTING BUSINESSES: My staff and I will meet regularly with business leaders at their company and ask (1) What are we doing right?; (2) What are we doing wrong and how can we improve?; (3) Are they considering expansion and how can we help?; and (4) Are they thinking about downsizing/leaving and what can we proactively do to prevent that? I will also ask them to hold me accountable on these 3 fronts: communication, active support, and follow-through. 80% of new jobs in the city each year come from existing businesses, and I intend to make those businesses partners in, and to, our success.
- PROACTIVE APPROACH: We will not wait for companies to come to us; we will go to them. To that end, we will work aggressively with the Chamber’s EDC along with county and state partners, and others focused on growing areas where we have existing strengths. Effective mayoral leadership will help the Chamber’s EDC achieve tangible results. Among others, this list includes medical and electronics manufacturing, defense, marine sciences, financial services, and the arts. We did this before with Valpak, Johns Hopkins, Stanford Research Institute (SRI) marine science, Draper Labs, the dramatic expansion of Raymond James, the downtown consolidation of Duke Energy Florida headquarters and many others. We will also look at possible international connections to other cities that could benefit us in terms of business, trade and cultural exchange – but these contacts must be results-oriented. As a former Chamber Chair, I will not be passive in the pursuit of economic growth.
- BUILDING DEPARTMENT: It is widely-known there are significant delays and inconsistencies in the permitting department, causing increased costs (and in some cases lost opportunity) to homeowners and developers. This must stop. I will immediately activate a plan that includes deadline goals for turnaround, identification and correction of problems, together with early morning quarterly meetings with builders, developers, and senior city staff to flush out, and fix, these problems.
- BUSINESS ASSISTANCE CENTER: Small businesses are crucial to our growth and to our jobs. Therefore, I will immediately bring the Business Assistance Center back to life to provide focused assistance to small and start-up businesses. When a small business owner takes a risk and is trying to make the city a better place, shouldn’t we provide the best support we can? That’s not happening today, and it’s hurting this city. One model we will adopt is already done in New York City, providing small retailers access to advice in negotiating leases in order to help them protect against being priced out of their space.
- LESS USE OF CONSULTANTS: Reduce dependence on expensive, time-consuming consultants in the planning phase; use only when absolutely necessary and negotiate fees.
- RETAIL: – Our decision during my term to redevelop Sunken Gardens and bring
- TYRONE: Support branding, pedestrian connectivity and other assistance for our city’s primary retail center.
- SOUTH ST. PETE:
- . Working in partnership with the property owner, advocate for redeveloping and upgrading the Coquina Key shopping center that has been long ignored by the city and is long overdue.
- . Focus on a replacement for the lost SweetBay grocery store on 62nd Avenue South and Dr. MLK Jr. Street.
- . Recruit retail and restaurants along south U.S. 19, in addition to the Walmart superstore we brought during my term. Think Outback, Carrabbas, Home Depot, Lowes, others. This is a must, and is entirely doable.
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Disclosures: Contributor to Rick Baker for Mayor Campaign
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