Frequently Asked Questions

What is Grow Smarter St. Petersburg?

Grow Smarter is an initative that brings together 80+ organizations working in a number of areas for cross-sector collaboration with key stakeholders and members of the business community.

The initative is based around the Grow Smarter Strategy, a comprehensive, integrated, data-driven community plan to enhance St. Petersburg’s competitive position and provide quality, diverse economic growth. Grow Smarter has a focus on equitable economic development, with the understanding that the vibrancy of the entire community is determined by the wellbeing of all individuals.

A three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg is funding the next phase of Grow Smarter.

How was the Grow Smarter Strategy developed?

The Grow Smarter Strategy was developed in 2014 as an economic strategic plan for the city. The strategy was shaped by expert opinions and community input from over 75 interviews, 12 focus groups, and 1,500 survey responses. The strategy has informed the economic development activities of the City, resulted in the formalization of the Innovation District, and directed the founding of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation.

How is Grow Smarter Structured?

Grow Smarter is a multi-sector, multi-systems collective impact approach to economic development.

Seven workgroups in specific topical areas are made up of representatives of community organizations and businesses, and individuals. These workgroups collaborate to contribute to the positive and progressive growth of St. Petersburg.

A Steering Committee made up of work group chairs and other community members oversee these seven workgroups.

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce serves as a backbone organization, supporting much of the administrative and coordination components of Grow Smarter.

What are the focus areas of each of the seven workgroups??

Culture & Community:
Focuses on how best to preserve of the qualities that make St. Petersburg’s sense of place so dynamic while moving towards enhanced growth and access.

Districts & Corridors:
Focuses on the redevelopment and revitalization of key districts and corridors as the principal means to enhance the community’s housing stock, commercial space, walkability, and transit viability.

Coordinated Education & Training:
Focuses on enhancing the education and training available for students in Pinellas county, and by developing a “cradle-to-career” model will capitalize on the achievement of all students and connect them to high quality employment opportunities.

Entrepreneurial Growth
Focuses on elevating the entrepreneurial economy in St. Petersburg, with the understanding that for many individuals, entrepreneurship is a gateway to prosperity and wealth for people that thrive outside the traditional workforce.

Housing
Focuses on bringing together and fostering collaboration between organizations and initiatives working on issues throughout the housing spectrum, from low-income to workforce to middle income and executive housing.

Targeted Job Creation
Focuses on creating more high-quality jobs within incumbent businesses in St. Petersburg as well as attracting new operations and talent.

Awareness Building
Focuses on highlighting the assets and opportunities St. Petersburg offers by promoting targeted business opportunities, providing communications tools, and advertising the city’s desirability for talented individuals.

How is Grow Smarter Structured?

Grow Smarter is a multi-sector, multi-systems collective impact approach to economic development.

Seven workgroups in specific topical areas are made up of representatives of community organizations and businesses, and individuals. These workgroups collaborate to contribute to the positive and progressive growth of St. Petersburg.

A Steering Committee made up of work group chairs and other community members oversee these seven workgroups.

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce serves as a backbone organization, supporting much of the administrative and coordination components of Grow Smarter.

How will Grow Smarter differ from traditional economic development approaches?

Our approach to economic development aligns with the work of Grow Smarter’s funder, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, and their focus on achieving health equity in Pinellas County. Healthy equity means that every person in the community can achieve optimal health and well-being.

Since wealth touches all aspects of a person’s life, including health and well-being, economic development can be a tool for improving health. The greater one’s income, the lower one’s likelihood of disease and premature death.

With a focus on equitable economic development, Grow Smarter can contribute to increased wealth for all residents of the community, including low-income residents and communities of color, whose wages and employment rates currently lag behind those of other communities.

A key differentiator of Grow Smarter will be the priority it places on maximizing the value of all of St. Petersburg’s human capital. Equitable economic development has the goal of unlocking the full potential of the local economy by expanding opportunities, growing quality jobs, increasing entrepreneurship, ownership and wealth.

Strategies will be sought for employing and engaging the talents of low-income residents, the unemployed, underemployed and the difficult-to-employ, including youth and those lacking degrees. Communities that tap the full human and talent capital to advance their economies and build wealth are remaking economic development for the 21st century.

Why is equity a focus of Grow Smarter?

An equitable society is one in which each individual is included and can prosper to reach their full potential. This means all community members have access to resources and have a say in what happens in public spaces and institutions.

Equitable communities are more prosperous. Data show that investing in people who are disconnected from opportunity due to poverty or discrimination can have a positive economic ripple effect on the whole community. For example, data in the National Equity Atlas indicate that the GDP of the United Statescould be $2 trillion higher if the wage disparity between White employees and employees of color was eliminated. This is an increase of 14%. (The Competitive Advantage of Racial Equity).

In the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, FL Metro Area specifically, the economy would have been $14.93 billion larger if there had been no racial gaps in income. For example, with racial equity in income was in place in 2015, there would have been gains of 90% in average annual income for the Black population in St. Petersburg, however with the racial equity gap this figure is only 56% for the entire Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area

Are there any specific initiatives or partnerships in the community that will be enhanced as a result of Grow Smarter?

As a highly collaborative program, Grow Smarter will be influenced by additional community efforts currently underway such as One Community, The New Deal, and the South St. Pete Community Redevelopment Area. Several of these efforts have priority areas that align with those of Grow Smarter and through collaboration these priority areas will be amplified by all of the members of Grow Smarter.

Other collective impact projects like the Early Learning Coalition’s Thrive By Five and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay’s LEAP partnership will benefit as Grow Smarter broadens their reach, and helps to bring members of the business community to the table for those conversations.

National social impact experts from FSG and PolicyLink will aid in Grow Smarter’s implementation process. Frameworks and approaches developed by FSG have had significant success improving deeply engrained social problems in communities around the country. An example of this is Memphis Fast Forward, an economic development initiative that brought the city together to improve five different focus areas including education, economic development, public safety, health, and government fiscal strength. Since the initiative began in 2015 it has helped to create over 17,000 new jobs, created efficiency in government, reduced violent crime by 23%, and engaged in K-12 reforms. Grow Smarter will be structured similarly to Memphis Fast Forward and will benefit from the expert input that aided in the program’s success.

What will equitable economic development look like in St. Petersburg through Grow Smarter?

Grow Smarter will operate according to a set of equity-focused practices.
• Grow Smarter will foster equitable economic opportunity across all neighborhoods in St. Petersburg.
• The insights of all residents will be valued, and all will have a voice in shaping community and economic development programs.
• Business leaders will understand the long-term benefits of racial and economic equity and will be engaged in creating solutions to current inequities
• Community leaders will reflect on their own power and influence and identify their roles in removing barriers to inclusion that others may face
• Community participation and leadership within Grow Smarter will be equitable and the insights of residents in all parts of the city will becritical in shaping and implementing solutions.

How will diverse groups be engaged in a truly community-wide initiative?

The Grow Smarter Staff will work to ensure that all groups in St. Petersburg are included in the initiative through intentionally connecting with partners including nonprofit organizations, businesses, community leaders, and other individuals. Building meaningful relationships is one of the keys to ensuring inclusion in the Grow Smarter Initiative.

By bringing members of the community from all sectors together to share their expertise across a variety of disciplines and content areas, Grow Smarter can ensure that complex problems are analyzed from all angles and that solutions are creative, inclusive and holistic.

Additionally, an online communications technology platform created by Grow Smarter will include robust community forums for feedback. All voices will be heard at all points in Grow Smarter’s implementation using this platform.

How will diverse groups be engaged in a truly community-wide initiative?

The Grow Smarter Staff will work to ensure that all groups in St. Petersburg are included in the initiative through intentionally connecting with partners including nonprofit organizations, businesses, community leaders, and other individuals. Building meaningful relationships is one of the keys to ensuring inclusion in the Grow Smarter Initiative.

By bringing members of the community from all sectors together to share their expertise across a variety of disciplines and content areas, Grow Smarter can ensure that complex problems are analyzed from all angles and that solutions are creative, inclusive and holistic.

Additionally, an online communications technology platform created by Grow Smarter will include robust community forums for feedback. All voices will be heard at all points in Grow Smarter’s implementation using this platform.

How can I get involved in Grow Smarter?

Anyone who loves St. Petersburg and wants to contribute to inclusive prosperity in the community is welcome to participate in Grow Smarter. One way to get involved is to attend the upcoming Grow Smarter Summit, which will be held on December 7th at Pinellas Technical College. Dr. Keesha Benson, the Grow Smarter Facilitator is available to answer questions or discuss involvement and can be reached at kbenson@growsmarterstpete.com.