By staff writer
Pinellas County usually conjures up images of the white-sand beaches and resorts of Clearwater or the eclectic and vibrant downtown St. Pete hubs of Grand Central and Kenwood. Yet as one of the most populous counties in Florida, with 17 cities and dozens more towns and census-designated places, there are plenty of other idyllic communities where increasingly more businesses and individuals are choosing to relocate.
Within the charming confines of these smaller towns and cities of Pinellas County, corporations and small to medium-sized business owners have found the tools that have allowed them to prosper — namely, local government that has been pro-business and pro-growth at sustainable levels, proximity to nearby metropolitan hubs, a qualified workforce, great schools and public benefits, affordable real estate and an overall great quality of life.
Recently, Invest: Tampa Bay sat down with the mayors of three cities in Pinellas County to talk about what they offer to the diverse economic and social landscape of the bay area.
Mayor Woody Brown of the City of Largo explains that Largo was recently ranked the seventh-fastest home sales market in the state of Florida. “There are a couple reasons for that,” Brown told Invest:. “First, it’s a great location; there are still safe, affordable places to live in Largo, and it’s right in the center of Pinellas County. Second, the schools in Largo have really improved over the last 10 years. These are the main drivers that are not only bringing more people and more families here but are also attracting small, medium and large businesses.
“As mayor, my goal is to attract quality employers, regardless of what field they’re in, and improve the quality of jobs available to our residents,” Brown continued. “The school board for Pinellas County is a big employer here, and so is Tech Data. On the east side, we have the Medical Arts District, which is a huge employer as well. There are always some target industries — we mirror the state in that respect — but frankly, it doesn’t necessarily matter which industry relocates to Largo as long as it’s paying a good wage and it feels like it has access to good employees with a good quality of life. Those are the types of businesses we’re looking for.”
Sandra Bradbury, mayor of Pinellas Park, says that one of the reasons her city is such an optimal location for businesses is due to it being situated right in the heart Pinellas County. “You can’t get to St. Pete, Clearwater or Tampa without passing through Pinellas Park,” she told Invest:. “We have one of largest commercial and industrial areas in Pinellas County. Very few cities still have vacant industrial manufacturing land available. We’ve had upticks of job growth and business expansion in Pinellas Park over the last couple of years.”
Last but certainly not least, the City of Oldsmar is also getting in on the action. With the newly announced roller and street hockey rink at Oldsmar Sports Complex, the city government is proudly brandishing its partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning. “We tried to get the Rays, we got the Red Bulls — for one season, at least — and now we’ve got a deal with the Lightning, one of the best franchises in all of sports,” Mayor Doug Bevis told the local newspaper. Mayor Bevis said that after the city lays the foundation, the Lighting will be building the rink, providing equipment for the players, facilitating and operating the camps and taking care of all the marketing.
Pinellas Park, Largo and Oldsmar have made compelling cases for their inherent value as places to live and work. Given their proximity to the hubs of Tampa and St. Pete, they are integral pieces in the larger success story of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. As they continue to grow, city governments will have to focus on keeping the growth in check and not getting too overzealous. Surely they will have their hands full. The days of flying under the radar seem to be long gone, and Invest: Tampa Bay is excited to see what’s in store for these small-town incubators in 2019!
For more information on our interviewees, please visit their websites:
City of Pinellas Park, https://www.pinellas-park.com/
City of Largo. https://www.largo.com/
City of Oldsmar, https://www.myoldsmar.com/