Our featured speaker, Bill Carson, President of Tucker Hall, stated that, “I think the initial importance of a Cuban consulate is to provide convenience to Cuban Americans based in Tampa and central Florida.” A consulate provides assistance to citizens and businesses, therefore having this consulate on either side of the bay will strengthen Cuban relations.
Public Policy Chair, Ryan Griffin, stated that “The Chamber is about economic growth and development. There is an opportunity here to think big. The issues of safety and government views can only be decided on the higher governmental level. There will be competition amongst Florida cities for the location of the Cuban Consulate, therefore we need to be united with the other Chambers.
The Public Policy Council approved the motion to support the following resolution:
“(The Greater Tampa Chamber and St. Petersburg Area Chamber) Supports establishment of a Cuban Consulate locally upon completion of normalized relations.”
Jason Jensen of Wannenmacher Jensen Architect, Inc. gave the public policy meeting an update of the masterplan development of the Pier Uplands. There has been $20M set aside for this approach. The masterplan identifies potential restaurants, market places for vendors, parking solutions, and a pedestrian bridge to connect the St. Petersburg History Museum to the Museum of Fine Arts. Jensen believes that there needs to be something intriguing to see along the Pier every 200ft to continue people onto the next site. He also stated that the current stage of the masterplan is “purely suggestions at this point, just a design, [we] don’t know anything further until we get opinions of stakeholders, including beachfront restaurants.” The next four months will include stakeholder meetings, preliminary design, laying out images for city to react to, going into the next phase to continue contract, and will follow the same Pier timeline.
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long gave the meeting its county update. She presented an overview of the Pinellas County Behavioral Health High Utilizer Pilot Program and addressed the critical lack of funding, which has impacted the availability and integration of services and information sharing, inhibiting stability for many individuals. The new model of this pilot program is not about housing first, it’s about rapid rehousing, to make homelessness nonrecurring. It aims to create permanent housing for 33 people, get them in the shelter, then work on other issues causing them to be homeless such as, mental health and drug/alcohol addiction. The anticipated benefits of the pilot are to end the cost cycle of recidivism in jails, hospitals and Baker Act facilities.
“Education is still focused on a collective solution, but the solution and Chamber assistance is to come alongside, not to go directly into schools,” says Dr. Kevin Gordon. He told us that the school grade data is about 18 months old and to keep an eye out on the new reports to see if results have improved. Collective Impact meeting with Alignment Nashville’s Sydney Rogers is scheduled for Feb. 12, to identify what collective impact would look like in Pinellas County. No future Task Force meeting date has been scheduled.
Barclay Harless’s requested that the Public Policy Council approve the Legislative Task Force’s request to support the City of St. Petersburg’s $900k local funding request for the Tampa/St. Petersburg Water Ferry Service. The funding request is being sponsored by Representative Kathleen Peters. The $900k funding would provide additional vehicle trips and ridership for the St. Petersburg/Tampa Water Ferry pilot study. Additional water ferries will cut travel time down tremendously. The pilot project will develop a business and operational plan for a ferry service between downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg.
The Public Policy Council approved the motion to support the following legislative agenda item:
St. Petersburg/Tampa Water Ferry Pilot Project: Support a $900k funding request to provide additional vehicle trips and ridership for the St. Petersburg/Tampa Water Ferry pilot study. The pilot project will develop a business and operational plan for a ferry service between downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg. There should be an economic benefit due to increased tourism, reduction in traffic and parking congestion, and associated environmental impact. There will also be an increased economic benefit to the small businesses and attractions in the areas.
Council Member Jim Kennedy told us that Williams Park bus shelters were removed on January 30th/ Hub to Grid System on February 14th, and funding for the I-175 & 4th St Ramp is included in the House budget. However, there is potential to place the funding request in FDOT’s state budget. Kennedy has concerns about the long term feasibility of the bike share program after the bikes have aged five years from now. He would like to see a business plan at the Thursday, February 25th PSI workshop at 2:00 pm.
Diversity and Inclusiveness
Nick Kouris and Ronnell Montgomery said that, women owned business focus groups are scheduled for February 10th at FL Print Solution. This is the first step in helping the Chamber understand the needs and challenges of women owned businesses in St. Petersburg.
Daryle Hamel told us that there have been three subcommittees established – Sustainable Tourism, Solar Energy, & Internship Program and that over twenty members attended the January 21st meeting featuring Dave Randal from USF on being recognized as a Sustainable Tourism City by the United Nations.
The Chamber continues to move progressively forward in ensuring the success of St. Pete’s economy and being the preeminent leader of business in order to ensure the economic growth and vitality of our community.