On Wednesday, more than 50 community leaders and business professionals from St. Petersburg gathered in Saint Paul, Minnesota for the Chamber’s 4th Annual “Thinking Outside the ‘Burg” benchmarking trip. Sponsored by Duke Energy and Florida Blue, this event’s goal is for attendees to learn best practices from Saint Paul (and nearby Minneapolis) and bring back ideas on how to make St. Pete an even better place to live, work, and play.
Our first day started, for many, with an early flight from Tampa International Airport on our travel partner airline, Southwest. After arriving in the Twin Cities, we met for lunch at Pazzaluna with the leaders of the local business community. B Kyle, President and CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and Jonathan Weinhagen of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce gave a brief background of the successes and challenges facing the region and how they have worked together to help the area grow.
Questions from attendees focused on issues facing the St. Petersburg Chamber and the Tampa Bay Area, including transportation funding, hyper-partisan political climate, issue advocacy, and organizational structure. Many similarities between our regions were identified in how these issues shape our future.
After lunch, attendees checked into the beautiful Saint Paul Hotel and then headed off on a bus tour of the Creative Enterprise Zone. This area, similar to St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District, was an industrial area in desperate need of a renaissance. The local Arts community, in concert with several breweries, entertainment venues, and environmentally conscience manufacturers have transformed this section into a lively district teeming with activity. In fact, the districts first mural painting festival (similar to St. Pete’s “Shine” festival), was just completed and our tour included stops at several of the freshly painted murals.
Our evening program was held at the Can Can Wonderland, an entertainment venue housed in a former canning factory. Can Can Wonderland is described as an “amusement center in a historic building with indoor mini golf, vintage arcade games, a bar & eatery”, and is a veritable adult playground that kids can enjoy.
The CFO and Co-founde, Rob Clapp was gracious enough to tell us how Can Can was started, including how he financed a never been done business model, how he worked with local, national, and international artists (including children), and how he hopes to bring similar concepts to other communities. After a dinner featuring the local delicacy “tater tot hot dish”, our group had private use of the facility to play mini-golf, arcade games, and even test the new “golf ball cannons”.
As the evening wrapped up, attendees were seen enjoying each other’s company and discussing what lessons to take back with us.
Day 1 was a great success and we are all looking forward to Thursday’s programs focusing on housing, transportation, and economic development.