PCUL Vision 2030 initiative launches Next Level Urban Alliance

On Feb. 26, Nikki Gaskin-Capehart (above) and the Pinellas County Urban League launched its Next Level Urban Alliance to a packed house at Savant on Second.

BY J.A. JONES | Staff Writer

ST PETERSBURG — The Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) launched its Next Level Urban Alliance last month, along with Equity Institute, Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (TBBBIC), the Deuces Live and other community partners.

A project funded with $500,000 from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and Bayfront Health, PCUL President and CEO Nikki Gaskin-Capehart unveiled details about the Alliance to a packed house at Savant on Second.

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Deborah Figgs Sanders greeted the audience, congratulated Gaskin-Capehart and vowed to support PCUL as it works to “continue to close those gaps.”

Outgoing Board Chair Rodney Wilson and current Board Chair Dr. Tonja Williams

PCUL’s new Board Chair, Dr. Tonjua Williams, was on hand to praise the “empowered warriors” who filled the space and recognize the entire board that worked hard to bring CEO Gaskin-Capehart to the role. She also gave special kudos to the outgoing board chair, Rodney Wilson.

As Gaskin-Capehart described the themes and pillars of Vision 2030 that came forth from board members and the more than 800 responses to the recent community survey, she gave props to 2020 plan visionary Gypsy Gallardo, as did Albert Lee of TBBBIC later in the evening, who noted, “We can’t do this stuff without Gypsy.” Gallardo is currently culling through that data to provide analysis.

Gallardo noted, “The key message behind the Next Level is that so many entrepreneurs have put in the work, and now they have a dedicated network and platform.”

Gaskin-Capehart relayed that the pillars emerging as part of Vision 2030 are guided by the themes of strategic community empowerment, sustainable social enterprise, enhanced program and service footprint, and fiscal and operational responsibility.

She reiterated the four pillars that PCUL will uphold, including championing education and community leadership, acting as an anchor for job training, placement, and entrepreneurship, being a hub for housing and community development, as well as acting as a leader in health impact and quality of life.

Dr. Kanika Tomalin

To introduce the Next Level Urban Alliance, she gave the stage to Dr. Kanika Tomalin, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP)

Tomalin, whose appointment to FHSP has been a major win for the St. Pete community, took stage to healthy applause, noting that “something special is happening in St. Peterburg,” as she pointed out other Black female achievers in the room, many whom have recently been appointed in key positions including Gaskin-Capehart, Figgs-Sanders, the Chief Financial Officer of Orlando Health Bayfront Hospital LaTasha R. Barnes and lawyer Tamara Felton-Howard.

Tomalin noted that the new generation of Black female leaders was the “manifestation of intentional cultivation, investment and understanding of what it takes to transform trajectories.”

Felton-Howard, on the Next Level Urban Alliance’s leadership team, followed to introduce the rest of the team, including Lee TBBBIC, Lynn Harrell Johnson of Community Tech House, Latorra Bowles of Deuces Live, Tahisia Scantling of Right Turn Realty and Andrew Ware of World Class Consulting, LLC.

Gaskins-Capehart noted that the steps towards the current initiative had begun a decade ago, recalling efforts dating back to the Small Business Salon during her time at the City of St. Petersburg’s Urban Affairs Division, held along with the Greenhouse, TBBBIC, Brian Lamb, then-president of Fifth Third Bank, Dr. Cynthia Johnson, director, small business development center at Pinellas County, Shahra Anderson from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s office, Gallardo and the 2020 Plan Task Force and others.

Left, Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, Lynn Harrell Johnson, Latorra Bowles, Albert Lee, Tahisia Scantling and Tamara Felton-Howard

“Next Level Urban Alliance will provide tailored navigation services and allow us to meet quarterly for networking — and we are planning a trade mission to the Motherland,” said Gaskins-Capehart.

She noted ongoing talks about international trade and the possibility of an additional trip to Canada to nurture relationships with Canadian business owners built through the assistance of Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

Gaskin-Capehart added that Next Level Urban Alliance is also planning a five-year end-to-end “rebuilding of our historic Black Wall Street, Deuces Live, 22nd Street,” as well as opening a “collective café” at the Urban League location where businesses can sign up to meet with other business leaders and share services at lowered costs.

She strongly encouraged all business owners to sign up and learn more about the Alliance’s free services, which the FHSP/Bayfront grant will cover. “It’s costing you nothing; the Foundation is making this investment to get this kicked off, so you want to make sure you’re a part of it so that you can really reap the benefits of what we’re having available to the community.”

Gallardo offered strong words of affirmation: “Expect more blow-up business success stories from this!” Scantling added that the goal is to “take services to the next level, where we turn our businesses into actual businesses rather than solopreneur opportunities.”

Franchise expert and business owner of the popular Painting with a Twist franchise Dee Clemmons and TBBBIC’s Albert Lee

The evening ended with a teaser of what future networking business talks will offer: a talk between TBBBIC’s Lee and franchise expert and business owner of the popular Painting with a Twist franchise, Dee Clemmons. The award-winning entrepreneur, business coach and former Georgia county commissioner shared her insights and experiences in the hotel industry.

For more information, visit www.pcul.org/vision2030.

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