On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Mayor Ken Welch introduced priorities for his administration, and along with panelists and attendees, lent insights to define the emerging field of equitable economic development.
ST. PETERSBURG — Less than seven days in office, newly elected St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch shared first-hand his administrations’ equitable development priorities. More than 100 community members joined him virtually for the Economic Equity Policy Dialogue on Jan. 11, hosted by The Equity Institute of St Petersburg, the St. Pete NAACP, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, and USF St. Petersburg.
“Equity is fundamental to inclusive progress,” Welch said. “When you have that foundation as a start, it helps you to move in the right direction.”
From housing to economic development practitioners, SPC Provost of the Downtown and Midtown Centers Dr. Tashika Griffith joined an esteemed panel from diverse sectors, including:
- Cynthia Johnson, Economic Development director, Pinellas County Economic Development
- Deborah Figgs-Sanders, City of St. Petersburg Councilmember, District 5
- Jason Mathis, CEO, The Downtown Partnership
- Jillian Bandes, vice president, Bandes Construction and president, YIMBY St. Pete
- Karl Nurse, former St. Pete City Councilman, District 6
Griffith shared SPC’s focus on equitable economic mobility through opening the Center for Economic Impact and Inclusion (CEII) at the SPC Downtown Center. During the event, she asked Welch how the city plans to collaborate with local higher education leaders to expand the educational ecosystem and partner with CEII to address workforce development needs.
“Building that ecosystem is important,” Welch said. “A family of an elementary student can see the pathways available and connect to them. SPC does such a great job, not only in four-year access and beyond, but also the certificate programs. Making sure we connect our youth with the right track and the fundamental tools they need to change gears sometimes is important.”
Last year, SPC announced plans to open CEII as a training and learning space for understanding diversity and inclusion and the economic implications of these practices on the local community. The center will assemble businesses, community organizations, and workforce members to build an inclusive community that drives economic development.
“The convening of economic equity practitioners was extremely significant to hear and potentially assist with informing the policies of Mayor Welch’s new administration,” Griffith said. “Being able to share CEII’s purpose and goals with Mayor Welch and residents of the city was invaluable as we continue to engage and build partnerships.”
CEII will serve as a think tank that addresses crucial economic inclusion, community-based issues, demonstrating SPC’s commitment to economic mobility for all its students. The center will provide invaluable services to local businesses and industries and connect students to real-world learning and networking opportunities.