By: E. Eugene Webb PhD
St. Petersburg - The last several St. Petersburg administrations, including the current Kriseman team, have been fascinated with the millennials. Their primary objective seems to be to convert St. Petersburg into a millennia utopia replete with high rises, walking destinations, bars, more bars and the ever elusive "high tech" firms to provide jobs for the new St. Pete population.
While the local politicians have been wildly chasing the next "super secret" high tech company that will bring a whopping 65 jobs to St. Pete in return for what will likely be significant tax credits, St. Petersburg population inched downward and the City quietly slipped from Florida's 4th largest City to 5th place.
The Pew Research Center says "Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 today, and about 10,000 more will cross that threshold every day for the next 19 years." In case you missed it that's 10,000 per day.
If St. Pete's population is declining it's a pretty good bet the City is not attracting its share of the baby boomer retirees.
St. Petersburg used to be a retirement destination: a place high up on the list of desirable places for retirees to consider.
Oh sure those retirees that can afford a million dollar condo on Beach Drive and gush about the arts are welcome, but Joe Lunch Bucket, who did 35 years in the auto industry, and his wife who have very comfortable retirement are not the object of the City's marketing effort.
Overlooked is the fact that the retired population of St. Petersburg still owns the vast majority of residential property in St. Petersburg. The steady flow of income from retirement accounts and social security payments have long served as a damper from economic shock waves.
But a retirement based population requires steady replenishment as the natural course of life takes its toll. For that to happen, St. Petersburg has to remain and be marketed as a place for all people to come and enjoy their retirement years.
It seems to me that there is a bad case of millennial myopia at City Hall. I think it stems from not being able to see clearly past about 9th Street North.
The craft brewery infested, alcohol powered concrete canyon that downtown St. Pete is becoming cannot be extended to cover all of St. Petersburg. And while the downtown tax base may be growing, care must be taken that the rest of the City tax base remains strong.
The millennials are a fluid group. They buy a lot of cars, drink a lot of booze and lease a lot of their living spaces. By design they have to ready and capable of shifting with the fortunes of their generation. When it comes time to leave they simply leave.
And those high tech jobs and their promises, they tend be just a fleeting as the millennials they employ. Just look at the unfulfilled promises of Jabil Circuit to St. Petersburg.