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Smart cities attract talent—especially when leaders focus on technology citizens already use April 15, 2019 | Alison Barlow, Executive Director, St. Pete Innovation District

Fondly known as “The Sunshine City,” St. Petersburg, Fla., is in the midst of an incredible renaissance. Once known for our retirees and snowbirds, St. Petersburg now boasts one of the state’s youngest median ages, a world-renown arts sector and a tech start-up community that is growing by leaps and bounds. What people are coming to realize is that St. Petersburg is a vibrant, evolving, mid-sized city in one of the most dynamic regions in the country, Tampa Bay—all thanks to our dedication to become a smarter city.

Intelligent inspiration

In 2015, the City of St. Petersburg and the Chamber of Commerce developed a joint economic development plan called Grow Smarter. To grow the economy, this plan outlined the critical need to focus on five key industries, including marine and life sciences. While geographically appealing to these industries, St. Petersburg couldn’t rely on the real estate mantra—location, location, location—alone. We also needed to become a place that incubates ideas and nurtures entrepreneurs. Innovation is a mechanism to accomplish this goal.

Innovation flourishes in smart cities, and we know smart cities attract talent. What’s interesting is most citizens do not realize that the tools they come to rely on are part of a smart city infrastructure. For example, we launched a city-wide smartphone application to pay for parking meters. Our citizens use this technology, and it’s made their lives easier. No need to run to the meter to pay for more time; simply whip out your phone and push a button.

This is better living through a smart city strategy. Leaders understood the lives of their citizens and their needs and applied technology to reduce frustration and save them time. Most may never acknowledge they are living in a smart city. Rather they will simply know they live in a community that is adaptive, responsive and delivers on the promise that is a great place to live, work and play.

The implementation of other technologies will likely follow the same path. Smart lighting, intelligent traffic management, wayfinding, and autonomous vehicles are slowly coming and will be successful when seen as part of a daily routine.

Smart stakes

St. Petersburg’s smart city journey is in its infancy, and 2019 is a year we expect to lay a foundation for numerous smart cities projects to come. I will be documenting our progress here on the Spectrum Smart Cities blog.

Soon, I will deep dive into how to find a good smart cities partner. For our first smart lighting effort, we partnered with Spectrum, a leading broadband communications company, and US Ignite, a non-profit organization seeking to accelerate the smart city movement. Take a sneak peek at the project now.

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