When you hear the words “industrial land,” what do you think of? If the words conjure up images of smokestacks and noisy factories, think again. In Pinellas County, industrial land holds everything from financial service offices to software developers to research labs.
Project Contact: Rodney Chatman
Forward Pinellas strives to protect opportunities for prosperity for all citizens. To do this, we must link jobs, homes and transit by doing three things:
- Set aside enough land for high-tech manufacturing, information technology, and other industries that provide high-paying jobs.
- Ensure people of all incomes in our community can afford quality housing close to where they work, creating more stability for both the workers and their employers, while helping the local economy and protecting the quality of life for everyone.
- The SPOTlight Emphasis Area: “Innovations for Target Employment and Jobs Access”, focuses on innovations for the future of the target employment and industrial land use categories in the context of redevelopment, jobs access, affordable housing, mixed-use development and walkable, transit-accessible places.
What do we mean by target employment?
These are some of the most important industries in Pinellas County. While tourism is Pinellas County’s most well-known business, the biggest contributors to our economy are industries like high-tech manufacturing, software development and financial services. These are businesses that bring in the most revenue from outside of county, and pay their employees the highest average wages. These are the employers that we most need to attract and keep.
The Importance of Industrial Land
While tourism is our most well-known business, industries like high-tech manufacturing quietly contribute significantly more to the local economy. According to Pinellas County Economic Development, manufacturing has twice the economic impact of the entire hospitality sector and pays three times the average wage, with $2 billion in annual payroll. Financial services and information technology add another $2.2 billion. Together those businesses employ more than 60,000 people in Pinellas County.
“It’s an unfortunate paradox,” said Teresa Brydon, Business Redevelopment Manager for Pinellas County Economic Development. “The types of redevelopment that make the most money for landowners and developers are the ones that contribute least to the local economy. The market puts local governments under a lot of pressure to allow industrial land to be converted, but that hurts us in the long run.”
It’s true that many of these businesses could fit equally well into commercial areas, and are permitted to do so under county and local land use rules. But they seek industrial areas because commercial land is typically priced out of their reach. Pinellas County is nearly 100% developed, which creates intense competition for property. Retail and residential developers, who turn quicker short-term profits, can pay much more for real estate and tend to drive up prices wherever they’re allowed to build. Land designated specifically for industrial use, on the other hand, eliminates that problem by restricting retail and residential uses, which keeps real estate affordable to target employers.
“By the 2000s, we started running out of industrial land,” said Cindy Margiotta, Division Director for Pinellas County Economic Development. “We lose opportunities for employers to move here when there’s nowhere for them to go. Every time we let an industrial parcel redevelop into apartments, we lose the potential for more good jobs.”
Ensuring Affordable Homes for Everyone
To keep our community whole and ensure quality of life for everyone, we need to solve the housing affordability crisis.The needs of target employers are changing. The young, educated workforce is increasingly looking for places where they can live, work, and go to shops and restaurants, all in the same area. And they want to ride bike trails, and take transit to get there.
However, the high cost of housing touches nearly every household in Pinellas County. From first-time homebuyers to renters, finding a place to live has never been more difficult or expensive. The largest cost burden often falls on those we depend on most: teachers, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers, and many others, are most at risk of finding another county to purchase a home or having to move away if they can’t afford to live here.
Connecting Housing, Jobs and Transit
While housing and jobs themselves are both important, we also need to provide a way for people to get from one to the other. In Pinellas County, the average household spends 33% of its income on housing and another 24% on transportation, for a total of 57% on just those two things. Reliable transportation is key for workers to maintain stable jobs. But for many households, the cost of maintaining personal automobiles reduces the amount that can be spent on quality housing, or is entirely out of reach. We need to connect that housing with employment, education, and other opportunities through high-quality, reliable transit.
Discovering a New Approach
Creating a complete community means having a balance of living wage jobs, attainable housing, and good transportation options. Pinellas County is predominantly built out, and yet it continues to attract new residents, jobs, and more visitors each year.
“The Countywide Plan has input from all 25 local governments in Pinellas County. It’s how we plan together for issues of countywide importance that are bigger than any one jurisdiction,” said Whit Blanton, Executive Director of Forward Pinellas. “This is definitely one of those issues.”
We’ve identified several actions that will provide a strategy to achieve our goals for the SPOTlight Emphasis Area: “Innovations for Target Employment and Jobs Access.”
- Updating the Target Employment & Industrial Lands Study from 2008 in partnership with Pinellas County Economic Development
- Planning for redevelopment within Investment Corridors defined in the 2045 Advantage Pinellas Long Range Transportation Plan to link housing, transit, access to jobs and jobs training
- Establishing a design studio pilot program in partnership with the Pinellas County Housing & Community Development Department to help identify and visualize innovative redevelopment
- Committing to regional multimodal access to jobs/job training opportunities countywide
- Addressing equity and safety to overcome barriers to employment and jobs access
- Keeping a focus on Gateway Master Plan implementation through the Gateway Partnership