SEMINOLE — Michael Meidel, Pinellas County’s director of economic development, told attendees of the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce’s Jan. 14 Board of Directors installation “that the (economic) state of the county is strong.”
He added, “We’re enjoying really banner years for economic development for just the general economy of the community.”
The county boasts a 2.6 percent unemployment rate, a “historic low,” he said. During the recession, the employment rate was as high as 12.5 percent and the county lost 60,000 jobs.
“Since that time, we’ve not only gained back all those jobs, but we’ve added another 100,000 on top of it,” Meidel said.
The “downside” of this success “is it’s hard for people to find workers,” he said.
In 2020, the county will work with universities, community college and trade schools “to create a new pipeline of workers and make sure they don’t leave our area when they do graduate, and to try to attract new workers to the area,” he added.
Around 700 people move to Pinellas County each month, mostly “young people and empty-nesters,” Meidel said. “And they’re bringing their money with them, which is always a good thing, and they’re spending more in the local economy. People are arriving every day with the skills we need.”
Economic Development will partner with the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau this year to draw more businesses to Pinellas.
“We’re looking at the people coming down here on vacation,” he said. “How do we get them to stay? How do we get decisionmakers coming down here for business meetings to realize that this isn’t just a tourism destination, that there are major companies here and you want to be here too, because it’s a low tax area and we do attract high quality workers?”
He added, “My primary job is to create more and better jobs for Pinellas County citizens.”
This means redeveloping industrial areas and upgrading aging office space to attract new businesses, Meidel said.
The Board of County Commissioners has made workforce housing and economic development a priority, he said, and has designated 8.3 percent Penny for Pinellas money collected over the next 10 years — as much as $165 million — to these areas.