St. Petersburg will subsidize mystery Fortune 500 company if it relocates

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ST. PETERSBURG — A mystery company may move its global headquarters to St. Petersburg and would get subsidies if it does.

The City Council voted Thursday to provide $475,000 in financial incentives to a Fortune 500 company dubbed Project Athena. Among the conditions: The company would have to bring 300 new jobs to St. Petersburg, pay an average wage above $120,000 each year and contribute to the community.

Project Athena, now based in the northeast, also asked for a property tax exemption, according to city documents. The City Council passed a resolution allowing the company to apply for an exemption later.

St. Petersburg projects the move would bring $25 million in corporate investment.

But the city hasn’t landed the company yet, said J.P. DuBuque, chief executive of the St. Petersburg Economic Development Corp.

“This is a competitive project,” DuBuque said. “We believe based upon our conversations with the company, that if this incentive package is approved we will be in a leadership position in winning this project.”

Dubuque said the incentive package is unique for its focus on workforce development.

Project Athena would also have to lease more than 100,000 square feet for its headquarters, according to city documents — not an easy feat with St. Petersburg offering less available office space than any community in the Tampa Bay region.

Office vacancy here is 5.5 percent compared to 20 percent in Tampa, according to JLL, a commercial real estate firm. Much of the available space in Tampa is in new projects such as Midtown, Water Street and Westshore. Still, rents per square foot are 17 percent cheaper, JLL said.

If the company does relocate to St. Petersburg, it will join local Fortune 500 firms such as Jabil and Raymond James Financial.

The discussions come on the heels of an announcement last week that influential technology company Ark Investment is moving from New York City to St. Petersburg in November. Ark Investment also is working with St. Petersburg and Pinellas County to open a talent incubator in the Innovation District.

“We believe St. Pete wants to become the next Austin and attract tech companies and attract innovation,” Cathie Wood of Ark Investment said in a webinar Tuesday.

Wood said all levels of government in the Tampa Bay region work well together and praised what she called the high quality of life in St. Petersburg.

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