CLEARWATER, Fla. — When it comes to Pinellas County, no industry is more of an economic catalyst than tourism.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater reports that over 100,000 jobs were created last year in the tourism sector, and businesses here want that number to continue to grow.
That desired growth is why AMPLIFY Clearwater is partnering with Economic Impact Catalyst to create a small business incubator revolved around the biggest economic driver in the area.
“Tourism really supports our way of life,” said Amanda Payne, CEO of AMPLIFY Clearwater.
Payne says they’re using money left over from the American Rescue Plan, about $250,000, to fund a 10-week boot camp of sorts, where industry professionals and experienced business leaders will help newer businesses thrive in the tourism space.
“It’s really taking that local talent and turning it into diversifying our ecosystem around tourism,” Payne said.
She and the rest of the people at AMPLIFY Clearwater and Economic Impact Catalyst are looking for people with three to five years of experience in the industry who are still looking to grow as a business.
“A lot of times a small business owner has a really great idea,” Payne said. “But they don’t know where to go from there or how to even get a business started.”
It’s why the 10-week program will include mentors and experts in the tourism space to help newer businesses get their footing to help grow the space even further in Clearwater and the bay area.
While tourism in Florida has been slightly declining by about a percentage point statewide, according to Visit Florida, in Pinellas County, Payne says things are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
It’s why she’s eager to get rooms in their new building fully furnished and ready for those local entrepreneurs.
For Payne, she can’t wait for October when the first incubator begins so she can showcase the beauty of her community and enhance it with more successful businesses.
“I can’t imagine the ideas we’ll hear, the things that will be discusses, all the stuff that’s going to be talked about, the visions and dreams that are going to come to life,” Payne said.
Even though the growing pains are still felt in this new space, the ideas that Payne anticipates will sprout inside this building make it all worth it.
AMPLIFY Clearwater plans on holding another incubator in the spring while they raise funds for the next program so small businesses that sign up don’t have to spend money to participate.