The City of Clearwater faced two formative demographic trends: an aging population and above-average share of low-income households. Compounding these trends is the City’s over-reliance on residential real estate taxes, with housing accounting for approximately two-thirds of its property tax base. In addition, Clearwater lacks available greenfield development sites to accommodate new commercial and industrial development. Existing Class A office space does not meet the needs of local businesses and many property owners have failed to make improvements to existing structures that high tech firms require.
In an effort to retain existing businesses and create the conditions to attract new firms, the City of Clearwater engaged TIP to prepare a plan for promoting higher intensity employment opportunities on new and existing sites. In addition to a targeted assessment of the community, the plan was informed by an extensive stakeholder engagement process, including local representatives from a variety of industries as well as tourism and regional economic development partners. The plan was organized around the core goals of pursuing tax base diversification, higher paying jobs, and business vitality. TIP developed a new economic strategy for Clearwater designed to refocus the city’s economic development efforts as well as build upon the new regional initiatives. It provided a template for Clearwater to adopt a more assertive approach to attract new investment, tax base, and high-wage employment in growth industries. Finally, rather than being primarily reactive to new opportunities, the plan detailed how Clearwater should actively pursue and direct future investments to create a strong foundation for economic vitality.