Pinellas County and St. Petersburg leaders, along with Cathie Wood, the founder and CEO of ARK Investment Management, broke ground on the 45,000-square-foot, $15.8 million ARK Innovation Center on Tuesday.
Wood’s firm, the latest to make the move from Manhattan to St. Pete, contributed $2 million to the project, which is scheduled to open its doors in July 2023. By 2026, officials say, the ARK Innovation Center — located at the intersection of 4th Street South and 11th Avenue South in St. Pete — will have created some $28 million in economic impact and 1,265 jobs.
“This endeavor will change the landscape globally,” said Cynthia Johnson, director of Pinellas County Economic Development, at Tuesday’s groundbreaking event. “Pinellas County is perfectly positioned to be the innovation hub of the U.S., and St. Petersburg is the epicenter.”
St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch also spoke, calling the ARK Innovation Center “a great example of a public-private partnership.” The city of St. Petersburg donated the 2.5-acre parcel to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, the business accelerator and coworking hub that will operate the facility once it’s up and running.
“This facility will be the first in Pinellas County to be purposely constructed as an incubator for entrepreneurs to thrive,” Welch said, adding that clients and graduates of the ARK Innovation Center’s programs will create an estimated $127 million in annual revenue. “This is an exciting time for our city.”
Wood echoed the mayor’s sense of excitement, saying, “St. Pete understands better than Silicon Valley how much promise there is out there as a result of the new technologies that are evolving.”
ARK Investment Management is known for its savvy bets on disruptive companies that innovate in next-gen tech subsectors areas, such as DNA sequencing, robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and energy storage. As of January, its portfolio was worth $33.1 billion, thanks to its holdings in firms including Tesla, Teladoc Health and Roku.
“I get the sense that St. Pete is ready to catch this ball,” Wood added. “You’re hungry. We chose St. Pete because we saw an innovative spirit. There’s innovation DNA (here). I don’t know how you got it, but it’s here and we know it — because we’ve been looking for it. We looked at lots of different cities but centered on St. Pete … because we thought we could make a difference in coming here.”