In 2021, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a tech hub and tech business accelerator, said it wanted a new building. The federal government, through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, agreed, chipping in most of the cost, spending $11.3 million.
Another $2 million in donated land came from St. Petersburg, according to Tonya Elmore, president and CEO of the center. And $4 million came from Pinellas County, with $2 million from the center itself.
The St. Petersburg-based organization, Tampa Bay Innovation Center, opened its doors in 2010 as an incubator and has operated in several locations in the city. Now at the intersection of 4th Street South and 11th Avenue South, the new facility will feature an event center, innovation labs, classrooms, conference rooms and coworking space. The center offers a range of business coaching and accelerator programs. In 2021, the center struck a naming-rights deal with ARK Invest, led by tech investment star and influencer Cathie Wood, who had moved its headquarters from New York City to St. Pete.
The diverse investors expect a big payoff: An estimated 1,200 new jobs and $127 million in economic impact, says Elmore. "It's amazing to see the attention that it's gotten," says Tonya. "So to be able to attract talent in this startups. ... I think that's going to be game-changing."
The coolest thing, Elmore says, is the space for entrepreneurs. The center will have a larger area for them, including classrooms and breakout spaces. And there will be innovation labs, which will come about a year after the center moves into the building, scheduled for this November. (The grand opening will be in December.) Those labs will feature 3-D printing and robotics.
But when asked about the coolest aesthetic, Elmore notes the building was designed "to look right into downtown St. Pete." There is one big window, which Elmore calls "the eye," that gives a great view of the marina and the city. "That's the coolest space," says Elmore. "If I had to camp out, that's where I would be. It's like a whole floor of windows."
The neighborhood was also consulted on what type of cafe the center could add at the street level, Elmore says. Thus, one tenant, out of Washington, D.C., signed for 1,500 square foot space to build a "community cafe," which will offer salads and crepes and more.
The supply chain, Elmore says.
Elmore had previously expressed concern about inflation, in early 2022. The economy was still grappling with the pandemic fallout in 2021 and 2022, and that sometimes meant clogged ports, delayed orders and a surge in trucking. The supply chain problems affected even the parts for windows and doors in the St. Pete project, Elmore found out. As the construction crews were building the center, they often found they had to wait on some materials, Elmore says, "like door parts, window parts." But Bandes Construction was aware of the potential delays, so the firm was proactive. "They did a really good job of sourcing it up front," Elmore says. Elmore says the supply chain problems she witnessed point to a need for further innovation, new technologies, algorithms and methods. And Elmore hopes to supply the region and nation with the people to fix those types of technical problems.