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Innovation Center attracts global tenant interest

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering of Tampa Bay Innovation Center at 4th Street South and 11th Avenue. All images provided.

The new Tampa Bay Innovation Center, the first incubator of its kind in Pinellas County, is underway and is garnering interest from potential international tenants. 

During a Thursday Pinellas County Commission meeting, TBIC President and CEO Tonya Elmore and Cynthia Johnson, the director of Pinellas County Economic Development, updated the commissioners on the construction and activity status of the 45,000-square-foot center, currently under construction on donated city land at the southwest corner of 4th Street South and 11th Avenue. 

The TBIC is a project spearheaded by Pinellas County after being awarded a Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to construct a business incubator. When it opens in 2023, it will have 30,000 square feet on the first floor for incubator companies. ARK Research will be located in the anchor tenant space, and the ARK Foundation will have an office on third floor with TBIC. 

The programming at TBIC will be tailored to businesses within the information technology, analytics, health care, life and marine sciences, and advanced manufacturing sectors. 

“This project has gotten national attention and the interest of not only local investors; international investors are contracting our office because they are reading about this project,” Johnson said. “And as we see our city partners in St. Pete develop the Innovation District, I think the buzz is going to keep growing.” 

Elmore said there’s a waiting list for potential tenants, and one is a “well-branded company that wants to put its innovation arm” in the center.  

She couldn’t disclose the name of the company but said 10 individuals would work out of TBIC.

“We’ve been contacted by organizations in Silicon Valley as well,” Elmore said, stating the team is identifying companies that would be the best fit for TBIC. “I have a group coming in from the U.K. We have contacts calling us from Israel and Brazil, so there is a large impact globally.” 

In the meantime, Jonhson said she is working with the legal team to deliver the agreement with the EDA and ready the master lease agreements. 

Project timeline of TBIC:

  • 2018: The EDA proposal is submitted. 
  • 2019: The EDA award grant is received, and the city transfers the land. 
  • 2021: The site clearing starts. 
  • February 2022: TBIC and the county host a ceremonial groundbreaking event. 
  • Q2 2022: Vertical construction commences. 
  • September 2022: Construction is 21% complete. 
  • July 2023: EDA construction completion deadline. 
  • October 2023: The EDA grant closes.

The roughly $16.3 million project will be on time and within budget, Johnson said, acknowledging Brandes Construction as the general contractor. She also shared that TBIC is working with Creative Pinellas to have an artist create a mural outside of the café space in the new incubator.

A rendering of the café space.

Additionally, Elmore spoke on the new upcoming accelerator programs at TBIC. 

Earlier this month, the TBIC announced its latest startup accelerator program will focus on innovations and emerging markets in climate tech. The 12-week accelerator program will start the week of Jan. 9 for early-stage tech ventures, which include startups in the agtech, marine science, manufacturing and weather monitoring spaces, according to TBIC.

Duke Energy and PODS Moving and Storage are supporting the program and will assist TBIC by providing industry insight and resources, including domain expertise, customer contacts and mentors. 

During the Thursday meeting, Elmore said the next initiative following climate tech will likely be focused on health technologies. 

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