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Tampa Bay Innovation Center gets major gift

Margie Manning



James Pews (third from right) with some members of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center board of directors. From left: Dean Akers, Rob Kapusta, Chris Paradies, Pews, Shawn Hughes and Paul Hays. Not pictured: Tonya Elmore, Doug Martin and Roy Binger

A startup consultant in St. Petersburg has named the Tampa Bay Innovation Center as the sole beneficiary of a trust currently valued at about $3 million.

The Innovation Center, a nonprofit business incubator and coworking center, was named the beneficiary of The James R. Pews Revocable Trust. The bequest was given in the spirit of rewarding the center for its pioneering efforts in working with the startup community, and to encourage others to donate towards its mission of “accelerating entrepreneurial success,” a news release said.

James “Jamie” Pews is the trustee of the trust and the founder of startup consulting firm The Startup Store, based in St. Petersburg and with a focus on providing services to early-stage ventures.

“I am honored to make this designation happen for the center as its board’s passion to make an impact on local startups is in line with my own here at The Startup Store,” Pews said in the release.

Tonya Elmore

It’s the largest gift ever received by the Innovation Center in its more than 15 year history, said Tonya Elmore, president and CEO.

“The Innovation Center is grateful for the generosity and vision of Mr. Pews and appreciates his support of the Center’s mission,” said Chris Paradies, Innovation Center board chair.

The funding is not immediate. The bequest will pass to the Innovation Center upon Pews’ death, but it plays an important role now, Elmore said.

“It shows that people are donating to the center and will help to attract more donations down the road,” she said. “It ensures there will be a legacy.”

The funding is not currently earmarked for any specific use.

The Innovation Center currently occupies two floors in a Pinellas County building at 501 1st Ave. N. The U.S. Department of Commerce last year awarded Pinellas County $7.5 million to build a 45,000-square-foot, freestanding center on 2.5 acres at 4th Street South and 11th Avenue South in St. Petersburg. It would be owned by the county and operated by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. The project will be matched with $4.5 million in local funds.

A groundbreaking is planned for June 2021.

“Tonya Elmore’s years of effort along with the Board of Directors, Pinellas County government and the City of St. Petersburg to recently obtain the $12 million of grant funding to secure a permanent home for the Innovation Center in St. Petersburg was another major milestone in St. Petersburg becoming the most desirable place to launch a startup. It is that kind of vision, effort, and result that made this a very easy decision,” Pews said.

The Startup Store provides services throughout the entire southeast United States. The firm’s expertise in LLC formation, website/SEO, accounting, tax, and contract CFO services are geared towards early stage ventures. Their “quick launch” business model provides both an initial one-stop shop for startups as well as the opportunity for scaling businesses to inflect services as needed on an ala carte basis.

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