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Pinellas County aims to be 'innovation hub' of the US

Step aside Silicon Valley, make room for Tampa Bay.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If you’ve driven around the Tampa Bay area you’ve probably noticed new businesses popping up — especially tech ones, and that may be by design as Pinellas County aims to be a nationwide hub of innovation.

“I think that innovation is on the rise, ” Pinellas County Economic Development Director Dr. Cynthia Johnson said.

“Pinellas County is really what I like to call the next innovation hub of the U.S., but the city of St. Petersburg is definitely the epicenter.”

And it seems like more and more tech-related businesses want to get rooted in the area.

Earlier this month, DeliverHealth, a company that provides tech solutions for hospitals and health systems selected Clearwater for their new national HQ.

"As our nation further moves into the endemic phase of COVID-19, we are thrilled to open the CXC and our new HQ, better enabling us to offer a one-of-a-kind experience allowing for increased collaboration and innovation among our team and customers,” Michael Clark, CEO of DeliverHealth, said in a statement.  

Meanwhile, construction continues on a 45,000-square-foot “Innovation Center” in St. Pete that will act as a business incubator helping startups and local tech companies get off the ground.

Slated for a July 2023 opening, ARK Invest, a large tech fund from New York that moved its headquarters to St. Pete last fall, is spearheading the project.

It costs about $16 million, a large chunk paid for by a federal grant, while the city donated the 4th Street South land and the county and company will cover about $2 million each.

“We have concrete on the ground, and we should have walls going up soon," Johnson said.  "And we're so excited not just for the building, but for the magic that's going to happen inside of the building.

“We really anticipate that there will be some new technologies that will come out of that building and will be able to create more and more opportunities for our local citizens."

Pinellas County leaders have pinpointed “target industries” of focus to become the nation’s innovation hub, which includes business, aerospace, defense and life and marine science.

Leaders say the growth of those sectors will also help boost the local economy both directly and indirectly. 

“These industries create high-wage jobs. These are the industries that create livable wages," Johnson explained. "And we want our citizens to experience the full perspective of being a citizen here in Pinellas County. And that's having a job where you can afford to stay in the area."

Johnson says companies are interested in coming here for the talent pool and many of the same reasons that attract people to move to Florida, including proximity to the coast and quality of life.

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