In challenging times, support for USF and higher education speaks well of the region’s priorities.
We know that education changes lives. We see it every day among our students—those on the path to the career they’ve always wanted, others working toward an advanced degree that will propel their career forward, and especially those who are the first in their family to go to college. But the University of South Florida also plays a significant role in transforming the economic, artistic and cultural development of our region, even as Florida endures its economic woes.
USF’s critical role as an economic catalyst was never more evident than in the recent threat of severe budget cutbacks. The incredible response from across the Tampa Bay region, the state and even the nation said it all: This university is vitally important to our future in a myriad of ways, not the least among them is preparing a new generation to be successful in the global economy. We are so thankful to all those who rallied to support USF and spoke out for our region’s well-placed priorities.
Many already know that USF produces thousands of new graduates in much-needed science, technology, math and engineering fields each year, and that we also have help attract high-tech, high-wage jobs to the region. Our impact on the local economy is estimated a $3.7 billion annually, and we are incredibly proud that USF ranks ninth in the world among universities generating new U.S. patents. But it is USF’s unique role in helping maximize our future potential as a region that makes us particularly excited about the years to come. The Martin Prosperity Institute projects that Tampa Bay will lead America’s large metros in the growth of creative class jobs—fields such as science, technology, engineering, finance, management, the arts, entertainment and media—in the coming years. These are the jobs our region wants and needs; salaries average more than $70,000 a year and employees benefit from the great personal fulfillment that comes from using their analytical, cognitive and creative talents to the fullest potential.
A strong university is a key driver for creative class job growth, the institute reports, and USF’s strengths in academics and innovation are right on target. We have never wavered in our focus on growing and diversifying the economy, working to attract such notable private research institutes as SRI and Draper Labs to the area. More recently, we’ve worked to bring cancer-research group IRX Therapeutics back to the Tampa Bay region, where its work began many years ago. These entities are engaged in some of the most exciting and revolutionary research in healthcare, energy and marine technology occurring anywhere in the world. In March, USF’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (known as CAMLS) opened in downtown Tampa. The $38-million, 90,000-square-foot facility is a national model for improving medical training and patient safety and creating healthcare solutions through cutting-edge technology.
Before its doors even opened, CAMLS created a domino effect of investment, with developers initiating a $300 million hotel, office and retail development to serve new businesses attracted to Tampa by CAMLS along with tens of thousands of medical professionals who will train here each year. And while state budget cutbacks have meant we are doing more with less, there is no doubt we are doing more. Our campus looks and feels different than the day I arrived 12 years ago in so many ways. We have created a modern, vibrant environment where students not only learn alongside some of the most talented faculty and researchers in the world, but can effect change of their own.
Our campus has become a national model of sustainability because our students have been committed to making it happen. From solar-powered car charging stations and water recycling to more energy-efficient student housing and locally produced food in our dining halls, we work collaboratively with students to create a campus that leads by example. Our focus is on finding fresh and new ways to leverage our growing national and international reputation in ways we’ve never tried before. USF has joined with three tremendous institutions that neighbor our campus—Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center and Florida Hospital Tampa—in the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit entity exploring ways we can make the distressed commercial areas around us better. We intend to do our part in positioning the north Tampa area for investment and relocation by innovative, high-tech companies looking to be part of something special.
We have weathered tremendous challenges in recent years. But I am proud that we have grown stronger, more focused on our mission and more certain of our abilities to improve the lives of our students, our communities and our region.