The Tampa Tribune is paying homage to two state lawmakers in its Thursday editorial. State Sen. Tom Lee and state Rep. Rich Corcoran were instrumental in bringing key state funding to the University of South Florida in both Tampa and St. Pete during contentious budget negotiations.
The Tribune lauds the $17 million secured to begin work on a downtown Tampa USF medical school at the heart of developer Jeff Vinik’s vision for the area and $12.3 million to complete a USF School of Business in downtown St. Pete.
The Tribune even forgives the Legislature for leaving out another $16 million USF went after for an adjoining Heart Institute, noting that the project has already raked in $34 million in state money and much of that is unspent.
The Tribune’s endorsement shows how supporting higher education transcends partisanship. Throughout the entire editorial there was nary a comment about political bickering between parties. The funding item, though not particularly publicized outside of the Tampa Bay area, swam through the budget process without much to-do.
And the funding wins for the USF system follows echoes of support from across the region.
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman thanked the Legislature earlier this week for providing key funding to the St. Pete project to build a new USF School of Business that will help his city thrive. But he also congratulated the hard work of lawmakers in bringing additional funding to the downtown Tampa medical school project.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who represents parts of St. Pete and Tampa, and St. Pete Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher echoed Kriseman’s support.
Both projects’ new funding comes after a good bit of cash had already been secured. The USF St. Pete project got a huge boost when business woman Kate Tiedemann infused $10 million into the school for naming rights. And leaders are still hoping to secure private funds for naming the actual building, which is planned for behind the Piano Man building on the West side of campus.
The Tribune also points out the Tampa medical school will be housed in property provided by Vinik. He’s also building a parking garage and office space. Vinik didn’t ask for any state funding for his part of the project.
Both projects are not only key ventures for the region and USF, as the Tribune notes, they are much-needed projects for the growing school system.
The USF St. Pete School of Business’s 1,000 students are currently squeezed into classrooms sprawling all over campus and the USF medical school’s new building was already slated in order to replace the current 40-year-old building. Prior plans would have placed a new building at USF’s North Tampa campus, but the downtown location is more viable because it’s near Tampa General Hospital, USF’s teaching hospital, and the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.
In addition to recognizing Lee and Corcoran for their collaborative work as lawmakers, the Trib also gives a nod to USF President Judy Genshaft for working “diligently to keep these key projects from being lost in the legislative scramble.”