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USF St. Pete rakes in huge budget win with $12.3 million appropriation for business school

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

An $80 billion budget deal spells victory for downtown St. Pete. Under the budget compromise the University of South Florida St. Pete will receive $12.3 million for its Kate Tiedemann College of Business.

“I am particularly pleased that several of the City of St. Petersburg’s priorities are being funded. I join our friends at the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg in celebrating the $12.3 million for the Kate Tiedemann College of Business,” wrote St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman in a statement. “USF-St. Petersburg is a gem in our community, and providing funding for the business school is a positive development for our innovation district.”

The funding is necessary to complete a new building for the college behind the existing Piano Man building west side of the campus.

“We are grateful to the state for providing the funding. It also reflects the support the college has received from the students and broader community,” said Gary Patterson, interim dean of the college of business. “We look forward to being able to bring our students, faculty, and community together under one roof for the first time.  Our students will benefit from the partnerships that will develop from these interactions.”

“It’s been our number one priority for, I think, three years,” said St. Pete Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher.

The pro-business group put pressure on lawmakers to include funding in the budget to complete the business school’s new home.

“It’s really going to be a hub for the business community,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes said.

The building is expected to contain meeting space that could attract outside entrepreneurs to St. Pete.

Classes for USF St. Pete’s School of Business are currently spread out over four buildings making it difficult for the 1,000 undergraduates, 200 graduate students and faculty members to provide a seamless program.

The 60,000-square-foot building designed by local architecture firm Harvard Jolly will house computer labs, classrooms and faculty offices.

“And obviously there’s the quick direct impact of construction jobs over the next year and a half,” Steinocher said. “It’s a beautiful day when you have more cranes in the air because that means more families are being fed.”

The creation of a more robust school of business in St. Pete’s urban core could also boost jobs in the area by making the city more attractive to prospective employers.

“It’s really going to be a hub for the business community, whether it’s just bringing in experts into the community or growing talent out of the business community,” Brandes said.

Lawmakers settled on a budget late Monday night after about $300 million in local project funding was added, including the USF St. Pete College of Business funding. A USF medical school proposed in downtown Tampa would also get $17 million.

Brandes said up until the last minute lawmakers didn’t know how much money would be available in the budget for the project.

“We were all prepared for a lower number,” he said. “We were ecstatic when it came out at $12 million.”

While the budget appears good-to-go, lawmakers won’t finalize it with a vote until later this week. State law requires a 72-hour waiting period once a budget hits lawmakers’ desks.

From there it would still require Gov. Rick Scott’s approval.

Legislators are under the gun with this year’s budget. If one is not approved by July 1 the state faces a partial government shutdown. Legislators are in Tallahassee for a Special Session after adjourning their regular session early last month without approving a budget.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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