No need for North Tampa branding now

On July 21, 2011

By now, many students have noticed the Bulls flags branding USF's campus and the ongoing Leroy Collins Boulevard construction, but may be unaware that they represent part of a larger goal.

USF has joined the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Busch Gardens and University Community Hospital to form the Tampa Innovation Alliance. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the project was inspired by USF's "Branding Bulls Campaign" and has two plans: offer more welcoming entrances for these locations and brand North Tampa as an attractive, job-creating location for other businesses.

The group has gathered some early attention, meeting with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Museum of Science and Industry, according to the Times. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that firms in California, Massachusetts and New York have also expressed interest in being consultants.

Yet, in these tough fiscal times, USF should be wary of spending money outside the University instead of inside. The USF System has had its state funds slashed, students' tuition has been increased the full 15 percent and employees have lost 3 percent of their salaries to their pension plans in this legislative season alone.

Though not necessarily part of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, USF entryway construction such as that at Leroy Collins Boulevard displays the exorbitant costs of just the short-term goal of improved entryways.

Ray Gonzalez, assistant director of project management for Facilities Planning and Construction, said to The Oracle that the construction projects will cost "several million dollars" from "University accounts."

One can't help but wonder how those millions could have been spent elsewhere within the University.

While the new landscaping and banners may better "brand" USF's entrance, it's unlikely such aesthetics would ever be the determining factor for businesses scouting locations.

Creating more inviting entrances for USF, Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center and University Community Hospital only represents the short-term goals of the group. As the economy shows little sign of improving, investing money into a multi-year branding venture is unwise. USF President Judy Genshaft suggested each of the four institutions donate $100,000, according to the Times, to start up the alliance.

Some of the proposed changes, such as renovating Fowler and Fletcher avenues, would be more immediately beneficial. Yet, with the number of traffic accidents and fatalities on these roads, including USF student Kayoko Ishizuka last year, the issue is one of safety as opposed to beautification.

It's nice that USF wants to "create a sense of entry for the university," according to the Times, and promote the growth of businesses surrounding the campus. With tuition increasing and salaries suffering, however, the University needs to ensure that students, faculty and staff have the means to enter in the first place.

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