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Campus alliance could benefit Lakeland campus

In an effort to break business barriers, USF’s alliance with the University of Central Florida could make the best of both institutes’ resources.

USF President Judy Genshaft wants communication from both campuses to work together to improve business in Polk County. As a result, members of the East Polk Committee of 100 hope to see the USF Lakeland campus become an Information Technology institute in the near future.

The committee is a coalition for economic development and focuses on developing its workforce.

Ron Morrow, executive director for the East Polk Committee 100, said the relationships between business in Tampa and Polk County are gradually growing, since the county lies halfway between USF and UCF.

Morrow said Genshaft announced to Polk County business leaders last week that she wanted the Polk Committee to join Tampa’s business community to change development in Polk County as well as help build a stronger economy for it.

“With economic influence of two big markets, (it could) have a real impact,” Morrow said. “We are trying to build a real connection with the university system so the changes at USF will make Lakeland an IT campus.”

The partnership between USF and UCF, Morrow said, would allow information technologies to be shared between both universities. That could help expand business markets.

“We’ve got a training base for an IT campus here now that we didn’t have before,” Morrow said.

If Lakeland becomes an IT institution, Morrow said the result could strengthen employment within the county.

“It trains a badly needed future work force,” Morrow said. “Prior to that if you wanted to get a full-fledged, four-year degree, you couldn’t get it here, you had to go somewhere else.”

Morrow said he saw Genshaft’s announcement last week as the beginning of discussion on how the counties could connect.

“We are part of Tampa and part of Orlando, and we can’t get out of that,” Morrow said.