An experiment in restructuring higher education will be closely watched.
By Stacie Kress Booker
A bill passed by the Legislature this spring will reshape higher education throughout the Tampa Bay region. The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Don Sullivan (R-Largo), grants autonomy to the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg and Sarasota campuses, outright independence from USF for Sarasota's New College and four-year status for St. Petersburg Junior College, which will be renamed St. Petersburg College (SPC).
Pinellas County received the lion's share of changes in both status and state funding -- a combined $3.4 million for USF/St. Petersburg and SPC. Historically underserved in higher education, the county's about to play catch-up in a big way. And how USF/St. Petersburg and SPC manage this experiment at restructuring higher education to make it more responsive to local needs will be closely watched.
"Pinellas is going to be a testing ground to see how a community college and a university work together," says Bill Heller, vice president of USF/St. Petersburg.
The colleges plan to target two areas immediately: Teaching and nursing. Of the 900 new teachers hired in Pinellas County last year, 630 were from out of state. Florida faces a shortfall of 160,000 teachers and 156,000 nurses over the next 10 years.
SPC President Carl Kuttler plans to award between 500 and 1,000 teaching degrees in the next two years and more than 200 nursing degrees. A drop in the bucket, he admits, but a start.
As part of its new autonomy, USF/St. Petersburg will create a college of education, one of three planned new colleges, and expects to increase its enrollment to between 6,000 and 8,000 from about 3,600 now. Heller and Kuttler will work closely to ensure there isn't much overlap as well as to continue to share resources. "My hope is that we cooperate and collaborate," says Heller. "If we become competitive, it's going to cost every one of us."
The New College Challenge
Independence is a double-edged sword for New College, a small honors liberal arts college in Sarasota. While it means freedom from USF, under which it felt its budgetary and academic needs were overlooked, independence also means greater financial responsibility and increased fund-raising needs. Fortunately, the school of 650 students has supporters with deep pockets.
The New College Foundation contributed almost $2.5 million, nearly half of the school's annual operating expenses, in direct support last year. Over the past 20 years, the foundation has raised nearly $90 million for the college. That kind of fund-raising power is even more important now.
USF President Judy Genshaft says, "I worry about them." New College will now be competing with USF for funds and students, she says.
Senate President John Mc-Kay dismisses criticism that New College, which was on the brink of insolvency before USF took over in 1975, faces a tough time going it alone: "Those who say it will take a huge amount of money are something akin to Chicken Little."
AmSouth: Targeting Florida
TAMPA -- AmSouth Bancorp is planning a building blitz in Florida, targeting Naples, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. The Birmingham, Ala.-based bank is the sixth-largest in the state based on deposits. Executive Vice President E.W. "Rusty" Stephenson Jr., who oversees Florida operations from Tampa, says the four targeted cities represent "really high-growth, high-potential markets, higher than anything in the Southeast and anything in our system." The bank's goal is "30 branches in 30 months."
In the News
Haines City -- The Haines City Citrus Growers Association and the Dundee Citrus Growers Association combined their sales and marketing divisions, forming a new company, Diversified Citrus Marketing Inc., to collectively sell and market products from both co-ops. The new company will be the third-largest marketer of citrus in the state. The Haines City co-op generates $25 million to $30 million in fruit sales annually. Dundee, $40 million to $50 million.
Lakeland -- Jim Lee Insurance and Lanier Upshaw join forces this month to create one of the largest employee benefits organizations in Polk County. The merged company will operate under the Lanier Upshaw name and plans to branch out into self-funded programs.
Construction will begin soon on Parkway/University Center, Polk County's first high-tech research park. The 80-acre facility will be near Polk Community College and USF's Lakeland campus. Developer Loftin Real Estate expects to complete the project early next year.
Naples -- Legg Mason is buying Private Capital Management of Naples for $1.38 billion. PCM, which will continue to be managed by Bruce Sherman and Gregg Powers, is a private investment management firm with more than $8 billion in assets for about 1,500 wealthy individuals as well as foundations, endowments and institutional investors.
Polk County -- In a statewide first, the Polk County Tax Collector's office now accepts bed tax payments via the internet at www.mypolkcounty.com.
Sarasota -- The Sarasota Board of County Commissioners is hoping to drum up support for an environmental impact study on phosphate mining. The county, which has posted a petition on its website (www.co.sarasota.fl.us), wants to protect its water supply as phosphate-mining companies IMC Phosphates and Farmland Hydro LP look to expand into southwest Florida. Sarasota and neighboring counties are lobbying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a regionwide study, which hasn't been done since the late 1970s.
South Tampa Bay -- Leaders from Manatee and Sarasota counties are working with Tampa Bay leaders to form a regional economic development arm of the Tampa Bay Partnership. The new group would be called the South Tampa Bay Partnership Council. It will oversee communications and cooperative regional economic development efforts.
St. Petersburg -- Seafood wholesaler Sigma International paid a $1 million fine for treating, repackaging and selling rotten shrimp.
Tampa -- More tourists are visiting Hillsborough County, and they are staying longer and spending more money. The Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau says visitor spending has increased by $1.1 billion to $2.48 billion over the past five years. The number of overnight visitors increased 10% from 1999 to 2000 to 4.8 million.
Onetime local success story 2nd Century Communications is closing its doors and laying off all 121 employees, including 87 in Tampa. The telecom company, founded in Tampa in 1998, relocated to Rockville, Md., last year.
BP is considering the Port of Tampa for a $200-million liquefied natural gas terminal. The energy giant recently paid the port $20,000 for a six-month option to lease 60 acres where it would build the terminal. Tampa is among several U.S. sites BP is considering.
Merck & Co.'s prescription drug division, Merck-Medco Managed Care, plans to open a 140,000-sq.-ft. prescription processing center this fall at netp@rk, its third in the Tampa Bay area. It already has two mail-order pharmacies in Tampa that employ 1,000. The company would not confirm reports that the new facility may employ up to 1,000.
Harbour Island is getting another luxury high-rise, its tallest yet. Construction began in May on The Grand View, a $27-million, 21-story mixed-use development that will include 64 condominiums and a ground-level restaurant. More than half of the units, ranging from $150,000 to $800,000, have been sold. Clearwater-based Byrd Corp. expects to complete the high-rise by early 2003.