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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

USF downtown project at top of Tampa Bay Partnership priority list



Securing another $22.5 million to build a downtown Tampa medical education and research center is the top priority for a regional advocacy group in the area as the Florida Legislature prepares to open the new session on Tuesday.

The Tampa Bay Partnership said the Morasani College of Medicine and USF Heart Health Institute in downtown Tampa will "attract top talent to the region, position Tampa Bay as a hub for medical research and treatment and strenghten our role as a national leader in the life sciences industry."

In 2015, the Legislature awarded $17 million for the project. Plans call for a nearly 320,000 square foot budiling on Channelside Drive that would give USF a downtown presence and generate $73 million annually in local economic activity, according to USF officials. But the school needs another $22.5 million to keep the project on pace for construction to start in 2017. USF estimates the ultimate price tag will be $153 million, with $41 million coming from private donations.

Other top priorities for the Tampa Bay Partnership includes seeking an unspecified amount to fund a Tampa Bay business incubator in downtown St. Petersburg, and a pair of sport-tourism related projects in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The group said they are supporting more funding for the Benderson Rowing Park in Sarasota County and the IMG Academy, a private sports training facility, because they can "increase our international profile, drive tourism and support the development of the sports performance industry."

The Benderson Rowing Park, which is hosting the 2017 world rowing championships, is seeking about $11 million in additional funding. It has receieved more than $10 million from the Legislature over the last four years.

The IMG Academy in Bradenton has said they attract more than 12,000 athletes a year to train at their facilities in a wide range of sports, including tennis, golf and baseball. IMG has already won more than $7 million from the state government over the last 3 years. 

The Tampa Bay Partnership is an advocay group that focuses on regional economic development priorities. The group says they'll be presenting their priority lists to state lawmakers in hopes of generating support for those issues. 

"The issues we've indentified transcend individual city and county boundaries," said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. "These are projects of regional significance, with an impact that resonates throughout Tampa Bay."

Besides the above projects, the group is advocating for funding for regional transporation projects and supporting Gov. Rick Scott's push to permanently eliminate sales and use taxes on manufacturing equipment and cut taxes on commercial leases. 

[Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2016 4:32pm]


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