How Polk County economy fits in regional goals
Wake up and good morning. In the game of "what do you want to be when you grow up," economic developers in Polk County east of the Tampa Bay area have some fresh guidance. County efforts should focus on medical services, logistics, research and engineering and agricultural research, says a new $130,000 regional study conducted by (isn't it a small world) SRI International.
"This study will help us get a better focus," Central Florida Development Council Tom Patton told the Lakeland Ledger. This is more efficient that using the “shotgun approach of asking everyone to come to Polk County.”
Three cheers for that. "Come peek at Polk" probably isn't a winner slogan these days. Besides, what happens in Polk County doesn't stay in Polk County. The entire Tampa Bay region, the I-4 Corridor, greater Orlando and points east all have a vested interest in what each piece of central Florida is pursuing in economic development. Like it or not, the outside world looks at central Florida as one economic strip and we better get it right when it comes to all of the pieces interlocking with one another.
There's an important puzzle piece that can help keep us better focused: the public universities. Specifically, in the case of Polk County, the rising influence of the Tampa-headquartered University of South Florida system with its emerging anchor campus near Lakeland called USF Polytechnic. And the SRI study findings are probably not a bad fit with the goals of the regional economic development group Tampa Bay Partnership (whose county membership includes Polk), as well as the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, a group charged with developing a tech industry in central Florida, primarily along I-4 -- which happens to cut through many miles of still undeveloped land in Polk County.
The SRI study wanted to make sure there was economic diversity, the Ledger reports. "We always talk about a basket of clusters," said Lynne Manrique of SRI, explaining there are too many variables in the economy to focus on a single or small number of businesses.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist