Thursday, September 20, 2018
Opinion

Column: MOSI move creates more potential for USF area

The recent decision by the Museum of Science and Industry board to move downtown is predicated upon sound analysis by an industry-leading consulting firm and thoughtful consideration by elected officials and community leaders.

The Tampa Bay Times correctly summarized the case for moving the museum in its April 22 editorial: "A fresh start for MOSI in downtown Tampa." The move would be a win for the museum and a big plus for the downtown area as it begins its eagerly anticipated revitalization project under the tutelage of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. It also provides tremendous potential for the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a 501(c)(6) created to transform the university area into a thriving live, work, play innovation district teeming with next-generation businesses and high-wage jobs.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance was forged in 2011, when Busch Gardens president and CEO Jim Dean, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft, Moffitt Cancer Center COO Jack Kolosky and Florida Hospital committed themselves and their institutions to an unprecedented collaborative effort to transform the area into a vibrant, globally recognized destination that would draw people from across Tampa Bay and the world. Soon, University Mall would join as the fifth anchor member, followed by 135 businesses and interests that joined in 2015, to include the University Area Community Development Corporation, Tampa Bay Technology Forum, BrightHouse and Tampa Electric.

Today the Tampa Innovation Alliance, in partnership with Hillsborough County, which has committed $2 million for planning; the city of Tampa; Temple Terrace; and the state of Florida, which committed $1.25 million in the 2016 legislative session, are engaged in this unprecedented public-private effort to build a vibrant innovation district. The 80 acres that are home to MOSI will serve as the catalyst for this transformation. The land is strategically located along Fowler Avenue, just across the street from the University of South Florida, one of the most powerful research and prolific patent-producing institutions in the nation. A pedestrian bridge links these two institutions and will serve as a proverbial bridge between the world of academia and creative ideas to the marketable commercialization of products.

Today the Innovation Alliance area supports more than 74,000 jobs, and one job in six in the district is in the technology sector. Our mission is to double the number of science, technology, engineering, arts and math or "STEAM" jobs in the area, providing the residents of our county and the more than 80,000 who live in the alliance area unprecedented opportunities to find high-wage employment in the burgeoning creative economy. To make this happen, we need a spark, and a MOSI move will serve as the catalyst.

This proposed move enables the MOSI property to be repurposed, creating an even more exciting future by leveraging the strengths of the Tampa Innovation Alliance anchors and members, all in close proximity, into a vibrant mixed use development that melds research, world-class shopping and an internationally recognized entertainment venue into the next cool destination that achieves Mayor Bob Buckhorn's vision of building a place where our children want to live, work and play. Equally important, we achieve the county's objective of transforming a property perennially in the red to a productive revenue generating property that maximizes the return on investment to the taxpayer.

A fresh start indeed.

Mark Sharpe is executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance and a former Hillsborough County commissioner.

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