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Bank, USF support summit

A regional economic summit meeting planned for next year has gotten a major economic boost of its own: $50,000 from NationsBank and the University of South Florida.

The money will be used to help pay the costs of putting on the summit, said Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura, who is spearheading the effort.

"I'm elated that we have this commitment," Chillura said. "In my opinion it's already a success."

Chillura said he already has commitments from local governments to participate in the conference. They include Lakeland and county governments in Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Sarasota and Manatee. Tax money will not be used, he said.

USF has agreed to be the lead sponsor of the summit meeting and provide the space to hold it, Chillura said.

Although economic development often pits county against county, Chillura sees the summit as a way of showing how they can work together. Some projects _ professional sports, for example _ transcend county lines, he said.

"It's intended to bring the region together," Chillura said. "We have a very common, symbiotic interest with all these surrounding counties."

Some communities outside Florida have weathered the recession well, Chillura said. Experts from those communities will be invited to the summit to explain how they managed to do well while much of the country suffered, he explained.

Chillura said the key to economic recovery and development will be strong partnerships between business and government.

The County Commission is expected to discuss the summit today. Tentative plans call for the conference to be held in February or March.