1. Opinion

Editorial: USFSP business school deserves state support

The business school at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has succeeded despite its physical constraints. Spread across seven locations on the campus, the school's 1,900 students and faculty have never had a place to call their own, yet they have still managed to launch an entrepreneurial program that's garnering national attention. It's time the school had its own facility, and a single $5 million line item in the state budget for 2013-14 could start the process. Gov. Rick Scott should approve the money as a smart investment in a higher education program that's already impacting Tampa Bay's economy for the better.

Initially, USFSP had hoped to collect $10.5 million from the Legislature in the coming year toward planning and construction of a $25 million, three-story building on 2.5 acres of land it owns.

But the request dwindled as the Legislature labored through the budget process. Finally, state Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, ensured that at least $5 million could be provided for the project.

Now it is up to the governor, who has been increasingly circumspect about what criteria he will use as he wields his veto pen. He must sign the budget next week.

This line item should withstand the scrutiny. It is on a list of priority capital needs submitted by USF president Judy Genshaft, and it is for a business school that has already proved its mettle in adjusting to Florida's economy. In just three years, the school has built a program that encourages students to explore start-up ventures that local business leaders are convinced will ultimately pay dividends for the regional economy. And in January, the school received recognition as an "outstanding emerging entrepreneurship program" in the United States by the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Scott has talked repeatedly since taking office of the need to link higher education programs more with the economy students enter upon graduating. USFSP is already showing the way by training and inspiring future small business owners, among others. It's an idea well worth another $5 million state investment.