What's next for Florida Polytechnic?

6:44 PM, Apr 23, 2012   |    comments
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LAKELAND, Fla. - Bulldozers run across the site of the new Florida Polytechnic University and dust flies across the barren landscape, but a video produced by architect Santiago Calatrava shows striking, modern buildings.

That is the vision for the state's 12th university and getting there will take millions, political power, and cooperation.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity for businesses in the area," says Winter Haven technology entrepreneur Ingram Leedy. Leedy runs an information security company, the kind of company that needs STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates.

Leedy helped Senator JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, lobby Governor Rick Scott to create Florida Polytechnic. Now that a decision's been made, Leedy says it's time for everyone to come together and move forward.

"The first step would be to have a stellar board of trustees, so you need to take the vision that was created and execute on it," says Leedy, who would like to see a board named quickly by Scott and the Board of Governors.

The Director of Winter Haven's Economic Development Council is also excited about Florida Poly. Even if it takes years for the university to develop, David Petr can sell the idea of an educated workforce now.

"Whether this happens in one year, five years, or ten years, the long-term view is that they'll have great students to pull from," says Petr. "This is one more tool for us, so we're excited about that."

While supporters of the Poly split say it's important to look down the road, others are more concerned about the here and now. Some students at USF Polytechnic are worried about the transition and, on Monday, USF President Judy Genshaft delivered some grim news to faculty and staff at the Lakeland campus. Contrary to what she told them in February, Genshaft now says there will not be enough money for USF to absorb everyone during the phase-out of the Lakeland operations.

Reached by phone late Monday afternoon, Sen. Alexander told 10 News that he believes people will soon forget about the controversy surrounding the creation of Florida Poly, because they will see the institution filling a great need for the state.

A Board of Governor's committee concerned with the transition of USF Poly to Florida Poly meets at the end of May.

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