Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Marine-Centric University Sailing toward Manatee

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Marine-Centric University Sailing toward Manatee

Article excerpt

BLUE ECONOMY

MANATEE COUNTY -- Where do you go to learn how to build boats or run a seaside resort?

A new university aimed at training marine-related industries is taking shape for north Manatee County along the Interstate 75 corridor.

American Marine University aims to occupy a 200-acre campus with classrooms, workshops and dormitories, offering a wide range of curricula from aquaculture to charter boat operation to boat design.

The project would take years to materialize, but could theoretically get underway in three to four years with an initial class of 250 to 500 students, according to its founders. Eventually, they envision a $100 million-endowment university with eight colleges and 4,500 students.

Marine industry corporations, such as boat builders, shippers and boat brokers, would be the ones contributing the capital to build the place, in return for being able to shape the curriculum in ways that would garner knowledgeable interns and recruits.

The small group promoting the venture claims big-league

backers, including the Galati family, who run one of the region's most prominent yacht brokerages.

Plans for the new four-year school, with an employer-designed curriculum, have been in the works for two years, and are emerging as the proposed school's board of directors seeks recognition as part of Gulf Coast Community Foundation's Blue Economy innovation challenge.

The foundation, now fielding 25 proposals for a $375,000 grant to be awarded in mid-November, will announce five finalists on July 31 and give each of them $25,000 to help them develop their plans further. Finalists would have August, September and October to fine- tune, said Greg Luberecki, director of marketing and communications at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. "In the first week of November, the finalists will pitch their prototypes," Luberecki said.

American Marine University is to become a nonprofit educational institution devoted to marine industries skill sets, much like Daytona Beach-based Embry-Riddle University, which was established in 1925 and devoted to aviation-industry skills. Embry Riddle now boasts enrollment of 30,000 students.

In addition to offering four-year degrees, the university would seek to offer easier-to-manage certificate programs leading to quicker employment.

"This would be the Embry-Riddle of the marine world," said James R. Simons of Seminole, who is spearheading the endeavor. "Everything about it is related to jobs."

Campus plans

The group already has lined up a 200-acre campus along the I-75 corridor in northern Manatee County, and has begun the process of developing curricula.

Colleges for the proposed school include business and policy, transportation, hospitality and tourism, media arts, design and construction, aquaculture and underwater operations and research.

Simons is working closely with a number of other highly experienced specialists.

For help in planning the campus, the group draws on the expertise of Longboat Key resident and retired real estate developer Ron Weisser, who developed Wilderness Lake Preserves in Land O'Lakes and other properties in the Tampa Bay region. …

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