Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County Embraces Plan with $1 Million | 'Innovation Station' Sparks Optimistic Talk as Leaders OK Funding

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County Embraces Plan with $1 Million | 'Innovation Station' Sparks Optimistic Talk as Leaders OK Funding

Article excerpt

UF PARTNERSHIP

Backing a potential "game changer" for economic development, the Sarasota County Commission approved $1 million in seed money Friday to start an outreach program with the University of Florida's College of Engineering.

The "Innovation Station Sarasota County" will be an engineering tech center designed to encourage local students into UF's engineering program, provide internships and support startup businesses.

The county will draw money from its economic development incentive fund to finance the program over five years, as long as performance goals are achieved.

Others also are funding the Innovation Station. UF will provide $1 million, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation of Sarasota has pledged $980,000, and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation has earmarked $63,000.

"We believe this will be a game changer in terms of the economic impact that the University of Florida and this partnership with Sarasota County and many others will have on our community," said Jeff Maultsby, the county's director of business and economic development.

The commissioners voted unanimously for the funding at a brief special meeting, with several embracing the first-of-its kind program.

Chairman Alan Maio, a former owner of an engineering business, said he often recruited employees from the UF school.

"My old firm is packed solid with UF engineering graduates and master's graduates," he said.

Commissioner Charles Hines said the program will further Sarasota County's efforts to diversify its economy beyond tourism.

"This is an incredible piece of that puzzle that we are always trying to work on," he said.

The project, code named "Big Bang," has been quietly in the works for about 18 months under the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County. Commissioner Christine Robinson, who with other commissioners was informed of progress along the way, said the university took its time determining a location for the program. …

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