Collaboration leads to SCF grant for tech center

Guest Correspondence

The new year is off to a great start at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. We are very proud to be selected by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity to receive a $3.6-million Florida Jobs Growth Fund Grant to establish the SCF Center for Advanced Technology & Innovation. To be selected is a sound endorsement of SCF and our outstanding track record of fulfilling our mission, keeping our promises to our students and community, and generating a strong return on investment to taxpayers.

This initiative reflects a partnership between our institution, local employers and the Bradenton and Sarasota Economic Development Corporations to meet the changing educational needs of our students and the workforce development needs of employers.

The Center will be a multipurpose building that includes a:

·      Coding Technology Academy,

·      Technology Incubator & Accelerator,

·      Video and Sound Production Studio, and

·      University Partnership Center.

With our partners, this Center will allow us to develop market-responsive academic and training programs that meet the needs of our community and industry. It will create experiential teaching and learning opportunities for our faculty and students and provide opportunities to diversify the college’s programmatic offerings.

The Center will be in Building 8 at our Bradenton Campus, which served as our library for many years. Long before we opened the new Library (& Learning Center), we began to discuss how we could best take advantage of a structure in need of renovation but with “good bones” and ample space. I asked every stakeholder group I spoke with how they thought we should use the building.  In more than two years of conversations, I received a range of answers, everything from a fitness facility to student housing to a petting zoo. SCF business and technology professors Bill Culver and Jason Reed planted the seed in my mind of a technology center that could teach coding and provide training and testing for technology certifications.

One of the earliest and most important conversations I had was with Sharon Hillstrom, CEO and President of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation. I was serving as the group’s chair at the time and we lined up our respective strategic plans and saw a regional need for technology skill development and entrepreneurship. That discovery led to conversations with subject matter experts, visits to other incubators/accelerators in Florida and research as we honed the vision. Our search ultimately led to a meeting with SCF alumnus Tom Frascone and his partners at BOLD and Vit●ture. 

As the idea evolved and new partners emerged, the opportunity for the DEO grant came into focus. Mark Huey and Destin Wells of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County brought the idea of expanding the coding academy component to multiple sites. SCF Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Todd G. Fritch combined our vision with the right partners to formulate the final plan.

This is a unique collaboration representing both our counties and will create long-term benefits for our students, faculty and employers. Our grant application grew stronger and impactful as each partner came on board, added their talents and joined the community-wide advocacy effort. The incredible level of support for this effort did not go unnoticed in Tallahassee.

The guiding vision of SCF is to be the region’s first choice for innovative, responsive, quality education, workforce training and community partnership. Without any doubt, this Center exemplifies our vision. I look forward to the work ahead and know that with our partners we will make the SCF Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation a huge success.

Dr. Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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