There is a need to build a robust “creative class” in central Florida to improve the economic future of the region, and Florida Polytechnic University can play a key role in making it happen. That was the core message Dr. Randy K. Avent, Florida Poly president, delivered at the I-4 Commercial Corridor Conference held on Friday, June 28, at the Innovation, Science and Technology Building in Lakeland, Florida.
“To turn Polk County into what it can be, we have to build a high-skilled, high-wage, high-tech workforce,” he said.
Avent was keynote speaker at the event that brought together more than 100 leaders in the commercial real estate industry to address the needs and trends associated with the I-4 Corridor, which includes metropolitan areas of Tampa, Orlando and Lakeland, and is composed of about 6.5 million people.
“There’s a big interest from business people as to what the prospects for the future are and how to change things,” said Gary Ralston, managing director and senior advisor at SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler, which sponsored Friday’s event. “There is a high correlation between technology, the economy and better-paying jobs, which translates into a better quality of life.”
Florida Poly can be an integral part of that regional development by fueling a high technology economy, according to Avent. He said companies want to be located near universities producing graduates in high-demand, low-supply fields.
“They not only want to build relationships with undergraduates in order to hire them after receiving their degree, they want to partner with faculty conducting cutting-edge research and graduate students performing much of the work,” Avent said.
The founding president of the University pointed to the undeveloped areas around the campus and showed a plan for a strategically constructed research park designed to meet the needs of business and education, while offering attractive amenities for students and workers.
Avent added that each new high-wage, high-tech job is accompanied by several mid-wage positions that support it, which ultimately leads to a better overall economic outlook for the entire region.
“That’s why universities, particularly technical universities, lead to economic growth,” Avent said.
Assistant Director of Communications