Hundreds of people joined the celebrations yesterday as the University of South Florida Polytechnic held grand openings at its Blue Sky West business incubator and Blue Sky East business accelerator. Guests enjoyed food, beverages and tours of the facilities as mimes mimed, jugglers juggled and magicians performed tricks.
At Blue Sky West in Lakeland, the ribbon-cutting ceremony featured Sen. J.D. Alexander, Rep. Seth McKeel, Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, USF President Judy Genshaft, USF Polytechnic CEO Marshall Goodman and USF Trustee Gene Engle.
In Winter Haven, the Blue Sky East ceremony included Goodman, Alexander, Engle and Winter Haven Mayor Jeff Potter.
Numerous elected officials attended the events, as did USF Poly Campus Board members Michael Carter, Gene Engle and Ron Morrow.
“This is about Florida’s future,” said Genshaft. “We are creating opportunities and nurturing innovation – and this is just the beginning!”
Alexander agreed: “This is exactly the sort of economic development initiative that makes USF Polytechnic such a great fit with the state’s ‘New Florida’ agenda. We are positioning our region and our state to lead tomorrow’s economy.”
Thanking the community for its support, Goodman said, “There is no way to express how gratifying it is to see this level of support for an idea some people thought might be a little bit crazy. Our communities have shown that they share our faith in the creativity and dynamic potential of this region – and they’ve shown that they believe in USF Poly.”
Goodman also expressed his gratitude to the Central Florida Development Council for providing the initial funds that jump-started the Blue Sky project. Blue Sky also receive substantial support from Crossroads Construction, DSM Technology Consultants, the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency, the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, Marcobay Construction, NCT Group CPA’s LLC, Six/Ten Corporation and the Winter Haven Community Redevelopment Agency.
According to Eddie Hill, Blue Sky’s director of new venture development, “Even though Blue Sky is also a startup, we will begin operations with twelve clients -proof that the roots of an innovation economy in our region are already in place.”
USFP’s Blue Sky facilities are the first public business technology incubators in Polk County. They focus on attracting and nurturing entrepreneurial businesses in an environment where USF Poly faculty, staff and students can work with businesses to develop innovative technology. Incubated companies will benefit from the proximity to and resources of a national research university as well as the assets of economic development networks.