Orlando Sentinel OTHER VIEWS My WORD Orlando-Tampa future is about working, not building, together Randy Berridge May 2, 2008 Robert Lang's recent commentary, "Orlando, Tampa: Collision Course?", raises some important points. Clearly, however, this distinguished Virginia Tech urban-affairs expert hasn't heard about all the things our two regions -- the seven counties that include Metro Orlando, Daytona Beach, Melbourne and Lakeland and the seven counties surrounding Tampa Bay, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater -- are doing independently and together to create opportunity, manage growth and plan for the future. Lang is not the first futurist to suggest that these two communities will grow into one, and he probably will not be the last. However, when looking at the mutual goals of both regions -- those called for by the myregion.org "How Shall We Grow?" initiative and Tampa Bay's "OneBay" effort -- that certainly is not how residents from these areas see their future. Residents of each area, including those of centrally located Polk County who participated in both regional-visioning efforts, have clearly expressed a desire for growth that is focused in appropriate locations around community centers and that maintains our environmental assets. Residents do not want the linkage between the two regions to include a series of homes, buildings and parking lots stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, connecting Tampa Bay and Metro Orlando needs to be about partnering on initiatives that take advantage of the great strengths of both areas, not necessarily about creating a built environment that turns the two distinct areas into one giant mega-city. A dozen years ago, the presidents of the two major research universities on the Interstate 4 corridor -- John Hitt at the University of Central Florida and Betty Castor, then with the University of South Florida -- recognized the benefits of working together. The two, through designation by the Legislature, formed the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, which funds matching research projects across an area that stretches from coast to coast and now includes 23 counties and three major research universities (the University of Florida joined the Corridor Council in 2005). This partnership of our three universities and companies within the corridor has resulted in 800 applied research projects that have generated $420 million in corporate, institutional and federal matching funds. In 2007, CoreNet Global identified the unique and innovative partnership developed through the High Tech Corridor Council as one of the top economic-development partnerships in North America. As Lang suggested, it is important that leaders from both areas come together to plan for a future in which the communities of Metro Orlando and Tampa Bay work together on a global stage. When developing land-use policies and transportation infrastructure that will impact the entire I-4 corridor, these leaders need to ensure that the plans reflect the future desired by area residents. They also should emphasize economic efforts that, like the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, provide innovative ways to capitalize on the assets of both areas and lead to economic stimulus and new high-wage job growth throughout the central part of our great state. Randy Berridge is the president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and a former executive at AT&T. He is a member of the board of directors for myregion.org and the Tampa Bay Partnership.
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