Gov. DeSantis backs $75M for UF Jacksonville campus

DeSantis Broadband
'I've been favorably disposed to it.'

One major budget question for Jacksonville is apparently resolved, with Gov. Ron DeSantis sounding like he supports $75 million for a University of Florida (UF) campus in Jacksonville.

Speaking at JAXPORT, the Governor made a strong case for the appropriation shepherded through the legislative process by House Speaker Paul Renner.

“What people have said, and I think there’s some truth to it, (is UF) is doing a good job. But most, 95%, of the people leave Gainesville when they graduate, right? Probably even more than that. Well, if they’re going to move, they can move to Atlanta or Charlotte just as easy as they can Jacksonville or Miami or wherever, or Tampa,” DeSantis said.

The Governor then made the case for “having those institutions in places where we have a lot of economic opportunity.” He deemed it “more likely that people will end up staying in the area if the program is located in this area.

“You see that in different parts of the country,” DeSantis noted.

“Part of the reason Silicon Valley is what it is (is) because you have those universities and people tend to just stay there. You look at other places: the Northeast, Boston. You look at Chicago, although Chicago is going through a lot of problems. But, you know, they’ve got some really good universities there and then a lot of the people stay there and they’re able to contribute.”

He then said there is a review process ahead, but backed the overall idea of the funding.

“I have not seen the line item in the budget, you know. As you know, we go through everything. But I think that there’s a clear vision of how this can be successful. And I think there’s been huge support from the local community, which really makes a difference.”

DeSantis also noted that “a lot of the people in the private sector have been really supportive of this initiative and I think that there’s a lot of potential there.”

Renner called the project a “win-win” for Jacksonville.

“What the University of Florida doesn’t have is a city, a big city like Jacksonville, being based in Gainesville. And what Jacksonville doesn’t have is a top five university in Jacksonville. So this is a big win-win for both,” Renner said, seemingly discounting the University of North Florida in his comments.

The Speaker said the project is “transformational for the city and it’s obviously something that I’ve supported based on the consistent support in the city and both the city and the private sector delivering on the promises that they would back this fully and match the dollars that we’re putting forward.”

This is a big win on a project championed by Mayor Lenny Curry, UF President Ben Sasse, and UF board of trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini, a regional powerbroker.

Sources close to the process expressed confidence ahead of time that $75 million would be the number that prevails in the end, with Hosseini working behind the scenes and Renner doing the heavy lifting.

The $75 million requested will match $50 million in local funding, the first $20 million of which was authorized in March by the Jacksonville City Council. That money is contingent on securing firm commitments from private-sector donors.

The $50 million in private funding is contemplated for what could be a “15-acre campus expected to handle about 1,000 grad students with a focus on health care business, engineering, and artificial intelligence,” according to WJXT.

According to the funding request, the money will facilitate “world-class, interdisciplinary, professional graduate programs facilitating the creation of a state pipeline of highly trained students and enabling the connection of invention/innovation through solutions-based programs developed by UF Health and UF’s colleges of Business and Engineering, which will boost core competencies in biomedical technology and AI, patient quality and safety, health care admin, fintech, and more.”

The money is intended to “support the initial phase of development of urban core location in downtown Jacksonville potentially including classroom, multi-use space, student center, and related facilities. State funds could be used for planning, design, construction, lease payments, and other eligible purposes.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Jeanne Locke

    May 2, 2023 at 10:40 am

    Are we really comparing Boston and downtown Jacksonville?. If we want graduates to stay in Jax, put the campus in E-town or off Butler Blvd, near the vibrant beach community and housing. Driving out of downtown is already a mess and there are few services or people there.

    • Logan

      May 2, 2023 at 12:12 pm

      This project will be a major catalyst for that area to grow economically. College students also prefer a more urban environment in general. Riverside, Brooklyn, and Springfield are light years above e-town when it comes to vibrancy, walkability, and culture. E-town is just a suburb and offers nothing special. Having over 10k students, faculty, and staff, brought to DT jax will be a major pump to the chest to bring in more money for that whole area of Jacksonville.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn