Gov. DeSantis comes through for Jacksonville with $75M for UF grad school campus
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 5/5/23-House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, left, is joined by Gov. Ron DeSantis, during a news conference after the 2023 legislative session concluded, Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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The Jacksonville Jaguars want the campus near the sports complex.

While there were roughly half a billion dollars in budget vetoes from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Jacksonville’s biggest priority moves ahead.

The $75 million sought for a University of Florida (UF) graduate school campus to be located somewhere downtown is in the final spending plan, a big get for Jacksonville.

While some fretted DeSantis might not come through given the election of Democrat Donna Deegan as Mayor, the Governor signaled that he would not veto the ask this spring during remarks at a local press conference.

“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.”

“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,” DeSantis said.

House Speaker Paul Renner, formerly of Jacksonville, also was a big booster.

“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.

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 for a project championed by Mayor Lenny Curry, UF President Ben Sasse, and UF board of trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini, a regional powerbroker.

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.”

The location is undetermined, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are willing to cede 14 acres adjacent to the stadium sports complex that the team wants built out before 2030. They also are willing to front $5 million of the private contribution.

A.G. Gancarski

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


One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    June 15, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    How much longer can Rhonda veto stuff? Cannot wait till the day after, when Rhonda loses the vast majority of their in-state endorsements.

Comments are closed.


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