Friday, December 19th, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

Include universities in state economic development grants

"Partner with universities... State economic development grants will always include partnerships with universities to develop research strengths into unique clusters."


Updates

States getting some money, but not every time

Part of Rick Scott's 7-7-7 Plan to create jobs in the state included the promise that economic development grants would "always include partnerships with universities."

Almost four years in and with a re-election campaign in full swing, PolitiFact Florida decided to check back in on that promise.

The idea here was that pairing universities with businesses would create research clusters that would spark more job growth. We previously said that it would be a challenge to include schools in every single economic development grant. It proved to be an even bigger challenge getting the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to tell us if that was happening the case.

The governor's office referred us to DEO, which proceeded to give us a total of their budget for state colleges and universities since 2011. Department spokesperson Jessica Sims said more than $35 million had been given to post-secondary institutions for projects and partnerships since then.

The bulk of that total is a $29 million grant over three years to the University of West Florida's Office of Economic Development and Engagement "to aid in job creation and economic diversification within the eight counties most affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill."

School

Funding amount since 2011

Broward College

$950

Chipola College

$80,855

Florida State College

$172,408

Florida State University

$294,017

University of Central Florida

$1,993,193

University of Florida

$1,103,496

University of North Florida

$261,300

University of South Florida

$261,300

University of West Florida

$29,313,748

Bethune-Cookman University

$750,000

Sims also pointed out that "funding for the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, in partnership with the University of Florida, has also continued to receive state funding, including $5.5 million in funding for the current fiscal year." We knew about that project, to help investors and entrepreneurs identify business opportunities for technology developed through publicly funded research, when we first put this promise on the Scott-O-Meter in January 2012.

So has the state included universities in every grant since then? The DEO refused to say, simply referring back to the aforementioned items.

We originally said that since it was hyperbolic to use the term "always" in this promise, we'd give Scott credit if there was some evidence that universities were consistently included. Even that is hard to prove, although there are some projects that have been funded on a recurring basis.

We'll grade Scott on a curve for this one, because some grant money is clearly going to schools. We call this promise a Compromise.

Sources:

Rick Scott's 7-7-7 Plan

Pensacola Business Journal, "UWF taking proposals for business grants," Oct. 11, 2011, accessed via Nexis Aug. 4, 2011

Interview with John Tupps, Executive Office of the Governor spokesperson, June 24, 2014

Interview with Jessica Sims, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity spokesperson, June 27 and Aug. 6, 2014

Legislature funded the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research

Rick Scott said he would leverage Florida's universities to help create jobs in the state. Partnerships between universities and businesses could create research clusters that would spawn even more jobs, Scott said.

Scott's promise was that universities would be included in state economic development grants, money that goes to recruiting businesses to the state of Florida. Additionally, he said the grants would always (emphasis ours) include partnerships with universities.

We're not sure it's realistic or appropriate to include universities in every single economic development grant, but we would award Scott credit if, over his years in office, universities were consistently included.

We asked Scott's office about this promise, and they pointed us to state funding for the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. The nonprofit, which was created by the state in 2007, helps investors and entrepreneurs identify business opportunities for technology developed through publicly funded research. The institute received $10 million in fiscal year 2011-12, and the governor's budget includes another $1 million for 2012-13.

This is positive progress on this promise, but we think it's too early to issue a more definitive ruling, and we're still looking for more evidence. We rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

Gov. Rick Scott's communications office, Response to PolitiFact's questions on the Scott-O-Meter, Dec. 28, 2011

Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, Florida Announces New Funding Program for University Spinouts, Oct. 19, 2011