As a candidate for mayor, Bob Buckhorn said he would support the University of South Florida's research mission any way he could.
If that meant helping with zoning, land development reviews or changes to regulations, so be it, candidate Buckhorn said -- anything to foster the creation and clustering of spin-off companies, especially downtown near USF's Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation (CAMLS).
"I think we've made progress, certainly rhetorically," Buckhorn said in an interview on Nov. 19, 2014. USF is a regular part of his stump speech. In November 2011, he traveled to Israel to meet with executives from Simbionix, a manufacturer of medical training simulators that are used at CAMLS. In 2012, he opposed proposed legislative budget cuts to USF's Tampa campus. But often, he said, his support has meant being a cheerleader for the university.
Then along came Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and Mayor Buckhorn upped his ante.
Amid discussions during 2014 about the idea of USF building a new medical school building on a piece of Vinik's land near downtown Tampa, Buckhorn has:
• Made clear that he supports the move;
• Embraced the idea of using downtown redevelopment funds to pay for roads, utilities or other infrastructure that the development would need;
• Urged USF trustees to approve the move;
• Made lobbying the Legislature to appropriate money for the medical school a top city priority for the spring 2015 legislative session.
And, yes, Buckhorn said he thinks there would be a beneficial connection between having a downtown medical school and USF's research mission.
"It would be helpful in attracting talent," he said. "I would think it would help in attracting companies that would take advantage of that talent."
During his campaign, Buckhorn promised to cut through red tape at City Hall if that would make USF's research initiatives easier to do. By moving the medical school downtown, Buckhorn has said the university's research mission would benefit from its proximity to an area that's attractive to young professionals. And he is backing up his support for the move with vocal advocacy, the prospect of city cash and City Hall's lobbying presence in Tallahassee. These are real and tangible steps. Though a downtown medical school building isn't a done deal, Buckhorn's support is clear and unequivocal. We rate this Promise Kept.