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Fla. Budgets $100M for UF Tech Campus in West Palm Beach

Hoping to accommodate an influx of jobs at technology companies, the West Palm Beach Global Center for Technology and Innovation will cultivate expertise in cybersecurity, financial tech, data analytics and other areas.

(TNS) — With state coffers overflowing with cash, the Florida Legislature has allocated $100 million for a University of Florida technology campus in West Palm Beach.

UF, which has a goal of becoming the nation’s top "AI University," has described the South Florida expansion as a way to “serve the needs of the region’s rapid influx of companies across sectors, including finance and technology."

AI, or artificial intelligence, and fintech, a combination of financial services and technology, are two of the hottest trends that have potentially enormous transformative potential for society.

The $112.1 billion state budget agreed to by legislative leaders and awaiting final approval from senators and representatives includes $100 million for UF’s “West Palm Beach Global Center for Technology and Innovation.” It’s by far the largest state college system project in the state budget.

A Florida Senate funding request in January, described UF’s plans to “develop an urban campus … that will cultivate a critical mass of fintech, cybersecurity, and data analytics expertise strategically located in the heart of West Palm Beach. A goal is to support Florida’s burgeoning high tech economy.”

The language in the budget legislation said the $100 million is for “the design and construction of educational facilities focused in the areas of engineering, law, business, and other areas involving financial technology on a campus to be located in Palm Beach County.”

The state has plenty of money for the project — coffers are flush with cash, thanks to a booming economy and billions in federal aid that poured into the state under the Biden Administration’s allocations to states as part of federal coronavirus aid.

In describing the plan to bring high tech research and education to West Palm Beach, university and local government officials depicted it last year as potentially transformational for the region.

They said it could bring thousands of highly skilled graduate students to the area, eventually allowing Palm Beach County to attract more high-tech companies and jobs.

When Palm Beach County commissioners approved plans last year, they referred to it as a “touchdown” and a “no-brainer.” The plans, county officials said at the time, were for a campus in a three-block area east of Tamarind Avenue, from Clematis Street to Fern Street.

The legislation containing the appropriation said it was contingent on a donation of “approximately 12 acres” of land in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County has long been higher education purview of Florida Atlantic University. A Florida Senate document said UF would work with public- and private-sector partners, including FAU, Palm Beach State College, Palm Beach Atlantic University and the K-12 school system.

The original funding request said the campus would “offer globally distinctive, top-tier, interdisciplinary and unique graduate, professional, and executive education taught by world-class faculty.” Business and industry will co-create the curriculum, and colleges of engineering, business and law would be involved.

Private funds and the contribution of the land will provide another $200 million toward the project, the Senate request stated. The first phase of the project involves classrooms, multi-use space, a student center and related facilities.

State Sen. Bobby Powell, D- West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth and the university didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon.

State lawmakers are expected to vote on a $100 billion-plus state budget on Monday. That will wrap up the 2022 legislative session in overtime after lawmakers failed to reach a deal on spending by Tuesday, the deadline to allow for adjournment by the originally scheduled end date of Friday.


In December, WPTV-Ch. 5 reported UF would acquire Scripps Research Florida’s assets, including three buildings in Jupiter, 70 acres of vacant land, and other assets and liabilities. The plan calls for the state university to integrate their academic health center’s research operation with the nonprofit’s biomedical operation.

In the early 2000s, Scripps was promoted by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, county commissioners and state legislators as something that would transform Palm Beach County into a leading national biomedical hub, reshaping the region’s economy.

In 2003, the Florida Legislature approved more than $300 million in incentives to persuade La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps to open a research center in Palm Beach County. The county spent $187 million to build the Jupiter campus after investing more than $100 million on the original site, Mecca Farms, west of Palm Beach Gardens.

“In one fell swoop we have been given this opportunity of having the goose that lays the golden egg,” then- Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty said in 2003. “This is an opportunity we don’t want to blow. This is once in a lifetime.”

It never lived up to its billing.

Orlando Sentinel staff writer Skyler Swisher contributed to this report, which includes information from Sun Sentinel archives.

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