Universities and Job Creation: Taxol, Gatorade, NowBrow
Around the State
In Florida this week, the Senate passed Senator Don Gaetz's jobs bill. A good bill we should all support. It has a significant price tag so it will not be easy. I'm not wild about one section that gives small tax credits for new hires (companies won't hire people they don't really need) but all other sections will help create real jobs in the private sector.
Speaking of real jobs, we should all keep in mind a very interesting jobs statistic. Seventy-five percent of the net jobs created in the last ten years were created in organizations less than five years old. That tells me that to create real jobs we need to help create new businesses. The other 25 percent, by the way, are created by big business through growth and expansion. Two important targets for our job creation efforts.
Yesterday I was invited to attend a ribbon cutting for a new business on the Florida State University campus. The students who helped create this new business were making a formal presentation of their creation to the new FSU President Eric Barron. These fantastic young people had spent over a year working with Tom Petrillo, a very charismatic business dynamo who cares about FSU and wants to be a part of their efforts to build new businesses and create real jobs.
Petrillo's business is hair and beauty products. He also owns commercial schools that produce salon professionals all over Florida... real jobs. His new idea was a kiosk operation that did, of all things, eye brow sculpting. Come to find out there is a real market for this. Who knew? Tom worked with a team of students to create a brand, develop a business plan, design the kiosk, marketing materials, etc.... Their plan is to place 400 of these in malls across America and internationally in the next few years. Real jobs, real capital formation, real economic development under the watchful and supportive eye of a State university. He also pledged the profits from the first two (Governor's Square Mall and FSU) to come back to the university... $100,000 per year.
While universities across the country have always played a small role in business creation the concept has never been really embraced by the economic development folks or the general business community. What a shame. Of course, we have had great examples of product creation in Florida Universities. FSU has made a bundle from the cancer drug Taxol and the University of Florida earned a fortune from Gatorade.
Chris Hart, Governor Crist's economic development guy gets it. Universities should be huge support engines for business and job creation. Not happening yet. We spent an hour together in my office one day talking with great energy about the potential of Florida's university system to drive our economy in dramatic fashion.
If the Florida legislature and the Federal government want to create jobs, a partnership with our universities is a great place to invest time and treasure. The legislature should task the universities to use their knowledge and systems and creative students... and existing business stars (like Tom Petrillo) to create new products and businesses directly in the shade of their oak trees. The NowBrow project was done in the FSU retailing center. If every Dean of every school were encouraged and given incentives to foster new business ventures... If every university was expected to be an incubator for great new business ideas and were funded for their success by the State... If a relationship between the business community and the universities was targeted at business creation...
So... in the annual report of every university a report was expected and praised that told of the new businesses created in the school of medicine, business, music, chemistry, computer science, mathematics... you get the picture.
Real jobs, real new businesses, real leadership in developing Florida's economy.... Do it now... this year. We need the jobs.
Rick McAllister is president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.