Plenty of Blue Sky Ahead

When I first started the process of applying to USF, The local area was peppered with advertising for the university. All of the LED jumbotron style billboards advertised the college and "Blue Skies Ahead." I thought it was just a slogan, because opportunities for the majors offered on the Poly campus are better than some offered at more traditional schools.

Then, during welcome back week for this semester, I met an energetic gentleman who asked those of us manning my club's table if we were familiar with Blue Sky. None of us were, so we got a brief explanation that it is a business incubator for Polk County. First thing one of my companions asked was "Are there internships?" and the answer was definitely.

Recently, I got a chance to visit the Blue Sky offices in downtown Lakeland, where it became clear that along with the university's expansion into a full scale, four year school, there will be plenty of energy devoted towards growing businesses to hire the school's graduates.

The concept is not a new one. Stanford University built a research park on their campus back in 1951 and created a business incubator of their own. In that park, some small companies like Hewlett Packard, Sun, Cisco, Yahoo and Lockheed Martin got their start. As such, USFP is poised to do the same thing in Central Florida, where the real estate prices aren't out of reach.

The whole design of the offices in downtown Lakeland takes the idea that many Silicon Valley employers use-if you work hard, you will want to play hard. There's a two story slide (it was a lot of fun), video game systems, a sand rail car, and a foosball table on the way. Along with the fun stuff, there is plenty of technology and offices with open doors to encourage intermingling of these small companies, so that they can share ideas and spur each other on.

The whole experience of being at the Blue Sky office helps to cement the plans Ed and I have. If you'd asked me when I started school, the game plan was to go wherever I could get the grants to get the master's degree and/or job post grad school. However, I seemed to have picked a good program-and a good school. They don't just want to produce graduates, they want to produce opportunities, too.

It will be cool to see what innovations come out of Blue Sky, to see what nurturing ideas into businesses and little businesses into bigger ones will do for this area.


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