By Andrew Duffell
Sun Sentinel, December 31, 2012- More than in recent years, 2013 is a time for fresh starts. An historic presidential election is settled, the U.S. is slowly recovering from the Great Recession, and now we have to heal after the unspeakable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Florida should lead the way in making 2013 a year of progress and possibility. Comprehensively examining how we educate our youth, and investigate the unknown would be a good start, but only a start unless we also make the changes found to be necessary.
If we can accomplish that task, it will help us lead in economic development as well, an area that has been much talked about but not well understood.
Legislators will convene in March to consider the best way to govern this state, and have a responsibility to prepare our state as best it can, for the future.
More than simply funding education adequately, the Legislature should find ways to encourage local districts to provide more technology in the classroom, and enable students to learn using modern methods that have been proven successful elsewhere.
Teachers, students and parents need to be involved and accountable in the education process in order that educated and responsible graduates emerge. Students who graduate high school proficient in the technology of the day will ease their transition to university, state college or vocational training.
These three latter places of higher learning are essential if we are to have a diverse and robust economy, powered by bright and able minds.
Universities need funding and incentives in place for researchers to develop technologies that are relevant to our needs as a state facing societal challenges, marine and coastal issues and the promise of biotechnology that will revolutionize healthcare, and more. The discoveries that researchers make need to have avenues available to them to find the open market, and tools to make them ready for development and sale.
Entities like the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research are forging the path for university-based technologies to bridge the famed "valley of death" and commercialize their potential. Creating more tools for them to seed these companies is a worthy investment in the future of technology and company development, which means jobs.
The pursuit of job creation has led to the creation of several funds with which to recruit out of state companies: the Senate has wisely said it will scrutinize these resources. A recent investigation by The New York Times revealed that these expenditures rarely pay off for the taxpayer; doubtless studies will be presented showing the opposite.
Rather than buying companies and out of state brands, a more responsible investment for the economic recovery and sustainable long-term growth would be to focus on company creation and technology development from within Florida. Funds can thus be redirected to education reform and investment, infrastructure development and enabling promising companies.
Further, our business operating environment should be critically evaluated and adjustments made in order that desirable out of state companies relocate here, without massive injections of finite dollars.
The Legislature should take heed of the recommendations of BioFlorida and other high tech trade associations, for example. These industry practitioners know the challenges of doing business in our state and propose common sense ways to improve it.
A responsive regulatory environment is attractive to entrepreneurs looking to start companies, and to those established companies from out of state that are laboring under high tax burdens and bad weather elsewhere.
If Florida is to capitalize on its vast resources – a diverse people, high quality institutions of education and research – as well as its considerable investments in biotechnology then it must ensure that it is a place that bright people want to live and bring up their families in creative communities, and start businesses for the long term.
In this way we can make 2013 a year that changes things for good.
Andrew Duffell is President & CEO, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University.