Research Proposal: Public Initiative Stanford Research Institute City

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Public Initiative

Stanford Research Institute city initiative is a city plan to begin a project and then to implement it. In San Francisco, for instance, the "Livable City Initiative is a partnership between city government, local residents, and the business community to develop a comprehensive vision for greening San Francisco, develop citywide greening programs and projects, and create tools that assist communities in initiating greening projects locally" (SF 1) and Detroit has a "Free" drug program funded by block grants and Medicaid entitled Treatment on Demand: A Public Policy Initiative of the City of Detroit, administered by the Bureau of Substance Abuse to prevent, treat and help recovering drug addicts (Trent 16).

Normally, a city, authorized by its Town Council or Board of Directors, will issue a policy initiative paper, which calls for funding by donations, grants and other sources, which will assist the city in reaching a goal outlined in the policy initiative paper. This goal may be environmental, economic, incentives for manufacturing, industry or population growth or control of it, solving social problems, or filling other needs of its citizens.

In 2006, the City of St. Petersburg formed a policy initiative with the county of Pinellas and the state of Florida to attract and bring in research and development (R&D) industry to the Tampa Bay area. On November 30, 2006, SRI International, a Silicon Valley-based (Menlo Park, California) non-profit organization, one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations, officially selected St. Petersburg, Florida for the construction of a New Marine Technology R&D Facility. On November 30, Mayor Rick Baker, announced: "Contingent upon a formal agreement, the City of St. Petersburg will provide a site for SRI's new 30,000- to 35,000-square foot facility, and will design and construct the facility to accommodate 100 employees at the Port of St. Petersburg within the Bayboro area, a designated State Enterprise Zone. The city will lease the new facility directly to SRI. Funding for the design and construction of the new facility will be provided by the State of Florida and Pinellas County." On December 1, 2006, he said "There's no question that we are thrilled to have a research organization as prestigious as SRI International join the St. Petersburg community. Our goal is to support the development of high-wage jobs and high-value research that will help further economic development in the region" (Pinellas, 1)

St. Petersburg was hoping SRI's development would bring further business activity to the vacant port next door, as well as generate other economic development. The city planned to lease the facility to SRI for $1 in annual rent for 10 years. In return for tax incentives, SRI agreed to employ 50 by 2008 and hire another 10 to 15 each year, reaching 100 employees by 2012. "The jobs are supposed to carry average salaries of $55,000 to $63,000" (Silva).

Citizens were upset that so much money was being offered to SRI in the form of tax breaks and incentives, to attract them to the St. Petersburg area, while in return only a few jobs (50) would be offered, and most of those jobs would probably be going to people brought into the area from elsewhere. They were afraid that only a few jobs would be available to the citizens of St. Petersburg at this great price: "Recently, the City of St. Petersburg, the county and state brought a local company (SRI) to the city with $30 Million direct and over $30 Million indirect tax incentives for "economic development." The City likes to promote "economic development" through targeted use of taxpayer dollars. This is not unlike speculating on the success of a business investment. The only difference is that the speculator doesn't risk the loss of their own money - they risk the loss of taxpayer money.... It is time for the city to stop throwing good money after bad and look for a way to turn all these risks over to the free market. Any CEO who had speculated on a business venture in this way and lost so much so quickly would be severely scrutinized by their board. Instead of learning from such misfortunes, the city is now participating with the County and State in a venture with SRI to risk more taxpayer money (over $60 million total) on more "economic development." They are hoping it will spin off some sort of business activity next door at the vacant port... And generate other economic development - all from a company that has 95% of its income ($297 Million in 2005) from government only sources.... In the mean time, the port - without a single passenger - requires 8.4 full time equivalent security jobs (24/7) to man the port to comply with regulations... (the bleeding continues)." (St. Petersburg, p. 1)

On December 14, 2006, the St. Petersburg City Council approved the facility lease and development agreement with SRI. The City of St. Petersburg agreed to provide a site for SRI's facility, and to design and construct it at the Port of St. Petersburg within the Bayboro area, a designated State Enterprise Zone. Funding for the costs of the new facility would be provided by the State of Florida and Pinellas County, each of which provided $5 million (SRI, 2007. p. 1).

On January 2, 2007, SRI officially approved planning and operations of its new marine technology unit in St. Petersburg, Florida and began operation of the New Marine Technology Unit. Mayor Rick Baker welcomed the research and technology development organization to St. Petersburg. (SRI, 2007, p. 1)

On January 4, 2007, SRI International Inc. opened its new branch in St. Petersburg. An article appeared in St. Petersburg Times, attempting to assuage some of the criticisms which tax-payer organizations had leveled against the city government for designating so much of tax-payer's money ("more than $30-million in government incentives") to attracting this non-profit organization to St. Petersburg. The article explains, "That package of public dollars was practically chump-change for the 60-year-old research organization, which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts and grants each year. The payoff to government agencies and industries that hire SRI? Innovations that have revolutionized everything from the way National Guard units train to the way doctors perform surgeries" (Hundley 1).

The new facility to be built by the City would be located near the numerous oceanographic and marine science agencies in the Bayboro Harbor section of St. Petersburg. While awaiting the completion of the building of the facilities, SRI St. Petersburg was located temporarily on the USF campus at Bayboro Harbor. In January 2007, SRI officially began operations by accepting the transfer of approximately 40 staff members from the University of South Florida's (USF) Center for Ocean Technology in St. Petersburg (SRI, 2008, p. 1).

On May 3, 2007, SRI joined NASA's Neemo 12 Mission to demonstrate remote, Telerobotic Surgery and on August 3, 2007 the organization, now known as "SRI St. Petersburg" deployed its prototype Ocean Wave-Powered Generator.

On October 26, 2007, "SRI St. Petersburg awarded NAVAIR contract to develop Maritime Domain Awareness System for improved port security." The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command had awarded a 5-year, $36.5 million contract to SRI and its National Center for Maritime and Port Security to develop a maritime domain awareness system with robots which would search for bombs on the bottom of ships, to improve port security in the United States.

Developing a partnership with the City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the state provided funding as well as land to build the SRI facility. The city's contribution included part of the $10 million incentive, the waterfront site at the Port of St. Petersburg and a 10-year facility lease. The city demolished a condemned warehouse to accommodate a 37,000 square-foot facility. In addition, SRI was granted $20 million from the State of Florida's Innovation Incentive Program fund (SRI, 2008, p. 1).

Partnership with the State of Florida has been important to the implementation of the City of St. Petersburg. The city officials joined with state officials to unify efforts on a larger-than-citywide goal. "Our goal has been to make St. Petersburg an international center of excellence for marine science and technology, and with the addition of SRI International, we have the ideal organization to lead the National Center for Maritime and Port Security and the development of an integrated port security system," said State Congressman C.W. Bill Young, "This five-year initiative will bring opportunities for greater security to Pinellas County residents, to Florida, and to our entire nation" (SRI News Release).

SRI is evidently only the beginning of St. Petersburg's attempts to attract cutting edge technology institutions. SRI's $36.5-million antiterrorism contract with the Navy has helped in attracting interest from another high-tech firm, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, which is also being offered $30-million in tax incentives to expand to Tampa and St. Petersburg (Krueger).

And SRI's activities in the St. Petersburg area seems to have already been promising some income. Larry Langebrake, director of SRI's marine technology program… [END OF PREVIEW]

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