Rick Baker To Head USF Innovation Partnerships

The former St. Petersburg mayor will work to cultivate partnerships with research corporations.


TAMPA, Fla. (June 2, 2010) – The University of South Florida has launched a new initiative to develop partnerships with research corporations, headed by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.


Baker will be Director of “USF Innovation Partnerships.” A division of the USF System, USF Innovation Partnerships will cultivate research and development companies.


“Rick Baker has the vision and energy to get the job done,” said President Judy Genshaft. “This is the right time to build on our momentum in attracting SRI International and Draper Laboratories to USF and to the region.”


The time is right for the new initiative, Baker said.


“One of Florida’s great challenges, especially in these difficult economic times, is to diversify our economic base,” Baker said. “This becomes more important as we focus on becoming competitive, not just with the rest of the nation, but also with the rest of the world.


“I am excited at the opportunity to join USF’s efforts to expand the technology industries, business partnerships, and job opportunities in our community and state.”


The new initiative will be funded by the USF Research Foundation. “This is an ideal activity to expand upon the partnerships already established through the Research Foundation,” said Karen Holbrook, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation. 


“There is such a vast network of opportunities to capitalize upon that cannot be met by the very small professional staff we have in place. Rick's first-hand knowledge and relationships with these organizations is of extraordinary value to USF and to the region.”


The initiative will:


1)     Develop and support research partnerships with local, state, national and international research and development firms, and the general corporate community.


2)     Develop business relationships that help identify expanded career opportunities for USF students.


3)     Work with the USF Foundation to expand major corporate partnerships, including sponsorships, internships, staff training, and advocacy for USF System initiatives.


4)     Expand USF’s current business relationships into international areas where the university presently operates.


5)     Evaluate local, state and national policy to further the mission of USF Innovation Partnerships.


USF Innovation Partnerships will work with liaison personnel from the USF Research Foundation, USF Health, and the USF Foundation. Baker will work out of offices in USF’s Knight Oceanographic Research Center in downtown St. Petersburg, and in the USF Research Foundation offices in Tampa.


The new initiative will support existing research partnerships including SRI International, Draper Laboratories, Progress Energy, USF Health’s hospital affiliates, and others.



Biography of Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker:


Elected mayor of St. Petersburg in 2001, Baker played a leadership role in the team effort to recruit SRI International and Draper Laboratories to USF and the region.


He recruited 100 corporate partners for the city’s public schools, raised over $14 million dollars for various education programs, and led many efforts to attract and expand business in the city. The past decade has seen significant economic development efforts in the city, including those in downtown and midtown.


Under Mayor Baker, many of the city’s initiatives became recognized nationally – such as the “Mayor’s Mentors and More” public school programs; redevelopment of Midtown, one of America’s inner city redevelopment success stories; “Green St. Petersburg,” the city’s environmental and energy programs; the renaissance of downtown St. Petersburg; City Scorecard performance measurements; and neighborhood initiatives like “Play ‘n Close to Home,” a promise to build a playground within a one-half mile walk of every child in the city. St. Petersburg was one of only two Florida cities to be named “America’s Most Livable Community.” The city once noted as a retirement destination was honored in both 2007 and 2008 as “One of the America’s Best Communities for Young People,” by Colin Powell’s America’s Promise.


In 2008, Mayor Rick Baker was nationally honored by Governing Magazine as its Mayor - Public Official of the Year. He was appointed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush to chair the Governor’s Municipal Mentoring Initiative and to chair Florida’s Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.  Florida Governor Charlie Crist appointed him to the Governor’s transition division for the Florida Department of Transportation; Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Florida Department of Community Affairs; and Fish and Wildlife Commission.


Before being elected mayor, Rick Baker practiced corporate and business law for nineteen years, and was president of St. Petersburg’s oldest law firm, Fisher and Sauls, P.A. He was active in founding and leading many civic, cultural, and charitable organizations.  He has spoken and published extensively, and has written a book on the history of St. Petersburg and Florida titled Mangroves to Major League.


He holds a Bachelor degree in Management, a Master of Business Administration, and a Juris Doctor (with honors) from Florida State University.  He studied a summer semester of comparative law at Oxford University, and interned with Florida Supreme Court Justice Ben Overton. He and his wife Joyce are raising two middle-school aged children.