While Tampa International Airport and the University of South Florida (USF) have ties that date back decades, they have in more recent months collaborated on various projects, trainings and think-tank exchanges of ideas.
On Jan. 16, TPA CEO Joe Lopano and USF President Rhea Law formalized the partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding between the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees TPA and the county’s three public general aviation airports, and the public university. The signing took place at TPA’s SkyCenter One Boardroom as members of the USF leadership team and staff, HCAA board members and staff, and other attendees applauded the symbolic ceremony.
The MOU does not commit to any legally binding or specific obligations for USF or TPA but places greater importance on working together to identify research and growth opportunities, form partnerships, develop talent pipelines, and engage in other collaborative efforts.
“USF and TPA are two powerhouse economic drivers for the Tampa Bay region with a vested interest in prosperity and sustainability,” Lopano said. “We’ve long enjoyed a strong connection with one another to advance our mutual vision and mission, and with this MOU we will be more intentional and strategic in how we work and grow together.”
A news release from TPA says the MOU is the first to be signed between the airport and an educational institution.
“The University of South Florida is proud to partner with Tampa International Airport as we work together to create a better future for the Tampa Bay region,” Law said. “Through this partnership, we provide a pathway for our students to gain hands-on experiences at one of our nation’s best airports and for our researchers to apply their expertise to address important issues in our communities. We look forward to continuing to explore creative opportunities to expand our partnership.”
TPA and USF have enjoyed longtime connections, with many TPA leaders serving on USF advisory councils and USF student groups touring, learning and working at TPA. Over the past two years, TPA’s Office of Innovation, General Aviation Department, and Sustainability and Resilience Program have worked with the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability on various research projects related to electrification and energy efficiency at the Authority’s campuses.
“This MOU recognizes that TPA and USF have a global responsibility to explore, learn and contribute in innovative ways,” Lopano said. “By finding more opportunities to partner together, we can ensure a brighter future for our airports, our students and our region.”