The City of Lakeland, known for its lakes, swans and quaint living, may soon take on a new title.
“There are five colleges and universities in Lakeland," Downtown Lakeland Partnership Executive Director, Ellen Simms said. "It is a college town, we just haven’t taken advantage of it.”
The longtime Lakeland resident said she’s looking to change that with the help of young people like Lexi Gauslow.
Gauslow, a Florida Southern College senior, came up with the plan to make Lakeland's college presence known.
“You can get a job here and it will be great," Gauslow said. "Also First Friday, where it’s like 'well it’s also fun to stay here.'”
It’s fun the ladies and several others plan to showcase with a college themed First Friday event downtown next month. They plan to showcase jobs at the Chamber of Commerce just before the festivities.
“People aren’t going to want to stay if they don’t have a job, so that piece is a huge component to having people come and stay in Lakeland,” said Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Administrative Assistant, Emily Rinehart. “So integrating the schools then to transfer into jobs is the two-part event that we’re really working on.”
Local businesses aren’t stopping at offering young people jobs, in fact, downtown Lakeland is offering their own incentive by handing out $5 "downtown bucks" for participating students to spend in the area.
“To get people to buy into this whole, ‘yes we are a college town thing,’ is probably going to take a while,” said Simms. “It’s gonna take a lot of public relations and for the colleges to come out, come off their campuses and come into downtown and engage.”
It’s a challenge Simms and several other local groups are banking on happening to help the growth of the city.
People involved in the project said they hope to see some results of their efforts to change the face of the town this year. They say the more long term, larger projects will take anywhere from five to 10 years.