Future Skills Center Collaborative home could be catalyst for East Tampa economy

There are hundreds of construction projects underway in the Tampa Bay area, but very few hold a promise to stop generational poverty and energize an entire community.

The future home of The Skills Center Collective is well underway just south of Hillsborough Avenue on 22nd Street in East Tampa

Celeste Roberts is a co-founder of the non-profit formed in 2007 to reach underserved communities through basketball at local schools and recreation centers. 

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"15 years later, this has really come full circle for us," said Roberts. 

The new building covers 55,000 square feet and will cost over $23 million. It will allow them to expand their mission to more kids. 

Along with three large basketball courts, it will house a demonstration kitchen, classrooms and plenty of other space where they will teach everything from basic finance, computer skills as well as health and nutrition. 

"We have to get them on a path to a place where they can make above a living wage, so that’s college, that’s full time employment, that’s vocational training and that’s the military," said Roberts. 

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She along with Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor and others toured the construction site Tuesday. Castor delivered a $3 million federal grant too.

"And they’re going to focus on giving young people the skills they need to open their own business to become entrepreneurs, and to share in the great success that’s the Tampa Bay area," said Castor. 

She says the location of the center is also key. 

While the Skills Center serves kids from all over Hillsborough County, it’s new home base could be a catalyst for the economy of East Tampa, which hasn’t had the economic boom felt in downtown, Channelside and other Tampa neighborhoods. 

"That’s why it's so important to be intentional about going into neighborhoods that haven’t had the investment they needed," said Castor. 

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The new collaborative will house The Skills Center along with four other non-profits, bringing 180 new jobs and serving more than 3,000 young people. 

They expect to open the new facility in November. 

"To be able to see young people achieve, that’s all you really need to fire up and move forward," said Roberts.