Work force expansion is critical as corporations relocate to Southwest Florida: Moore About Business

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Southwest Florida Business TODAY’s Publisher Karen Moore spoke with Lee County Economic Development Director John Talmadge about how the future workforce development needs of Southwest Florida relate to companies here and our local education system. Below is a short and clear transcript of their speech.

Karen: So what’s the biggest positive impact on the local economy from the storm?

Talmage: Well, I think the biggest positive is the difference that corporate relocations continue to happen, and in some ways, even accelerate, you know, enough of the community in Bonita and Estero that people continue to buy. The houses there. And we’ve added companies like Kingland, Convergent, Donna Jo Brands to our inventory. And these companies continue to do well. Not only did they move here, they opened offices here; On several occasions, they have also opened their national offices here.

Karen: Of all the commercial projects going on in Lee County right now, which projects are you most excited to discuss?

Talmadge: Kingland and the top 100 jobs in software development and computer design are probably the ones that interest me the most right now. That positively forces FGCU to begin exploring doctoral programs and advanced master’s programs in computational science, which they are very excited to be doing. So from this initiative, a new education sector, a new product sector and a new intellectual property sector is to enable this company to have its headquarters here.

Kingland operates a security system that allows the New York Stock Exchange to communicate with the SEC. Therefore, complex, multi-user systems need to communicate securely with government regulatory agencies.

Karen: This is a big deal. That’s a big company. And now I’m finally starting to really understand, John, how your intent was to partner with the local university, the local high school system, to provide the education and provide the manpower that we need. So when you first come here, you’re not constantly fighting the “we’d love to come here, but you don’t have the manpower for us” thing you hear from companies.

Talmadge: Our challenge, Karen, is to fill both outgoing workforce jobs, retiring workers, and new growth, and create 200,000 new workers in each sector, over the next three to five years. And so the challenge for us, and FGCU and FSW and our other education partners in the school board, is really focused on a little bit of evidence.

It was great fun going to an FGCU basketball game with President Timur and watching one of her senior staff members being interviewed by ESPN on the small evidence.
So, the time has come. FGCUIt has emerged as a leader in this sector.

In fact, we are taking advantage of a grant initiated by the Office of Economic Development with ARPA funding. And that has now led to a $23 million EDA (Economic Development Administration) grant that has allowed them to make a national name for themselves in this space.

Karen: That’s really exciting, how all of those things are coming together to transform our region economically, because it gives us so many more opportunities that we didn’t have before. And it took all the factors you mentioned to make that happen.

Talmage: And we don’t have time to make sure everyone gets a full four-year degree before they start working. But if you can get a six-week micro-credential in critical care or cybersecurity or code and get into a job — while pursuing a degree — that takes a long way to get there, that shortcoming is going to be seen very soon.

Karen Moore is the publisher of Southwest Florida Business Today and is special to WGCU.

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