'Tis the season for collaboration

December 9, 2013 

Mary Helen Kress

During the holiday season, we look forward to spending time with special people in our lives. The season is also a time to be grateful for our collaborative community partnerships to assist expanding businesses. Communities that figured out how to strategically collaborate and leverage resources to improve their economy have been successful in recovering more quickly.

In Manatee County, strategic partnerships have been forged to improve the area's economic strength. An economic development team that includes representatives in economic development, education, government, non-profits and private funders meet weekly at Suncoast Workforce to discuss each partners' current and future projects. These partner meetings have led to tactical coordination of efforts to assist businesses who are adding to their workforce and training workers with the skills businesses need today and for the future.

Air products, a manufacturing company located near Port Manatee, is a good example of why collaboration is so important and the positive results that partnerships produce. Before Air Products had its new location, it was connected by Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation to Suncoast Workforce. Suncoast Workforce business services team determined Air Products' needs and they sourced and screened prospective employees for several on-site hiring events. Since June, Air Products has hired 57 new employees, 22 from Manatee County. Of the 23 salaried employees, 12 were from the Bradenton area. Further, they anticipate that they will hire at least 200 more over the next four years.

"Suncoast Workforce has been instrumental in meeting our deadlines and identifying the appropriate people. They have given us the ability to engage talent in the area and are a valued team member," said Bill Jurena, plant manager for Air Products.

Air Products was also connected to Manatee Technical Institute which conducted welding assessments for potential workers and then used MTI's instructors and welding booths for intensive training of new hires. Further, they were made aware of training grants and were awarded $400,000 from Workforce Florida, Inc. through the Quick Response Training grant.

"From the EDC to Suncoast Workforce to

our internal recruiters, they've all played a part with making it a singular effort to identify the site, equipment, and mostly importantly, the human element," Jurena said.

By coming together and leveraging resources, we have become a stronger, more economically viable community for attracting business and workers. We will continue to focus our efforts along with our strategic partners to: Collaborate - Innovate - Lead.

Mary Helen Kress, president and CEO of Suncoast Workforce, a not-for-profit corporation serving Manatee and Sarasota Counties, writes about employment issues throughout the region.

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