Manatee County's manufacturing base is growing

Sun Hydraulics, Veethree Electronics & Marine, Hobart Ground Power, DENTSPLY Raintree Essix Glenroe, Clare Controls.

While many communities are suffering from a drain of manufacturing companies, Manatee County's manufacturing base is growing.

To date in 2012, the Manatee Economic Development Corp. assisted five manufacturing companies that have announced plans to locate or expand in Manatee, and they are bringing jobs with them.

In fact, more than 400 manufacturers are located in Manatee County, and of the 52 relocations and expansions the EDC has helped to facilitate in the past 36 months, 58 percent of the companies provide manufacturing-related jobs.

So the jobs are here and more appear to be coming, but do we have the workers to fill them? A study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute reported that more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled nationally. In the Manatee-Sarasota region, comparable data are hard to come by, but just about every manufacturer we talk to is struggling to fill available jobs.

With the region's unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent, the trouble isn't having enough candidates, it's having enough qualified candidates.

Manufacturers in Manatee and Sarasota counties are learning that they can turn to a team of workforce development resource providers -- government agencies, nonprofits, business organizations and educational institutions -- to help recruit and train the skilled employees they need.

One recent success story in this collaborative approach is CareerEdge, the local funders' collaborative that independent research shows has produced millions of dollars in new wages and economic impact for the Manatee-

Sarasota region. This week, CareerEdge will launch a survey of manufacturers to identify whether appropriate training exists and, if not, what must be changed or added by training partners to help manufacturers fill skill gaps, hire employees and grow their companies.

Manufacturers are encouraged to complete the online survey at, beginning Wednesday.

CareerEdge also recently spearheaded development of a regional Workforce Design Team made up of numerous groups involved in workforce development to work together on solutions.

The EDC is part of that group, bringing a wealthof experience in collaborating with the various workforce entities in the region to meet employers' needs.

For example, recent discussions with Manatee Technical Institute could result in a custom training program in welding that would be used by numerous manufacturers in the region to train job candidates, as well as existing employees.

The EDC also is working with the school district, State College of Florida and MTI to interest students in highly skilled, well-paid careers in manufacturing.

In addition, the EDC has helped Suncoast Workforce and CareerEdge identify businesses that could benefit from training grants, while connecting employers to institutions that provide skills training.

To advance the conversation about workforce development in the region, the EDC will host a discussion forum June 27. Details will be available at or send email to to request an invitation.

Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Manatee Economic Development Corp., can be reached at or 941-748-4842, ext. 128.