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  • 29 Apr 2024 2:51 PM | Anonymous

    By Mary Dougherty

    Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) members build hospitals, schools, libraries, the places where you go to work, cool things like Mote SEA and all types of other commercial projects.  The costs for these projects have increased significantly over the past several years for many reasons.  Many GCBX members also provide residential services and the cost do work at your homes has also increased.  We’ve all seen the impact of inflation over the past several years, but another contributing factor is the inflationary effect caused by the lack of affordable housing.

    Many years ago, employees at companies could afford to live in or near their places of work.  That changed over time and employees were forced further away to more affordable housing.

    The increased commute times for these employees not only affected the quality of life for their families, ie. less family time to spend with children, increased stress due to long commutes and less time for life’s more enjoyable activities such as hobbies or walks and exercise, it also increased costs for their employers which have to be passed on to the end user. 

    Careers in commercial construction are good paying jobs.  According to the average contractor salary in Florida is $70,000/yr. and the range is $38,000 - $127,000.  According to ZipRecruiter the average hourly wage is $35.00/hour or $73,000/year. Recent data (2023) from the Federal Reserve reports that construction wages in Florida reached a record high.  These are good salaries, but housing costs in Sarasota are 34% higher than the national average according to Best and 25% higher than the average Florida home.

    Another significant cost to businesses affected by this issue is the cost to purchase company trucks which has almost doubled in the last several years.  Additionally, when employees lived closer to work and their service areas the life of a company truck was approximately 5 years.  That has now been reduced to 3 years due to increased mileage and wear and tear on the vehicles.  I’m told by GCBX members, the cost to insure one of these vehicles has jumped from $3,400/vehicle to $5,600/vehicle.  The annual cost for auto insurance for one GCBX member recently jumped from $200,000/year to $230,000/year.  These costs continue to be on an upward trajectory with no signs of diminishing in the foreseeable future.

    These are all costs to the business that contribute to increasing project costs for businesses moving to the area, fire and police stations being built, and also to service calls to your home or place of business.  These increased costs impact all of us. 

    It goes without saying that there are many variables that impact these increased costs, but the lack of affordable housing is certainly one of those variables.  Affordable/Workforce/Sustainable housing (whichever term is most applicable) has been an item for discussion in the community for a very long time.  It’s important to ensure that people who work (including Police Officers, Teachers, Nurses and yes construction workers) can afford to live in the community.

    There have been several articles recently talking about different proposals to address this problem.  These seem more concrete and sustainable than many of the discussions over the years.  It is critical to the health of the community that we stop talking about this issue and start implementing solutions.  This issue is having an inflationary impact on the cost of doing business in the area and that impacts all of us.

  • 12 Apr 2023 11:04 AM | Anonymous

    By Mary Dougherty

    Let me take this opportunity to talk about something good, the Construction Technology Academy at Riverview High School. To say this program has been amazing is an understatement.

    From the beginning, we knew there was a workforce shortage in the industry that was exacerbated by the pandemic and looming retirement tsunami, but the unknown was whether there was an interest in the community to fill this workforce need – and, more specifically, if there was an interest among high school students.

    GCBX (Gulf Coast Builders Exchange) commends Sarasota County Schools for working with the industry, targeting the job needs in the community and for being responsive to those needs by developing this program, because not only the need, but the interest was overwhelming.

    The journey started with the classroom buildout and supplies. The budget was almost $400,000 and a four-month timeframe to get it done. GCBX members stepped up with in-kind donations of time and materials for the actual buildout, leaving the hard dollar need at about $120,000. This need was met through the generous monetary contributions of GCBX members.

    The next challenge was to find the perfect instructor. In group meetings, the attributes this instructor should possess were discussed and the Principal at Riverview set out on a recruitment mission. The perfect instructor was found. He possesses knowledge and experience in the industry and the ability to teach and relate to the students. As we like to say, it was like he was from central casting. We were ready to go, but the next step was the real challenge.

    Next was to open registration for the first year of the program and hope to fill all 60 spots. This happened within two days of opening registration and had a waiting list of 60 students. Students and their families were definitely interested.

    Construction Technology Academy takes off

    The Construction Technology Academy was off the ground! The students hit the ground with safety first and training in OSHA requirements, important for the work world, but also important for the classroom. Then, of course, there was Hurricane Ian. The instructor for the course took it as an opportunity to go around campus and pick up debris from the trees that resulted from the hurricane and teach the students how to make usable wood pieces from the branches and then make birdhouses with the bark covering the outside. Of course, building a birdhouse would be a part of a class like this, but these were works of art covered in the natural bark from the trees and the students learned a valuable skill in processing the pieces from downed branches.

    As the year has progressed, the students have gone from birdhouses to a tiny house, but more importantly they are developing skills they will use in life and in the workforce. Many of the students have apprenticeship and internship opportunities and are continuing to learn and develop the skills necessary for the workforce; others are preparing for college and using this opportunity to explore their interest in fields such as engineering and architecture.

    As the school year is coming to an end, the real test of success is what happens next year. Well, let me tell you, year two is full and also has a waitlist.

    This program was a success for the students, but also a success story for the school district and the industry coming together to meet workforce needs. It serves as a great example of how the private sector and the school district can work together to meet workforce needs and provide jobs with successful career paths for graduates in their own community. Let’s hope this program continues long into the future and expands to other high schools in the region.

    Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. Contact her at

  • 13 Jan 2023 11:38 AM | Anonymous

    By Mary Dougherty

    It is less than a month since Hurricane Ian hit Florida. The magnitude of the devastation is unfathomable. Our hearts go out to those in the hardest-hit areas.

    I know that members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange have been hard at work making repairs to schools and businesses to get them back online as quickly as possible. We are seeing the best in our community after such a terrible disaster. As you drive down the I-75 you see work crews from many different states coming to help repair the damage. As a country, we can be proud of how we come together for each other after disasters.

    During times like this, we even see political differences put aside. The federal and state government have been working together, counties have reached across lines to send law enforcement and emergency services to assist other agencies that have been stretched to the max, and once again we can be proud of Sarasota Memorial Hospital for providing services for other areas where hospitals were damaged.

    While many of us in the region were fortunate to have minimal damage, our neighbors to the south and east need our continued help. At GCBX, many of our members are reaching out to help their employees that were impacted by the storm and mobilizing crews to begin recovery efforts.

    Soon it will be time to look at the lessons learned from Ian. The biggest takeaway is that these storms are unpredictable. The governor was warning the entire west coast of Florida in the days before the storm and that warning was appropriate. Pinpoint accuracy for this type of storm just doesn’t seem possible, so we cannot depend on it. We all must be prepared. I thought I was prepared, but in retrospect I will do better next time.

    We all need to check our insurance policies and make sure we have adequate insurance coverage. The storm surge and river flooding associated with Ian have shown us that many parts of Florida  where homeowners did not think they needed flood insurance were not spared the fury and devastation caused by the flooding.

    Yet, when you look at many areas affected by the devastation, you see some structures that seem to have survived the worst of the fury. We will not know for quite some time, but I wonder if this means that newer building codes implemented after past disasters did, in fact, live up to their promises. This certainly is not how we wanted to evaluate them, but nature has put them to the test.

    Additionally, I recently saw a segment on "60 Minutes" about Babcock Ranch, a community 12 miles away from Fort Myers (according to the segment). The community had minimal damage and they featured residents resuming their normal lives in a noticeably brief period of time. It was amazing to see, and you couldn’t help but feel good for the residents of Babcock Ranch and to wonder what lessons can be learned from what they are doing down there.

    I am sure all that will happen in the appropriate time, but for now we need to help our neighbors. We also need to be grateful for the employees in city and county governments who are still mobilized in the EOC. They work immeasurable hours during these disasters, taking time away from their own families during a time when being with your family is one of your greatest gifts. We appreciate them and the work they do for all of us.

    Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. Contact her at

  • 22 Aug 2022 1:03 PM | Anonymous

    By Mary Dougherty

    To quote former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, "The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen."

    As private citizens, we have responsibilities in our society. One of the most important is to vote. Take the time to become informed about the candidates running for office – and vote. Please vote.

    Early voting is underway for the Aug. 23 primary and many local offices will be decided, so please do your civic duty and vote in the primary. Don’t just wait for the general election in November.

    Yes, big elections for Congress and Governor will be on the November ballot, but the offices closest to the people will be on the Aug. 23 primary ballot. These local offices most directly affect your daily lives. They decide what you will pay in property taxes, sales tax and a local gas tax. They oversee the conditions of your roads, your water and your trash collection. Many things we take for granted day to day as long as they are running properly.

    The ballot contains primaries for City Commission seats, County Commission seats, School Board seats, Charter Review Board and, though they often fly under the radar, Hospital Board seats. These elections represent the government closest to the people and their everyday lives. For example, by every metric, we have an exemplary hospital system. The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) is grateful for the commitment to the local economy shown by the current leadership at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Sarasota Memorial Hospital expansions have not only resulted greater medical care in the community, but $1 billion of construction. Due to the current leadership’s commitment to local industry, those dollars have been reinvested in local businesses and strengthened the local economy.

    We are fortunate locally to have honest and honorable men filling the role of Supervisor of Elections in both Manatee and Sarasota Counties. I am fortunate to have known both of these individuals for many years and I am certain they run elections where every vote counts as it was intended by the citizen that cast the ballot.

    So, please do your research. Please don’t base your decision solely on negative campaign material. Take some time to form your own opinion. Then vote, feeling certain that your vote will be counted and make a difference.

  • 18 Aug 2022 4:36 PM | Anonymous

    By Mary Dougherty

    With inflation, gas prices, soaring rents, supply chain issues and costs catapulting through the roof, it was inevitable that economists were going to start talking about a recession or leveling off in the economy.  Fortunately, from everything I’ve read recently it is not expected to mimic the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 because the same factors are not at work in the economy.

    I don’t want to pretend to be an economist in this article, but I am a business person and I do pay attention to economists, so from everything I’m hearing/reading we are due for some sort of leveling off.  I’m hopeful that Florida will be an outlier in whatever lies ahead.  Yet, we can’t be certain.  We need to be prepared and mitigate the effects to the best of our ability.

    Lessons from the Great Recession taught those of us involved with Commercial Construction that the Capital Improvement Plan in a County is a life preserver for local construction businesses in a downturn.  When County Governments can bond these funds so that they can begin these projects sooner at presumably lower costs, they can be moved forward in the county’s plan to push work out on to the street to support local businesses.  This is exactly what counties in our region did during the recession that occurred earlier in the century.  This resulted not only in a lifeline for local businesses, but cost savings for the county government.  Additionally, these funds have a trickle down effect for other local businesses such as restaurants, insurance providers, dry cleaners and the myriad of other local businesses that these businesses and their employees utilize on a daily basis.

    Keeping local projects local by hiring local General Contractors and sub- contractors is a win for the community.  Local firms hire local people and support the local economy, so we all benefit.  Local projects not only keep local businesses alive and their workers employed, but as evidenced by the project at Selby Gardens, programs can be initiated to support the training and hiring of individuals in underserved communities.  This is a win/win for the entire community.  The place you and I call home!

    We can’t control what happens at the national level, but as I said above, I believe Florida may be an outlier and prosper more than the nation as a whole, but we must be prepared for any and every eventuality.

    What we can control is our ability to react.  The Penny for Improvement which will be on the ballot on November 8th gives us that ability.  This is a continuation of a revenue source that Sarasota County has benefited from for over 32 years.  This isn’t anything new, but it has been and remains important for public safety, water quality, environment, traffic congestion, parks and more. 

    It is important to note that over 20% of the funds are provided by tourists and visitors.  Benefits for Sarasota County residents include improved roads, police and fire safety vehicles, parks, schools, water and waste management systems and more.  Many of these projects are built by local contractors.  This benefits the entire local economy.  Sometimes when we need it most.

  • 27 Jun 2022 9:51 AM | Anonymous

    I would like to take the opportunity to bring you up to date on some good news in the community (I think we can all use a little good news!). Riverview High School will launch a Construction Technology Program in August at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

    This will ultimately be a four-year program to introduce students to careers in the construction industry. The program is full (at 60 students) and includes a waitlist (60 more at last check). Workforce issues have been plaguing the local construction industry for many years, resulting in pricing increases and delays. According to professionals working with students, two-thirds of high school graduates don’t have a plan upon graduation. So, developing programs within the schools to provide industry-specific training was identified as a solution to meet the needs of the students and needs of the community. These students will graduate with marketable skills and experience to launch their careers, work their way through college, attend a Construction Technology Program at a university and/or utilize this experience as a life skill.

    As described by the school, Riverview will be the first high school to start its own Construction Technology program, utilizing hands-on experiences in the construction and trades industry alongside NCCER (National Center for Construction Education & Research) curriculum to meet industry standards. Students will come out of the program with these industry recognized credentials, but the emphasis will be on students getting meaningful internships, apprenticeships, and jobs here locally. The teacher launching the program has already been through the program as a student and currently teaches night classes at Suncoast Technical College and we could not be more excited to bring him on board at Riverview for the Construction Technology Program! The new project involves converting a commercial art lab into a functioning shop while providing students with tools relevant to the industry standards.

    Converting the art lab into a functioning shop is no small or inexpensive task, but members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) have already agreed to donate/in-kind 75% of the costs associated with the project. Additionally, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, in collaboration with the outstanding staff and leadership at the school district, are reaching out to the community for donations of tools and other consumables. The response has been tremendous!

    Additionally, while the program is ongoing, GCBX members will support the classroom activities by coming in to speak to classes, provide internship and apprenticeship opportunities and be first in line to hire the graduates upon completion of the program!

    So, while we are working hard to get this project completed by the opening of school in August, there is even more good news! Our friends and colleagues at the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce are working with Venice High School to develop a Construction Trades Academy at VHS!

    These programs will prepare high school graduates for the future, provide them with opportunities for careers here at home and strengthen the local economy. Programs such as these rely on support from the industry, but also support from the community.

    If you would like to know how you can help or get more information, please contact GCBX at 941-907-7745 or the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce at 941-488-2236.

    Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. Contact her at

  • 29 Mar 2022 11:06 AM | Deleted user

    Sarasota Herald-Tribune

    March 28, 2022

    Supply chain issues resulting from pandemic related snarls have plagued the U.S. construction industry for roughly two years now.

    The first widespread public notice of the supply chain issues came when the price of lumber skyrocketed to all time highs last spring, but industry experts said the difficulties sourcing some construction materials had been ongoing for months before that.

    That increase in the price of lumber to a record $1,500 per 1,000 board feet in May 2021 caused the cost for home builders to increase by tens of thousands of dollars, homebuilders told the Herald-Tribune last summer.

    While prices dropped to below $500 per 1,000 board feet by August, it has steadily been on the rise and above $1,000 per 1,000 board feet most of February and March.

    Sarasota homebuilders told the Herald-Tribune last summer besides the drastic increase in lumber prices, a lack of garage door springs as well as long lead times for windows delayed some projects.

    Delays can also be costly to companies as many contracts have dates built in when a project must be completed or the builder gets assessed penalties, leading to builders paying higher prices to ensure projects finish on time.

    The increase in price of construction material combined with a difficult labor market and the intense increase in demand for general contractors seen along the entire southwest coast of Florida has prompted local companies undertake innovative strategies in an attempt to solve their supply chain problems.

    Neal Communities, the largest locally owned home builder, purchased a Brooksville company that manufactures roofing trusses in February, part of the company's strategy for vertical integration.

    “Given the current supply constraints in the building industry, this acquisition is a step toward alleviating the difficulties in the supply chain that we are experiencing,” said Pat Neal, founder and chairman of Neal Communities.

    Vertical integration

    Chris Jones, a faculty member at the University of South Florida who holds a doctorate in economics, said as the supply chain issues continue more companies have looked into vertical integration as a potential solution.

    Vertical integration happens when a company acquires two or more stages of production typically undertaken by different firms into one company.

    "Basically, companies are looking to take a couple links out of the supply chain," he said.

    Jim Sullivan, director of undergraduate programs at the M.E. Rinker Sr. School of Construction Management at the University of Florida, said while he hasn't personally heard of many companies buying up suppliers to solve their supply chain needs, construction companies are attempting to address the problems in other ways.

    "What companies are doing is ordering early and storing more and more materials on site," he said in an email. "This does two things – guarantees the material is actually on the job and locks in the price. Currently those are the two big issues in construction – supply chain management and cost increases."

    Some of the supply chain issues

    Doug Sutter, president of the commercial roofing company Sutter Roofing, said while his company is busier than ever, the supply chain issues are a problem.

    He noted the company recently purchased equipment to open a light concrete division as a direct response to some supply-chain issues unique to the roofing industry.

    Both Sullivan and Sutter said insulation used in roofing has become difficult to find with some orders taking about a year to fulfill.

    Sutter said insulation orders before the pandemic took just three to six weeks.

    That's where the light concrete division, which can be used for insulation in roofing, comes in. It fills a duel purpose as Sutter is also worried about a shortage of roofing fasteners in the near future.

    "We feel this (opening a light-concrete division) gives us the flexibility to meet our customers schedules and needs than solely relying on POLYISO roof insulation," he said.

    Nate Yoder, marketing director for Mullet's Aluminum, said the current supply constraints reinforces something the company has believed for a long time — maintain great relationships with trade partners.

    He said because of the companies longtime relationship that stretches back to the 1970s suppliers have worked with the company to overcome problems as they became known.

    He said the company has worked with suppliers by showing them their anticipated project pipeline and purchased materials for the entire year.

    "I can't stress how important those relationships are," he said.

    Demand for commercial builders, labor shortages

    Mary Dougherty, executive director at the Gulf Coast Builders Xchange, said it feels like every time a snarl in the supply chain is ironed out, something else pops up.

    She said not all of the issues are pandemic related, pointing to the a hard freeze in Texas that knocked two of the three largest suppliers of PVC pipe offline.

    Still, she said her members tell her that demand for the for commercial builders is high throughout southwest Florida.

    "For Florida, it looks very good despite the supply chain issues," she said.

    She noted that while supply chain issues do seem to be a topic of conversation, possibly just as big of a problem is the labor shortages.

    She noted that this August Riverview High School will start a program focused on the construction industry for 60 students. She said a Riverview official told her there's a waitlist already and talks about expanding the program to North Port High School.

    While companies purchasing other companies to meet their individual challenges may solve the purchasers supply chain issue, it doesn't in it's own right fix the issue for smaller companies unable to afford vertical integration.

    Jones, the USF economics professor, said the purchase of a supplier can create challenges for smaller businesses who may no longer have access to the materials now directed toward the purchaser.

    Neal Communities noted in its news release the Brooksville truss company would "retain most of its current customer base and is adept in building a wide range of trusses."

    However, if the practice becomes more common, smaller companies could find it even more difficult to source construction materials, which would lead to a less competitive marketplace, Jones said.

    "It absolutely does have a impact in the short run," Jones said. " and an obvious impact to pricing and supply in the market."

  • 10 Mar 2022 2:02 PM | Deleted user

    By Mary Dougherty

    We all love living in Florida.  Our climate, both meteorologically and in business make this a very attractive State to call home.  I’m pleased to say I’ve called Florida home since 1979.  Yet we all depend on others for our day to day existence and quality of life.  We need police officers, teachers, nurses, grocery workers and others that are having difficulty affording to live in the region.  This also extends to the construction industry.  Members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange recruit at some of the top Schools of Construction Management in the country, but potential employees turn them down for offers in other areas of the country that are more affordable.   These are high wage and high skill jobs.  Exactly the type of jobs we prioritize for the region.

    To have a meaningful conversation about affordable housing, we have to have a conversation about government processes and regulations.  Just as a homeowner shouldn’t have to wait months for a home renovation permit, or a new home permit in an area where infrastructure and utilities are available, we need to make it simpler to get to yes to allow the housing that’s needed for our expanding region. When it takes a year or longer to have development applications considered that raises the cost of housing, creates uncertainty and also makes it difficult for existing residents to know what change is coming.  The fees for these particular petitions/applications can cost in the 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars before a single home is even started.  Streamlining the process, improving accountability in the reviews and encouraging affordable/workforce/attainable housing alternatives needs to be a priority for the entire region.

    When the local Sheriff’s say the number one issue facing their agencies is finding housing the system needs to be improved and be improved quickly.  It’s even more critical when our hospitals and medical providers are reporting the same issues.  While some local governments have taken steps to create incentives for smaller housing units designed to address affordable housing, not all the local governments in our region have taken steps to embrace these initiatives.  With so many local governments in our region, having artificial differences from one jurisdiction to another especially when we act and live as one community/region it just doesn’t make sense.  Residents don’t see municipal boundaries, but these boundaries are impediments to affordable housing.  Just as our local governments collaborate on economic development, they should collaborate to solve the affordable housing crisis in the region.  We will get further and achieve more working together.

    We are fortunate to call this region home.  We want and need to keep it a desirable place to live and work, but in order to do this we must solve the affordable housing crisis.  People moving to Florida will have different needs and desires when it comes to their housing needs.  We must plan for all these needs, but we must come together and also plan for attainable housing for essential workers.  Perhaps there are those that think delaying these plans and applications will result in less growth, but unfortunately the only thing they are accomplishing is increasing costs.  Yes, we have to have feasible and realistic plans for the growth of our community, but we also need to have expediency and predictability in our government approval processes so that those plans can actually be carried out and carried out regionally. 

  • 05 Jan 2022 10:12 AM | Deleted user

    By Mary Dougherty

    One of the best attributes of Sarasota County is that when an issue of critical importance is identified, that is when we see our community at its best. When an issue such as affordable housing reaches a crescendo there’s a cacophony from community groups and leaders to find solutions. This is what we are seeing with what has become a crisis in Sarasota County regarding affordable housing.

    As a County we find ourselves in a unique situation brought about by the pandemic with funding to support the needs of local communities coming down from the Federal Government in the form of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding. Sarasota County is receiving approximately $84 million from this program. To their credit, the County surveyed citizens and businesses to identify their top priorities for the use of these funds. The #1 issue brought forth by the public was Affordable Housing. Our County Commissioners looked at the data and listened to citizens who came to speak on the subject and directed staff to come back with recommendations to allocate a significant portion of the funds to address the Affordable Housing crisis.

    As I’ve learned from people far more knowledgeable than myself, eligible ARPA Housing investments include:

    o Services to address homelessness, such as supportive housing, and to improve access to stable affordable housing among individuals experiencing homelessness;

    o Affordable housing development to increase the supply of affordable and high-quality living units; (so new construction is allowable), and

    o Housing vouchers, residential counseling, or housing navigation assistance to facilitate household moves to neighborhoods with high levels of economic opportunity and mobility for low-income residents, to help residents increase their economic opportunity and reduce concentrated areas of low economic opportunity.

    Anecdotally I’ve also learned, as a result of my adult children looking for housing to be closer to work, that rent prices have skyrocketed in our area. The last number I’ve heard was that in the last year rental rates were up 43%. Frankly, that’s if you can even find a place available.

    The Commercial Contracting Industry has been facing a labor shortage for years now. Not only due to a thriving economy that has created a need for workers, but a retirement tsunami that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

    The current lack of affordable housing has created a situation where local contracting firms engage in recruitment at colleges/universities and offer candidates good jobs with good pay and they are turned down due to the cost of living in the area. This is creating a workforce/talent crisis in the region. These are exactly the type of young professionals we need to attract to the area to continue to have a robust and thriving community.

    This is an issue that effects the entire community. The Sarasota County Commission and County staff are to be commended for using this opportunity to make real strides to address this problem. I am grateful to be working with an amazing group of professionals in the community that can look at this problem from every angle including issues of housing insecurity and its effect on mental health, the effect on Alice (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) families in the community, the effect on business recruitment and retention and the myriad of issues created by the domino effect created by the lack of affordable housing. I am honored to be included around the table with such knowledgeable and passionate community leaders.

    This is Sarasota at its best! With Government, the private sector and local foundations working together to solve this problem, I am certainly optimistic about 2022 in our community!

  • 11 Nov 2021 9:40 AM | Deleted user

    Congratulations Manatee County!  The referendum to support Manatee County Schools passed by a wide margin!  This is good for the community, the educators and the students!  There are many reasons a strong educational system is good for the community, but it is also a necessity for strong economic development.  We need an educated and trained workforce for economic development.

    Now let’s repeat this victory for Sarasota County Schools in March of 2022!  For all the same reasons, and also because we are one MSA and one region.  We must realize that and focus on a thriving, robust and sustainable region.

    An educated and well trained workforce is critical to the local economy.  Currently, labor shortages compounded by supply chain issues are having a huge impact on the local commercial contracting industry.

    Plenty of jobs are available in the trades and as project managers and superintendents with General Contracting firms.

    Training and employment in the trades offers a route to financial security and the American Dream. 

    I’m reminded of the recent story of a young man who was laid off during the pandemic. He applied to CareerEdge Funders Collaborative (part of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce) to participate in the HVAC Express Program offered at Sarasota Technical College.  Throughout his three month training he was mentored by veterans in the field.  He developed interview and professional skills for employment and upon graduation was immediately offered a job.  From when he first stepped foot in the training program in January of 2021 to September of 2021 he worked his way to $20.00/hour with time and a half for overtime and double time when on call.  His self-confidence and pride have gone through the roof.  He and his wife will be closing on their first home in 6 days.  He is making his American Dream a reality!

    This type of story isn’t just important for the Construction Industry, it’s important for the community.  We need more stories like this in the community.  Locally, both the Manatee and Sarasota County School Boards understand the importance of workforce training.  We are also fortunate to live in a very generous community where programs like CareerEdge receive funding from private donors and foundations.

    Unfortunately, funding at the State level has not kept up with the demand for workforce training.  In the four (4) years from 2017 to 2021 there was a 42% increase in enrollment in programs at the Sarasota Technical Institute, but State funding in the same timeframe only increased 15.8%.

    Funding allocations in Tallahassee can be complex and confusing.  It’s particularly confusing when some counties receive over 100% of their funding needs, while other counties like Sarasota only receive 83.5%.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we take from some counties to support others.  On the contrary, I’m suggesting that we take a sharp look at the funding and make it a priority to fund at least 100% of the funding needs for all of Florida’s 67 counties!  These programs change lives.  These programs help build communities and support economic development.  Let’s hope this legislative session, there will be an emphasis on finding the funds necessary to ensure the success of these programs and their participants.

    If you know someone who could benefit from the programs offered at CareerEdge they can be contacted at 941-556-4045.

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