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  • 28 Mar 2019 9:10 AM | Anonymous

    About 400 students learned about the construction industry at MTC

    Christopher Emigdio, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High, was impressed with what he saw.

    In front of him, Electrical Technology students Joseph Zagorski and Christian Perez were explaining to Emigdio and other high school students some of what they had learned in their time at Manatee Technical College.

    Emigdio was one of about 400 high school students that came from Sarasota and Manatee counties to the Construction Rodeo, which is a hands-on introduction to the construction industry for high school students. The students explored the industry through electricity, HVAC, carpentry and plumbing programs, among others.

    Mary Dougherty, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, said the event is to interest high schoolers as well as a way to bring more people to the workforce.

    “A big problem in the industry is the labor shortage,” Dougherty said, noting an oncoming “retirement tsunami.” This event, she said, “was kind of a match made in heaven.”

    The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange sponsored the event, which alternates between Manatee Technical College and Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota.

    Dougherty said this year’s event was the biggest in terms of attendance.

    “The young people are coming prepared with better questions,” she said.

    Aside from the hands-on-experience students received, they were also educated on details like resumes, how to apply for jobs, salaries and benefits. Nick Ninos, safety director for Bright Future electricity, provided more personal advice to the students.

    “Believe in yourselves,” he said. “The rest will take care of itself.”

    Chuck Jacobson, who owns Aqua Plumbing and is chair of the subcontractor’s council with the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, appreciated the event shined a light on opportunities besides college.

    “This is where I came from, 40 years ago,” he said. “College isn’t for everybody.”

    He said seeing all of the students engaged and learning gives him hope for the future of the construction industry.

    Isaiah Greenwald, a freshman at Braden River High School, found the event engaging.

    “It’s really cool to learn about all the different places I can go into,” he said.

    Eric Sanders, college and career adviser at Braden River, said he noticed students responding well to the event.

    “It opens the kids’ eyes,” he said. “This is a good thing for our kids.”

    Mark Fulwood, a junior at Lakewood Ranch High School, said he was interested in the event specifically to learn more about the Electrical Technology program.

    “My grandpa, he was an electrician,” he said. “I’m trying to learn the trade.”

    Fulwood said he enjoyed learning something new, like terminology and skills.

    Larry Beebe, an instructor in the Electrical Technology Program, said he hopes the program stimulates students and opens their eyes to the possibility of attending MTC.

    “We can’t teach as fast as the outside world can employ them,” he said.

    Beebe said he’s partial to his program, but is OK with any student choosing MTC program.

    They certainly now know there are plenty of options.

  • 19 Apr 2018 11:55 AM | Anonymous

    Construction Rodeo Attracts and Educates Hundreds of High School Students

    The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX), a not-for-profit construction industry trade organization, recently held its second annual Construction Rodeo, an event that showcased information on careers in construction to high school students.

    In partnership with the Sarasota Technical College and Manatee Technical College, about 300 students from Sarasota and Manatee Counties were bused to the event, which was held March 20 at the Sarasota Technical College. During the four-hour event, more than 35 local businesses, speakers and hands-on demonstrations helped show students the various construction-related career opportunities.

    “There is so much opportunity in construction right now and so much talent in our schools,” said Mary Dougherty, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. “This event is the perfect way to ensure our students know the career path to get into those vacancies that are right here in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. We looked at opportunities for young people in regards to internships or apprenticeships in construction, and we want to start opening these prospects up for them to help solve the construction-industry workforce crisis.”

    Last year, the inaugural community event attracted more than 350 high school students looking to learn about these prospects. Over 20 students were given apprenticeship opportunities or jobs after the event.

    About the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange

    The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange was established in 1952 and is a not-for-profit corporation operating as a trade organization under the guidance of a volunteer board of directors as representatives of the industry. The not-for-profit organization represents a broad cross section of the building industry, including contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and others from affiliated industries.

    The GCBX membership is comprised of close to 400 companies in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. It includes some of the most respected contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, service providers and businesses in construction-affiliated industries. GCBX’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the building industry are conducted in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. 

  • 19 Apr 2018 11:53 AM | Anonymous

    Cooperation Amid Competition

    Henry Ford once said, "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." Moving forward in business is one thing but in a community, it can be entirely different. Collaboration is not always easy in the face of political agendas, divisiveness and controversy. However, I take solace in knowing that our community is full of forward-thinking, progressive leaders who know that only by working together will we be successful.

    As the executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, a main goal of my job is to facilitate collaboration. It’s something our members exemplify every day in everything that they do. I witness the way our members seek to strengthen relationships between trades to foster a members-working-with-members rapport and it’s a good reminder about how important it is to collaborate and forge positive relationships—even between competitors. Let me illustrate with a few examples.

    On April 2, PGT Innovations and the SKY Family Venice unveiled a new 7,500-square-foot child care center. This much-needed project offers affordable, convenient child care services to PGT Innovations’ families with young children as well as parents who work in the Triple Diamond Commerce Park and surrounding area in North Venice.

    Many of our members in addition to PGT Innovations worked together to bring this 25-year-old dream to fruition, including J.E. Charlotte Construction and Hall Architects. This PGT Innovations-owned facility, built right in our backyard, could be seen as a statewide model.

    For our local businesses, it’s so important to have a local contractor involved every step of the way. Their presence ensures that their fees stay in the local economy. When these area contractors get paid, they dine, shop, buy homes and send their children to schools here. Out-of-town crews will take their money elsewhere.

    Jason Swift, president at Jon F. Swift Construction, agrees. Finding quality local subcontractors for the Siesta Beach project was one his top priorities, he says. As a local company, we live here, invest here and raise our kids here. Engaging these subcontractors ultimately will contribute to growing our business and the local economy.

    Swift’s team led the renovation and improvement project for Siesta Key Public Beach, along with seven other members, to update its existing facilities, increase parking and add new public facilities. It officially opened in February 2016.

    Another example is The Mall at University Town Center, which employed a whopping total of 24 GCBX members.

    Right now, at least 10 GCBX members—from Tandem Construction and Sutter Roofing to Key Glass and Mullet’s Aluminum Products—are working on the new Atlanta Braves spring training complex in North Port. Tandem Construction is seeing the benefits.

    Our ability to partner with a core base of local subcontractors on the Atlanta Braves spring training facility has facilitated benefits in manpower, pricing and scheduling that wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise, says Tandem Construction’s director of Client Services, Kent Hayes.

    We live in a competitive marketplace, but as our economy improves, there is work for everyone. It is only by strengthening our partnerships with each other that we will collectively move forward as a community. I commend the GCBX membership for always being a shining example of this important guiding vision.

    By Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange

  • 09 Jan 2018 1:27 PM | Anonymous

    Florida Chief Financial Officer to Speak in Sarasota

    Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will speak at the annual awards dinner of the Gulf Coast Builders Xchange, which takes place 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Hyatt Regency, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Tickets are $100-$225. In addition to Patronis’ keynote speech, the event will honor the organization’s lifetime achievement award recipient, the recipient of the group’s chairman’s award and the top volunteer of the year.


  • 06 Jan 2018 1:48 PM | Anonymous

    It’s that time of year when people are reflecting on the past and making resolutions for change in the future. In Sarasota County, as we move forward into 2018, we have a lot to look forward to, including a continued strong economy. A robust economy equals more jobs and a thriving and sustained quality of life in our region. As the executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, I am humbled by and proud of the many ways our organizations have helped further these goals year after year since inception.

    In 1952, a small group formed an organization to serve the needs of local contractors. That small group quickly grew into a larger organization, and in 2018, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange will continue its mission and a recurring resolution to address the needs of our members and this amazing community.

    Throughout 2017, our Sarasota County lawmakers made progress in many significant areas, such as the Unified Development Code and Land Development Regulations. The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange members will continue to assist on these critical construction-industry topics. While there has been progress, there are also problems that we must address. One of those problems is the persistent labor shortage in the construction industry.

    According to a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment increased by 30,000 jobs in December to the highest level since September 2008. Florida alone added 35,800 construction jobs between August 2016 and August 2017.

    As construction projects rise, we will see an increase in prices and jobs may be delayed, hindering progress if this labor shortage continues. With this shortage, firms cannot bid on certain jobs simply because they do not have the manpower. Finding a solution to this is an ongoing goal for us in 2018.

    In 2017, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange hosted the first Construction Rodeo, where GCBX members hired more than 15 students from that event alone. On March 20, we will hold our second to teach graduating seniors who are not college bound about construction-related career opportunities.

    In fact, 75 percent of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2018, said the AGC, but more than half of those firms are having difficulty filling their hourly craft and salaried openings.

    In order to truly address this issue, we must acknowledge the elephant in the room. A lack of affordable housing is a major barrier to overcoming the labor shortage. Unfortunately, in this area, we continually take two steps forward and three steps back. This multifaceted problem will need a multifaceted approach. It’s one that our area has been struggling with for some time, it’s not a problem that we can solve overnight, but it is a problem we must solve.

    We have some of the best and brightest minds here in Sarasota, and if anyone can solve this issue, it will be done here. The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is committed to collaborating on this issue and listening to various ideas on how to tackle it.

    On Feb. 1, our members will gather to discuss important topics like this at our 66th Annual Installation and Award Dinner. Guests will hear from Keynote Speaker Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer of Florida, on the financial health of Florida. After all, Sarasota and Manatee Counties’ financial health is intertwined with the financial condition of the State of Florida.

    We look forward to serving the members of GCBX and the community and are committed to a collaborative approach to resolve the pressing issues facing the construction industry and the community and to finding creative solutions for our most pressing challenges now and for years to come.

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


  • 03 Jan 2018 6:27 PM | Anonymous

    Construction firms in Florida expect to keep growing in 2018, but they will continue to struggle to find workers.

    A survey of state contractors found that 85 percent anticipate increasing their payrolls by up to 10 percent this year, the Associated General Contractors of America reported Wednesday.

    And nearly 70 percent said they are having a “hard time” filling both salaried and craft workers positions right now.

    That’s no surprise in the Sarasota-Manatee region, where residential and commercial builders have lamented for several years that they can’t find enough labor for their projects.

    “My members are still finding it difficult to fill jobs, not just skilled jobs,” said Jon Mast, CEO at the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. “This is a continuing saga.

    “Larger builders are finding relief by hiring ‘shell contractors’ that can build their product through the framing stage. This helps them keep up with closing schedules. Smaller builders and those that build custom homes still enjoy having consistent labor as they pay more for the service,” he said.

    Mary Dougherty, executive director at the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, said the labor shortage is a constant refrain among those in the local construction trades.

    “It is causing prices to increase and jobs to be delayed,” she said. “A lot of folks, with the labor shortage, aren’t bidding on certain jobs. They just don’t have the manpower to bid on them.”

    In Florida, nearly half of the companies surveyed by AGC said they had increased base pay to retain or recruit workers, while 62 percent said they provided new incentives or bonuses. Nearly a third said they paid more overtime.

    Mast said the labor squeeze also has impacted builders at the government level.

    “What has gotten worse is the shortage being felt by our local building departments,” he said. “They are short staff due to retirements and the additional workload due to the increased economy. Permits are increasing, which causes more inspections. Some of my members are months behind on getting closings completed due to the lack of building inspectors.”

    The regional construction workforce has been growing. In November, 24,600 workers were counted in the Sarasota-Manatee construction sector, a gain of 2,000, or nearly 9 percent, over the year, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

    But that remains well off the peak of 31,800 in April 2006, which then plunged to 14,900 in 2011 during the economic downturn, when projects stalled and building all but ceased, forcing workers to find other ways to earn a living.

    Nationwide, 75 percent of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2018 as contractors are optimistic that economic conditions will remain strong amid declining tax rates and regulatory burdens, according to the survey from AGC and Sage Construction and Real Estate. Despite that general optimism, many firms report they remain worried about workforce shortages and infrastructure funding.

    Locally, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange plans to hold its second “Construction Rodeo” this spring to teach the 25 percent of graduating seniors who are not college bound about construction-related career opportunities.

    “We’re trying to introduce them to what a career in the trades can mean for them now and to later become a business owner,” Dougherty said.

    The BIA is working with the Future Builders of America and the National Association of Home Builders’ Student Chapters to get local coursework designed for construction in local secondary and post-secondary schools, Mast said.


  • 02 Jan 2018 6:52 PM | Anonymous

    Gamma Xi Boule internship program aims to prepare youth for ‘real world’ work experiences

    SARASOTA — A local fraternity wants to give underserved Booker High School students the chance to work in real-world office settings through a paid internship program.

    In its second year, the Gamma Xi Boule internship program, sponsored by the Sarasota chapter of national black fraternity Sigma Pi Phi, allows a select group of Booker students to intern for a semester at a maximum of 10 hours a week for $10 an hour at local organizations such as the Sarasota Police Department, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The programs are paid for in part by the fraternity’s foundation and by the institutions.

    “It gives them what we think is invaluable work experience from the perspective of what goes on in a professional work setting,” said Gregory Matthews, one of the program’s founders. “How do people conduct themselves? How do they dress? What do they do? In addition to employment skills, they can pick up soft skills.”

    The program began to gain traction when Matthews met with Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino to discuss the idea. The chief was more than interested; she even suggested the $10 an hour wage, Matthews said. Booker High Principal Rachel Shelley vetted the program through the Florida Department of Education, and the first students were accepted in fall of 2016.

    Once the students apply through Booker for the program, they are taken through an interview process that mirrors what one might find in the “real world,” Matthews said.

    “We’re more like the gatekeepers,” Matthews said. “We treat them like they’re applicants for a job. We don’t treat it as though it’s a given, because that’s not the way the real world works.”

    Some students have been surprised by the skills they bring to the table once they arrive in the work environment, Matthews said. One student who worked at the Sarasota Police Department found his talents with Microsoft and PCs to be an asset. He became someone other employees could turn to for help with spreadsheets or technical work.

    The organization is hosting a fundraiser on Feb. 10 with proceeds that will benefit underserved youth in Sarasota and Bradenton. Tickets are $250 per person. The event starts at 6 p.m. and goes until 11 p.m. on Feb. 10 at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, 1111 Ritz Carlton Drive.

    To purchase tickets, send a check made payable to Gamma Xi Boule Foundation, Inc., PO Box 20117, Bradenton, FL, 34204. Please include all attendees’ full names, your address and phone number. To buy tickets online at $257.50 per ticket, go to sites.google.com/site/gammaxiboule.

    And the inverse has been true as well. Some employers have taken it upon themselves to teach the students skills that aren’t necessarily a part of the workplace but are applicable. At one point, the Sarasota Police Department volunteer coordinator realized that some of the interns did not have a checking account to set up direct deposit payment. So she took them down to the bank and helped them set one up, Matthews said.

    “Some of us take these things for granted,” Matthews said. “But when they haven’t worked anywhere, why would they have a checking account?”

    Booker teacher Myndel Miller, who coordinates the program from the school standpoint, said the internships align well with Booker’s mission to have all of their students ready for college or a career.

    “This provides students an opportunity to see what it would actually be like in a particular field,” Miller said. “In many instances, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity. And it also happens to be a paid internship, which doesn’t always happen.”

    Eventually, Matthews hopes to expand the internship program to Manatee County and offer a variety of professions. They are in talks to work with the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and have currently served 10 students. The organization is also hosting a fundraiser on Feb. 10 at the Ritz-Carlton with proceeds that will benefit underserved youth in Sarasota and Bradenton.

  • 15 Nov 2017 11:20 AM | Anonymous

    Gulf Coast Builders Exchange: 65 years of constructing community

    There’s a story Gulf Coast Builders Exchange executive director Mary Dougherty likes to tell about the longstanding importance of the construction industry to the southwest Florida community:

    “In 1973, there had been a discussion about a moratorium on construction,” she says. “Back then, in the days before ATM cards and direct deposit, everybody in the construction industry got together and said, ‘This week, we’re going to pay our employees in silver dollars.’” Turns out, there were a lot of silver dollars suddenly in circulation in southwest Florida, Dougherty explains. “Signs went up all over the county — grocery stores, etc. — that said, ‘No more silver dollars, please.’ Stores stopped accepting them because the impact they were having on their cash registers. But it shows how many people the construction industry employed, and the impact it had on the local economy.”

    Indeed, the nonprofit Gulf Coast Builders Exchange has been representing southwest Florida’s commercial contracting industry since 1952, when 20 Sarasota contractors got together to try to help steer the community in the right direction. This year, as the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange celebrates its 65th anniversary, the organization has more than 400 business members continuing to serve southwest Florida’s past, present and future.

    From the beginning, the organization’s impact was huge. In the 1950s, Gulf Coast Builders Exchange projects in partnership with the City of Sarasota included the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, as well as plan to free up an iconic bit of downtown Sarasota real estate. “City Hall used to be where Marina Jack is,” Dougherty explains. “That’s prime commercial property. So one of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange suggestions was to relocate City Hall so that the Bayfront area could be used commercially. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Marina Jack.”

    Over the years, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange has overseen a number of significant historical restorations, including Sarasota’s original 1920 pump station, Paul Rudolph’s famous Umbrella House on Lido Key and the Siesta Key Beach Pavilion. The organization was an early supporter of the creation of Nathan Benderson Park, which recently hosted the 2017 World Rowing Championships, as well as the new Atlanta Braves Spring Training facility currently under construction in North Port.

    Rather than being the local chapter of a larger trade organization, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is unique in its direct ties to the community. “This was really a local effort,” says Dougherty. “It was those 20 contractors that started the organization, and we remember our roots. Local businesses, members doing business with members, and being here regionally and locally — that’s a part of who we are.”

    And the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is investing in the future, too. In addition to its recent work with the county on the 10-year comprehensive plan and current work on

    land development regulations and the unified development code, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange this year hosted a Construction Rodeo to introduce recent high school graduates to careers in the trade. “So they could stay here locally and have a good career, without incurring huge amounts of student debt,” says Dougherty. As a generation of construction workers nears retirement, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is working to ensure that the legacy continues within our region.

    “We have pictures out in the hallway of our past leaders, and when I look at that wall, I realize that they’re all leaders in the community, too,” says Dougherty. “It’s not just about their business, and it’s not just about the commercial contracting industry. They’re also leaders in the philanthropic community and leaders in the community in general. It’s a really proud legacy to be a part of.

  • 31 Aug 2017 7:41 PM | Anonymous

    J.E. Charlotte Awarded PGT Contract

    J.E. Charlotte Construction Corp. has been awarded the contract to construct the child care center for PGT Custom Windows and Doors.Now under construction, the over 8,000-square-foot facility will offer affordable, convenient child care services to PGT families with young children, as well as parents who work in the Triple Diamond Commerce Park in North Venice. The $1.8 million project is scheduled for completion in first quarter of 2018.Located at 101 Triple Diamond Blvd., the PGT-owned facility will be operated by the Venice branch of the SKY Family YMCA, a licensed Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) provider. The center will have the capacity to accommodate just under 100 children aged six weeks to five years old and will offer curriculum-based programs, healthy meals and an outdoor playground

  • 13 Jul 2017 11:13 AM | Anonymous

    Gulf Coast Builders Exchange connects subcontractors and the construction community at Reverse Trade Show

    Over 250 attendees connected with the area’s largest general contractors and development firms with subcontractors at the 8th annual Reverse Trade Show, an event hosted by the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, a not-for-profit trade organization.

    On June 22, over 20 general contractors showcased information on the construction industry. Those involved in the building community discovered how to bid on projects and build relationships with the finest design and construction firms in the region.

    “This event always attracts a crowd within the construction community, and we were really pleased with the number of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange members and the area’s general contractors that came out to connect with subcontractors, building departments, government officials and attendees,” said Mary Dougherty, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.

    Participants browsed 35 vendor booths at the Polo Grill and Bar. Government officials and the building departments from Sarasota and Manatee Counties were also in attendance.


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Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved
8433 Enterprise Circle, Suite 120
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