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  • 07 Jul 2017 11:16 AM | Anonymous


    07 Jul 2017 3:08 PM | Anonymous

    The other day I received a call that I couldn’t have been happier to get. Steve Panagiotakis, the vice president of operations for Bright Future Electric, hired an impressive 18 students as interns from the recent Construction Rodeo. What a way to illustrate the return on investment from this one event. Once the students finish their various programs, the four-office company plans to hire them all as full-time employees. Aqua Plumbing’s Chuck Jacobson, chair of the subcontractor’s council for Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and a board member, has a number of applicants, and Mike Corbett from Piper Fire Protection also confirmed they are in the hiring process. So something is working.

    More than 350 high school students attended the Construction Rodeo, a Gulf Coast Builders Exchange event that showcased information on careers in construction. Students from Sarasota and Manatee Counties interested in jobs in the various trade industries were bused to the event at the Manatee Technical College. They learned from more than 35 local businesses, with speakers and hands-on activities to help unveil the different construction-related career opportunities.

    Huge congratulations are owed to the construction and business leaders who helped us spearhead this fantastic event. Over 50 Gulf Coast Builders Exchange members participated, volunteering their time and showcasing their businesses and giving our students an opportunity to interact directly with employers. There is so much opportunity in construction right now and so much talent in our schools. This is a perfect way to make sure our students know the career path to get into those vacancies that are right here in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Kudos the Sarasota and Manatee County Schools, too, for recognizing this as a worthy initiative and much-needed event for our students.

    This event is important because there’s a workforce crisis in the region. Jobs are being held up, and prices are rising because we don’t have an abundance of skilled workers in the region. After the economic downturn many skilled workers left the region for good. We looked at opportunities for young people in regards to internships or apprenticeships in construction. We want to start opening these prospects up for them to help solve this workforce crisis.

    A 2016 labor market analysis put out by CareerEdge Funders Collaborative showed that average annual pay for the construction field in Sarasota County grew between 10 percent and 15 percent between 2012 and 2015.

    Panagiotakis agrees, too. He feels that the industry needs more participants and help with its high school students, and they are definitely doing their part. The amount of students that showed up to the Construction Rodeo truly demonstrates the need for young people—in need of direction and choices—to find gainful employment.

    Corbett was pleasantly surprised by the interest and number of the students that attended, many of who didn’t even know there were other industries besides air conditioning, plumbing and electronic. Over the years, this event will really open up the student’s eyes to all of the trades available, including fire sprinklers.

    This is extremely encouraging success, and our plan is to make this an annual event, alternating between the Manatee Technical College and the Suncoast Technical College. I would highly encourage the construction community, trades and business leaders to attend, volunteer, purchase a booth and recruit these students, who we can hopefully keep in the Sarasota and Manatee region. Look to leaders like those at Bright Futures Electric to ensure bright futures for career- ready students right here in Sarasota.

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

  • 10 Mar 2017 11:17 AM | Anonymous

    Big League Development



    We all know the words to that famous song, “Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd.” And I can almost smell the peanuts and Cracker Jacks as Sarasota’s spring training season swings into high gear. As a New Yorker at heart, my loyalty lies with the Mets, but I must admit, it’s the Braves that have me becoming a raving fan these days.

    More recently, I have lived in South Sarasota County—since 1979 to be exact. Our area has seen steady growth since then and promises more to come. In fact, in 2008, North Port became the city with the largest population within Sarasota County. Some of the lowest impact fees and utility and land costs in Southwest Florida have undoubtedly contributed to this economic development.

    Even with the positive growth we’ve seen over the years in South County, the proposed project for the Atlanta Braves Spring Training and Academy Facilities may be one of the biggest game-changers our region has ever experienced. In 2019, we will hopefully see 70 acres of pastureland in the West Villages, an emerging master-planned community in South County, transformed into a multimillion-dollar facility.

    There are a number of players involved here. The Atlanta Braves, the primary lessee, are expected to contribute an estimated $7.5 million initial investment and another $5.6 million toward facility maintenance for the Major League baseball club's proposed project. The Braves would sign a 30-year initial lease with two 5-year options, with annual lease payments estimated between $2 million and $2.5 million. On top of that, the Atlanta Braves Academy is proposing a year-round sports rehabilitation and player development facility at around $8 million to $10 million and a Community Public Park and Plaza for entertainment, farmers market and events. A multi-purpose sports facility for community use is also being planned with the benefit of overflow parking for the stadium.

    Other partners on this project include Sarasota County, the ultimate facility owner and lessor; City of North Port, the local community funding partner and host city; West Villages Improvement District, the local funding conduit; and Manasota Beach Ranchlands, the private sector funding and development partner.

    Through this plan, the Tourism Bed Tax funds would be utilized, and the county’s contribution would equal around $22 million. The state, City of North Port and the West Villages also intend to provide funds to support the plan. Locally, Visit Sarasota County has endorsed the proposed budget model along with the county's Tourist Development Council.

    The West Villages, a Keystone member of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, has already committed to utilize local contractors whenever and wherever possible during this process. This is great news for the local economy and means more construction jobs for local contractors.

    This is a significant and an advantageous development for our region, one that could further bolster South County and set it on the path for future success. I applaud the elected officials for coming together on this exciting project, and I encourage them to stay the course through its successful completion. The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange endorses this economic development plan that we see as a home run for the region.

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

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