EDC of the Space CoastIn defining economic development, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) writes “no single definition incorporates all of the different strands of economic development.” Simply stated, defining what economic development is, can be complicated. However, IEDC also writes that economic development can be described in terms of objectives. Every year, site selectors and leaders in the industry meet and discuss trends and indicators. Recently, in these meetings, the prominent objective that defines economic development today has been identified as talent development.

In looking at talent development, it is much more than workforce availability. Today, our nation’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.1 percent — just inches away from pre-recession numbers. With this falling rate comes a new challenge — the battle for skilled labor to fill our jobs. The focal point for community leaders and economic development agencies now includes aligning policy, developing infrastructure and fostering a culture that create the perfect environment for talent to grow. Adding to the challenge, technology has made finding a job easier than ever before, opening the entire nation — and world — up for potential employees.

So how do we combat this challenge head on for the Space Coast to remain globally competitive? It requires both quick action and long-term strategic planning. The EDC has developed several initiatives and continues to identify long-term battle plans for the talent war.

The high-tech manufacturing sector, which represents the largest share of our local economy, is expecting high retirement numbers as baby boomers transition into their golden years.

Manufacturing Our Future
According to the 2017 CareerSource Florida Advanced Manufacturing Gap Analysis, by 2022, the Space Coast expects 3,000 new manufacturing jobs. This high-tech sector, which represents the largest share of our local economy, is also expecting high retirement numbers as baby boomers transition into their golden years. The EDC’s Manufacturing Workforce Program is training the next generation of manufacturing talent with the skills applicable to all manufacturing sectors through the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council’s Certified Production Technician (CPT) course. This 10-week online synchronous program offered at Eastern Florida State College has led to an impressive 80 percent of the CPT graduates being placed in a manufacturing job.

In addition, the EDC is sparking excitement about the new world of manufacturing. In October 2017, the EDC launched its “See Manufacturing Through New Eyes” campaign, which encourages individuals throughout the Space Coast to explore what manufacturing is today and the career opportunities in this growing field.

Calling All Millennials
Understood or not, millennials are here to stay … and we want them to. As cities all over the country compete for this oft-discussed age group, the EDC has put its hat in the ring in attracting this up-and-coming leader generation. According to the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, at 75 million strong, more than one-third of millennials have a college degree. However, Florida’s population consists of less than 30 percent of this demographic.

As we all know, the Space Coast is a unique place to call home. Seventy-two miles of beachline that boasts dozens of rocket launches per year cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The EDC is yelling this from the rooftops with its Live Big campaign and Talent Attraction program. A mix of social media (#LiveBigSpaceCoast, @EDCofFloridasSpaceCoast on Facebook), print materials and working with local recruiters, our Live Big campaign is launching to new heights, as well as to smartphones across the country, to draw talent to Brevard and fuel our workforce pipeline.

Talent attraction is more important, and tougher, than ever before. Some communities are winning the talent war, while others are losing. We must ensure we are on the winning side of the battle.

Lynda L. Weatherman is the president & CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. She administers all operations and provides strategic direction to an organization responsible for a $2 million budget within a 1,557-square-mile area that is the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville MSA.