By: Lynda Weatherman

Sustaining and Leveraging Success

This community, only a few short years ago, faced the most daunting of economic development challenges. With 10,000 direct jobs lost from the Shuttle retirement, the deepest and longest recession in the nation’s history, and federal sequestration, all happening concurrently, perhaps no other community in our nation faced such immediate and severe economic calamities than ours.

Yet we now know how a region with strong and committed community partners, and a focused and disciplined economic development program, can impact economic circumstances. The recent successes did not come easily or readily. We must continue this momentum as our nation is littered with communities that relied on initial success, assuming momentum would continue.

As we look toward 2015, the question remains: how do we sustain and continue to leverage our success from the past four years, particularly in our aviation/aerospace sector?

Company Success Stories
Nothing tells our story better to potential new companies than the story of their peers having made such an investment. Quite simply, it proves we have what it takes. Showing a commitment to retain companies already here sends the message of our community’s recognition of the long-term relationship that must exist with industry.

EDC programs like G.O. Contracts and Made in Brevard are helping to build this story. Melbourne-based JDR Unlimited, a veteran-owned small business, recently secured $4.2 million in multiple five-year contracts as a result of participation in the EDC’s G.O. Contracts program. Plus, over 185 companies are now participating in Made in Brevard, a grassroots effort to promote local manufacturers and products, and establishing to the world that the Space Coast is much more than just space.

Choosing Manufacturing
Targeting the next generation workforce and educating them about careers in manufacturing is critical to maintaining a pipeline of workers, from novice to expert. With the introduction of a new Certified Technician Program now offered after high school, the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” conversations can start even earlier between parents and students. At the same time, we must work to dispel myths about manufacturing and showcase an industry that is now high-tech, clean and offers competitive pay.

Lynda-WeathermanThe EDC’s pilot program, created for and calibrated by our manufacturing industry, leverages our community’s workforce, education and training assets. This effort places a focus on supply of labor meeting demand by industry. This is an attractor for aviation and aerospace companies that want to know they have a prime pipeline of workers to choose from and can hit the ground running.

While these examples are just a few out of many programs that are in place to support existing industry, they are successfully helping to expand the reach of companies across the Space Coast. As we wrap up 2014 and look forward, the EDC will continue to carry these programs onward and expand on them with the goal of helping even more businesses grow on the Space Coast.

Lynda Weatherman is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of SpaceCoast Business.
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