Dana Kilborne served as the president and CEO of Florida Bank of Commerce from its inception. Under her leadership, it grew to 18 locations across the state before it was acquired by Sunshine Bancorp Inc. in an all- stock merger valued at $40 million. She continues to serve on the Board of Health First, the Jacksonville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Groundswell and as a Director of the NCMIC Insurance Company based in Des Moines, Iowa. Always engaged in helping to shape the future of the Space Coast, she now serves as the Chair of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.
EW: You have always been supportive of the EDC, tell me about why and how that participation has grown?
DK: I met Lynda in 2005 and had the chance to chair the ad valorem tax abatement council for the EDC. As business people and residents of the county, I realized that everyone wins when the community wins. What the EDC does is lift the whole of the county, largely through the business community, but when that sector rises, the rest of the community rises with it. There is no real separation between the business community and the community in general, they all intersect and overlap. Everything from the Indian River Lagoon to infrastructure are all economic development issues.
EW: What do you think is the most important issue or initiative the EDC is focuses on?
DK: Talent attraction or workforce development. Unemployment is under four percent everywhere, thus the challenge of how to get the right people for the jobs we have here is paramount. Employers who want to move here, stay here or expand here are dependent on the local workforce they can attract. We as a community have to work together to create the type of environment where that talent wants to come.
EW: Of the EDC workforce initiatives that you are aware of, which one do you think has had the biggest impact?
DK: The one that comes to my mind first is the CPT (Certified Production Technician) program. I had the opportunity to support the first class. It was initiated by a group of pastors in the south Melbourne and Palm Bay area. They approached Lynda and said, ‘You do great work bringing in all these companies to the area, but what are we doing to help the young people that live here?’ Nathaniel Harris was one of those pastors and they held the graduation of that first CPT class at Macedonia Baptist. It was one of the most meaningful and moving events I have ever attended.
You want to see the impact of what you have done and see if what you have leveraged has made a difference. It was a life changing experience; there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. That seed has grown into a full- fledged program. That really humanized economic development for me, it sort of muted all the ancillary debate about economic development.
“As business people and residents of the county, I realized that everyone wins when the community wins. What the EDC does is lift the whole of the county, largely through the business community, but when that sector rises, the rest of the community rises with it.” – Dana Kilborne
EW: That is a side of the EDC’s work most aren’t aware of.
DK: This is very unique to Brevard and initially it was funded on the private side. The general program was there, but applying it so that these young people not only have the prerequisite job skills, but also the soft, social skills of how to prepare for an interview or to put together a resume is a key to its success. When people told Lynda the CPT program had been around for a while, she said, ‘Yes and the hamburger was around for a long time too before McDonald’s got a hold of it.’ That is what has happened, taking this program, customizing and applying it to our local situation.
We lost a generation in the manufacturing sphere, so we don’t have people following their parents or relatives into this field. We have to show them that it is more than a job it is a career. It is also stackable, in other words people can get ever increasing certifications for more opportunities.
EW: What is the greatest misunderstanding people have about the EDC’s mission?
DK: I think it is that economic development equals job creation, period. It is so much more than that. Job creation alone isn’t the answer, it is a whole continuum of issues that have to be addressed. The EDC isn’t a private entity, which would be risky, nor is it a government entity, it is a partnership between the two and that is why it works.
EW: Some people fear economic development, because they are concerned the ambiance of the area will be lost. What do you say to those people?
DK: There is a difference between development and growth. One is based on a plan and a design, the other is leaving it all to chance. A haphazard kind of growth is not what anyone wants.
EW: One confusion people have is the difference between the EDC and a Chamber, what do you think the difference is?
DK: First of course is the EDC covers the whole county. Also, I think people participate in the EDC because they understand the mission and the goals of the EDC, and they want to join in realizing those goals. Chambers have missions also, but I think they are designed to be responsive to the needs and challenges of their members and how they can help those members achieve their goals. Both are vital.