Commissioner Diane Rowden read a resolution to declare October 7, 2016 Florida Manufacturing Day, due to the impact the manufacturing industry has on Hernando County. According to Rowden, more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the county. Products Rowden listed include “pharmaceuticals, industrial safety signs and equipment, decorative aluminum fencing, circuit boards, and aerospace components.”
The County partners with the school district, Chamber of Commerce, Office of Economic Development, and Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) to prepare/train individuals, and to promote more than 100 manufacturing businesses in the county.
Margie Burnham, Assistant Dean of STEM Programs at PHSC, thanked the BOCC for supporting manufacturing. “Manufacturing is the heart of the economy,” Burnham said. BOCC and County Administrator support is the reason Hernando County is growing at a faster rate than other counties. According to Burnham, $1.43 is returned to the county from every dollar that is spent in support of the manufacturing industry.
Burnham said that School Superintendent Dr. Lori Romano has been a great partner with PHSC as well. PHSC was also able to secure the Florida TRADE Grant. The Florida TRADE (Transforming Resources for Accelerated Degrees and Employment) Grant is geared toward those who are interested in improving their skills, considering a job change, or who have lost their jobs.
Another program, the American Manufacturing Skills Initiative (AMSkills), teaches youth through an apprenticeship program. It is in place in Hernando, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties. Tom Mudano, Executive Director of AMSkills, stated that their training program ended its first year with nine students. This year, the program has 15 students, with a waiting list of many more.
Mudano commended Hernando County for the participation in the program. That sentiment was echoed by Jady Vargas, Office and Marketing Administrator at AMSkills, who has been working with Burnham to put on the Manufacturing Day event.
Accuform Signs presented a new brand for manufacturing in the county. “Hernando Made” signs were given to the BOCC. Rich Sanvenero, Chairman of the Board of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, thanked the BOCC for realizing the importance of manufacturing in the county’s economic development.
David Hamilton, with CareerSource of Pasco/Hernando, received a round of applause when he stated that there are 631 individuals employed in the manufacturing field since 2013. Manufacturing jobs now make up 5% of the jobs in Hernando County, as opposed to 3.89% in 2013. Jessica Weightman, also with CareerSource, thanked the BOCC for recognizing the importance of manufacturing.
Ed Goolsby, Dean of Workforce Development at PHSC, expressed excitement at the way the county, manufacturers, and business leaders have come together. He stated that PHSC continues to expand its programs to provide paths to manufacturing careers.
Hernando County School Board member Gus Guadagnino noted that there has been more growth in manufacturing in the last three years than in the past 30 years. He named several individuals who were important in the manufacturing field. In 2013, SunTech opened, affording students the opportunity to have classes that will transfer to careers. Guadagnino credited Burnham with being “the one locomotive that pulls the train.”
Burnham finished the presentation with a few words about the impact of the programs at Nature Coast Technical High School. She stated there were 12 graduates who received their Manufacturing Standards Skills Council certificates. Eight will be attending PHSC for the Engineering Technology program, three will be attending other schools, and one will enter the military. Their success is due to the partnerships formed and the focus and support the students have received.