FloridaCommerce announces launch of the Florida Aerospace and Defense portal

Tallahassee, FL (August 8, 2023) – Today, FloridaCommerce announced the launch of the new Florida Aerospace and Defense (FAD) Portal to connect Florida’s small and medium-sized businesses with employee resources and contracting opportunities that directly support Florida’s vital military community. Before the execution of the FAD portal, Florida small and mid-sized businesses previously had to visit multiple, separate websites to obtain information on U.S. Department of Defense spending, available grants and contracts.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, FloridaCommerce is proud to launch the Florida Aerospace and Defense Portal, further strengthening Florida’s defense industry supply chain,” said Secretary of Commerce J. Alex Kelly. “The FAD Portal maximizes Florida’s resources for the mutual benefit of Florida’s military and small business communities.”

“The new Florida Aerospace and Defense Portal is another valuable tool to help our state’s small business owners tap financial and talent resources to grow and compete,” said CareerSource Florida President and CEO Adrienne Johnston. “With Florida’s booming economy under the Governor’s leadership, the CareerSource Florida network is working with state and local partners to help employers and Floridians connect with opportunities in new and expanding markets.”

Through the FAD Portal, users gain access to the Florida Defense Directory, a defense-specific business listing where registered users can connect with and increase subcontracting opportunities with other registered small and medium-sized businesses. The search function allows users to search for products by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, keywords, or company name to locate business to business opportunities. Furthermore, the FAD Portal enables users to access resources related to:

  • Cybersecurity training and assessments.
  • Free consultation services provided by the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Florida Small Business Development Centers Network.
  • Disaster preparedness information.
  • How to obtain and manage government-awarded contracts.

Today’s announcement is one piece of Governor DeSantis’ large-scale effort to cultivate a business-friendly environment and stimulate aggressive economic growth for the small business and military communities.

  • Through Florida’s State Small Business Credit Initiative administered by FloridaCommerce $142 million in new capital is available for small businesses and startups.
  • In May 2023, Governor DeSantis signed eight bills to support veteran education and training opportunities, expand veteran benefits, and strengthen long-term care for Florida’s veterans and their families.
  • In June 2023, Governor DeSantis announced more than $6.1 million in awards to military communities through the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program, the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program, and the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program. For more information on these programs and more visit FloridaJobs.org/Military-Community-Programs.

To learn more about the FAD Portal and to register, visit fad.floridajobs.org . If you have any questions or if you are seeking guidance on registering for the FAD Portal, please call 850-717-8960 or email DefenseGrants@DEO.MyFlorida.com.

Florida students are getting excited about STEM through electric vehicle (EV) racing

It’s a hot Saturday morning in Florida and high school students are suiting up to jump into their electric vehicles (EV). It’s race day.

Under the guidance of their teachers, nine teams spent months preparing for this moment, designing and building their own go-cart-type vehicles powered by an electric motor and batteries. They traveled from all over Florida to race in the closed loop outside Florida Solar Energy Center’s parking lot in Cocoa Beach.

“Building the car is a fun process. It’s very hands-on between the wiring, fuses, motor and putting parts together,” said 14-year-old racer Nathaniel Adams. He traveled more than three hours with his school team from Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation in Wesley Chapel, Florida. “I just started this year, but it’s something I think a lot of kids would love.”

The experience is part of Electrathon America, a competition combining the excitement of motorsports with the practical application of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

Students’ skills and ingenuity are put to the test as they perfect their own electric racecar, then compete against each other to see who can go the longest around the track in an hour. The race isn’t about speed, it’s about endurance. The driver with the most laps wins.

“Unfortunately, my car died halfway through the race,” Adams said. However, he embraces the setback as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board. The race may end, but the quest for excellence continues, as the team strives to perfect their electric cars before the next race.

It’s a challenge that’s boosted kids’ interest in education. Organizers have seen an increase in sign-ups and teams are showing up in larger numbers on race day.

FAU High School was one of those new teams.

“We received this car back when FPL sponsored the Formula E race in Miami,” said Allan Phipps, the STEM coordinator at A.D. Henderson University School & FAU High School in Boca Raton.

At the time, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) provided the school with its own build-your-own EV car kit to race in the event’s halftime show. Today, the school is repurposing the car to race in future Electrathon competitions around the state.

“One car kit can be reused and repurposed plenty of times, unlocking years’ worth of lesson plans and hands-on learning,” FPL Project Manager Isabella Burckhardt said. Starting this fall, Burckhardt is spearheading the company’s new STEM initiative supporting Electrathon America competitions.

“The cost of materials and tools can be roadblocks, preventing students from exploring a career path in these fields,” Burckhardt said. “Our support ensures those barriers are broken by providing interested high school teams with a build-your-own electric vehicle kit, training, as well as resources for car maintenance and race participation.”

This initiative is being spearheaded by FPL through the company’s EV charging solutions program. FPL EVolution® makes charging an electric vehicle simple through convenient EV charging options at home and on the road. FPL is also raising awareness about EVs through demos, ride-and-drive experiences and educational programs like Electrathon.

Some schools in Northwest Florida have a long history of participating in Electrathon events hosted at Pensacola’s Five Flags Speedway. FPL wants to energize that Electrathon momentum in the region by inviting more schools to participate.

“Support of Electrathon extends our mission of shaping a more sustainable future for all,” Burckhardt said. “We’re cultivating the skills necessary for future careers in these rapidly evolving fields and raising EV awareness for the next generation who is passionate about sustainable energy solutions.”

Electrathon of Florida’s executive director Charles Harrison agrees. He oversees the Tampa Bay chapter, which was created in Hillsborough County as a grassroots mentoring program to boost students’ interest in STEM careers. Today, the program has expanded beyond Hillsborough and into more than eight counties.

And it aims to expand further, in hopes of reaching every part of the state with the help of FPL.

“Growing this program to different areas of the state will give opportunities to people that wouldn’t normally be exposed to STEM like this,” Harrison said. “This will give future generations a chance to excel in STEM fields, opening their minds to a future in physics, math, science, tech or manufacturing.”

For those interested in learning more about FPL’s Electrathon program, visit Fpl.com/community/electrathon.html.

University of West Florida forms a new Office of Workforce Development

Pensacola, Fla. – Aug. 14, 2023 The University of West Florida is launching the Office of Workforce Development, a one-of-a-kind presidential initiative aimed at aligning education with career success and economic growth. UWF President Martha D. Saunders has named Dr. Sherry Hartnett as director of the Office of Workforce Development.

“We envision a talent pipeline that builds on our strengths and addresses the shifting workforce needs of industry and our community,” Saunders said. “Dr. Hartnett’s leadership and expertise will be instrumental in creating valuable partnerships and empowering our students to thrive in their careers.”

The University intends to work strategically with existing industries to provide a skilled and qualified workforce. UWF’s Office of Workforce Development will oversee and accelerate the University’s efforts in four strategic areas — workforce planning and alignment, employer development, applied research, and centralized access to UWF talent and programs.

This centralized approach aims to streamline efforts, enhance collaboration and maximize the impact of workforce development programs and services. The initiative will initially focus on three key areas:

  • Serving as UWF’s liaison for the development of workforce initiatives by bringing the needs of industry partners to UWF decision-makers
  • Creating career pathways for UWF students, ensuring they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the workforce
  • Assisting employers in finding skilled workers who will contribute to the local economy by supporting the growth of businesses

Building on the success of UWF’s Executive Mentor Program and the highly-acclaimed Women in Leadership Conference she created, Hartnett is expanding these efforts in a much broader role for the University and the community. Hartnett brings a wealth of skill and experience in creating impactful community partnerships. During her tenure she has gained a reputation locally, statewide and nationally as a leader in workforce readiness, mentoring and strategic partnership development.

“UWF’s commitment to aligning education with workforce needs is evident in its history of providing educational opportunities that respond to the demands of the state,” Hartnett said. “With this innovative workforce development initiative, UWF is poised to continue its tradition of producing highly skilled graduates who fuel the local, regional and state economies.”

Algaplast Corp. announces expansion in Northwest Florida

Algaplast Corp. announces expansion in Northwest Florida

Algaplast Corp. announces expansion in Northwest Florida

Century, FL (May 11, 2023) – FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance has announced today Algaplast Corp. is establishing its first U.S. based-operations in Century, Florida.

Since September 2022, FloridaWest has been working closely with Grupo GA230 representatives to attract their foreign direct investment (FDI) economic development project to Escambia County. The FloridaWest team identified the Town of Century’s available facility to help meet the company’s growth needs. This project is expected to create 25 new manufacturing and technical jobs over the next three to five years.

Photo courtesy of NorthEscambia.com

Algaplast Corp. is a part of the family of companies of Grupo GA230, which has been in business in Brazil for more than 50 years. They produce a wide variety of plastic and rubber component parts for the gas & oil, automobile, mining and transport industries. Algaplast Corp. will begin operations in Century where they will specialize in plastics and rubber component parts made for gas and oil equipment manufacturers.

Algaplast Corp. President and CEO Ed Carlos Curvelos said the company is ready and poised to set up their first U.S. manufacturing plant in Northwest Florida.

“Algaplast Corp. is pleased to work with FloridaWest and the Town of Century to help establish our first U.S. operations here,” said Curvelos. “Our business is important to our life and our future and we are excited about this tremendous opportunity to become a part of the Town of Century and grow from here.”

FloridaWest Chief Business Development Officer Danita Andrews said FloridaWest had been working on landing this project for eight months.

“The FloridaWest team has worked hard to bring this partnership to fruition,” said Andrews. “Bringing this many manufacturing and technical jobs to Century will be a boon to this region.”

Century Mayor Ben Boutwell said they have laid the foundation for companies like Algaplast to be successful.

“Century, Florida is a town with ready opportunities for business. Our proactive infrastructure work, made possible through grants with the State of Florida, is helping position us for great things to come,” said Boutwell. “We are elated to work alongside our economic development partner, FloridaWest, to help bring new manufacturing job opportunities to Northwest Florida.”

FDOE hold apprenticeship accelerator event in Pensacola

FDOE hold apprenticeship accelerator event in Pensacola

FDOE hold apprenticeship accelerator event in Pensacola

Presentation at the apprenticeship event.PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) held the Employer Apprenticeship Accelerator event in Pensacola on December 8. Coordinated by First Place Partners and NWFMC and held at Pensacola State College, the FDOE presented details about the benefits of providing registered apprenticeship programs to created nationally recognized certifications in effort to promote workforce development. The session was specifically designed to address the challenges facing aerospace, manufacturing and engineering industries to provide tailored options and resources through the Registered Apprenticeship Program.

Per the FDOE, registered apprenticeship programs enable employers to develop and apply industry standards to training programs for registered apprentices that can increase productivity and improve the quality of the workforce. Apprentices who complete registered apprenticeship programs are accepted by the industry as journey workers. By providing on-the-job training, related classroom instruction, and guaranteed wage structures, employers who sponsor apprentices provide incentives to attract and retain more highly qualified employees and improve productivity. Certifications earned through registered apprenticeship programs are recognized nationwide. Annual Apprenticeship Reports are available here.

“Apprenticeships give employers the opportunity to test employees and gets an employee an opp to see how they fit,” said Dave Murzin of First Place Partners.

As host of the event, Dr. Ed Meadows, President of Pensacola State College welcomed attendees and Dr. Kevin O’Farrell, Chancellor for Division of Career and Adult Education (FLDOE) kicked off the event. Visiting attendees were taken on a tour of the Port of Pensacola. State participants included Sen. Doug Broxson.

Discussion panelist were Sam Hold with City of Tallahassee, Marcelo Dossantos of FloridaMakes, Josh Colvin from Moss Solar, Bryan Kamm of Space Coast Consortium. Scott Ellsworth, Jobs for the Future, served as moderator.

Other presenters included:

  • Registered Apprenticeship Program Overview was presented by Kathryn Wheeler, Director of Apprenticeship at FLDOE.
  • CareerSource Florida, Susan Bosse, Dir. Of Business and Workforce Strategies, CareerSource, FL
  • Ready to Work, Tiffany Vause, Dir of Strategic Initiatives, Florida Ready to Work
  • Apprenticeship Advantage
  • Next Steps, Leisa Rasmussen, Apprenticeship Outreach Manager, FDLOE
  • Training with a Twist… presented by TransfrVR

Attendees at the apprenticeship event. Attendees at the apprenticeship event. Attendees at the apprenticeship event. Attendees at the apprenticeship event. Attendees at the apprenticeship event. Attendees at the apprenticeship event.