In late December, Plant City EDC President Jake Austin got a call from manufacturing company James Hardie, asking him to have lunch with Miguel Garcia.
Garcia is the project manager for Florida TRADE, a federally-funded grant that encourages manufacturing careers at 12 schools across the Sunshine State.
“He was after support and help from the Plant City EDC,” Austin said. “There’s a good mix of Tampa Bay manufacturers, but he wanted (eastern) representation.”
The Plant City EDC jumped on board by partnering with Florida TRADE for two job expos. In April, the first manufacturing job expo will be held in Brandon at the city’s Hillsborough Community College campus, where the manufacturing program for HCC is housed. The second expo will be repeated in the fall in Plant City.
“We’re repeating it here in September,” Austin said. “We need to solidify what exactly the plan is. One way or another, there will be multiple job expos coming up.”
The job expos will be geared toward education about the manufacturing industry, and presenting an accurate depiction of those jobs.
“It’s not a grungy shop where you get paid minimum wage,” Austin said. “A lot of employers are desperate for quality manufacturers. This is to generate more of a talent pipeline for these companies.”
Garcia first came up with the idea for the expo with Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, the engineering technology instructor and program manager at the HCC Brandon campus. “Miguel and I worked together in Puerto Rico,” Anzalone said. “Schools did it all the time. It’s going to change the way we do business. This is basically the accumulation of that effort. We know that only good things are going to come out of this.”
Garcia gave a presentation at the Plant City EDC meeting on Monday, March 21, about Florida TRADE’s goals in the manufacturing industry.
“We offer short certification programs to students,” Garcia said. “We offer internships and networking opportunities.”
In such an industrial region, bringing more manufacturing jobs to Plant City can benefit the area, especially if existing companies expand their employee base. The EDC hopes that such expansion can happen with multiple industries in the future, and not just manufacturing.Several companies are continuing to look at making Plant City home base. Others, including Fitlife Foods and SparkleSkirts, have already announced permanent plans for moving to the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. As new businesses arrive, expansion of existing businesses remains a top priority: within the last year, Sunshine Bank has added 16 new jobs in Plant City.
“We are perfectly located for growth,” Austin said. “Our location is very strategic right now.”
Though only two job expos are currently set, Austin said there is the potential for the EDC to partner with companies and organizations for job expos in different industries.
“Distribution and logistics, operations, IT,” Austin said. “We want to eventually hit all of them.”
The job expo at the HCC Brandon campus will be held Thursday, April 7.