Trendsetters - April 2005
In 1975, laid-off apprentice architect David Outlaw joined a St. Petersburg plastics company -- he had worked in plastics to help pay for college -- launching a 30-year education he's wont to share.
Outlaw, 52, is director of technical training for Pennsylvania-based plastics company Precise Technology, an injection molding and mold maker that in St. Petersburg makes lip balm cases and components for hair sprays and hair care products. In 2001, while managing Precise's St. Petersburg plant, he obtained federal funding through the state to offer a Society of the Plastics Industry certification class for plastics workers. "This opportunity never would have happened if the state of Florida had not made the funds available," he says. "I thank them from the very bottom of my heart."
Sixty of the plant's 100 full-time workers took the 28-hour course on their own time along with 60 to 70 workers from other area manufacturers whom Outlaw invited. Workers learned how the disciplines in plastics mesh so that each assists the other. "What we realized is we were training workers whether we knew it or not -- they're trained by the guy next to them whether it was wrong or right," Outlaw says.
Mistakes were reduced. Profitability, morale and communication improved. Outlaw soon managed four plants and now directs training for Precise's 13 U.S. locations and a 14th in the Netherlands. He took the program to the Chicago plant after first obtaining English instruction for Polish and Hispanic workers. He's spreading the program to other sites with grants from states. "The project in Florida has kind of blossomed," says Barbara Darby of the Society of the Plastics Industry in Greenville, S.C. "It could work anywhere, but you have to have someone with David's enthusiasm and passion for sharing knowledge."
Director of technical training /
ON WIFE, LISA: "Best friend. If you want to put the finger on what's keeping me going, it's her."
RECREATION: Nature and golf. "I get my money's worth. I take a lot of practice swings."
EDUCATION: Bachelor's, University of Texas; master's, Florida Institute of Technology.
FILLING TIME ON PLANES AND AT HOTELS: Work on his doctorate.
QUOTE: "If you have the intent and do the right thing to help other people, things will work out."
Training and Service
Director, manufacturing services /
DIVERSIONS: Workouts, cruises, travel.
DO-GOODING: Chair, Community Connections for Broward General Medical Center; board member, Children's Harbor; member, board of governors, Nova Southeastern University H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship; member, board of governors, board of directors and trustee of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce; chair, the workforce council for the Enterprise Florida Manufacturing Advisory Council.Linda Cooke began her unusual career as a Nova Southeastern University business major. She joined high-tech manufacturer Gould Computer in Plantation. She continued after graduation in 1989, went on to another high-tech manufacturer and then, in 1992, took an uncommon turn. She became manufacturing head for the Habilitation Center, a Boca Raton non-profit that employs the mentally, physically and emotionally handicapped doing contract work for Motorola, Tyco and others. The operation has grown to 225 workers from 125 who were there when Cooke joined. It has a high quality rating from manufacturers and was the South Florida Manufacturers Association's Small Business Manufacturer of the Year in 1999. In 2001, Cooke was named the High Tech Executive of the Year by the Florida Council of the American Electronics Association.
Meanwhile, she plunged into civic service. She was the founder and co-chair from 1999 to 2002 of the rejuvenated Broward Days, raising the stature of the group that advocates for the county in Tallahassee.
Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to Workforce Florida, where she chairs the High Skills/High Wages Council. More than 100,000 people have been trained in the past four years from council and Workforce regional efforts, she says. She persuaded the council to shift $1 million to the state's incumbent worker training program, raising the pot to $3 million. She's a prominent advocate for the manufacturing sector.
"Linda's very passionate about high-skill, high-wage program work and was very instrumental in helping to secure more resources" for training workers at existing Florida companies, says Ray Gilley, chairman of Workforce Florida's executive committee and president of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. "She was instrumental in really linking our state's economic growth strategy with our workforce training," Gilley says.
Says Cooke, "I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is. I've always had a passion for education."