August 29, 2014

Around the State

| 9/1/1998
Manufacturing - Taylor County has jobs but it needs workers. Manufacturers such as Sport-Craft Boats in Perry are hungry for new employees. Ken Hall, president of Sport-Craft, which will make about 1,500 boats this year and has nearly tripled its work force from 60 to 160, says he has 30 positions that he needs to fill. Florida economic development officials have long targeted manufacturers to bring good jobs to the state. Increasingly, the jobs are here and the workers aren't.

In an effort to fill 130 immediate openings and up to 350 by year's end, primarily in Taylor, Madison and Suwannee counties, Taylor Technical Institute (TTI) in Perry now offers CareerWorks: a free 10-week training program that gives applicants who complete the course a guaranteed shot at jobs paying $6 to $8 an hour, with full benefits. To pull in students, TTI is casting its net across an eight-county region that also includes Dixie, Alachua, Wakulla, Lafayette and Leon counties. Twenty-nine enrolled in the first CareerWorks session this past July; another class begins in the fall. Hall is hopeful that the program will create a stronger work force. "Familiarity with hand tools and safety practices for manufacturing is something we didn't have before in our employment prospects," he says.

Taylor County's concentration of manufacturing jobs, its unemployment rate, which at 9% is about double the state's average, and TTI's extensive industrial manufacturing curriculum made it a logical site to teach basic skills for entry-level manufacturing positions. The Florida Center for Manufacturing Excellence (FCME) in Bradenton, a non-profit group promoting workforce training, initiated the CareerWorks program and is also trying it out in Manatee and Sarasota counties. A grant from the Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development funds CareerWorks, which targets clients of WAGES, Florida's welfare to work program. State incentives and federal tax credits reward businesses that employ WAGES clients.

For educators, CareerWorks is a new way of thinking, according to Ann Cooper, industry services coordinator for Taylor Tech. "We've learned that our business needs to be industry-driven rather than education-driven," she says. "To us, education is economic development." - Julie S. Bettinger

BAY COUNTY - Panama City-Bay County International Airport officials say they will work with Jacksonville's St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE) to build a new airport in West Bay, about 30 miles away. The airport had hoped to lengthen its runway 2,200 feet, an idea environmental and community groups opposed because it would have impacted a bayou. Easy air access is critical to St. Joe's plans to build resort and residential communities in Bay and nearby Walton County.

PANAMA CITY - Chicago-based Stone Container Corp. shut down its paper mill for two months beginning in August, laying off 500 people. Stone blames low prices for cardboard and paper bags. Another 460 workers were laid off at Florida Coast Paper Co. in Port St. Joe.

PANAMA CITY BEACH - Bank holding company Emerald Coast Bancshares merged with Alabama-based Warrior Capital Corp., which is acquiring three other Alabama banks: Commercial Bancshares of Roanoke, First Citizens Bancorp of Monroeville and City National Corp. of Sylacauga. The deal gives Emerald Coast, which plans to change its name to The Banc Corp., $430 million in assets and $54 million in capital.

PENSACOLA - The U.S. Marine Fisheries Service charged A.C. Williams Seafood Co. with 90 counts of fishery violations and fined it more than $1 million for buying red snapper out of season, falsifying records and buying fish without a permit. The company can't deal in federally regulated species for three years.

SANDESTIN - Vancouver, Canada-based Intrawest Corp.'s $130 million buyout of Sandestin Resorts from Malaysian conglomerate Sime Darby has been finalized. Intrawest plans to expand the 2,400-acre upscale resort and add 2,300 residential units, 200,000 feet of commercial space and another golf course.

TALLAHASSEE - The Department of Insurance took over Champion Healthcare after court approval to seize the HMO's assets in order to pay its creditors. The 17,000-member HMO was founded last year and lost more than a $1 million in the first quarter of 1998. A state program, HMOCAP, will cover claims.

Sprint-Florida has new competition in Tallahassee now that KMC Telecom, a privately held communications company based in Bedminster, N.J., offers local service. KMC, with $3.4 million in revenues last year, also offers long-distance and is building its own fiber optic network.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Politics & Law, Business Florida, Northwest

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