Targeting manufacturing employment in Southwest Florida

SARASOTA — At Quality Enclosures, a Sarasota company that makes glass-and-aluminum shower doors, owner Steve Schwartz has turned the Great Recession to his advantage.

In November 2010, he acquired a glass-tempering operation in Port Orange, near Daytona Beach, which allowed him to harden his own glass and, ultimately, add to profits. Before that acquisition, he’d had to farm the process out.

Now, he wants to move the glass tempering here and expand his 60-person payroll. But to continue to grow, Schwartz is going to need to move some workers from entry-level positions into roles that require more specialized knowledge and skills.

That, in turn, should create more openings for new workers.

For economic development officials, fostering that process — known as “creating a career ladder” — is in itself an opportunity, especially for manufacturing operations.

The opportunity is so great that, in 2012, regional groups involved in economic development are going to be doing the career-ladder dance in unison for the first time.

What the groups, collectively, have realized is that a couple of different mismatches are keeping the local economy from growing.

For one, the people who are out of work or dramatically underemployed often do not have the skills that are in demand. For another, the region’s educators are not always teaching the skills that would qualify students for actual jobs.

“We have a kind of misalignment of the people looking for work and the companies that are growing,” said Ted Ehrlichman, chief operating officer at the Suncoast Workforce Board, which runs three federally funded offices catering to job seekers in the region.

The jobs that are available, many of which are in manufacturing, “are in a very specific industry. They have a very targeted need,” Ehrlichman said.

His group is one of those now collaborating with Bradenton-based CareerEdge, a well-endowed non-profit that elicits information from employers about what skills they need in existing or new workers and then matches employers with needed training, whether it is in-house, on-line or at a local school.

To help better identify the scope of the need, CareerEdge executive director Mireya Eavey has commissioned a study on current and future job gaps in manufacturing operations.

By April, she hopes to have documented the need for machine tool operators and other similar specifics that will, in turn, help her convince educators to invest in equipment and curriculums to bridge this gap.

“Before they put in this machining class, they want to know how many jobs,” Eavey said. “Well, I am going to give it to them.”

Meanwhile, CareerEdge has $400,000 to distribute, and it is is accepting applications from employers for grants and support. Eavey’s deadline is Feb. 10.

Her goal for 2012 is to direct a substantial amount of money into training programs for use by manufacturers. She believes the group will end up with half a dozen companies that qualify, ranging in size from bigger companies — like bandage manufacturer Aso Corp. — to smallish outfits, like Quality Enclosures.

Collaborative efforts like this are not new, of course, but asking manufacturers to become directly involved is, she said.

“I am definitely on board,” said Schwartz, Quality Enclosures’ owner.

So far, Schwartz has been focused on more education for his workers through the Suncoast Workforce Board, which has arranged for his managers to take an online training class.

But he is also considering applying to CareerEdge, thanks to encouragement he has received from the Sarasota Economic Development Corp.

The CareerEdge application is formatted in a way that nudges employers into creating career ladders for workers, Eavey said.

“The manufacturing is going to be very competitive,” Eavey said. “An employer that wants $50,000 and isn’t going to do any promotion, I can tell you they aren’t going to get a penny.”

The stakes, analysts contend, extend far beyond the success of niche manufacturers like Quality Enclosures and into the regional economy overall.

While construction, government and information-related businesses continue to shed jobs in Florida, trade, health services and manufacturing have largely turned around, according to state and University of Central Florida data.

While manufacturing employment continued to wobble through the second half of 2011, the sector “is emerging from this period of globalization as competitive as it has been in many years,” said Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist who regularly publishes “Florida and Metro Forecast.”

He sees continued, gradual growth in employment in manufacturing through 2014, the result of a U.S. dollar weaker than currencies in emerging markets, where economic expansion is strong.

“Given the major decline in construction and the economic downturn hurting tourism, manufacturing is finally getting the attention it deserves,” said Jennifer Behrens Schmidt, who runs Venice-based Atlantic Mold and Machining Corp. and who also is president of the Sarasota Manatee Area Manufacturers Association.

“In an economy where jobs are hard to come by, almost every manufacturer I know is hiring or accepting résumés or has added jobs in the past year,” she said.

Atlantic Mold itself provides a great example of the wealth-spreading effect that manufacturing can have in a community.

While it only employs six people, Atlantic Mold plays a crucial role in creating the plastic glassware made by Tervis Tumbler, one of Sarasota County’s larger employers.

That is because Atlantic Mold makes the steel molds that another company, Octex Corp., uses to create the plastic inner and outer shells that eventually become one of Tervis’ signature insulated tumblers.

“For every large company, it requires the support of many other tier-two and tier-three companies that are also great jobs,” Behrens Schmidt said.

“We would be larger, but we can’t find people with the skill sets,” she said. “Journeymen mold makers — it is a very advanced manufacturing skill set. They are difficult to find.”

CareerEdge Puts Unemployed to Work with Bridges to Careers

MANATEE/SARASOTA, FL (September 29, 2011) – CareerEdge Funders Collaborative Manatee Sarasota will celebrate the graduation of 10 individuals from its “Bridges to Careers” workforce-readiness training on Tuesday, Oct. 4.  Seven of the 10 previously unemployed workers in this inaugural training class have already secured full-time jobs with a local manufacturer.

“It felt great to make a commitment to this group of individuals and be able to say to them, ‘We delivered,’ ” said Jennifer Carp, senior program director at CareerEdge.  “We promised them training, improved lives, and access to employment, and we are providing just that.”

The class that is set to graduate on Tuesday consists of residents from neighborhoods targeted by the Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency for economic development and rehabilitation.  The Manatee Economic Development Council helped bring CareerEdge together with Suncoast Workforce to present the Bridges to Careers participants to manufacturer Berry Plastics.  Seven of the trainees have already been hired by the company.

“During our recent job fair, the CareerEdge participants definitely stood out from the rest,” said Martha Atkins, human resources manager at Berry Plastics.  “We were very impressed by their promptness, their appearance, their terrific attitudes, and their preparedness.  With little notice, they made arrangements to meet with me again and were ready to start work immediately.”

At the request of Berry Plastics’ plant manager, CareerEdge will help the company recruit and train another class of workers in October.  “We are adding some new lines starting in October and will need anywhere from 10 to 20 more employees,” said Atkins.  “We would like those new employees to be ones who have shown their dedication by participating in the CareerEdge program.”

Bridges to Careers helps unemployed residents from low-income areas in Manatee and Sarasota counties enhance their skills and earning potential through formal skills training and credentialing for the workforce.  The program complements other CareerEdge training that is aimed at incumbent workers in low-skilled positions who need training to move up the career ladder and earn higher pay.

Funding for Bridges to Careers comes specifically from a grant from Microsoft and a grant from Jane’s Trust.  Carp also noted the contributions of others in coordinating and executing the Bridges to Careers training.  “The Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency was a great partner in helping us put this training together,” she said. “We were able to bring State College of Florida and training consultants Mileo and Associates to the table to help facilitate trainings, and they went above and beyond in serving these participants.”

Microsoft’s grant to CareerEdge aimed to provide at least 200 individuals in the Manatee-Sarasota region with job-readiness training and job placement. Since March, CareerEdge has served 540 individuals through the grant, helping them gain credentials and get back to work.  Besides the individuals in Tuesday’s graduating class, CareerEdge has worked directly with employers such as PGT Industries and Tervis to train workers with funding from Microsoft.

In Tough Economy, CareerEdge Charts 159 New Jobs, 84 Worker Raises

MANATEE/SARASOTA, FL (September 15, 2011) – Amid lingering double-digit unemployment and the recurring threat of a double-dip recession, there is a bright spot in the Sarasota-Manatee region.

CareerEdge, a nonprofit workforce-development initiative, is helping local employers create and fill real jobs with skilled workers. It is helping incumbent workers in the healthcare sector gain new skills, and the pay raises that come with them. And it is helping the unemployed secure jobs at growing manufacturing businesses like PGT Industries. CareerEdge is a model for the future of workforce development in Florida, say its financial backers, who have new data to prove its mettle.

CareerEdge—more formally, the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative Manatee-Sarasota—is an innovative workforce-development initiative funded by a growing group of foundations, local government entities, and businesses. The funders want to transform the model for workforce development in Manatee and Sarasota counties, so that it more effectively fuels economic growth in the two-county region. The organization is part of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a network of 31 such collaboratives around the country, whose flexible model empowers them to focus on the specific industry sectors and worker skills that are most important to their own local economies.

“So far, the network of National Fund sites has been extremely successful in helping thousands of workers and jobseekers advance toward careers with family-sustaining wages,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge. “And we have new evaluation data that shows CareerEdge has already surpassed annual projections.”

Data through the first six months of 2011 show CareerEdge trained 833 incumbent workers and jobseekers, providing them with nearly 2,000 educational or industry credentials. That training has produced real jobs and wage increases: 159 individuals moved from the rolls of the unemployed to positions with local manufacturers. An additional 177 local jobs were saved, as employees received skills training required to stay in their positions. Eighty-four workers have received promotions or wage increases.

What has made CareerEdge different from existing workforce development efforts is how it contracts with employers, to ensure that real jobs and promotions await individuals who receive training. “We go directly to employers like PGT and Blake Medical Center and find out what they need in their labor force to grow,” said Eavey. “Then we help them provide the specific training for current workers or potential new hires to fill those needs. As incumbent workers move up the career ladder, trained newcomers can fill the open positions.”

CareerEdge targets industry sectors identified through commissioned research as having the greatest growth potential in revenues and wages. To date, the collaborative has secured $3.9 million for customized workforce training, technical assistance for employers, skills training for the unemployed, and public policy advocacy and discourse.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which cochairs the CareerEdge investors committee and handles its fiscal operations, recently granted an additional $300,000 to CareerEdge, bringing Gulf Coast’s total grant investment to $450,000. The new funding targets healthcare training, so CareerEdge can direct other investors’ funding toward its continued expansion into manufacturing.

“Despite the current unemployment rate, what many people do not realize is that we still have a shortage of skilled workers trained for specific jobs that employers need to grow,” said Mark Pritchett, senior vice president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “CareerEdge addresses that by working directly with employers in our targeted growth industries. Everyone has skin in the game—the funders, the employers, and the workers—to make the model successful.”

Bank of America Supports Work of CareerEdge with $75,000 Grant

The grant will help further CareerEdge’s efforts to expand its programs and its reach, increasing the number of low- and mid-wage individuals in Manatee and Sarasota counties who receive skills assessment and training through their employers in order to improve their employment opportunities.

“Pervasive unemployment is a critical issue and low-income populations are often the last to be hired into livable wage jobs,” said Douglas Sherman, market president for West Central Florida, Bank of America. “We are pleased to collaborate with CareerEdge to help fund local job training programs, offering low-income families a way to overcome barriers and achieve economic self-sufficiency.”
Since May 2010, CareerEdge has partnered with nine employers to train more than 1,200 workers over the next two years. The organization has estimated that 75 percent of these workers will receive an average raise of $2.33 per hour.
“We were thrilled to find out CareerEdge was the recipient of Bank of America’s $75,000 grant,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge. “Through Bank of America’s program, we’ll be able to edge closer to our goals of providing employers with skilled employees, helping low- and mid-income workers achieve family-sustaining wages, and helping advance the region’s economic viability.”
About CareerEdge CareerEdge is an innovative partnership of business, civic, and philanthropic organizations that leverage public and private dollars to provide opportunities for better jobs and wages in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The first regional collaborative of workforce investors in the southeastern United States to be designated as a site of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, CareerEdge was created with funding from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, City of Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency, Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Bank of America, Bradenton 14th Street Community Redevelopment Agency, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, and Manatee Community Action Agency. It is also supported by contributions from Microsoft, City of Sarasota Newtown CRA, Sarasota County Government Jane’s Trust, and Suncoast Workforce. For more information about CareerEdge and its partners, please visit or call 941-744-2661.
About Bank of America:Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small- and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 59 million consumer and small business relationships with 6,000 retail banking offices, more than 18,000 ATMs and award-winning online banking with nearly 30 million active users. Bank of America is among the world’s leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to more than 4 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients in more than 150 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
About Bank of America Corporate Philanthropy:Building on a long-standing tradition of investing in the communities it serves, last year Bank of America embarked on a new, 10-year goal to donate $2 billion to nonprofit organizations engaged in improving the health and vitality of their neighborhoods. Funded by Bank of America, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation gave more than $200 million in 2009, making the bank one of the largest corporate cash donors in the United States.  Bank of America approaches investing through a national strategy under which it works with local leaders to identify and meet the most pressing needs of individual communities.  Reaffirming a commitment to develop and sustain a culture of service, the bank announced the “Million Hour Challenge,” a pledge by the company’s associates around the world to donate 1 million volunteer hours by the end of 2010. In 2009, bank associate volunteers contributed more than 800,000 hours to enhance the quality of life in their communities nationwide. For more information about Bank of America Corporate Philanthropy, please visit

Tervis to Launch Career Development Program

CareerEdge, an area nonprofit that helps low-wage workers improve their skills and local businesses to find skilled employees, today announced it has partnered with State College of Florida Workforce Solutions, United Way of Sarasota, Inc. and Tervis to provide the Florida Ready to Work placement test to 70 applicants and launch a career ladder development program for current Tervis employees.

CareerEdge will cover the cost of the placement tests that will help Tervis, a manufacturer of crystal-clear, insulated drinkware and one of the area’s largest employers, add 70 new employees. CareerEdge will also provide job readiness, digital and financial literacy and attitude skills training for Tervis employees.

“We see this as an excellent opportunity to ensure that new employees coming to Tervis are better prepared for success,” said Tim Graham, vice president of human resources at Tervis. “The validation of certain competencies through the Florida Ready to Work certification provide a great start to a new career. We are pleased that we could partner with CareerEdge, State College of Florida and United Way of Sarasota in this exciting program.”

Tervis, which is celebrating 65 years in business, launched the new program to give all current employees the opportunity for advancement and pay raises. There are six levels of certification based on skills development. The company expects new employees to reach level one by 90 days of employment and level two after one year.

“Thanks to generous funders like the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, the Central Community Redevelopment Agency and Microsoft, we are able to help local businesses develop skilled workers to earn family-sustaining wages,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge. “Together, we look forward to creating more partnerships that benefit the Manatee-Sarasota workforce.”

Job seekers may visit careers at to apply for the placement test.

About Tervis

Headquartered in North Venice, Florida, Tervis manufactures crystal-clear, insulated drinkware that is guaranteed for life. Since 1946, the unique, double-walled tumblers have kept cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. Tervis is virtually unbreakable and made in the USA. They are sold in 6,000-plus retail outlets nationwide. For additional information about Tervis Tumbler, call 941.441.2310, email, or visit

CareerEdge to Provide Job Placement Tests

SARASOTA, Fla. (April 13, 2011) – CareerEdge, an area nonprofit that helps low-wage workers improve their skills and local businesses to find skilled employees, today announced it has partnered with State College of Florida Workforce Solutions to provide the Florida Ready to Work placement test to 150 applicants.

CareerEdge, through a grant from Microsoft’s Elevate America community initiative, will cover the cost of the placement tests that will help PGT, one of the nation’s largest window and door manufacturers and one of the largest employers in Sarasota, employ 150 people by June 30. CareerEdge will also provide soft-skill training and observation tests to 200 of PGT’s recently hired employees.

“Our partnership with CareerEdge assists PGT in getting members of our community back to work more quickly and provides additional training and support to foster their success after hire,” said Alicia Adams, senior human resources manager at PGT Industries. “We have embraced the Florida Ready to Work program because candidates for manufacturing, glass operations and supply chain positions must meet WorkKeys testing requirements to be considered for employment.”

Applicants who complete the program earn a credential certifying that they have the foundational skills required for most entry-level jobs.

“With the addition of hundreds of new positions at the Florida facility we can maintain a qualified candidate pool and meet a challenging hiring schedule with the help of CareerEdge,” Adams said.

While Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the month of February was up slightly to 11.5 percent, according to the Agency for Workforce Innovation, unemployment is as high as 30 percent in segments of our communities, Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner said in a recent statement.

CareerEdge focuses on preparing residents in low-income areas for careers in healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and technology. CareerEdge has worked with the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County to connect with manufacturing employers like PGT.

“Thanks to generous gifts from Microsoft and other funders, we are able to partner with PGT and State College to help unemployed individuals in our region find entry-level jobs,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge. “Through these grants, CareerEdge will provide career counseling and technology skills training and will prove to be a valuable resource to the people who need it most.”

Job seekers may visit to apply for the placement test.

About Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County

The EDC of Sarasota County is the private, not-for-profit corporation leading the community’s economic development strategy to add high-wage jobs and diversify the local economy. The EDC provides business assistance to companies in Sarasota County and helps forge solutions to community challenges that affect quality of life. The EDC works in partnership with chambers of commerce, local governments and other organizations throughout the county and the region. For more information, visit

About PGT

Founded in 1980, PGT® pioneered the U.S. impact-resistant window and door industry and today is the nation’s leading manufacturer and supplier of residential impact-resistant windows and doors. Utilizing the latest designs and technology, PGT products are ideal for new construction and replacement projects serving the residential, commercial, high-rise and institutional markets. PGT’s product line includes PGT® Aluminum and Vinyl Windows and Doors; WinGuard® and PremierVueTM Impact-Resistant Windows and Doors; PGT® Architectural Systems; PGT® SpectraGuardTM; and Eze-Breeze® Sliding Panels. PGT Industries is a wholly owned subsidiary of PGT, Inc. (NASDAQ: PGTI). For additional information visit

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative Announces New Healthcare Workforce Grants

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative announces new healthcare workforce grants totaling $289,619 over the next 12- months to five healthcare organizations in Manatee and Sarasota Counties.  CareerEdge will develop a partnership with the healthcare employers they are funding to assist employers in identifying, understanding and addressing the challenges they are experiencing in hiring, retaining and advancing their workforce.  This initiative will create value for employers by helping employers identify, understand and address workers’ skill development needs with the funding and partnership commitment from CareerEdge. The Healthcare Employer Partners have planned training for 410 incumbent workers and project 118 new jobs.

The Healthcare Employer Partners include:  Blake Medical Center, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Manatee Memorial Hospital, Kobernick-Anchin Pavilion and The Life Center of Sarasota. CareerEdge will facilitate collaboration with employers and employees, educational and training providers and community partners to address employer’s workforce needs.

Daniel J. Friedrich, III, President and CEO of Blake Medical Center said “Blake Medical Center is the proud recipient of a grant from the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative of Manatee & Sarasota. We are thankful for CareerEdge’s leadership and support in developing our workforce’s skills and making a difference in the careers and the health of our community. These funds will enable us to provide advanced clinical training for emergency room and intensive care nurses as well as continuing education for rehabilitation therapy staff. CareerEdge’s role in fostering an economically sustainable and competitive environment for the suncoast is paramount and welcome by Blake Medical Center as a large area employer.”

“We’re extremely pleased to offer this special program to our employees,” said Gerard Violette, Sarasota Memorial Hospital Executive Director of Hospitality Services. “Although we provide a very competitive tuition reimbursement program, going back to school remains a challenge for many of our entry level employees who may be juggling multiple jobs while raising a family and dealing with transportation and child care challenges. This program removes one of the most significant barriers by allowing them to earn their normal paycheck while they take time to go back to school.”

CareerEdge is an innovative workforce development intermediary initiative dedicated to helping low-skill/low-wage workers advance to higher-skill/higher-wage careers while providing employers with the skilled workers they need. It was recently designated as one of only 24 national grantees of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.

As Director, Mireya Eavey leads CareerEdge in it strategic direction, fundraising, program investments, capacity building and policy development.  Lisa Carter is the Program Coordinator, in her role she is responsible for Employer Partnership management, human resource benchmarking and analysis and reporting of labor markets within CareerEdge partnerships.

The Founding Partners in this public-private initiative are the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Central Community Redevelopment Agency, the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Bank of America, Bradenton 14th Street CRA and the Manatee County Action Agency. CareerEdge is also supported by contributions from National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Sarasota County Government, City of Sarasota Newtown CRA and Suncoast Workforce.

Reps from National Fund for Workforce Solution to Visit Aug. 4

Representatives from the National Fund for Workforce Solution will visit the two-county region of their latest branch in Manatee and Sarasota counties on Aug. 4, a final step for the Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative gaining a national designation.

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is dedicated to preparing jobseekers and employees for a career, not just a job. It brings together local and regional leaders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to spark and drive innovation and works hand-in-hand to create practices and systems that can help employers and employees succeed in a post-recession economy.

“It is an honor to be invited to apply for the prestigious National Fund designation,” said Sherod Halliburton, Executive Director of the Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency and co-chairman of the Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative. “This visit is the culmination of almost two years worth of fundraising, organizing, and planning.”

Representatives will tour the State College of Florida’s Medical Technology & Simulation Center in Lakewood Ranch, a two-story, 40,000-square-foot building where nursing and other healthcare students will train in a state-of-the-art simulated hospital setting. The center will feature sophisticated adult and infant simulation technology in intensive care units, a birthing room, nursing assessment lab and science laboratories and classrooms.

The new building will be SCF’s first “green” building with LEED certification when it opens this year. With support from local legislators, the state provided $8.9 million for planning and construction. The Foundation for SCF provided almost $2 million in a combination of fundraising and matched funds by the state. The property was donated by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

Continuing education credits and other certifications and specializations needed to meet the continuing education needs of physicians, nurses and emergency care personnel also will be available at the MTS Center. Early childhood education and Educator Preparation Institute classrooms also are included in the building.

Manatee and Sarasota Counties

Manatee and Sarasota Counties — The Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative plans to dole out $1.5 million over the next three years for job training. The first of the grants includes $19,350 to Tidewell Hospice and Palliative Care to train and certify 60 registered nurses and $5,500 to Village on the Isle to teach workers about electronic medical records.

New Bradenton Workforce Collaborative Launches with Knight Support

An emerging, two-county workforce collaborative will provide a wide range of education, training and support services with dual goals: helping prepare local residents for higher skilled jobs while providing businesses with the workers they need to remain competitive.

The collaborative, an intermediary between workers and potential employers, will focus on four industries – healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and technology. All provide career paths and family sustaining wages.

The collaborative announced today that it has received, among other commitments, a $1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant will be used to launch the collaborative’s first strategic agenda item: responding to the growing need and opportunities for skilled healthcare workers in the Manatee Sarasota Region.

“This region’s employers and its working families face long-standing challenges – challenges that a short-term focus on the current economic crisis or another job placement program could not meet,” said Meredith Hector, Bradenton program director for Knight Foundation. “The collaborative provides a long-term, industry-specific intervention strategy that can help transform the local workforce and economy.”

According to a recent labor analysis conducted by the collaborative, healthcare and social assistance comprise the largest source of employment in Sarasota County (15%) and third-largest in Manatee County (10%). The pay growth rate, size, and average pay are expected to increase based on the analysis.

The grant will be leveraged with an additional $500,000 in funds from current and future members of the collaborative that include the following organizations: Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice; City of Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency (CCRA); Bradenton Downtown Development Authority; Suncoast Workforce Board; Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; local hospitals; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. As a next step, the collaborative will be reaching out to the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a 5-year, $30 million national effort designed to foster and share similar activities in other U.S. regions.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice will invest $150,000 and will also oversee the fiscal operations of the collaborative. “This is a great opportunity for organizations in both counties to work together on a significant issue: creating high paying jobs,” said Mark Pritchett, vice president for community investment for Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, and co-chair of the collaborative.

“This is just the beginning,” said Sherod Halliburton, executive director of the City of Bradenton CCRA, and co-chair of the collaborative. “We are inviting investment, partnerships, and insights because there is so much to accomplish.” The CCRA, a $200,000 funder, will help bolster resource management for the collaborative. The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority also contributed $200,000.

The Community Briefing was hosted by the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn Sarasota Bradenton Airport, 8009 15th Street East, Sarasota, Florida.

About the Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative

The Collaborative is dedicated to moving low-wage workers into higher-paying jobs while providing employers with the skilled employees they need. This “dual customer” approach is critical to ensuring employers have access to qualified employees, working residents earn family-sustaining wages, and the region is both economically sustainable and competitive.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit

About the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice

Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice builds strong communities through leadership, partnership, and endowed philanthropy. A public charity committed to improving the quality of life in the communities it serves, it is the largest community foundation in Florida with assets of approximately $200 million. The Foundation was founded in late 1995 and has awarded $92 million in grants in the areas of arts and culture, health and human services, education, civic affairs, and the environment. The Board of the Foundation envisions a region known for endowed philanthropy, a vital nonprofit community, and the ability to address emerging issues. For more information about the Foundation, visit

About the City of Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency

The Central Community Redevelopment Agency is charged with improving the physical, social and economic conditions of the central and east neighborhoods in the City of Bradenton. A portion of taxes derived from properties in the district is used by the Central CRA board to make improvements within the district in the form of infrastructure, job creation and development, rehabilitation of homes and properties and attracting businesses to move within the district’s boundaries. The City created the Central CRA in 2001.

About The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is a nearly 1,800-member, not-for-profit organization that exists to maximize its members’ success, the community’s competitiveness, and the area’s economic strength. Incorporated in 1920, it continues to grow at a rapid pace to serve the educational, social, governmental, and economic and leadership development needs of the greater Sarasota area and is the bridge that links businesses, organizations and residents together with innovative programs that strengthen long-term economic vitality, business success, job creation and quality of life.