Economic and workforce developers, businesses, and colleges in southeast Florida have come together to strengthen their regional economy. In the process, Florida’s new governor and the U.S. Department of Labor have taken notice.
In 2009, with the recession taking its toll, Florida’s Research Coast was awarded an almost $200,000 grant to run a pilot economic gardening project. The idea was to use regional collaboration and expertise to help targeted second-stage businesses (10-99 employees) grow by offering market intelligence, identifying skill needs, connecting firms to specialized training and business coaching, etc.
The grant came as the state was in the beginning stages of launching GrowFL, an economic development program also rooted in economic gardening principles. And just like GrowFL, the Research Coast’s project and continued economic development efforts have helped businesses prosper and grow.
Results During Grant Phase Eye-Catching
Through the efforts of Florida’s Research Coast — a partnership of EDCs, colleges, and the workforce and business community — 164 firms in the four-county area were served in a 12-month period through the state grant. Of the 178 people trained, 120 were placed in a job or retained.
“We actually exceeded the goals of the grant when the project was awarded,” says Michael Corbit, the Business Projects Regional Consultant for Workforce Solutions and Florida’s Research Coast.
State and national leaders have since used the collection of decision-makers in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties as an example of what can be achieved through successful collaboration. In April, Gov. Rick Scott told area stakeholders, “The biggest thing here is, how do we create the same synergy that you have working here in other parts of the state?”
The U.S. Department of Labor has also identified the Research Coast’s economic gardening project — which will stay intact despite state funding cuts to GrowFL — as an exemplary regional model.
How EMSI Fits In
Corbit and his colleagues have access to lots of tools. Some are tailored to economic development; others to broader-based research and workforce and training. EMSI’s Analyst is one of these tools, and increasingly it has become an important one for the regional partnership. “EMSI’s tool now has become a valuable component of not only helping current employers, but also attracting new prospect companies,” Corbit says.
EMSI has added a lot of valuable tools to our toolkit.” — Michael Corbit, Workforce Solutions and Florida’s Research Coast
A key part of Analyst, Corbit notes, is accessing EMSI’s current workforce and economic data. He uses the economic impact and career pathways modules to estimate the impacts of business additions and closure, look at supply chains and regional economic base, and determine the skills for particular occupations, among other things.
“EMSI has added a lot of valuable tools to our toolkit,” he says. “It provides us with current data. Your data is far fresher than what state or federal agencies can provide. It’s timely, and you can basically run it on the fly.”
“With EMSI and other resources we are working to help the region become more competitive while assisting existing businesses to grow,” he concluded.