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  • 27 Jun 2022 9:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I would like to take the opportunity to bring you up to date on some good news in the community (I think we can all use a little good news!). Riverview High School will launch a Construction Technology Program in August at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

    This will ultimately be a four-year program to introduce students to careers in the construction industry. The program is full (at 60 students) and includes a waitlist (60 more at last check). Workforce issues have been plaguing the local construction industry for many years, resulting in pricing increases and delays. According to professionals working with students, two-thirds of high school graduates don’t have a plan upon graduation. So, developing programs within the schools to provide industry-specific training was identified as a solution to meet the needs of the students and needs of the community. These students will graduate with marketable skills and experience to launch their careers, work their way through college, attend a Construction Technology Program at a university and/or utilize this experience as a life skill.

    As described by the school, Riverview will be the first high school to start its own Construction Technology program, utilizing hands-on experiences in the construction and trades industry alongside NCCER (National Center for Construction Education & Research) curriculum to meet industry standards. Students will come out of the program with these industry recognized credentials, but the emphasis will be on students getting meaningful internships, apprenticeships, and jobs here locally. The teacher launching the program has already been through the program as a student and currently teaches night classes at Suncoast Technical College and we could not be more excited to bring him on board at Riverview for the Construction Technology Program! The new project involves converting a commercial art lab into a functioning shop while providing students with tools relevant to the industry standards.

    Converting the art lab into a functioning shop is no small or inexpensive task, but members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) have already agreed to donate/in-kind 75% of the costs associated with the project. Additionally, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, in collaboration with the outstanding staff and leadership at the school district, are reaching out to the community for donations of tools and other consumables. The response has been tremendous!

    Additionally, while the program is ongoing, GCBX members will support the classroom activities by coming in to speak to classes, provide internship and apprenticeship opportunities and be first in line to hire the graduates upon completion of the program!

    So, while we are working hard to get this project completed by the opening of school in August, there is even more good news! Our friends and colleagues at the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce are working with Venice High School to develop a Construction Trades Academy at VHS!

    These programs will prepare high school graduates for the future, provide them with opportunities for careers here at home and strengthen the local economy. Programs such as these rely on support from the industry, but also support from the community.


    If you would like to know how you can help or get more information, please contact GCBX at 941-907-7745 or the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce at 941-488-2236.

    Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. Contact her at marydougherty@gcbx.org.

    https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/business/2022/06/27/mary-dougherty-help-way-construction-workforce-issues/7682590001/


  • 29 Mar 2022 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sarasota Herald-Tribune

    March 28, 2022

    Supply chain issues resulting from pandemic related snarls have plagued the U.S. construction industry for roughly two years now.

    The first widespread public notice of the supply chain issues came when the price of lumber skyrocketed to all time highs last spring, but industry experts said the difficulties sourcing some construction materials had been ongoing for months before that.

    That increase in the price of lumber to a record $1,500 per 1,000 board feet in May 2021 caused the cost for home builders to increase by tens of thousands of dollars, homebuilders told the Herald-Tribune last summer.

    While prices dropped to below $500 per 1,000 board feet by August, it has steadily been on the rise and above $1,000 per 1,000 board feet most of February and March.

    Sarasota homebuilders told the Herald-Tribune last summer besides the drastic increase in lumber prices, a lack of garage door springs as well as long lead times for windows delayed some projects.

    Delays can also be costly to companies as many contracts have dates built in when a project must be completed or the builder gets assessed penalties, leading to builders paying higher prices to ensure projects finish on time.

    The increase in price of construction material combined with a difficult labor market and the intense increase in demand for general contractors seen along the entire southwest coast of Florida has prompted local companies undertake innovative strategies in an attempt to solve their supply chain problems.

    Neal Communities, the largest locally owned home builder, purchased a Brooksville company that manufactures roofing trusses in February, part of the company's strategy for vertical integration.

    “Given the current supply constraints in the building industry, this acquisition is a step toward alleviating the difficulties in the supply chain that we are experiencing,” said Pat Neal, founder and chairman of Neal Communities.

    Vertical integration

    Chris Jones, a faculty member at the University of South Florida who holds a doctorate in economics, said as the supply chain issues continue more companies have looked into vertical integration as a potential solution.

    Vertical integration happens when a company acquires two or more stages of production typically undertaken by different firms into one company.

    "Basically, companies are looking to take a couple links out of the supply chain," he said.

    Jim Sullivan, director of undergraduate programs at the M.E. Rinker Sr. School of Construction Management at the University of Florida, said while he hasn't personally heard of many companies buying up suppliers to solve their supply chain needs, construction companies are attempting to address the problems in other ways.

    "What companies are doing is ordering early and storing more and more materials on site," he said in an email. "This does two things – guarantees the material is actually on the job and locks in the price. Currently those are the two big issues in construction – supply chain management and cost increases."

    Some of the supply chain issues

    Doug Sutter, president of the commercial roofing company Sutter Roofing, said while his company is busier than ever, the supply chain issues are a problem.

    He noted the company recently purchased equipment to open a light concrete division as a direct response to some supply-chain issues unique to the roofing industry.

    Both Sullivan and Sutter said insulation used in roofing has become difficult to find with some orders taking about a year to fulfill.

    Sutter said insulation orders before the pandemic took just three to six weeks.

    That's where the light concrete division, which can be used for insulation in roofing, comes in. It fills a duel purpose as Sutter is also worried about a shortage of roofing fasteners in the near future.

    "We feel this (opening a light-concrete division) gives us the flexibility to meet our customers schedules and needs than solely relying on POLYISO roof insulation," he said.

    Nate Yoder, marketing director for Mullet's Aluminum, said the current supply constraints reinforces something the company has believed for a long time — maintain great relationships with trade partners.

    He said because of the companies longtime relationship that stretches back to the 1970s suppliers have worked with the company to overcome problems as they became known.

    He said the company has worked with suppliers by showing them their anticipated project pipeline and purchased materials for the entire year.

    "I can't stress how important those relationships are," he said.

    Demand for commercial builders, labor shortages

    Mary Dougherty, executive director at the Gulf Coast Builders Xchange, said it feels like every time a snarl in the supply chain is ironed out, something else pops up.

    She said not all of the issues are pandemic related, pointing to the a hard freeze in Texas that knocked two of the three largest suppliers of PVC pipe offline.

    Still, she said her members tell her that demand for the for commercial builders is high throughout southwest Florida.

    "For Florida, it looks very good despite the supply chain issues," she said.

    She noted that while supply chain issues do seem to be a topic of conversation, possibly just as big of a problem is the labor shortages.

    She noted that this August Riverview High School will start a program focused on the construction industry for 60 students. She said a Riverview official told her there's a waitlist already and talks about expanding the program to North Port High School.

    While companies purchasing other companies to meet their individual challenges may solve the purchasers supply chain issue, it doesn't in it's own right fix the issue for smaller companies unable to afford vertical integration.

    Jones, the USF economics professor, said the purchase of a supplier can create challenges for smaller businesses who may no longer have access to the materials now directed toward the purchaser.

    Neal Communities noted in its news release the Brooksville truss company would "retain most of its current customer base and is adept in building a wide range of trusses."

    However, if the practice becomes more common, smaller companies could find it even more difficult to source construction materials, which would lead to a less competitive marketplace, Jones said.

    "It absolutely does have a impact in the short run," Jones said. " and an obvious impact to pricing and supply in the market."


  • 10 Mar 2022 2:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Mary Dougherty

    We all love living in Florida.  Our climate, both meteorologically and in business make this a very attractive State to call home.  I’m pleased to say I’ve called Florida home since 1979.  Yet we all depend on others for our day to day existence and quality of life.  We need police officers, teachers, nurses, grocery workers and others that are having difficulty affording to live in the region.  This also extends to the construction industry.  Members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange recruit at some of the top Schools of Construction Management in the country, but potential employees turn them down for offers in other areas of the country that are more affordable.   These are high wage and high skill jobs.  Exactly the type of jobs we prioritize for the region.

    To have a meaningful conversation about affordable housing, we have to have a conversation about government processes and regulations.  Just as a homeowner shouldn’t have to wait months for a home renovation permit, or a new home permit in an area where infrastructure and utilities are available, we need to make it simpler to get to yes to allow the housing that’s needed for our expanding region. When it takes a year or longer to have development applications considered that raises the cost of housing, creates uncertainty and also makes it difficult for existing residents to know what change is coming.  The fees for these particular petitions/applications can cost in the 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars before a single home is even started.  Streamlining the process, improving accountability in the reviews and encouraging affordable/workforce/attainable housing alternatives needs to be a priority for the entire region.

    When the local Sheriff’s say the number one issue facing their agencies is finding housing the system needs to be improved and be improved quickly.  It’s even more critical when our hospitals and medical providers are reporting the same issues.  While some local governments have taken steps to create incentives for smaller housing units designed to address affordable housing, not all the local governments in our region have taken steps to embrace these initiatives.  With so many local governments in our region, having artificial differences from one jurisdiction to another especially when we act and live as one community/region it just doesn’t make sense.  Residents don’t see municipal boundaries, but these boundaries are impediments to affordable housing.  Just as our local governments collaborate on economic development, they should collaborate to solve the affordable housing crisis in the region.  We will get further and achieve more working together.

    We are fortunate to call this region home.  We want and need to keep it a desirable place to live and work, but in order to do this we must solve the affordable housing crisis.  People moving to Florida will have different needs and desires when it comes to their housing needs.  We must plan for all these needs, but we must come together and also plan for attainable housing for essential workers.  Perhaps there are those that think delaying these plans and applications will result in less growth, but unfortunately the only thing they are accomplishing is increasing costs.  Yes, we have to have feasible and realistic plans for the growth of our community, but we also need to have expediency and predictability in our government approval processes so that those plans can actually be carried out and carried out regionally. 


  • 05 Jan 2022 10:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Mary Dougherty

    One of the best attributes of Sarasota County is that when an issue of critical importance is identified, that is when we see our community at its best. When an issue such as affordable housing reaches a crescendo there’s a cacophony from community groups and leaders to find solutions. This is what we are seeing with what has become a crisis in Sarasota County regarding affordable housing.

    As a County we find ourselves in a unique situation brought about by the pandemic with funding to support the needs of local communities coming down from the Federal Government in the form of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding. Sarasota County is receiving approximately $84 million from this program. To their credit, the County surveyed citizens and businesses to identify their top priorities for the use of these funds. The #1 issue brought forth by the public was Affordable Housing. Our County Commissioners looked at the data and listened to citizens who came to speak on the subject and directed staff to come back with recommendations to allocate a significant portion of the funds to address the Affordable Housing crisis.

    As I’ve learned from people far more knowledgeable than myself, eligible ARPA Housing investments include:

    o Services to address homelessness, such as supportive housing, and to improve access to stable affordable housing among individuals experiencing homelessness;

    o Affordable housing development to increase the supply of affordable and high-quality living units; (so new construction is allowable), and

    o Housing vouchers, residential counseling, or housing navigation assistance to facilitate household moves to neighborhoods with high levels of economic opportunity and mobility for low-income residents, to help residents increase their economic opportunity and reduce concentrated areas of low economic opportunity.

    Anecdotally I’ve also learned, as a result of my adult children looking for housing to be closer to work, that rent prices have skyrocketed in our area. The last number I’ve heard was that in the last year rental rates were up 43%. Frankly, that’s if you can even find a place available.

    The Commercial Contracting Industry has been facing a labor shortage for years now. Not only due to a thriving economy that has created a need for workers, but a retirement tsunami that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

    The current lack of affordable housing has created a situation where local contracting firms engage in recruitment at colleges/universities and offer candidates good jobs with good pay and they are turned down due to the cost of living in the area. This is creating a workforce/talent crisis in the region. These are exactly the type of young professionals we need to attract to the area to continue to have a robust and thriving community.

    This is an issue that effects the entire community. The Sarasota County Commission and County staff are to be commended for using this opportunity to make real strides to address this problem. I am grateful to be working with an amazing group of professionals in the community that can look at this problem from every angle including issues of housing insecurity and its effect on mental health, the effect on Alice (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) families in the community, the effect on business recruitment and retention and the myriad of issues created by the domino effect created by the lack of affordable housing. I am honored to be included around the table with such knowledgeable and passionate community leaders.

    This is Sarasota at its best! With Government, the private sector and local foundations working together to solve this problem, I am certainly optimistic about 2022 in our community!


  • 11 Nov 2021 9:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Congratulations Manatee County!  The referendum to support Manatee County Schools passed by a wide margin!  This is good for the community, the educators and the students!  There are many reasons a strong educational system is good for the community, but it is also a necessity for strong economic development.  We need an educated and trained workforce for economic development.

    Now let’s repeat this victory for Sarasota County Schools in March of 2022!  For all the same reasons, and also because we are one MSA and one region.  We must realize that and focus on a thriving, robust and sustainable region.

    An educated and well trained workforce is critical to the local economy.  Currently, labor shortages compounded by supply chain issues are having a huge impact on the local commercial contracting industry.

    Plenty of jobs are available in the trades and as project managers and superintendents with General Contracting firms.

    Training and employment in the trades offers a route to financial security and the American Dream. 

    I’m reminded of the recent story of a young man who was laid off during the pandemic. He applied to CareerEdge Funders Collaborative (part of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce) to participate in the HVAC Express Program offered at Sarasota Technical College.  Throughout his three month training he was mentored by veterans in the field.  He developed interview and professional skills for employment and upon graduation was immediately offered a job.  From when he first stepped foot in the training program in January of 2021 to September of 2021 he worked his way to $20.00/hour with time and a half for overtime and double time when on call.  His self-confidence and pride have gone through the roof.  He and his wife will be closing on their first home in 6 days.  He is making his American Dream a reality!

    This type of story isn’t just important for the Construction Industry, it’s important for the community.  We need more stories like this in the community.  Locally, both the Manatee and Sarasota County School Boards understand the importance of workforce training.  We are also fortunate to live in a very generous community where programs like CareerEdge receive funding from private donors and foundations.

    Unfortunately, funding at the State level has not kept up with the demand for workforce training.  In the four (4) years from 2017 to 2021 there was a 42% increase in enrollment in programs at the Sarasota Technical Institute, but State funding in the same timeframe only increased 15.8%.

    Funding allocations in Tallahassee can be complex and confusing.  It’s particularly confusing when some counties receive over 100% of their funding needs, while other counties like Sarasota only receive 83.5%.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we take from some counties to support others.  On the contrary, I’m suggesting that we take a sharp look at the funding and make it a priority to fund at least 100% of the funding needs for all of Florida’s 67 counties!  These programs change lives.  These programs help build communities and support economic development.  Let’s hope this legislative session, there will be an emphasis on finding the funds necessary to ensure the success of these programs and their participants.

    If you know someone who could benefit from the programs offered at CareerEdge they can be contacted at 941-556-4045.


  • 05 Oct 2021 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) supports a strong business environment and a strong community.  This means more than just quality jobs/careers or retention of businesses.  While those issues are hugely important and we support the local EDC’s and their leaders, Sharon Hillstrom with the Bradenton Area EDC, Mel Thomas the Economic Development Director in North Port and warmly welcome the leadership of Lisa Krouse with the Sarasota EDC,  we know that their jobs depend on a quality community and quality educational system to attract and retain businesses in the region.

    Sometimes with so much in the news these days, its important not to overlook important local issues that help produce a quality educational system and quality community.  One of these critical issues is the referendum for Manatee County Schools that will appear on the ballot this November 2021.  On March 20, 2018, the School Board of Manatee County asked voters to approve a 1-mill referendum in a special election. A majority of Manatee County voters approved the measure which provided approximately $37 million per year for school district operational needs.  Continuing the existing millage for funding of Manatee County Schools is important to ensure a quality educational system for students and ultimately the community.  While the continuation of the millage over the years has shown the support the community has for Manatee County Schools, I suggest we have an even greater appreciation for the school system throughout this pandemic.  We have seen firsthand how important it is for students to receive a quality education and how important the school system is for society as a whole and for working parents.  At GCBX we support continuation of this funding for Manatee County Schools and urge you to vote YES to continue this funding for Manatee County Schools.

    Then once you have voted YES for Manatee County Schools, this item will be on the Sarasota County ballot in March of 2022.  Again, for all the reasons stated above, lets ensure that students get the quality education they deserve and the community has the quality educational system that will help attract businesses that provide high wage/high skill careers to the region now and in the future.

    Then we implore you to focus on the Surtax Referendum in Sarasota County in November of 2022.  There will be a lot of election chatter in 2022 with Congressional races and other races on the ballot, so this referendum which directly effects the quality of life in Sarasota County may be easy to miss, but please don’t!  We have all seen the signs over the past 15 years showing the quality projects funded through this 1 CENT added to our local sales tax, a healthy portion of it paid by tourists to the area, has done for our community.  As someone who has been a resident of the community since 1979, I have always looked with curiosity and frankly a sense of excitement when I would see these signs and the projects which are improving our quality of life.  At GCBX we proudly support the Surtax Referendum and urge you to vote YES.  On this particular issue, we urge you to go one step further and participate in the ongoing meetings taking place around the County as they develop the list of projects that will be funded by the Referendum.  This is a real opportunity to have your voice heard and have an impact on the quality of life in Sarasota County.  Go to scgov.net to learn more about where these meetings are taking place and how you can get involved.

    At GCBX we are Proud to Build hospitals, libraries, fire stations and the businesses where you work as well other commercial spaces you visit regularly.  We are proud of our mission of Members Doing Business with Members to strengthen the local economy!


  • 05 Aug 2021 9:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We all know the benefits and importance of spending our hard earned dollars locally to support the local economy.  We are reminded of it on days such as Small Business Saturday to counter the effects of exporting our dollars that occurs on Black Friday.  Or when local restaurants blend together just like the beautiful ingredients in their home grown and home cooked fare to remind us to eat local.  During the pandemic there has been an admirable effort to ensure that local businesses don’t close and local people don’t lose their jobs.  We have all wanted to do our part.

    The importance of doing business locally is not only something we should focus on when it comes to retail and hospitality, it is important in the Construction Industry also.  This is perhaps most important when it comes to spending your tax dollars.  Local governments and school boards bid out millions of dollars worth of capital projects each year.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 27,000 people are employed in the local construction industry.  These are your neighbors, your friends, the parents of your children’s friends.  Construction is an extremely important sector of the local economy. 

    When your tax dollars are spent with local design professionals and local general contractors on local projects, they in turn hire local sub-contractors.  Your tax dollars then circulate in the community at local shops, local restaurants and with local charities.  Your tax dollars don’t only build that government building or school, they strengthen your local community.

    Unfortunately, we are seeing a change in prioritizing local contractors and therefore the local economy with certain government entities, particularly the Manatee County School Board.  For many years, the Manatee School Board reaped the benefit of working with local contractors, resulting in some of the lowest school construction costs in the State of Florida.

    These schools were being designed and built by workers who in some cases called local schools their alma mater and who were now sending their children to local schools.  When punch list items needed correction, the team that worked on the school was still here locally and their local reputations and sense of pride were still here on the line.  They responded with pride of ownership in their community.  They supported local sport teams, local charities and yes, local referendums that supported higher wages for teachers and enhanced learning opportunities for students.

    Recently we have seen a change in this emphasis to use your tax dollars to do business locally.  Frankly, we are concerned and disappointed.   We hope this is just an anomaly, but we need assurance that local elected leaders and staff understand the importance of supporting businesses that have invested in the community and call this community home.  There is a track record of success using local contractors and a multiplier effect to your tax dollars that strengthens the entire community.

    When local governments prioritize doing business with local firms, their employees shop locally, dine locally and support local charities.  We hope our local elected officials don’t lose site of this important priority for the good of the whole community.


  • 10 Jun 2021 9:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We all remember the shortages of toilet paper, disinfecting wipes and hand-sanitizer at the beginning of the pandemic.  Fortunately, those issues seem to be a distant memory, but supply and supply chain issues are hitting the local construction industry.

    Currently, issues with PVC pipe, steel and of course lumber are the main issues GCBX members are dealing with most significantly at the moment.  There are several reasons for the shortages as I understand them from the people dealing with this daily.  The most obvious are due to the pandemic and manufacturing plants either shutting down during lock downs or operating with fewer employees due to distancing requirements, etc., but that is not the whole story.

    As with many of the unusual issues we never knew or thought about prior to Covid, I’m learning a lot about the source of much needed supplies and supply chains.  It’s an interesting topic that many of us don’t think about on a daily basis, but a critical component of our economy that has been brought front and center of our attention this year (I definitely should have listened more closely during that economics course in college).

    The most obvious factor deals with the lock downs and winter in Northern States.  The need for supplies such as lumber up north was greatly diminished during the pandemic and the winter, but the obvious good news is that things are opening back up and construction is up and running again for our northern neighbors, but now they are also in the market for these supplies as manufacturers work to catch up with demand. According to GCBX members, when they receive a quote for lumber to price a job, the quotes are good for 5 hours!  Yes, you read that right, not 5 weeks, not 5 days, but 5 hours!  The price per board foot has risen from $367 to approx. $1600.

    The good news/bad news about steel is that a significant amount apparently comes from recycling things like stoves, washers, and dryers, etc.  That’s the good news, the bad news is that people did much less of that during the pandemic contributing to the current shortage and rising prices.

    I am told and a quick internet search seems to back up that there are relatively few PVC resin manufacturers in the U.S.  At least two of the main sources are in Texas.  The severe winter weather in Texas this year knocked these plants off-line and the resulting shortage is having very real effects on pipe in the local market.  Additionally, some of the production components necessary for pipe comes from China and India.  While India is dealing with devastating effects of the pandemic it has understandably had an impact on their production capabilities.  Chinese ships, according to the suppliers I speak to, must quarantine off the coast of the Port of Los Angeles and undergo decontamination before containers can be off loaded and then there is a shortage of CDL drivers to transport the materials once on shore.

    The bottom line is a job that was bid last October 2020 has risen 20% across the board.  To put that in perspective, if a commercial project was bid at $5M it is now $6M and most likely going up.

    While it’s easy to list the problems and hope the supply catches up with demand in the foreseeable future, it takes collaboration, creative thinking and compromise to deal with the current situation.  Fortunately, staff in both Manatee and Sarasota counties are doing just that. In Manatee County they have waived certain requirements for laser etching to identify EPDM pipe until Dec. 31 to make it easier to acquire this type of pipe just without the etching.  Sarasota County is also reaching out and working with the industry to see how they can bid projects with so many unknowns and variables in pricing and to still work with local contractors and make the best use of taxpayer dollars.  At GCBX we believe this may be accomplished by utilizing Construction Manager at Risk as opposed to hard bidding projects.  This will allow the General Contractor to work with the Architect from the beginning of the project to develop the most cost-effective budget for these projects and the taxpayers.

    To use the line so many of us have heard over the past 15 months, “we are all in this together”, we appreciate our colleagues in both counties that continue to work with the industry to seek collaborative solutions to a common problem.


  • 15 Mar 2021 10:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Once upon a time, which I like to think was not that long ago, when you attended High School you had classes such as shop, auto mechanics and home economics as part of the offerings that you could take along with your academic requirements. Frankly, while my mother was an amazing and intelligent woman, domestic skills were not her strong suit. Probably the only reason I can sew a hem and do a few other basic things is because of the home economics class I took in High School. Often these classes just seemed like fun or they were an opportunity to be in a class with friends, but inevitably they taught you skills you could truly use in life and for some students they sparked a real interest that led them to continue on that track for career training.

    Vocational training in High School can make a real difference in the lives of young people. People learn differently and have unique skills and talents that should be recognized and nurtured. Training in the trades in the construction industry or training for manufacturing lead to excellent careers. For many reasons, not the least of which is the high cost of a four year degree that can result in excessive student loan debt, a little over 30% of high school graduates will not go to college according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and almost 40% of those who start a four year degree will not finish. We cannot accept numbers like this without a plan to change them and vocational training should be a part of that plan.

    Here locally, Sarasota Technical College and Manatee Technical College offer excellent programs that culminate in jobs and career opportunities upon graduation. Career Edge which is a part of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce offers fast-track programs at no cost to students which provides them the necessary training to get their foot in the door of a job day one after graduation. From there they receive more training and participate in apprenticeship programs that lead to solid careers.

    The apprenticeship program offered through the local Air Conditioning Association – MAACA offers further education while the apprentices are working and earning a living. They work, go to school and make it through different levels of training to obtain a certification called NATE – North American Technician Excellence which is recognized around the world. These graduates can take their dreams and ambitions anywhere they choose.

    At the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange we have many members that started their careers on the bottom rung of the ladder and now own the business! These business owners speak to young people in the schools to share their experiences and provide information about how to get training and get employed in their business. We also have met with Guidance and Career Counselors in both Manatee and Sarasota Counties to share this information so it can be a part of what they share with students about opportunities for their futures. Additionally, each year we conduct a Construction Career Rodeo and invite students from Manatee and Sarasota Counties to participate. The students get hands on experience at different stations put on by different companies and leave with information about how to apply for employment or in some cases with internship and apprenticeship opportunities before the day is over. We look forward to holding the next Construction Career Rodeo once it is deemed safe to hold these activities in schools again.

    If you know a young person (or adult) who would like to know more about the opportunities provided by CareerEdge, they can be reached at (941) 556-4038. The GCBX website, www.gcbx.org has a job board where job opportunities are listed and updated regularly. Let’s work together to ensure that gainful employment is an opportunity for everyone in our community.


  • 15 Jan 2021 9:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As part of my professional responsibilities, I attended the July 9, 2019 Sarasota County Commission Meeting and listened with great interest as the Board discussed and offered guidance for Economic Development in Sarasota County.

    This discussion is obviously of great interest to the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) and the Commercial Contracting Industry and should be of great interest to the entire community as we seek to reduce the threshold of ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) households from 23% to as close to zero as possible.  Even more startling is that 37% of households are below the ALICE threshold and 9% are below the poverty level.  Additionally, 47% of Sarasota County school children are on free or reduced lunch. We should strive to bring these numbers down as close to zero as possible and we obviously have work to do!

    Economic Development needs to be a team sport with the entire community behind it and supporting it.  It not only grows the tax base of the county so we all benefit, but provides opportunities that families need and deserve.  Not to mention keeping good paying jobs in the commercial construction industry busy and thriving.

    The discussion was lively and clearly had the good of all residents and the community at the heart.  This one is TV well worth watching and I encourage you to do so.  It is available at scgov.net.

    This should be a call for “all hands on deck” to decide on and develop a plan that is specific to the unique assets and needs of Sarasota and its citizens.  We have an incredible group of business professionals in the region that are ready to come together to make this change along with the team at the EDC that can lead this charge!

    Additionally, there is discussion in the community about coming together and forming a partnership of all interested and affected groups in the community to provide input into the future of economic development in the County.  This is a model that has been successfully utilized in other communities and could provide some valuable visioning for the future of Sarasota County. We should all get behind this concept.

    Many of us who have been here for a significant amount of time lived through the “great recession” a few years back.  Those of us in the construction industry remember well the devastating effect it had on families and businesses.  The numbers mentioned above illustrate that there is still need in the community to grow and diversify the local economy for good times and tough times.  There were many valuable lessons that came from that awful recession and these discussions show that we listened, we learned and we are ready to continue to take action to be better, stronger and more diverse than before.

    At GCBX we welcome these discussions and support strong economic growth not just for our industry but for a strong and prosperous community.


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