Gainesville Named Region of Excellence

Area Wins National Award For Business Collaboration

Reprinted from the Gainesville Sun

When Enterprise Rent-A-Car decided to open a new call center with 200 jobs in Gainesville earlier this year, a site consultant for the company said the unique cooperation of local agencies that handle economic development and hiring services played a major role in the decision.

When $580,000 in federal stimulus dollars were allocated for work force training, those same agencies mobilized their network of public schools, colleges, local and state government, and businesses to provide training and internships for 1,000 at-risk youths and young adults this summer.

For such efforts, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workforce awarded the Alachua and Bradford county area the 2009 Region of Excellence Award.

The U.S. Chamber recognized the work of TEAM – Targeted Economic Achievement Machine – a partnership between the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Council for Economic Outreach, North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce in Starke and FloridaWorks.

“Businesses looking to grow or expand in our community can find all the resources to meet their needs under one roof at the Chamber,” said Brent Christensen, Gainesville chamber president, in a news release.

Criteria for the award includes programs for job training and partnerships with education institutions, among others.

TEAM, which formed in 2005, moved quickly to organize the Summer Youth Program when FloridaWorks partnered with Santa Fe College, the School Board of Alachua County, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Community Weatherization Coalition and Alachua County government. The groups developed a curriculum and trained youths for jobs expected to be in demand, such as solar panel installation, digital media, green building practices and energy auditing.

FloridaWorks, the state work force board for Alachua and Bradford counties, has since received another $1.5 million for health care-related and green technology training.

“It is the belief that opportunity is every individual’s right that unites our team of economic and workforce developers, educators, government and our business community,” said FloridaWorks Executive Director Angela Pate in a release.

“The Region of Excellence award is recognition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that we are succeeding.”

The collaboration is currently working with tech start-ups, many of which come out of University of Florida research, to find office space and a trained workforce that will keep them in the area. The effort includes the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center incubator, a partnership between the chamber and city of Gainesville.

Future plans call for working with businesses to address the education and training needs of low-income, at-risk people to address issues of poverty, crime and dropouts.

Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce / FloridaWorks media release
U.S. Chamber announcement
Workforce Florida, Inc. media release