By KRISTIE CLOUD / FLORIDAN
At a Monday morning seminar in Marianna, the Florida Chamber Foundation talked about strategies that the organization believes are necessary to make this region of the state a hot spot for manufacturing and other job-creating businesses that could “stop the bleeding” as North Florida watches its young people take their talents elsewhere in search of lucrative jobs. They’re trying to make the region a formidable contender on a global economic scale.
The group is taking its message across this sector of the state in a number of seminars like the one held in Marianna. Highlighting some of the observations put forth in “Florida: Made for Trade,” the organization’s Northwest Florida Trade and Logistics Plan, Foundation Executive Vice President Tony Carajal moderated the event.
The goal, Carajal said, is to get North Florida ready to be a key player in the global marketplace, right along with California, Texas, New York, South Florida and other places that more often draw the attention of the auto industry and other job-rich businesses.
One of the necessary strategies in making that happen, he said, is for economic leaders and the general population to start thinking regionally rather than more selfishly about the specific community they occupy when they think about trying to spur growth. Working together rather than against each other could give the area a better shot at landing a business that could translate into jobs for many communities, not just the one place that a big industry might land.
North Florida counties should also build such relationships across state lines, he said, with those in lower Alabama, for instance.
One speaker, Neil Wade of the Bay Economic Development Alliance, provided an example of how that might pay off one day for Jackson and surrounding areas. A big announcement will be formally made on Oct. 3 that Florida officials and their counterparts in Alabama have worked together to all support marketing a property in Campbellton as a “super site” candidate to large businesses looking for a place to set up shop. The announcement will be made in a ceremony at the Florida Welcome Center on U.S. 231 with Jackson County officials and some from Alabama and other Florida counties in attendance.
The auto industry might be one of business-types courted. With officials from both sides of the state line supporting the site, they won’t be competing as a potential site. However, they’ll be free to rigorously compete for businesses that might spring up as a result of the industry moving into town.
A new work has been coined for the concept: Those who espouse it call the strategy a spirit of “co-opertition,” or cooperative competition.
Trying to get industries here is just part of the battle; the region must immediately start building its own new-age manufacturing workforce at the elementary, high-school and college level if the communities hope to catch and hold the serious interest of the companies they want to see moving in. That means tailoring some curriculum tracks to the disciplines that give students a head start on landing such jobs, and give businesses confidence that there’s a workforce waiting in the wings if they were to set up shop.
Trade, logistics and export-oriented manufacturing concerns are some of the target-types the Foundation is after.
The organization wants to develop a Florida Trade and Logistics Institute to continue the state’s quest to move into a stronger position in the global economy. Such a group might help keep track of infrastructure needs as they develop, work out strategies in specific industry-seeing situations, and help keep an overall eye on the many facets that play into the state’s economic goals.