Howard Drake thinks manufacturing is poised to see “explosive growth” in the near future, which is why an upcoming CFDC breakfast focused on the industry is important.

The Central Florida Development Council’s Competitiveness & Advocacy Committee and the Polk County Manufacturing and Supply Chain Alliance are joining forces to offer those in the industry and residents a glimpse into manufacturing in Central Florida and a chance to identify future training needs.

The Manufacturing Industry Breakfast will be held from 8 to 9:30 Oct. 31, 2018 at Polk State College’s Corporate College at 310 Technology Drive in Bartow.

Register here by the end of the day this Friday, October 26th.

Attendees will have a chance to listen to four industry experts discuss the state of manufacturing and why Polk County has a competitive advantage. Last year, manufacturing produced an estimated $2.8 billion in gross domestic product in Polk County, about 15 percent of the total GDP in the county. In Florida, manufacturing contributed $54 billion to the economy.

Drake, director of the Polk State College Corporate College, says industry events like the one coming up are important to “hear from manufacturers on their present and forecasted training needs.”

It’s important that attendees know that his college and other educational partners will listen and respond to industry needs because “they are responsible for driving the training initiatives.” They want people to know they are “agile and flexible enough to deploy solutions quickly.”

Drake said that conversations, research and the like lead him to believe “the manufacturing industry is poised for explosive growth. The incredible turnaround of the economic climate and the reduction of burdensome regulations are allowing the industry to hire staff, purchase new technology and equipment, and generate new customers.”

“The challenge is the availability of a skilled workforce,” Drake said. “Because of this shortfall, many organizations are having to decline work contracts.”

If he could do one thing to help solve the skilled-workforce concern, he would “expand high school technical training options to include more hands-on, competency-based training and create a pathway for students who do not wish to go to college.”

Patti Gander of FloridaMakes will serve as moderator for Wednesday’s panel. Gander is the mid-Florida business adviser who works with the Polk Manufacturers Association/Manufacturing & Supply Chain Alliance.

Other panelists are:

  • Ed Baranski, director of operations at Givaudan Flavors who has experience in logistics and manufacturing.
  • Howard Drake, who started at Polk State College in 2011 as director of applied technology grants and became director of the Corporate College in 2016.
  • Steve Wasko, general manager of MaxPak, which makes corrugated and solid fiber boxes.
  • Drew Wilcox, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel Florida, which is building a $240 million micro steel mill in southeastern Polk County that will eventually employ 250 people making an annual average salary of $66,000.

There is no cost to attend, but you must reserve your spot here.