Last Friday, United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross was here on the Treasure Coast. He chose Indian River State College in Fort Pierce to announce $10 million in Economic Development Administration grants to Florida.
$8 million will support businesses still recovering from Hurricane Michael.
And $2 million will help create the 18,000 square-foot Treasure Coast Advanced Manufacturing Center at Indian River State College where students can train in smart and additive manufacturing, electronics, heating and air conditioning, and advanced welding.
EM: Well, over time we did an awful lot of background work.
That’s Dr. Ed Massey, president of Indian River State College. We’re speaking with him in the moments before the Secretary’s arrival. They did extensive work force gap analysis studies alongside the University of Florida and our local Economic Development Council.
EM: And we found that there was a big need for trained industrial skills/individuals.
While the pandemic is changing the way we learn and work, these skills do require hands-on training. Massey explains by starting the building now, it gives them time to explore program specifics in relation to the pandemic.
EM: It’s time for them to think about what jobs are going to look like because it will take about 18 months to build this building.
The college foundation’s board of trustees begin to arrive. Here’s Board Chair Jose Conrado.
JC: I had a full schedule today, but when I was told that the Secretary of Commerce was going to be here and it has to do with the new building, I said, whoa, I gotta go!
Then Florida officials - Congressman Brian Mast, Senator Gayle Harrell, and House Representative Toby Overdorf. Next, the Secretary’s staff, his security detail. And then, the man himself. Everyone is wearing a mask and no hands are shaken, but the interaction is warm and positive.
EM: Welcome to Indian River State College, Mr. Secretary. It's great to have you down here.
WR: Well, thank you for having me. This is quite a happy day.
They make introductions.
WR: Well, thank you for the work you’re doing. We need workforce enhancement. As you know I co-chair with Ivanka Trump the work force initiative and so we are very keenly interested in things like this.
Soon we move into a large open room for the formal announcement, which we broadcast live on WQCS, NPR for the Treasure Coast. He then asks for questions, and we wonder if he can offer some insight and perspective to those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
WR: Well, I was very encouraged over at Maverick boatyard just before – I met with a lot of the fishing industry and they had been very, very severely impacted by the COVID problem. They said the business is coming back very, very quickly – faster than they expected and I frankly believe country-wide that will be true as well. When we went into the last recession back in 2009 kind of time zone, there were structural problems in the economy that had led to the collapse.
He compares it to the current hardship brought on by the sudden closing down of the otherwise strong economy.
WR: Therefore, it should be easier to recover because it’s a one-time event.
For the last leg of the visit, Massey takes Ross on a tour of the college’s LaserTech fiber optics and robotics labs.
WR: Oh wonderful!
The Secretary gives a final goodbye, and off he goes.
WR: Good to see you.
EM: Yes, sir.
Group: Thank you so much. Thank you. See you tomorrow Sir. Thank you.
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