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BUSINESS MOVING CHARLOTTE COUNTY FORWARD CHARLOTTE HARBOR Cleared for TAKEOFF CHARLOTTE COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP H ARBOR STYLE | 41

Cleared For Takeoff

Carol Bruyere

Welcome to the first issue of the new publication

CHARLOTTE HARBOR BUSINESS.

This publication is the result of more than a year of study and evaluation of the business-to-business climate in the greater Charlotte County area. The organization formerly known as ECEC, Enterprise Charlotte Economic Council, now has a new brand. So, in tandem with the launch of CHARLOTTE HARBOR BUSINESS Magazine, we are pleased to announce the Economic Development Partnership of Charlotte County, EDP for short. Our thinking is that EDP more accurately defines what we do. We build partnerships to help build business.

WHO ARE WE AND WHAT DO WE DO?

We grow jobs, but we don’t do it alone. We cooperate with the Charlotte County Economic Development Office (EDO), and between us, create a dynamic public/private partnership that focuses on growing a healthy economy through retaining, growing and attracting the right mix of industry and commerce to our county. It’s a quality of life proposition. Quality corporate businesses help communities by injecting more capital, through taxes, while providing higher-wage, career-oriented jobs. It’s simply the right thing to focus on.

HOW DO WE DO THAT?

Through careful coordination and execution with the Charlotte County EDO, we help solve issues relating to growth and expansion for existing businesses. Those solutions may come in the form of expedited permitting, assistance in site selection, the building of coalitions of stakeholders and various other means – means as diverse as our economy. Our goal is also to be the generator of tomorrow’s economy.

In this first issue of CHARLOTTE HARBOR BUSINESS, we will take an in-depth look at a casebook study of how we recently collaborated with the Charlotte County EDO, Charlotte County Airport Authority and Florida SouthWestern State College to help bring Western Michigan University to our area. Our end goal in this? To initiate new market sectors focused on tomorrow’s economy. Higher education institutions are great magnets for growing an area’s economy. WMU joins Florida Gulf Coast University and FSW as major hubs of learning. One day, we may even call ourselves a “College Community”!

Please join us – membership in the EDP is an investment in our future. All of our futures!

Apply here – CharlotteEDP.com.

What does it take to ensure a stable and solid economy in our community? Obviously there are many elements that would contribute – the continuation of a strong real estate market, increased numbers of successful business ventures, persistent growth in the Southwest Florida tourism industry and, unarguably the most critical element, job growth.

Encouraging new businesses to come to the area, training people for new and diverse job opportunities, growing existing businesses and supporting entrepreneurs are crucial ingredients in the recipe for economic success.

Input from local residents, businesses and private and government agencies that will benefit or be impacted by economic growth is extremely important when considering the benefits or challenges of new enterprises.

Two local agencies, the privately funded nonprofit Economic Development Partnership (EDP) and the Charlotte County Economic Development Office (EDO), a department within the county government, are working together to advocate and facilitate a stronger local economy by encouraging the recruitment of diversified industries and aiding in their introduction to Charlotte County, creating high skill, high wage jobs, helping to diversify the tax base and bringing young families to the area.

The EDO has introduced a new slogan – “Your business. Cleared for takeoff.” – to describe its business incentive program created by the Board of County Commissioners specifically to produce high-wage, value-added jobs, reduce the tax burden on residential properties by increasing non-residential tax revenues, and reduce the impact of economic downturns by diversifying the local economy. They say that “pro-business attitude,” as well as having local and state leaders like EDP, the Charlotte County Industrial Development Authority, the Enterprise Charlotte Foundation and Enterprise Florida that are willing to invest in the community and fast-track approvals, will help businesses and programs start and advance quickly.

Target industries in the incentive plan include distribution and logistics, advanced and medical device manufacturing, and aviation support firms that can take advantage of Charlotte County’s prime sites and buildings at the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD).

One of the newest additions to what is called “the ideal landing site” is Western Michigan University’s Punta Gorda aviation school. It’s ready to take flight in September thanks to a collaboration between the EDP, EDO, Charlotte and Punta Gorda officials, Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW), the Charlotte County Airport Authority (CCAA) and WMU’s Dean of the College of Aviation, Captain Dave Powell.

This premier aviation school could have chosen any number of locations for their second flight school program, but Punta Gorda was selected because it should allow increased flight time due to prevalent perfect weather and less-congested airspace along with what Powell sees as “a very safe, very efficiently run airport” and what WMU officials agree is a “feeling of community.” We’ve made them feel right at home.

As part of their incentive program, Charlotte County is funding the lease of the 10,000-square-foot PGD-owned hangar 115 and a 4,000-square-foot operations building that WMU agreed to sublet on a short-term, temporary basis for $1 a month. The WMU logo is painted on the building’s exterior.

WMU will invest no less than $2 million in building improvements and office and flight equipment and make a fiveyear minimum commitment to offer the aviation programs in partnership with FSW, provide appropriate staff and build their student enrollment to 150 students. James Parish, airport President/CEO recently said the PGD master plan includes up to seven new terminal hangars for WMU.

WMU intends to construct a permanent facility on the north side of PGD.

Florida’s Commission for Independent Education and the Higher Learning Commission accrediting institution have approved the curriculum for WMU Punta Gorda. Dawn Gaymer, WMU’s Associate Provost for Extended University Programs, said they can now deliver access to programs that are most beneficial for the needs of individuals in Charlotte County and the surrounding areas. “The approval will provide economic drivers for the region and create pathways for students to accelerate their career ambitions without leaving the state of Florida,” she said.

Powell explained that PGD-based, in-aircraft flight training, plus classroom programs to be held at Punta Gorda’s FSW campus, will combine for their hands-on aviation programs. WMU has no intention, Powell commented, of competing with FSW or FGCU, but rather to complement and add to their degree program offerings.

Following the announcement of the collaboration, Commissioner Bill Truex spoke about how important the agreement is for each college and for the Charlotte County community as a whole. “FSW has always been a pillar in this community, and with the addition of WMU, our community will reach greater heights. These two strategic, successful universities will help to illuminate our workforce availability, attract businesses and expand our economic development even more.

“This opportunity will make Charlotte County an education destination,” he added.

At an inaugural event at PGD, Truex said, “We have an opportunity with WMU and FSW State College to provide highly educated students to the community and aviation.”

“The alliance with WMU fulfills broader academic goals as well as making higher education more accessible and affordable to students,” said Dr. Denis Wright, FSW Charlotte Campus President. “This partnership means there will be more opportunities for high education programs for students from Charlotte County and will increase on-campus enrollment and make better use of the campus facilities.”

WMU Punta Gorda has leased an entire building on the Charlotte campus and is preparing the facility for classroom aviation training and additional areas of study.

WMU’s website states, “We look forward to offering programs and research expertise that will make a positive impact on Charlotte County and the greater region.” Its four-year bachelor degree aviation programs are based on community need and intended not only to enhance our local economy and bring additional jobs and businesses to the area, but to train professional pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians and aviation management and operations specialists to fill the many commercial aviation workforce positions, providing a major catalyst for diversified job growth. Advanced curriculums emphasize intellectual as well as technical competencies and lead to bachelor’s degrees. The programs are “geared toward educating captains and managers – not just training pilots.”

The Aviation Flight Science program, accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International, will be offered on the FSW campus and at PGD. Participants with no previous flight training will study general education subjects, basic sciences, aircraft systems, crew concepts, resource management, advanced aerodynamics, professional flight, airline operations, management and administration, global navigation and international flight, with a focus on critical components determined by aviation regulators and the airline industry. They also have an opportunity to be involved in faculty research projects geared toward moving the industry forward. Upon degree completion, the only additional training for newly hired airline employees will be learning to operate a specific aircraft and operating within a specific airline’s policies.

Possible job opportunities for program graduates include airline pilots, commercial freight pilots, corporate pilots, military pilots, aerial mappers, US Forest Service pilots, flight operators, crew schedulers, air traffic controllers, airline customer service, flight schedulers, airline marketing professionals, flight followers and flight instructors, some of which may be employed by WMU.

Captain Russell Kavalhuna, J.D., the Executive Director of Flight Operations in WMU’s Michigan College of Aviation, thinks WMU Punta Gorda is a great idea. “We need to grow…and we’re excited to be a part of your community.”

Kavalhuna explained that the primary training vessel, a single engine Cirrus, has a sophisticated computerized instrument panel and a parachute system the pilot can deploy in case of engine failure. The fleet will increase based on student demand, but will likely start with six Cirrus plus one or two multi-engine aircraft.

Students will have access to a state-of-the-art flight simulator and line-oriented flight crew simulations, computer-based training and the most advanced flight training equipment with glass cockpit technology, including the Avidyne R9 avionics suite and the DFC-100 advanced auto pilot.

“We use the most technologically advanced aircraft and simulation in the country,” Powell said.

Ten instructors and faculty, plus a dedicated Punta Gorda Director of Flight Operations, Jim Williams, will supervise the 50 students already enrolled, with oversight by Kavalhuna. He hopes to hire Florida residents and retirees to fill instructor positions.

The Aviation Maintenance Technician program is also a handson curriculum, designed to prepare those students with a passion for aircraft and an understanding of how they operate to pass the Aviation Administration Airframe and Powerplant written and practical exams. Graduates of this program may start as an aviation mechanic or technician and then may climb the corporate ladder to become a project manager, repair facility department director or leader. A list of specific positions they qualify to fill includes flight test engineering, maintenance logistics, performance testing, product technical support, aviation service writer and more.

The EDO website states, “Many industrial experts say the finest technical training is Airframe and Powerplant for aviation. With a full curriculum at FSW from the College of Aviation at WMU, Charlotte County will be developing a new generation of workers with highly advanced skill sets. In fact, A&P Mechanics have been called the ‘surgeons’ of advanced manufacturing.”

An online course, Aviation Management and Operations, unites two areas of interest – aviation and business. WMU says this course is “designed to prepare tomorrow’s aviation business leaders, today.” Students will gain essential knowledge of aircraft systems, aerodynamics and performance, aviation law and aircraft safety, as well as build a solid foundation in business theory and practice. Graduates will be poised to attain a position in airport management, operation management, safety management, aviation insurance, aircraft sales or aviation marketing. They may be flight operators, crew or flight schedulers, air traffic controllers, flight followers, aerospace defense professionals or handle airline customer service.

The educational programs to be offered at WMU Punta Gorda will not be limited to aviation-related training. Twenty additional fields of study will be added, including some master’s degrees in various healthcare specialties, another area in need of trained workers. “They looked at what the community needs, then proposed programs not already in existence,” said EDO Director Lucienne Pears.

WMU representatives said their online programs are designed to give everyone a chance to succeed and grow, adding that they provide a work-life-school balance, even for someone supporting a family. “We’re opening the door to multi-generational and multilifestyle education.”

Downloadable application forms, class schedules and class and flight fees are available on the WMU website wmich.edu.

The EDO website says that experts predict that more than one million new aviation jobs will open up in the coming years thanks to growth of the aviation industry. There is already a shortage of trained and qualified workers for those positions, especially since there is a mandatory retirement age of 65 for pilots and some other workers. Many “new hires” will “earn their wings” right here in Charlotte County thanks to the partnership with WMU, FSW, CCAA and other county authorities that enhances our ability to respond to aviation industry needs. WMU officials said, “We welcome partnering with any businesses that want to get employees.”

Commercial airlines and other local aviation industry providers are certainly excited about the new workforce. One of the many aviation-related tenants at PGD is APG Avionics, where they install and maintain instrument panel electronics, digital control boards, GPS systems and radios. Todd Wean, their service and sales manager, said due to PGD’s rapid expansion, APG is currently seeking additional employees to accommodate their own growth. One of their recent hires, Nathan Huck, is a Port Charlotte High School and Charlotte Technical College graduate and a student of FSW and WMU. Allegiant Air said there are multiple trained pilot and maintenance technician positions they are hoping to fill with local graduates.

Numerous community leaders have acknowledged the economic and educational benefits of the WMU programs. “We’re about attracting businesses and higher education that can… develop a skilled workforce that can help these companies be successful not just for the next five years, but for the next 50 years,” said Punta Gorda Mayor Rachel Keesling. Commissioner Joe Tiseo is thrilled that his children will have an opportunity he never had. “They can choose to stay here in Charlotte County and study locally at WMU and help grow the local workforce,” he said.

Western Michigan’s Punta Gorda College of Aviation is “Cleared for Takeoff.”

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Cleared+For+Takeoff/2834539/424397/article.html.

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