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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Oct. 5, 201112:00 PM EST

State grant helps logistics industry train employees

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by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

With the port considered an economic driver for Jacksonville, area businesses and schools want to better train logistics employees to compete in the global marketplace.

The North Florida Logistics Advisory Group was updated Tuesday about an international trade grant that is helping Florida businesses train their employees in the import-export industry with the help of engineering firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc., the American Society of Transportation and Logistics of Jacksonville, the University of North Florida and Broward College.

UNF has been designated by Workforce Florida to provide Quick Response Training to about 1,000 new and existing workers at port businesses as well as for manufacturing, logistics and related companies to retain jobs and expand international trade and exports in Florida.

“About eight months ago, Workforce Florida approached UNF about an opportunity to do another international trade grant,” said Robert Wood, dean of the UNF Division of Continuing Education.

“The difference this time was that a company needed to agree to be a statewide leader in a consortium grant.”

Ron Ratliff, executive vice president of RS&H, said the company agreed to lead the grant.

“This is a great opportunity where the state is providing a lot of financial incentives to help us build our business,” said Ratliff.

“I want everybody to understand what kind of asset this university is providing for this community, but it’s only a value if you use it,” he said.

About 40 area businesses have been approved for training and about 20 more have applied for the $973,000 available in the program.

Participants must be full-time, permanent employees and Florida residents.

“What we are trying to do is to be able to solicit companies that have training needs in their operation that they wouldn’t normally do. It could be anything to

do with transportation, logis-

tics, importing or exporting,” said Wood.

The program has begun to approve some of the applications for the grant money. Wood is considering the possibility of a grant renewal.

“Once we spend this first wave of money, there might be another wave of money to go after and get,” he said.

The investment “does have value in growing the supply chain,” he said.

The grant also provided $600,000 in Quick Response Training grants for up to 600 people who work for air cargo-related businesses, with an eye toward boosting productivity and competitiveness for Florida companies to increase the state’s export volume.

The Air Cargo QRT Statewide Consortium project will be coordinated through Broward College with Reynolds, Smith and Hills.

Another $600,000 is being used to create career academies to develop pipeline talent for international trade jobs and forge stronger partnerships between local workforce boards and Florida’s deep-water seaports.

The project, led by the Jacksonville chapter of the American Society of Transportation and Logistics, will create up to 15 career academies in high schools throughout the state focused on international trade and logistics and advanced manufacturing for international trade opportunities.

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