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By Nikki Cabus

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Award of $4 Million to Indian River State College to Create Advanced Technology Workforce

Read Time 5 Minutes

Governor Ron Desantis visited Indian River State College on February 7th to announce a $4 million award to further advanced technology programs. 

A leader in education and innovation, Indian River State College transforms lives by offering high-quality, affordable and accessible education to the residents of Florida’s Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties through traditional and online delivery. IRSC is a recipient of the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. The College serves nearly 22,000 students annually and offers more than 100 programs leading to Bachelor’s degrees, Associate degrees, technical certificates and applied technology diplomas.

Nearly 200 people were in attendance at the brand new IRSC’s Eastman Advanced Workforce Training Complex located on the Massey Campus in Ft. Pierce when the Governor announced the $4 million award. The funds will be used to create advanced technology workforce development programs and build an innovative Center of Ballistics and Emerging Technology.

The funding is through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund (JGGF) which makes strategic investments in programs that build stronger communities and support workforce training across the state. The JGGF is an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. Proposals are reviewed by FloridaCommerce and chosen by the Governor to meet the demand for workforce or infrastructure needs in the community they are awarded to. The Fund allocated $40 million and awarded 20 projects in fiscal year 2021-2022 and 18 in fiscal year 2022-2023.

“We see an opportunity to use the job growth grant to really make an impact not just with workforce, but also for the economy here on the Treasure Coast of Florida,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

“So I am today pleased to be able to award a $4 million grant through the job growth grant fund to Indian River State College to create a new center for ballistics and emerging technology.”

The Center for Ballistics and Emerging Technology will serve as the nexus where industry partners, law enforcement agents, workforce training professionals, and Indian River State College students and faculty collaborate. The project plans to create more than 300 new advanced manufacturing-trained graduates over the next ten years.

The project underscores Indian River State College’s vision to provide development and testing to support business and innovation. This project will allow the College to expand its training in advanced manufacturing, particularly in precision fabrication and mechatronics. The project complements the programs and facilities of the Eastman Advanced Manufacturing Building and the Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex.

The 60,000-square-foot Eastman Advanced Workforce Training Complex is Florida’s newest, most technologically advanced workforce training facility. The official ribbon cutting was held last Fall on November 1, 2023 with over 400 in attendance from elected officials to professionals in the local community.

Expansive laboratories dedicated to Mechatronics, Robotics and Smart Automation, Welding, Automotive Technology, Refrigeration, HVAC, and more are carefully designed and outfitted to support students as they earn certifications and degrees in programs that help satisfy the region’s growing need for a highly skilled talent pipeline. Students train in immersive educational environments with a network of experienced instructors, utilizing best-in-class technology as they build the critical skills required for rewarding careers in high-demand occupations.

“The manufacturing industry in America is growing rapidly, and Florida, in particular, is home to an expanding manufacturing ecosystem,” said Indian River State College President Dr. Timothy Moore. “With the opening of our Eastman Advanced Workforce Training Complex, Indian River State College is poised to deliver a talent pipeline that meets the workforce needs of today and tomorrow, bolstering our region’s economy and attractiveness to employers, expanding career opportunities for our citizens, and helping realize Governor Ron DeSantis’s goal to be the number one state in the nation for workforce education by 2030.”

“This grant will help take technology off the shelf, put it to use, and help those who protect us,” said Indian River State College President Dr. Timothy Moore. “The Governor’s support has been instrumental. I cannot think of a more important way to demonstrate the value of education, the value of technology, and the value of leadership.”

The site is also home to and informed by the Advanced Manufacturing Hub, a collaborative effort to address the looming shortage of local workforce in precision machining, industrial automation systems, integrated smart factory operations, supply chain automation and logistics. The Hub offers a broad range of programs introducing critical knowledge and hands-on skills in areas enabling the growth and automation of Industry 4.0.—the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector.

The manufacturing industry in America is growing at a rapid rate. Florida is home to an expanding manufacturing ecosystem. Over 24,000 manufacturers support 426,000 manufacturing jobs with average salaries of $74,575. According to the Florida Commerce 2023 Florida Manufacturing Report, “Florida’s manufacturing employment reached 422,800 in September 2023, passing both Georgia and New York to become the 10th largest state in the country for manufacturing employment. Manufacturing employment has grown by 23.3% since 2014, again significantly higher than other leading manufacturing states.”

As manufacturing jobs continue to be reshored to the United States from global markets, Florida is poised to become one of the top five manufacturing states by 2030. In 2019, Governor DeSantis set a clear goal that Florida would be #1 in workforce education by 2030. IRSC President, Dr. Moore, intends to make that happen!

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By Nikki Cabus

IRSC to Establish Data Campus in Okeechobee

Read Time 3 Minutes

Indian River State College (IRSC) plans to establish a dedicated, fully operational data campus in Okeechobee County, positioning the County at the epicenter of the State’s data center capacity.

The data campus, named Okee-One, is the primary focus of economic revitalization for the former Okeechobee “School for Boys” site. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB1603 transferring ownership of the 205-acre parcel to the College in June. The site is well-positioned adjacent to data superhighways; the inland placement offers natural protection from coastal storm threats.

“Between access to dense fiber, natural gas, and land availability for solar backup and an existing water reclamation facility for cooling, the possibility of establishing the nation’s most sustainable data campus here in Okeechobee is within reach,” shares IRSC Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Dr. Michael Hageloh.

IRSC received universal support from its legislative delegation, especially from Senator Erin Grall and Representative Kaylee Tuck, the latter having sponsored and shepherded HB1603 through the local bill process in the Florida House of Representatives.

The support of Governor DeSantis bolstered the project. Collaboration with the Okeechobee community and a strategic partnership with the South Florida Water Management District enhanced the effort.

“Our governmental leaders and community partners avidly share our vision to advance economic uplift in the area, grow employment opportunities and serve as the foreground for unique IRSC education and training programs in one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors, and for that, we are grateful,” continues Hageloh.

The data campus will serve as a learning lab for IRSC students and a stable employment base for its graduates and other residents from Okeechobee and surrounding communities. The project would include servers, storage, network gear, racks, power distribution systems, transformers, chillers and generators. A skilled workforce to support an infrastructure that runs 24/7 will require a wide range of trained professionals in areas such as information technology and cybersecurity, electronics engineering technology, electrical power technology, HVAC, plumbing, and physical security.

Worldwide, technological advances are increasing the demand for data centers. Okee-One will house many types of data centers in a lifestyle campus environment.  According to a June 27, 2023, article in The New York Times, “the need for data centers has rapidly increased, fueled by changing work habits during the pandemic and the growth of cloud-based technologies.”

Once a cultural assessment of the land is complete, IRSC intends to move with velocity to bring the data campus to fruition.

“This undertaking underscores IRSC’s role as a leader in education and innovation and its mission to transform lives,” said Hageloh.

College leadership recently completed $100 million in growth-oriented, workforce-enhancing construction projects during 2023, including a charter high school in Indiantown, an expanded School of Nursing in Port St. Lucie and a state-of-the-art workforce training facility in Fort Pierce. “The data campus aligns with President Moore’s vision for transforming the College from solely a learning environment into the catalyst for economic clusters where graduates can live, work, and continue learning,” Hageloh concluded.

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Award of $4 Million to Indian River State College to Create Advanced Technology Workforce
IRSC to Establish Data Campus in Okeechobee