Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association

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Manufacturing “taking a grip”

“Manufacturing is taking a grip here in Southwest Florida,” Wall said. 

For that reason, CareerSource Southwest Florida partnered with the Immokalee Technical College (iTech), the Center for Manufacturing Excellence (CME), and the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association (SRMA) to host two hiring events for manufacturers on Feb. 28, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., one at its center in Fort Myers and one at the Naples center.

“Southwest Florida is not known for any sort of manufacturing hub,” Wall said. “Of course, Arthrex is always the leader in this, but there are other smaller clean manufacturing-type businesses popping up.”

Bill Welch, an account executive in business services for CareerSource Southwest Florida, is helping to organize the hiring events for manufacturers. He hopes to see such companies as Structure Medical, Progress Rail, Parker Aerospace, Shaw Development and Arthrex participate in the Naples event.

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For the Fort Myers job fair, he’s looking to recruit such businesses as Watts Water, Nor-Tech Hi-Powered Boats, VR/Wesson and Storm Smart.

“Right now I’m planning on having this sold out,” Welch said. “I’ve got 20 booths that are going to be available for our Fort Myers Center and 12 will be available down in Naples.”

Christopher Westley, director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University in south Fort Myers, described the latest jobs report as “pretty strong” for the region and the state.

He noted the growth in the goods-producing sector that includes construction and manufacturing. In that sector, the Naples area added 2,200 jobs over the year (up 11.4 percent), while the Fort Myers area gained 3,100 (up 9.5 percent). 

That’s a positive trend because it helps to diversify the local economies, Westley said. 

“The relationship between the service, versus the goods producing, is important for our region,” he said. “The service industry is dominant.”    

In the service-providing sector, jobs grew by 1.2 percent in the Naples area and by 2 percent in the Fort Myers area over the year, which “isn’t bad,” Westley said. 

“A more diversified economy will grow in a more sustainable manner,” he said, “without overheating or correcting as much.”

He pointed out there continues to be job growth in the hospitality industry, despite red tide and other water woes in the region, which have hurt tourism. 

The Naples area added 700 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector over the year, while Lee County created 1,700.  

“It’s a pretty strong employment report for the state and the region,” Westley said. “It still shows a workforce in the region and the state that’s pretty hot.”  

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