Hiring plans for area tech companies get boost from FloridaWorks grants

There’s a strong need for information technology jobs, especially in Gainesville. FloridaWorks awarded grants to Alachua and Bradford counties to help fill this need. Altavian and MindTree already have started training new workers, and funding is still available to new businesses in Gainesville.

By Anthony Clark | The Gainesville Sun

Two months ago, Jay Reichardt was working as a security manager at a Gainesville bar, but he “was looking to get out of the scene.”

On Monday, the 22-year-old Gainesville man was assembling the rear section of a 10-foot unmanned aircraft for Altavian, a year-old company that makes small airplanes with high-resolution cameras for surveying and inspections.

Reichardt is one of four new hires being trained on the job with a grant from FloridaWorks.

The workforce agency for Alachua and Bradford counties awarded almost $3.1 million to 12 companies to train 350 new hires in technical positions over the next two to four years.

With one of 12 recipients dropping out, FloridaWorks has $80,000 available to new business applicants.

The HBOTT program — or Healthcare Biomanufacturing Occupational & Technology Training — reimburses a portion of the salaries of employees in training. The U.S. Department of Labor provides the money from fees paid by employers to hire foreign workers through the H-1B visa program with the idea of training U.S. citizens for the same types of jobs.

Among the local grant recipients are software companies such as RegisterPatient.com, Shadow Health and MindTree; biotech companies AxoGen and Applied Genetic Technologies Corp., and Prioria Robotics, which also makes unmanned aerial vehicles.

Reichardt said he had tinkered with machining before but now is learning to take a design and fabricate parts.

With an award of as much as $100,000, Altavian plans to hire as many as eight more people in addition to the four new hires, nearly doubling its current workforce of 13, said Thomas Rambo, chief operating officer.

The company has been making aircraft for the Army Corps of Engineers to do aerial inspections of land, levees and dams. It is on the verge of landing new contracts, Rambo said.

“The HBOTT has allowed us to accelerate our growth plans,” he said. “We anticipated hiring for these positions. It’s allowed us to do it a little sooner.”

Kim Tesch-Vaught, executive director of FloridaWorks, said the funding makes it easier for a company to take on the financial risk of hiring.

LifeSouth Community Blood Centers was awarded $463,000 to hire 44 people over two years.

The jobs will include computer network support and software developers, lab services and marketing positions.

Without the grant, the jobs would be filled over a much longer period, and some might not have been filled, said Kim Kinsell, general counsel over human resources for LifeSouth.

She said it is particularly difficult to find people qualified for the lab and computer jobs, so the grant will help prepare people who come with some of the needed skills.

“They certainly require extensive additional training to get the skill set to where we need for our particular industry and needs,” Kinsell said.

The need for information technology jobs is huge, Tesch-Vaught said. That includes IT jobs within the medical field.

Altavian and MindTree already have started training new workers. The FloridaWorks board still has to approve the remaining training plans and contracts. The agency will track trainee progress monthly.

Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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