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  • Elliot Cohen

CHARLOTTE SUN, January 6, 2019 –

Editorial: Jobs program a huge boost for area

OUR POSITION: Last week’s announcement of $1.7 million state grant to fund a planned aviation mechanics training course in Charlotte County is a win-win for a lot of people.

Dave Gammon, Charlotte County’s interim director of economic development, sure got started on the right foot.

Or, you could say his former boss, Lucienne Pears, left the county a nice going-away present.

Either way you look at it, the county should reap huge benefits from the planned aviation mechanics course to be partially funded by a $1.7 million state grant.

“We’ve been working on this a long time,” said Gammon, who wrote the grant that was sent to the state. “Emily Lewis (the county’s legislative manager) kept track of the grant in Tallahassee and we got a lot of help from Charlotte Technical College.”

What was approved was an aviation mechanics course to be taught at the Punta Gorda Airport. A Florida Job Growth Grant Fund Workforce Training grant will allow the county and Charlotte Technical College to train airframe and powerplant mechanics (A&P) — perhaps the only such program in the state. Graduates will be able to fill a great need in the airline industry and have even more opportunity to go on to earn associates degrees at Florida SouthWestern State College in Punta Gorda or a bachelor’s degree with Western Michigan University here in Charlotte County.

“This is a game changer for the future of aviation at PGD,” airport CEO James Parish said in a Sun story by Liz Hardaway. “We only see the demand for aircraft mechanics increasing as (the airport) continues to grow.”

The goal is to start classes in the fall of 2020. A certificate will require 2,250 hours of instruction through Charlotte Technical College, which expects about 50 students in the first class and up to 100 or more eventually.

“Graduates of the program will drive high-paying, high-skilled jobs to the county, fueling economic growth and opportunities in skilled manufacturing and maintenance,” Ken Doherty, chairman of the Charlotte County Commission, said in a statement.

Classes will take place at the airport on an existing hangar that will be leased from the PGD. When the course work is completed and the students pass they will own a license that, according to the Economic Development Office and Hardaway’s story, is “often viewed with the same regard that surgeons are among physicians.”

The future possibilities this training opens up are almost endless. Charlotte County is already home to the WMU pilot-training program. The airport is planning a huge expansion that includes a new terminal for air traffic other than major commercial carriers such as Allegiant.

Add the partnership with Charlotte Technical College and Florida Southwestern and you likely have the makings of a hub for airline job training that could be the best in Florida, if not the Southeast. Western Michigan already offers a bachelor of science degree in aviation technical operations, and Florida SouthWestern offers an associate in science degree in aviation maintenance management.

Successes like this are rare for Charlotte County, which normally has a low profile when it comes to luring major state projects or grants. Perhaps that is about to change.

We can certainly count this as a coup for the Economic Development Office, the Punta Gorda Airport and Charlotte Technical College.

Author: Elliot Cohen

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