POINCIANA – When officials at Osceola Regional Medical Center held a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 7 for the new Poinciana Medical Center being built here, it signaled the long-awaited start of a project that this community of 84,000 residents has been waiting years for.
But it also signaled something else, equally important to the community: new jobs finally coming here, both short term construction work and at least 200 permanent positions being created at the hospital itself.
That’s why an organization in Poinciana committed to bringing more employment opportunities and economic development to the community of 10 villages now has a date and time for two upcoming job fairs, in an effort to link Poinciana’s residents to the employment opportunities that the Poinciana Medical Center is expected to bring.
The Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, or PEDA, a group formed last summer, has now scheduled two PEDA Job Hiring Fairs. The first will be at the Poinciana Community Center on Saturday, March 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the second is at the community center on Saturday, July 21, for the same hours.
Nick Murdock, the chairman of PEDA, said this will not be an informational fair, like the one PEDA sponsored last fall, but one that actually matches employees with companies looking to hire.
“We won’t have the job fair without the employers,” Murdock said. “I’ve got 10 small contractors lined up for the job fair, and if I can’t get a commitment that they will be hiring at least 100 people, we’ll back off on the date of the job fair.”
But Murdock doesn’t expect that to happen. For one thing, Osceola Regional Medical Center, the hospital in Kissimmee, has broken ground on the medical center, emergency room facility, and medical arts office building that are being built in Poinciana, the first hospital for this fast-growing community. Murdock said he’s already reached out to officials at Osceola Regional and the general contractors working on the project, and gotten commitments for participation at the March 24 job fair.
“The general contractor at the hospital will be participating,” Murdock said. “I’ve been very, very pleased with my communication with them.”
And officials at Osceola Regional, he added, have been “bending over backwards to help us in many ways.”
That’s part of the reason why PEDA was formed last summer. Poinciana’s 10 villages grew by leaps and bounds in the past decade, and at the peak of the housing market, new homes were being constructed here every 90 days.
But when the housing market collapsed in 2008, the unemployment rates in both Osceola and Polk counties soared to double digits, and Poinciana was left with a painfully high home foreclosure rate and far too many people out of work.
The residents who formed PEDA, including Murdock, saw a more positive outlook for the community last summer, based on a series of construction projects in the pipeline, which they estimated would total more than 7,000 future construction jobs altogether.
Construction will begin this spring on Poinciana’s first hospital, and the state is also building a station in Poinciana for the SunRail light rail system, a 61-mile long commuter rail line from Debary to downtown Orlando, which ends at Poinciana.
Osceola County commissioners are also aiming to move forward on construction of the Poinciana Parkway, a toll road that would connect the community more conveniently to Interstate 4, and construction will begin this spring on the widening of Poinciana Boulevard.
That’s why PEDA was formed, so Poinciana residents would be ready to take advantage of those jobs once the construction work begins. PEDA’s stated goal all along has been to ensure that Poinciana residents are ready to take advantage of those jobs, and not sit back and let them get filled by people who live somewhere else. That’s why PEDA held an informational job fair last September, designed to help get Poinciana residents get prepared for those 7,000 construction jobs coming to the community.
The September event was an opportunity for PEDA members to inform the public about those jobs, what they would need to apply for and qualify for one of them, and to offer them help on drafting a resume. More than 600 people showed up, vastly exceeding PEDA’s initial expectations.
Now, as Murdock noted, they’re gearing up for phase two: having jobs to actually fill. The job fair on March 24 will feature booths set up by employers who are recruiting workers – and not just companies looking to collect resumes for positions that might develop in the future.
In addition to contractors related to the hospital, “We have three or four small companies that are hiring people” coming to the job fairs, Murdock said.
The Poinciana Boulevard widening project is likely to start next month, he added.
“They’ll be hiring for that in March,” Murdock said.
Also, Polk County commissioners have committed to building a new park in Poinciana’s Village 7, and the county will be hiring people for the construction work there, Murdock said.
“The Polk County park goes out to bid in March,” he said. That park does not yet have an official name.
PEDA will also hold several upcoming public meetings, and is encouraging the public to attend. These meetings will be at the Poinciana Community Center on Wednesday, March 7 at 9 a.m. and on Thursday, March 15 at 6 p.m. Topics expected to be discussed at these meetings will include PEDA’s efforts to incorporate and become a non-profit agency, creating a unified Poinciana voice for the region’s political leaders, planning and organizing for the job fairs, and developing a master plan and long-term transportation plan for Poinciana.
“Bring a guest,” Murdock said.
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