POINCIANA – If all goes as scheduled, March may turn out to be a great month in Poinciana.
Because what some movers and shakers in the business community are expecting is something that the community of 84,000 people have been longing for since the housing market crashed in 2008: jobs.
“Our big target now is our March 1 job fair,” said Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group that formed last summer and has been working all year long to capitalize on a series of major construction projects coming to Poinciana next year.
Their 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 prepared for what are expected to be up to 7,000 construction jobs coming to the community, beginning in 2012, on a host of new projects that include construction of the community’s first hospital.
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. PEDA is planning to host an actual job fair on March 1 at the Poinciana Community Center, with booths set up by employers who are recruiting workers.
At least, right now, that’s the game plan, Murdock said.
“If we don’t have a minimum of 100 jobs to fill, we’ll postpone it,” he said. The jobs fair has already been postponed once, from an original target date of Jan. 19.
“We need to have things start happening,” said PEDA member Wendy Farrell. “We need to have shovels in the ground.”
PEDA member Letha Vanderhei agreed, saying “The funding, the people paying the bills, until they start cutting some checks, you don’t know.”
Poinciana is a community of 10 villages that cut across Polk and Osceola counties. The community grew tremendously in the past decade during a residential housing construction boom.
But when the housing market crashed in 2008, Poinciana was hit hard, and today the community has a high unemployment rate and an equally high home foreclosure rate.
But now the community is looking at more than 7,000 construction jobs on the way. Construction is expected to begin by next spring on Poinciana’s first hospital, as well as an emergency room facility and medical arts building, being built by Osceola Regional Medical Center of Kissimmee.
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 trying to move forward on construction of the Poinciana Parkway, a toll road that would connect the community more conveniently to Interstate 4.
That’s why PEDA was formed, so Poinciana residents would be ready to take advantage of those jobs once the construction work begins.
When PEDA held its more recent meeting this week at the office of construction firm Manhattan Kraft in Poinciana, Murdock noted that “There’s a lot of stuff here to talk about, including the amazing year we’ve had with PEDA. There’s been quite a few of us working hard behind the scenes.”
PEDA reached out to a lot of potential employers, and have been able to convince them of the great potential that Poinciana has with these new projects coming in, Murdock said. PEDA has almost been like an ambassador’s program for the community to outside businesses and investors, he added.
“Now what we’re going to do in January is consolidate our action teams,” Murdock said. “We need to have a database, a web site, information about the job fair, and business outreach.”
And more importantly, he said, it’s critical to be ready to strike while the iron is hot next year.
“It’s exciting,” Murdock said. “But for now, patience is the word.”
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