In Good Company


FGCU serves as incubator for well-trained workforce for region’s companies.

Johnson Engineering was present at FGCU’s groundbreaking in 1997; the Fort Myers-based firm had helped with planning and development, surveying, water resources and landscape architecture. Since that time, Johnson Engineering has continued to lead the university’s environmental consulting and civil engineering needs.

And today, 8 percent of the firm’s workforce of 103 employees comprises FGCU grads.

“We’ve hired employees from FGCU to work in many various roles here,” says Juli-Anne Kern, marketing director.

“We have an ecologist, a marketing coordinator and civil engineers who will help design communities, housing developments, retail developments, roads, utilities and water management systems. We’ve been working on projects at FGCU since its inception, and it’s great to see it all coming around full circle.”

The scenario at Johnson Engineering is echoed throughout Southwest Florida, as FGCU has become an incubator for well-trained personnel needed by local companies. Along with Johnson Engineering, those that have found it a particularly good fit include Gartner Inc., Wells Fargo Advisors, Lee Memorial Health System, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and Financial Services, Arthrex Inc., Wasmer, Schroeder and Company and The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

“There is a strong partnership between Southwest Florida’s business community and the university. They work together to meet the needs of the community,” says Gary Jackson, the recently retired director of the Regional Economic Research Institute (RERI) and economics faculty member at FGCU. He is well known for his regional economic studies and ability to articulate the landscape of the local workforce.

An FGCU priority that university officials stress to companies in Southwest Florida is that the university is a training ground for the professionals they need to staff their businesses. For example, FGCU positioned itself for the community’s needs by providing programs and degrees in subjects that the community indicated it needed, such as resort and hospitality management, golf management, engineering, environmental science, business, education and more.

Jackson points to examples such as internships and advisory boards. The boards — made up of business and community representatives — provide the latest information to meet the demands. Such boards may indicate, for instance, that more people with well-honed communications skills are needed, or that additional engineers of a specific type are needed. “They can help the university understand the overall needs and the university can adjust through time,” he says.