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By Kevin Kieft
Contributing Writer 

Primed for the Future


Last updated 9/17/2019 at 7:06pm

Kevin Kieft, President & CEO, Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission

If you've been keeping an eye on economic trends lately, you may have noticed that Florida has been shining bright on the national and international stage. Our state's profile has skyrocketed thanks to a growing number of companies that are confirming the state's potential and strategic advantage in the aviation and aerospace industries.

And Lake Wales is no exception to this success.

International flight simulator manufacturer ALSIM recently announced its intentions to open a new assembly and support facility at the Lake Wales Commerce and Technology Park on U.S. 27.

Attracting a French company in a high-tech market is a big win for our area, and I think it's a preview of things to come. Our region's success is part of the state's prowess in courting high-tech companies. There are more than 2,200 aerospace and aviation companies in Florida and almost 100,000 people working for them. These are all the right ingredients for growth.

This isn't by chance. Florida and Polk officials are out there recruiting. This year, 25 aviation and aerospace leaders from all around the state attended Paris Air Show. Officials from Polk County and the Central Florida Development Council were among the attendees. The show lets them showcase what they have to offer the aviation and aerospace industry.

In addition, let's not forget how well-equipped our area is to foster this kind of growth. Our airports and educational opportunities are an important factor in our success.

A perfect example is Polk State College. During the past few years, Polk State College has enhanced its aerospace programs to help meet the demand for knowledgeable employees.

In 2013, the school started with a single associate's degree program in professional pilot science. Now, Polk State is proud to be the only community college in Florida to offer a bachelor's degree in aviation. Plus, students attending Central Florida Aerospace Academy at Sun 'n Fun are eligible for dual-enrollment with Polk State. Those are the kind of educational programs that spell opportunity.

We have a healthy variety of companies here in Lake Wales, and I want to build on that. ALSIM's investment in Lake Wales will help the city and region gain visibility within the industry. This is exactly the type of economic impact we are looking for. It brings with it the cluster of knowledge and resources that, in turn, draws more companies to us.


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