Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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HAECO Ready in Columbia County: "Moldin' Kids In a Certain Way to Provide a Workforce"

The legendary Ronald Williams, for decades the face of Columbia County economic development. In 2010, he addressed N. FL's movers and shakers regarding the Inland Port.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – For generations, economic development and workforce development in Columbia County have languished. Overcoming Columbia County's quintessential good ole' boy network and the County's challenged school district have inhibited economic growth until recently, when retail developers found a pool of retail development incentives and low cost workers to fulfill their retail and fast food expansion needs on the U.S. 90 I-75 corridor that leads into Lake City.

Wednesday morning, April 5, 2017, during the County's monthly Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) meeting, County Commissioner Ronald Williams, one of the primary faces of Columbia County economic development for over three decades, explained how the County was going to solve the workforce needs of its major high tech employer, HAECO.

Our last article, North Central Florida's Systemic Workforce Development Problems has HAECO Reeling, Columbia County in Confusion, focused on the problems HAECO, the world's leading aircraft maintenance – repair – overhaul business (MRO) was having in Lake City/Columbia County with workforce development. It can't find qualified workers.

DEO's Sean Lewis at CareerSource/Florida Crown in August 2016.


On March 8, 2017, a meeting in Lake City sponsored by Department of Economic Opportunity's (DEO) Sean Lewis has led nowhere and while there was talk during the meeting of developing a local workforce of HAECO ready workers, no one seemed to know what "HAECO ready" meant.


On Wednesday, your reporter addressed the issue with the EDAB:

"It's unfortunate that nobody from the board attended the REDI meeting (March 8) which anybody could have attended by conference call. Not even [CareerSource] Florida Crown was advised of that meeting... At that meeting the school district and everybody else discussed trying to get Columbia County students HAECO ready. I've asked a bunch of people since the meeting... what HAECO ready means. I was wondering if anybody knows what HAECO ready means when it comes to Columbia County students and the development of a pipeline for a workforce of potential employees to go to HAECO." (abridged)

There was a moment of silence and then Commissioner Williams jumped in.

Commissioner Williams asked, "What do that mean?"

Your reporter responded, "What does 'HAECO ready' mean?"

Commissioner Williams explained: "...moldin' these kids in a certain way"

Well, it could mean a lot a things. It's one that what mind wanna' grab what someone says in a sense of speakin', but to me HAECO ready in the school system means it prividin' a program, somethin' -unintelligible- against, from the similators on up to get young people interested in aviation. It's here that the young person in the early age -- their minds are a lot different than our minds -- our old minds like we are. Their mind is more energetic. When they see things they sorta kinda adapt their minds to it and they begin to get interested in aviation from an early age. And as that progresses -- that helps in a sense of speakin'. And with the academy, the Aviation Academy, where when we talk about that Aviation Academy, when school kids can actually go to school at HAECO and learn the aviation trade.

It's sorta like when the good lord made man, he sorta kinda mold him around in a certain way and after he got through moldin' he blew the breath of life in em', that's what we tryin' to do to the school system. We're moldin' these kids in a certain way, that we can get them ready to provide the workforce that's needed at HAECO some other way.

Somebody might have a different version of it.

FPL's Jeff Simmons at the recent Chamber/HAECO event.

EDAB veteran and FPL employee Jeff Simmons, also head of the newly formed Chamber Business & Economic Development Council, gave his version of HAECO ready. "The main thing is the bench mark, A&P certification. They are either students that are in the process of obtaining that certification or students that have obtained that certification. It's the FAA that allows them to work on that aircraft. It's called A&P certification." 

All line workers at the HAECO MRO facility do not need A&P certification to work on aircraft. However, generally speaking, work has to be signed off by a person with an A&P license. 

EDAB member Stephen Douglas wanted Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter to give formal responses to questions. "Stew had a question about what HAECO ready was. I'm going back to the rumor mill... Stew will take what little bit you say and what little bit Mr. Simmons says and manipulate it either for the positive or negative and write an article about it." 

Mr. Douglas offered no idea what HAECO ready meant, but after over two years, he thought he and the other EDAB members should take a tour of the Aviation Academy, which is a workshop and three portable class rooms.

It is not clear why he didn't drive over and ask for a look around.

Columbia County's Lake City Tri-County Aviation Academy (workshop). Also are 3 portable one-room buildings used as classrooms.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On April 11, 2017, a reader from Tampa wrote:

Hilarious! The cowboy hat topped it off. If my child was in those schools, I'd be looking into private educational opportunities!  That is some scary stuff!


Posted on April 10, 2017, citizen49a from Lake City wrote:

Note that in addition to the FAA approved program in Jacksonville, there is also a long standing FAA approved Aircraft Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Technician  program at Lively Vocational Technical Center in Tallahassee.

Lake City is fairly surrounded by FAA approved Aviation Maintenance Technology programs.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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