Secretary Kelly visits Polk State, presents Digital Connectivity Technology Grant Award

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Florida Secretary of Commerce Alex Kelly recently visited Polk State College and came bearing a gracious gift — a big check announcing a $114,642 grant award to Polk State through the Florida Commerce Digital Connectivity Technology Program.

This funding will launch Polk State’s “Collab Lab,” an educational program operated by the Office of Corporate and Leadership Development that will target current and prospective small business owners of low to moderate income. The program will provide access to broadband internet, technology, and training to improve digital literacy, launch or grow small businesses, and promote economic development.

“We could not be more grateful to the Florida Department of Commerce and Secretary Kelly for this investment in our College and community,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Polk State is a leader in corporate and leadership development, with the Collab Lab offering new, targeted professional development and educational opportunities to nonconventional demographic groups in need. This will contribute directly to the economic development of Polk County, specifically our small business community.”


The Collab Lab will be mobile, taking training to areas of need within the community as well as offering training opportunities at the College’s various locations throughout Polk County.

Secretary Kelly toured the Polk State Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center in Bartow.

“You and your team are well respected across the state,” Secretary Kelly shared with Dr. Garcia Falconetti, “but nothing beats seeing this in person.”

Secretary Kelly and Dr. Garcia Falconetti were joined by Polk State District Board of Trustees Chair Teresa Martinez, Vice Chair Cindy Hartley Ross, Provost for Academic Affairs and Workforce Education Amy Bratten, Associate Vice President for Corporate and Leadership Development Craig Collins, Executive Director for Polk State Corporate College Patty Collins, Program Director for Engineering Technology Mori Toosi, Instructor of Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Machining James Gibbons, and Winter Haven Economic Development Council President Bruce Lyon.

“We could not be more grateful to the Florida Department of Commerce and Secretary Kelly for this investment in our College and community,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said.

They toured the 47,000-square-foot high-tech training hub that serves approximately 9,000 individuals in workforce training each year. Secretary Kelly received a firsthand look at programs including Engineering Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, and CNC Machining.

With a focus on short-term training that leads to high-wage, in-demand careers, Polk State staff and faculty explained how they are continuously working to bridge non-credit programming with credit opportunities, such as the articulation from Advanced Manufacturing and CNC Machining to the Engineering Technology degree program.

Additionally, embedded within programs are nationally recognized industry certifications that provide participants with a competitive edge in employment. For example, the CNC Machining Program prepares students to test for six National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certifications and boasts a 98% pass rate on the exams. Instructor Gibbons also shared with Secretary Kelly the College’s partnerships with the American Association of Community Colleges, Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation, NASA, and America’s Cutting Edge (ACE).

Secretary Kelly toured the Emerging Technologies Lab which most notably serves the Mosaic Apprenticeship Program. Since its inception 12 years ago, the program has benefited nearly 300 employees with on-the-job training funded by Mosaic.

“Mosaic recognized the growing need early on and has continued to invest in its employees and the quality training provided by our Corporate College,” Executive Director Collins said.

President Lyon with the Winter Haven Economic Development Council explained that companies continue to seek out space in Polk County, with the customizable training available through Polk State as an attractive factor for businesses. He noted the College’s partnerships with Florida Can and Nucor Steel.

“Companies are looking at us and at Polk State,” Lyon said. “We are looking at ways that the Advanced Technology Center can grow to further meet growing workforce demands.”