(TNS) — With Jacksonville's financial service industry expanding, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday the state is allotting $3.7 million to start a financial technology education initiative in Northeast Florida.
"We have the potential to do a lot of good things," DeSantis said during an announcement of the grant at Florida State College at Jacksonville, where he was flanked by company executives and college presidents from around the region.
The grant follows up on a goal DeSantis outlined in September of cultivating a workforce to fill job needs of the area's growing list of financial service employers.
Mayor Lenny Curry said he regularly talks to CEOs interested in moving to Jacksonville who say their companies need employees trained in financial technology, or FinTech.
The city has already landed some out-of-town businesses and helped some local firms grow. Tech firms SoFi and SS&C Technologies announced plans last year to create about 500 jobs between them, and Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Information Services expects to add another 500 jobs over the coming decade.
But Curry said key jobs have gone to people imported from other states because of their technical training, and said it was important to close that gap.
Preparing locals for financial technology work can matter to children growing up in Jacksonville and their families, too, said Aundra Wallace, president of JAXUSA Partnership, the JAX Chamber's economic development arm.
"This is about keeping our talent," said Wallace, who said he'd like to see FinTech instruction eventually start around junior high school.
Young people interested in technology will be more likely to stay in town and build careers here once they know that jobs using that technology are available, he said.
"It's exciting to see what will come from this, because I know it will mean jobs," said Jamal Sowell, President/CEO of Enterprise Florida.
Steps for using the five-year grant are still taking shape.
Florida State College at Jacksonville and St. Johns River State College officials listened to a focus group of financial service pros as they developed plans for improving their training, and FSCJ President John Avenado said filling companies' needs will be an important but shifting part of the schools' role.
The two colleges filed a joint grant application in November with a budget plan that mentioned outfitting FinTech labs at FSCJ's Kent Campus on U.S. 17 and at Deerwood Center on Old Baymeadows Road. A total of 48 work stations were projected to have software including Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, Python, R Base, R Studio and tidyverse.
St. Johns River State expects to incorporate FinTech elements into computer and business programs at the college, President Joe Pickens wrote in his school's cover letter for the application, and the project budget includes costs for adding modules to college courses on banking and international finance as well as microcomputer application software.
The budget also set aside cash for testing fees for a series of certification tests and for speakers at an annual FinTech forum.
©2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.