Al Carlson, Business Newsmaker of the Year

NOTY

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY DEC 26, 2016

Al Carlson knows the value of engineers. As CEO of Sun Hydraulics for 16 years, finding college graduates with training in engineering always proved difficult. Now as the first director of University of Florida’s Innovation Station, he will help fill the gap in the workforce. “It’s going to open doors,” Carlson says. “It’s not just about engineering. It’s about economic development for the local area and the entire state of Florida.” And that promise to improve an entire industry, Carlson has also earned the title of SRQ’s business newsmaker of the year.

Carlson in fact has been involved since 2014 in attracting the University of Florida to open an engineering program here. “At first, it was not particularly to champion the program but to push it as CEO of a local company,” Carlson says. Sun Hydraulics faces such challenges in finding engineering grads that the company worked with students before they graduated high school hoping to encourage the children to study engineering later.

When UF leaders in March announced plans to open the first extension campus for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, Carlson was among the business leaders lauding the news at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. Then in May, UF announced the recently retired CEO would be the campus’ first director. Carlson since has assembled a team, including a workforce coordinator, industry coordinator and K-12 outreach director. The university will soon announce a permanent location for the Innovation Station, Carlson says. From here, Carlson is eager to start working with tomorrow's engineers.  

“This is just the first Innovation Station in Sarasota; it will be one of many going forward,” he notes. “There is a lot of opportunity that will be born out of more people having a technical background. Computer science and engineering, that’s where the jobs are. We’re creating an atmosphere for young entrepreneurs to start companies.”

Honorable Mention: Michael Klauber, chairman of Bayfront 20:20, put into motion plans to reimagine the Sarasota Bayfront. Steve Queior announced his retirement after years as president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, moved ahead with plans for a convention center hotel.

All this week, SRQ Daily names a newsmaker of the year for 2016. Individuals selected were chosen by our editorial team based on meaningful impact within a field where they have demonstrated leadership, effectively redirecting community conversation in important and lasting ways. Read tomorrow's edition to learn the political newsmaker of the year.

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