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Pinellas County Job Corps Center sits empty

Goliath Davis, St. Petersburg’s community enrichment administrator, says people constantly ask when the job center will open.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Goliath Davis, St. Petersburg’s community enrichment administrator, says people constantly ask when the job center will open.

ST. PETERSBURG — A federal job-training campus that was supposed to have opened last year, employ 120 people and house 300 students has a new launch date: October.

The Pinellas County Job Corps Center, a $40 million project of the Department of Labor, sits shiny-new and empty at 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue S.

When it will open is something of a local guessing game. The city asks the county. The county asks the feds. Everyone writes a congressman.

Congressional staffers ask the Labor Department, which offers dates and deadlines and then delays.

What the center needs is an operator. ResCare, a Kentucky company that runs Job Corps centers in Miami and Homestead, won the contract last year. But another bidder challenged the award.

That pushed back the center's opening until at least June while the government went back to bidders for more information.

Now the Department of Labor says a contractor should be named by July 15, with students starting to arrive within 90 days.

"At first it was May, then it was June, now it's July, huh?" said Goliath Davis, the city's senior administrator of community enrichment. "I'm just saying things have been moving rather slowly. I'd really like to see it opened and operational."

Not a day goes by, he said, that someone doesn't ask when it will open.

The Midtown property was put together piece by piece by the city for industrial development, a project to attract 600 jobs that reaches back a decade. In 2007, the 21-acre site was instead sold to the Department of Labor for the Job Corps center — itself a project the county worked for years to establish.

At the groundbreaking in 2008, city and county leaders touted the project as critical in transforming the lives of hundreds of people. Job Corps centers provide free housing and career training for disadvantaged youth ages 16 to 24, as well as high school and General Educational Development programs.

As Tampa Bay unemployment hovers in the double-digits, the Midtown Job Corps center hangs as a potential lifeline for students and staffers.

Maurice Betard, 22, has watched and waited for two years, hoping for a spot in a pharmacy tech program. He once attended classes at a Job Corps site in Kentucky after getting into trouble as a 17-year-old.

Now he lives in Tampa and would like to finish what he started, and tell his friends.

"A lot of people are trying to find a better thing to do with their lives instead of being on these streets," he said. "It's not safe."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Becky Bowers can be reached at bbowers@sptimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/bbowerstimes.

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Find information at pced.org/jobcorps and subscribe to updates at pced.org/subscribe.

Pinellas County Job Corps Center sits empty 07/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 3:58pm]
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