1. Business

Tackling Tampa Bay's talent challenge

Troy Taylor runs one of this region's faster-growing businesses as chief executive officer of Tampa-based Coca-Cola Beverages Florida. So who does he spend the most time with in this demanding role? His senior vice president of human resources. It shows his priority: finding and cultivating the best talent available.

"It is a passion point for me," Taylor says.

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That's a big reason the CEO now heads a new task force whose mission is to find ways to improve workforce talent in the Tampa Bay market. The new Regional Competitiveness Report, to be made public Tuesday , compares Tampa Bay and 19 other metro areas by more than 52 indicators. Its initial findings show Tampa Bay's primary weakness — when compared to the other metros — is it is thin on talent. Among 20 metros, for example, Tampa Bay ranks 18th in high school graduation rates, 19th in its share of people 16 to 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor employed, and dead last in people 25 years or older who have attained at least a bachelor's degree.

"I was not totally surprised by the talent indicators," Taylor says. "We did our research when we came here, just as other companies will be doing their own research on talent. Look at the Amazon HQ2 (Amazon's hunting for a place to open a second headquarters) search. Talent availability, Taylor says, is at the top of Amazon's wish list.

"We have to be very cognizant of that. We have to address that weakness in this region," he says. "There is no silver bullet here. This will take multiple years to address."

Among issues Taylor's group may address: Raising graduation rates; adding more certification programs to give workers more focused skills; and attracting more workers as they approach the peak of their careers.

Talent, Taylor says is a moving target as demands for skills change. To borrow a hockey metaphor, Taylor adds: "We have to skate to where the puck is going."