Life Science Park Hosts Community Resource Fair

Clutching a collection of brochures filled with information on employment opportunities, Chandra Holland left the Overtown Community Resource Fair last week more confident than she’s been in quite some time. “This is definitely a good start,” said the 31-year-old Holland, a certified surgical technician who has been unemployed for the past two years.

An hour after arriving at the September 10 fair, held at the new R+D Building One of the University of Miami’s emerging Life Science & Technology Park (LSTP), Holland had already spoken to five employers, getting information and what she called “much-needed advice” on workforce training. She was one of many Overtown, Allapattah, Liberty City, and other Miami-area residents who turned out for the free event, which included job and community-resource information from several organizations as well as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and other health screenings.

“My first priority is to get my pressure checked,” said Edwin Morgan, an unemployed accountant, as he waited to get a health screening at one of the stations manned by Miami Dade College nursing students. “Then I’ll see about job opportunities.”

Little Havana resident Freddie Flores brought his three young daughters and a son to the fair, getting vision screenings for them inside a mobile clinic operated by the Miami Lighthouse Heiken Children’s Vision Program.

At a mobile van in the parking lot, psychologists from the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities passed out pamphlets on the disorder, while inside the building, human resources representatives from UM, the Miller School of Medicine, and UHealth answered questions from job seekers.

More than 30 organizations had a presence at the event. Residents received information on lung and heart health, asthma, and the dangers of smoking, as well as chair massages and spine and posture screenings.

Co-sponsored by UM, Miami Dade College and South Florida Workforce, the fair, through a virtual tour, also gave attendees a chance to learn more about R+D Building One, the first phase of UM’s ambitious LSTP, which is advancing Miami’s presence as a biotech hub.

The six-story, 252,000-square-foot facility houses wet and dry labs, offices, lab-ready development suites, and retail space. Involving UM’s Miller School of Medicine and College of Engineering, will foster collaboration among researchers, attract new ventures, and bring jobs to the area.

“There’s nothing like it in South Florida,” said Marcelo Radice, executive director for the LSTP, saying Building One is designed to attract the kind of companies—health care, biotech, medical device, and IT firms—that have existed “only in small pockets in Miami.”

Less than two weeks before its grand opening ceremony, space in the new facility is filling up, with the UM Tissue Bank and Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency being anchor tenants. Madrid-based IT firm Àndago, clinical research firm Advanced Pharma, medical device corporation Daya Medicals, and Community Blood Centers of South Florida are other major tenants.

Meanwhile, 12 companies are leasing space in the building’s third-floor innovation center, described by Radice as “an accelerator area for startups.”

Built by private developer Wexford Science & Technology, LLC, and located at the intersection of Northwest 20th Street and 7th Avenue in Miami’s Overtown, R+D One is being called a plus for the historic neighborhood. “It’s important that we reach out to the community and share and celebrate what we’ve been able to create by letting [residents] know that there could be jobs,” Radice said.

UM, Miami Dade College, and South Florida Workforce are rolling out a new $400,000 jobs program that will train candidates in health care and biotech fields, locating jobs for them in the LSTP or the surrounding Miami Health District upon completion of their training.

Eddy Remodain said he was lucky just to be at the fair. A former police officer in Haiti, he said he left the nation two days before the January 2010 earthquake devastated the capital of Port-au-Prince. He visited almost every health screening station at the fair, saying he would never again take his good health for granted.

Liberty City resident Sharena Bennett found out about Saturday’s fair from her mother-in-law. “It’s been helpful,” said Bennett, her 10-month-old daughter asleep in a stroller next to her. “I’ll be starting nursing school soon, and to work in the Health District would be a dream come true.”

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