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Hit hard by both the Great Recession and deteriorating commercial fishing conditions including a failing oyster industry, Tallahassee Community College (TCC) sought to create an economic driver for the region that would leverage its most precious assets: Wakulla County’s natural heritage and biodiversity. In response, TCC created the Wakulla Environmental Institute (WEI) which will offer degrees and certificate programs to bolster the region’s environmental science technology, hospitality and tourism, aquaculture management and agribusiness industries. With coastal tourism and recreation as two of Florida’s top ocean industries, the state’s investment in WEI would help produce graduates to work and innovate in these vital industries statewide.
In May of 2014, EDA announced a $1.5 million award to TCC to support core infrastructure improvements that will enable the construction of the WEI. The Institute will offer eight environmentally focused degree and certificate programs, including water, wastewater, recycling, alternative energy, recreation and conservation. According to commitment letters by private employers, the project will create 100 jobs over the next three years and attract $18 million in private investment in numerous fields related to environmental management.