Education’s Public-Private Partnerships of Today Help Develop Palm Coast’s Town Center of Tomorrow

Above: Joe Rizzo, Executive Director of Flagler County Education Foundation, talks with future leaders.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, five of the 10 fastest-growing occupations between 2020-2030 are related to the medical field, and the other five are a mix of the trade and technical industries. 

Preparing Palm Coast to meet those needs begins early with the Flagler County school district’s Classrooms to Careers Flagship programming, supported by public-private partnerships within the community.  

Offering students the chance to explore a variety of potential career paths, including certified trades, education, law and justice, culinary, emerging sciences and the medical field during their K-12 experience, strategic planners have incorporated student feedback into the design of Town Center in an effort to capture their ideas on the community of the future.  

“Talking about Town Center, I really think it was a unique opportunity for our students, especially Flagler Palm Coast High School and the i3 Program to be able to have input on what their generation is looking for in a community,” said Flagler County Education Foundation Executive Director Joe Rizzo. 

“Ideally, we create that pipeline of talent where they’re staying here, working here and living through the amenities they want,” he said. 

Jacksonville University Palm Coast campus

Town Center also reflects the City of Palm Coast’s unique relationship with institutions of higher learning across Northeast Florida, in partnership with the area’s leading health systems. These relationships became the catalyst for MedNexus and the introduction of the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University to the Palm Coast area. 

Headquartered in Town Center, both universities are tapping directly into Flagler Schools’ talent pipeline to train the workforce of tomorrow while providing Flagler County an opportunity to grow the community by retaining the next generation. 

Jacksonville University Palm Coast campus

“By having these major universities here, in that medical field, in that STEM technology field, it really gives those kids the opportunity to not only have an impact on where they live but really drive the economy of which they’re going to live in,” said Rizzo. 

Dr. Chris Sapienza, provost and chief academic officer of Jacksonville University, sees the expansion and investment into the southern Northeast and Central Florida markets as a win-win for the university and the communities in which they serve. 

Jacksonville University Palm Coast campus

“For 88 years, Jacksonville University has proudly served Northeast Florida residents and businesses with high-quality graduates in high-demand fields. Now we’re taking steps to expand our programs to meet the needs of different communities in our region. Together with our Jacksonville campus, the Palm Coast location in the city’s Town Center will be an important first step in what we expect will become a JU education corridor delivering quality educational programming and innovative workforce development throughout Northeast Florida and beyond,” said Sapienza. 

Jacksonville University’s expansion into Palm Coast is part of a growing medical industry across the northeast and central Florida regions, and institutions of higher learning and businesses are taking notice. 

“Flagler and Volusia counties are experiencing rapid population growth, and our analysis showed that demand for healthcare services in Palm Coast, as well as the statewide nursing shortage, aligned with our award-winning programs, including Clinical Mental Health, Speech Language Pathology and advanced Nursing education,” she said.

The expansion aligns with the City of Palm Coast Town Center’s initiatives to develop Palm Coast into a regional destination for healthcare services training, according to Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin. 

“Those students will get jobs here, but in addition, the academic institutions will attract related and alignable businesses – laboratories, research firms, all of the kinds of low infrastructure, high-paying fiber optic med required businesses that pay enough so that younger people can actually afford to live in Palm Coast. It’s a closing of the full circle, starting with our flagship programs in the schools.” 

With these programs, Palm Coast will retain its current generation of learners who become tomorrow’s businesspeople, leaders and influencers.