Sears Holdings chooses Gainesville to open 'Center of Excellence'
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Leading integrated retailer Sears Holdings Corp. has selected Gainesville, Fla., to establish its first “Center of Excellence,” which will provide University of Florida engineering undergraduates a first-of-its-kind opportunity to land internships centered on software development while keeping talent local, UF officials announced today.
The Council for Economic Outreach and UF partnered to bring this program from Sears Holdings, a Fortune 65 company, to Gainesville.
“Sears Holdings Corporation and specifically technology remains committed to our vision of a highly skilled, diverse workforce,” said Keith Sherwell, chief information officer of Sears Holdings. “As we looked for a partner to pilot a new way of working, the University of Florida matched our commitment to innovation and high standards of excellence. We look forward to embarking on a fruitful partnership benefitting Sears, the University of Florida and the Gainesville community.”
Sears Holdings representatives, UF officials and business leaders spent the day touring UF campus and Innovation Square and then Ayers Plaza, home of MindTree Ltd. and site of the announcement ceremony.
Sears Holdings selected Gainesville for the Technology Undergraduate Educational Partnership, as the program is known, because of UF’s ability to provide a steady supply of high-quality computer engineering students, said Cammy Abernathy, dean of UF’s College of Engineering.
This is the first time Sears Holdings is initiating the Technology Undergraduate Educational Partnership, as the program is known.
“We are truly excited that Sears picked Gainesville to pilot this program. It is a resounding vote of confidence in UF’s ability to provide a steady supply of high-quality computer engineering and computer science students,” said Abernathy. “We are committed to working closely with industry and the community to ensure that our economy will have the engineering workforce necessary to thrive.”
Sears Holdings is a leading integrated retailer with more than 2,600 full-line and specialty retail stores in the United States and Canada. It is the leading home appliance retailer as well as a leader in tools, lawn and garden, fitness equipment and automotive repair and maintenance. Key proprietary brands include Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard, with a broad apparel offering, including such well-known labels as Lands’ End, the Kardashian Kollection, Jaclyn Smith and Joe Boxer, as well as Sofia by Sofia Vergara and The Country Living Home Collection.
Sears Holdings is yet another company that has discovered Gainesville as a hub for innovation and technology. Sears now joins MindTree and Silver Airways as companies that have been attracted to Gainesville.
“Companies around the world are realizing the amazing talent, business-friendly resources and high quality of life we have here,” said John Carlson, 2013 chair of the Council for Economic Outreach. “We have a very clear mission through Innovation Gainesville that Gainesville and Alachua County will grow and attract business and retain our talented workforce locally.”
The plan calls for Sears Holdings to bring on 25 UF interns in the inaugural year of the program. The first group will begin this summer at Sears Holdings locations around the U.S.; this fall, Sears Holdings expects to open an office in Gainesville, where the interns would continue their work.
Students will initially work on development in the following areas:
- Data analytics and engineering
- Big Data and Hadoop, an open source software framework that supports the processing of large data sets in a distributed computing environment
- Network and information security
- Process analysis and design
- Development using multiple technologies
Ed Poppell, director of the UF Development Corp., said the Sears Holdings partnership also speaks well of town-gown relations in Gainesville.
“This is the latest chapter in the quickly unfolding success story of Innovation Square and Innovation Gainesville,” Poppell said. “Our community knows how to work together to accomplish great things, and the Sears Holdings announcement is a great thing.”