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British Bi-fold Door Manufacturer Opens In Venice

An aluminum bi-folding door manufacturer from the United Kingdom is setting up shop for the first time in the United States with a production facility in Venice FL.

In April, Origin USA located its American bi-fold door headquarters and about $500,000 in manufacturing equipment inside a rebuilt 8,000-square-foot building at 771 Commerce Drive. Southern Cross Contracting in Sarasota was the contractor. 

Starting out with five employees, company President Ben Halvorsen anticipates hiring 40 to 50 workers in the next three to five years. Positions will be in production, accounting, marketing and sales.

"We took a strong look at demographics of the Gulf Coast and architectural styles as well," says Halvorsen. "The economy, particularly with construction, is doing well again and our market point is very strong."

French doors and sliding doors are standard design options but Halvorsen says the bi-folding doors are growing in popularity. Origin is the leading manufacturer of the product in the United Kingdom. The doors appeal to a customer base that wants to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces with doors that fold and slide out of sight, he says.

"Bi-fold doors are common in Europe," he adds.

Luxury home builders or developers of hotels, retail and restaurants are among the target audience. One recent customer is a Denver restaurant owner who wanted to open up one side of the restaurant to the street.

The doors can be customized to fit any opening and folding configuration, come with more than 150 color selections and quick delivery times. "If that's two weeks or one day -- no problem at all," says Origin USA CEO Neil Ginger.

The doors also meet Florida's building code for withstanding hurricane-force winds, and meet energy efficency standards.

While bi-folding doors generally have had a reputation for being pricey on the retail market, Halvorsen says, "We're here to radically change that preconception with pricing a little over a high-end, in-line slider."

Origin sells nationwide "business to business" and has a showroom open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Neil Ginger, Origin USA

Leadership Sarasota Makes Plans To Improve Michael Biehl Park, Venice

Leadership Sarasota, a program of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, is making Venice's Michael Biehl Park a focus, with plans to improve the local park as part of a community service project.

Located next to Venice Theatre on West Tampa Avenue, improvements will be made to the park with $5,000 of seed money that was given to Leadership Sarasota by the local chamber of commerce to get the project off of the ground. ProGo Solutions, a company specializing in agronomic solutions, will also play an instrumental role in the project, as well as the City of Venice, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Venice Theatre.

In addition, the program -- which is designed to nurture and engage leadership skills through community immersion, leadership training and educating participants on "how things work'' in the local community -- will use resources through various Tampa Bay area-based businesses for additional funds via in-kind donations of consulting, supplies and equipment.

"Leadership Sarasota's Class of 2013 came to choose the Michael Biehl Park project after thorough consideration'' says Bridget McGrath, a member of Leadership Sarasota. "We all felt that this park and location had immense potential to enhance downtown Venice and, with the resources we have through our class and the local community, knew this project would be a success.''

The project plans to brighten the park with lighting and landscaping, add picnic tables and bike racks and enhance the overall design of the park; an existing mural will be embellished with new lighting.

"Currently, the landscape is pretty drab and lacks color; we intend to change that,'' McGrath says. "We feel that this park is a main focal point when you enter historic downtown Venice and will be helping the continued revitalization of the downtown area.''

An unveiling and community barbecue will be held at the park on April 21st, celebrating the new and improved Michael Biehl Park. Until then, Leadership Sarasota has plans to put in more than five scheduled work days where the class in its entirety will be putting in work to see the project through.

"Leadership Sarasota's class of 2013 is full of solid talent and great charisma with a strong desire to give back to our beautiful community that we are so fortunate to call home.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bridget McGrath, Leadership Sarasota

Home-Tech Of Southwest Florida Expanding, Hiring

Southwest Florida's leading air conditioning and major appliance sales and service provider, Home-Tech, is expanding its presence in Florida.

Celebrating its 30th year in business, the Ft. Myers-based company recently announced that has begun construction on a new 10,400-square-foot service office, showroom and technical training center in Manatee County; Home-Tech originally established its presence in the Sarasota-Manatee area in 1992 with an office located in Venice.

“We're extremely excited about our expansion and look forward to providing our service to the local Manatee County community,” says President and Founder Steve Marino. “I'm glad to see this project moving forward and that it's doing exactly what we want it do: Hiring local people and having a facility for us to expand our operations in the area.”

The $1.3 million project will duplicate Home-Tech's current office in the Ft. Myers-Collier area at 6400 Techster Blvd., made up of a state-of-the-art training facility, a 3,000-square-foot non-traditional showroom featuring working appliances, as well as a warehouse and employee offices.

“We're particularly proud of the new training facility because, as far as we know, we will be the only service industry company in Southwest Florida to have an apprenticeship program,” says Marino. “It's going to bring a lot more jobs to the area and it'll draw new apprentices, which we're really looking forward to.”

With the dried-in shell of the building expected to be complete by the end of September, Home-Tech has already hired six new employees and has up to seven positions currently available, ranging from entry-level to sales positions to experienced technicians.

“With so many young people currently trying to find a job and a career, hiring and training people is something we're really excited about,” says Marino. “This is a good career and the service industry is very interesting -- you never know what's going to happen from day to day and it pays quite well. I only see the demand in home service getting bigger.”

Home-Tech is working with World Designs Inc. as architect on the project, Allison Engineering as land developer and Manasota Commercial Construction as general contractor. Steve Heinz, community development and service agreement sales director, will lead the sales effort for the new facility, which is expected to see completion by the first quarter of 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Steve Marino, Home-Tech

Bob's Twist-N-Shake: Ice Cream Goes Retro In Venice

The new Bob's Twist-N-Shake in Venice, a retro-design building, sports a 13-foot-tall, three-dimensional white-and-orange twist ice cream cone that heralds its main product: ice cream.

The design is reminiscent of the ice cream stands of the 1950s and '60s, which coincides with owner Bob Johnson's acquisition of the land at 420 U.S. Highway 41. "I've owned the land where the store is located since the '60s," says Johnson. "I leased it to a bank for 25 years. A few years ago they moved on and the land became vacant. I love ice cream and thought this location was well-suited for this type of project. Venice is a place of character."

In addition to the store and drive-through, exterior spaces include covered canopy seating and shaded garden seating.

Construction was completed in 90 days by JE Charlotte Construction. According to Jeff Charlotte, his business is dedicated to aggressive timelines. "We develop and manage our work on a daily basis, which enabled us to stay on track. We procured all long-lead materials well in advance of the date they were needed on site, so there were no delays to the schedule."

"We thoroughly enjoyed completing this project for the Johnson family," adds Charlotte. "It brought much-needed jobs to the area and we always enjoy projects that bring property tax revenues back on-line without taxing the need for new infrastructure."

Bob's Twist-N-Shake is open from noon until 9 p.m. daily, with a menu that features malts, shakes, floats and smoothies as well as its signature twisty cones.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Bob Johnson, Bob's Twist-N-Shake; Jeff Charlotte, JE Charlotte Construction

Boaters, Marinas To Get $1.9 Million To Keep Gulf, Lakes Sewage-Free

Oil isn't the only threat to our coasts. Sewage is, too. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) plans to run a campaign this summer that encourages recreational boaters to use pump-out stations along the coasts of Florida as well as in lakes throughout the state.

The DEP administers grant monies from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Clean Vessel Act of 1992. This year Florida received $1.9 million to fund the construction and installation of sewage pump-out facilities and floating restrooms, to purchase pump-out boats and to provide educational programs for recreational boaters, as they have been since the program's inception in the early 1990s. To date, the seven counties that comprise the Tampa Bay region have received a total of $2.2 million, with Pinellas receiving the largest portion at $1.1 million.

According to Kristin Lock, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, any marina can apply for a grant that will reimburse 75 percent of the building and installation costs of pump-out facilities.

"Untreated sewage from boats contains disease-causing microorganisms," explains Deas Bohn, DEP's director of Sustainable Initiatives.."If discharged into the water, these organisms can impact our environment as well as human health. Sewage can spread disease, contaminate shellfish beds and lower oxygen levels necessary for aquatic species to survive. Proper disposal and treatment of boater sewage is essential to protecting Florida's waterways."

Federal and state law prohibits discharging raw sewage in all fresh water or within nine nautical miles in the Gulf of Mexico.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Kristin Lock, Florida Department of Environmental Protection

One Bay, One Vision: Mega-Meeting To Connect Tampa Bay Leaders

On April 16, leaders from across Tampa Bay will meet to discuss sustainable growth. One Bay, the group hosting the meeting, has deemed the event the Congress of Regional Leaders.

The One Bay Liveable Communities Initiative is a "regional visional process" that grew from the Tampa Bay Partnership Regional Research and Education Foundation. It is committed to long-term thinking and planning to make the seven counties that comprise the Tampa Bay region a thriving and sustainable mega region by the year 2050. The counties included in the initiative are Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota.

The April 16 meeting is a culmination of polls, surveys and workshops that resulted from the Reality Check of 2007. The data collected indicates a need and desire for a more proactive and deliberate approach to planning.

"When we looked at the data, it was interesting because there were common guiding principles across transit, water and environmental areas," explains Betty Carlin, a spokesperson for the Tampa Bay Partnership. "It's telling us these are the things that people think are important. People really don't want to see growth happen as it has in the past. We want to do it differently. So now we have to put community leaders together to share the vision and make it happen."

Dan Mahurin, chairman of SunTrust Bank and chair of One Bay, sees the meeting as a celebrated outcome as well as an exciting launch.

"This event is a celebration of several years of great input and hard work from across the community to develop a shared vision for Tampa Bay. It is also a turning point for us to bring leaders back together to begin planning how we can implement this vision."

The meeting will take place at the Tampa Convention Center from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Betty Carlin, Tampa Bay Partnership; Dan Mahurin, SunTrust
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