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HART MetroRapid North-South To Begin Services In Hillsborough

A new HART system aims to speed up connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County.

HART's MetroRapid will begin operations on Tuesday, May 28th, improving travel along selected service corridors, increasing service reliability and speed of transit. HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia says the system will make transit use easier for Hillsborough County residents.

“Added features like ticket vending machines will provide travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board,” Mejia says. “Riders will buy their tickets at the machines and just board directly.”

In addition to ticket vending machines, some of the system's new features include fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

The first rapid transit system in the area, the North-South MetroRapid will run north along Nebraska Avenue from the downtown neighborhoods and east on Fletcher Avenue to Telecom Park, west of Interstate 75; the area totals a 17.5 mile corridor.

According to Mejia, several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned, showing that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity.

Construction began on the North-South MetroRapid project in August 2013, totaling approximately $31 million, while the traffic signal priority project is cost an estimated $2 million. HART reported that the project came in under budget by $5.7 million, which will be reallocated back into Hillsborough County for infrastructure needs, if desired.

Both projects were paid for by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT).

“Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years," Mejia says. "With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county."

Currently, HART is continuing to make progress and expand the MetroRapid services, including the the East-West project which will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Construction Begins On Marine Exploration Center, Aquarium In Madeira Beach

The 25-year-old St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium is moving, expanding and rebranding, bringing the new Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium concept to John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach.

Slated to open by November 2013, Secrets of the Sea will be the anchor attraction at John's Pass Village on Gulf Boulevard and 129th Avenue in Madeira Beach, featuring a broader, more technology-focused marine exploration concept.

Construction on the 13,500-square-foot, approximately $4 million facility began on April 23rd.

“The Pier Aquarium has been bursting at the seams for a long time while the public's interest in the ocean environment, cutting-edge technology and marine science continues to grow,” says Pier Aquarium President and CEO Howard Rutherford of the 2,000-square-foot St. Pete facility. “The unknown future of The Pier created an extraordinary opportunity for a bold, new approach to the Aquarium's mission.”

The Pier Aquarium will close on May 31.

Rutherford plans for Secrets of the Sea to become one of an epicenter for marine research and one of Madeira Beach's premier attractions, bringing the public together with state-of-the-art marine research, innovation and technology interactive experiences.

Various marine-related activities, aquariums, galleries and exhibits developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team will focus on research concepts in a fun, explanatory fashion; exhibits include Essential Estuaries, Touch Tampa Bay, Fish at Risk, Corals on Acid, Crustacean Station and Moon Jellyfish.

Local design-build team Biltmore Construction and Harvard Jolly Architects are working on the construction of the two-story structure with Lexington Design and Fabrication designing and building innovative Mystery Stations throughout the center, showcasing how several sea habitats and lifeforms are benefiting from some of the ocean's unsolved mysteries.

“We hope to create a new generation of environmental stewards,” Rutherford says.

A public/private partnership between John's Pass Village owner AEGON USA Realty Advisors, Enterprise Florida's State Small Business Credit Initiative and a local lender, the new aquarium space was recently endorsed by Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno.

Additionally, a collective hotel partnership called the Secrets Premier Hotelier Group has been instrumental in helping Secrets of the Seas achieve its capital campaign target to begin construction, agreeing to provide in excess of $100,000 over the next five years in support of the new marine attraction.

The partnership includes TradeWinds Island Resort and Guy Harvey Outpost, St. Pete Beach Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, Lowes Don CeSar Hotel, Postcard Inn, Dolphin Beach Resort, Bilmar Beach Resort, Grand Plaza Resort Hotel, Alden Suites, Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites, Beachcomber Beach Resort and Hotel, Plaza Beach Resorts and Barefoot Beach Hotel.

Secrets of the Sea is expected to generate nearly 250,000 visitors annually and pump $8 million into the local economy, reaching more than 40,000 students from six different countries.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Howard Rutherford, Pier Aquarium

CoCreativ Opens New Coworking Space In St. Pete

A drop-in workspace for freelancers, entrepreneurs and on-the-go professionals in the Tampa Bay region, CoCreativ will open on Second Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.

CoCreativ President and CEO Joseph Warren says he plans to redefine the modern workspace, promoting coworking in St. Pete with a cheap, alternative to typical makeshift offices and meeting spaces like Starbucks and Panera.

“Working on the go just got a whole lot easier,” Warren says. “People use makeshift office and meeting spaces because they have no place else to go. CoCreativ provides them with a flexible and professional workspace they can drop into as needed.”

Promoting an energetic and supportive community, CoCreativ's 5,500-square-foot pilot space is on the 12th floor of the Wells Fargo Plaza at 150 2nd Avenue North in downtown St. Pete. The space will feature a lounge area, private meeting room and conference room, as well as several rooms and cubbyholes for “heads down” work. CoCreativ's new space will also include a large multipurpose room for classroom training.

No long-term contracts and unlimited monthly acccess are among some of CoCreativ's features. Members simply drop in, plug in and begin working.

“Coworking spaces already exist in Tampa at places like Oxford Exchange, CoWork Tampa and FirstWaVE Venture Center, but up until now, St. Pete did not have a coworking space to call its own,” Warren says. “With all of the amenities that today's mobile professionals desire, such as great restaurants, cafes, nightlife and cultural variety, downtown St. Pete is the perfect place to launch our concept.”

CoCreativ will officially open the doors to a temporary location at the Wells Fargo Plaza on March 18th with plans to move to a larger, ground floor space in the near future; a pre-launch party and open house will be held on March 15th from 5:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“Coworking is being driven by a growing and more cohesive tech ecosystem that is quickly gaining national attention as a great place for start ups to launch,” Warren says. “We think we have a pretty solid understanding of our customers' needs and desires. Heck, we're part of our own target market for CoCreativ -- we designed this space for us too!”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Joseph Warren, CoCreativ

Moffitt Grows Outpatient Services, Builds New $74M Clinic

Moffitt Cancer Center officially broke ground on a $74.2 million clinic building at it's McKinley campus in Tampa.

Located less than one mile from Moffitt's main campus, the eight-story, 200,000-square-foot outpatient medical facility, at 10902 N. McKinley Dr., will house clinical space for breast and skin cancer programs; infusion and imaging facilities; research labs; an ambulatory surgery center serving patients with cancers including breast, head and neck, melanoma and sarcoma; and space for blood draws. Administration facilities, offices and dining areas will also be located at the clinic.

Approximately $20 million of the budget will go toward new equipment with the remaining $54.2 million spent on the construction of the building itself and a parking garage.

“This new facility would not have been possible without the foresight and vision of our Florida Legislature, including timeless efforts of Rep. James Grant and Sen. Ronda Storms,” says Moffitt President and CEO Alan List, M.D., of the small increase in Cigarette Tax revenue the center received during the past legislative session.

Additionally, the 30 acres of land being utilized for the first phase of the McKinley expansion was donated by the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

“We are so grateful that the city and county have stood in full support of Moffitt's mission -- to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer -- since we opened,” List says.

With more than 4,200 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of Florida of nearly $2 billion. This specific project is expected to create more than 600 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs upon opening.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Alan List, M.D., Moffitt Cancer Center

Pasco County Launches Business Incubator, Dade City

Pasco County entrepreneurs soon will be able to take advantage of the county's first business incubator.

On Tuesday, January 22nd, the Dade City Commissioners showed support for local entrepreneurs by approving $50,000 to launch the first business incubator in Pasco County; the incubator will be located in the Dade City Business Center on Citrus Villas Lane and managed by a team led by the Pasco Economic Development Council (EDC).

“The incubator project represents a fantastic opportunity for Dade City in job creation, promotion of our community as 'open for business' and supporting entrepreneurship,” says John Moors, executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to working with our partners in promoting this new growth while maintaining our unique, old Florida sense of community.”

The Dade City Business Center location will play a big role, helping the Pasco EDC to assist start-up companies or early stage businesses grow, add local jobs and receive necessary technical assistance; Saint Leo University has offered to partner with the EDC on this venture, offering that assistance to start-ups.

“The incubator completes a long-term objective for Saint Leo's Donald R. Tapia School of Business to deepen our support to the local business community and provide opportunities for our students and faculty to engage in creating new businesses,” says School of Business Dean Michael Nastanski.

The incubator coming into fruition has been a year in the making by the Pasco EDC.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: John Moors, Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce; Michael Nastanski, Saint Leo University

Uhsome Media, Marketing Opens In Sarasota HuB

Local Tampa media and marketing agency Uhsome has announced an expansion, bringing the company's growth to the Sarasota area.

The brains behind CoWorkTampa, a Tampa-based coworking loft offering affordable memberships to local freelancers and entrepreneurs, Uhsome's new 300-square-foot office will be housed inside of HuB's newly opened space at 1680 Fruitville Road in Sarasota. The HuB space celebrated the grand opening of the Fruitville Road location in December 2012.

“Sarasota is an up and coming, wealthy area with a lot of baby boomers needing online assistance,” says Uhsome CEO Chris Arnoldi. “HuB is at the forefront of the technology scene and is definitely the spot to be. We like associating ourselves with people doing it the right way.”

Since 2009, HuB has been active in promoting big ideas in Sarasota and their renovation of a 10,000-square-foot building is continuing to embrace that concept by housing innovative tech companies, entrepreneurs and creative/tech startups. HuB founder Rich Swier Jr. worked on the renovation with Sarasota's HOYT Architects and Biter Enterprises.

“We do a lot business with people working out of the HuB already,” Arnoldi says. “We plan to be more efficient and accessible.”

Uhsome will begin operating out of their new HuB office on February 1st, offering the same suite of professional services including everything from web design, hosting, consulting and development to iPhone apps and mobile sites.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Chris Arnoldi, Uhsome

HuB Attracts Entrepreneurs To New Workspace, Sarasota

Sarasota's HuB, a creative and collaborative space and community allowing entrepreneurs to come together to develop ideas and contribute toward building a new economy and culture, has opened a new space.

Since 2009, HuB has been active in promoting big ideas in the Sarasota area and their renovation of a 10,000-square-foot building at 1680 Fruitville Rd. is continuing to embrace that concept by housing innovative tech companies, entrepreneurs and creative/tech start ups. HuB founder Rich Swier Jr. worked on the renovation with Sarasota's HOYT Architects and Biter Enterprises.

“We're looking to create a new economy based on creativity,” Swier says. “We wanted to be more centrally located -- downtown -- near a vibrant, creative community.”

The first floor of HuB's new space houses Florida Shores Bank with the second, third and fourth floors offering workspace to tech companies; the third floor is also home to an incubator/collaborative space to local entrepreneurs and startups. A full production studio, bar and event space are among some of the building's features.

A grand opening event for the new Fruitville Road location was hosted on December 8th, featuring a digital show in collaboration with Sarasota's own Ringling College of Art and Design.

Each month, HuB hosts the Entrepreneur Symposium, imviting memebers to network, discuss and share thoughts on entrepreneurship in a non-traditional setting. The Tech Symposium is also hosted monthly, covering a wide range of topics around technology from implementation to innovation.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Rich Swier Jr., HuB

Net Zero Energy Building Opens In St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg's first self-sustaining, net zero building celebrated its grand opening on Monday, December 3rd.

As Florida's first designated green city, St. Petersburg is the new home of the Sierra Club's state headquarters and Big Sea Design and Development and Roundhouse Creative offices.

Built by All Florida Management with partners Bosch and Florida garden center Twig Leaves, St. Pete's first self-sustaining, net zero building is a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum applicant, fully equipped with environmentally friendly solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, a water-to-air geothermal heat exchange system, glare-reducing thermal barrier window tinting, green spaces with native landscaping, rainwater harvesting and a weekly recycling program.

In other words: zero energy bill.

“These days, green businesses aren't just focused on developing earth-friendly technologies -- they are committed to offering a product or service that consumers know has little to no environmental impact,” says Tom Hall, the building's developer and managing partner of All Florida Management. “The emergence of this new green business culture has allowed our company to focus on meeting the needs of the small business community by dedicating ourselves to cultivating environmentally conscious commercial building platforms that reflect both our clients' personal and professional values.”

Roundhouse Creative is one of those small businesses looking to take advantage of everything the new eco-friendly building has to offer; Andrew Lee and his wife, Brooke, founded their production studio in 2007, focused on telling powerful stories and creating beautiful designs. Roundhouse Creative moved into a 2,600-square-foot space in the new building that is shared with Big Sea Design and Development.

“We made the decision years ago in our personal lives to be conscious of the environment and are excited about what being net zero will mean to our customers,” says Lee. “By hiring Roundhouse Creative, our customers can now benefit from the fact that their new website, TV commercial or web video has been produced with a near net zero environmental impact.”

With Roundhouse Creative's new space currently open for business, Lee looks forward to thriving in downtown St. Pete: What he calls a regional hub for art, culture and great food.

“Innovative, forward-thinking projects like this building are a perfect fit for the city and add to why I love St. Pete. I couldn't be more excited about what this project means for the area,” he says. “I hope other business owners become educated on the benefits of net zero and understand that they can now make conscious decisions for their business with the environment and future generations in mind.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Tom Hall, All Florida Management & Andrew Lee, Roundhouse Creative

HART MetroRapid Transit Seeks Public Input, Tampa

As HART makes way on the new MetroRapid North-South project, offering increased efficiency and expedited travel via public transit connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County, the MetroRapid East-West project is beginning to see development.

Currently in the Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) Study phase, HART is encouraging residents to provide input on the first rapid transit system in the Hillsborough County area as additional funding for the final design and construction phases of the project are pursued; HART recently reported that the project is under budget by $1.1 million from the original $3 million estimate.

HART began the PD&E Study of MetroRapid East-West in October 2011.

Focusing on frequent service, faster travel time and an overall better reliability of services, MetroRapid East-West will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county,” says Marcia Mejia, HART's public information officer.

The new MetroRapid system is expected to feature fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; ticket vending machines at major station stops to facilitate passenger boarding; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

HART recently reported that 2012 ridership was up by 4 percent -- or by nearly 600,000 trips -- from the previous year. The 2012 fiscal year marks an all-time high for HART bus ridership, breaking the annual record for the third year in a row.

“HART is on pace for even greater transformation next year, as we move forward with significant transit system improvements, including upgraded facilities, MetroRapid and a compressed natural gas fueling station,” says HART Board Chair Fran Davin.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia & Fran Davis, HART

Explore Downtown Tampa Architecture On QR Code Tour

AIA Tampa Bay members are serving as guides for Do the Local Motion's Discover Design Architect Tour of downtown Tampa's unique architecture on Friday, Oct. 5, from noon to 1 p.m

The one-hour tour, beginning at Lykes Gaslight Square Park in downtown Tampa, will include five to six historically significant buildings that contribute to the city's sense of place. The event is free and open to the public. Just show up!

Tampa Bay residents and visitors also can experience downtown Tampa's unique architecture through a self-guided walking tour using QR codes. The tour was launched as part of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects' Archifest in October 2011. Twelve new sites were added in August this year, bringing the total to 23.

"It's another way to get the public thinking about architecture,'' says Dawn Mages, executive director for AIA Tampa Bay. The tour is free and both phone and tablet-friendly, making it attractive to people visiting downtown.

Participants can start the tour by visiting Tour Tampa Bay Architecture, where they will find maps of the sites and pictures showing where the QR codes can be found. Some codes are obscure, whereas others stand out on windows and can be found while passing by. The website also includes historic sites in Ybor City and Hyde Park.

The tour has had 600 unique visitors since the new buildings were added in August. The most popular building is Tampa Theatre on Franklin Street, followed by Sacred Heart Church on Florida Avenue. Rivergate Tower on Ashley Street is a favorite among architects.

AIA was recently awarded a grant from the Florida Department of State's Division of Historical Resources and is also receiving support from the Tampa Downtown Partnership. Future plans include site enhancements such as professional videos to provide more information about the buildings.

Additional local events honoring Archtober can be found on AIA Tampa Bay’s website.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dawn Mages, AIA Tampa Bay

Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel Opens To Patients

After hosting a community grand opening to approximately 8,000 people, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel opened to patients on October 1st at 7 a.m.

Featuring an 18-bed emergency room with a streamlined emergency room process, dedicated imaging equipment and nurses and board-certified emergency room physicians on-site 24 hours a day, the 200,000-square-foot hospital took 22 months to build.

The hospital was fully staffed with with 175 expert physicians upon opening, practicing in the Emergency Department, Vascular Surgery, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Cardiac Care, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Radiology Services and Imaging Diagnostics, Women's Mammography and Diagnostics, General Surgery, Gastroenterology, Urology and Pulmonary.

In addition, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is expected to open a $25 million, 100,000-square-foot, three-story Wellness Center by January 2013.

“This is part of the continuum of care for the Wesley Chapel community,” says Donna Jarmusz, senior VP of business development for Alter+Care, who is overseeing the construction of the Wellness Plaza project. “The hospital will be treating people who need inpatient care for more serious illness while the Wellness Center is part of the hospital's mission and philosophy to help people improve and maintain their health.”

According to hospital spokeswoman Tracy Clouser, the hospital will continue to fill a number of nursing and various staff positions. To apply, visit the hospital's website.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Donna Jarmusz, Alter+Care & Tracy Clouser, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel

TGH Moves Offices To New Corporate Center, Downtown Tampa

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) has moved a number of its offices to the new Corporate Center on Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa.

Located at 606 Kennedy Blvd., the hospital renovated a two-story, 52,000-square-foot facility originally built in 1926, making enough space to relocate approximately 450 TGH employees on 5.6 acres of land just west of downtown Tampa.

“Many TGH offices were moved to the new TGH Corporate Center so we could convert the spaces they previously occupied at the hospital into patient care,” says TGH Manager of Construction Services Kelly Glass. “The Kennedy Boulevard location was the right size for us and is in close proximity to the hospital.”

Designed to U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements, existing wood flooring, brick arches and several items for added energy efficiency were left in place from the original architecture of the Bryn-Alan Photography laboratory and call center. According to Glass, the center expects to receive LEED Certification upon completion of a more than 450-space parking lot; the lot is currently under construction.

“The building was designed to blend into the current, new architecture of the Kennedy Boulevard area,” Glass says. “We believe the addition of the Corporate Center is a positive influence in the redevelopment of the corridor.”

Approximately $9.7 million was spent on purchasing the land for the Corporate Center with an additional $5 million spent on renovations.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kelly Glass, TGH

New Coworking Space Opens In Old Cigar Factory On Armenia, West Tampa

Independent contractors, freelancers and entrepreneurs in Tampa now have the option to ditch the coffee shops and WiFi hotspots: CoWorkTampa recently celebrated the successful launch of a new coworking loft and learning facility.

Located at 3104 N. Armenia Ave., Suite 2 in Tampa's historic Garcia & Vega Cigar Factory, CoWorkTampa offers an open place to work with private offices starting at $200 per month and coworking passes starting at $25 per day; the new facility offers monthly memberships for $97.

Featuring rentable meeting rooms by the hour and day, the fully furnished 6,000-square-foot facility boasts a large coworking area, high-speed internet, kitchen and breakroom, six TVs and free parking. CoWorkTampa is conveniently located just five miles from Tampa International Airport, one mile from Interstate 275.

“It’s so important for Tampa to have successful coworking spaces,” says Chris Arnoldi, the facility's founder. “This supports small business.”

Founded by global internet marketing company Uhsome, CoWorkTampa is working toward the goal of becoming one of the finest coworking spaces in Florida, providing better value and more benefits than other cowork spaces with an impressive roster of start-ups in the Tampa Bay area, according to Arnoldi.

CoWorkTampa members will receive 50 percent off of CoLearnTampa classes and 10 percent off at local businesses such as Wings Gone Wild, LIT Premium Cigar Lounge and Soho Saloon.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Chris Arnoldi, CoWorkTampa

Carmel: New Cafe, Wine Bar Opens In South Tampa

With locations in Clearwater, Carrollwood and Sarasota, Carmel Café & Wine Bar has made its way to South Tampa.

Offering a modern interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine, a convenient and innovative MenuPad app and, of course, wine, Carmel Cafe's newest location on Swann Avenue at Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa celebrated its opening on August 14th. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant is Carmel Cafe's first free-standing location, designed by Alfonso Architects and constructed by TWT Restaurant Design and Construction.

“We are extremely excited to introduce the Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar experience to South Tampa. Opening in the area has always been one of our goals and we are very pleased to be here,” says Chris Sullivan, a founding partner of Carmel Cafe. “This is the first location we have been able to design and build from the ground up which marks a milestone for us."

The new location will initially be open for dining guests to enjoy nightly dinners with hours expanding to include weekday lunches beginning on September 17th and weekend brunches on September 22nd. Featuring flavors introduced by Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Morocco, the Carmel Café Mod Med menu offers both small and large plates to pair with the a global selection of old and new world wines.

Setting itself apart from traditional restaurants, Carmel Cafe's innovative MenuPad app ordering system allows guests to completely customize their dining experience by using tableside iPads. Featuring crisp, colorful photos and detailed descriptions of each dish, guests are allowed the ability to control the preparation, presentation and pacing of their dining experience; the app also identifies wines to pair with dishes.

“This is a very different dining experience that encourages our guests to leisurely share several small plates, casually meet for a glass of wine or cocktail or just relax and enjoy their favorite menu items,” says Terry Ryan, a founding partner of Carmel Cafe. “Using the MenuPad app, our guests are able to get exactly what they want, the way they want it, when they want it.”

In addition, the thrifty-minded can enjoy the South Tampa location's “Five After 5 @ Carmel” menu every Wednesday, featuring a selection of wines and flatbreads for $5 each.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Chris Sullivan and Terry Ryan, Carmel Cafe

City-Developed Website Brings Development, Investors To St. Pete

The number of building permits issued in St. Petersburg is up about 10 percent during the last year, rising from 12,701 in 2011 to 13,869 in 2012. The construction value associated with building permit activity also increased.

With approximately $232 million now in construction values permitted for 2012, the fiscal year is in the running for being the highest building permit activity since 2007. City officials attribute some of the activity to more accessible information provided by Blue Chip, an online map service developed by the City of St. Pete.

“Blue Chip helps promote future development efforts in the community through the pre-selection process of prime sites, which must meet a 5-point criteria for inclusion on the Google Map application service,” says Kimberly Bailey, the the city's economic development analyst and Blue Chip developer. "Blue Chip is then promoted to Real Estate business journals and publications for investor attraction from around the world.''

Designed to identify prime real estate properties available for development and investor interest, the site launched in November 2011 and has seen eight of the initial Blue Chip properties sold with two additional sites under contract for purchase.

Blue Chip information is categorized by land acreage or zoning designation, providing contact information for the listing's real estate broker. The site also provides a link to the city's six major business clusters: medical technology and life sciences; information technology; marine and environmental sciences; financial services; manufacturing; and arts, culture, events and tourism.

“Residents can benefit from the site to determine if any prime Blue Chip parcels have been identified within their nearby business activity corridor, which brings investor awareness to their section of the community for the development and redevelopment of currently underutilized land,” Bailey says.

According to Bailey, Blue Chip has had more than 620 unique website visits, giving St. Pete international exposure to the United Kingdom, Canada, France, India, Kenya, The Philippines, Portugal and Siberia.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kimberly Bailey, City of St. Pete

Secrets Of The Sea Marine Exploration Center, Aquarium Opens In 2013, John's Pass Village

Come Spring 2013, some of the sea's greatest secrets will be revealed.

Rebranding the current 2,000-square-foot St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium concept into Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium -- a broader, more technology-focused marine exploration concept -- John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach will welcome the approximately $4 million facility.

“Secrets of the Sea will be a premier venue designed to bring the public together with state-of-the-art marine research, innovation and technology interactive experiences,” says Pier Aquarium President and CEO Howard Rutherford. “The Pier Aquarium has been bursting at the seams for a long time while the public's interest in the ocean environment, cutting-edge technology and marine science continues to grow. The unknown future of The Pier created an extraordinary opportunity for a bold, new approach to the Aquarium's mission.”

Mystery Stations will be located throughout the new 12,500-square-foot center, allowing for interactive experiences in which  visitors will explore the sea's secrets, discovering how scientists ("Sea Sleuths'') are working to reveal some of the sea's greatest mysteries. The stations will also showcase how several sea habitats and lifeforms are benefiting from these unsolved mysteries.

Additionally, various marine-related activities, aquariums, galleries and exhibits developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team will focus on research concepts in a fun, explanatory fashion; exhibits include Essential Estuaries, Touch Tampa Bay, Fish at Risk, Corals on Acid, Crustacean Station and Moon Jellyfish.

According to Rutherford, the new aquarium space is expected to generate nearly $8 million into the local economy, reaching more than 40,000 students from six different countries while anchoring one of Tampa Bay's top attractions by expanding visitation in Pinellas County.

“We hope to create a new generation of environmental stewards,” Rutherford says.

Key contributors to the design and rebranding of the aquarium include Aqua Marketing Communications and design firms Hands On! and MAM Exhibit Design. Several facility spaces, exhibits and Mystery Stations have already been gifted by Bay News 9, Hubbard’s Properties, Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Margaret E. Dickins Foundation and USF College of Marine Science.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Howard Rutherford, Pier Aquarium/Secrets of the Sea

Downtown St. Pete Adds 12 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Downtown St. Petersburg is keen on going green: The City recently welcomed a handful of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.

Home to the only electrical vehicle dealer in Florida, 12 new charging stations were recently installed throughout greater downtown St. Pete as part of the city's Green City initiative. St. Pete Public Works Administrator Mike Connors presided over the partnership.

“It's a proud day for St. Petersburg toward preserving the environment and continuing our green mission,” says St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster.

Designated by the Florida Green Building Coalition as the first city in Florida to become a “Green City, ” St. Pete is home to several environmental education resources such as Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Sunken Gardens and Weedon Island Preserve.

The area also features several renowned environment initiatives including a successful Mulch and Soil Builder Program and one of the country's largest reclaimed water systems.

At just 40 cents per hour, the City of St. Pete and the Dali Museum are covering the cost of charging during the stations' introductory phase. The charging stations can accommodate up to two vehicles at a time, featuring the charging capacity of either a 110- or 220-volt charge.

With 10 of 12 installations funded by ChargePoint America through a grant from the Department of Energy as a part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the other two stations were independently installed by the Dali Museum.

Currently, Florida is home to 553 electric vehicle charging stations. St. Pete has plans to install six more throughout the city.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster

Veterinary Specialists Invest In Endoscopy Center, Sarasota

Critical Care & Veterinary Specialists of Sarasota (CCVSS) recently made a $100,000 investment for a complete endoscopy center.

Providing 24/7 service for patients day and night, CCVSS' advanced veterinary medicine clinic is currently equipped with MRI services, two operating rooms, a full ICU unit, a pharmacy, multiple exam rooms and sleepover rooms for clients wanting to be with their animals, as well as digital radiology, cardiology, ophthalmology, acupuncture, endoscopy, laparoscopy and arthroscopy services.

“We have equipped our clinic in order to be able to provide the clients and patients with the care they need,” says Dr. Anne Chauvet, veterinary neurologist and CCVSS founder. “It's very exciting to be able to go into every single little hole and check things out: From a nose that may have cancer or an ear that may have a polyp, going down a stomach to take a biopsy or doing a spay with laparoscopy. It's a very exciting time for us.”

Providing better visuals and allowing access farther into the intestinal tract and small areas of the body, the new endoscopy center includes a human grade, high definition, fiber optic Fujinon endoscope and a full range of rigid and flexible scopes provided by state-of-of-the-art Richard Wolf Medical Instruments. According to Chauvet, the new equipment provides more options for diagnosis and treatment of conditions through minimally invasive procedures.

“Sometimes we have to remove foreign bodies and if they're reachable through the scope, we can do it without needing to go to surgery, which is really amazing,” she says.

This allows staff to find out anything from why a patient is vomiting to why it has diarrhea to why it's bleeding from the bowel -- all without surgery, saving not only time and money, but the animal from possible complications, as well.

“It's very progressive and advanced for our field of veterinary medicine,” Chauvet says. “A lot of people in this business will tell you you only get what you need, but I'm more of a person that gets what I want. We're providing something that is in demand for the human field, making it available for animals. Our mission is to continue bringing the most advanced veterinary medical care to our area.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Dr. Anne Chauvet, CCVSS

Two New Tenants Move Into City Center, St. Pete

In the midst of an $8 million renovation project, the City Center in St. Petersburg recently welcomed two new tenants.

Ohio-based full-service civil defense trial firm Bonezzi Switzer Murphy Polito & Hupp Co. (BSMPH) leased a 1,651-square-foot space in the 240,000-square-foot City Center while Aqua Marketing & Communications, which is currently playing a role in the St. Pete Pier Aquarium relocation, leased 1,485 square feet.

Brokering the deals on behalf of the tenants was Jane Dizona of CBRE for BSMPH and Paula Clair Smith of Commercial Asset Partners for Aqua Marketing & Communications.

“We're looking to bring in the innovative-type tenants to make for a really dynamic workplace," says Larry Feldman, CEO of Feldman Equities, one of the owners of the City Center. “These are the kinds of businesses St. Pete needs. “

In the past year, the City Center has secured more than 65,000 square feet of new leases with occupancy rising from 45 percent to 70 percent. According to Feldman, this can be attributed to additional first-class amenities such as the building's fitness center. An indoor atrium cafe and 40-foot granite and wood concierge desk are among the amenities to be added during the City Center renovations.

“Our goal is to promote the intellectual, high-quality lifestyle that you might see in Manhattan," Feldman says. “Once renovations are complete, this building will be, without a doubt, the best building in downtown St. Pete."

Renovations on the City Center are expected to be complete by November 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Larry Feldman, Feldman Equities

St. Pete City Center Gets Facelift, $8M Investment

Focusing on more than aesthetics, the City Center in St. Petersburg is undergoing some renovations.

Keeping tenants in mind, $8 million is being invested into the 240,000-square-foot two-building complex, adding and renovating several state-of-the-art amenities.

“This business isn't just about attracting tenants, but maintaining them after their lease expires, as well,” says Larry Feldman, CEO of Feldman Equities, one of the owners of the City Center. “When a tenant moves out and you have vacant space, you obviously lose rental income, you may have to do a reconstruction of the space and eventually pay a broker to find a new tenant. Maintaining existing tenants is a key part of amenity packaging."

Among the recently added amenities is a first-class fitness center with high-impact wood floors, several cutting-edge exercise machines, granite sinks, shower and locker facilities and 15-foot high ceilings. The City Center will also soon receive an atrium cafe including indoor bamboo planters and ficus trees, as well as a 40-foot long granite and wood concierge desk.

A 65-seat conference center with full audio and visual connections and Scandinavian-style elevator lobby makeovers are to be included in the renovation project, featuring high-end finishes such as blond oak wood paneling, dark wood base and granite floors.

“In addition, we also have a fully rain-protected garage that's shaded,” says Feldman. “We just put in a whole new lighting system to make the 6-story garage bright at night -- almost like daytime. After analyzing the whole workforce, we found that more than 50 percent are women who'd like to see a brightly lit garage with full-time security.”

According to Feldman, one of the focuses at the City Center is to become the best building in downtown St. Pete, attracting the kinds of tenants the city needs -- new, intellectual, innovative tech-companies.

“We want to promote a high-quality lifestyle,” says Feldman. “One building can help attract the types of companies that the St. Pete area needs that aren't just the old financial services businesses. We're looking to bring in the innovative-type tenants to make for a really dynamic workplace.”

Renovations on the City Center are expected to be complete by November 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Larry Feldman, Feldman Equities

Saint Leo University Opens New Business School

Saint Leo University recently celebrated the opening of its new business school.

Construction on the $12 million Donald R. Tapia School of Business, a 47,921-square-foot building on the university's main campus in Saint Leo in Pasco County, began in July of 2010. The first new academic building Saint Leo has built in more than 50 years, the new facility was completed in August in time for the 2011-12 school year.

“The Donald R. Tapia School of Business is a visible demonstration to the total Saint Leo community of our commitment to excellence and our commitment to our students. It was built to be a truly state-of-the-art building,” says Michael Nastanski, dean of the School of Business. “In these economic times, when schools have been really holding back because they have to, we didn't do that. We decided to really make an investment that would best benefit our students and they see that. They're really proud, excited and motivated.”

The school features a mix of learning spaces including technology-rich classrooms, seminar rooms, computer labs and an executive lecture hall, and office spaces for faculty and administration. It also has a broadcast and recording studio for video and audio production, and is equipped with SMART Board Technology. Seventy-inch high definition LCD multitouch, multiuser display monitors connected to the Internet, student laptops and cameras -- think giant iPads -- are located in every classroom.

“You're not going to find a better facility anywhere else in the world right now. Walking into one of our classrooms, you're going to get an environment that's just as good as any corporate environment. You're going to get to use tools that are available at any corporation and apply them,” says Nastanski. “This is an opportunity for Tampa Bay students and their parents to have an educational experience that's second to none.”

Funds for the facility were donated by more than 200 private donors, including Donald R. Tapia, an entrepreneur and Saint Leo alumnus who gave $4 million, the largest single gift in university history.

For more information on Saint Leo and the Donald R. Tapia School of Business, visit the School of Business website.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Michael Nastanski, Donald R. Tapia School of Business

Florida Students, Faculty Compete In U.S. Energy Solar Decathlon 2011

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, Team Florida has spent nearly two years working on its entry: the FleX House.

Based on a design by a partnership between the University of South Florida (USF), Florida State University (FSU), the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Central Florida (UCF), the FleX House is jam-packed with the latest cutting-edge, energy-efficient technology complete with moving parts that can easily adapt to different site situations and plan configurations; a $20,000 photovoltaic (PV) array was even recently installed onto the roof of the 1,000-square-foot building.

“Systems such as the solar array are opportunities to show society that we can make the right steps toward sustainability,” says Justin Vandenbroeck, a FSU engineering major who acted as an engineer on the project. “We aren't relying on fossil fuels to produce our energy -- instead we're harnessing the power of the sun that's been shining on us as long as we've existed. It's a common misunderstanding that solar energy is a futuristic idea that isn't practical, but it's actually very feasible.”

More than 50 students and faculty have worked on the $200,000 FleX House project behind the Beck Group's headquarters in downtown Tampa, at 220 W. 7th Ave. Donations and in-kind services from businesses throughout Florida such as Solar Ray, Prosolar Systems and SolarWorld USA -- a company where Vandenbroeck interned -- provided funds for the Solar Decathlon entry.

“Our objective was to design and build a solar-powered house that is not only energy efficient but cost effective as well,” says Vandenbroeck. “This event is an opportunity for students of all majors to express their visions on a large scale and really show the change they want to see.”

In order to participate in the Solar Decathlon on September 14 in Washington, D.C., the FleX house must be dismantled for transportation and reassembled before the competition where it will be judged against a variety of 18 houses for the title of the most energy efficient in the world.

“By investing in solar energy, you’re not only investing in energy independence in our country, but you are investing in a green economy and creating jobs right here at home,” says Vandenbroeck. “The sun isn’t going to stop shining anytime soon, so let’s take advantage of it.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Justin Vandenbroeck, Florida State University

Virtual Tour Assists In Record Home Sale, St. Pete

Tour Wrist, a mobile app developed by a Tampa company, recently assisted in a record-breaking real estate sale in St. Petersburg.

Listed by St. Pete native Eileen Bedinghaus of RE/MAX Metro on Tour Wrist -- an online and mobile marketing tool that offers 360-degree panoramic virtual tours -- the residence at 2040 Brightwaters Blvd. sold on August 5 for $9 million. The previous single-family home purchase record was set in March 2006 with a $5.3 million sale.

"In the simplest terms, Tour Wrist is basically the world's first teleportation device," says Spark Labs CEO Charles Armstrong. "As far as homes go, it becomes a moveable window. As you point it up above your head, or at a window, or at the floor, you're controlling where you're looking inside of the house: You can check out the tile on the floor, see how high the ceilings are or look down the hallway. It's basically like going into the house without actually going into the house. It's pretty amazing."

The 12,412-foot property, known as Villa Terranova, is a 6 bedroom/8 bathroom home located on 1.6 acres of waterfront property on Snell Isle. Boasting features such as an Olympic-sized infinity swimming pool and 6,000 square feet of outdoor patio space, the luxurious property even has room to accommodate a 112-foot yacht, a 45-foot boat and an additional boat on a lift.

"Real estate and the economy are inexplicably connected and tools like Tour Wrist help agents take control of the current weak market," says Armstrong. "There's an interesting set of statistics out there that says 73 percent of prospective homeowners are more likely to buy from a real estate agent who uses video in their listings while 0.8 percent of realtors are actually doing so. That type of significant divide shows that there's a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on market interest by applying new technologies."

Featured regularly by Apple, Tour Wrist has reached 20,000 listings and is seeing approximately 20,000 downloads per week.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Charles Armstrong, Tour Wrist


Bayshore Solutions Adds Space, Jobs In Tampa

Upon renewing a five-year lease a few months ago, Web development firm Bayshore Solutions took advantage of the opportunity adding services and employees and expanding its headquarters' office space.

"We really wanted to create a more creative workspace for our employees and a space that better represents who we are for potential clients," says Doug Pace, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the company. "I think where you work in is an extension of your company's culture."

In updating the space, the company moved the door and reception area to create a more intimate feel; changed wall colors from ivory to light blues, dark blues and grays; added glass partitions to employee cubicles to ensure privacy; implemented kitchen and common space enhancements and additions (including game consoles in the common area); brought in new furniture to display trophies and achievements, as well as artwork displaying past projects; and even a incorporated a new etching onto the glass of the conference room door.

But despite the new amenities, the company didn't have to break the bank -- most of the renovation costs were absorbed by Bayshore Solutions' extension of their lease, as well as negotiations made with the landlord of their corporate headquarters on Westshore Boulevard. According to Pace, the only other investment the company made was the furniture, artwork and other decorating materials for the new space, and every penny was worth it.

"We have already seen a measurable increase in the attitude, creativity and production of our employees," says Pace. "We have also seen a similar reaction from clients that come in and work with us in our office. I think the renovation really helps to influence mood, commitment and creativity -- a stale workspace results in stale ideas."

Currently, the renovation is about 95 percent complete; final touches and enhancements are being made to the complete the project. Bayshore Soultions is planning an open house for clients and friends later this summer.

Source: Doug Pace, Bayshore Solutions
Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain


Clearwater's Tech Data Creates 'Activate IT,' Jobs

Tech Data Corp., located in Clearwater, recently rolled out a service it hopes will have a positive impact on the Tampa Bay economy.

Activate IT is a new service that allows end users to open a technological product and begin using the Web via carriers such as T-Moble, Sprint and others instantly, rather than having to go through an activation process.

The rollout reflects a merger between Tech Data and Brightstar, a telecommunications company based in South Florida.

According to Greg Parsonson, VP of Tech Data's client systems division, the new service will enable Tech Data resellers to make more profit. "It enables the resellers, who are our customers, to participate in the commission associated with each activation," says Parsonson. "This is a whole new element of profitability for them in selling these devices."

Parsonson says that while Tech Data has been selling activation devices for years, this is the first service of its kind to pre-activate a product. "So where we were previously selling these services, the end user had to activate the service on their own," explains Parsonson. "Now it's done for them. So the end user opens the notebook and it is already on the Web through the carrier network. We've been selling devices for years that can activate but this is the first foray into selling devices that activate directly."

Parsonson further explains how the new service will affect the Tampa Bay economy. "Its impact is twofold," says Parsonson. "It will enable resellers throughout the Tampa Bay area to increase their profitability through commissions, and in addition, as we see success, it will entail hiring more people in that division, adding more jobs to the Tampa Bay economy."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Greg Parsonson, Tech Data Corp.



Oshkosh Corp. Relocates Businesses to Tampa Bay

A conglomerate specializing in specialty trucks and equipment is merging subsidiaries and moving them to the Tampa Bay region.

Oshkosh Corporation has consolidated manufacturing operations of MedTec Ambulances with that of Pierce Manufacturing, its producer of fire trucks, located in Bradenton.

Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles (OSV) will merge with Frontline Communications in Clearwater. The two companies manufacture specialty vehicles outfitted with communications capabilities such as news trucks, police and military vehicles.

The planned relocation of both subsidiaries qualify Oshkosh for up to $1.44 million in economic development incentives. Enterprise Florida and the governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development worked with Tampa Bay officials and economic development organizations to assist in relocating the Oshkosh operations. The move is expected to produce up to 200 jobs.

"Historically,we have found Florida to be a good location for our businesses," says John Daggett of the Oshkosh Corporation. "Our facilities have been there for some time and both Frontline and our Pierce Florida locations have found it very conducive for business. After an extensive review of Oshkosh's manufacturing locations across the country and close consultations with Florida officials, Oshkosh  determined that Florida provided the most competitive business environment for the future of these businesses. It optimizes our manufacturing capacities and allows us to remain competitive in very competitive markets."

According to Daggett, Frontline vehicles have been used to broadcast Super Bowl and Olympics events, and products of all four companies are used by law enforcement, fire rescue, medical and military units that need and demand durable products of high-quality.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: John Daggett, Oshkosh Corporation


St. Pete Installs Pay-By-Phone Parking Meters

Tampa drivers set aside their quarters last month in favor of electronic meters, and now St. Pete drivers can enjoy easier and more efficient downtown parking.

Pay-by-phone meters have been installed along downtown St. Petersburg streets and avenues, allowing drivers to pay with plastic through their phones instead of digging around for quarters.

"The goal of the program is to provide an opportunity for those without quarters to enjoy downtown," says Joe Kubicki, director of the city's Parking and Transportation division. "It's been an important part of our program for a while now and we're happy to have implemented it this week, on Oct. 27, 2010. It makes it more convenient for people to be downtown."

After receiving a number of responses to its official request for proposals, the city elected to contract Parkmobile to facilitate its transition from traditional to pay-by-phone meters. ParkMobile's Director of Marketing Sara Engle shares Kubicki's enthusiasm for the ease and efficiency the technology provides.

"ParkMobile is a very forward-thinking company," says Engle. We're constantly updating parking technology. We offer mobile apps for smart phones, but there are several ways you can use our technology: online on your personal page, or by dialing into our Miami call center or by using an app."

Engle says ParkMobile provides PCI Level 1 compliance to protect users from credit card fraud and identity theft. "That's a critical part of our technology," she says.

Kubicki says that after traveling to Fort Lauderdale to investigate their pay-by-phone program, the city decided to implement its own. And it was cheaper than the alternative requested by St. Pete residents.

"We had a lot of requests for change machines," explains Kubicki. "But those machines turned out to be more expensive than pay-by-phone. And pay-by-phone takes less than a minute to do."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Joe Kubicki, City of St. Petersburg; Sara Engle, ParkMobile

Florida, Tampa Bay Business Resources Join Forces At USF In Tampa

The University of South Florida (USF) is getting a new neighbor on its Tampa campus Labor Day weekend.

According to officials with USF CONNECT, the Florida Economic Development Council (FDEC) is moving to USF CONNECT's Research Park at 3802 Spectrum Boulevard. The move will bring two powerful business resources together in one location.

"The relocation will make it very easy to align what the university is doing with the goals of the FEDC and will provide a resource sharing opportunity," says Rod Casto, executive director of the USF Research Foundation, Inc.

USF CONNECT provides business support to technological businesses in the Tampa Bay region and throughout Florida. USF CONNECT's Research Park links research efforts with businesses in need of a research partner. The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) also is an integral part of USF CONNECT and provides quality office and lab space for biotech and life sciences research.

The Florida Economic Development Council provides economic development throughout the state, and serves as a primary resource for policy development, legislative updates, education, networking and professional advancement for more than 500 Florida professionals. The FEDC provides leadership, communications, peer recognition and networking. It is moving from Tallahassee to relocate to the Tampa campus.

The relocation brings the FEDC to a more central location, which facilitates its service to businesses throughout the state. It will also provide USF CONNECT and Tampa Bay businesses with convenient access to the FEDC and its services.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Rod Casto, USF Resarch Foundation, Inc.


Tampa's Leroy Selmon Expressway Goes Electronic, Get Your SunPass

On a "Save on Tolls" website, former football defensive end Hall of Famer Leroy Selmon says he never liked quarterbacks. So now he's telling commuters how to "get their quarter back."

The Leroy Selmon Expressway is going electronic in September 2010, according to Sue Chrzan at the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority. "It looks like everything will be in place by Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, so that we are ready for the Monday morning commute," she says.

The expressway, which runs from the Gandy Bridge in South Tampa to the Brandon Town Center, is being outfitted with equipment and cameras, and its toll booths are being demolished to accommodate a smoother commute for drivers. Commuters with a SunPass transponder will save a quarter at each electronic tolling point.

On the Save on Tolls website, Selmon, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and restauranteur, explains the benefits of an all-electronic tolling system along his signature road. He says those benefits include savings on time, gas and emissions as well as decreased accidents due to slowed traffic at toll booths. Those without a transponder will be billed through toll-by-plate technology, through which gantry-mounted cameras will take a picture of a vehicle's license plate as it passes through the tolling point. The bill will be sent to the address on the vehicle's registration.

According to Chrzan, it was a good time to go electronic because existing cash and electronic equipment needed to be replaced. Chrzan says less than 25 percent of Selmon Expressway drivers paid cash, which is a costly way to collect tolls.

Commuters who buy a SunPass mini-transponder online or at Publix or CVS for $4.99 and deposit $10 into their account will get a $4.99 credit. The pass is good statewide.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Sue Chrzan, Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority

Pick Up The Phone, Tampa: The Mayor’s Calling

Residents of Hillsborough County have the opportunity to speak to their elected leaders and share questions and concerns regarding the proposed 1 percent sales tax to fund light rail this week during a series of TeleTown conference calls and a public forum.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, former Congressman Jim Davis and other community leaders are calling residents of Hillsborough County to invite them to a TeleTown conference call in an effort to clarify the initiatives put forth by Moving Hillsborough Forward, a grassroots coalition championing light rail and other transit improvements. A 1 percent sales tax to fund light rail is on the ballot for November, and leaders say it is crucial that it passes.

"If we're going to progress, we have to have a modern transit system," says Iorio. "You can't have an economic region grow and prosper in the 21st century without a modern robust transit system and if you're going to have one, you need a light rail system. If we're going to be competitive and attract businesses and really increase the quality of life, it's critical."

The calls will be made region by region, beginning in Brandon on July 22, South Tampa on July 29 and New Tampa, University and Temple Terrace on August 5 and 7. Residents who pick up the phone will be invited to participate in a live conference call and ask questions of the mayor, former congressman and other community leaders.

"We're focusing on geographic areas so people on each call can understand the specific benefits planned for their part of the county," says Gary Sasso, a lawyer with Carlton Fields and chairman Moving Hillsborough Forward.

Residents also can participate in Transit Talk, a free open forum hosted by the Urban Charrette at the Tampa Museum of Art from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 29. Residents and business owners can speak in person to public officials, transportation experts and Moving Hillsborough Forward campaign representatives

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Mayor Pam Iorio, City of Tampa; Gary Sasso, Moving Hillsborough Forward



Custom Manufacturing & Engineering Relocates To Pinellas Park

Custom Manufacturing & Engineering (CME) has moved from 2904 N. 44th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg to 3690 N. 70th Ave. in Pinellas Park.

According to CME spokesperson Fred Munro, the company needed more space for production of its technological equipment products and wanted to upgrade its facilities to present a more polished look to its visiting clientele. "Most of our customers are from out of town and this is a more professional location," says Munro. "We are closer to restaurants and hotels. It's better for hosting our clients."

CME is a high-technology business that develops and produces electrical power devices, remote sensors, and special test and support instrumentation for military and other industrial applications. Many of its clients are members of the military or federal employees.

Munro says the new facility offers 49,000 square feet, increasing its former space by 19,000 square feet. "We did a build out to improve a conference room and some offices," explains Hill. "But what the employees are most excited about is that there is now plenty of parking."

CME was founded in 1997 by former employees of Lockheed Martin and has contracts with all arms of the U.S. military, federal agencies and private companies. The company is currently operating under the leadership of Dr. Nancy Crews. Awards include the U.S. Small Business Administration's Tibbet's Award for Research and Development Excellence and DiversityBusines.com's Diversity Award. CME also was included in Deloitte & Touche's Florida's High Tech Corridor Fast 50 in 2002.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Eddie Munro, CME

Tampa Marketing Company Moves To Wesley Chapel

Ballywho Interactive, a social media marketing company, has moved from 5334 Primrose Lake Circle in Tampa to 2654 Cypress Ridge Blvd., Suite 101 in Wesley Chapel.

"Our firm is growing in both staff and clients and we need more space to accommodate that growth," says Jen Straw, Ballywho's community manager. "We plan to add five to seven employees by the end of this year.

Ballywho specializes in social media writing, creating web content as well as managing online campaigns. The company launched in June, 2009. Straw credits the company's steady growth to its founders' expertise "They have found a way to combine marketing expertise with IT. These two vital areas ensure that a brand's virtual presence and web presence are in parity."

Founder and CEO Elissa Nauful Plumley credits her staff and clients with the success they've enjoyed this past year. "We have a great staff focused on making the customer experience the most innovative and cutting edge. And our clientele are all unique and support our growth."

The new space is a little over 2,900 square feet with an open floor plan that includes a Wii room and employee lounge. The company intends to live green in its new digs.

"We are making our office a green office, buying local products when possible and working with local vendors," says Plumley. "We'll be working with vendors that use green practices, limiting the paper products and glassware we use as well as limiting bottled water and recycling everything that can be recycled. We'll also be implementing systems to make our office as paperless as possible and ensure new products are eco-certified."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Jen Straw, Ballywho Interactive

Pinellas Community Health Network Opens Women’s Health Center

Community Health Centers of Pinellas (CHCP) has opened a Women's Health Center at the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center in St. Petersburg.

"Staff will be able to focus on the needs of women," says Dr. Marilyn Fudge, assistant medical director of Women's Services. "The Women's Health Center will offer preventive care and education specific to women's issues in a safe and caring environment. Center staff will offer care before, during and after pregnancy."

The women's center is funded in part by $1.1 million in federal funding awarded by the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. A 3,800-square-foot addition adds six exam rooms to the existing facility at 1344 22nd St. S., which will be used for family planning, obstetric and gynecological care to the St. Petersburg community.

"I am pleased to see our federal tax dollars at work," says St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster. "Designed to address the health care needs specific to women in our community, this new clinic will lead to additional health and wellness services available to our Midtown residents."

There are five locations in the Community Health Centers network of care across Pinellas County, including Pinellas Park, Clearwater, Largo and Tarpon Springs in addition to the St. Petersburg facility. The $1.1 million in federal funding also will allow the network to upgrade its medical records system.

The Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center is located on the site where Mercy Hospital once stood. It was the first in the CHCP network of health centers opened and has been serving the community for more than 25 years.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Dr. Marilyn Fudge, Community Health Centers of Pinellas

Tampa Software Company Continues Steady Growth, Adds Jobs

Pilgrim Software, an international company headquartered in Tampa, is enjoying continued growth, despite the challenging economy.

"Our infrastructure continues to grow," explains Prashanth Rajendran, Pilgrim's COO. "Although we have expanded in Europe and Asia, the company itself has focused on Tampa as the hub. We plan to expand our operations here Tampa in the next year or so."

The company's growth is due to its global partner strategy and its software-as-a-service product.

"As we continue to bring in partners to resell our products, we're going to need more staff to accommodate that growth," says Rajendran. "It's the same thing with software-as-a-service. We take the IT burden away for the customer, but we need the staff to handle it."

Partners include Microsoft Certified Partner Program, Cincom Systems, PSC Group, HCL Technologies and CDC Software. SaaS, a relatively new service on the IT landscape, provides on-demand software online as opposed to the traditional model that requires software be loaded onto a hard drive.

Led by President and CEO Ami Utji, the original Pilgrim Software team came together largely due to their shared alma mater, the University of South Florida.

"The people who started the company had a common ideology," says Rajendran. The company's vision statement is "to be the world's most innovative and trusted provider of compliance and quality management solutions for regulated industries."

Pilgrim specializes in providing software solutions to businesses that serve life sciences as well as manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace and other related industries.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Prashanth Rajendran, Pilgrim Software



Bradenton Communications Company Gets $15 Million Investment

A Bradenton wireless communications tower company recently received $15 million from a private investment fund to expand business throughout several states, including Florida.

Tarpon Towers, wireless communications infrastructure company specializing in the acquisition and development of wireless communication towers, received the funds from Spire Capital Partners, a leading private investment fund specializing in communications technology, on March 15, 2010. A managing member of Spire Capital will join Tarpon's board of directors as part of the transaction.

"We are excited to have Spire Capital join the Tarpon family as we feel Spire's extensive experience in the tower sector and strong industry relationships will be invaluable to Tarpon as we continue to build our business and create shareholder value," says Ronald Bizick, Tarpon co-founder and CEO.

The need for more towers and the capital required to fund them arose from increased use of wireless technology such as smart phones and other devices that rely heavily on cellular transmission.

"Growth in our business is dependent on access to capital and we are seeing numerous opportunities to put capital to work at attractive returns," adds William Freeman, Tarpon's co-founder and president.

The investment will make possible more than 100 towers in 14 or 15 states, which will positively impact service through such carriers as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Tarpon currently owns 85 towers throughout Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Michigan, Connecticut, New York and California.

Tarpon Towers is based in Bradenton and has operated under its current management team since 2008. The company was able to add five new positions last year due to a previous investment of $50 million.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: William Freeman, Tarpon Towers


Scottrade Opens New Investment Branch In Bradenton

Scottrade, an online investment firm, opened a Bradenton branch on March 8 at 1528 Cortez Road W. The new branch serves as a resource center for customers who prefer to handle their investments online and for those who prefer to use a traditional broker.

At the new branch, customers will be able to access resources ranging from online tutorials of Scottrade's website, to advice on individual accounts and opportunities to trade through an on-site stock broker.

"We are committed to making the trading process easier and as effective for the customer as possible," says Manager Brooks Vanderzee. "At our office, we can give people full demonstrations of how the website works, and when they get home they can call us with further questions. We want to make sure they have a fully supported, positive experience. And we do have traditional accounts available through a broker here on site."

Vanderzee foresees adding to his staff within the next year. "We'll absolutely be looking for new talent as the need develops and as the economy improves."

The Bradenton branch is one of 40 across Florida. Scottrade is one of the largest online investment firms providing self-directed customers access to trading at transaction rates as low as $7.

The new office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with after-hours support available from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Brooks Vanderzee, Scottrade

IntegraClick Eyes Expansion On Sarasota Property

IntegraClick of Sarasota, one of Inc. Magazine's five fastest-growing companies of 2009, purchased a 12-acre campus at University Professional Park with an eye toward adding jobs and new marketing and tech businesses.

Ravi Ghai, IntegraClick's vice president of corporate development, credited the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota for helping to keep IntegraClick and Clickbooth.com in Sarasota. Tampa and Miami were considered as sites for the eight-year-old company's corporate headquarters.

"IntegraClick represents the type of business we want to see grow in Sarasota County," says EDC President and CEO Kathleen Baylis. "Their expansion here not only adds high-paying jobs in the community, but signals that high-performing technology firms, capable of further diversifying our economy, can thrive in our county."

Founder and CEO John Lemp has built IntegraClick and Clickbooth.com into a leader in the performance-based online marketing industry. In addition to a top spot on Inc. Magazine's annual list of fastest-growing companies, ClickBooth.com was named Website Magazine's No. 1 affiliate network worldwide.

The company has doubled its workforce during the past year to about 100 employees. The new campus, located just west of Interstate 75 on University Parkway with two Class A office buildings offering 79,000 square feet, also will accommodate ClickBooth.com's sister divisions, Calculated Creavity and Authorise.com.

A new office building for the site is being planned. When completed, the campus is expected to house about 500 employees, or enough room for IntegraClick to more than quadruple its work force of tech, marketing and communications professionals.

The company is expected to begin the move from its current headquarters on Cattlemen Road in April.

Writer: Carter Gaddis
Source: IntegraClick







Tampa Web Content Business Thrives As It Lives By The Blog

When Deana Goldasich of Tampa was laid off in June from her job as director of account management for Web design firm Magnetic, she found herself with choices. Job offers were on the table, she said, but she wasn't inclined to jump at the first chance to rejoin the corporate world. Instead, she decided to found her own company, Well Planned Web LLC.

"I've wanted to go out on my own forever, and for me this was the final push," says Goldasich, who took an interest in Web design in 1998 and whose employment past also includes Home Shopping Network. "I was climbing the corporate ladder, but I was climbing the walls."

Goldasich's original vision for Well Planned Web when it launched in August involved traditional Web design and support. Quickly, she realized there was a more effective way to carve her niche in the Tampa Bay region's evolving Internet industry.

Her concept: Help businesses, large or small, maximize their online potential through the use of social media, with a particular emphasis on blogging as a way to portray a company's personality and vision in order to connect with potential customers.

"The real difference is I do a lot of education, coaching and training to help people understand the stuff from top to bottom, rather than build a blog and toss it in your lap," Goldasich says. "It's all focused on how to build a following online and build an audience."

She landed her first client, Devine Communications, on Aug. 3. Accounts with Tampa software company ConnectWise and interior designer Barbara Krai quickly followed. This week, she coordinates the launch of Ocala author and speaker Beth Ramsey's new site focused on workplace relations.

Goldasich said that in less than six months, her new business has generated as much net revenue as she made in salary during her final year with Magnetic.

"I think what's next for me is constantly what's on my mind," Goldasich says. "Even when I'm doing fine and I'm really busy, you're always looking ahead at what's next."

Writer: Carter Gaddis

Source: Deana Goldasich, Well Planned Web

FreightCenter Triples Space, Adds 75 Jobs In Trinity

FreightCenter, a freight transportation logistics company in the Trinity area of southwest Pasco County near New Port Richey, is adding 75 jobs and tripling its office space as part of this year's expansion.

The main focus for the new jobs is on sales positions. There are also some administrative jobs, says Sylvia Pankiewicz, marketing manager for FreightCenter, which employs 61.

"We have too many leads coming in that we can't handle," Pankiewicz says.

FrieghtCenter handles about 80 percent inbound sales leads vs. 20 percent outbound calls.  It just moved into new leased space near its corporate offices this month after holding a job fair and hiring 25 people.

"We're off to a good start," Pankiewicz says.

FreightCenter, 2049 Welbilt Blvd., uses web-based tools to help companies and individuals with their shipping needs for large, heavy, bulky items. The company helps firms compare carriers-- similar to how PriceLine and Orbitz compare travel prices. It also books the shipment order and tracks shipments electronically, saving them money and time.

Although freight and transportation companies have struggled recently, FreightCenter has carved a niche as a special service provider, doubling its annual growth every year for 12 years. Last year, Inc. magazine named FreightCenter one of the nation's fastest-growing privately held companies -- for the third straight year. It ranked 4,412 on the Inc. 5000 list.

Customers can use a password on FreightCenter's website designed to do all of their ordering online and track their order history. The company also provides a personalized account representative for customers.

FrieghtCenter is a freight broker, meaning customers book shipments through FreightCenter and then FreightCenter books it with a carrier. Because of volume FreightCenter does, it gets lower shipping rates, which it passes on to customers. It charges customers fees based on weight, classification and type of items they are shipping.

In November, the company launched a new brokerage logistics division, a service that offers customers a bigger list of carriers to choose from and enhanced truck, air, intermodal and international shipping options. FreightCenter formed the logistics division to better cater to commercial customers.

"The business is leaning more toward commercial customers," Pankiewicz says. "We're about half commercial, and half consumers now."

Writer: Dave Szymanski
Source: Sylvia Pankiewicz, FreightCenter
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