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New app, Script, enhances communications between educators, parents

A Tampa-based company is gaining traction in the education field with an innovative app that uses technology to ease the administrative burden on teachers. Called Script, the firm has secured funding from local partners Ark Applications and PAR Inc.

“Schools are absolutely loving it. Parents are loving it too,” says Aaron White, Co-Founder and CEO. “They don’t have to rely on little Johnny to bring home the paperwork.”

White, who worked in the tech education field in the Tampa Bay area for eight years, found Script in 2016 after recognizing the mounds of paperwork teachers were managing.

“They can’t focus on what they’re best at, which is teaching. There’s no other solution out there,” he explains. “I decided that I was going to build one.”

Along with Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Patrick Cahill, White has been working in beta mode to fine-tune their service with feedback from educators.

Now part of the Tampa Bay WaVE Launch program, Script will have its “first big rollout” this year, he says. Script charges a transaction fee; payment arrangements are worked out with each school.

Their immediate goal is to help with forms for field trips, parental permission slips and monetary payments.

Parents can access the program with an app through iOS, Android and the web while educators use an online dashboard. Payments can be made quickly with credit or debit cards.

“We handle all the heavy lifting technology wise,” White says.

An undisclosed amount of investor dollars will be used to develop the Tampa team and expand the company, first In Florida and then nationally. “We want to do this product really well and then look on other things,” he says.

Ark Applications is a privately held equity and consulting firm and PAR is the publisher of assessment instruments, software and related materials.

Script currently employs three, but will be adding another customer service representative, a developer and one or two sales people within the next two months.

They eventually want to manage the transfer of any document to the parent. “Right now when we hand a little paper to Johnny we don’t know if the parent sees it,” he says.


British group taps Tampa man for playable city program

Tampa’s Ryan Swanson, Founder and CEO of The Urban Conga design firm, will be representing the United States in England as part of a program aimed at making cities fun places to live and work.

Swanson was one of 15 chosen from a field of 544 candidates across the globe for Creative Producers International’s 2 1/2-year empowerment program starting in October in Bristol, England. The goal is to enable creative producers to learn from each other what makes cities “more playable, more activated at that street level,” Swanson explains.

“I’m excited to go and learn ... and see how we can integrate our work,” he says.

Swanson originally became connected to CPI through social media, and actually was a finalist in the competition for the last two years. “The reason I got selected is because of what I’m doing with The Urban Conga,” he says.

Swanson, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of South Florida in Tampa, initially founded the firm three years ago with a couple of colleagues. Funding for projects usually comes through the cities, private organizations or a grant.

As one of the 15 creative chosen after Skype interviews, Swanson will participate in a three-week lab, participate in the Making The City Playable Conference in October in Bristol, produce a project, and meet for another conference in Japan. The group includes several from the United Kingdom, as well as representatives from Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and Denmark.

“They fund me going out there,” Swanson says. “We get paid a small stipend to come back and implement a project.”

Creative Producers International is a talent development program led by Watershed, a Bristol-based organization enabling artistic vision and creative collaboration worldwide.

On the home front, Swanson built ping pong tables in Lykes Gaslight Park and a musical bench, which can be played similar to a marimba or xylophone, near the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Another project was a dominos/chess table for Ybor City. Additionally, he has worked in areas such as New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale.

His innovation has captured a lot of media attention from news outlets like PBS, The Atlantic and Fast Company.

A 29-year-old, he strives to help people engage with one another in the simpler ways they did as children, instead of spending their time eyeing their cellphones.

“No one really talks to people. No one really physically engages with people in pubic spaces,” he says.

The young and the seniors seem the most receptive to playing, the middle agers more hesitant. But when the middle-aged decide to play, they linger the longest, he says.


Online storytelling platform moves home base to Tampa

A Oviedo startup company, TSOLife, has relocated to downtown Tampa for support from Tampa Bay Wave and the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Tampa almost is unrivaled in Florida,” says Founder and CEO David Sawyer. “Everyone just seems to embrace the startups.”

Located at the Wave, Sawyer says it was a “driving force” in his decision to move the company here. He says he looks forward to participate in events are helpful.

Tampa Bay Wave gets it, and they offer the best of the best,” he says.

Started in 2014, TSOLife won the University Stage business competition in June at eMerge America’s Startup Competition in Miami, which drew some 13,000 people from across the world to network, compete and learn about the latest technology.

“We beat out 24 other university teams that were there for exhibiting. It was a pretty cool event,” he says.

Sawyer got the idea for the business after his grandmother, Muriel Sawyer, died. She lived in Gloucester, MA, and visited for four months in the winter, which never gave them much time to talk about how she met his grandfather, how she raised his dad, or what college was like.

“We never got to have those conversations,” he explains.

So he founded a business with Stella Parris, COO, to share family legacies online. “We really wanted to create a way to better personalize and pass down these stories,” Sawyer says, “so that no grandchild should ever wonder what their grandparent was like.”

He had help from an entrepreneurial club at Stetson University in Deland, where he was studying finance.

While many people like to write a book, or track down family genealogy on Ancestry.com, TSOLife offers people an opportunity to share their stories online and in a documentary. In a way young people can relate to them.

When was the last time you saw a 13 year read an actual book?” he asks. “When was the last time you saw them pick up an iPad? Literally two seconds ago.”

Trial memberships are free for 30 days, allowing people to post their stories. “We like to run the company with a conscience and a heart. We keep everything and do not delete,” he adds.

After that, if they want to continue adding stories, it’s $14.99 monthly or $275 for life. Documentaries start at $1500.

Each story has its own privacy setting, so the contributor can make it public or allow only his or her descendants access.

TSOLife, which serves North America, already has done a documentary on former U.S. Senator and Stetson University alumnus Max Cleland, which is in the Library of Congress.

The company is in the midst of its second round of $200,000 funding. It’s already raised $95,000 of that, which will be used for future development.

What’s next? They’ll be hiring two or three people for high-tech development within the next four months and following up with another $200,000 capital campaign.


Get on board: Tampa StartupBus rolls toward New Orleans July 31

Led by Conductors Kevin Mircovich and Brent Henderson, a busload of techies and innovators will leave Tampa July 31 to travel more than 650 miles to New Orleans on the StartupBus.

Described as an entrepreneurial boot camp and hackathon on wheels, the StartupBus brings together marketers, developers and designers to launch startups in 72 hours.

“StartupBus offers a platform to launch your idea. It’s an opportunity to build a team around your concept and take it from idea to reality,” Mircovich explains. “You’ll validate your idea, build an MVP [minimum viable product] and get traction all in a week.”

What riders usually have in common is an interest in entrepreneurship, plus a desire to sharpen their skills and develop a network. “We get people from all kinds of careers and backgrounds. We get everything from successful business owners, to aspiring entrepreneurs, students, and retirees,” he says. “Generally participants have some kind of experience or background in tech, but we’ve of course had non tech-savvy riders that excel.”

The StartupBus offers prospective entrepreneurs an opportunity to build a business team -- or work on someone else’s. “This is a chance for people with a business idea to recruit a team, and the people without an idea to find a team or idea they are interested in working on,” he says.

Riders face a number of challenges, such as working in the limited space onboard the bus with sporadic wifi service. “Some of the best work you’ll get done is in hotel lobbies along the way. Most teams take advantage of that and will work all night in the lobby,” he advises.

Participants pay a $299 registration fee, plus reduced rates on lodging. They also must pay for food and transportation home.

The journey ends for the approximately 30 riders August 4 at StartupBus Finals in New Orleans, where they have a chance to pitch their new business projects to investors and industry experts -- along with teams from six other regions in North America.

Although there aren’t any cash prizes, Mircovich says the rewards are greater than cash. “You’ll learn a ton about starting a company (through experience), you’ll find that you’ve become a no-excuses / get things done kind of person, and you’ll build great relationships with people you may work with in the future,” he explains.

Mircovich, now a software engineer, knows firsthand. In 2014, he rode the bus to Austin, TX, as a rookie. “I jumped on the bus, not knowing what to expect, and in the 72 hours my team and I came up with an idea, developed a solution, created a brand, closed some sales, and pitched what we built on stage in front of hundreds of other entrepreneurs. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone and into entrepreneurship,” he recalls.

The experience led him to learn software development.

More than 2,000 have participated in StartupBus since it began in San Francisco in 2010. Hundreds of companies have formed on the bus or through the alumni network.

The first Tampa bus rolled in 2012 after a number of residents participated in the 2011 trek from Miami. If you'd like to apply for the 2017 ride, visit North America Startup Bus and use the invite code 83degreesmedia.


Digital wellness company raises $2.3M in latest funding effort

The Tampa-based Peerfit, a digital wellness company that encourages people to exercise, has raised $2.3 million capital in its latest round of funding. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL team owner Jeff Vinik and Founder of Outback Steakhouse Chris Sullivan were among the investors, which included some from the healthcare and digital health sectors.

“The biggest thing we’re doing is opening up some major cities and areas of the country that we hadn’t touched before,” says Peerfit President Scott Peeples.

Peerfit has more than 30,000 in its network spanning more than 30 cities. It recently expanded into New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Portland OR and Charlotte NC.

A digital platform that enables insurance carriers, brokers and employers to offer boutique fitness classes to clients and employees, Peerfit surpassed its initial target of $1.5 million for the bridge round of funding.

“As we got close to our original target of 1.5, we extended the offering. That’s where we ended up having some new people come in and join in,” Peeples says.

The bridge round was “a way for us to raise some capital more quickly,” he adds.

Long-time technology investor Lee Arnold, Colliers International Florida Executive Chairman, led the round and was joined by investors from Florida Funders’ online investing platform and PAR/ARK Applications.

Peerfit has raised nearly $5 million since 2011, some $1.5 million last summer.

Through Peerfit, companies can offer fitness credits that its clients or customers can use at a variety of fitness centers.

CEO Ed Buckley came up with the idea for a fitness company when he was studying group fitness at the University of Florida. He pitched it to Peeples, another student, in 2010.

Among the industry powerweights that invested in the round were representatives of the New York City-based Frenkel Benefits, a large independent employee benefit brokerage and benefit administration firm. They were President Craig Hasday and Executive VP Adam Okun. Rich Gallun, Co-founder of the Chicago-based bswift, acquired by Aetna in 2014, also participated in the round, along with digital health innovator Joseph Hodges, President of Tampa-based INETICO and Care Valet.

Bswift is a leading provider of employee health benefits services.

Peerfit has added industry veterans Todd Slawter and Adam Lowe to its leadership team. Slawter, the Chief Growth Officer, will develop the sales team while Lowe, the Chief Technology Officer, will build infrastructure to support national expansion efforts.

It expects to double the size of its development team, including coders and programmers, and its sales team, including those working on studio sales and enterprise health teams, by the end of year. That should boost the staff from 30 to 40.

Peerfit also is partnering with MINDBODY, which provides cloud-based business management software to the wellness services industry. The partnership makes it easier for fitness studios to find corporate wellness programs in their area, while expanding the network of providers for employers.

Peeples says the industry is realizing there is a demand for a modern fitness product. “Our single biggest goal with this is to be the industry standard,” he says. “We’re looking to raise series B in the fall.”

You can read our previous article about Peerfit here.


Tampa tech firm, Hivelocity, expanding data services

Hivelocity opened for business as a shared web hosting company in 2002. Its founders, Steve Eschweiler, Mike Architetto and Ben Linton, were looking to run a tech business on a budget.

Their philosophy? To help customers succeed.

“We have a vested interest in all of our customers being wildly successful,” explains Eschweiler, COO.

It has paid off.

Today Hivelocity has an international customer base and is expanding its footprint with its third data center, its second in Tampa. The data centers house servers clients essentially rent to store their data to customers here and in faraway places like Africa, Brazil, the Middle East and Japan.

“We have customers from about 134 different countries," says Rick Nicholas, VP of Colocation and Managed Services. “These people just go on our website, click and buy the use of our server.”

Hivelocity held a grand opening at its data center June 22 at Hampton Oaks Business Park on U.S. Highway 301 near Interstate 4. “We rebuilt and retrofitted it for our purposes,” Nicholas explains. “It’s got great bones, fiber connectivity to it.”

It invested in the “eight figures,” he says, but would not provide a specific number. 

Hivelocity is occupying 30,000 of the 90,000 square feet in the center and plans to open up the rest as the company grows. The center, that doubles the company’s capacity, opened in March. Construction took a year to complete.

The company, which employs 60, offers a broad range of services including backup, management, performance and security services. Some nine employees were added for the new data center and more will be hired as the company grows.

One of its more recent endeavors is offering colocation services, or the ability to place clients’ servers in Hivelocity’s facilities. “We’re the only large and locally owned colocation option in the [Tampa] market,” Nicholas says. “Customers value knowing who's running the company they’re trusting with their critical data and equipment.”

Hivelocity knows firsthand how important colocation services can be. “We’re a very large consumer of colocation space ourselves,” he explains. “We needed to expand our footprint due to growth, regardless of whether or not we offered colocation to other customers, and it's a business we like very much.”

What lies ahead? More organic growth, Eschweiler says.

We are actively seeking acquisition opportunities,” he says. “We are currently looking at several that will either give us a new service or fill an area of service where we may have a gap.”

With offices already in Tampa, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles, it hopes to open offices in the Midwest and in Europe.


Shiftgig hiring for hourly, Tampa Bay jobs

A Chicago-based company is acting like a matchmaker for Tampa Bay employers and employees looking for shift-based, or hourly, gigs. Called Shiftgig, the company uses apps to sign up individuals for work in a variety of career fields.

“There’s a lot of hospitality, a lot of sports and entertainment [jobs]. Those work very well in the app because there are a lot of one-off shifts,” explains Laura Turner, Managing Director of Shiftgig’s Tampa office.

The 6-year-old company operates in 15 cities nationwide, and is growing. An Orlando office is expected to open within two months.

It developed from of a Chicago job board for the hospitality sector, as the need to fill shifts grew.

Tampa’s office, which opened in February 2016, typically fills some 100 to 200 gigs from about 200 employers a day.  Some 1500 have signed up as “specialists,” or employees, Turner says.

“Typically they work as much as they want to work. We have some specialists that piece together a 40- hour work week,” she says.

About 65 percent of its employees have full-time jobs and are looking to supplement their income. “The other 35 percent are people that are looking for full-time jobs but don’t necessarily want to work at the same place all the time,” Turner says.

About half of the workforce in Tampa are millennials. “The technology is attractive to them,” she says.

Shift jobs are available in warehousing and logistics, hotels, food and beverage, and general labor.

Jobseekers can apply online in about two minutes, Turner says. They receive an email in 48 hours inviting them to a group interview session. “Everyone goes through a criminal background screen,” she says.

Applicants can opt into a drug screen, which is required by some employers.

Shiftgig’s employees have varying education and experience levels. Sometimes they’re recruited on their college campuses when the colleges partner with Shiftgig. E-learning is available to enhance their skills.

Workers usually are paid weekly by direct deposit or a pay card functioning like a debit card. “We’ve actually just implemented an option that, if they want to be paid after each shift they work, they are able to opt into that,” she adds.

Employers can get the word out about openings quickly to a pool of qualified individuals. “Those shifts are picked up really quickly,” she says.

The company's Tampa office serves the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco and Polk counties.

Shiftgig was recognized in May by the Spend Matters website as one of 50 Providers to Watch, for the Contingent Workforce category.


Mall goers to play Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY!, other game shows in kiosks

Tampa Bay mall goers will soon be able to play the popular game shows Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY!, Family Feud and The Price is Right at mall kiosks. As part of its in2win advertising promotions, the St. Petersburg-based Priatek is expected to launch the games June 27.

“What we’ve been able to do is connect consumers with advertising in a fun and rewarding way,” says Milind Bharvirkar, Priatek’s President.

Priatek began offering games at mall kiosks in November, but its new revised app will include the popular reality show games, plus loyalty points and gift card programs. Currently there are 80 kiosks operating in the Tampa and Orlando areas.

The goal of the Priatek program is to engage consumers when they are pre-disposed to buy. So they allow consumers to play games for free and win prizes and coupons offered by advertisers, who pay when a customer chooses their product. When consumers register during the process, they’re more likely to follow through with a purchase, Bharvirkar says.

“It doesn’t matter if you play the game or you skip the game,” he says.

Lots of people love to play though, as was evidenced in the past by McDonald’s popular Monopoly promotion. Bharvirkar saw it first hand with coin-operated games for a San Jose, CA, business he founded, Global VR.

“The game element is simply about putting you in a positive state of mind. The games in general are an escape for people,” he explains. “... Just the anticipation of winning sets off dopamine in our brains that leads to a positive connection to that brand.”

Prizes or coupons are issued instantly; there’s a limit of 20 per day. Some people win big prizes like diamond earrings, cruises, VIP passes to the Daytona 500, and fishing trips.

Users can download the app starting June 27 from the Apple and Google app stores, enabling them to play some of the games at the mall on their cellphones and tablets, but not computers.

In July, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! will be on a mobile app as well. Priatek doesn’t have mobile rights yet for Family Feud and The Price is Right.

Kiosks are installed at Tampa Bay area malls, including Tyrone Square, University, Westfield Brandon, Westfield Citrus Park, Westfield Countryside, and Westshore Plaza. Discussions are underway regarding International Plaza.

Bharvirkar is looking to expand into sports arenas, big box retailers, hotels and large retail chains.

Advertisers small and large can link their brand with a popular game show for as little as $100 a month. “Nobody’s ever been able to do that,” he says.

Priatek is interviewing to possibly hire two advertising sales reps for the Tampa Bay area soon. They’ll be hiring elsewhere too: Priatek is expanding nationally this year, starting with New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Tampa tech company helping brewery sales reps do their jobs

Much like a lily pad offers strategic help to frogs leaping across a pond, the Tampa company Lilypad is assisting brewery sales reps on their daily routes.

And it’s growing in leaps and bounds.

“We’re all about keeping these reps moving and executing in the field,” explains Eric Rabinovitz, CEO, who co-founded the company with Peter Ladis about five years ago.

Lilypad has grown more than 1,200 percent since January, 2016, and now logs 107 clients, all in the alcoholic beverage industry.

Rabinovitz was working as Executive Vice President for Actsoft, a Tampa company providing mobile solutions for field workers, when he came up with the idea.

Actsoft is serving the blue-collar worker; he saw a need for help with sales. So Actsoft CEO and Founder, Tom Mitchell, helped them get started with a “strategic investment,” Rabinovitz  says.

Although they initially served sales people in different industries, Lilypad settled into the alcoholic beverage industry about three years ago. There they allow brewery sales reps, who work through distributors to sell their products, to sidestep more time-consuming sales methods involving spreadsheets, text messages and email.

“Lilypad enables the supplier sales team to execute more efficiently in the field and communicate more efficiently with their distributors,” he says.

The mobile- and web-based platform costs $50 per user per month; volume discounts are available.

Lilypad makes it fun for sales reps by enabling them to score points for performing sales activities. Much like a Fitbit makes users more conscious of the steps they log every day, Lilypad makes sales reps more conscious of their efforts.

A majority of distillery reps are millennials, and it works well, he says.

“Technology made you more aware, which made you change your behavior,” he says. “We’ve added that element to the business world.”

Being in the niche beverage market allows Lilypad to address needs specific to the industry, some through ancillary services, he says.

Lilypad currently employs 10 at its location at Waters Avenue and Anderson Road. It likely will hire five more staffers within the next six months, three in customer service/implementation and two in product development.

It is serving customers in more than 35 states, including Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, and in the northeastern United States. It recently signed up its first international customer, from Australia.

Lilypad is part of the Tampa Bay WaVE Launch program. “We love what they’re doing,” Rabinovitz  says.  “It really does open up a lot of doors.”


Interactive career tool helps job seekers research market

If you’re tired of competing against the masses applying for advertised jobs, meet FREIDA, the Florida Research and Economic Information Database Application.

FREIDA can help you research employers in your career field, in all 67 counties of Florida. And a whole lot more.

“FREIDA can serve as a data-rich resource for jobseekers to use in exploring career opportunities,” says Morgan McCord, Press Secretary for Florida’s Dept. of Economic Opportunity. “It can help students, veterans and jobseekers refine their career options and find the best match given their education, training or experience.”

Visitors to FREIDA’s website homepage can get a variety of customized career data on request. For jobseekers that have honed in on a specific career, “Job Seeker Services” under “Services for Individuals” is a good place to start researching employers.

After clicking “Employers,” users choose the geographic area and type in a keyword for their career. Users can choose a single county, metropolitan area, zipcode or the entire state as their area.  They also can choose a “Quick Employer Search,” an “Advanced Employer Search” with more options, or an “Employer Search by Occupation.”

“Much of the data in FREIDA is updated constantly by the Florida Bureau of Labor Market Statistics to provide timely local information about Florida’s labor market,” McCord says.

By clicking on “Labor Market Services” from the menu, then “Labor Market Facts,” visitors also can choose from a general assortment of career questions including:

• What jobs are currently listed for an area?,
• What are the highest paying jobs in an area?,
• What occupations are predicted to have the most future job openings in an area?,
• What occupations have the highest employment in an area?, and
• What are the largest employers in an area?

“FREIDA has a ‘Services for Individuals’ selection at the top of the page and can help job seekers looking to change or explore careers. This part of the system links to various functions; including ‘Career Tips’ under 'Career Services,' ” McCord says.

Some of the website’s buttons, like “Finding a Job,” will connect visitors to the Employ Florida website for more information.


Tampa tech company speeds up business site selection process

The stakes are high when a company decides to invest in a brick-and-mortar storefront. A business can spend millions, only to fail because of the wrong location.

But the Tampa-based SiteZeus® is working to boost their clients’ odds of success.

“Our software helps you determine what are the best sites,” says Chuck Cooper, Executive VP of Product Development for SiteZeus.

The company is attracting quite a bit of attention lately. On May 2, it won two bronze Stevie® Awards at the 15th Annual American Business Awards for “Best Software Product of the Year,” Data Visualization Technology, and “Tech Startup of the Year,” Software. Then it claimed the $75,000 Gold Award at the 10th Annual Florida Early Stage Capital Conference May 19.

It also was featured in Microsoft’s BizSpark Startup Stories May 23.

Last year, it racked up two awards, claiming both BIG Awards, as Startup of the Year and CIO Review’s Top 100 Big Data Solutions.

What makes SiteZeus unique is its transparency -- and its ability to do in seconds or minutes what normally could take months, explains Jorge Hermez, Director of Marketing.

There’s no curtain where all this stuff is happening behind the scenes,” he says.

It is able to process data that humans can’t.

“We’ve created a data agnostic pipeline,” Hermez says. “The more data we inject into SiteZeus, the larger variety of users we’ll get.”

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, if you’re in business to make money,” asserts Cooper.

SiteZeus’ partnerships with data set add-ons, UberMedia, Black Box Intelligence, and INRIX, have helped to fuel its success.

The cloud-based software, offered on subscription, lets users securely input data and receive predictive models without sharing it with anyone. “Once you’ve imported your data you can play around with the models. You can adjust the variables to see what kind of impact that it has on sales,” Cooper says.

SiteZeus was founded in 2013 by brothers Keenan and Hannibal Baldwin. Business climbed an average 51 percent each quarter during the last year. The number of employees rose from seven to 13 in the last year as well, and it continues its search for talent in sales, software engineering, quality assurance engineering, graphic design, web development and content creation.

The company currently serves the United States, but is planning to go global by next year. Among its clients are the Pincho Factory, a fast-casual burger and kebab chain popular in South Florida; Fitness Premier, a midwest fitness company now available for franchising in 40 states; Campers Inn RV, one of the largest U.S. RV outlets, located in 10 states; and SafeSplash Swim School, the leading swim school franchise in North America.


June job fairs seek employees for construction, healthcare, hospitality and government

June job fairs in the Tampa Bay area offer job seekers potential opportunities to work in construction, healthcare, hospitality, government and other fields.

The Southwest Florida Construction Careers Fair in Sarasota June 20 seeks to place minorities, women, veterans and others in transportation construction jobs. As a part of a three-year-old initiative with the Florida Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, local prime contractors and subcontractors will be meeting with potential job candidates from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Knights of Columbus, 4880 Fruitville Road.

Immediate jobs are available in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and in the Bartow area of Polk County, plus other locations statewide.

“We want to help the contractors. We want to help the community,” says Megan Olivera, Senior Communications Manager for Quest Corp. of America, an FDOT consultant. “Our focus is to recruit a viable construction work force.”

A goal of the OnBoard4Jobs program is to increase minority and women hired for federal- and state-funded road construction projects. “If you’re looking for a job right now, this is the place to look for it,” she says.

The industry employs heavy equipment operators, carpenters, welders, concrete finishers, foremen, truck drivers, asphalt workers, flaggers, pipe fitters and general laborers.

The free career fair is intended for job candidates 18 and older, with or without experience.

OnBoard4Jobs maintains a database of employers. Candidates can visit the website or call 866onboard for more information. 

In Tampa, Humana Inc. is holding a two-day Job Fair June 8 and 9 at its Direct Marketing Services call center at NetPark, 5701 E. Hillsborough Ave. Humana announced May 24th that it will be adding more than 200 telesales specialists to its Tampa Bay workforce. About 20 of the positions are permanent and include comprehensive benefits; the others are seasonal.

Interviews will be conducted at the job fairs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 8 and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 9. Starting dates are in June through August.

Telesales workers are being hired for national phone sales and enrollment assistance for Humana’s Medicare benefit plans, senior products, and specialty products. They will handle inquiries and assist Humana Medicare Advantage members nationwide, providing guidance and locating benefit solutions.

More than 200 are seasonal workers for the annual Medicare open enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. These seasonal jobs may be full-time for up to six months.

Applicants must have or be able to obtain a health insurance license, be familiar with Windows personal computer applications, possess strong communications skills and hold a high school or GED diploma, says Humana spokesman Mitch Lubitz. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree, sales and/or customer service experience, bilingual or multilingual skills, and a background in healthcare is preferred.

For more information, visit Humana careers online. Use requisition number 175136 for full-time, or requisition number 175134 for seasonal.

Here are some other job fairs scheduled in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Bay Times is holding its Tampa Bay Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 13 at Holiday Inn Westshore in Tampa. Admission and parking are free. More than 50 local employers are anticipated, along with representatives of higher education and technical training schools.

• The Hyatt Regency Sarasota has scheduled a job fair from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 15 at the hotel at 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota. It offers career opportunities in culinary, engineering/maintenance, event services/setup, food and beverage, front office and guest services.

• Tampa Job Fair, a one-day hiring event by Coast-to-Coast Career Fairs, is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 19 at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport. Job candidates are advised to arrive at the career fair at 11 a.m. wearing professional business clothing, with at least 10 copies of their updated resumes. Hiring managers from a variety of companies will be there. Professionals with all skills levels are encouraged to attend.

• Jobseekers in sales, business development, marketing, customer service, and retail and sales management can connect with potential employers at the Tampa Career Fair by United Career Fairs June 28. The free event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport. Applicants are advised to arrive at 6 p.m. in business attire with at least 10 up-to-date resumes.

• The third annual Pasco Community Job Fair, hosted by Pasco County schools, is slated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 29 at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey. Job applicants can meet with hiring managers from local governmental agencies. There will be job opportunities for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, mechanics, bus drivers, information services/help desk workers, food service assistants, child care assistants, custodians, skilled trades workers, financial services personnel and customer service employees. The event is free.

JobNewsUSA is holding its Job News Tampa Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 11 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Admission and parking are free.


USF adds accelerated nursing studies in Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee counties

The University of South Florida is launching a new five-year track for students from Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties pursuing their second degree in nursing. The partnership between USF’s College of Nursing, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee is intended to boost the number of baccalaureate-trained nurses in the Tampa Bay Area.

“I want USF College of Nursing to be the first solution to prepare nurses at the baccalaureate level for the Suncoast region,” says Dr. Victoria Rich, whose appointment as Dean of the USF College of Nursing and Senior Associate VP of USF Health was announced May 18.

The Suncoast Nursing Accelerated Pathway program allows students to earn bachelor’s degrees in Biology at the USFSP or USFSM campuses, then transition into the College of Nursing’s accelerated Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing program. While enrolled in the Tampa nursing program, students would be able to do clinical work in their home counties.

The program starts next fall.

Rich, who holds master’s and PhD degrees in nursing administration from the University of Pittsburgh, says the program makes it easier for students who enter college with a different major to switch into nursing. She knows firsthand what that is like. “I wanted to be a PhD botanist. I loved plants. I loved growing things. Then I realized after I had my children ... I want to be a nurse,” recalls Rich, whose first degree was in biology.

Students who pursue the five-year track will not only be better trained for bedside treatment, but will be on the career path to becoming nursing scientists and researchers. In this role, they typically research symptom management.

This background in biology will actively be very powerful moving forward as we prepare nurses for the future,” Rich says.

USF students on the Tampa campus have a number of paths to earn a second degree in nursing, including an added five-semester program they can pursue after earning another degree like biology, psychology, journalism or marketing.

The new Accelerated Pathway Program is intended to make it easier for students who find it difficult to travel to Tampa for classes. “We’re hoping the candidates going into this program are more likely to stay in the Suncoast region hospitals,” she adds.

USF is hoping to enroll 10 students in the program at each of the USFSP and USFSM campuses, but there’s not really an upper limit they will accept. “If this becomes a tremendous program, we will find the faculty,” she asserts.

A large portion of Florida is considered “medically underserved” according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

Rich joined USF’s College of Nursing in 2015, and had been serving as interim associate dean of academic programs. She begins her new job June 15.

She has more than 35 years of leadership experience, having served as Chief Nurse Executive and Associate Hospital Administrator for the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and Associate Professor of Nursing Administration at the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s School of Nursing.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with highest honors.


Greek, Caribbean music highlight heritage festivals in Tampa Bay Area in June

Tarpon Springs merchants are planning their inaugural Opa! Palooza, a celebration of their Greek heritage, June 9-11. The event features authentic Greek music and up to 90 vendors of arts and crafts.

And in Tampa, Caribbean music is featured at Tampa Bay Caribbean Heritage Festival on June 3 at the University Area CDC.

The Tarpon Springs Merchant Association is hosting Opa! Palooza, being organized by SIK Promotions of St. Petersburg. It hopes to attract visitors to the community known for its sponge docks in the off season, says Suzanne King, SIK’s Owner.

“We want to do cooking demonstrations, other kinds of authentic talks, workshops. We’re talking with the guy that designs and makes the diving helmet,” King says.

The free event runs from noon to 9 p.m. on June 9, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 10, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 11 on Dodecanese Boulevard.

The itinerary includes a Battle of the Bands Saturday night, with the winner being chosen to perform at Tarpon’s Seafood Festival, also organized by SIK, in November. Odyssey and Ellada will perform and author Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos will be on hand for storytelling. A petting zoo also is planned.

Also in Tarpon Springs, the One Act Plays Festival runs from June 8 to 11 at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St. General admission is $18 for a performance of 10 plays by 10 playwrights, with shows at 7:30 p.m. June 8, 9 and 10. The curtain rises at 2 p.m. June 11.

In Tampa, the Caribbean festival is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. at 14013 N. 22nd St. Performances by Jah Movement, Teddyson John, Fete Fit/Get Moving, DJ Spice, Voz y Accion de Puerto Rico and Tropical Groove Jazz are planned. Tickets are $10, with children 10 and under free.

The event, hosted by CANDO-Caribbean American National Development Organization, Inc., features food trucks and children’s activities.

Here are some other events planned in June.

Rock the Park is slated at 6:30 p.m. June 1 at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown. This free monthly music series concert, which is for all age groups, features Zigtebra, Luxury Mane and Ari Chi.

St. Petersburg Opera Company is featuring The Tales of Hoffmann at 7:30 p.m. June 2, 2 p.m. June 4, and 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Palladium Theatre, 235 Fifth Ave N.

• The 24th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 and 4 at 595 Corey Ave. The free event includes handmade pottery, jewelry, paintings and more.

• Clearwater Spring Concert Series: Third Eye Blind -- Take a trip back in time with this alternative rock band along the water at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. Show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $31.

• The 16th Annual St. Armands Circle Craft Festival kicks off June 10 at 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 and 11. Learn more here.

• Carrollwood Cultural Center has a number of events planned for June, including an outdoor market with crafts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 10 and Cypress Creek Dixieland Jazz Band at 8 p.m. June 10. Get the details on these and other events here.

• Independent film buffs, music lovers and foodies gather from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every third Thursday (June 15th, July 20, etc.) for Flicks And Food Trucks at The Grand Central at Kennedy at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., in Tampa’s Channel District. The event is free.

• Travel vicariously at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa. Its International Photography 2017 Exhibition showcases winners from June 23 to August 18.

• The 15th Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24 and 25 at 271 Main St., Dunedin. The event is free.

Learn more about the June art scene in Tampa Bay at Arts Tampa Bay and at Creative Pinellas.


Florida tech startups compete for cash, exposure at USF Connect event in Tampa

Twenty Florida tech startups will have a chance to give 60-second elevator pitches May 30 to a three-judge panel including Dr. Kanwal Rekhi, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist meeting at USF Connect in Tampa.

Start-ups have until noon on Friday, May 26th, to submit their entries for the Start-up Shuffle, a Start-up Elevator-Pitch Competition by TiE Tampa Bay Chapter and USF Connect, says Ramesh Sambasivan, President of TiE Tampa Bay.

The Shuffle will provide a “scenic drive of Tampa Bay and the Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he explains. A pre-screening committee will review all submissions.

“This is a place to pitch real start-up companies, not for vetting,” Sambasivan says. “If they want to vet their idea, there are already enough mentors in town to do that.”

Start-up companies should have a product or offering that has launched, although it could still be in beta, he says.

On the panel of judges with Rekhi of Inventus Capital Partners, is Matt Rice, a Partner in Ballast Point Ventures, and Sid White, Co-Founder of Chemical Angel Network.

TiE and USF Connect decided to hold the contest earlier this month. Rekhi already had been scheduled to talk about the challenges for technology start-ups that are disrupting highly regulated industries.

“We were trying to come up with a way that would be a little different than just having five companies pitch,” says Valerie McDevitt, Associate VP for Tech Transfer and Business Partnerships at USF. “You do literally find your self in a cab or elevator with just a few minutes with someone.”

The Start-up Shuffle kicks off at 6 p.m., followed by networking, a Start-up Expo and Dinner from 7:15 p.m. to 8 p.m. A fireside chat with Rekhi is slated from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

His talk is to include an in-person case study of Alok Jha, Founder/CEO of Assured Risk Cover, an innovator in the insurance industry.

The event also includes a “living history” of Storm Peace, a hurricane insurance provider and the dinner’s sponsor, Sambasivan says.

The Start-up Shuffle winner will be announced later in the evening, probably before the fireside chat. The winner will receive a $1,001 cash prize, a breakfast meeting with Dr. Rekhi the following morning, and a chance to pitch to TiE Tampa Bay angel investors. The runner-up wins a 30-minute one-on-one mentoring session with a TiE Tampa Bay Charter Member and a chance to pitch to TiE Tampa Bay angel investors.

The 20 finalists win one complimentary ticket to the entire program or a discounted annual membership to TiE Tampa Bay.

The event at USF Connect’s Galleria on the Tampa Campus is open to the public. Enter the free contest or register for the event here.

TiE events typically attract “undercover investors” who really are actively looking for investments, Sambasivan says. As a result, conversations may become serious.

“You never know where that diamond in the rough is,” he adds. “That’s what we are trying to uncover with these types of events.

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