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Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay are hiring at locations in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The organization is looking for helpers for its Summer Day Camp as well as its year-round after-school programs.
 
“We’ve starting the process, coordinating the number of hires we’ll actually need [for the summer],” says Sandra Kay-Weaver, VP of Talent. “Ideally we’d like to have everyone on board by the end of May, and in our training.”
 
The organization usually brings on 50-70 staffers to oversee camp programs; experience in childcare is not mandatory. “It’s very helpful if they have experience working with children in groups,” she says.
 
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. The camp positions’ pay averages $8.75 to $15 an hour depending on job experience, Kay-Weaver says. Some positions are fulltime and some are part-time, depending on the club’s need. “Hopefully they [the applicants] are engaging, fun,” she says.
 
Part-time positions are available year-round for the after-school program. “We are always recruiting for a pipeline of part-time positions,” Kay-Weaver says.
 
Cassandra Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications, says there usually are more part-time positions than full. “One of the biggest areas we seem to have trouble filling is bus drivers,” she adds.
 
Because staff interacts with children, screening is rigorous. “We do very meticulous drug screening, background checks,” says Thomas, “and it does include people working on the administrative side as well. We tend to go into the clubs too.”
 
At Bethune Park in Wimauma, Club Director Ronneka Peacock says the need for after-school program specialists is immediate. “My club absolutely needs people right now,” she says.
 
She prefers people with some kind of childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting. “I’m looking for staff and are able to have fun and still have the kids respect them and listen to them,” she says.
 
Those who are interested in applying for jobs at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay can begin the process online. Information is available on internships and volunteer opportunities as well. Candidates also can check the club locations and pick up an application on-site.
 
The organization has a full-time staff of about 40 to 50, who work at the administrative offices or the clubs. These positions do open up periodically. “It’s always a great idea if they have Boys and Girls Clubs in their background,” Kay-Weaver says. “We want people who are dedicated to our mission.”

CareerSource trains, educates jobseekers, youth and adults

Meet Omar Velazquez. As Outreach Youth Counselor for CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s an ambassador of sorts, and he has very good news for jobseekers searching for a new career.
 
Velazquez, raised in a single-parent home with eight siblings, shares an important message with youth: There’s help. Even if you missed out on college or other post-secondary training.
 
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Velazquez spends much of his time on the road visiting churches, sheriff’s offices and community meeting places. He can relate to many of the problems people are facing. Problems like poverty, layoffs, and education and language barriers.
 
While dealing with his own challenges, he learned many good programs -- like ones offered through CareerSource -- are virtually “hidden,” says Velazquez, the single parent of a 19-year-old.
 
“You’d be surprised how many people have no clue. I give them a little bit, in bits and pieces. They’re flabbergasted,” he explains. “That’s the reason why I said goodbye to corporate America, and said this is where I belong,”
 
Funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, CareerSource offers free training that can help youths 18 and up become certified and/or ready to work in career fields like construction, welding and fabrication, soldering and cabling, hospitality and more. Some training might otherwise cost “thousands of dollars,” Velazquez points out.
 
A Microsoft Office certification, earned in three to four weeks, can qualify students 18 to 24 for a number of office jobs. Older persons qualify if they receive welfare assistance or food stamps.
 
Training is at CareerSource’s Career Prep Center at North 43rd Street and East Columbus Drive. Applicants must be allowed to work legally in the United States.
 
“After they train you, they have partnership with other companies that are willing to hire you on the spot,” the New Port Richey resident adds.
 
CareerSource also can connect job candidates with an employer who may want to engage recruits on a trial basis for two or more weeks first. CareerSource pays the salary for that trial through an agreement with the employer, he says.
 
Additionally, CareerSource offers technical education in connection with the federal TechHire program, which has trained more than 4000 people and connected them to higher-paying job opportunities.
 
TechHire was launched by then-President Barack Obama in 2015, with the goals of building a pipeline of tech talent to communities nationwide, creating jobs and spurring business growth. Training covers IT jobs and phlebotomy.
 
Candidates must be U.S. residents between 17 and 29.
 
Velazquez’s main focus is youth, but older workers also can benefit from job search, counseling and other CareerSource services. “We spread the word to everybody,” he says.
 
Although he’s often on the road, counselors are on hand at the CareerSource offices in Tampa, Brandon, Plant City, Ruskin and Pinellas County, to help walk-ins. “They can say Omar sent me,” he says.

Job Roundup: State's job portal revs up services

The state of Florida is updating its job search portal, Employ Florida, making it even easier to hunt for the job of your dreams from the comfort of your couch. Starting Jan. 16, the website at www.employflorida.com, which offers free services, will have a new look. 

“Employ Florida will be a one-stop location either on your computer or on your mobile phone,” says Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.  

Several changes will greet visitors to the website, including a new logo and a name change from Employ Florida Marketplace to just Employ Florida. More importantly, it will be easier for job seekers to register “so you can start looking or a job easier and more quickly,” Proctor says.

“We are also including more enhanced filters that basically allow an individual person to tailor their job search for their particular needs,” she says. “The results you get are even more specific for what you’re looking for.”

Employ Florida will allow users to get specific information on the Tampa Bay region or another region in the state and compare salaries. “You can see what that market out there looks like for your profession. That’s really an exciting feature,” she explains.

Additionally, Employ Florida will be pulling job data from more sources, including CareerBuilder, Indeed and Monster. “You don’t have to go to individual websites,” she says. “You have one account and one location [Employ Florida] to find a job here in Florida.”

“We’ve very excited to be debuting the new website and the new mobile app,” she adds. “We’re already one of the nation’s largest job banks. We’re making it easier than ever … to find a job through Employ Florida.”

The website will go offline at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, and remain offline until 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16. During that time, Tampa Bay job seekers should visit the area’s CareerSource Center websites including careersourcetampabay.com, careersourcepinellas.com, careersourcesuncoast.com, careersourcepolk.com and careersourcepascohernando.com.

Employ Florida lists more than 43,000 job openings in the Tampa Bay area and nearly 250,000 statewide. Among the top jobs advertised online in the Tampa Bay region include registered nurses, network and computer systems administrators, customer service representatives, computer user support specialists, and software developers, according to state labor market data.

HART begins innovative rideshare program in Tampa

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority wants to meet you where you are. Its new HyperLINK system, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows customers to book a ride -- with a smartphone app -- to and from bus stops in designated areas.
 
“Transit is really effective at taking people down dense corridors. There’s no more efficient way to move people,” explains Sean Quigley, Project Manager for HyperLINK. “Transit isn’t very good at getting you from your door to your door, from one specific address to another.”
 
HyperLINK aims to change that with a new app, which allows customers to arrange service on demand through their Apple and Android phones. Apps can be downloaded at the iTunes store or Google Play online.
 
HART has contracted the services from Transdev, a Chicago area private-sector transit provider that created the HyperLINK platform.
 
“We're developed this as a first mile, last mile [service],” says Quigley, Transdev’s Business Development Manager. “ We’re looking at doing the same platform in Denver, New Orleans, Nassau County, NY, San Diego.”
 
 They would like to grow the service all over the country.
 
“The unique component with this is there is an app to it,” explains Sandra Morrison, HART’s Public Information Officer. “The fact that there’s this app connected with this service hasn’t been done anywhere else. Hopefully this will catch on.”
 
Apps are free. Alternatively, riders can book by calling 813-298-0455. 
 
Service is currently available within a three-mile radius north of University Area Transit Center at 13110 N. 27th St. (near Veterans Hospital) and north and south of Carrollwood at 10108 W. Fletcher Avenue (where Fletcher intersects with Dale Mabry Highway). There is no HyperLINK service to the University of South Florida south of Fletcher. Vehicles with wheelchair access are available.
 
Service at Brandon Mall and Brandon Hospital is anticipated in mid- to late December.
 
HART is funding the project through a $200,000 Florida of Department of Transportation grant, provided over two years, Morrison says.
 
“We’re hoping and seeking to extend the footprint ... that HART has in the community,” she says. “It exposes them to the transit system. They’ll be able to try it and hopefully like it.”
 
HyperLINK passengers receive five free rides with a promotional code available on social media or through HART literature. Then the cost is $3 per ride; riders can pay by cash or credit. For more details as the service expands, call customer service at 813-254-4278 or visit ww.gohart.org.
 
“Anytime the HART buses are running, we are running too,” Quigley says.
 
 They are hoping to serve 60,000 riders in the first year. The service may create 200 driving jobs during the next two years, he adds.
 
“The idea here is to create a service that is personalized,” Quigley explains. “You can still take the bus. You can get that really cheap fare. ... You don’t have to walk half a mile in the baking heat or in the rain.”

Pitch competition offers prize money, mentorship to local winners

Startup companies affiliated with several business incubators in the Tampa Bay area will have the opportunity to win $1,000 in prize money at an upcoming business pitch competition.

Building Entrepreneurship Around Tampa (B.E.A.T.) Pitch Competition, sponsored by South-Florida based investors New World Angels, is a collaborative pitch event open to companies currently working with Tampa's USF CONNECT or Tampa Bay WaVE, Pasco County's SMARTstart and St. Pete's TEC Garage.

The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will provide local entrepreneurs from six finalist companies with the opportunity to pitch their ventures to angel investors on November 17, 2015. The winner of the pitch competition will receive $1,000 in prize money. Perhaps equally as valuable, winners also earn 20 hours of coaching. 

First, second and third place winners will also receive the opportunity to pitch in front of 15 investors at a New World Angels monthly meeting.

The pitch competition comes at a time when local innovation efforts are expanding through the leadership of groups like the Tampa Innovation Alliance and Hillsborough County. USF CONNECT Program Coordinator Amy Yonai expects the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition to attract “an expanded network of individuals, due to the growth of the economic ecosystem in Tampa.”
 
The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition is tapping into that growth by hosting a “TEC Talk” during the event -- attendees can sip coffee and start a conversation with Tampa Innovation Alliance Director Mark Sharpe and Stephanie Ashley, Director of Incubation Programs and Economic Development at USF Research.

Along with the TEC Talk, the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will feature a keynote speaker and “Entrepreneurship Breakout Sessions” that cover a gamut of topics from potential legal concerns to adversity and leadership or startup funding.

“B.E.A.T. is an event that supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem though a showcase of innovative start-ups, educational programming and opportunities to pitch for capital,” says Yonai, who received a BA from the University of California, Irvine.

Local start-ups, business leaders, entrepreneurial support organizations, [and] anyone interested in becoming involved in the economic ecosystem in Tampa" should consider attending the event, says Yonai, who has worked as a program coordinator at Duke University and a fellowship coordinator at UNC Chapel Hill.

Yonai stepped into the role of program coordinator at USF Connect and the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) in May 2015.
 
USF CONNECT works to provide support for technology start-ups and connects new companies from counties across Florida to business opportunities with the school. USF CONNECT and the USF Research Foundation are located at the University of South Florida, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 100, in Tampa. To learn more about the B.E.A.T event, click here.

Veterans, active military invited to compete for funding in HCC business pitch competition

Veterans and active duty military seeking to open a business or embark on a new career path, mark your calendars.

Hillsborough Community College will host the 3rd Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at the school’s Plant City campus.

“This high impact day is designed to provide veterans with an opportunity to learn all about self employment and entrepreneurship,” explains event co-Organizer Beth Kerly, HCC Instructor of Entrepreneurship, Management and Marketing.

Veterans and active duty military members with an early stage business, or an idea for one, can apply to compete in a business pitch competition for up to $6,000 in prize money furnished by the HCC Foundation.

The symposium will feature workshops covering an array of topics related to starting up and running a small business. Keynote speakers for the event include Tampa Innovation Alliance President and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, along with HCC alum Valerie Ellis, Founder of veteran-focused staffing service Veterans2Corporate, and Clint Day, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at State College of Florida.

Kerly hopes to see attendees take “a basic idea of what it takes to be self employed” from the symposium. 

“Empowered to take the ‘leap,’ into entrepreneurship” she says, or perhaps to create “a list of community contacts that can help them on their journey. And, maybe a pitch prize to get their idea validated, a prototype.”

Those with active-duty experience are 45 percent more likely than those without to be self-employed, Kerly says, noting, “We have a huge military population in the area."

"In 2007 -- the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau -- veterans owned 2.4 million businesses, or 9 percent of all businesses nationwide, generating $1.2 trillion in receipts and employing nearly 5.8 million people.” Kerly says. “Veterans jump into entrepreneurship much more readily than civilians.”

The 3rd Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) will take place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, November 14. To register, click here. Those interested in applying for the business pitch aspect of the symposium can click here to learn more.

Veterans, active duty military,and spouses are invited to attend the free event; guests are welcome.

“This event provides an excellent opportunity for you to network with business professionals from the Tampa Bay area, learn about the various dimensions of entrepreneurship,” says Kerly.

Career fair for active, retired military Oct. 29 near Orlando

Veterans and active military service members -- and their spouses -- are invited to attend a free job fair on Thursday, October 29: the Military and Veterans Career Fair and Seminars in Lake Buena Vista.

The military career fair, hosted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., with seminars beginning at 8:30 a.m. The fair is open to all active duty, retired, former and National Guard or Reserve service members, of all ranks, along with their spouses and government employees.
 
Career seminars before and during the military career fair will focus on topics that help active or retired veterans transition into post-military careers, including:
  • Network Your Way to Employment: 8:30 a.m.
  • Getting the Most from Your MOAA Membership: 9:30 a.m.
  • Evaluating Employee Benefits: 11 a.m.
  • LinkedIn Best Practices: 2 p.m.
"75 percent of employer hires are facilitated through networking," MOAA wrote on the group Facebook page October 24. "Find out why at #‎MOAA’s Networking Your Way to Employment seminar."

Along with attending seminars, job seekers can make connections with company representatives from both regional and national businesses, such as Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Best Buy, Edward Jones, Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education, and other organizations, during the fair.

The MOAA Military and Veterans Career Fair will be at Buena Vista Palace & Spa, 1900 Buena Vista Drive, near Orlando. The fair is free to attend, but registration is required.

MOAA, whose members number more that 380,000 and include the full spectrum of military services, has led military-to-civilian career transition for decades. MOAA will host an annual meeting of military officers at the 2015 Annual Meeting in conjunction with the military career fair in Lake Buena Vista. MOAA also runs the nonprofit Voices for America’s Troops.

Kickstarter campaign launches for Florida conservation

Less than 10 days before the controversial hunt for Florida’s barely-off-the-endangered-species-list-black bear begins, the Florida Wildlife Corridor will launch its Kickstarter campaign Thursday, Oct. 15th, to promote its new film and forthcoming book, The Forgotten Coast: The Return to Wild Florida, based on months of expeditions inspired by the Florida black bear’s journeys through the interior of the state.  

“[The Florida Wildlife Corridor] is hiding in plain sight -- we are all situated on the coast looking outward, and maybe forget about Florida heartlands,” says Florida Wildlife Corridor Executive Director Mallory Dimmitt who is spearheading the project and the expeditions behind it. She notes that there is an urgency to conservation and awareness as Florida’s population is estimated to reach 35 million by 2060. “We can still maintain wild Florida and all the creatures that rely on it as Florida grows.” 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is both the name of the environmental advocacy organization as well as the term used to describe the territory it is dedicated to conserving: nearly 16 million acres of “lands and waters essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife” – including the 9.5 million acres already protected – that span the length and width of the state. 

The Forgotten Coast documentary is gleaned from the thousands of hours of footage taken during two Florida Wildlife Corridor expeditions traversing Florida undertaken by Dimmitt, wildlife Photographer Carlton Ward, Biologist Joe Guthrie, and Filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus on foot, bike and paddle. The idea, says Dimmitt, was to “explore wild Florida the way a bear or a panther could still travel through our state.” She says she hopes the film “inspires people to protect our quality of life, for all of Florida.”

During the first expedition in 2012, the team trekked more than 1,000 miles in 100 days from south-to-north, starting in the Everglades and finishing in the south of Georgia. From January to March of this year, the east-to-west expedition took the team from the Everglades Headwaters to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Florida Panhandle. 

The Kickstarter campaign will run until Friday Nov 20th, the day after the broadcast premiere of the film. The urgency to raise funds is critical and ambitious for the organization as Kickstarter is all-or-nothing crowdfunding, dependent on reaching the target fundraising goal of $37,000.  

The film’s exclusive broadcast premiere will air November 19th on WUSF-TV with a premiere event the week prior at the Tampa Theatre.  The new funds will allow the organizers to raise awareness and promote the film to PBS channels and film festivals around the country. 

Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission wins award for best practices

Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) was honored this month by Sustainable Florida, a statewide organization with a vision to “protect and preserve Florida’s environment while building markets for Florida’s businesses” through sustainable best practices. The group awarded its Best Practice Award for Community Engagement to EPC’s annual Clean Air Fair initiative.

“Our agency is really big on outreach,” says Jeff Sims, General Manager of EPC’s Air Division, which runs the fair. The fair, he says, “becomes a big interaction point for the public.” Sims says the award is new to Sustainable Florida this year and that the EPC was among stiff competition, about 20 businesses, competing for it from around the state. 

Margaret Rush, the EPC’s Sustainability Coordinator says beyond providing a forum for educating the public on what the exhibitor companies are doing – something that is not always easy to understand in the abstract – the Clean Air Fair also creates a unique networking opportunity for a cross-section of business, civic and governmental groups “to talk about minimizing pollution” and for businesses to gain peer-to-peer knowledge on sustainable best practices. 

Launched in 2001, the EPC’s Clean Air Fair is an annual event meant to celebrate the month of May as Clean Air Month, as designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Air Fair is open and free to the public and exhibitors alike, with the aim of raising awareness and promoting environmental and sustainable practices.  

This year’s event attracted more than 1,000 attendees, with more than 50 exhibitors from a wide range of businesses – from solar management and conservation organizations to major companies like TECO and Publix. The bustling, open-air event purposely takes place at a location that is “great for pedestrians” at the Poe Plaza in downtown Tampa. In addition to live music, complimentary food items and other give-aways, for the past several years they have showcased alternative vehicles – such as the fully electric Tesla, which claims to get 270 miles to a single charge. The innovation on display, Sims says, “draws in people to the more cutting-edge stuff.” 

Rush says she is noticing a greater interest in sustainability ”especially if you can make an economic case for it as well as social. More and more [sustainable initiatives] are coming in line as the cost of ‘business as usual.’ It just makes sense,” she notes. “That’s why it is important to learn about them.” 

Local horror theme park hiring hundreds of seasonal Halloween employees

An expansive wooded park located in the quiet suburban neighborhoods north of Tampa will be transformed into a horror park for fall 2015. Think haunted hayrides, a house of horror and a monster-themed midway, all with a hint of zombie or other pandemic-inducing mayhem.

The horror park, “Scream-A-Geddon,” is located in Dade City on the grounds of aerial adventure park Treehoppers, which opens to the public at noon on September 15.

Treehoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says that the 60-acre, independently owned park “offers the most immersive scream park experience in Central Florida.”

To staff the new Halloween attraction, Nagengast is seeking around 400 seasonal employees for both full- and part-time positions. Job opportunities include actors, shift supervisors, greeters, parking attendants, cashiers, make-up artists and more.

Training will be provided; no experience necessary. To apply for a seasonal role with Scream-A-Geddon, please visit the attraction’s website.

“Scream-A-Geddon” will open on September 25, and remain open for select dates through November 1, 2015. Find a list of frequently asked questions here.
 
The Scream-A-Geddon theme is “fear to the extreme,” Nagengast says, and the park’s forested location helps increase the spook factor. Several of the park’s six attractions take advantage of the natural surroundings – the half-mile 'Cursed Hayride' through the woods; the 'Dead Woods', a forest trail attraction complete with a creepy back story.

Other attractions of the horror park include an interactive haunted house with Hollywood-quality special effects and the midway, where visitors can enjoy carnival games, food and beverages, and beer.

Scream-A-Geddon “is Florida’s scariest haunted horror park,” Nagengast says. “Once victims enter Scream-A-Geddon they will all be subjected to the horrors within.”

Due to the nature of the event, Scream-A-Geddon is recommended for adults and teenagers aged 13 years old and older.

"Being an independent Halloween horror park allows us to stretch the boundaries of what customers have come to expect at the more 'corporate' Halloween attractions in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas," Mark Bremer, creative director at Scream-A-Geddon, said in a press release. "Victims who want a more interactive, intimate and terrifying haunted experience will be thrilled when our facility opens this fall."

Florida Farm Bureau offers grants to local schools for agriculture, gardening projects

Florida's teachers have an opportunity to grow their classroom budgets this school year by snagging one of dozens of mini-grants from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) -- but they'd better hurry to beat the Sept 15 application deadline.

The organization is awarding $9,500 in grant money for creative school projects that teach students from Pre-K through high school about the importance of one of the state's top industries.

Core academic subjects like math, English and science are essential to agriculture, and the grants are meant to encourage teachers to incorporate it into their curriculum, says Michael Rogalsky, Field Services Director for the Federation.

"The idea is to familiarize children with where their food comes from," says Debra Jones, Rogalsky's assistant.

Teachers are asked to think outside the box, and the Farm Bureau will kick in up to $250 to help fund each project chosen.

Last year, 57 Florida teachers received grant funding for agricultural projects ranging from schoolyard gardens, to projects involving honeybees, fish and quail eggs, says Jones.

Pizza gardens, where students grow the ingredients needed to make pizzas they prepare for the class, are especially popular, she adds.

Last year, many of the schools in the FFBF's District 5 -- which includes Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas and other Central Florida counties -- opted to grow hydroponic gardens.

Among them: a class at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa, 4th and 5th graders in the gifted program at Valleyview Elementary in Lakeland and Plant City High.  

Jones says she was surprised to discover that only five schools in District 5 have applied for a grant for the 2015-2016 school  year, and she encourages teachers to make the most of the opportunity.

The mini-grant program is part of the Florida Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee’s push to support agricultural education in the state's classrooms, and recipients will be selected by the committee.

But the funding doesn't stop there, says Jones.

"A lot of our county farm bureaus will pick up the ones we don't fund, just to get gardening back in the classroom."

Grant applications are due Sept. 15. Winners will be notified by Nov. 15 via email. Teachers can apply for the grant by visiting the Florida Farm Bureau Federation website.

Hillsborough County budgets $1M for manufacturing jobs training

Hillsborough County is betting big on the manufacturing industry. Through a partnership with the Board of County Commissioners, Hillsborough Community College (HCC) will provide two years of workforce training and resources for manufacturing careers in Tampa. 

The BOCC and community partners like HCC are working together “to develop a shared strategy to strengthen the manufacturing talent pipeline,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director. 

The goal: increase the quantity -- and quality -- of manufacturing talent in the region. In total, the BOCC has reserved $1 million in funds for the Hillsborough County Manufacturing Academy.

The funds “represent a very strong commitment to ensuring that our community has the workforce talent to continue to make our manufacturing base successful," Kimball explains.

With $322,000 in funds from the County, HCC will offer two years of manufacturing training courses and other resources that will allow participants to prepare for careers in the manufacturing industry. Students will be able to learn about aspects of the manufacturing industry from engineering technology to welding techniques. Programs include summer camps, on-site manufacturing training and tours of local operations, paid internship opportunities for students, industry certifications, and more.

$80,000 is allocated to purchasing new or upgraded training equipment.

Overall goals for the program include raising community awareness of production-type jobs (with an emphasis on the engagement of women, minorities and veterans); developing on-the-job training opportunities with local manufacturers; and addressing the manufacturing skills gap through training and certification.

Community partners of Hillsborough County’s Manufacturing Academy initiative also include the University of South FloridaCareerSource Tampa BayUpper Tampa Bay Manufacturers AssociationBay Area Manufacturers AssociationFlorida Medical Manufacturers Consortium and the National Tool and Machining Association.

Also under the umbrella of the $1 million in manufacturing skills funding, in early 2015 the BOCC approved a $325,000 agreement with Hillsborough County Schools to increase manufacturing skills training in area schools. Funds have also been allocated to help develop and improve specialized manufacturing skills training programs at Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Middleton and Tampa Bay Tech high schools, and Brewster Technical College.

“The programs are coordinated and designed to offer students a continuum of learning,” Kimball says.

For example, Kimball explains, students in Manufacturing Academy programs at the high school level can move on to take similar courses at HCC.

"We are hopeful that this commitment to ensuring the success of manufacturing will help us grow our existing industry base and attract new businesses," Kimball says. "Hillsborough County is a very competitive location for manufacturers who can leverage our skilled workforce, excellent infrastructure, low tax-burden environment and business-friendly government."

Tampa hotels plan to conserve millions of gallons of water by 2016

Local hotels and motels could begin to conserve 5 million gallons of water by 2016 – all without impacting the guest experience.

The Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association (HCHMA) has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative. Through a voluntary effort, HCHMA aims to reduce water consumption in the Tampa Bay area lodging industry.

“We have a unique opportunity to have our larger hotels lead the way in this effort,” HCHMA Executive Director Bob Morrison said in a news release.

Clearwater-based Terlyn Industries, which specializes in industrial water treatment, will help HCHMA “modify existing building cooling systems in such a way that those properties will see significant improvements in water consumption efficiencies,” Morrison explains.

Large hotels use cooling towers to treat the condensation water that gathers in central air conditioning units. The towers can account for 25 percent of a hotel’s total water use, so updating them to operate more efficiently can decrease energy and water consumption.

Terlyn Industries is offering Tampa Bay hoteliers a complimentary cooling tower water conservation study. For more information, visit the conservation study website.

HCHMA, which represents county hotels, motels and resorts, was initially organized in 1937. Prior to setting the goal of conserving five million gallons of water by 2016 for the EPA’s WaterSense H2O Challenge, HCHMA members made voluntary water conservation efforts through the Water Conservation Hotel and Motel Program. The “Water CHAMP” effort was developed through a partnership between Hillsborough County, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the City of Tampa; it focused on efforts to conserve water through retrofitting toilets and faucets in local hotels, as well as designating towel and linen reuse programs.

WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative program participants must register to “ACT” with the EPA: assess water usage, change products or processes when necessary, and track results. 

New culinary center in Plant City aims to create 100 jobs

Culinary professionals can start sprucing up their resumes as Fitlife Foods prepares to open a new culinary center in Plant City.

The company, founded in 2011, makes meals from scratch and sells them throughout its seven Tampa Bay area retail locations.

“The culinary center in Plant City is currently under construction, but we expect it to be completed mid-August,” says David Osterweil, Founder of Fitlife Foods. “We plan on hiring approximately 100 people by the end of 2016 at the culinary facility.”

The company, which currently employs 110 employees, will be seeking mostly culinary professionals at its new state-of-the-art culinary center; however, Osterweil says he will also be looking to fill logistics and transportation positions.

“The culinary center in Plant City is a big, small batch kitchen,” he says. “We are making everything from scratch in our kitchen everyday, and we need a bigger space to do it in, that’s the bottom line. These chefs need a lot more room to get their job done.”

Fitlife Foods offers customers healthy prepared meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Customers can pick up one meal, or plan their meals for the next few days.

"You’re not locked in, you can come in and pick up one meal, but a majority of our customers come in on Sunday and load up on meals for several days,” Osterweil says.

A marathon runner and father of two, Osterweil aims to provide customers with healthy options that are quick and easy to fix.

“Our main goal is to make each meal delicious,” he says. “We all have the same amount of time in our day, if you are eating the right foods in that day, that quality of that time is going to be so much better. “

For a list of store locations, visit the Fitlife Foods website

Aerial adventure park to open in Dade City, Pasco County

A new aerial adventure park, complete with zip lines and rope bridges, is set to open in Dade City in Pasco County this summer.

TreeHoppers will boast a wide variety of zip lines that cater to various skill levels, multiple rope bridges and dozens of aerial climbing elements on a 60-acre wooded park about 40 miles northwest of Tampa.

Indiana-based White River Zip Lines purchased the land in spring 2015 and will develop the TreeHoppers adventure park on the property, which also features a five-acre lake and a canopy of live oak trees.

Jon Pianki, TreeHoppers director of marketing, says that Tampa Bay’s good weather and tourist-friendly attitude are the primary reasons the area was selected for the new Treehoppers location.

“We are hoping this combination will help us build an attraction that is both an asset to the surrounding community as well as a draw to outside guests and customers,” Pianki explains. “Tampa Bay is a vibrant, growing community that wants more options to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.”

With eight different courses that cater to various skill levels and over 100 total features, there’s something for everyone, Pianki says. “Small children, experienced athletes, and everyone in-between will find a right course for their comfort level.”

Visitors will receive safety instruction from trained climbing monitors and be provided with safety climbing technology before embarking on any of the courses.

TreeHoppers will begin hiring for fulltime and part-time positions by mid-June, with jobs ranging from shop staff and customer service to guides and monitors. Visit TreeHoppers website to learn more or apply.

The park is expected to open in August, but Pianki is already looking ahead to the Fall, when the park is planning a Halloween attraction “like no other in the area.”

Located at 27839 Saint Joe Road in Dade City, TreeHoppers will be open year-round, seven days a week.

“We are thrilled to offer this new experience to the Tampa Bay area,” TreeHoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says in a press release. “Our team carefully and thoughtfully selected Tampa Bay for our newest attraction and we can’t wait to introduce TreeHoppers to the community. There is nothing like it anywhere in Florida.”

The aerial zip line and adventure park joins several high-rise outdoor adventure courses in the Tampa Bay area:

TreeUmph, 21805 S.R. 70 E., Bradenton

TreeUmph, located in Bradenton near Lakewood Ranch, opened in December 2012 and features a zip line that starts at 60 feet in elevation and rockets over a 600-foot-long course across the park.

TreeUmph is expanding to a second location in Hernando County in fall 2016. The new park will offer around 80 obstacles on a 50-acre area.

Sky Trail Zip Line, MOSI, 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa

In the university area’s Innovation District, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI Tampa) boasts its own spin on the aerial adventure: the Sky Trail Zip Line at MOSI, a 65-foot high course that is more than 700 feet long (longer than two football fields put together!).

Along with the zip line, MOSI offers a multilevel ropes course that is safe for kids and adults of all ages to explore.

Natures Boot Camp, 11914 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

Natures Boot Camp invites extreme athletes and adventure course enthusiasts to train at their outdoor obstacle course, centrally located in Tampa’s Carrollwood neighborhood.

Try out a sprint style obstacle course with over 14 obstacles,  a Mud Run that culminates in a 15-foot jump, and more extreme activities.

New Tampa Nature Park, 17599 Dona Michelle Drive, Tampa

New Tampa Nature Park, which connects with Hillsborough County’s Flatwoods Park, is a low-key place to enjoy nature from above. Find zip-lining courses for kids, a climbing area, shaded trails, and more.

The 122-acre park also offers an elevated boardwalk and marsh walk that allows visitors to experience a wetland habitat from above.
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