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Hillsborough's EDI2 Program Celebrates Successes

Hugs, handshakes and a bit of humor keep the energy level high at Tampa Bay WaVE as a growing number of technology entrepreneurs leading the local startup community and public officials celebrate the 1st anniversary of Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) program. 

Hillsborough County commissioners led by Mark Sharpe, who will join the Tampa Bay Innovation Alliance after he leaves office in November due to term limits, set aside $2 million to provide financial support for growing the startup community. The Alliance includes USF, University Community Hospital, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Busch Gardens.  

Setting aside funding for EDI2 is a recognition by Hillsborough that future economic and job growth, particularly in the Tampa Bay region, is much more likely to result from the cumulative effect of nurturing innovative startups than by investing the bulk of additional resources into attracting giant corporate headquarters.

So far, since its launch in June 2013, 55 applicants have received $598,583 to support networking and educational events, industry promotions and service providers. Additional program and application information is available online.

Some of the programs funded include:
  • East Tampa Business and Civic Association for the 2014 MLK Technology Business Expo
  • Hillsborough Community College Foundation for the Veterans Entrepreneurial Symposium
  • Learning is for Everyone, Inc. for the Robocon Tampa Bay 2013
  • Moffitt Cancer Center for the Business of Biotech 2014
  • Startup Bus for the Startup Bus Tampa Bay
  • Startup Grind, Inc. for eight monthly meetings
  • Tampa Bay Technology Forum for the Tech Trek 2014, Engine Peer Network Event, and Entrepreneur Network
  • Technova Florida, Inc. for the Tampa Code Camp and Ignite Tampa Bay
  • TiE Tampa Bay for the TiE Breaker III and TiE Angel Forum
  • University of Tampa for the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference 2014
For more information about EDI2, contact Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Department at 813.272.6217.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County’s EDI2

Hillsborough County Pledges $1M To New Manufacturing Academy, Apprenticeship Program

The need for talented manufacturing workers has led Hillsborough County to pledge $1 million toward resolving the local "skills gap.''

A new Manufacturing Academy and Apprenticeship/Internship Program (MAAIP) is a meant to be a "three-pronged approach'' to closing this gap and promoting manufacturing as a viable career path for young workers. The MAAIP also plans to place special emphasis on marketing to students, veterans, women, minorities and underserved communities.

The $1 million in seed money will be split between the Manufacturing Academy; an Apprenticeship and Internship Incentive Program; and marketing of the two to potential private sector partners, students and their families. $350,000 is allocated to CareerSource Tampa Bay for execution of the program's initiatives.

"This is a robust, proactive step by our Board of County Commissioners,'' says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director.

The Manufacturing Academy will highlight manufacturing as a viable career path for middle and high school students and military veterans. Students who complete the Manufacturing Academy will be credentialed through the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council's Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification.

The two-year program fills a void, providing a "continuum" of seamless training between educational institutions and employers. MAAIP will package together existing resources through Hillsborough County Public Schools and Hillsborough Community College into new training opportunities for students of many ages. This pool will then serve as a resource for companies who wish to participate in the program to recruit new talent.

Because apprenticeship and internship programs can be costly, many companies do not have these programs in place. $400,000 has been allocated for Manufacturing and Internship Incentives. This aspect of the program aims to bring together students participating in the Manufacturing Academy with the local businesses that can provide on-the-job-training and real-world experience.

CareerSource Tampa Bay is tasked with the job of finding and enrolling manufacturers to participate in the program.

Participating companies must be for-profit manufacturing businesses located in Hillsborough County. They will be required to pay the apprentice or intern a minimum wage equivalent to the average entry-level wage for the industry. A maximum benefit of $8,000 per year per internship or apprenticeship may be paid. Once performance requirements are met, the program will reimburse the company for wages paid to the Manufacturing Academy apprentice or intern.
 
CareerSource Tampa Bay will aim to raise awareness and engagement of MAAIP to potential students and their families through promotional efforts and marketing outreach, including developing and launching a website to promote the manufacturing industry in Hillsborough County. The website will offer career-building resources like fact sheets, success stories, quick links, videos of local manufacturers, lesson plans and workbooks, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, and more.
 
The program will be administered by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department for the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

The MAAIP is a "team effort,'' Kimball says. It allows the BOCC "to support the manufacturing industry in Hillsborough County by leveraging our existing partner assets to fill the talent pipeline and engage manufacturers in the development of meaningful experiences for students.''

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County government

Hillsborough County Grants More Than $200K To Local Tech Events

Hillsborough County has awarded $230,000 in funding to 31 local applicants through its flagship tech-centric program, the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).

The EDI2 program is the first of its kind of Florida. Established in June 2013, the program aims to bring innovation, job creation, technology and new business to the Tampa Bay region. In an effort to lead this movement, the Hillsborough County Economic Development department set aside $2 million in funding to award to events and programs that are centered around technology and innovation. Led by County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, EDI2 awarded $307,000 to applicants in the first round of funding in fall 2013.

Some of the latest round of funding will go toward programs and events already well-established within the Tampa Bay community, such as Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 in March, monthly StartupGrind events, and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Business of BioTech 2014.

The bulk of the funding was awarded to one-off conferences like Gulf Bay Consulting's Social Media Engagement event in September 2014, which received $12,375. Girls in Tech Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was awarded $12,500 for outreach and an event in December 2014, and TiE Tampa Bay's TiE Breaker III 2014, which took place in January, received $19,000. The University of Tampa's Entrepreneurs Student Organization was awarded $14,500 for its Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in February 2014.

Other funded programs include the Computer Mentors Group, Inc., which was awarded $25,000 for the 2014 STEM Education Showcase Tampa, and Nuturism Media Group, Inc., awarded $25,000 for Running Lean Bootcamp. Both are in May 2014.

To view a full listing of funded projects and applications, visit the Hillsborough County website.

Events and programs must meet several stages of criteria before they are awarded funding, including the ability to measure event metrics and a way to clearly identify the economic development impact of each project.

EDI2 is "focused on building a vibrant and sustainable startup community and is centered on the use of technology and innovation,'' according to a news release from Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for its third cycle of EDI2 funding. Applications and additional information can be found at the EDI2 website. The deadline to apply for the third round of EDI2 funding is April 1, 2013.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Annette Spina, Hillsborough County

Hillsborough Arts Council Launches Power2Give Donor Portal

A new online crowdfunding platform being launched this week is designed to solicit new donors and donations to support arts and cultural organizations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Power2Give is similar to other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but the focus is on helping local arts and culture organizations fund projects that might not be funded through traditional campaigns.

The concept began with the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC. It has expanded to include 21 metropolitan areas who have raised $4.5 million through 1,880 projects in just two years. The Tampa Bay region will be the 22nd community to join Power2Give.

Projects are listed on the site for 90 days. If the fundraising goal is met before then, the project is removed from the site. If the goal is not met, the money is still given to the nonprofit, another differentiator from the all-or-nothing model used by many other crowdfunding platforms. The organizations also provide donors with non-cash benefits.

In the spirit of transparency, organizations are encouraged to break projects down to explain exactly what they cover. This transparency also aims to create more patrons for the arts by providing a closer glimpse into what goes on within the organizations. This idea has proven successful, with an estimated 44 percent of donors across the 21 metropolitan areas being first time arts patrons.

“You can feel confident that the project is real and the money is going somewhere,” says Terri Simons, director of program services for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the sponsoring organization for the Tampa Bay arm of Power2Give.

Power2give Tampa Bay
launches February 12 with over $100,000 in projects to fund, including: helping students with disabilities attend summer animation camp through VSA Florida, creative journaling projects for families of domestic violence through the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, a mosaic on the outside of the building at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin and underwriting costs for some of the performers at the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Terri Simons, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

James Hardie Invests $80 Million, 100 New Jobs in Plant City

James Hardie, global manufacturer of fiber cement siding and interior products, is making an $80 million capital investment in eastern Hillsborough County, expanding its Plant City operations and creating 100 new manufacturing, engineering, project management, and administration jobs by 2015.

"This is an exciting time for James Hardie in both Plant City and around the world. Innovation that happens in Plant City resonates around the world, and the catalyst is the great environment we have here. Employees see themselves as a family, and that says a lot about the people in the city and the surrounding community," says Ryan Sullivan, south division general manager for James Hardie.

James Hardie's expansion plan includes 100,000 square-feet of additional manufacturing space, new machinery, and new equipment, essentially doubling production capacity to meet the increased industry demand for its fiber cement siding products.

The company first established operations in Plant City site in 1994, which currently employs 100 associates.

In 2012, in an effort to increase the community’s competitive advantage in high-impact economic development projects, the City of Plant City approved a moratorium on the collection of transportation mobility fees.

Resultantly, James Hardie received a fee waiver of $37,300, further solidifying market productivity, regional economic growth, and job creation for Tampa Bay.

"This is great news for our community. Manufacturing is an important part of our economic growth strategy," says Mark Sharpe, chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

The company is also eligible for Florida’s new Machinery and Equipment Sales Tax Exemption program, which was approved by the state legislature in May 2013.

"James Hardie has been a valuable member of our business community for more than two decades. Its decision to expand in Plant City is a testament to the strong business environment we’ve created, and validates our role as a top manufacturing and distribution center," says Plant City Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis.

For more information on career opportunities, visit James Hardie online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Ryan Sullivan, James Hardie; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County BOCC; Mary Thomas Mathis, City of Plant City

Dart Container Corporation Invests $14 Million, 24 Jobs In Tampa

Dart Container Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of foam cups, is expanding its east Hillsborough County operations in Plant City, investing $14 million in a new 400,000-square-foot facility and adding up to 24 new jobs in the process.

"This is incredible news for the residents of Plant City, and we thank Dart Container for its continued commitment to our community. As we work to bring more quality jobs and investment to Plant City, Dart Container stands out as a true story of partnership and success. We expect this to be the first of many announcements as we grow our business base," says Plant City Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis.

Based in Michigan, Dart Container has 45 locations in eight countries, and more than 14,000 employees, including 230 at its existing 480,000-square-foot plant in Hillsborough County.

The company’s 2012 purchase of Solo Cups increased production volume, prompting the need of additional warehouse space. Many Solo Cups brand products will be distributed from the company’s new Plant City site. The facility is expected to be complete by mid-2014.

In 2012, in an effort to increase the community’s competitive advantage in high-impact economic development projects, the City of Plant City approved a moratorium on the collection of transportation mobility fees.

Dart Container received a fee waiver of $139,200, further solidifying additional market productivity, regional economic growth and job creation for the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance, the City of Plant City, and Tampa Electric Company & Peoples Gas (TECO) all played critical roles in the project to impact the region’s development.

"We’ve committed dedicated resources to identifying new opportunities for the attraction, expansion and retention of jobs in this area. The exciting announcement by Dart Container reinforces the success of that initiative and serves as a milestone for future efforts," says David Pizzo, Tampa Hillsborough EDC Chair.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Dart Container’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Mary Thomas Mathis, City of Plant City; David Pizzo, Tampa Hillsborough EDC

Citizinvestor Partners With Schools To Feed Hungry Children

A partnership between Citizinvestor, Feeding America Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County Public Schools allows the community to fund meals for at-risk children in Tampa.

The effort is the first community-wide initiative for Citizinvestor, a Tampa-based crowdfunding platform that allows citizens to fund municipal projects. The platform puts decision-making in the hands of the community by allowing them to provide funding for the efforts they deem most worthwhile, with the added benefit of being able to directly see where their dollars are spent.

With the title “Weekend Food Backpacks for Kids,” the $10,800 target goal will provide 12,000 meals over the school year to students in need at Oak Park Elementary School in Tampa. 99 percent of the school’s students qualify for the county’s Free and Reduced lunch program. The students receive free breakfasts and lunches during the school week, but often go home to empty pantries on the weekends. These children are at risk for decreased educational performance, health problems and behavior issues.

"Success would be getting this funding as quickly as possible so Feeding America can pay for the meals that these children need in our community," says Jordan Raynor, co-founder and partnerships director for Citizinvestor.

The concept of crowdfunding is new to Feeding America Tampa Bay, but it seems like a logical fit because of Citizinvestor's knowledge of what the local community likes to support.

Citizinvestor recently celebrated its first anniversary, having funded 70 percent of its projects during this time. The startup’s success led to their recent opening of 550 square feet of office space in downtown Tampa. They will also be hiring a full-time Developer and Project Marketing Associate.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jorday Raynor, Citizinvestor

Mosaic Wins Top Award For Corporate Philanthropy

The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), which draws together corporate executives to address worldwide societal challenges, presented its 2013 Excellence Award in Corporate Philanthropy to Mosiac for providing sustainable farming education and assistance to developing countries.

The Mosaic Villages Project began in 2008 when concerned employees noticed how the global rise in food prices was affecting small-holder farmers.

"We felt that with our expertise and market presence, we could do something to help them," says Chris Lambe, director of social responsibility for Mosaic, a Minneapolis-based corporation that produces fertilizer from phosphate mined east and south of Tampa.

The project assists farmers in Guatemala, India and eight African countries break the cycle of poverty through skill development and sustainable farming practices. Mosaic’s agronomists and soil scientists visit villages to analyze the soil, build the nutrient base and teach simple modern farming techniques.  

The result is improved livelihood. Because the efforts are so concentrated, results literally occur within one planning season -- five to six months after the program begins.

"It's a difference between them not having enough food to eat, to actually having a food surplus," says Lambe. "They can not only feed their families, but also sell the food and have some income."

The program has had a tremendous success rate, with 90 percent of the farmers graduating from the 3-year program. Perhaps the most notable success is long-term societal change. The African villages have seen a 40 percent reduction in stunting (young kids not growing the correct height and weight because of malnutrition).

The program has also become self-replicable, with farmers in surrounding villages experiencing similar successes by observing.   

"Social change is occurring,'' says Lambe. "It's not just about the program anymore.''

Mosaic's employees in the Tampa Bay region are involved in the program in areas such as product production and quality, inventory management, shipping, logistics and the transportation of fertilizer from Florida to the African villages.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Chris Lambe, Mosaic

Alpha House of Tampa Adding Residential Assistants

Alpha House of Tampa is expanding its staff and seeking residential assistants to provide residential care, vocational preparation and childcare assistance to Alpha House residents. Alpha House is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving homeless pregnant women and mothers with young children in crisis by providing safe housing and professional skills. Residential assistants will help Alpha House create safe, sustainable and effective futures for individuals in crisis.

The organization provides parenting classes, counseling, vocational training, spiritual support and other tools necessary for residents to become self-sufficient. They are now adding additional residential assistants to their roster and are also hiring a senior case manager to support their growing initiatives. Residential assistants will provide planning, scheduling and 24-hour residential support and care for 23 maternity residents.

Residential assistants play a core role in providing care and developmental assistance to Alpha House residents. "They are with the residents and help with maternity care, appointments, and transportation needs,'' says Rachel Luis, communications director.

Residential assistants should have experience working in human services and will be required to complete DCF background clearance and fingerprinting as well as receive and maintain CPR and Basic First Aid certification.

Several positions are available to help Alpha House achieve its goal of providing around-the-clock residential support: Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm to midnight and 3 pm to 11 pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 4 pm to midnight and 11 pm to 7 am.

Candidates may apply at the agency or may send resumes via email, via fax to 813.876.0657 or via regular mail to: Alpha House of Tampa, Inc., Attn: Barbara McCormick, Program Director, 201 S. Tampania Avenue, Tampa, FL 33609.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Rachel Luis, Alpha House of Tampa

Hillsborough Engages Citizinvestor To Fund Prizes For Hack-a-thon

Hillsborough County is opening up data from several of its departments to the Tampa Bay technology community to see who can build the best app on top of the data. The Hack-a-thon is first event of its kind for the county government.

Tampa-based Citizinvestor is being used to collect funds that will go toward prizes for the competition. Citizinvestor is an online service that allows municipalities to submit projects that have already been approved but are in need of funding in order to come to fruition. The crowd-funding idea is to encourage citizens to invest their own money in the projects they care most about, letting local governments know where they most want to see funds spent. Credit cards are not charged until 100 percent of the funds are received for each project. 

Past funded initiatives include a project in Boston that put iPads into the hands of blind students who were able to control them by voice.

The Hack-a-thon is the first project in Tampa Bay to be funded through Citizinvestor. The county is seeking $2,700 in total funding. 

"Anything the community can be doing to promote civic innovation is a good thing,'' says Jordan Raynor, co-founder of Citizinvestor. "This particular project is exciting for transparency sake, making government more open. It's also another way to showcase Tampa’s technology talent.'' Raynor is also happy to see the county using a homegrown business to help others in the technology community.

The Hack-a-thon will take place April 12 -- 14, 2013 at Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus.

"This is a really big moment for Hillsborough County," says Raynor. "A lot of places talk about innovation. Hillsborough County is actually doing something about it.''

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jordan Raynor, Citizinvestor

New Grants For Artists In Tampa, Hillsborough County

In a continuing effort to develop local artists and integrate arts into the community, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County is offering seven grants of up to $2,000 each to individual artists.

"The arts are what give us a quality of life,'' says Teri Simons, director of program services for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. "They bring us together as individuals. Creativity of a community is a pretty good measure of the quality of the community.''

Since 1989, the Council has awarded $600,000 in grants to individual artists through this program. Last year's winners included Erin Cardinal Wright, who choreographed and directed a dance film called "The Enormity of Two,'' which explores the common threads that bring two people together.  

"The goal is to enable the artists to pursue a project that will help them take their career to the next level,'' says Simons. "That might be through education, a specific medium or technique, or maybe equipment.''

The council is also looking for ways people can bring the arts back into the local community to benefit the citizens. For example, last year's grant winner Crystal Haralambou used the funding for education and support of Shakespeare Behind Bars, a nonprofit program that uses theater to help juvenile justice offenders develop life skills and successfully reintegrate back into society.

Funds for this year's grants are provided by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and the Council's FIVE by FIVE art event.

The Council also funds a grant program for arts groups and cultural organizations, which typically opens in August.

Requirements and an application for the individual artist grants can be found on the Arts Council website. The deadline to submit an application is Friday, January 18, 2013.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Teri Simons, Hillsborough Arts Council

Straz Center Takes Arts To Tampa Schools, Students

The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa offers high quality arts instruction to K-12 schools through a new Conservatory-To-Go initiative. Instructors from the Center offer on-site curriculum on a fee basis, allowing for a custom package designed to meet the needs of each individual school.

"They're getting a fully catered ongoing palate of arts education,'' says Wendy Leigh, VP of education for the Straz Center.

Subjects offered through the program include music classes such as string, percussion and woodwind instruments, theater and musical theater, and dance classes such as ballet and hip-hop. Most classes that are taught on site at the Center are also taught though the traveling program, which is meant to supplement arts programs currently in place in schools.

"In Hillsborough County in particular, the arts are very well served,'' says Leigh. But, most schools don't offer programs in dance or musical theater, allowing Straz to fill the gaps and provide additional enrichment for the students.

The pilot program at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic School provides theater and/or music classes to students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, serving more than 230 students since it began in September.

The program is in Tampa initially, but the goal is to eventually expand regionally.

"Not everyone can get downtown [for our onsite courses], so the more we can get these models to work the more we can serve the community all over the Tampa Bay region,'' says Leigh.
 
The Straz Center is participating in the Great American Teach-in on November 15. Schools interested in getting a sampling of this program can contact: (813) 229-7827.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Wendy Leigh, Straz Center

Tampa Bay’s Young Professionals Call Regional Summit

Young professionals in Tampa Bay recognize that regional cooperation helps advance the strength of our communities and future opportunities for everyone.

In an effort to promote this cooperation and further the conversation, several young professionals groups are coming together for the second annual Tampa Bay Young Professionals Summit on Friday, October 12, from 1 to 5 pm at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City campus, room 204 in the Ybor Building.

The event is presented by Emerge Tampa Bay and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, with Clearwater Young Professionals and St. Petersburg Chamber Young Professionals.

The interactive Summit will feature a slate of local guest speakers and presenters as well as breakout sessions to energize participants about the future of Tampa Bay.

Presenters and participants will answer questions like:
-- How can we improve the current business climate and encourage rapid growth?
-- How can young professionals take an active role to improve the region?
-- What would be a game changer for Tampa Bay?

The focus will be on five industry sectors: urban growth/environment, medical tech and healthcare research, entrepreneurship and high tech, cultural impact and education.

"The main goal of the Summit is to educate, engage and gather ideas from Tampa Bay's young professionals for improving the regional economy,'' says Brian Seel, public policy chair for Emerge Tampa Bay and chief organizer of the event. "This is a unique collaborative opportunity to advance the priorities of our generation.''

The Summit will produce a 10-item Economic Action List which will serve as a guiding framework for young professionals to continue to contribute to the regional economy in a meaningful way.

A Happy Hour will also be hosted immediately following the event at New World Brewery in Ybor City.

Cost is $25 per person. Pre-registration at this link is encouraged.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Brian Seel, Emerge Tampa Bay

Polk State College Gets Creative To Up Graduation Rate

Polk State College in Winter Haven is increasing the number of degrees awarded, as motivated by the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative.

The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is one of three in Tampa Bay competing with over 50 other metropolitan areas in the national Talent Dividend Competition. A $1 million prize will be awarded to the area that sees the largest increase in college degrees by the year 2013.

Led by the Tampa Bay Partnership, Graduate Tampa Bay focuses on people who have started college but haven't finished their degree. 

"Getting their foot back in the door is a scary thing,'' says Naomi Boyer, associate VP for strategic initiatives at Polk State College. The College is making it less scary with some innovative ways to help former students finish school.

For example, they are removing barriers by graduating students who received enough credits but have not completed certain administrative steps required to graduate. They are also creating a "fast track'' online option for general education courses to help those who have completed some courses.

Another possibility being considered is reverse degree completion. Some students take courses at the College and then transfer to a four-year institution for the additional classes. These courses can be reversed back to Polk State College's system to show that the degrees were completed, providing students with the credential they earned.

The College is also reaching out to local businesses to provide services tailored to their employees, such as on-site advising. College reps  recently participated in a community event hosted by Polk Vision, where this idea, among other things, was explored with local businesses and other universities.

"We're dialoging with the businesses to help them conceptualize what's even possible within their scope of reference,'' says Boyer. The group plans to continue meeting on a monthly basis to explore other creative ways to increase college attainment.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Naomi Boyer, Polk State College

LED Franchise Lights Up Tampa Bay Economy, 20 Jobs

LED Source, a national franchise that distributes professional LED lighting products has come to the Tampa Bay region. Scott Weber, CEO of the Florida West coast franchise, known as Nitor Solutions, co-founded the operation with his friends and business partners Haitham Charles and Marc Soudijn.

“The LED lighting franchise is a great concept, in a great industry,” Weber says. “LED lighting the next big thing, with tremendous opportunity. There is a huge need with less than 2 percent of commercial lighting currently LED right now there is room for growth.”

Nitor Solutions, which is located at 402 Knights Run Avenue in Tampa, has plans to service Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. The company supplies energy-efficient LED lighting to commercial buildings and developments, including office spaces, parks, schools, theaters, churches and art galleries.

With plans to cover such a vast territory and a market that is undeserved, Weber plans to hire 20-plus employees.

“Four sales people have been hired in Tampa, and by the end of the year we will have eight to ten more hires here,” Weber says. “By end of next year, we should have 10 sales people in St. Petersburg, and 18 months from now we hope to have at least five new hires in Sarasota.”

Due to the fact that LED lighting is so new, Weber says he doesn't expect sales people to have any LED sales experience.

“We are looking for bright, personable people with sales skills,” Weber says. “Once hired, they will get trained on everything they need to know about lighting, which shouldn't take more than a month. The most important thing is that they can sell customers solutions, because that is what we are all about.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Scott Weber, Nitor Solutions, LLC/Florida West coast LED Source Franchise
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