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Spring Hill : Innovation + Job News

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Checkers rolls out new look, expands in Tampa Bay Area in new year

Shaji Joseph is a man of firsts. He owns the oldest Checkers in Tampa and the first Checkers in a Walmart in the Tampa area, which is in Oldsmar. Now he is now making plans to open the first updated modular Checkers in Tampa.
For all appearances, this Indian immigrant is living the American dream. “I am so proud and happy to cherish what this great nation has offered me and my family,” the 46-year-old entrepreneur says. “[I] will forever be in debt to this great organization [Checkers] that believed in me and gave me such an awesome avenue.” 
Joseph attended business school in India, then became an assistant manager for Checkers in Pennsylvania. Fast forward 19 years, and Joseph owns eight franchises, with a commitment to build five more. His eighth location, in Spring Hill, is scheduled to open this month. The modular restaurant on Busch Boulevard is slated to open in the second quarter of 2017.
“I hit the ground running. I never stop. I never look back. I just keep going,” he says.
Formerly the corporation’s Director of Operations, Joseph is excited about the new design options, which enables him to save money and time. Each restaurant with a new modular design costs approximately $250,000 to build, which is $100,000 less than the traditional option.
The new modular restaurant features structural steel, which enhances sturdiness. It will have one instead of two drive-thru lanes plus a covered, outdoor seating area and a walk-up window.
His new Busch Boulevard location, which is currently awaiting city approval, is right by his franchise office, Wow Burgers LLC.
The new restaurants will incorporate the company’s traditional red, black and white colors. “There’s a lot of excitement and how it’s convenient,” he says. “We’re not losing our charm.”
Joseph’s Busch Boulevard location will be one of more than 50 in the nation with the Tampa-based Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants' updated designs. The new design is rolling out in key markets in Tampa, South Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Columbus and Houston.
Its Model 4.0 design gives franchise holders three options: traditional, modular and hybrid.
Jennifer Durham, Checkers & Rally’s Senior VP, says both the modular and hybrid designs are built offsite and feature structural steel. The hybrid design includes structural steel recycled from shipping boxes from overseas.
“It’s actually cheaper for manufacturers overseas to leave them behind than to ship them back empty,” Durham says. “We’re working through a third party to acquire the used shipping containers and remanufacture them into our buildings.”
Reusing the boxes isn’t quite as cost effective as she initially thought. “The more people that go after them, the price goes up,” she explains. “We weren’t the first or the last one to think of this design concept.”
She became interested in the concept after reading about them in architectural and design magazines. “To me, it was worth exploring. Given the size of our restaurant, its seemed like there was a natural fit,” she says.
With transport costs at $10 to $15 a mile for the pre-fabricated buildings, Checkers & Rally’s is considering multiple manufacturers across the country. It has more than 840 locations in the United States, and more than 250 more in the works.

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. 

On the job hunt? Upcoming career fairs in Tampa Bay

Whether job seekers are searching for that first post-graduation job or planning to change professional directions with a new career, attending a career or job fair can sometimes be the best bet for finding the right new role. There are several upcoming career or job fairs in Tampa Bay that can connect job seekers in the Tampa and St. Petersburg areas with the industry leaders and resources who can help open doors for new hires. Here are a few:
Wednesday, May 6: Pinellas Career Fair
noon-3 p.m.
Bright House Field
601 Coachman Road, Clearwater

Title sponsors include Bright House Networks, Home Shopping Network (HSN), Tradewinds resort hotel, and Center for Technology Training. Open to the general public.

Employer exhibitors include:
  • Big Brothers & Big Sisters
  • Bright House Networks
  • Eckerd College
  • GSP Marketing
  • H&T Global Circuit
  • Hydro Dyne Engineering
  • Kannon Heath Services
  • Lakeside Oaks Care Center
  • Pinellas County Schools
  • Pride Staff
  • Teachers R Us
  • Utica College
  • Vology Inc
  • YourMembership

Wednesday, May 6: Tampa Career Fair
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport
4500 West Cypress St., Tampa

Sponsors include MetLife, Southern Green, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, Mary Kay and Fleetistics. Can't make it? Tampa Career Fair will also be held on August 18, 2015. 

Thursday, May 14: FCC Statewide Career Fair
10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
UCF Arena
University of Central Florida, Orlando

The Annual Statewide Job Fair at the University of Central Florida in Orlando offers employers the unique opportunity to recruit graduates and alumni from Florida’s state universities all at one centrally located event. More than 150 employers typically attend to meet and recruit students and alumni who are seeking fulltime, professional positions.
Monday, June 8: Tampa Bay Job Fair
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport
700 N. Westshore Blvd, Tampa

Sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times. Free admission, free parking. No pre-registration required. Over 50 local employers will be in attendance.

Wednesday, June 17: Job Fair Tampa
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore Hotel
2225 N. Lois Ave., Tampa

Business professional attire and resume required.

Tips for job seekers from the Tampa Bay Job Fair:
  • Wear proper business attire.
  • Bring at least 20 copies of your resume.
  • Arrive with a positive attitude. 
Employers, are you hosting an upcoming career fair in the Tampa Bay area? Put potential future employees on the right path by sharing the details of your upcoming job or career fair in Tampa Bay with 83 Degrees. Email the 83 Degrees Innovation & Job News editor with "Hiring" in the subject line. Reach out over on Twitter (@83degreesmedia) if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Design-a-thon invites student innovators to pitch solutions

College students with innovative ideas, mark your calendars for April 10-11.

That’s when USF St. Petersburg’s Kate Tiedemann College of Business, along with the student chapter of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, is hosting a first-time event: a "design-a-thon” and pitch competition, during which enterprising students will have the chance to solve a real-world problem proposed from the local business community.

One small catch? Innovation Overnight is a 20-hour long event, beginning at 3 pm on April 10 and culminating in an 11 am awards ceremony April 11. Students can leave from midnight to 7 am, but they are also welcome to stay and keep working.

During the marathon brainstorming and building session, students will work through the phases of design thinking to build a functioning prototype that solves a problem sourced from event sponsors (including Jabil Inc, Valpak and the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team).

Games like “Are You Smarter than a Freshman?” and a hula hoop competition will help keep things light during the long hours.

Similar to Startup Weekend events, Innovation Overnight aims to connect members of the community in an informal but inspirational environment. Unlike Startup Weekend events, only students are permitted to participate.

Jessica Chin, co-creator and Chief Innovation Officer for the event, says that Innovation Overnight was developed to help students focus on approaching a problem using “design thinking and a structured thought process.”

Design thinking refers to a process of problem solving through specific phases: “Explore, Ideate, Build and Test,” Alison Watkins, associate dean of the USFSP COB and event co-creator, explained in a news release. It is “particularly useful in terms of defining multifaceted problems and providing innovative, multidimensional solutions to complex business challenges.”

The 20-hour design-a-thon, which mixes play with problem-solving, will include time to pitch a prototype solution to judges, network with potential employers, and learn design thinking tactics from keynote speaker Michelle Royal. Judges will include representatives from several Innovation Overnight sponsors, USFSP, and the TBTF.

Royal, CEO of Royal Innovation Design Group, was selected as keynote speaker “based on her willingness to engage in higher education and her professional expertise,” Chin explains.

Students can sign up for Innovation Overnight as individual participants, but Chin recommends that interested students engage each other on social media before the event to create a team, or contact her to facilitate team creation.

“Innovation Overnight provides an opportunity for students to connect classroom learning to real world situations, demonstrating to the business community that there is high quality talent graduating from area colleges,” TBTF’s Pat Gehant noted in the release. “This program lifts the bar for developing tech talent in the Tampa Bay area.”

The event will be held at USFSP’s University Student Center, 6th Ave S., in Ball Room A. Student pitches, which are open to the public, begin at 9 am on Friday, April 10; an awards ceremony and reception begins at 11 am Saturday, April 11. 

To learn more or to register for Innovation Overnight, click here.  

University of Tampa Aims To Increase Women in Technology

The University of Tampa (UT) is joining the national effort to attract, increase and retain the number of women in technology fields by participating in The National Center for Women and Information Technology’s (NCWIT) Pacesetters program.

Launched in 2010, the Pacesetters program is designed to recruit untapped talent pools of technological women as well as retain women at risk of leaving their organizations -- commonly referred to as “net new.” The 2013-2015 initiative includes a two-year fast track program and a collaborative network of senior executives from 20 universities and 14 companies working to add almost 2,000 women to the U.S. technological field.

“Twenty-five percent of IT professionals are female,” says Natasha Veltri, assistant professor of information and technology management and lead on the NCWIT Pacesetters program at UT. The goal of the Information and Technology Management (ITM) Department at UT is to increase female enrollment in the management and information systems program (MIS) from 23 percent to 50 percent.

To heighten that effort, UT’s ITM professors are practicing “in-reach” -- connecting with students during early college years, learning about their career and technological interests, and introducing them to classes, opportunities, industry connections and mentors so that students can explore the field.

By 2020, an estimated 1.4 million technology jobs will be added to the workforce. With 56 percent of women in computing and technology leaving jobs at the mid-career level, women in technology represent a significant value-add to companies.

“We encourage students to learn computing and pursue careers in this field; this way we can address the IT shortage and create a new pool of qualified, educated workers,” says Veltri.

Veltri also reaches to her network of IT professionals who have been successful within the field to serve as role models to students. “There are many female professionals who are passionate about this issue and who want to serve. We can support students considering a career in IT and can share our experiences with them by using our business connections.”

ITM works closely with the business community in Tampa Bay including Tampa Bay Technology Leadership Association and Tampa Bay Technology Forum. They also have an advisory board that keeps updated with the industry’s needs in order to prepare students for workforce leadership.

Each month, the Office of Career Services lists several openings for IT positions. “We don’t have enough candidates to fill those roles,” says Veltri.

“The innovation in the IT field has been tremendous in the last four years, and for us to continue the innovation, we need the right supply of talent. For us to provide our region with the right talent, we have to grow this locally. That way we can attract new employers.”

ITM is additionally working to increase interest and career development for females in technology by partnering with Tampa Bay’s technology professionals and utilizing UT’s Office of Career Services to introduce students to internships and career opportunities. ITM also provides a hands-on technology and computing platform to middle and high school students through their Get Smart program.

“There is a pipeline of talent, and we can contribute by developing local talent to grow Tampa Bay's industries, businesses, and IT field in particular.”

Visit the website for details on all of the University of Tampa’s information and technology management degrees. For more information on the Pacesetters program, contact Natasha Veltri via email or at 813.257.3970.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Natasha Veltri, University of Tampa

Medical Records: eDocs To Add 8 Jobs In Tampa Bay

Doctors are facing a big deadline in 2014, and a Spring Hill company is hiring more staff to help them make that deadline.

By 2014, all patient medical records must be electronic, and eDocs Conversion Solutions is helping docs throughout Tampa Bay to convert their paper records to electronic. eDocs needs additional staff to accomplish its goal.

The company, owned and operated by Victoria Kaczynski and Teresina Jessie, added two employees since the beginning of 2012 and plans to add eight more by the end of the year. They also have entered into a partnership with Hielix, a company that helps facilitate the conversion process by assisting doctors' offices in choosing the right IT vendor.

"We saw an approximate 16 percent growth in 2011 and anticipate that if not more next year," says Kaczynski. "As we grow, we’re going need to hire staff to prepare records, to scan charts, someone to handle Q & A and, of course, more medical transcriptionists."

Kaczynski explains the relationship between her company and Hielix, and how it benefits their doctor-clients. 

"Hielix helps the doctor decide on a vendor that will work best for their practice. The next step involves what to do with all the existing patient records. This is where eDocs comes in. We help them incorporate their old charts to integrate seamlessly with the EMR system Hielix has helped them choose."

Kaczynski and Jessie attribute the growth of the business not only to the impending conversion deadline, but also to their focus and ability to stay ahead of industry trends. 

"We started out as transcribers," explains Kaczynski. "In the last couple of years, we've been focusing on branching out." 

Adds Jessie: "We’ve always tried to keep a step ahead. We saw the move to EMR compliance as an opportunity. So we hopped on board."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Victoria Kaczynski and Teresina Jessie, eDocs Conversion Solutions

Gator Cleaning's New Brand Sees Growth, Adds Jobs

When Marcus Meyer opened Gator Janitorial Services in 2004 it was a one-man operation. 

His company has expanded its services and staff, and changed its name to reflect its broader range. Gator Cleaning Solutions provides commercial cleaning services, including floor care, windows and construction cleanup in addition to general cleaning. And Meyer and his wife and partner, Erin, recently hired a quality assurance specialist and plan to add more sales staff.

"Up until now, it’s been myself and our first hire making cold calls, etc.," says Marcus. "Hopefully we’ll bring on our first sales rep soon. And if growth goes as we plan, we want to bring on another one. As the sales team brings in new business, we can then add another QA specialist as well as an account manager. So we're anticipating 20 to 25 new hires. full-time, part-time and contracted cleaners."

Marcus attributes the growth to word-of-mouth and a consistent commitment to personal service.

"Through the years of having the company, it’s always been the personal touch," he says. We get a large amount of referral business. I still have clients I had as an individual from the very beginning. We get a large amount of referral business. Even through the down economy, we’ve enjoyed a 35 percent growth rate."

Adds Erin: "We pride ourselves in our constant research of products and services. We use state-of-the-art equipment and eco-friendly products. With our healthcare and education clients, we strive for high satisfaction scores and low infection rates. For our business clients, its about their image. We help create and maintain that."

Marcus says he has noticed more demand for services recently, which may be indicative of an improved economy.

"I do feel that the economy is improving," he says. "I can tell because our clients are asking for more frequent cleanings again. For a while there, they'd gone down to two or three a week. Now they're asking for five times a week again. They’re reinvesting in their image, which is what we help them do."
Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Marcus and Erin Meyer, Gator Cleaning Solutions

eDocs Conversion Solutions To Hire 25, Spring Hill

Advantec Global Solutions recently changed its name to eDocs Conversion Solutions and plans to hire 25 additional employees in the next year.

The Spring Hill company is a digital medical transcription business that scans and converts medical records into electronic medical records (EMR). The company’s new name is a representation of the services it offers.

“We changed the name because we feel that eDocs Conversion Solutions better reflects us as a company going forward,” says Teresina Jessie, president and co-founder of eDocs Conversion Solutions. “We are converting records to the digital technology of today, and the new name reflects that. ”

Jessie co-founded the company with Victoria Kaczynski 11 years ago after the two worked together at a large orthopedic office in Virginia Beach. Both were planning on relocating to Spring Hill in Hernando County north of Tampa and knew there was a need for a transcription business in the region, so they decided once they both relocated they would start one of their own.

The company has grown to 27 employees to date. As more and more medical service providers turn to electronic medical records to stay in compliance with government regulations, eDocs' strategic planning calls for adding 25 more employees in 2012.

“We will be hiring medical transcriptionists, voice recognition editors, individuals to work in scanning and quality assurance, as well as sales and marketing professionals,” says Kaczynski.  “We plan to hire these new employees within the next year.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Teresina Jessie and Victoria Kaczynski, eDocs Conversion Solutions

Goodwill-Suncoast Aims To Fill 50 Jobs ASAP

It has always been Goodwill's mission to help people get to work. That mission is alive and well today as Goodwill-Suncoast, the local branch of Goodwill Industries, is looking to put people to work in the Tampa Bay region.

"We currently have about 50 openings in the Tampa Bay area," says Chris Ward of Goodwill-Suncoast. "We are filling various positions, everything from retail sales manager, retail associate and donations processing staff to skills trainers and IT staff. We are looking to fill these positions as soon as possible."

In this economy, where jobs and growth are scarce, Goodwill has experienced considerable success. "We opened three new superstores since 2008, these stores opened in Wesley Chapel, Oldsmar and Spring Hill," Ward says. "We also opened a residential work-release center in Largo."

Ward says that most of the jobs with Goodwill-Suncoast are in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties, however, there are a few in other parts of the area. "We have a few jobs in Pasco and Hernando County, where Goodwill is the lead service provider at Career Central employment offices," Ward says. "The list of jobs on our website will give the location of each position."

For potential employees interested in applying, Ward explains what Goodwill is looking for. "We are looking for dedicated, hard-working people who take pride in the work they do," Ward says. "A customer service mindset is especially important for retail and donations staff. Because the nature of Goodwill's mission is helping people achieve their full potential through the power of work, staff can feel especially good about being part of the Goodwill team."

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Chris Ward, Goodwill Industries-Suncoast

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