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Parts of The Invisible Man video web series shot in Tampa

Bathed in palm trees and scenic waterfront vistas, Tampa is not the typical spot used as a stand-in for a Rocky Mountains movie location.

But two independent filmmakers with ties to Hillsborough County made it work.

Sean Malone and Timothy Compton have recreated H.G. Wells’ classic novel “The Invisible Man’’ into a five-part web series set in present-day America. Produced by their company, Waterfoot Films, the web series was filmed in Tampa, North Carolina and Colorado over a 15-month period.

“We really couldn’t have done it without a couple of businesses that helped us out,” Malone says. “The Frontier Cattleman’s Steakhouse on Sligh Avenue near I-275 let us shoot our saloon scenes there. The other was Behind the Fence Bread and Breakfast in Brandon.

“Even though the series takes place in Colorado, we shot a good part of it in Tampa.”

The two former University of Miami film students hatched the idea to turn the classic story into a modern-day adaptation after watching the 1933 original movie about five years ago. But their creative collaborations date back years before then.

Malone and Compton both attended Florida College in Temple Terrace. Although they were on campus several years apart, it was that connection and a mutual interest in filmmaking that brought them together.

During Malone’s eight years in Tampa, he also taught at the University of Tampa. Compton, who lived here four years, earned his bachelor’s degree at UT.

Malone, 33, now lives in Los Angeles, and Compton, 30, calls Chicago home, but their long distance partnership has produced numerous award-winning short films.

They attributed much of the success of producing “The Invisible Man’’ to the supporters of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

“A lot of people who helped us out in Kickstarter was from Florida and particularly Tampa,” Malone says.

The creative duo reintroduced The Invisible Man as a cinematic work that reflect both men’s different approach to the genre. Malone emphasized the classic Hollywood feel. Compton saw the film as an intense thriller.

“Sean (Malone) is a very talented cinematographer, so the snowy Colorado vistas are gorgeous,” says Lucy Griggs of JL Art House Productions in Tampa. “He and Tim (Compton) write suspenseful, moving films that portray the struggle between self and other, power and belonging.”

The main character, Griffin, portrayed by actor Johnny Hightower of Tampa, is a creepy anti-hero with issues. The film leaves viewers to decide whether the mad scientist is just crazy or are his actions a result of the personal experimentation.

Following a special screening in Tampa in October, the web series now is available on YouTube and expected to be released on DVD by the beginning of the year.

Plant City native brings Christmas cheer in new movie

A new Christmas-theme movie set to debut December 18 at Tampa Theatre and on digital video devices features a Tampa Bay connection.

The film, “An Evergreen Christmas,’’ starring Plant City native Charleene Closshey, brings her home for the holidays.

“It means a lot to bring the film back to my home, where I grew up,” Closshey says. 

An Evergreen Christmas is loosely based on the family of Closshey’s fiancé, Jeremy Culver, who directed and co-wrote the story with his sister, Morgen Culver.

The Culvers’ grandfather owned a Christmas tree farm in Michigan before he died last year.

The heartwarming film celebrates the values and community support often found in small towns.

In “An Evergreen Christmas,’’ Closshey portrays Evie Lee, a young woman forced to put her glamorous Hollywood career on hold to return to her small Tennessee hometown when she learns about her father’s sudden death.

As the eldest sibling, Evie discovers she has been named the executor of the family’s once thriving Christmas tree farm, an estate now strapped with a massive inheritance tax, much to her younger brother’s dismay.

Evie faces a life-altering decision whether to save the family’s legacy or pursue her music career. Her decision would ultimately determine her place in the world.

“Life is about reaching goals and dreams, and community support is important to that happening,” Jeremy Culver says.

Closshey agrees: “My character is more like a rock until she realized she needed that community support,” says Closshey, who attended Harrison Performing Arts Center, a performing arts high school in Lakeland.
 
The movie’s colorful cast includes veteran actor Robert Loggia and country singer and actress Naomi Judd, who portray Evie’s paternal grandparents; and Tyler Ritter, son of the late actor John Ritter, plays Evie’s ex-boyfriend who has grown up but still holds romantic feelings for her.

A special screening of the dramedy will be at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa. Closshey, Jeremy Culver and Morgen Culver are scheduled to attend, make introductions and participate in an audience Q&A after the film.

Closshey, an accomplished violinist who also plays several other instruments, says a three-minute video of a song in the movie called “My Tennessee Home” will be shown at the screening. The music video, filmed at the Southern Barn in Lithia, features about 100 Plant City and Tampa area residents.
 
Supporting and promoting the film industry in Florida is important to Closshey. 

“It’s where I grew up, so I have a great love for the state and its people,” she says.
 
“An Evergreen Christmas’’ also is available at Walmart and on iTunes, Amazon, and it hits Netflix on Dec. 21.

Custom and disaster recovery software provider adds 3 jobs

A growing company that provides software for custom design and to assist with disaster recovery is adding project and developer positions.

Tampa-based Zenzio has two major areas of focus: custom software development meeting a variety of client needs, and disaster recovery for events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

The disaster recovery product is designed to assist private contractors who ultimately receive FEMA funds with operations and efficiency after a natural disaster. The software provides operational efficiencies and ensures safety and other protocol are met during tasks such as cleaning up debris, inspecting houses and keeping track of assets such as generators.

"We’re positioning ourselves as a technology provider to all of the players, all of the contractors who deal with a disaster clean-up," says Andrew Grubbs, founder and CEO, a serial tech entrepreneur who moved to Tampa from Washington in 1995.

The company was founded in 2011 as a different product all together that didn’t pan out, which led to the increase in custom software clients and eventually the disaster recovery product.

Zenzio is expanding its current team of six full-time workers and seven subcontractors with the addition of a Project Manager and two Microsoft Developers. The growth is the result of client’s expansion as well as the enhancement of the disaster recovery focus.  

Grubbs plans to keep the company in Tampa for the long run, noting that the business environment is a nice mix of fast and moderate pace. "It’s both relaxed, and it has energy," says Grubbs. "I like dealing with the people down here."

Mobile software development company adds 7 tech jobs In Tampa

At Nitro Mobile Solutions, company culture is critical.

The software development company, based in Hillsborough County just east of Tampa near the intersection of I-75 and I-4, is currently hiring for seven tech positions. Nitro Mobile Solutions is seeking: two iOS developers; two C# developers; one Android developer; one support specialist and one quality assurance specialist.

“The characteristics we seek in our employees, in order of importance, are: passion, drive, ownership, critical thinking, problem solving, and then skill,” explains Nitro’s Social Marketing Specialist Lauren Webber. “Many companies put ‘skill’ first, but we can teach skill -- we can’t change who you are. It is vital to our company to find employees who align with why Nitro exists, not only what we do during our existence.”

Nitro CEO Pete Slade founded the company in 2009 in Tampa after years of experience as a programmer ad solution architect both here and in the UK. The company’s products include full-service mobile applications and platforms that can be fully customized and managed by customers, with no coding experience required. 

“Our mission is to empower our clients through mobility,” says Webber. “Our services have morphed overtime from building business applications, to including middleware, to offering a complete ecosystem atop a platform. Flexibility in our vision, especially in this industry, keeps us current and competitive.”

Could you be the right fit for Nitro? The company, which has nearly doubled in size in 2014 alone, focuses on organic growth and cultural fit when seeking new talent. 

“Being open to different personalities who can collaborate together is vital to our office culture, “explains Webber. “We play just as hard as we work—and we work extremely hard, so it’s important to find new employees who fit into the culture we’ve created.”

A few unique job perks include quirky office lighting like lava lamps, complimentary coffee, and healthy snacks. Creativity, innovation, and freedom to “think outside the box” are encouraged, Webber says.

“Nitro provides an environment in which our employees can exercise their creativity. We encourage our employees to make each project their own,” Webber says. “The freedom, trust and value given to each team member adds to our collective job satisfaction.”

USF teams receive grants to develop socially beneficial products

Five teams at the University of South Florida in Tampa were recently selected as part of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.

The program is designed to foster an environment within the science community that encourages the development of innovations that benefit society. Each I-Corps team receives a $50,000 grant designed to help determine the viability of their technology, product or process and, if viable, help transition them to the next level. Teams are developed from previously or currently funded NSF projects.

Five teams were selected from the University of South Florida, making it the largest grant receiver in Florida and ranking them third in the nation out of 153 total teams representing 91 universities.

One of the USF teams created software designed to increase quality control in the use of nanotechnology, or the act of manipulating atomic particles that leads to new discoveries in areas such as medicine and energy production. The software suite provides engineers with the ability to more easily identify defects, saving time and resources and improving quality.

The team wrote the software and enlisted the assistance of the USF Patent and Licensing office to receive a provisional patent. The next step is to use the grant funding to see if there a market for the tool as well as investigate its social impact.

"One of the goals is not to focus on your patent or technology, but where is the pain point? Why are people struggling?" says Sanjukta Bhanja, associate professor, Electrical Engineering at USF and principal investigator for the team.

The teams consist of USF faculty, researchers, graduate students and a mentor with entrepreneurial experience. NSH provides additional mentoring assistance as well as an immersive learning experience to help transition the research into feasible products or processes.

Other projects include a walking crutch/cane and a mobile health network.

Littlejohn engineering firm opens new office in Tampa

A national engineering firm specializing in transportation, urban planning, health and safety and community development opened its first office in Tampa in October.

Littlejohn was founded in Nashville in 1989 and has since grown to a national company with nine offices, including one in Orlando. Tampa Bay-based projects have historically been handled by the Orlando office, which opened in 2011. Recent growth has caused the company to open an office in Tampa for closer proximity to its customers and to manage future growth.

Projects already completed or currently underway in Tampa Bay include: Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville and Largo Free Standing Emergency Department (FSED) in Clearwater.

The Tampa and Orlando offices specialize in civil engineering, land planning, landscape architecture, economic development and transportation and traffic planning. The transportation design and planning in particular is what started the Tampa office, seeing the area primed for growth and opportunities.

"We wanted to introduce our transportation design capabilities into Florida through the Tampa Bay area," says Lennie Arnold, Florida Regional Manager for Littlejohn.

The firm recently brought on Senior Project Manager Marty Morlan to lead the Tampa office. The goal is to increase capacity within the next two to three months and then hire additional employees to manage the work.

"The workforce seems to be well established here," says Arnold, noting that a gap in experience level has been seen across the nation, mostly attributed to the recession. The company sees more people with the experience they are looking for to fill that gap in Tampa than in other areas.

8-Count Studios adds new twist to urban dance battles

Downtown Tampa’s newest renovated theater space turned dance studio hopes to revolutionize the way dance battles are run.

Traditionally, a ballroom or swing dance studio will host a recital to allow its students to show off their work, sometimes with a competition element. In the urban and hip hop scene, their version of a recital is referred to as a battle or jam. Jamming originated as an informal show-off of dance moves in a social circle, where dancers would clear a circle and then take turns displaying their best moves. In a battle, the circle becomes more formal and individuals or pairs of dancers pair off against each other in a competition-style event.

Most battles lack an element of formality, with different dance styles competing against each other. In a desire to formalize these events, 8-Count Studios on North Franklin Street in Tampa is hosting a Layer Cake Battle on January 3.

"We want to revolutionize how battles are run," says Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios.

The event is named Layer Cake Battle because of the layered judging that will be done in rounds. Using Donnelly’s sports dance background, the studio will introduce a bracket system that will list names of dancers on a board. Dance brackets include: popping and locking, wacking and voguing, breaking, and krumping. Each winner will progress to the next level with prizes awarded in each bracket until an ultimate Best of Show winner is announced.

"Dancing is a sport, so we’re treating it like a sport," says Donnelly. "Dancers are athletes; they are competitors."

Well-known choreographers and judges will be flown in from across the country. The event will also include workshops, vendors and a concert. Cash and other prizes will be given to the winners, as well as a private brunch session with the judges.

The event is open to the public. The price of admission is $20 per person.

BAMA offers scholarships to support manufacturing education

High school seniors looking into manufacturing careers have an opportunity to apply for a scholarship to continue their education.

The Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA) is offering three $1,000 scholarships to students in Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas County. Any student planning to continue his or her education at a technical, state or community college in a program that supports manufacturing industries is encouraged to apply.

BAMA has been providing the scholarships for over 20 years to students entering into a manufacturing field, which can include machining, welding and trade jobs as well as technical and engineering fields. The organization is partnering with Hillsborough Education Foundation and Pinellas Education Foundation to administer two of the scholarships in those counties.

The goal of the scholarship program is to support the local manufacturing workforce in an effort to support the industry. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 2,728 manufacturing companies in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County in 2013. Employment in manufacturing industries increased by 1.8% in Florida that same year.

"We want to promote education, and in turn to help manufacturing grow," says Becky Burton, association executive for BAMA. "Without continuing education for people going into manufacturing, you aren’t going to bring new industry here or help them fill the jobs they need in order to keep them here."

BAMA is a 100-member organization whose mission is to support manufacturing in the Tampa Bay region through growth and economic development efforts. Services include networks for idea exchange and support of local educational programs. BAMA hosts an annual awards ceremony that highlights local science fair winners and also supports the robotics team at Middleton High School in Tampa.

Special networking events for techies help make connections in the Tampa Bay area

Are you looking for a job in the tech industry? Networking with the attendees at Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay’s upcoming event could be your ticket to scoring an interview at a hot new startup or growing local company.

Likewise, businesses looking to invest in top regional talent for a freelance or full-time role might want to send a representative to The Getaway on December 4 for the Q4 Tech & Entrepreneur Peer Networking Event, hosted by CToTB.

Tech students, established entrepreneurs and those just starting out all mix, mingle and network at the quarterly events, which usually see around 300 attendees. Treats like free T-shirts, a tech-themed drink special and giveaways from Microsoft are all part of the draw. 

“We’re making great connections, especially with USF St. Pete and their Entrepreneur and tech programs,” explains CToTB founder Sylvia Martinez.

Martinez, a longtime Tampa resident, launched the staffing company in January 2014. With a background in business development, marketing and sales within the tech world, Martinez felt poised to fill a gap in Tampa Bay’s workforce: connecting skilled professionals with companies looking to make a new hire.
 
“It was a natural place for me, to help people find their dream job or find a connection that can lead them to doing great things. That’s really been my passion,” she says.

The business is largely based on a referral system from networking events within the Tampa Bay area – typically, Martinez or her contractors attend 2-3 per week. 

Too many of the events Martinez attended shared a similar theme: technical resources thought they were inundated with vendors, sales people and recruiters, and didn’t want to attend. So she started quarterly events for entrepreneurs to come together with no agenda besides networking amongst peers.

“It’s a safe zone to talk and collaborate. You meet people from all different technologies – Java, .Net, mobile – but who can all share experiences,” Martinez says.
 
Hillsborough County’s EDI2 program is helping CToTB fund some of the events. Both former Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made appearances in support of the event, which has provided tangible results already.

“Not only have I heard about great hires taking place, but I have also heard of people working on applications or creating products together,” Martinez says. 

“If you’re hiring and you want to collaborate with people that can help your company grow and succeed, come and meet people with the skill sets to help you obtain those goals,” says Martinez. “Our main initiative is to help small startups to mid-size companies build out their technical resources and teams. We like to recruit out of our network. Our tagline is ‘Put our network to work for you.’ “

Lighthouse Guidance Systems grows, adds COO

A growth stage software company in Tampa recently added a new COO in an effort to grow its services and client base.

Lighthouse Guidance Systems, Inc. was founded in 2012 by William Farragut. A graduate of Sickles High School and the University of South Florida in Tampa, Farragut developed the concept during his community work with teenagers. While helping a student with his college application, he realized how many variances there are among college admissions criteria. For instance, some colleges place more emphasis on a weighted GPA while others look more heavily at the basic GPA. It can be difficult for students to keep track of the varying requirements and establish an academic path early.

Farragut wanted to find a fresh, user-friendly way to use technology to help schools, parents and students master this and other nuances involved with educational processes. The company’ software product, Guidmii, provides a way to enhance communication and tracking to achieve this goal. Parents can track and receive announcements about GPA via text message. Schools can closely monitor academic performance and identify at-risk students early. Students are motivated by setting realistic, attainable academic goals.

The software is currently being used in all middle and high schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

They recently hired Pablo Godel as COO. Godel is a PHP development expert, having founded a PHO Hosting Company and currently co-organizing user groups in South Florida.

"We’re excited about Pablo because not only is he a seasoned developer, but is business-minded because he has owned his own company," says Lisa Farragut, Relationship Manager for Lighthouse Guidance Systems, Inc.

The company currently has three full-time employees in addition to contractors and interns and plans to hire more developers once funding is secured.

They are located at USF Connect, a business incubator at the University of South Florida that provides mentors and seasoned business executives to help start-ups and growing companies with their business models.

Life Prep event prepares youth for leadership, service

Rotary District 6890, which serves Hillsborough, Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties, is hosting a leadership skills and training seminar for youth in the Tampa Bay region.

The program is modeled after the Rotary’s Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders (S4TL) program, which provides a week-long leadership experience for high school juniors and seniors. For the last 30 years, the retreat has brought together 160 students each year to Florida Southern College in Lakeland for an intensive leadership development experience. After the success of this program, the Rotary decided to expand the concept in an effort to reach more students.

Life Prep is a half day leadership skills seminar developed in partnership with local colleges and universities. The event will take place November 15 at Keiser University in Tampa. High school juniors and seniors are invited to attend.

The free, interactive event will focus on leadership and college readiness. Students will work together in groups to learn what it takes to be a successful leader, how to achieve their dreams and how to find scholarships for college.

In an effort to further its mission of uniting leaders who then take action to help their communities, Rotary clubs host Interact clubs in local high schools, which is a high school version of Rotary. Rotarians noticed that students need leadership skills in order to be able to convince more people to become service-minded.

"We have the ability to help people learn more about being leaders," says Gary Gunter, Governor of Rotary District 6890. "It’s a natural thing once you’ve brought together all these leaders to help other people, especially young people, develop themselves so they can have a good career and a good future."

The Rotary plans to continue the Life Prep event on more college campuses after the pilot. "Hopefully this will grow into something that will help young people be better students, better leaders, and think more about their future, which helps everybody," says Gunter.

Air Animal Pet Movers helps ease stress of relocation

A Tampa-based company that built its reputation around transporting pets -- from tiny birds to giant horses -- across country when families move is adding jobs and expanding services due to growing demand.

Air Animal Pet Movers transports an average of 2,000 pets, mostly dogs and cats, each year. The company currently employs 15 staff, including two added recently. They also are outgrowing their 3,600-square-foot location on W. Cypress Street on Tampa and are looking for a new location.

Founded in 1969 by practicing veterinarian Walter Woolf and his late wife, Millie, Air Animal thrives by providing peace of mind while managing the moving process from start to finish. Moving anytime anywhere with a pet can be stressful, Woolf says, from researching the safest travel option to booking the actual accommodations. 

In the beginning, as part of his veterinary practice, Woolf worked with local airlines to provide services for pets arriving at night. In 1977, the company incorporated as a full service pet travel agency.

The company organizes pick-up of a pet at a residence or airport, handles all of the associated airline reservations and required paperwork, and ultimately delivers the pet to the final destination – whether it be a residence or an airport pick-up. They have transported pets to and from destinations across the world, from Lima, Peru to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Woolf’s experience with and knowledge about the relationship between pets and family members was the basis for getting into the business. He wanted to provide the safest, most humane way to minimize stress on families during relocation. "Today, the pet is a very, very cherished member of the family," says Woolf, Founder and Managing Director.

The company recently received the 2014 Impact Award from CARTUS, a relocation network they have been working with since 1994. The honor recognizes innovation and outstanding customer service.

Blind Tiger Cafe, CoWork Ybor open in Ybor City

The Blind Tiger Cafe has a cool factor that is part atmosphere, part architecture and part anomaly in the way that only a fusion boutique/coffee and tea bar/coworking space can be. 

Perched on the corner of 19th Street and 7th Avenue in Ybor City, the well-lit cafe invites passersby in with double doors propped open to the street. Twin, vividly orange tigers, blindfolded to represent the speakeasy tradition that inspired the cafe’s name, are painted on large glass picture windows overlooking the sidewalk.

Inside, a bigger tiger, this one in black, decorates the whitewashed brick walls across from the cafe counter.

Thick slabs of wood serve as high-top tables in the front of the room, where customers can linger after ordering lattes and cappuccinos, or a crumbly guava and cheese croissant; the back of the room is a boutique shop for Owner and Operator Roberto Torres’ apparel company, Black & Denim

Messenger bags mix with soft cotton tees, leather jackets and signature denim jeans. Soft leather wallets and iPad cases are stacked together on top of distressed Singer sewing tables or old trunks.

“We’re so excited to see the way it’s come together,” says Torres, “but there is still more to come.”
 
Murals and modern art from local artists will adorn the walls of both the cafe and the coworking space next door.

In the cafe, several pieces will showcase the different stages of coffee; in the coworking space, an assortment of tools, to inspire DIY creativity, will be painted across one wall.

One thing that’s conspicuously absent from the cafe, and the store as a whole: WiFi access. “Talk to each other. Call your mother!” a marquee sign reads.

Visitors who are interested in Internet access (donated by Verizon) can visit the coworking space next door, where an all-day pass is only $5. CoWork Ybor will open later in November. 

On Thursday, Nov. 13, the Blind Tiger Cafe will celebrate a grand opening, with beer from Coppertail Brewing and food from the Jerk Hut. The regular cafe menu includes Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea and Piquant pastries.

To learn more, visit the Blind Tiger Cafe Facebook page or CoWork Ybor

Tampa-based Vology gets ready to grow with new financing

Technology provider Vology, Inc. expects to accelerate its growth and potentially add 100 jobs in the next two years with $40 million in capital from a newly created senior credit facility financed by SunTrust Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Hancock Bank.

The IT solutions provider is one of the Tampa Bay area's largest privately owned companies, specializing in networking, data storage and technical services. The company's services are geared to help businesses get the maximum benefit from IT budgets. Company officials anticipate searching for new acquisitions over the next two years.

In 2013 Vology merged with Bayshore Technologies, Inc., and earlier this year acquired the California-based division of  Govplace, headquartered in Reston, Va. Govplace serves state, local and education customers.

The financial deal gives Vology a $15 million revolving line of credit, $15 million for acquisitions and a $10 million term loan. There also is an "accordion" option for up to $15 million of additional revolving or term loan commitments.

Vology was able to pay off an existing $15 million senior secured revolving line negotiated with Bank of America four years ago. 

This level of new financing gives Vology flexibility to move quickly when searching for new acquisitions, says CFO Steve Torres.

It gives Vology a nimbleness lacking in the previous financial agreement with BOA.

"This facility certainly provides that," he says. "It will help us create more jobs in the Tampa Bay area."

The greatest need as new jobs open up, across all of Vology's locations, will be in sales and technical engineering, Torres says.

Vology's history of doubling in size every two to three years is expected to continue, Torres adds, with growth fueled both organically within the company and through acquisitions.   

Vology is headquartered in Tampa but has sales and management offices in Syracuse, NY; Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Irvine and Austin, TX; and Oklahoma City, OK.

City of Tampa fast tracks Minority Business Certification Program

Minority business owners in Tampa now have an easier and quicker way to become certified, opening the door for increased exposure and business opportunities.

The Women/Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE)/Small Local Business Enterprise (SLBE) certification program allows women and minority businesses in Tampa to become certified and then placed on a list to enable them to bid for contract opportunities with the City. The program is free and open to businesses that have been in operation for a minimum of one year and who fill out an application and provide the required documentation.

Noting that the certification process can be difficult for some and can take up to 60 to 90 days to complete, The City of Tampa Mayor’s African American Advisory Council (MAAAC) partnered with the City of Tampa to create a fast-track option. Businesses that complete the program can become certified within one week.

The first in a series of events was held October 30 to help qualified businesses expedite the certification or recertification process. Experts assisted with the application process and also provided tips for navigating the City’s online system.

"It allowed us to learn what people actually needed," says Chandra Lee, MAAAC Chairperson. "We’re really excited about being able to help people to become certified with the city so they can get more procurement opportunities."

A total of 24 businesses attended the event, which MAAAC plans to repeat in the near future. Attendees included a fencing company, land development firm, a DJ and several consultants.

In addition to being able to bid on city projects, certified businesses are placed on a list for referrals that are received by the city. For example, a local hair dresser might be needed for a fashion show or concert that comes to town.

"They know if you’re certified, you’re a real business that they can trust and hire," says Lee.
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