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Florida Bookstore Day Celebrates Local Bookstores, Authors

Tiffany Razzano was driving down Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg when she spotted a poster in the storefront window at Daddy Cool Records promoting Record Store Day. She then drove past Wilson’s Book World and thought, "Why is there no bookstore day?"

She did some research only to learn that California is the only state that has fully developed the concept of a bookstore day.

So why not Florida? Why not now? she thought. The result?

The inaugural Florida Bookstore Day will take place at independent and used bookstores in cities throughout the state on November 15, concentrating on the Tampa Bay area, where Razzano runs Wordier Than Thou, a group that supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show.

"I wanted to do something big," says Razzano. "It’s a celebration of independent bookstores and the writing community. People won’t even know they’re at a literary event."

Her goal is to showcase local bookstores and the writing community. Soon after she started talking up the concept in social media and elsewhere, Razzano connected with book lovers in Orlando who wanted to be part of the celebration. Bookstores from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys have now signed on to participate. Expect a day of book releases and author signings, open mics and workshops on literary topics

Local participants include: Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Music, Old Tampa Book Company and Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Standup Librarians, Wilson’s Book World and Wings Bookstore in St. Petersburg, Book Bank in Largo and Back in the Day Books in Dunedin.

An after party will take place at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, featuring local authors and literary organizations, the Bluebird Books Bus, raffles and food trucks.

The event is sponsored by Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and also received a grant from Awesome Tampa Bay.
 
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tiffany Razzano, Florida Bookstore Day

Pinellas Tech Company Adds Local Jobs, Expands In California

A Tampa Bay area company and major player in the technology solutions provider market is expanding its West Coast presence while adding jobs locally.

Oldsmar-based Vology in Pinellas County has acquired a California division of Govplace, a value added reseller (VAR) to the federal government.

With the acquisition, Vology will need to create additional sales and engineering resources in Irvine, CA, along with additional back office staff in the Tampa Bay region to support them.

Vology will likely add between 100 to 120 "really good'' jobs in Florida over the next three years, says CEO Barry Shevlin.

The majority of the positions will likely be technical resources, with the average Vology employee earning "a bit over $75,000 per year,'' Shevlin says.

The company currently employs approximately 200 people in the Tampa Bay region, with plans to double its Florida business over the next three years.

"We're committed to the Tampa Bay area,'' says Shevlin. "It's a great place to work and live.''

Vology launched in Oldsmar in 2002 as Network Liquidators before rebranding in 2010. The company offers services like IT consulting and engineering, virtualization and storage, and end-to-end technological solutions. Vology has been ranked in the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. for eight consecutive years, beginning in 2006.

California is Vology's second largest market. Acquiring Govplace allows Vology to bring in the company's 18 years of experience exclusively serving state, local government and education (SLED) customers in California through enterprise IT solutions.

The Govplace acquisition also gives Vology a second physical location in California to support a growing customer base. Vology is headquartered in the Tampa Bay region, with current offices in Irvine, Sacramento, Syracuse, New York City, Denver, Austin, and Oklahoma City.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Barry Shevlin, Vology CEO

Webber Kerr Associates, Junior Achievement Partner To Guide Next Gen Business Leaders

A new partnership utilizes the knowledge and experience of a Tampa-based business to guide and educate local youth.

Webber Kerr Associates, an executive search and consulting firm based in Hyde Park, is partnering with Junior Achievement to provide financial support, mentoring and guidance.

Webber Kerr wanted to select a charitable organization to donate a percentage of search fees for every contract signed during 2014.

"Discussions kept coming back to children, education and preparing the next generation of leadership," says Emily Wagner, managing director for Webber Kerr.

The employees were particularly impressed with Junior Achievement’s mission, which is helping youth achieve skills in entrepreneurship, economics and financial literacy through real-world experience with business leaders.

In addition to the financial support, the company wanted to have a physical connection with the charity. They are allowing their employees paid volunteer time to participate in speaking engagements, mentoring programs as well as the Pam & Les Muma JA BIZTOWN, a mini city that contains up to 23 fictitious businesses to allow youth to experience economics in a real life setting. Students receive "jobs" such as accountant, retail sales representative and banker, and there’s even a city mayor.

A native resident of Dunedin and University of South Florida graduate, Wagner participated in BIZTOWN herself while in fifth grade. "I remember exactly what job I had and what a good experience it was." The experience left such a good impression, she wanted her company to play a major role in giving back to today’s youth in the same way.

"We have to be focused on children, their education and growing their careers, giving whatever we can, whether it be monetarily, guidance or mentorship" says Wagner, speaking about the business community in Tampa Bay. "The economic health of the entire area depends on it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emily Wagner, Webber Kerr Associates

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

Pinellas Academy Turns Artists Into Entrepreneurs

Do you want to turn your art into a business, but aren’t sure how to do it?

Artists in Pinellas County now have an opportunity to learn entrepreneurial and business skills through The Academy, an educational program from Creative Pinellas.

The six-week program focuses on strategic planning, financial skills, marketing, web presence and topics specific to different genres including visual arts, theater, film, dance and music. The program offers real-world, practical learning and experiences to help artists both in the short- and long-term.

For example, a musician might learn how to setup MP3s and market music online. A visual artist might learn how to create a circuit approach to selling work at art fairs. Artists in all genres will put together business plans and learn other aspects of running a company.  

Mentors will also spend individual time with participants to help them set goals and objectives. They will then follow up after the series concludes to provide long-term assistance.

"A program like this can help increase the sustainability of an artist and increase the chances of them staying in the area," says Hampton Dohrman, director of Creative Pinellas. "Through entrepreneurship, you can create your own opportunities. That’s the great thing about our area. You can find your own niche."

After the first series concludes, Creative Pinellas plans to create a virtual incubator with videos and tutorials available to the public.
 
The series will be offered three times per year. The first session of classes begins Tuesday, June 25, and continues weekly through July 30.  Applications are available online.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Hampton Dorhman, Creative Pinellas

New Alliance Aims To Support Tampa Bay Creatives

Do you work independently and want a way to connect with others for ideas? Are you wondering if it's possible to make a living as an artist or designer? Or maybe you're a musician or actor who wants to meet others in your field. Now there's a way for creative professionals in Tampa Bay to find camaraderie and support to help them make a living doing what they love.

Creatives' Alliance is a professional membership organization for established and aspiring creative professionals such as writers, musicians, painters, actors and actresses, dancers, film makers, tattoo artists, designers and photographers.

The group appeals to all creative disciplines, something that makes it unique in the Tampa Bay region. Strong professional circles exist for those in advertising, photography, architecture and the like. The new multidisciplinary alliance brings together everyone working in a creative field in order to form a more cohesive, collaborative community.

"I love the arts and have built my life on creative endeavors,'' says Aris MacInnes, countess of creativity for Imaginary Mind productions and founder of the Creatives’ Alliance. "I get so inspired by the culture we, as artists, create, and I am bothered by watching the struggles we face to be appreciated, supported and paid well.''

Offerings include mentoring, professional guidance, group brainstorming, coaching, training, industry benchmarks and collaborative tools.

The group's first event is a LaunchPad Workshop on January 19 from 9 am till noon at Keiser University in Tampa, which focuses on launching a freelance career, improving your focus and making contacts with like-minded people.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Aris MacInnes, Creatives' Alliance

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

Graduate Tampa Bay: More Degrees = More Income

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the number of Tampa Bay residents with a college degree increased by 1 percent from 32 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2010. This may not seem like a lot, but when viewed from an economic development perspective, it means a $4.6 billion increase in overall income, or close to $800 per person. 

The increase shows positive efforts compared with data from the previous two years, both of which showed a less than 1 percent decrease in overall attainment.

This data provides motivation for Graduate Tampa Bay (GTB), an initiative launched in early 2012 that aims to see an even larger increase. GTB is a collaborative effort involving business leaders, government, university and nonprofit organizations who value talent development in the region.

“If we want to be competitive, we must collaborate as one,” says Ken Atwater, president of Hillsborough Community College and chair of the Graduate Tampa Bay Advisory Council.

Tampa Bay is also competing with more than 50 other metropolitan areas for a $1 million prize that will be awarded to the region that increases the number of college degrees the most over a three-year period. The competition ends in 2013, but GTB plans to continue its efforts in future years.

Graduate Tampa Bay is gathering information about employers in the Tampa Bay region, and specifically the programs available for their employees to attend school.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Green Townhome Development To Open In Dunedin

A new housing project is underway in Dunedin, which promises to be a green alternative to traditional housing. The project is being led by Planet Green Group, and according to the company’s CEO, the Eco Village at Dunedin will be the first affordable net zero energy townhome development in the nation.  

“The homes are projected to be completed early 2013 and have all the units occupied immediately,” says Paavo Salmi, CEO of Planet Green Group. “We currently have over 100 people on the waiting list to buy one of these homes.''

The development will include 25 townhomes with numerous green features.

“The home engineering began with designing an extremely tight building envelope complimented with the latest technology in insulation, low-e windows and energy efficient appliances,” Salmi says. “These homes represent every aspect of the lastest energy efficiency technologies available today.”

Salmi says the homes are part of the GE Ecomagination program, and all of the homes will be equipped with an energy management system that controls the appliances maximizing their energy efficiency. The management system is designed to lower overall household energy use, emissions on the power grid, indoor water consumption and related energy costs.

The Eco Village at Dunedin will be located at MLK and Lorraine Leland Street. Each home will be a two-story townhouse ranging from 1,100 to 1,500 square feet with a projected price of $135,000 to $175,000.

This project is going to change the way affordable housing will be built in the future,” Salmi says. “It is already gaining national attention and we are extremely excited to make this project a reality.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Paavo Salmi, Planet Green Group

Miss Gay USA Emcees Wearable Art Event, Dunedin

The annual Wearable Art event and fashion show in Dunedin will take place August 11th. The unique and innovative show is in its eighth year, and showcases wearable creations fashioned by local artists and designers. The event, which is hosted by the Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC), has historically been well attended and this year is expected to sell out with nearly 1,000 attendees.

Wearable Art is a great opportunity for experienced fashion designers to show their newest to a large and enthusiastic audience, says Ken Hannon, associate executive director of the Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd. “It’s also for artists who traditionally work in other media to stretch their creative wings down the runway.”
 
Local artists expected to participate in the show include Rocky and Kathleen Bridges, Johnny Hunt, Mark Byrne, Scott Durfee, George Medeiros, the Garden Fairies, Michael Dellas Penna and Rogerio Martins.
 
Hannon says this year will be especially fun because they have Natasha Richards, former Miss Gay USA, as an emcee, the band Woolly Bushmen performing, and a new director for the event.

“We have Meg Huntley as this year’s director,” Hannon says. “Meg came to DFAC from Disney corporate in Los Angeles and brings an exciting new aesthetic to the event.”

The pre-party starts at 7 p.m., the runway show starts at 8:30 p.m. and an after-party will follow. Tickets for general admission are $20, with reserved seating rates at $35 or $75.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Ken Hannon, Dunedin Fine Art Center

Early Learning Initiative Aims To Help At-Risk Children, Pinellas County

The Juvenile Welfare Board (JWB) has announced a program that will help at-risk youth in Pinellas County. The JWB Quality Early Learning initiative is in the early stages of development, and is looking for partners to serve as quality providers of childcare and education to children ages 2 months to five years.

“We have been funding childcare for many years, however, we haven’t been seeing the results we would like for preparing children for school,” says Matt Spence, senior program consultant at the JWB. “Our goal with this program is to move from a childcare model to a learning model.”

According to Spence, the JWB is focused on serving five priority areas in the county. Those areas include, south St. Pete (zip codes 33705, 33711 and 33712), North Greenwood in Clearwater (33755, 33756), the High Point area (33760), east Tarpon Springs (34689) and the unincorporated area of Lealman (33709, 33713,33714, 33781).

Karen Sierra, also a senior program consultant at the JWB says that potential clients will be identified as early as possible, even before birth.

“Our nurse program that works with moms and moms-to-be, as well as the Healthy Start program in Pinellas will be partners in helping identify families that have at-risk factors that we look for.”

Spence says that the next step in the process is finding quality providers who can serve these at-risk children. Providers can submit a letter of interest via the JWB website.

“We are not just looking for one provider necessarily,” Spence says. “If there is an organization out of state that wants to come in and partner with us, or a nonprofit group in another part of Florida, we are open to considering them and splitting up the partnership. We have the funding; we just need quality partners to provide the services.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Matt Spence and Karen Sierra, JWB

Virtual Job Fair For Youth Seeking Employers, Tampa Bay

The Suncoast Workforce of Sarasota, in partnership with WorkNet Pinellas and several other Tampa Bay area workforce organizations, will hold a virtual job fair for youth starting May 13th and running through May 19th. The live week-long event will be free for job seekers and is catered to the younger demographic, ages 14-24.

“Businesses can benefit from a younger worker's perspective and new ideas,” says Sally Hill, communications director of Suncoast Workforce. “They tend to be open to learning and they thrive on coaching and mentoring from others. Youth are the workforce of the future.”

This is the second consecutive year for the virtual event that spans six counties. Other workforce organizations include Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance in Hillsborough, Career Central in Pasco, Junior Achievement of West Central Florida, the Pinellas Education Foundation, and Tampa Bay area public school districts and colleges.
 
Unlike a traditional job fair, where businesses set up booths and employers and job seekers engage in formal exchanges, the virtual job fair is done completely online in a much less ceremonial fashion. Employers will post their open positions and job seekers can browse jobs and apply during the week-long event. The virtual environment also takes pressure off employers to hire on the spot.

“Employers have the option to review candidate resumes at their leisure and they can decide whether to interview candidates by phone or in person before making their hiring decision,” Hill says.

Hill says that there is still time for employers to participate in the job fair and they would like more businesses to register. Businesses interested in virtually attending the job fair can register by visiting this link.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Sally Hill, Suncoast Workforce

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

Fireleaf Design In Tarpon Springs To Create 3 Jobs

Fireleaf Design, a creative graphic design and marketing services company in Tarpon Springs, plans to grow and hire three additional staff in 2012. The small company was founded by Alan Brusky, who is a graphic designer and marketer himself.

Fireleaf officially became incorporated in June 2011, however, I was freelancing for about three years before that,” says Brusky.  “We offer graphic design, branding, website design and development, as well as social media consultation. ”

Due to his company’s success, Brusky recently moved business operations from his home office into a dedicated workspace in downtown Tarpon Springs. As his business continues to grow, so will the company’s headcount.

“My goal is to stay small and continue helping small businesses but I will need more staff,” Brusky says. “This year I would like to bring on a designer, a web developer and possibly a service representative or office manager.”

His focus on small businesses is exactly what Brusky attributes to his company’s success.

“I have a real dedication to helping my clients,” he says. “We only work with four to five clients at a time and they don’t go anywhere else. I have clients who have been with me for many years way before becoming incorporated.”

Brusky is also passionate about his company’s location.
.
“Tarpon Springs is a great city for small business,” he says. “The chamber of commerce, which I am a member of, is working hard to bring in young entrepreneurs, especially in the downtown area. It’s a great place to be. ”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Alan Brusky, Fireleaf Design

Federal Grant To Add 8 Bus Hybrids In Pinellas

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) was recently notified that it would receive a $5 million grant to be used to replace eight of the least fuel-efficient buses in its aging fleet.

The grant money is coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and is a part of the Federal Transit Administration’s State of Good Repair program. The PSTA will use the money to replace its oldest buses with hybrid models.

“The hybrids are a citizen favorite because they cut emissions across the board, most by 90 percent,” says Bob Lasher of the PSTA. “The hybrids not only save taxpayers money for operational funding, but cut America’s dependence on foreign oil as well. ”

The old PSTA buses that will be replaced are 13 years old, and the new diesel-hybrid buses are expected to arrive in approximately one year. Once the new buses arrive, one out of every six buses in the 200-bus fleet will be a diesel-electric hybrid. The PSTA, which now serves 41,000 customers daily, plans to eventually have an all hybrid model fleet in the future.

“Fleet replacement is ongoing,” Lasher says. “Should the board of directors continue approving the purchase of hybrids in the years to come, and no other better technology comes along in the meantime, our fleet should be nearly all hybrids by around 2021. ”

In addition to the implementation of diesel-hybrid buses, the PSTA has purchased hybrid sedans for its supervisory and other support vehicles. Other green initiatives include recycling sludge, waste oil and metal from the fleet, using low-flow irrigation systems and reclaimed water, as well as a bus washing facility that recycles and filters water to protect the groundwater supply.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Bob Lasher, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)
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