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Urban Conga Transforms Downtown Parking Spaces On National Park(ing) Day

On September 19, a handful of metered parking spaces in downtown Tampa will take on a different purpose.  Instead of cars, you’ll find car parts, art and musicians.

As part of National Park(ing) Day, Urban Conga, a group of local creatives who promote community awareness through the use of play, will be taking over random parking spaces and turning them into parks. The goal is to encourage less driving and more walkability in the downtown area.

National Park(ing) Day is a worldwide event that began in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio. The idea is for artists and activists to create debate about how urban space is allocated by transforming parking spaces into temporary public spaces. The event is now a global movement, with 162 cities in 35 countries expected to participate this year.

Urban Conga collaborated with University of South Florida art student Maeghann Coleman to design the spaces in downtown Tampa. The music-themed area will feature old tires and other car parts that can be used to make music, as well as a musical bench with piano keys. Jazz musicians from USF will also participate.

"It’s the idea of tactical urbanism," says Ryan Swanson, co-founder of Urban Conga. "We want to bring people there, not only to hang out but also to play."  

The Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Florida) recently ran a statewide parklet competition, in which Urban Conga received second place for their design. The $1200 prize will be used to fund the project. The City of Tampa is also supporting the project through the allocation of the parking spaces for the day.

Urban Conga is also promoting collaboration by asking people to send in pictures of what they’re doing in their areas.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ryan Swanson, Urban Conga

SMARTstart Business Incubator In Pasco Expands Services, Space

Startups and growing businesses in Pasco County will soon have more opportunities for learning, development and shared space.

The SMARTstart Business Incubators in Dade City and New Port Richey provide free workshops and classes, monthly roundtables, networking events and coworking space for entrepreneurs in Pasco County.

The Dade City incubator opened in July of 2013 and has already helped create 42 jobs with a total of 65 additional ones projected over the next two years. Four additional offices were recently added to the space, with another 3,800 square feet expected that will include an additional conference room and kitchen.

The 9,000-square-foot New Port Richey facilitate opened in June and plans are to expand with an additional 3,000 of space pending city approval. The space currently includes a large classroom and coworking space, and the expansion will mean more office suites as well as space for events such as pitch sessions.

During the opening of the New Port Richey incubator, the Pasco EDC was presented with a $50,000 sponsorship from Florida High Tech Corridor Council and University of South Florida which will help fund the expansion. Funds will also be used to invest in additional technology and support staff.

"It’s been kind of a rocket approach, which is really exciting," says Krista Covey, program director and economic development manager for the SMARTStart program. "We’ve had a lot of success stories, even as early as we are in the process."

The incubators are a project of the Pasco Economic Development Council, whose goal is to help new and growing businesses in Pasco County. According to a study from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, 87 percent of businesses who graduate from an incubator program remain in business after five years, compared with 20 percent who don’t.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Krista Covey, Pasco Economic Development Council

Pecha Kucha V15: Engaging, Enlightening, Inspiring

Creatives, designers, students and community advocates will convene at the Tampa Museum of Art September 5 to hear unique ideas and experiences that make Tampa Bay a better place.

The event is Pecha Kucha, named for a Japanese term for "chit chat."

Speakers will talk for just over six minutes about something they are passionate about. In an effort to keep things interesting and moving, the format is 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds each. In true "anything goes" style, speakers don’t know much about the participants ahead of time, and vice versa. Speaker names are released, but topics remain unknown until the event.

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay is held four times a year and begins with an hour of socializing, followed by an hour of presentations.

"As always, there is no theme," says Ken Cowart, the event’s organizer. "It’s a mixed bag of creative people sharing their ideas."

Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios at the Rialto, plans to speak about her experience as an entrepreneur renovating historic space in downtown Tampa. She first attended Pecha Kucha V13 in November of 2013 and immediately knew it was something she wanted to be a part of.

"It’s a sincere, organic way to connect with interesting people," says Donnelly. "It’s really engaging and human, and I love that!"

Other presenters at Volume 15 include:
  • John Denger. Director and advocate at The Well
  • Marcus DeSieno. USF art student
  • Tony DeSisto. Founder of Citizinvestor, a kick starter for cities and public projects
  • Courtney McCalden. Graphic designer
  • Sarah Ogdie, Community Tampa Bay
  • Jim Reiman. Photographer, art professor and founder of SwedeFest Tampa
  • Mark Weston, Architect and digital fabrication professor at USF

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Hope Donnelly, Rialto

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

Working Women Of Tampa Bay Expands Statewide

A Tampa-based networking group for female professionals and entrepreneurs is expanding throughout Florida.

Working Women of Florida is an expansion of the Working Women of Tampa Bay professional networking group, which Jessica Rivelli founded in Tampa in 2009. WWoTB currently has 750 local members in Tampa, with an additional 100 statewide. The group expanded to include an Orlando chapter in 2012.

"Our immediate goal is to grow Working Women throughout the state of Florida to includes chapters in Fort Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville,'' says Rivelli.

Events include lunch-and-learns, coffee chats and educational seminars with local and national successful female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.

The group's second annual state conference will be Sept. 11 and 12, 2014, at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. Rivelli expects 300 female entrepreneurs and executives from around the state to attend.

Keynote speakers include Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer for the state of Florida; Bevan Gray-Rogel, Encore Tampa Bay president and founder; Lisa G Jacobsen, Executive Coach at Workplace Solutions Tampa; and Dr. Jennifer Hall, Director of Coaching at the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College.

Tampa Bay-based speakers also include Angela Ardolino, founder of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine; Dotty Bollinger, COO and president of Laser Spine Institute; and Lee Lowry, past president of The Junior League of Tampa.

Registration for the Working Women of Florida State Conference is available on the event website.

To help grow WWoF, Rivelli hired Lauren Tice as Director of Development for Working Women of Florida. Tice is a Florida native who grew up in Temple Terrace, northeast of Tampa, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Communications.

"Lauren's role is to expand Working Women through out the state,'' says Rivelli. “She'll be traveling regularly to grow chapters and get talented professionals involved. I'm very excited to have her on board.''

Tice has a background in networking and communications, having previously served as Coordinator of Member Services for the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce for close to five years. More recently, Tice worked as events manager and eventually director of The Regent, a special events and performance venue in Riverview, southeast of Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Jessica Rivelli, Working Women of Tampa Bay

Programming Academy The Iron Yard Expands To Tampa Bay

A new school for programmers is coming to Tampa Bay this fall. The Iron Yard Academy, an intensive 12-week-long training program, is set to open its doors in downtown St. Petersburg in September 2014.

The programming school will be located "within walking distance of some of the best local spots in town,'' says George Junginger, campus director for the Iron Yard's Tampa Bay location.

Aspiring developers can apply to either Rails or Front End Engineering courses. The cost for each 12-week course is $10,000. Part of this price tag includes mentoring, job placement after course completion and career support.

The Iron Yard Tampa Bay staff has already begun to build partnerships with local software and tech companies, including Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay.

"[CToTB] founder and CEO Sylvia Martinez is on our Employer Advisory Board, and will work closely with our staff to help us develop our program in a way that's best for Tampa Bay area companies,'' says Junginger.
  
A full staff, including two Tampa natives, has been hired to run the Tampa Bay branch of the Greenville, S.C.-based startup school. The Iron Yard has 10 other locations scattered through the country, mostly in the southeast. Tampa Bay is the second Florida location for the startup school; the other is in Orlando.

Brian Burridge, a Safety Harbor resident who attended St. Petersburg College, is set to be Rails instructor. Burridge is the CEO and founder of Commendable Kids. Justin Herrick, a Tampa resident who is a self-taught programmer, is Front End instructor.

Students in the Rails program will be taught Ruby on Rails (a popular framework for building servers) and develop skills to manage databases. Front End Engineering students will learn skills to create attractive, functional websites and applications.

The Iron Yard is currently accepting applications for classes, which are slated to begin September 22nd, 2014. Each course will be capped at 15 students per 3-month session.

"We chose to start small, so that we'd maintain the level of quality we know employers are looking for in developers,'' says Junginger, who expects both courses to fill. A few applicants have already been accepted.

The Iron Yard Academy welcomes students from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels.

"We're looking for a pre-existing mindset, not necessarily a pre-existing skill set,'' says Junginger. "The five attributes of the optimal Iron Yard student are: passion for solving problems with technology; genuine enjoyment of the craft of programming; genuine desire to have a career in or related to programming; extremely strong work ethic; and an ability to learn quickly,'' he explains.
 
Before searching for a space, the Iron Yard began conversations with leaders in the local tech community. The feedback is clear, says Junginger: "Everyone has been extremely excited about what we are bringing to the tech economy in the area and sees it as a need.''
 
Free programming classes for kids aged 7-17 will be offered later in 2014.

"There are great resources for startups in Tampa, and we want to support the people doing that work by training great developers,'' says Junginger. "We're privileged to play a part in the growing Tampa Bay tech scene.''
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: George Junginger, The Iron Yard

How To Create A Custom Song For Your Special Event

When a couple wanting to have a baby got the news that they were expecting, the sister of the mother-to-be commemorated the event in a uniquely modern way: by requesting a custom song for the new family.
 
CustomSong, an entrepreneurial startup based in the Tampa Bay region, brings musicians from around the world together on one website. Customers can request an artist or have one assigned to create a personalized piece of music for a special event, from birthdays to baby showers. Choose between a range of styles like acoustic guitar, soft romantic piano and full band.

Songs can be gifted or earmarked for a specific event, like the parent's dance at a wedding or a custom birthday tune. Customers fill in the details for lyrics, communicating directly with the artist via the Custom Song platform. Once lyrics are finalized and approved, the artist will record the song.

"It's a song that is truly original and personal, created just for you,'' says Custom Song cofounder Heather Andrews of Tampa. "It really helps create a special moment.''

Andrews, a graduate of James Madison University in Virginia, and co-Founder Kristina Anderson of Clearwater, a USF grad, operate CustomSong out of their home offices, local co-working spaces and coffee shops.   

If you are making a video or photo montage of the event, says Andrews, your custom song is a natural soundtrack.

CustomSong began in 2013 and launched in summer 2014, but Andrews had the idea in mind for years. The personalized event product concept was inspired by Custom Ink, where Andrews previously worked.

"Working there and making these custom shirts for special events, I saw that customers were so happy with them,'' says Andrews. "Being a part of a business where you can create something specifically for a customer that gets them excited, I was in search of, 'what can I do to be in that area of business?' ''

Despite a self-professed inability to carry a tune, Andrews and Anderson decided to try the world of music-making. They began to notice that while some individual artists were offering custom songs, they were struggling when it came to things like turnaround and customer service.
 
"They just want to create good quality music,'' Andrews says. "We thought there was a good opportunity there to create the platform, be the business side of it, and manage all of the back-end details for a site where artists could offer their services.''
 
The site standardizes things like pricing, quality, song length and turnaround time (two weeks).

"We give both the customer and the artist a guarantee, something to feel confident and comfortable with,'' says Andrews.
 
Sample songs are available on the CustomSong website.
 
From online research to attending Open Mic nights, scouting new talent is an aspect of Custom Song that Andrews and Anderson are discovering takes time.

A small number of musicians from the United States and the UK are currently active on the site. The cofounders plan to expand into other areas and attract more foreign-language speaking artists.
 
"We're trying to grow more artists, but to do it carefully and slowly. We want to make sure the artists also have a great experience,'' says Andrews. "The platform is very targeted to customers, but it's also a channel for artists to earn additional income. We want to find people who have creativity and talent, and work with them one-on-one to make sure that they fit with our model.''

Interested in creating music with Custom Song? Sign up here.

The most rewarding aspect of the process for Andrews is knowing that custom songs are a part of moments like weddings or expecting a new baby.

"I don't know the couple, but just knowing the background story, it touches me,'' she says. "It's amazing to be part of creating these songs for those big events in life.''

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Heather Andrews, CustomSong

So You Want To Be A Nurse? New Training Program Takes Only 16 Months

The employment outlook for registered nurses will grow by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022 nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth is fueled by many things, including an increase in the need for preventative care and the aging baby boomer population. The need is particularly strong in Florida, where the Florida Center for Nursing predicts a shortage of 56,000 nurses will occur by 2025.

New York’s Utica College plans to help address these needs with a new nursing program in St. Petersburg.

The idea came about as some of the college’s retired faculty living in the Tampa Bay area noticed the region’s growing healthcare industry.

"It seemed particularly important to us, given that we see different ways people can earn a nursing degree as a strategy for helping the residents of Florida," says Dale Scalise-Smith, VP of Utica College’s School of Online and Extended Studies and External Partnerships.  

An innovative aspect of the program is its accelerated format, allowing someone with a Bachelor’s Degree in a subject other than nursing to enter the profession in 16 months. This is made possible because of the hybrid classroom and online delivery system which includes both classroom and lab work as well as clinical experiences.

"We really wanted to find innovative ways to deliver high quality education programs in a collaborative environment," says Scalise-Smith.

The intention is not to compete with, but rather complement existing programs to help fill the vacancies. Through an agreement with BayCare Health Systems, Utica plans to utilize evening and weekend slots at local hospitals for the clinical experience component, allowing the daytime slots to be available for other programs.

The college is repurposing 8,000 square feet of space at 9400 4th St. North in St. Petersburg to include a lab, classroom, student lounge and faculty and administrative offices.

A number of new positions will be created as a result of the program, including full-time faculty, student success coaches and administrative positions such as the director of academic services who will oversee both teaching and academic domains.

The first class begins in August, with an expected enrollment of 16.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dale Scalise-Smith, Utica College

All Children's Research To Focus On Community, Plans To Add 300+ Jobs

A new education and research center and grassroots community programming will address current and long term health needs of children in St. Petersburg and beyond.

All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine recently purchased land adjacent to its current building in downtown St. Petersburg to expand its research and training facilities. The primary focus of the new center will be in neurosciences, cancer and cardiac research and disease. The facility will support an expanded residency and medical student program, as well as training for nurses and other allied health professionals.

"The facility will attract and support a number of PhD and Masters-level researchers, physicians and clinical scientists that will contribute to our vision to be able to cure and better treat disease, particularly for chronic populations," says Bill Horton, senior VP of strategic business services for All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The property was purchased from the University of South Florida (USF), which was a natural fit given the existing relationship the hospital has with the USF Children’s Research Institute, where scientists from both organizations collaborate.

The center will also strengthen the medical research corridor that is developing in St. Petersburg including USF, USF St. Petersburg, Bayfront Health Systems, Florida Blue’s Healthbox Accelerator Program and entrepreneurial incubator biotech firms developing in the Tampa Bay area.

"There’s a thriving academic research environment in this corridor," says Horton. "It’s a tremendous synergy that feeds and supports one another in the cross-development of this scientific work."

An estimated 300 to 400 new jobs will be created in as a result of the expansion. The development for the new property will be funded through philanthropy and grants. The facility is expected to open in 2018 or 2019.
   
The hospital is also working with the community at large to address critical issues in the short-term, such as infant mortality and childhood obesity. Grassroots education programs and interventions are being developed in collaboration with the City of St. Petersburg, in addition to changes in public policy to improve the overall health of the community.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bill Horton, All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine

Sarasota Welcomes Heated Exchange Art Exhibit, French Connection

Art Center Sarasota hopes to engage locals and tourists alike with its 2014-15 exhibition series.

The series kicks off October 23 with a traveling exhibit titled Heated Exchange, which features encaustic art, or arts made of molten wax using heated tools. This little known art process can be used for painting, sculptures and other mediums.

The biggest exhibition of the season will be unveiled in May. Titled "Confluence France," the display is part of an 8-year series showcasing artwork and artists from regions and countries where Sarasota has a sister city. Sister Cities International pairs cities with those in other countries with whom they share interests, whether it be due to historical connections, a trade relationship, strong expatriate communities or personal experiences. Sarasota has nine sister cities in all, with this exhibit focusing on Perpignon France. The confluence series began in 2013 with a focus on Tel Mond, Israel.

"We’re finding ways to mutually benefit and grow each other’s municipalities," says Emma Thurgood, exhibitions curator for Arts Center Sarasota.

The series is the first international exhibition for the Center.

The Center is also running a community project allowing people to create pieces of paper installation that will be featured in galleries as part of a Collective Paper Aesthetics exhibit in May and June 2015.

The over 20 exhibitions taking place in the next year were funded in part by a Tourist Development Center (TDC) grant awarded by the Sarasota County Commission, designated for tourist development.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emma Thurgood, Art Center Sarasota

KeriCure Invisible Bandage Expands Product Line, Seeks Capital Funding

A Wesley Chapel based business is expanding its product line and seeking additional funding to increase its sales force and market presence.

KeriCure is a proprietary invisible bandage product that provides a natural, safe, effective way to heal topical wounds. The product uses a unique nanoparticle emulsion technology to mimic the skin’s natural healing properties.

CEO and Founder Kerriann Greenhalgh, PhD an organic chemist and University of South Florida graduate, created the product after being personally affected by inadequate over the counter wound care. Her husband contracted a serious MRSA infection from a small cut on his hand and almost lost the use of his entire hand. Her chemistry background led her to create an innovative solution that is now available for public use.

The company launched in August 2012 and has products for both veterinary and human use available in retail stores such as Amazon, Vitamin Discount Centers, Publix and Earth Origins as well as online.

They recently launched a Series A Fundraise, seeking funding to grow their market presence and expand their product line, with particular focus on the healthcare space. FDA clearance is currently being sought for the advanced liquid bandage, which will be used by physicians to protect surgical incisions.  

"We’re looking to capitalize on the success we had the first two years," says Greenhalgh.

They are also looking to add additives to the natural product line such as vitamin E and tea tree oil.

Kericure was a recent participant in the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Startup Scholars program, which is cited as a big contributor to success. As a result of that program, Greenhalgh helped start a local networking group called the Consumer Products Club, which supports local businesses with shared resources, services, opportunities and ideas for marketing and distribution channels.  

"We’re all working together and seeing growth across the board for everybody,” says Greenhalgh. “Each person is bringing unique experiences and successes to the table."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kerriann Greenhalgh, KeriCure

Health Insurance Innovations Announces Acquisition, Expansion

With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the demand for information about health insurance products has increased dramatically. Consumers often turn to websites to help them navigate the insurance space and learn about available options.

A recent acquisition by Tampa-based Health Insurance Innovations (HII) aims to capitalize on this need and provide more reliable, easily understood information for consumers.  

HII is a cloud-based technology platform that links health insurance agents with consumers to provide quotes and sell customized, flexible insurance plans. Silicon Valley-based HealthPocket is a data aggregation technology that provides a repository of health insurance information for consumers to view and purchase, including both private and government-funded options. The website allows consumers to rank available plans by price, doctor or other factors such as prescription drug needs.

The merging of the two companies will provide even more customized services for consumers to help navigate often confusing information about health insurance options.

HII plans to use the acquisition to fuel the company’s growth and competitive advantage, including sales and continuing the track record of success. The company is taking over additional office space in their Tampa location and will eventually expand their local employee base.

"Consumers will be engaged with the tools and data to help them make better and more informed decisions which lead to lower annual healthcare costs," says Kevin Coleman, head of research and data for HealthPocket. "We really hope to empower the consumer to make the best decisions."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Kevin Coleman, HealthPocket; Mike Kosloske, HII

On Tampa Bay's Radar: A New Exercise App To Help You Get Fit

Do you spend a lot of time traveling for work or constricted in a home office? The new iOS app Fittr could be your fitness solution.

Initially developed as a workout service for people at home with limited equipment, Fittr now features unique workouts suitable for home, the gym, a park or a hotel room.

Fitness is a fast-growing niche market for purveyors of mobile applications. From exercise apps designed for your smartphone or tablet to app-based nutritional databases, there is no shortage of opportunity to exercise with the help of a hand-held device.

The Tampa Bay-based startup team behind Fittr plans to distinguish itself from the competition in a few ways.

"The noticeable difference between our workouts and our competition is that ours is a 1-2-3 punch: It's adaptive on the run, it learns from the user over time, AND learns from the data of the entire group,'' says Fittr's Chief Marketing Technologist Kiki Schirr. "Here's an example: Don't want to do squats today? Swap it. Swap squats a few times and we'll stop suggesting it,'' Schirr explains.

Once the app learns the habits and likes or dislikes of your age group or weight range, it will aim to offer tailored suggestions that take the data into account.

In addition to adaptive fitness routines, the Fittr app utilizes a motivational point system that rewards users who increase workout difficulty or length over time. Exercises that earn a certain number of points on day one earn less on day four unless you up the intensity or number of reps. To boost your overall Fittr score (and to get a more well-rounded workout), you'll have to change things up. Points are calculated based on a variety of factors, including your personal fitness level as well as data from the overall set.

Once opened, the application prompts you to answer a few questions about your fitness level and workout habits. Choose between goals like Lose Weight, Get Cut and Get Stronger. Track metrics that matter to you, whether it's weight lost or inches gained. Plug in preferences and custom information like the type of equipment you have available on a given day.
Fittr CEO Tyler Perkins, an athlete and ACE-certified personal trainer, designed the foundation of every Fittr workout.

New users can download the app and enjoy a free one-week trial of built-in exercises. After that, it's $11.99 per month to join the workout service. Multi-month packages will be available soon, Schirr says.

Along with Schirr and Perkins, Fittr's team includes Chief Design Officer and Project Manager Nolan Perkins and CTO Seo Townsend.

The first version of Fittr was released during a launch party on July 16 at Tampa Bay WaVE. A Fundable campaign for Fittr also opened that day.

Post-launch plans include adding nutrition content and building an Android-compatible application.

"After nutrition, we'll be adding social aspects. After social aspects, it's device integration. Then social round two, then adding niche exercises, then more devices, and then... we have so many wonderful things planned for this app!'' Schirr says.

The startup team was recently accepted to Tampa Bay WaVe's FirstWAVE accelorator program.

"Fittr is incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that the Tampa Bay area has provided. From the [Hillsborough County] EDI2 initiative, Tampa Bay Innovates, Ignite Tampa Bay, StartupGrind (http://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/grind042214.aspx), TBTF, or Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, everyone has welcomed us with open arms,'' says Schirr. "However, we owe an even deeper debt of gratitude to Tampa Bay WaVE, which has provided us access to amazing mentors and other startups who've been there before.''

"Tampa is full of great opportunities for startups,'' Perkins agrees. "We're grateful for all the support of the Tampa Bay community.''
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Kiki Schirr, Chief Marketing Technologist, Fittr

Omega Communities, Sarasota Churches To Develop Senior Living Communities, Create 300 Jobs

Omega Communities, a Birmingham, Ala.-based organization that develops senior living communities on land leased in partnership with faith-based organizations, is bringing its unique business model to Florida's Gulf coast.

Omega is partnering with the Church of Hope in Sarasota and the South Biscayne Church in North Port to develop two assisted living and memory care campuses in Sarasota County.

Omega works with qualified investors in the financing, development and operation of senior care facilities, which are built on land leased by local faith-based organizations. In return, the churches receive a percentage -- between 10 and 25 percent -- of the profit generated by the senior living communities.

"These senior living communities are designed from the inside out. What that means is they are built with a core mission -- a partnership with a large, community impacting church -- and that foundation becomes the center of not only the design of the facility, but more importantly, the core programmatic level of care that will be provided in that community,'' says Omega Communities COO James Taylor, Jr.

Taylor says that the project cost on each Sarasota County facility is just over $30 million, and that once both facilities are completed, the economic impact on Sarasota County is estimated to be in excess of $30 million per year.

The Springs at South Biscayne Church broke ground in January 2014, and the project is expected to reach completion in early spring 2015. The 11,000-square-foot facility will feature 38 memory care units and 95 assisted living units.

The Fountains of Hope broke ground in Sarasota earlier this month (July), with an estimated completion date in fall 2015. Between 150 to 200 jobs will be created during the construction phase, and upon completion, the 9,000-square-foot facility will require 100 fulltime employees.

"We have built a model that utilizes the very best of both the nonprofit and for-profit models for senior care communities. At the core, we've developed a partnership with the church that will provide ministry, volunteers and marketing … to provide a vital resource for the local community,'' says Taylor.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: James Taylor, Jr., Omega Communities

Quest Diagnostics Opens National Center In Tampa, Creates 350 Jobs

Quest Diagnostics will provide about 350 jobs at the new diagnostics center that is now open in Tampa near Busch Gardens.

Job positions are in customer service, logistics and human resources. Company officials anticipate hiring will continue through 2015. Some of those jobs will be subsidized with state and local funds.

The 48,000-square-foot facility, at 10441 University Center Drive, will provide customer service and logistics operations for  Quest's nationwide operations. As one of two Quest Diagnostics National Operations Centers, it also will share human resource services for the company's 45,000 employees. The second national center is in Lenexa KS.

"This new center will elevate Quest's customer services to the next level of responsiveness and quality," says James E. Davis, Quest's senior vice president of operations. "It reflects our comittment to delivering a superior customer experience and providing diagnostics insights that will help people lead healthier lives."

The architectural design is by San Francisco-based Gensler which has a Tampa office. Construction is by Rhode Island-based Gilbane which has several locations in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa facility will provide state-of-the-art technology to monitor air and ground transportation of patient specimens from about 2,200 patient service centers nationwide. Quest's services include advanced genetic cancer tests as well as routine cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

In Florida, Quest has full-service clinical laboratories in Tampa, Miramar and Orlando.  There also are dermatological pathology laboratories and offices and patient service centers statewide.

The center is expected to create about $9.3 million in capital investment.

Quest is eligible to receive about $675,000 in incentives from the state's Qualified Target Industry Program. About $540,000 is from the state with the remainder from the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County. The funds will subsidize up to 175 jobs that will pay a minimum average annual salary of slightly more than $47,500.

"Florida's life science industry is one of the best in the nation and as companies like Quest Diagnostics expand their presence in Florida, the sector will continue to grow and more businesses will look at the state as a vital location," says Gary Swoope, president of Enterprise Florida, the state's chief economic development organization.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Swoope, Enterprise Florida
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