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The Music Box: Tampa Bay launches in Sulphur Springs neighborhood

A free, experiential and pioneering “musical architecture” project constructed on the grounds of  the Community Stepping Stones (CSS) in Sulphur Springs will be open to the public for a month starting March 25, 2016.  

“The Music Box: Tampa Bay” is an interactive public artwork and performance space that allows visitors to participate in creating sound and music through a temporary village of musical structures. 

“The project is about inspiring and building community,” says Sarah Howard, Curator of Public Art and Social Practice at the The University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), who is leading the project. “Anyone can access it: It’s music, it’s architecture, and a there’s a little magical realism that goes along with it.”

The Music Box village is situated on the Mann-Wagon Park along the Hillsborough River and will celebrate not only local artists and musicians, but also the history of Sulphur Springs. 

Concerts by local musicians are planned for Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. Cultural programs will occur on Thursday evenings, including a presentation of storied Sulphur Springs history by Historians Rodney Kite-Powell and Hermann Trappman. The history discussions will cover geographical details to Sulphur Springs’ role through time from serving as a Native American destination for healing waters to becoming a tourist destination to its modern day purpose.

The music village will be open for exploration and play on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon-6 p.m. 

Howard says many layers of collaboration and community engagement are already taking place on the grounds. She notes that neighbors have stopped by out of curiosity and then become volunteers on the project. Other collaborators include more than 20 USF students of architecture, history, music and studio art students and students from the host organization, Community Stepping Stones, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting underserved youth through after-school programs in the arts. 

“They are getting the value of working with professional artists and seeing a project through from planning to execution to public presentation,” says Howard referring to the students’ participation. 

Howard notes that many jobs have been created as well and that the professional artists and musicians involved are paid. She hopes and expects that the events will attract visitors to local businesses and restaurants. 

The Tampa installation is modeled after the New Orleans Airlift (NOA) initiative, which sought to restore artist communities after Hurricane Katrina. The NOA has provided guidance and collaboration with local Artists Jan Awai, Devon Brady and Michael Lemieux from Livework Studios and community-based land Artist Tory Tepp in designing and constructing the village. The project was funded by grants and donations from the National Endowment of the Arts, the University of South Florida, the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation and several local organizations. 

The Music Box is fun and family-friendly, Howard says, and “gives you the sense of awe and wonder that unites people. That’s the goal.”

All programming is free but tickets are recommended for evening events because space is limited. For more information on scheduling and ticketing, click here.

Inaugural Fourth Friday event to launch March 25th on Tampa Riverwalk

A group of organizations is launching Downtown Tampa Fourth Friday on March 25, a new evening event celebrating the growing local arts and culture scene.

The event, which will take place from 4-9 p.m. the fourth Friday of every month, will focus on nine downtown cultural venues plus six to 12 restaurants located on or close to the Tampa Riverwalk. All are invited to visit one of the anchor destinations to get a free wristband, which includes complimentary rides on the new Pirate Water Taxi and special offers from participating venues and restaurants. For example, the Tampa Museum of Art will continue to offer “pay as you will” admission to all visitors on Fridays from 4-8 p.m. The March 25 kickoff will also feature participation by the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning at designated riverwalk parks.

Participants will be encouraged to park once and then take the riverwalk, Pirate Water Taxi or hop on a bike with Coast Bike Share to visit the various venues.

The idea for Fourth Friday grew organically from a collaboration between the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Henry B. Plant Museum and the American Institute of AIA Tampa Bay, according to Donna Chen, Director of Marketing for the Tampa Downtown Partnership

“It’s totally grassroots. Back in the fall, these four downtown cultural attractions decided to help support each other’s First Friday events through cross-promotion,” says Chen. “From that collaboration, they said, ‘Hey, this would be a great idea to do on a bigger scale,’ and they reached out to the partnership for help.

“We corralled all our downtown attractions and destinations to discuss what we could do and started planning a recurring event to celebrate and tell the story of the growing, incredibly rich arts and culture scene we have in downtown Tampa.”

The group decided to build on the success of the “First Friday” event format, but agreed to choose a different week to avoid confusion. They landed on “Fourth Friday” as a distinctive brand that shares the advantage of alliteration, Chen says. 

“We’re very excited. We think this will be extremely successful. As the riverwalk expands, we want people to understand how the walkway is really like a string of jewels connecting world-class destinations along the way,” she says.

Although the event lacks a dedicated budget, Chen says Fourth Friday is supported by community partners including the Friends of the Tampa Riverwalk, City of Tampa, Visit Tampa Bay, Arts Council of Hillsborough County and Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts. Between the partners and participating venues, she says they pack a strong marketing punch through their combined efforts. 

“We’re all going to be promoting this through social media, press and our websites and regular communications. Together we have a very strong voice with a big megaphone. We can reach hundreds of thousands of people just through our combined social media outreach,” says Chen.

Hosting venues include:
 
Tampa Museum of Art
Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
Stageworks Theater
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
Tampa Theatre
Tampa Bay History Center
Henry B. Plant Museum
 
Setting up at host venues:
 
Florida Aquarium – Location TBD
AIA Tampa Bay – setting up at Tampa Museum of Art
 
Glazer Children’s Museum will not be participating this month, but plans to begin to do so in April.  

More details on the monthly events will be available at Fourth Friday, where visitors can sign up to receive updates by email. 

Local event to help boomers create a roadmap to meaningful work

A nationally recognized expert in career transitions and retirement will be the keynote speaker at a special event to help Tampa Bay Area baby boomers navigate a successful path to a new job, entrepreneurship or volunteering.

The “Encore Connect: Your Roadmap to What’s Next” presentation and expo will take place from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 16th, at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) Student Center in downtown St. Pete. 

The event is hosted by Encore Tampa Bay, a nonprofit organization focused on creating a network of community and business resources to help those over 50 explore, retool and connect to opportunities for an encore career. Commonly defined as a second or third act in life that typically takes place after age 50, encore careers often combine personal meaning, social impact and continued income. 

“Today, many boomers are trying to figure out how to leverage their skills and strengths in new ways that meet their needs,” says Bevan Rogel, Founder and President of Encore Tampa Bay. “Our event can help you go from thinking about how you want to redefine your next chapter to actually doing something about it.”

Kerry Hannon, Author of 10 books on careers, money and retirement, will address “What’s Next? Your Guide to a Working Retirement: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job.” Her presentation will cover finding encore careers, starting a business, nonprofit work and how to “fall in love with your job again.” All event participants will also receive a free copy of Hannon’s 2015 book, “Getting the Job You Want After 50.” 

“Living longer, healthier lives is revolutionizing the way we navigate what was once considered our retirement years – and our retirement savings strategies,” says Hannon, AARP’s Jobs Expert and a regular contributor to The New York Times, Money and Forbes.  “We must re-think the value of longevity and focus on the money-wise reasons to stay in the workforce as long as possible.”

An interactive expo after the presentation will feature local resources where participants can connect to career experts, coaches, businesses and nonprofits to develop individualized action plans.

According to AARP research, there are more than 500,000 adults over 50 in the Tampa Bay area, and 70 percent of adults in this age group have decided to work beyond 65 in some capacity.  

To learn more about Encore Connect and to register, visit Encore Tampa Bay. Event registration is $50.

Fashion entrepreneur to speak at Centre for Women on Thursday

The creator of a high-performance women’s innerwear collection will join local women entrepreneurs Thursday for a special event honoring the winners of the 2016 innovateHER Business Challenge.

The ‘Sip, Tip, and Talk’ innovateHER reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, at the Westin Tampa Bay’s BluVu Rooftop Venue.

BODYOLOGY founder Kelly Burton will address the crowd with tips and advice for building a successful business. Burton, a former research professional, developed the line to create sweat-wicking and quick-drying undershirts, shorts, leggings and more.

“I love women entrepreneurs,” Burton says. “They inspire me and cause me to be excited about the future of our country and our world. There are few places I'd rather be than in a room filled with women who are chasing their dreams.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of the potential for failure, Burton says.

“If you're bold enough to step out on faith and start your own business, one thing is for sure: you're going to make mistakes. It's a part of the process,” Burton says. “However, if you're going to be successful, you've got to learn quickly and efficiently. Download the lesson and keep it moving. Don't beat yourself up or throw your own personal pity party. You made the best decision you could with the information at hand. Just dust yourself off, recalibrate and get back at it.” 

The innovateHER Business Challenge, which took place in fall 2015, was sponsored locally by a partnership between the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women and the Small Business Administration.

“We are funded for five years by SBA to provide business counseling and training for women,” Women's Business Centre Director Stacey Banks-Houston told 83 Degrees in September.

The competition challenged local female entrepreneurs to develop and present a business plan for the chance to win prizes and move forward to compete in a national round of the competition.

Burton advises women entrepreneurs to take the time to pursue opportunities like those presented by the Centre.

“Be good to yourself. Consider what that means for you and do it,” she says. “You've only got one life to live and you don't want to look up one day and realize you're all spent up because you did everything for everyone else, but never gave yourself what you needed to truly thrive.” 

The Sip...Tip...and Talk Reception will have hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. The event cost is $30 for Centre for Women members and for $35 for the general public with advance registration; $40 at the door.

Spring job fairs in Tampa Bay

Spring 2016 job fairs offer job seekers the chance to start a career with a Tampa Bay area company. Learn more about which companies are seeking candidates for part- and full-time positions in spring 2016 at upcoming local career fairs.

Career fairs in Tampa Bay can connect job seekers in the Tampa and St. Petersburg areas with the industry leaders and resources that help open the door for new hires. Job seekers, mark your calendars for these upcoming job fairs in spring 2016:

Saturday, March 5: Community Job Fair
9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Library
1505 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa

The Tampa Bay Community Advocacy Committee (TBCAC), in partnership with Austin Commercial, LP and Ariel Business Group, Inc., is hosting this Community Job Fair to facilitate employment opportunities in skilled or unskilled jobs in construction at the Tampa International Airport (TIA). The event will feature construction and construction-related companies currently working on TIA improvement projects, including Skanska, Kimmins, Mitsubishi, West Tampa Glass, and more.
 
For more information about the TBCAC Community Job Fair, call 813-812-JOBZ or 813-812-5629, or visit TBCAC's website.


Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront
333 1st St. S., St. Petersburg

The Live Hiring job fair in St. Petersburg is hosted by National Career Fairs. To register for the free career fair, click here.

Tuesday, April 5: Tampa Career Fair 
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport
4500 West Cypress St., Tampa

Monday, April 11: Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair presented by the Tampa Bay Times
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Coliseum
535 4th Ave. N., St. Petersburg

More than 50 local employers from institutes of higher education and vocational/technical schools will be in attendance. Professional business attire required. Bring at least 20 copies of your resume.

Wednesday, April 13: CareerSource Tampa Bay Career Fair
TPepin's Hospitality Centre
4121 N. 50th St, Tampa

Open to the general public. Veterans will receive priority of service. A CareerSource Tampa Bay recruiter will be present to offer resume assistance and job search techniques. 

Thursday, May 12: Florida Statewide Job Fair
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
CFE Arena (formerly UCF Arena)
University of Central Florida campus
12777 Gemini Blvd. N., Orlando

The Florida Career Centers will host the annual Statewide Job Fair in May 2016 as an effort to recruit graduates and alumni from Florida’s state universities. Typically, more than 150 employers and 1,500 students and alumni seeking full-time career opportunities attend the annual event.

Click here for directions to the CFE Arena on the UCF campus. 

Employers, are you hosting an upcoming career fair in the Tampa Bay area? Put potential future employees on the right path by sharing the details of your upcoming job or career fair in Tampa Bay with 83 Degrees. Reach out over on Twitter (@83degreesmedia) if our job listings put you on the path to success. Follow Florida Jobs - 83 Degrees Media on Facebook.

March job news: Who's hiring in Tampa Bay? IT company, architecture firm, and more

Work for one of the most popular city destinations in the state; sign on with an architectural design firm; perform quality control as a software engineer. These Tampa Bay area job opportunities -- and more -- are available in March 2016. 

The City of St. Petersburg is hiring for a number of opportunities, including Librarian, Digital and Media Specialist, and many other roles in maintenance, sanitation, and with the golf course. To search the available job opportunities with the city of St. Pete, click here and select “search vacancies.” 

HDR design firm is hiring a Project Architect for the company’s Tampa offices. The position will entail leading a team of engineers, designers and architects on architectural projects. A Bachelor's or Master's degree in Architecture is required, along with five or more years of experience. Registered architects only.

Follow this link to search for the role and apply on the company website. 

Suncoast Credit Union is hiring for a number of roles in Tampa and Brandon, including an investment operations manager and several member advocates and tellers to serve the Brandon community.

The operations manager should have a Bachelor’s degree in a business-related field, at least six years of experience in the securities industry, and two to four years of experience serving as a supervisor.

To learn more or apply for the role, click here.

IT management service SunView Software, Inc. is hiring for dozens of positions in Tampa, with a recent office expansion that created room for 45 new jobs. Click here and follow instructions to submit a resume. 

National staffing firm iTalent, LLC is hiring for a full-time copywriter position. The successful candidate will have five or more years of creative copywriting experience (previous advertising agency is a plus). The copywriter will assist in marketing and advertising campaigns and communication including advertisements, promotions, mailers, fliers, brochures, posters, in-store signage and digital media.

iTalent is also seeking an Interaction designer/UI designer for a six-month contract that could become a full-time role with benefits. To learn more about either job opportunity, visit the company’s website.

Cloud-based commerce company Verifone is hiring for several roles in the company’s Clearwater offices, including multiple software QA engineers, a senior business analyst, a recruiter, and more. The Software QA Engineer role requires a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and 5-10 years of experience in software test engineering. The role is responsible for developing and performing test plans.

To see a complete list of available roles with Verifone, click here

Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Impromptu popup gallery features art by newcomer to Tampa

In an innovative trifecta of art, marketing and real estate, art consultant Kathy Gibson of Arthouse3 will present Tampa newcomer and artist Taylor Thomas’s body of work entitled “The Chase.”  

The impromptu exhibit will take place at an empty South Tampa loft whose owner, Michael Palori, hopes will also spur interest from potential renters. The exhibit will be held at 1617 West Platt Street in South Tampa, March 4-6th. 

“All of us are looking for a way to enjoy our business, celebrating talent and new development,” says Gibson who has done this before, in empty houses. She says the art sold, and the houses, too. She is expecting success here, too. “A modern abstract in a loft space, attracts people in general. Tampa is building and changing and becoming more and more contemporary.”

Though this is Taylor’s debut exhibit in Tampa, she is represented around the country by various galleries. She relocated from Nashville in November to be closer to her Tampa-native boyfriend, Will Wellman, catalyst and raison d’etre of the Pig Jig Foundation which raises money for Nephcure Kidney International. In 2014, she was awarded a Regional Artist Project Grant from Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council to travel to Bennington VT and study under Cullen Washington, Jr. -- a contemporary artist whose work, she says, inspires and challenges her. 

Gibson, who describes her role as  “an art finder, an art communicator” connects businesses and individuals with artists and works. Gibson describes Taylor’s body of work for The Chase as a collection of “deeply, richly layered colored abstracts,” about 20 pieces in all sizes from small drawings to 4’ x 6’ works. Pricing ranges from $100 to $3,500 or more, depending on size. 

Palori, whose family has been long-involved with Tampa real estate, with major commercial and residential holdings throughout the city, says the loft, one of three 1,000-square-foot units over a restaurant, was transformed from what was once a printing warehouse. He says he likes the idea of the pop up art and says it fits with the character of his building. “I think its good for the area, and good exposure in the meantime.”

Taylor says her previous exhibitions have been in conventional settings but says this space is “spontaneously ideal -- it nearly mirrors what one would often look for in a gallery space: clean walls, concrete floors, an influx of natural light. The drool-worthy garage door that opens up to a balcony is definitely the cherry on top.” 

The Chase will be open to the public Friday, March 4th, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, March 5th, 1-6 pm; and Sunday, March 6th, 1-4 pm. For more information on the exhibit, click here. For more information the apartment, click here

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts promises fun, activities for all ages

Art is in the air -- the open air -- in downtown Tampa, and everyone is welcome.

The 46th annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts (GFA) kicks off March -- the month of culture under Tampa’s iconic Gasparilla umbrella. Pulling top local and national talent, the festival is one of most prestigious and selective of open air arts festivals in the country, according to organizers, and runs March 5-6 at Curtis Hixon Park and Kiley Gardens. Admission is free of charge.

“Tampa Bay has a lot going on by way of the arts,”  says Jodie Orozco, the GFA’s Marketing Chair. “There is an arts renaissance going on in Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota. We are exposing the entire area to that.”

With over 100,000 visitors anticipated and hundreds of exhibitors, the festival could seem overwhelming to newcomers. Here are some key highlights to guide your experience.

Families and kids

Outdoor festivals, especially ones with a top-notch park on-premise and plenty of room to run around, are generally a good bet for families. But the GFA has a unique program parents rave about: The Art Collectors in Training Program. There are also opportunities for kids to make art. 

The Art Collectors in Training Program is located at a dedicated tent in Kiley Garden. Children ages 6 to 14 are invited to browse a “kids-only” shopping zone, a collection donated by festival artists. Kids get to select their own artworks, some priced between $5 and $10, and are encouraged to find the artists of their purchased pieces in the festival. Last year, more than 130 artists donated 750 pieces, and raised $4,800.  Proceeds go to the Children’s Cancer Center. 

“Our program gives children the opportunity to choose a piece of art without the help of their parents,” says Brenda Gregory who leads this initiative. “We provide children with the freedom to see art as something that can have personal meaning to them.”

The Festival partners with the Tampa Museum of Art, which runs The Children Activity Area, allowing kids to create art during their visit, too.  

Kids have the opportunity to learn techniques from featured artists, color, paint and draw. Currently showing at the Museum is the Spanish sculptor “Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape” exhibit.  Orozco says the children's activities will leverage that theme. 

The Art Collector in Training program and the Children’s Area are open both days 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. respectively.

Chalk Walk and Art Car Extravaganza 

Also fun for families, is the Chalk Walk that will take place “under the eaves of the Tampa Museum of Art” where 10 commissioned Chalk Artists will bring their large form chalk drawings to life in an interactive experience in front of your eyes.

On display in Kiley Gardens, visitors can see the Carmada fleet of a dozen art cars and vote on their favorites. Three cars will be painted live by a team of local muralists -- including a vintage VW bus -- while DJs spin throughout the afternoon. Adults and kids can get their hands dirty here, too, exploring the Nomad art bus and contributing to its collaborative mural.

The Art – emergent and established

The art on display is diverse – from woodwork to jewelry to printmaking to oil, etc.  Because it is a juried festival, the organizers are able to cull the best from the hundreds of applications they receive. The exposure and  $75,000 in prizes, is a big draw. In addition, “we help our artists to sell a lot of work,” says Orozco. Though she notes there is no pressure to buy. You can preview some of of the works on the GFA web gallery. 

The Festival promotes and invests in up-and-coming artists who have never before displayed art in a juried festival. The Emerging Artists Program, which provides the artists with the booth and cash for its display infrastructure, was created to “recognize and showcase the artwork of these artists who wish to pursue a career in the visual arts career.” Fifteen emerging artists were chosen from 120 applicants to participate. Their tents are displayed in Kiley Garden and the artists are eligible for a $1,500 Emerging Artist Award. 

For those who want to rub shoulders with the best of the show and its creators, there is a galaRE VIP reception on Saturday night, which brings together patrons and the juried festival award winners, with a backdrop of live bossa nova music and Capital Grill catering. Tickets for this event can be purchased through the website. 

There appears to be something for everyone.  

“Enjoy the festival as you would a museum. Interact with artists,” suggests Orozco. “There is a great variety of art to choose form whether your preference is glass art or painting or ceramics there is always something to choose from.”

Uber, Tampa Bay WaVe partner to drive innovation forward

Entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay will now have the chance to work with representatives from a revolutionary startup with international reach: Uber.

A new partnership between the ride-sharing company and local business incubator Tampa Bay WaVe was announced in February 2016.

Tampa Bay WaVe will offer Uber Technologies space in the nonprofit’s FirstWaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa, where Uber drivers can plan and host driver training sessions. In return, Uber representatives will participate in entrepreneur workshops and other open-to-the-public events hosted by Tampa Bay WaVe, offering the local tech community a first-hand look at the company that revolutionized the car services industry.

“We are ecstatic about this new partnership and look forward to welcoming Uber as part of the WaVE community,”  WaVe Marketing Manager Gracie Stemmer says. “Uber’s insights and experiences are invaluable for entrepreneurs who are in the same position Uber was before their breakout success.” 

Tampa Bay WaVe is billed as 'by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs,' while Uber allows drivers to create flexible schedules and work as independent contractors in Florida.

Uber has helmed previous events for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay; in October 2015, the company sent established angel investors out in Uber cars around Tampa and St. Petersburg for a three-hour pitch event. Local startup founders or residents who scored a ride got 15 minutes to make a backseat business pitch to angel investors from groups like the Tamiami Angel Fund and Florida Funders, LLC.

“This is a great opportunity for local startups to benefit from the past experiences of a successful startup that has reached their breakout success,” Stemmer wrote in a blog post announcing the WaVe/Uber partnership. “Uber has been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and created the app!”

Tampa Bay WaVe, home to an entrepreneurial business center and coworking space in downtown Tampa sponsored an event track at Tampa Bay Startup Week in February. Learn more about Startup Week by clicking here.

Uber of Tampa Bay has also developed a partnership, Direct Connect, with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in neighboring Pinellas County. The pilot program, which was announced in late February, will reimburse riders who use Uber to reach designated bus stops by half of the fare, or up to $3.

How Gasparilla Interactive Conference aims to inspire attendees

The Gasparilla Interactive gathering in mid-March will focus on a creative theme: discovering inspiration. 

During the inaugural event in 2015, the Gasparilla Interactive Founder's Club focused on branding the first-year festival as a companion to other well-known and well-attended Gasparilla events that take place in Tampa each spring - the film and arts festivals, for example. 

The focus on branding helped establish Gasparilla Interactive and made sense, since the event's roots are in AAF Tampa Bay and Ad 2 Tampa Bay; lead event organizer Vinny Tafuro is a past president of both organizations.

The second time around, the conference "covers a broader range of topics, and focuses much more on entrepreneurship and the future” than technology alone, Tafuro explains. 

For 2016, replacing the word ‘festival’ with conference was a specific choice, Tafuro says. 

“We discussed what attendees should expect to leave with," Tafuro explains. "We felt that regardless of current industry or profession, everyone should walk away feeling inspired about the future in some way.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference will draw presenters from big-name companies in the tech world, like product designers Gabe Valdivia of Facebook and Alison Chefec of BuzzFeed. Tampa’s World IA Day organizer Amy Espinosa will moderate a discussion on information architecture between the two.

Gasparilla Interactive Conference presenters also include:To see all of the speakers scheduled to present at Gasparilla Interactive, click here

“Anyone who wants to be inspired by, and prepared for, the vast opportunities that technology affords us to create value” should consider attending, Tafuro says. “Regardless of industry.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference is a non-profit event that will be held March 10-11 at the Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor City. Register and find more information by clicking here.

Follow along with the Gasparilla Interactive Conference by using the hashtag #GasparillaIX.

New water taxi aims to transport passengers on Tampa area waterways

Yacht Starship Dining Cruises is launching a new pirate-themed water taxi service around Tampa that will help “landlubbers” travel the high seas of the Hillsborough River, Hillsborough Bay and Garrison Channel. 

Pirate Water Taxi will offer three 50-foot vessels that make stops at 14 locations along the waterfront in the Channelside District, Davis Island and downtown Tampa. Passengers aboard each vessel will enjoy the convenience of onboard restrooms and concessions while the captains, acting as pirates, engage guests with witty, whimsical narrations. 

“The pirate inspiration is part of the rich Gasparilla tradition here in the city,” says Troy Manthey, president and CEO of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises. Manthey, who hails from New Orleans and is a fifth-generation Mississippi River passenger boat captain, began cutting the currents of Tampa Bay when he visited the area in 2001 and realized the potential here. “I wanted to open up the beautiful waterfront to the community.” So he did, when he established Yacht Starship. Now, Manthey hopes his Pirate Water Taxi service, which debuts on February 27, helps locals and tourists connect with Tampa’s growing number of waterfront attractions.

“There will be multiple stops between The Florida Aquarium and Rick’s on the River, including Ulele, Curtis Hixon Park, Bayshore, and other places.” Unlike other water taxi services, which often have just one vessel, Pirate Water Taxi will field three. “That way, one boat can be undergoing maintenance, another can handle a private charter, and we’ll still have a vessel operating for public service,” he explains. The water taxis will operate seven days a week, with extended hours during weekends and special events. 

While Tampa Bay’s new water taxi will handle the utilitarian duties of ferrying 40 to 50 people around downtown Tampa, Manthey stresses that his new water taxis will be more than just another way to get around the city. 

“This service is as much a tourism attraction as it is a mode of transportation,” he says. “Our captains will be cast as pirates and they will engage with passengers, telling them about the area, where the best places to go are, and what they can enjoy at each attraction.”

Pirate Water Taxi will be officially unveiled Friday, Feb. 26, during a christening ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center. Hearkening a longtime tradition for launching new boats, bottles of champagne will be smashed against the new water taxi vessels, and the boats will be ceremoniously named. 

USF conference to bring sport, entertainment leaders to Tampa

The University of South Florida will welcome key decision makers and business leaders in the sports and entertainment industries to Tampa on February 18-19.

The conference is expected to bring industry professionals, students and university faculty together to network and learn about the latest innovations in analytics from experienced speakers and leaders in the sport and entertainment industry.

Speakers at USF’s Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference will offer insights on an array of topics from the latest trends to data-driven business decisions and the growing importance of analytics in the sport and entertainment industries.

“The conference is an unbelievable value in terms of cost and opportunity to network,” says Professor and Associate Program Director Mike Mondello, who teaches Sport Business Analytics and Sport & Entertainment Finance at USF.

USF’s Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference will bring a number of established industry professionals to Tampa, including:
  • Kevin Kelley, head coach of the Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark.
  • Anthony Perez, VP of business strategy for the Orlando Magic
  • Jay Riola, assistant director of business intelligence & CRM for the Orlando Magic
  • David DeMontmollin, VP of marketing for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
  • Rick Johnson, senior director of Pricemaster product & strategy at Ticketmaster and Live Nation
  • David Smrek, VP of Live Analytics, a Ticketmaster company
  • Rich Luker, a social psychologist who created the ESPN Sports Poll
  • Chris Watson, senior director of relationship marketing and analytics for Feld Entertainment
  • Michael Farris, director of strategic consulting & research at the Aspire Group, a global sport and entertainment marketing firm
  • Bill Bailey, VP of SSB Consulting Group, a business intelligence and accounting firm
While the primary goal of the conference is to “allow industry practitioners to share their best practices and current trends of analytics in the sport entertainment industry,” Mondello says, “A secondary goal is to allow students the opportunity to network with other industry professionals to gain additional insight into further career options.” 

The two-day Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference, hosted at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel, 700 South Florida Avenue, will take place from noon- 6 p.m. on Feb 18 and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Feb. 19

“Anyone interested in a potential or existing career in analytics” should consider attending the conference, says Mondello, who earned a PhD and master's degrees from the University of Florida and a BS from USF.

The cost to attend the conference is $99 for the general public, with a discounted rate of $50 available to USF students and faculty and a discounted rate of $75 for students enrolled at other universities. Purchase tickets in advance at EventBrite. For a detailed conference schedule, click here.

USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.

Free Community Pass offers Tampa Bay residents museum, music fest discounts

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay (CFTB) has found a creative way to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Beginning in February 2016, residents who sign up for the group's free 'Community Pass' will receive unique discounts to distinguished local arts and cultural-focused programs and institutions such as the Tampa Museum of Art and St. Petersburg Museum of History.

Perks for Tampa Bay area residents include buy one, get one free admission offers to select events or venues, and discounts to museums including the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Tampa Bay History Center, and other centers of arts and learning. 

CFTB launched the Community Pass to help local residents discover and enjoy the local arts and culture organizations that CFTB donors support through discounts and other special offers.

Community Pass discounts include BOGO free admission to Great Explorations Children's Museum; "Palladium Presents" shows at The PalladiumSt. Petersburg Museum of HistoryTampa Museum of Art; and the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum. Other discounts include 25 percent off admission to the Florida Holocaust Museum; $5 off admission to the Gasparilla Music Festival on Sunday, March 13; and $10 off admission to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.

“The Community Pass will give back to the residents of our tri-county area, and encourage them to enjoy the wonderful cultural institutions we have here in our very own backyard," Wilma Norton, VP of Marketing and Communications for CFTB, writes in a news release. “We are very excited to celebrate our 25th year serving the community of Tampa Bay by providing a gift to everyone who lives here."

The Community Foundation was founded in 1990 to serve as a connector between local donors, nonprofit organizations, community members, business leaders, and volunteers in Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas counties. In those 25 years, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has awarded more than $175 million in donor funds as grants to nonprofit organizations across the country. 

To sign up for a free Community Pass, click here.

June coding weekend will aim to help Tampa homeless through technology

A June event will aim to benefit Tampa’s homeless population through computer coding.

The June 3rd through 5th weekend-long hack-a-thon, hosted by Hillsborough County annually in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking, has been rebranded as a ‘code-a-palooza’ for 2016. It will take place at Crossover Church, 1235 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, a larger venue than initially planned. 

The event will be sponsored by Peak 10  an IT and cloud storage services company that is is an anchor member of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a group working to redefine the area surrounding the University of South Florida in northeast Hillsborough County.

Tampa Innovation Alliance board members set out to put on a traditional weekend hack-a-thon event, but with the goal of creating “an element that will stretch out longer than just the weekend, and actually solve a real-world problem,” explains Alliance executive director Mark Sharpe.

A request by the Alliance to Hillsborough County for data led to a counter-request: solve a problem for us. County or government-sponsored hack-a-thons often have a civil services component, and for the June ‘code-a-palooza,’ the focus is on the homeless population in the Tampa Bay region.

“They’ve got social service organizations helping them to manage this homeless problem, which the county is responsible for, but they don’t have tracking devices or an application which can effectively connect the homeless person -- many of whom do have smartphones -- with the services,” Sharpe explains.

Using county-provided data, coders and creative thinkers will work together to bridge the gap between members of the homeless population and the service organizations that aim to connect with them.

By creating an application that enhances on or is compatible with the county’s existing software, Sharpe hopes to see coding teams develop something that can "maybe even have a market application.”

“There are severe homeless problems in other cities,” Sharpe says, “like Denver, Colorado,” with whom the Alliance has partnered for the 10-10-10 conference.

“We’re still kind of exploring -- we don’t have it all figured out -- but we’re going to be encouraging people who have coding skills, or who can solve problems, to join in at ‘code-a-palooza’ in June,” Sharpe says.

Coding skills are not required to participate.

A winner of the weekend event will be announced on the final day of the hack-a-thon, but the Alliance hopes to see concepts worked on by the teams continue to grow, Sharpe says. Peak 10 will allow interested coders to use the company’s cloud data system for work throughout the summer and fall, and Alliance partners such as University Mall may facilitate projects by providing meeting space.

“We hope the winner might have the opportunity to sell their application, or have it used by the county,” Sharpe says.

To learn more about the June ‘code-a-palooza’ event, visit the Tampa Innovation Alliance website.

Swiss-owned SpecPage moves its North American operations to Manatee County

SpecPage, Inc., a Switzerland-based technology company that develops software solutions for the food manufacturing industry, has relocated its North American branch offices from Warwick, Rhode Island to Bradenton, FL with support from the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC). 

The EDC assisted the Swiss company in site selection and in applying for a performance-based economic development incentive grant from the Manatee County government. The Manatee County Board of Commissioners approved the incentive, based on SpecPage’s plan to add 15 jobs in Bradenton over the next five years. 

SpecPage now occupies 1,100 square feet with options to expand at Wildwood Office Park, 3645 Cortez Road, Suite 100, in west Bradenton.

“We are a global company and plan to strengthen our position in the North American market. The growing, yet affordable area of Bradenton provides good opportunities for future hiring as well as convenient access to several airports for national and international travel,” says SpecPage North America VP Paul Meunier. 

Meunier says that SpecPage plans to create up to 15 jobs based in its new Bradenton offices over the next three years, primarily in sales and support roles. The growing company’s clients currently include global brands such as Campbell Soup Company, Kellogg’s, Mondelez and Nestlé Wagner. 

Sharon Hillstrom, President and CEO of the Bradenton EDC, views the Swiss company’s relocation of its North American offices to Manatee County as a valuable step in a multi-pronged effort to retain the talent emerging in record numbers from area colleges and universities. 

“One of the things we’re really focused on at the EDC, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Realize Bradenton, is [the young professional] demographic. Each organization is addressing some component of how we can attract and retain talent here. It is of prime interest, and our belief is that the more companies we have coming here, the more opportunities will present themselves to graduates,” Hillstrom says.

Hillstrom notes that there are currently five institutions of higher learning in Manatee and Sarasota County that are working in collaboration as the ‘Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast’ to attract students and strengthen the Tampa Bay area’s economy. Bringing global and IT-based companies like SpecPage into the area, Hillstrom says, confirms Bradenton’s value as a destination for other businesses to base their operations. 

“This area provides a great business climate. We are a business-friendly government, labor costs are somewhat lower here, and the quality of life obviously speaks for itself. … Bringing in companies like SpecPage is the best advertisement we have in that sense. We plan to use those types of wins to recruit other companies to the area,” Hillstrom says. 
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