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Bus Toll Lanes Offer Innovative Approach To Tampa Bay Transit

Hillsborough County may become home to a different kind of transit solution that involves toll roads, bus lanes and shared road space.

Bus toll lanes (BTL) are managed lanes that will be added to existing expressways, allowing express transit buses to transport large numbers of people and avoid road congestion. Cars and other vehicles will also be able to use the lanes on a toll basis, with cost varying by traffic flow.

The concept is being developed by a partnership between Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART). The partnership utilizes the strengths of each system, with toll roads providing the operations and maintenance and transit moving large numbers of people.

Although not a new concept, Hillsborough’s BTL financial model is innovative. Federal funds would be used for the initial construction, and toll revenue would then take over to pay for the operations and maintenance of the buses using the lanes. Excess revenue would be used to help fund future transit improvements, keeping the money local.

"It’s a local solution for local transportation problems," says Bob Frey, planning director for THEA. "It’s Hillsborough taking care of Hillsborough, and that, to me, is a positive."

A concept study funded by a federal grant was recently completed, which is now being broken down into segments to determine the best placement of the lanes. The partnership is currently evaluating a variety of roadway which will provide both good transit routes and toll roads. Once the location is determined, a pilot project will be implemented.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bob Frey, THEA

USF Entrepreneurship Students Use Paper Clip For Charity

Teams of students in the New Venture Formation class at the University of South Florida (USF)’s Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship in Applied Technologies program were given a challenge: Start a business and see how far you can get using one paperclip. They had one week to do it.

The challenge, presented by Sean Lux, PhD, was based on One Red Paper Clip, a 2005 project by Kyle MacDonald in which he traded a red paper clip with random people, item by item, until he eventually received a house.

Given the timing of the challenge, the night after the government shut down, one team had an interest in doing something that would benefit people. The thinking was that people who may have donated to local charities in the past may not be able to do so because of lost wages and furloughs. They put up a web site using Go Fund Me to see how much money they could raise for Feeding America Tampa Bay.

The team used the paper clip as a symbol of tying people together, adding a double meaning with the title “clipping hunger.” They reached out to family, friends and used social media to spread the word. In just four days, they raised over $2,000, with donation amounts ranging from $1 to $1,000.

"We were absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity," says Summer Decker, PhD, a member of the student team, which also included Victor Florez, Kelly Heckinger and Ronald Solis. Decker is an assistant professor in USF’s Department of Radiology who enrolled in the program to become more entrepreneurial in the lab environment.

"As entrepreneurship students, we learned that having a really good, sound idea and a good story would help people feel excited and passionate about your project and your group," says Decker. The group also learned the value of networks, as the largest donor was someone Decker connected with during a previous class assignment which asked students to get in touch with someone they had not seen in a long time.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Summer Decker, USF

FIVE By FIVE Art Show Returns To Tampa Oct. 18

The Hillsborough County Arts Council is hosting its second annual FIVE by FIVE fundraiser on Friday, October 18, at the Tampa Museum of Art. 

The $10 entrance fee is an excellent deal for catching up on culture and to possibly walk away with a valuable piece of art.

"The Tampa area has great artists both visual and performing,'' says Terri Simons, Director of Programming for the Arts Council. "This is a night you can come to one location and see a variety of visual arts, but you can also see scenes from theater, performances by professional musicians, actors, poets and dancers throughout the evening.''

Benefiting the Arts Council's individual artist grants, the FIVE by FIVE international call-to-artists has brought in more than 700 pieces of original artwork fit concisely to the required five-inch-square surface (artists are also permitted to extend five inches in depth). The individual artist grants program has provided $640,335 to 390 individual artists since 1989. Last year's FIVE by FIVE event raised $9,625. "It's truly small art for a BIG cause,'' says Simons.

This uniquely mosaic exhibit will be displayed in the Tampa Museum of Art's Stephen Dickey Lecture Hall and each piece will be available for sale from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a flat price of $25 each. The pieces are displayed anonymously, only after purchase is the artist's name revealed.

The skill levels of participating artists range from beginning student to longtime professional. The organizers hope to encourage patrons to choose their art "democratically'' according to how it appeals to them visually, not by artist name.

Artwork submissions were largely from the greater Tampa Bay region, but a significant contribution came from artists around the nation and the world -- including pieces from as far away as Canada, the Ukraine Europe and Asia. 

Building on its inaugural success last year, which drew in a crowd of nearly 900, the surprisingly multidimensional event includes a powerful array of 38 professional performance artists donating their time, with five-minute performances non-stop throughout the night. Attendees can also avail themselves of the Tampa Museum of Art's current exhibitions during the event, which include the Modern Masters: Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miro as well as Fragile Waters: Photographs from Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly.

New this year, and highly encouraged, is the availability to purchase tickets in advance to avoid cumbersome lines the night of the event.  Also, the exhibit will be maintained in its entirety until 9 p.m. so that guests will have the opportunity to view it as a whole before those purchasing the artwork will be permitted to leave with it.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Terri Simon, Hillsborough Arts Council

Amazon Deal Brings 1,000+ Jobs To Tampa Bay

Signed, sealed and delivered.

Amazon is set to open its newest fulfillment center in Ruskin, creating 375 new quality jobs having at least 115 percent of the state’s average wage. The new operation will bring more than 1,000 permanent jobs to Tampa Bay.

The expansion of Amazon into Florida will additionally create several hundred seasonal temporary employment opportunities as well as construction jobs.

"This is bigger than landing the Super Bowl, a national convention or the Olympics. It’s a mega-storm of growth that’s hitting our county with feeder bands that will create economic growth all over this area," says Commissioner Sandy Murman.

USAA Real Estate Co., a company that works with Amazon on the development of its distribution centers, and Ryan Companies US, Inc. reached an agreement late Wednesday, closing on the sale of land for the South Hillsborough County property that will house Amazon’s new distribution facility.

Amazon has signed a long-term lease with USAA for the South Shore Corporate Park property near Interstate 75 and State Road 674 in Ruskin. Construction of the fulfillment center will begin immediately.

The deal comes nearly four months after Amazon’s proposal to expand and create more than 3,000 jobs in Florida.

The company’s expansion project for the development of the center in Ruskin also includes a 3rd party investment of $200 million toward improvements and equipment, further increasing Amazon’s stock in the Tampa Bay market.

For additional information, visit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Commissioner Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County

USF Energy Conference Designed To Be Conduit For Collaboration

A conference aimed at bringing together students, researchers, businesses and other members of the Tampa Bay community to network and exchange ideas on sustainable energy will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in the University of South Florida's Marshall Center.

"IDEA: InterDisciplinary Exchange in Action'' is the name of both the conference and the student group organizing the event. A diverse mix of topics will be presented in the day-long conference, ranging from the emergence of "green'' computer networks to geothermal technology, energy-saving techniques for waste minimization, and the future of global sustainable societies.

"Our goal is to create an annual conference where ideas from different disciplines can be shared and eventually lead to collaborations,'' says Eleanor Clements, a PhD student in chemistry and president of the newly formed IDEA group. "We chose sustainable energy as the first topic and have had a great response from academics at the University who want to share their research.''

In addition to a full slate of speakers, the event will feature a trade show for local businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs involved in sustainable energy, Clements adds.
 
Conference speakers include:
  • Dr. George Philippidis, Patel College Associate Professor of Sustainable Energy, will discuss his research in biomass and algae technologies for sustainable production of transportation fuels and  renewable power. As director of the Renewable Fuels Laboratory, Philippidis has engineered technologies to grow fuel-producing algae while reducing water and energy consumption.
  • Kenneth Christensen, a professor in USF's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, will be discussing his research on energy efficiency of computer networks or "green networks.''
  • Professor James Stock will speak about environmental and energy implications of "reverse logistics'' and the energy required for product returns, including remanufacturing, repairing, and refurbishing of products, packaging reuse, recycling, minimization and substitution.
  • Dr. E. Christian Wells, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Founding Director of the USF Office of Sustainability, will share his global perspective on  environmental economic decision making, sustainability science and social issues such as the global culture of environmentalism and sustainable societies of the future.
  • Allan Feldman, Professor of Science Education, will discuss his research on the role that K-12 teachers and students can have in scientific and engineering research projects, particularly in fields related to sustainability.
  • Cheryl Hall, Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs, will look at the ways in which different understandings of freedom, happiness and sacrifice influence our imagination of the possibilities for creating environmentally sustainable societies.
  • Michael J. Lynch,  Professor of Criminology,  will address environmental justice in the United States, the distribution of hazardous waste sites and chemical accidents, global warming, environmental law and regulation, and  environmental crimes.
  • Friedemann Buschbeck, Green Party liaison to Germany, will speak on his recent visit and how the German government encourages green innovation.
  • Ashleigh Stewart of Young of Americans for Liberty will discuss free markets in relation to energy innovation.
  • Jay Egg of EggGeoThermal will discuss geothermal technologies  and  his recently published article in National Geographic on the same topic.
The conference is open to the public and will be held in the Royal Palm Ballroom in the Marshall Center. Admission is free; sponsors and exhibitors may follow this link for more information.

Writer: Marcia Biggs
Source: Eleanor Clements, IDEA

Tampa Summit To Feature Driverless Cars As Transit Option

Automated Vehicles or driverless cars are on their way to Tampa Bay as part of a future trend that will be discussed at the first Florida Automated Vehicles Summit November 14th-15th at the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel.
 
Hosted by the Florida Engineering Society, the summit is sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) and Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR). FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn are some of the dignitaries expected to attend.

"The purpose of this summit is to monitor the use of AV technology, and to identify the relevant policies that should be in place for AV technology to become mainstream,'' says Jason Bittner, Director of CUTR and a leading proponent of using AV technology to make Florida cities better.
 
The summit is expected to draw students, research scholars, elected officials, automobile and equipment manufacturers, transportation planners and engineers, trade and industry organizations, public agencies and consulting firms. You can RSVP here.

"The summit is going to address key institutional challenges in fully implementing the technology,'' says Bittner.

Apart from fulfilling basic human transportation needs, autonomous vehicles (AV) provide automated navigational capabilities by using advanced control systems that interpret surrounding sensory information. In the last decade, numerous breakthroughs in information technology and significant advancements in the auto sector have resulted in Google taking a lead in developing the AV technology.
 
In April 2012, Florida became only the second state to allow the testing of AVs on state and public roads. The first and third states were Nevada and California respectively.

The summit will be a key event to discuss the nuances of AV technology with public officials, consulting professionals and industry organizations. In addition, the event will provide Florida university students and reserachers an opportunity to showcase their work related to AV technology.

"At the end of the summit, the attendees will have a framework to set up AVs in the Tampa Bay Area and a plan to follow-up with additional meetings in spring 2014,'' says Bittner. "The summit is essentially setting up Florida to become a leader in this technology and its use in our Cities.''

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Jason Bittner, Director of Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)

Tampa Startups Compete For National Attention At Tech Cocktail Event

Have you heard of Taskvilla, a Tampa company that offers business-hiring software? How about Tie the Knot, a custom website and iPhone app builder for the modern bride and groom?

Tonight at Fox Jazz Cafe on West Kennedy Boulevard, these local startups, along with LilyPad, Seat by Seat, and Valet Boss, will each compete for the title "Hottest Showcasing Startup'' and the chance to continue on to a two-day national conference in Las Vegas.

Since 2006, Tech Cocktail has hosted "Socials'' in cities worldwide, including tech hubs like San Francisco and Austin. For the first time, Tech Cocktail is coming to Tampa.

"Tech Cocktail was created to stimulate local tech communities,'' explains Gracie Stemmer, marketing director for Tampa Bay WaVE and head of the Tech Cocktail Committee in Tampa. "The event will showcase some of the area's most exciting tech companies and most supportive organizations.''

Entrepreneurs, supporters of the tech community or members of the public who are interested in what is taking place in Tampa Bay's tech world are welcome to attend, Stemmer says.

Criteria for selection of the five startups that will demo tonight included being established less than three years ago, raising less than $1 million in total funding, and having a working product in at least beta stage.

Each startup will have two minutes to pitch their products, while attendees will have the opportunity to network with members of the local entrepreneurial community and area tech enthusiasts.

Community-building events are an asset to Tampa's entrepreneurs, Stemmer says. "When our local community comes together and rallies around our startups, we are re-enforcing and strengthening what Tampa Bay has to offer.''

Tech Cocktail Celebrate, to be held in Las Vegas on Oct. 22-23, will offer 30 worldwide finalists the opportunity to showcase their companies to big names in the tech world.

"Becoming a recognizable tech community in the national entrepreneurial arena will not only keep our talent here in Tampa Bay, but also allows us to move talent in to our thriving area,'' says Stemmer.

Tech Cocktail's Social is Tuesday‚ Oct. 8th‚ 6-8:30 p.m., at Fox Jazz Cafe at 5401 W. Kennedy Boulevard.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVE

Citizinvestor Partners With Schools To Feed Hungry Children

A partnership between Citizinvestor, Feeding America Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County Public Schools allows the community to fund meals for at-risk children in Tampa.

The effort is the first community-wide initiative for Citizinvestor, a Tampa-based crowdfunding platform that allows citizens to fund municipal projects. The platform puts decision-making in the hands of the community by allowing them to provide funding for the efforts they deem most worthwhile, with the added benefit of being able to directly see where their dollars are spent.

With the title “Weekend Food Backpacks for Kids,” the $10,800 target goal will provide 12,000 meals over the school year to students in need at Oak Park Elementary School in Tampa. 99 percent of the school’s students qualify for the county’s Free and Reduced lunch program. The students receive free breakfasts and lunches during the school week, but often go home to empty pantries on the weekends. These children are at risk for decreased educational performance, health problems and behavior issues.

"Success would be getting this funding as quickly as possible so Feeding America can pay for the meals that these children need in our community," says Jordan Raynor, co-founder and partnerships director for Citizinvestor.

The concept of crowdfunding is new to Feeding America Tampa Bay, but it seems like a logical fit because of Citizinvestor's knowledge of what the local community likes to support.

Citizinvestor recently celebrated its first anniversary, having funded 70 percent of its projects during this time. The startup’s success led to their recent opening of 550 square feet of office space in downtown Tampa. They will also be hiring a full-time Developer and Project Marketing Associate.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jorday Raynor, Citizinvestor

ROBOCON Tampa Bay Celebrates Technology, Learning

Elementary, middle and high school students from the Tampa Bay region and across the Southeast are coming together for the ultimate in community-based STEM collaboration.

ROBOCON Tampa Bay, a two-day event October 25 and 26 at the University of Tampa, features demonstrations, workshops, a college and career fair and robotics competitions. FIRST Robotics teams will participate in Ultimate Ascent, a high speed game of ultimate robot Frisbee. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national organization that inspires youth to discover science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through robotics competitions.

Workshops will be taught by Tampa Bay business leaders on topics such as programming and technical skills as well as how to run a business, providing students with real-life application to accompany the educational aspect.

One unique attribute of the FIRST programs in Tampa Bay is that teams are formed across schools and even from homeschool environments, giving students a chance to interact and collaborate with people from a variety of backgrounds.

The event is produced by Learning is for Everyone, a Tampa-based nonprofit that provides creative learning opportunities for all ages. Funding was received by a matching grant from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation as well as from Hillsborough County's new program, EDI2. Tampa Bay Sports Commission is also an event partner.

An important goal of the event is to grow economic opportunities in Tampa Bay, particularly in technology fields, to help retain local talent.

"We want to show the connection between childhood technical hobbies and jobs in a strong economy," says Jamie Klingman, board member for Learning is for Everyone.

The event is free and open to the public, and local businesses are encouraged to attend to meet students for possible internship and apprentice programs.

"We need to highlight and celebrate our students and their achievements, especially in technology," says Klingman. "They will be the next big leaders in the technology world, and the drivers going forward."

The organizers also hope to use this event to attract the national FIRST competition to the Tampa Bay area.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jamie Klingman, Learning is for Everyone

Ignition Deck Offers DIY Funding For Startups

A Tampa entrepreneur and his Canadian business partner are offering individuals and companies an alternative to crowd funding that removes the middle man and provides more control over the process.

Their creation is Ignition Deck, a Wordpress plug-in that allows you to create your own crowdfunding platform and raise funds using your own website. Unlike traditional platforms, the cost is a one-time fee rather than a percentage of funds raised.

The product is the brain child of Tampa resident Nathan Hangen and Sean Christensen of Alberta, Canada. Their parent company, Virtuous Giant, also provides crowdfunding consulting as well as designs mobile and web applications.

The pair got into crowdfunding because they wanted to raise money for a project but couldn’t find the solution.

"Our philosophy is that we want to build tools that help entrepreneurs succeed," says Hangen, CEO and co-founder of Virtuous Giant. "We just love building stuff for entrepreneurs."

Bands such as A House for Lions and Big Tree Bonzai used Ignition Deck to fund their first albums. Robert Space Industries recently used the platform to raise $13 million over the course of a year to build Star Citizen, a space simulator game.

The most recent company to use the platform is Ski Nation. Developed by former Olympic ski team member Jack Turner, Ski Nation is trying to raise $300,000 to build a mobile network of skiiers that they can call their own.

Next steps for Virtuous Giant include a fully hosted crowd funding solution, allowing people to customize their own website in a Wordpress-like function to provide even more control of the end product.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nathan Hangen, Virtuous Giant

MOSI Tampa Hosts STEAM Summit On Innovation

What do science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) have in common? They’re all part of Tampa Bay’s growing reputation as a region that nurtures innovation, and they will all be discussed at an upcoming professional leaders forum.

Hosted by the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), the forum on October 10 is a first for Tampa Bay and brings together professionals from all industries and across the region.

"The goal is to have a conversation with business leaders in the community about the importance of STEAM education, the opportunities that brings to Tampa, and our challenges as a region as we strive to be an innovative place," says Molly Demeulenaere, VP of development for MOSI.

Panelists include Raul Cuero, PhD., MOSI's 2013 National Hispanic Scientist of the Year. A microbiologist originally from Columbia, Cuero is a national spokesperson for STEAM and innovation who discovered through growing up in poverty that creativity can help bring about a better way of life.

Kerriann Greenlagh, Ph.D., a local organic chemist and University of South Florida graduate will provide an entrepreneur’s perspective of taking her liquid bandaid, KeriCure, from lab to market.

The panel is rounded out by local artpreneur and biologist Jeff Hazelton whose innovations include medical games, animation and imaging technology.

In addition to the panelists, the event is intended be an interactive conversation with involvement from the entire community.

STEAM is a focus of MOSI’s masterplan for 2025, but it has always been an important part of the educational process for the museum.

"As a science center, we have been teaching STEM/STEAM since MOSI opened in the 1950s," says Demeulenaere, adding that many people don’t realize that art is already integrated into STEM initiatives. For example, architecture plays a critical part in building design, as does design as an element in automobile manufacturing.

In bringing the STEAM conversation to the masses, MOSI also hopes to inspire the next generation of our region’s youth to take advantage of careers in STEAM fields. "We want people to know that it’s accessible, that it’s not hard for them to accomplish."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Molly Demeulenaere, MOSI Tampa

Spectrio Grows, Adds 20 Jobs in Oldsmar

Oldsmar-based audio/video marketing firm Spectrio is growing, adding 20 sales jobs to its 80-member team over the next year and a half. The company is adding sales administrators, sales support staff and telemarketers.

To understand what Spectrio does, consider the pleasant background music heard in hotels, banks, retail establishments and on corporate telephone messaging systems. Spectrio provides the creative energy behind helping to brand companies with appropriate sounds and music.

"We make sure that the content that we’re delivering is top quality," says CEO Aaron Kleinhandler.

Spectrio’s team features technical writers, programmers, professional voice talent, spokespersons, designers and more, all who collectively create audio and video content as well as digital signage and demonstrations for companies throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Founded in Clearwater in 2001 as Audio Messaging Solutions, business partners and friends Mitch Keller and Aaron Kleinhandler joined forces to create a company dedicated to serving the brand needs of other companies. The firm soon acquired other businesses, consolidating products and services to offer supplementary services that complimented their product offerings.

"We view ourselves as a marketing partner. The content we provide helps a company maintain their brand, extend it and reinforce it," says Kleinhandler.

By 2005, the firm had 13 employees in its Clearwater office, soon moving to Oldsmar and growing to 40 by 2013. Spectrio now has more than 80 employees and over 50 contractors.

"We’ve almost outgrown our facilities in Tampa. We are continuing to acquire other businesses and are now starting to expand our sales force," says Kleinhandler.

The company has additionally attracted interest from investors and private equity groups. Spectrio’s growth plan includes opportunities that will allow long-term scalability to the firm.

"We really like the area, and we’ve made a long-term commitment to the Tampa region."

For more information on career or business opportunities, visit Spectrio online or call 727.787.2440.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Aaron Kleinhandler, Spectrio

New Interactive Tool Helps High Schools Track Financial Aid Applications

Less than half of high school seniors in Florida complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which helps determine their qualifications for college financial assistance. A new online tool aims to help schools change that, and ultimately increase the number of students who enroll in college.

The Florida FAFSA Finish Line was created by Florida College Access Network (FCAN), a Tampa-based nonprofit whose mission is to improve college and career preparation for Florida students. The tool allows schools, researchers and other educational stakeholders to monitor the number of 12th graders who complete the FAFSA. The data is extracted from the U.S. Department of Education and Florida Department of Education for the 2011 – 2012 and 2012-2013 school years.

"If students don’t have money, they don’t have access to college regardless of their academic preparation. We want to be able to use the data in a more dynamic way and create a platform for other people throughout the state to use and interact with it," says Troy Miller, senior researcher and policy analyst at the FCAN and creator of the tool.

The interactive map is searchable by indicators such as school name, city and county and provides information at the school level such as percentage of low-income students and graduation rate.

The FAFSA is an important tool in the college application process because it alerts students to financial aid available -- both in the form of loans and free Pell grants. A growing population of students in Florida demonstrate financial need (during the 2012-13 school year, 59 percent of K-12 students were eligible for free and reduced lunch), but studies have shown that many don’t fill out the application because they don’t think they will qualify for aid.

The Florida FAFSA Finish Line is intended to be a resource for schools to track and monitor their own progress with helping high school seniors complete the FAFSA. They can also compare themselves with other schools to identify areas where they can improve.

"We want to provide useful, local, targeted data to raise the importance about the FAFSA," says Miller, adding that the data is timely, and taken from the most recent school year (February through June 2013).

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Troy Miller, FCAN

Tampa Native Creates Wallet With Slim Design

The Snapback Wallet was designed with minimalists in mind. With space for 10 credit cards, as well as receipts and cash, the wallet is made of stretchy elastic that can be carried on a wrist or in a pocket or purse.

The concept was developed by Nick Augeri, a Tampa native and University of South Florida graduate, who was frustrated with the lack of quality wallets in a slim size that would hold cards, cash and receipts. After Internet and retail searches came up blank, he decided to start sewing. "I had some terrible prototypes at first," laughs Augeri.

The product development involved a great deal of searching for the perfect elastic, as well as enlisting the help of his mother, an experienced seamstress. Once the design was perfected, he found a manufacturer located in Melbourne. All in all, the process took approximately five months from idea to final execution.

"There’s a lot that goes into making a product that I had no idea about," says Augeri. He learned, for instance, that the country of origin has to be on every product, as well as the nuances involved with shipping.

Augeri launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds to make the first products. The campaign recently exceeded the initial $10,000 goal. He plans to launch two new colors if $15,000 is raised by the end of the campaign on September 27.

He contributes social media channels with helping him spread the word, as well as USF marketing professor Bob Pecoraro for giving him the guidance and direction needed to get the business started.

Augeri hopes to eventually turn the company into a full-time job, selling the wallets both online and in retail establishments.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nick Augeri, University of South Florida

Granex Opens Manufacturing Facility, Adds 50+ Jobs In Tampa

New and emerging stone processing company Granex, Inc. is beginning construction on its new manufacturing facility and will create new jobs for more than 50 new employees. Over the next four months, the company will add crane operators, machine handlers, office administration, marketing specialists and accounting team members.

Granex specializes in processing dimensional stones like granite and marble. By sourcing stone from several different countries and importing them directly into the United States for processing here, it essentially creates a new industry segment for domestic engineering of distinct stones.

"It’s a new kind of industry. This industry will bring the Tampa Bay area onto the world map of manufacturing cities. We will be importing from almost 40 different countries, and we will proudly put Made in USA," says Granex President Raj Emandi.

The opening of the new northeast Tampa manufacturing facility is a part of a $6 million capital investment that will provide a place to process the direct imports, attracting American buyers while presenting a significant cost-savings alternative to purchasing from other countries.

"We are producing huge blocks of granite and marble stone and cutting them in America," says Emandi.

After production, Granex will also begin exporting to other countries including Europe, and Central and South America.

The company is obtaining final permitting for construction of the new facility, will complete construction within four months, and will go straight into production.

Emandi’s goals are to create a wholesome environment for employees by introducing them to the new jobs, offering training, and positioning them for long-term growth with the company's specialized services.

Granex’ growth plans include targeting $8 to $12 million sales within the first two years, expanding the capability and volume of the company and increasing sales, further creating additional job growth.

"Within two years, we will be increasing the capacity of the company by adding a few more machines. We are anticipating to double sales and add more jobs," says Emandi.

For more information on unique business partnerships or career opportunities, visit Granex online or call 813.874.8400.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Raj Emandi, Granex
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