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FindMyClass App Navigates Campus For College Students

The beginning of the semester can be stressful for college students -- learning new faces, making new decisions and finding new classrooms. A mobile app launched at the University of South Florida takes away the guesswork involved in finding classrooms on campus.

FindMyClass was developed by Tampa natives and brothers Michael and Ryan Schmidt. Michael is a graduate and Ryan is a current student in the University of South Florida College of Engineering. The idea came about while the two participated on campus in a Windows Phone Competition sponsored by Microsoft. They attended a series of workshops in which they learned how to code apps and then won a development contest with FindMyClass.

"I always had trouble navigating around campus," says Michael Schmidt. He and his brother felt the need all long but never really thought about building an app to meet that need until the competition.

After downloading the app, users select a campus and then a college. From there they can search for a building. The app puts a line between their current location and the building, and rotates with them as they walk or drive to find it. Users can also view a list of food locations and parking garages.

The app is available on 10 college campuses in Florida, including all campuses of Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida in Tampa and St. Petersburg and The University of Tampa. Eventually the team plans to expand to as many campuses as possible.  

The app is free to download, and the first three building searches are free.

FindMyClass is a charter member of the USF Student Innovation Incubator and is using resources such as pro bono legal advice for their trademark application. "USF is definitely helping us out a lot," says Schmidt.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Schmidt, FindMyClass

Covidien Invests $18 Million in Hillsborough, 165 Jobs

Leading global healthcare product provider Covidien is making its mark in Tampa Bay, planting a new medical device manufacturing facility and making an $18 million capital investment in Hillsborough County, which will create up to 165 new jobs by 2017.

The company is hiring engineers, scientists and manufacturing operators at an average salary of $41,375.

Covidien is among an extensive list of biotech, life sciences, health and medical development firms that have recently selected the Tampa Bay region to expand their research, innovation and manufacturing operations.

As Tampa Bay’s talent pool, innovation, technology and medical market grows, the region is sure to gain additional developmental and growth opportunities that, in-turn, stimulate our regional growth.

"We specifically selected Hillsborough County for several reasons, including its talented workforce and the Tampa Bay region’s business climate, economy and quality of life. Our new facility will not only provide jobs for the local community; it will support Florida’s growing life science industry as well," says Phil Devlin, Covidien’s VP and General Manager.

In January 2013, a $165,000 local incentive package was approved by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, additionally supporting a commitment of $660,000 from the State of Florida through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program.

The total QTI allocation of $825,000 will provide Covidien with $5,000 for the creation of each new job, incentives which will be payable over an eight-year period.

Currently occupying temporary office space in Sabal Park, the company will expand operations to its new 62,000-square-foot Riverview facility by mid-2014.

"Covidien’s choice to expand its presence in the state validates Florida’s position as a leader in life sciences and manufacturing. The company’s investment and jobs created adds to these extensive sectors. The opportunities created by Covidien will add value to Florida’s workforce, and I look forward to seeing their success continue in our state," says Gray Swoope, President & CEO of Enterprise Florida.

For information on career opportunities, visit Covidien online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Phil Devlin, Covidien; Gray Swoope, Enterprise Florida

BlueGrace Logistics Adds 55 New Jobs in Tampa

Transportation management firm BlueGrace Logistics is expanding its east Tampa operations and is slated to create up to 55 new jobs by the end of 2014.

Featured on Inc. 500 as the 20th fastest growing company in the United States and as the number one fastest growing logistics and transportation company, BlueGrace helps to simplify and streamline supply chain management for their customers by combining industry expertise with innovative technology solutions.

BlueGrace was founded in Tampa in 2007 and quickly grew from a small office of 8 to 35 employees by 2010. Within the last three years, the company has grown to more than 140 employees while additionally hosting satellite offices in Chicago, Baltimore and Salt Lake City.

The company is now preparing for additional growth by expanding its 12,000-square-foot office in Riverview.

"We are increasing the size of our building and are breaking down a few walls to house all of our employees," says Senior Marketing Manager Natalie Lane.

The newly created jobs which will focus on sales, operations, customer loyalty programs, marketing, technology and administrative functions will help to enhance the company’s internal support for its franchise developments.

By the end of 2013, BlueGrace added 42 new franchises to its network and will add more than 40 new franchises in 2014. BlueGrace is also launching their new franchise website this week.

BlueGrace has grown nearly 50 percent in the last year and attributes its growth to its market presence, technological innovation, capital gains, employee additions, and its powerful franchise development channels.

"The logistics industry is seeing a boom and an upswing that is consistent with franchise development," says Lane.

Innovation and technology is at the heart of the company and does not just extend to the logistics solutions that BlueGrace provides to customers.

The company’s corporate culture largely features on-going employee training in an effort to help employees be more valuable to the marketplace -- whether with BlueGrace or in pursuit of a new career opportunity.

"We support that type of growth and are big on culture, which attracts a lot of people to our organization. We love our city," says Lane.

The company is also creating 20 new jobs in the Chicago market, is a member of IFA's VetFran Initiative which helps connect veterans with franchise opportunities, and also is a major supporter of philanthropic causes throughout Tampa Bay.

For more information on career opportunities or franchise development, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Natalie Lane, BlueGrace Logistics

Moffitt Cancer Center's SPARK Offers Internships

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Summer Program for the Advancement of Research Knowledge (SPARK) is helping to stimulate and strengthen medical innovation by preparing student interns for career growth in cancer research and biomedical science.

"The mission of Moffitt Cancer Center is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer, so one important way to do that is education and training of researchers," says Dr. Doug Cress, SPARK program director.

Through a 10-week intensive research training program, SPARK allows experienced undergraduate students having a career interest in biomedical science or fields related to cancer research an opportunity to significantly dive into specialized research areas via a variety of programs, including cancer biology and evolution, cancer epidemiology, chemical biology and molecular medicine, health outcomes and behavior, and immunology.

With such an in-depth and expansive field as cancer research, students are able to explore their interests in policy, scientific writing, psychology, laboratory experimentation, and more.

"Every student has a different experience at Moffitt. It depends on what they are interested in," says Cress.

To help guide the creative process, students are assigned a mentor within a particular research group and define goals with which to make an impact over the 10 weeks.

The idea is to increase the students’ knowledge base while providing training and instruction on methodologies, processes, and intricacies critical to the development of cancer research.

The internship program is among key opportunities in medical research and development available in the Tampa Bay region’s growing healthcare provider industry.

"Moffitt as a business is a huge contributor to the economy in the area. You can’t necessarily bring all the talent from the outside. The more talent you train from the inside, the better your perspective is. We hope to be able to bring the interns that we train back into Moffitt as they become independent researchers and independent physicians that contribute to our mission," says Cress.

Moffit is accepting applications through February 15 for participation in SPARK. The program is free to participants, and a taxable stipend is provided.

Selection into the program is based upon relevant experience, a written essay and academic performance as well as recommendations from teachers or faculty.

Selected students must commit to a 40-hours-per-week schedule, which may be completed during any 10 weeks between May 1 and August 31.

For more information on SPARK, visit the program online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dr. Doug Cress, Moffitt Cancer Center & SPARK

New City Of Tampa Mobile App Makes Services More Accessible

Have you ever driven through a pot hole or seen a street light out and wanted to report it to the city, only to forget about it later? 
 
A new mobile app from the City of Tampa makes it easier to report issues that require the City’s attention in real time, as well as to connect with City government. 

"The goal is to give residents and visitors another way to interact with the city," says Ali Glisson, public affairs director for the City of Tampa.

The most popular feature is the “service requests” area, which allows you to report malfunctioning street lights, water department issues, code enforcement inquiries, parking issues and other needs. Citizens can now be the city’s eyes and ears and give them a better view of what’s going on in neighborhoods through the immediate accessibility. There is also a way to send a picture of the incident, which provides GPS coordinates and allows for a quicker response.

Additional features include a full list of city events, including public meetings and special events, instant access to news and press releases, job openings and ways to connect with Mayor Buckhorn via social media. 

The app was developed in-house by city staff and is available free of charge for Android and iOS-based smart phones and tablets. 

"Mayor Buckhorn has been very focused on upgrading the city’s technology infrastructure, so we’ve been trying to make progress in improving technology across the city," says Glisson. 

Future plans for the city’s technology initiatives include integrating a billing system into the app that allows residents to pay water and utility bills through their smart phone. There are also plans to place Wi-Fi in riverfront parks. 

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ali Glisson, City of Tampa

Forum Addresses Energy Skills Gap In Florida, Tampa Bay

Florida’s manufacturing industry is thriving and has a positive outlook for the future. However, many companies express challenges in finding qualified workers, which is only expected to increase. 
 
According to a manufacturing gap analysis conducted in August 2013 by Tampa Bay area workforce centers, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are home to 2,074 manufacturing companies representing 50,803 employees. However, an estimated 4,000 manufacturing jobs go unfilled each month. 

The Florida Colleges Energy Education Forum, January 31 at Palm Beach State College, will bring together representatives of community colleges from across the state with industry experts to network and generate ideas to help meet workforce needs. Attendees will learn about topics such as: Energy, Electricity and Transportation, Sustainable Energy Resources, and a panel discussion focused on turbines and advanced fuels.

"The event's goal is to bring together community college educators and industry experts from across the state to share current workforce needs," says Nina Stokes, project manager for Florida Advanced Technical Education Center (FLATE), who is coordinating the forum.

FLATE is a partnership between St. Petersburg CollegeHillsborough Community College (HCC) and the University of South Florida College of Engineering, and is based out of HCC. It’s one of 36 centers throughout the United States funded by a grant by the National Science Foundation. 

The center’s focus is to prepare the state’s future workforce for manufacturing careers with programs like grant writing, project development, training and curriculum development. FLATE also conceived and coordinates the Engineering Technology (ET) degree and certificate programs now offered as 14 community colleges and enrolling 1,000 students throughout the state. 

Building this pipeline of qualified workers will help Tampa Bay businesses succeed as well as attract new business to the region. Partnerships like these also increase local educational attainment, a goal of the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative launched in March 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nina Stokes, FLATE

Streamsong Resort Opens, 300 New Jobs In Polk County

Streamsong Resort, a nature-based destination golf resort, will open its main lodge and amenities for business this Saturday, creating more than 300 administrative, sales, marketing, maintenance, technical and culinary jobs in the process.

Streamsong, a creation of Mosaic and touted as "a feast for the senses, a haven for the soul," sits on 16,000 acres of land and features 228 guest rounds, four restaurants, a spa, a lakeside pool, 18,000 square feet of conference space, guided bass fishing, and a host of personal enrichment opportunities.

The golf course and clubhouse opened in January 2013.

The resort was built on reclaimed phosphate mines, previously used in the 1960s. The design re-creates a golfing experience reminiscent of golf venues such as the Links courses in Scotland and the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

Mosaic additionally wants to show what can be done on previously mined land -- something that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

"It was intended to be an alternative to the typical Florida resort experience. It’s an immersion into natural Florida. No pollution, no traffic, no lines," says Dave Townsend, spokesman. for Mosaic.

Mosaic, the seventh-largest land owner in Florida with 250,000 acres, conceptualized development of the property as much more than a new local resort and conference destination.

"We saw a need for something like this in the area, but we also saw a unique opportunity associated with the setting," says Townsend.

The new development allowed Mosaic to work closely and collaboratively with nearby communities to create new jobs in Polk County and create new business opportunities for local businesses that provide goods and services to the resort.

The project also is expected to increase tourism and generate additional tax dollars by bringing more business and luxury travelers into the Tampa Bay region and central Florida.

"This is cohesively supplementary to what Tampa offers," says Richard Mogensen, Streamson's general manager.

For more information on Streamsong Resort and job opportunities, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Dave Townsend, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC; Richard Mogensen, Streamsong

Community Crowdfunding Grows Tampa Hackerspace

Crowd-sourced funding can be a modern, effective way to get innovative ideas off the ground. In Tampa, a hackerspace that opened in fall 2013 has proven this point, exceeding their Kickstarter pledge goal of $10,000 by around 50 percent.
 
Money raised through the Kickstarter project, which will be funded at 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 14, will allow Tampa Hackerspace to grow and evolve as a community innovation hub.

Pledge goals include equipment upgrades and community outreach through workshops, local partnerships, and hosting educational events (specifically: helping people who "don't know they are makers yet,'' and teaching kids).

"Our top priorities are to purchase a CNC Mill, Laser Cutter and electronic kits made specifically to get kids inspired and confident about making,'' says Tampa Hackerspace Cofounder Ryan Holmes notes.

Workshops like the quarterly Restart Tampa event will "inspire/help the local community to repair their own appliances by providing them with tools and the confidence to do so,'' says Holmes. "Besides Restart, we are focusing on making programs specifically focused on kids on Sunday afternoons.''

The first "Kid's Open Make'' was held on January 5, 2014; click here for a calendar of upcoming Hackerspace events.

When the group reached 20 percent of their initial $10,000 Kickstarter goal in just a few hours, Holmes was "flabbergasted.'' So far, over 130 backers have pledged donations ranging from $3 to $2,500.

"I definitely knew that there was support out there, but I didn't know it was that digitally connected enough to push out $2,000 in two hours. Just goes to show how much people really want it,'' says Holmes.

Tampa Hackerspace, a state-level nonprofit, is housed on the ground floor of the CoWork Tampa building in West Tampa at 3104 N. Armenia Ave.

The Hackerspace Kickstarter page notes that CoWork Tampa "will significantly discount their $57 coworking membership to $20 per month for six months to every backer of our Kickstarter, plus every member of Tampa Hackerspace, when we reach our $15,000 stretch goal.''

To pledge a donation, visit the Tampa Hackerspace Kickstarter page before 9 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, January 14.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Holmes, Tampa Hackerspace

James Hardie Invests $80 Million, 100 New Jobs in Plant City

James Hardie, global manufacturer of fiber cement siding and interior products, is making an $80 million capital investment in eastern Hillsborough County, expanding its Plant City operations and creating 100 new manufacturing, engineering, project management, and administration jobs by 2015.

"This is an exciting time for James Hardie in both Plant City and around the world. Innovation that happens in Plant City resonates around the world, and the catalyst is the great environment we have here. Employees see themselves as a family, and that says a lot about the people in the city and the surrounding community," says Ryan Sullivan, south division general manager for James Hardie.

James Hardie's expansion plan includes 100,000 square-feet of additional manufacturing space, new machinery, and new equipment, essentially doubling production capacity to meet the increased industry demand for its fiber cement siding products.

The company first established operations in Plant City site in 1994, which currently employs 100 associates.

In 2012, in an effort to increase the community’s competitive advantage in high-impact economic development projects, the City of Plant City approved a moratorium on the collection of transportation mobility fees.

Resultantly, James Hardie received a fee waiver of $37,300, further solidifying market productivity, regional economic growth, and job creation for Tampa Bay.

"This is great news for our community. Manufacturing is an important part of our economic growth strategy," says Mark Sharpe, chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

The company is also eligible for Florida’s new Machinery and Equipment Sales Tax Exemption program, which was approved by the state legislature in May 2013.

"James Hardie has been a valuable member of our business community for more than two decades. Its decision to expand in Plant City is a testament to the strong business environment we’ve created, and validates our role as a top manufacturing and distribution center," says Plant City Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis.

For more information on career opportunities, visit James Hardie online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Ryan Sullivan, James Hardie; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County BOCC; Mary Thomas Mathis, City of Plant City

Project Transition USA Helps Veterans Find Civilian Careers

For many military veterans, making the transition from military to civilian life can prove challenging -- especially landing a good job.

Project Transition USA is on a mission to ease that process by using the power of LinkedIn to help military veterans find and position themselves for unique post-military career opportunities.

The nonprofit organization teaches LinkedIn workshops to transitioning military, veterans, and dependents, showing them effective LinkedIn and professional strategies that will help ease their transition into the civilian workforce.

"We teach them how to brand themselves and be attractive in the market," says Nancy Laine, president and workshop facilitator.

Laine, the daughter of an Army Chaplain and also known as "The Linked Concierge," discovered the potential of LinkedIn after making a valuable new client connection via the online professional network.

Laine and the Project Transition USA workshop team share personal experiences and success stories with veterans about the benefits of using LinkedIn as a networking resource that can lead to rewarding civilian career opportunities.

For several, personal networking or using a platform such as LinkedIn can be a bit uncomfortable after having been removed from the normalcy of every-day career advancement opportunities.

"We start out by addressing their number one fear -- privacy," says Laine.

The Project Transition USA team then starts veterans out with LinkedIn 101, easing them through the learning curve of LinkedIn’s platform while teaching them how to best share their skills that many employers and recruiters look for in candidates, sharing information on:

- Creating a noticeable profile to showcase your skills
- Strategies to build a network to promote hiring
- Effective job-searching techniques on LinkedIn's website
- How to connect with influential people with common interests
- Guidance from professional recruiters and influential community leaders

Although 93 percent of recruiters are currently using LinkedIn as a resource to find qualified candidates, a substantial 69 percent of military veterans report finding a job as the most significant hurdle in their transition.

In November 2012, Project Transition USA collaborated with MacDill Air Force Base to bring the LinkedIn Job Search Workshop to MacDill’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) -- the first held on a military base anywhere in the world.

The organization’s progressive goal is to additionally teach civilian career transition strategies to active duty service members prior to being discharged, integrating the approach in collaboration with each United States military base to capitalize upon the long-term benefits of career preparation to prospective employers after military service.

"They want a meaningful career, and we point them in the direction of whatever makes them come alive," says Laine.

For information on workshops or how to get involved, visit Project Transition USA on LinkedIn or online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Nancy Laine, Project Transition USA

USF Health Pilots New Therapy For PTSD Patients

Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) now have an innovative treatment option that offers promising results.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder experienced by combat military personnel and others who have been exposed to one or more life-threatening or traumatic events. According to PTSD Foundation of America, one in three combat veterans suffers from PTSD, yet less than 40 percent seek help.

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) combines evidence-based psychotherapies with eye movements, and offers promising results within an abbreviated period of time compared with traditional therapist. Patients are asked to think about the traumatic experience and walk through it in their head like a movie. This elicits typical physiological responses to stress, including increased heart rate and chest tightening. They then participate in eye movement therapy, which creates a calming feeling or desensitization.

In the second stage, the patient reimagines the way the event occurred in a way they would prefer to remember it. They then do additional eye movement therapy, which essentially replaces the negative images in the brain with positive ones.

"It sounds a little farfetched, but memories can be changed," says Kevin Kip, PhD, professor and executive director for the Research Center at te USF College of Nursing. "When you bring up a memory, you can actually change features of it."

With ART, results can be achieved in just two to five sessions, compared with 10--12 in traditional therapies. It’s also unique in that the patient doesn’t have to verbalize or write about the trauma.

The first randomized controlled trail of the therapy with 57 participants was recently conducted by the Restore Lives Center at the USF College of Nursing, yielding promising results.

Representative Castor provided support through Congressional funding in 2009 for this and four other similar studies.

Approximately 300 clinicians in the U.S. have been trained on the therapy so far. Next steps include a larger study, with 200 veterans and a six month follow-up.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kevin Kip, USF College of Nursing

Tampa General Hospital Recognized For Use Of Technology

Imagine you’re in the hospital, laying in bed, watching TV. A box pops up on your television screen, asking about your pain level and providing you with a way to answer on-screen. If your pain is over a certain threshold, a nurse is alerted. You can also use your TV to interact with clinical staff, asking questions on a digital whiteboard and keeping a journal of your medical information.

The Get Well Network, an interactive patient care system, is just one of the ways Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is using technology to improve healthcare delivery. The hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system recently received highest honors from the Health Information and Management System Society (HIMSS), an international organization that analyzes use of technology in healthcare.

The hospital received the Stage 7 designation, the final level of a multi-tiered process. Currently, only 2.2 percent of hospitals in the U.S. have this designation (four in Florida).

HIMSS looks at how the hospital leverages technology for better and safer patient care, quality outcomes improvement and reduction in medication errors. The designation includes an on-site inspection in which the hospital receives a thorough scrutinization. Nurses and doctors are questioned about how they use the system, and specific outcomes are studied, such as disease management, research and how available data is used to improve the wellness of the community.

They also look at governance in decision-making, including new ideas, innovations and the involvement of key stakeholders.

"What’s unique about our organization is that we involve everyone who has to use the system on a daily basis," says Scott Arnold, Senior VP and Chief Information Officer for Tampa General Hospital. "What’s most important is patient safety and a higher quality of care."

TGH first launched its EMR in 2011, and has seen a reduction in medication errors of 63 percent since implementation.

by: Megan Hendricks
Source: Scott Arnold, Tampa General Hospital

USF Entrepreneurship Alumni Crowdfund Youth Community Center

Alumni from USF are on a mission to “Turn on the Lights” at the yet to be opened Youth Development Center in Tampa Heights.

The USF Alumni Society of Entrepreneurs, an organization of Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship and Applied Technologies graduates from USF, has developed Tampa Heights Unite. The project is using the crowd funding platform Indiegogo to raise funds for lighting a the new youth community center. Donors can contribute any amount toward their goal of $5,000, which they hope to raise by December 31.

The center is a project of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, a community-based nonprofit that provides leadership and civic development for youth in Tampa Heights through mentoring and support. The group is renovating an abandoned church at 2005 N. Lamar Ave., built in 1905, to turn it into a thriving, inviting place for at-risk youth and families.

"I walked into the church and could see the vision they had for the center," says Mit Patel, USF Masters in Entrepreneurship graduate and board member for the Tampa Heights Civic Association. "I fell in love with the project."

Patel’s company, MIT Computers is donating a computer lab, and Columbia Restaurant Group is providing a kitchen.

"We’re getting a lot of support from the community," says Patel. "It’s really a community-based, grassroots movement."

The renovation is part of a larger project, which includes a community garden, entrepreneurial garden club and playground that are already in existence.

The 9,055-square-foot center will include a Learning Center, Teen Center, Center for Creativity and rental space for meetings and events. Programs to be offered include: leadership skills, business and entrepreneurship, financial literacy, workforce preparation and technology training.

Completion of the renovation is expected for summer 2014.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mit Patel, USF Alumni Society of Entrepreneurs

WaZINIT App Wins Startup Weekend Tampa Bay With Focus On Food Allergies

A mobile app that identifies food ingredients and allergens has won Tampa Bay's fifth Startup Weekend. WaZINIT is designed to help consumers with allergies and specific preferences compare products directly from their smartphones.

WaZINIT President and St. Petersburg native Brian DiVito has lived with Crohn's disease for over half of his life. For 16 years, he navigated a cycle of flare-ups, hospital stays, abdominal surgery and recovery related to the condition.

Along the way, DiVito learned that he had about 30 food allergies. He developed a new diet that avoided trigger foods. Today, he experiences virtually no Crohn's-related issues.

"With 30 allergies, I kept thinking, 'There's got to be a better way','' DiVito explains. "I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading ingredient labels in the store.''

Multiple food allergies also kept DiVito from trying new things. "Once I found a food product that worked, I'd stick with it,'' he says. "Current solutions that are out there limit you, many times, to the eight FDA allergies. They also charge a super-high premium.''

The eight major food allergens identified by the Food and Drug Administration include: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

"Our app will allow you to focus on many more specific ingredients: Do you want to eat this, or avoid it?'' says DiVito, who attended the University of South Florida, where he studied Architecture and Civil/Structural Engineering.

As a "hobbyist'' front-end developer, DiVito had been "kicking around'' the idea of an app that could help consumers search a large database for specific products or ingredients. Smartphone and tablet users will be able to scan products and identify ingredients from the app's directory.

Enter Startup Weekend Tampa Bay. The team included DiVito and his wife, Christina DiVito, along with Gregg Hilferding, Zach Kanzler, Todd Broyles, Adriane Jacobsen, Collete Lawson and Elizabeth Rugg. WaZINIT won.

"Our pitch for the judges was focused on how we could monetize the app -- but for me, the most important thing is to keep it free,'' DiVito explains. "Whatever their reasons, I want people to be able to use it and share it with family and friends for free.''

Now that Startup Weekend is over, the team is back down to a skeleton crew as they work to develop a beta version, market the app and source funding. They applied to the First WaVe Accelerator program, and competed in the Global Startup Battle, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola. DiVito hopes to "attract the attention and support'' of manufacturers like the brand.

"Ultimately, the goal is to keep the mobile app free of charge for the user,'' Di Vito says.

WaZINIT will be released in 2014 for mobile devices.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Brian DiVito, WaZINIT

Verizon Wireless Recognizes Tampa Bay Companies For Innovation

Tampa Bay companies were recognized recently for using Verizon Wireless technology to improve efficiency and operations.

Now in its second year, the Verizon Wireless Technology Innovation Awards are hosted in various communities across the U.S. – this year in Arkansas, Central Alabama, Southeast Louisiana, Central Texas, the Carolinas and Tampa Bay. A winner is selected in each community to receive a $10,000 prize.

"We're looking to foster innovation, and specifically acknowledge and recognize our customers who are using our technology to innovate in the way they do business," says Chuck Hamby, Florida Region Public Relations Manager for Verizon Wireless.

The Tampa Bay competition was open to small to mid-size businesses with up to 500 employees. Companies submitted entries that explained how they use Verizon Wireless solutions to solve business challenges.

The overall winner was TransCare, a nonprofit division of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay that responds to non-emergency 911 calls. The company operates 19 ambulances and 10 other transit vehicles, responding to over 40,000 calls per year in Tampa.

In 2009, the company noticed a significant increase in call volume. Looking for a way to keep up and maintain operational efficiency, they implemented Verizon’s WiFi technology to equip each ambulance with internet capability, allowing for continuous communication between the vehicles and the dispatch center. Doing so reduced average response times from 15 minutes to 10, increasing monthly patient services by 40 percent.

"It really got us to a place of efficiency," says Terence Romatar, VP for TransCare. "Verizon stepped up to the plate and offered a solution. They’re not a vendor, they’re a partner."

The company also improved billing processes by transmitting data wirelessly.

"Tampa is a technology incubator," says Hamby. "This area in Florida is business savvy, tech savvy -- an early adoptive area."

Caldeco, a heating and air conditioning company, received the runner-up award. Other finalists in Tampa Bay included Creative Sign Designs and Freedom Boat Club.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Chuck Hamby, Verizon Wireless; Terence Romatar, TransCare
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