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The Telling Project: Veterans tell their stories of war experiences

Given that only 1 percent of the U.S. population has served in the military over the last dozen years of war, it may be hard for many to understand or relate to the experiences and struggles many veterans encounter. The Florida Humanities Council, based in St. Petersburg, and Tampa’s WEDU PBS TV are working to change this.

“Veterans: The Telling Project” is the result. It’s a TV documentary that follows six Tampa Bay area veterans and one military spouse who participated in an innovative theater project, providing intimate insight into individual challenges.

The documentary, which debuted last week in Tampa, will air again on Veteran’s Day, Wednesday, November 11, at 8 p.m. on WEDU+ which corresponds to Channel 605 on Brighthouse/476 Verizon/203 Comcast -- and throughout the week on other Florida PBS channels. Check your local TV listings. The program will air nationwide beginning in January.

“Veterans are coming back with injuries and issues and are feeling isolated because the general population is unaware,” says Barbara O’Reilley, Communications Director of the Florida Humanities Council. The Tampa Bay Telling Project, she says “is a way to bridge the communication gap between veterans and the population at large – tell their experiences directly to the communities.”

The Telling Project is a national performing arts nonprofit that “employs theater to deepen our understanding of the military and veterans’ experience.” Founded in 2008 by Jonathan Wei, the project was brought to Florida by the Florida Humanities Council (FHC), which hopes to expand the project to several cities in the state. Pensacola, which is home to a large veteran population, was picked for a second performance, which is currently underway.

Through an intensive interview process, Wei extracts the veterans’ stories and crafts a scripted play using their own words; the veterans also serve as the actors. The result is a deeply personal account of their military experiences and ongoing struggles, laid all the more bare because none of the Tampa Bay area veterans had ever performed on stage before. The Tampa Bay Telling Project plays took place this past spring around the region and included talk-back sessions afterward. 

Unique to the Tampa project is that FHC was able to partner with WEDU and chronicle the process of the project -- from creating the story to building performers -- in documentary form, accessible to all via public television.

Though FHC is a statewide organization, O’Reilley says they piloted the program locally  “so we could really be hands on.” She notes that the Tampa Bay region was ideal for the project with Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, a huge multi-generational veterans community and access to “great stage theater venues” in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

“Every single one [of the performances] received standing ovations,” says O’Reilley. She notes that the talk-back sessions were often as powerful, oftentimes with members of the audience saying, " 'I am a veteran and that happened to me, too, and it makes me feel better that I am not alone'.'' 

Veterans, active military invited to compete for funding in HCC business pitch competition

Veterans and active duty military seeking to open a business or embark on a new career path, mark your calendars.

Hillsborough Community College will host the 3rd Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at the school’s Plant City campus.

“This high impact day is designed to provide veterans with an opportunity to learn all about self employment and entrepreneurship,” explains event co-Organizer Beth Kerly, HCC Instructor of Entrepreneurship, Management and Marketing.

Veterans and active duty military members with an early stage business, or an idea for one, can apply to compete in a business pitch competition for up to $6,000 in prize money furnished by the HCC Foundation.

The symposium will feature workshops covering an array of topics related to starting up and running a small business. Keynote speakers for the event include Tampa Innovation Alliance President and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, along with HCC alum Valerie Ellis, Founder of veteran-focused staffing service Veterans2Corporate, and Clint Day, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at State College of Florida.

Kerly hopes to see attendees take “a basic idea of what it takes to be self employed” from the symposium. 

“Empowered to take the ‘leap,’ into entrepreneurship” she says, or perhaps to create “a list of community contacts that can help them on their journey. And, maybe a pitch prize to get their idea validated, a prototype.”

Those with active-duty experience are 45 percent more likely than those without to be self-employed, Kerly says, noting, “We have a huge military population in the area."

"In 2007 -- the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau -- veterans owned 2.4 million businesses, or 9 percent of all businesses nationwide, generating $1.2 trillion in receipts and employing nearly 5.8 million people.” Kerly says. “Veterans jump into entrepreneurship much more readily than civilians.”

The 3rd Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) will take place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, November 14. To register, click here. Those interested in applying for the business pitch aspect of the symposium can click here to learn more.

Veterans, active duty military,and spouses are invited to attend the free event; guests are welcome.

“This event provides an excellent opportunity for you to network with business professionals from the Tampa Bay area, learn about the various dimensions of entrepreneurship,” says Kerly.

Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival, Nov. 7-8

Run into any random pieces of photography lately, with a “take me, I’m free” note attached?   

Could be one of the 25 pieces of “abandoned” art strategically placed throughout the Tampa Bay area in a clever marketing effort by the Temple Terrace Arts Council to promote their 42nd annual Arts & Crafts Festival taking place this weekend -- 10 a.m- 4 p.m. -- November 7-8, 2015 at the seven-acre Greco Event Field in Temple Terrace.  Admission and parking are free.

“It’s a fun day that is free, family friendly, and it’s all about art,” says Kim Straub who spearheads the marketing efforts and organization of the festival. “The festival is kind of one of those well-kept secrets, and this year we are really trying to expand beyond Temple Terrace.” She says this is keeping with the all-volunteer Council’s mission statement, “to bring art to the community and beyond.” She notes that last year in a sampling they found attendance included 78 zip codes, including 13 from out of state, and over 7,000 attendees.

In addition to the 55 artist’s and crafter’s booths, food trucks and live entertainment, there are interactive arts activities to engage children and adults alike.  

Tampa-based artist Terry Klaaren (creator of the Recyclosaurus at the MOSI) will host demonstrations of painting “en plein air” techniques.  A display of 30 works of art by area elementary schoolchildren will be on exhibit and a dedicated kids arts area, “Fresh Impressionists,” will be available which will also include culinary activities scheduled throughout the day, provided by Farm 2 School.

For the first time, a “Public Pollock” collaborative art project will take place inviting people “of all ages and skill levels” to apply paint. 

“When you are involved with putting paint on the canvass – and that is what Jackson Pollock was all about – you become one with the paint and the painting,” says Straub. “It’s a different way of looking at art.”  The abstract expressionist masterpiece is slated to become a traveling exhibit after the festival.

Another “big draw”: a free raffle to win $250 Saturday, $500 Sunday toward a “festival shopping spree” for adults. Children can enter two drawings to win free art kits filled will paints and supplies.  Winners will be announced at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. 

For more information on the 42nd Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival, click here

Job seekers: Fall, winter career fairs in Tampa Bay

As the end of the year approaches, a number of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg area companies and local governments are seeking candidates for part- and fulltime positions.

New graduates, young professionals, those seeking a career change or industry advancement, take note of these upcoming job and career fairs in the Tampa Bay area in fall 2015 and winter 2016. Events include job fairs for veterans, law enforcement and students.

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.

Monday, November 2: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Job Fair
noon-4 p.m.
Falkenburg Road Jail Assembly Room (North side)
520 N Falkenburg Road, Tampa

Thursday, November 12: City of Tampa Mayor’s Alliance for Persons with Disabilities Job Fair
9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Port Tampa Bay, Terminal 2,
651 Channelside Drive, Tampa

Thursday, November 19: Tampa Career Fair 
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport
4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa

Friday, December 11: Tampa Career Fair 
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport
4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa

Monday, January 11, 2016: Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair presented by the Tampa Bay Times
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Coliseum
535 4th Ave North, St. Pete

More than 50 local employers will be in attendance. Professional business attire required. Bring at least 20 copies of your resume.

February 2, 2016: University of South Florida Career Fair Week
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Marshall Student Center Ballroom, USF campus
4103 USF Cedar Cir, Tampa

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. Email the 83 Degrees Innovation & Job News editor with "Hiring" in the subject line. Reach out over on Twitter (@83degreesmedia) if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Hiring in Tampa Bay: November 2015 job news

Fulfill online orders at a Tampa Bay area warehouse in a seasonal role; handle media relations and marketing for a local architecture firm fulltime; tee up for a position at a popular Pinellas County golfing resort.

All of these opportunities and more are part of the 83 Degrees Media monthly Tampa Bay jobs roundup. 
 
Here's who's hiring in Tampa Bay in November 2015:

Online giant Amazon is currently hiring for a number of temporary, seasonal positions at the megastore's Lakeland fulfillment center. Seasonal Fulfillment Associates must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or equivalent. To learn more or apply, visit the company's website

DHR Mechanical Services is seeking several full-time associates in Supermarket Refrigeration, Energy Management Systems, Installation, Foremen, Startup Technician, and other roles. Foreman applicants must have at least five years experience in a supervisor or management role.

Harvard Jolly Architecture is hiring a Marketing Coordinator for the firm's St. Petersburg headquarters. Responsibilities will include writing proposals, media relations, branding, content development, internal and external communications, database maintenance, and more.The successful candidate will be a creative thinker and problem solver with a flexible schedule.

HealthPlan Services, a Water Street Healthcare Partners affiliate, is hiring for 11 jobs in the Tampa Bay area, including Data Analyst; HR Analyst; Sales Engineer; Director, Data Warehouse; Website Content Manager; and more.

Tampa Bay's well-known Innisbrook Golf Resort is hiring for a number of fulltime positions, including General Maintenance, Cosmetologist, Regional Group Sales Manager, Greenskeeper, Mechanic, Night Auditor, and more. Responsibilities and requirements vary per position; visit the Innisbrook Careers website to learn more about each opening. 

Tampa Bay Partnership is hiring a VP Public Policy and Legislative Affairs. The position reports directly to the president and CEO and is primarily responsible for developing and implementing legislative priorities and public policy agenda. Successful candidates will have previous policy or legislative experience.

IT staffing firm TEKsystems is hiring for an ECommerce Business Analyst in Tampa. The successful applicant will have five or more years of experience as an IT Business Analyst; be knowledgable about creating diagrams and workflows; and have UX experience. Retail experience is a bonus.

TEKsystems is also hiring for a Business Systems Analyst and a VoiP Network Engineer. 

St. Pete Pedicab challenges employees to exercise while on the clock. Interested in peddling for the popular DTSP transport as an independent contractor?  

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.

USF students gain real-world experience by shadowing alumni in new program

The University of South Florida aims to build a database of alumni volunteers around the world through a new career services program. Shadow-A-Bull will allow USF students to work directly in occupational fields and real-world situations at businesses owned or operated by USF alumni.

The program’s goal is to connect students with volunteer alumni worldwide, explains Alexandra Moubarak, a USF career counselor who developed the free Shadow-A-Bull program with the assistance of the school’s Career Services team.

“The real incentive to be a Shadow-A-Bull host is to make a difference and impact the lives of USF students,” Moubarak says. “Alumni hosts will contribute valuable, industry-related knowledge and assist students in determining their career paths and futures.”

To sign up as a Shadow-A-Bull Alumni Host, visit the USF Career Services website and follow instructions to register. 

Once they've registered for the program, students choose to connect with registered alumni and arrange to participate in a variety of activities, including half- or full-day shadowing, industry interviews or workplace tours.

“A Shadow-A-Bull host will be able to share valuable, industry-related knowledge and have a direct impact on USF students,” says Moubarak, who is also an adjunct instructor and consultant for USF’s College of The Arts, Honors College and School of Humanities.

While students do not earn school credit for participation in the program, Moubarak says, “We’re promoting networking and encouraging communication. It’s a great opportunity that will assist them with career decisions which will have an impact on them for life."

So far, students have shown a high level of interest in the Shadow-A-Bull program, Moubarak says. “We have numerous students who are eager to shadow and connect with professionals in the field, especially if they are alumni.”

Shadow-A-Bull runs year-round, so students can work with local Tampa Bay area alumni during the semester and potentially form networks with alumni in their home cities during vacations, summers or school breaks. Where physical shadowing isn’t available, students and alumni will be able to participate in the program through email and phone or Skype calls.

The flexibility of the Shadow-A-Bull program “may potentially open up opportunities for students in terms of shadowing, internships, part-time, [or] full-time work in the future,” Moubarak says, “since it will assist with communication and networking."
 

International event for journalists to be held in St. Petersburg, November 2015

St. Petersburg-based World Partnerships, Inc. will host this year’s “Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists.” The annual event named after the legendary radio news broadcaster spans seven days in which journalists from around the world get a chance to meet up, share experiences and learn from one another.

“This is the tenth anniversary, and we will be having journalists coming from more than 80 foreign countries,” says Gary Springer, president of World Partnerships, Inc.

The event, November 4th to 10th, includes a community service project at Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County, a 2-day training symposium hosted and organized by the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg and a dinner honoring select journalists on Sunday, November 8.

“We have also partnered with U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command to do a briefing for all of these journalists, so that will be an exciting highlight during the week,” Springer says.

Attendees will include senior journalists, both on-air and behind the scenes, including reporters, editors and producers in TV and radio.

With an estimated 100 journalists arriving from all over the world, event attendees will examine the essential role of independent media in fostering and protecting freedom of expression and democracy around the world.

“This is a great opportunity for the area as it become more internationally oriented,” says Springer. “Also, this annual event brings together journalists who would otherwise never cross paths.”

For more information on the event or World Partnerships, Inc., visit their website.

Consider Water highlights sustainability message through the arts

“Consider Water” debuting in Tampa at Hillsborough County Community College (HCC) Mainstage Theatre in Ybor City this weekend, October 30-31 at 7:30 p.m., is a performance at the intersection of art and environment.

Acclaimed New York-based dancer/choreographer and activist Davalois Fearon will perform the collaborative piece, which combines dance with original music and visual art, to raise awareness about issues that most concern her, in this case, water. 

“It isn’t just about arts and dance, but getting in front of some of the current issues going on right now,” says Angela Walters, HCC’s Community Relations and Marketing Manager. “We live in Tampa Bay -- and our available, clean water is something that we have to start thinking about.”

According to the United Nations Clean Water Facts, nearly 800 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Six million to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases. 

“Even here in the United States, 40 percent of the rivers and 46 percent of the lakes are polluted and are considered unhealthy for swimming, fishing or aquatic life,” notes Fearon.

The dance program at HCC, which Walters describes as “very, very, active,” regularly brings in artists from around the country to work with students onsite. However, Walters points out, HCC is also committed to sustainability and Fearon’s visit will serve to bridge the dance and science/sustainability departments through a series of workshops and discussion surrounding the performance. Fearon will also hold auditions early in the week for students to take part of Consider Water’s ensemble. 

“We are always looking for different ways to connect with other audiences and makes them think,” says Walters.  “The arts are something that connects individuals, a different medium, a creative way -- it’s showing them in an aspect that they can connect to.” 

The performance is open to the public with $10 general admission. All HCC students, faculty and staff are admitted free of charge with valid ID. For more information, click here.

Startup Weekend brings Global Startup Battle to UT campus in November

Startup Weekend events have helped shape the entrepreneurial community of Tampa Bay in recent years, with notable businesses and connections forming as a result of the 54-hour weekend coding and creating marathons.

83 Degrees asked Startup Weekend event co-organizer Michael LaPlante what's new and fresh about this year's meetup, who might want to attend, and how Startup Weekend has impacted Tampa Bay. LaPlante, who earned a BS in web design from Full Sail University in Orlando and runs a web development business in Tampa, has helped organize several Startup Weekend events and curates Tampa Bay Startup Digest.

Check out the Q&A below to see his responses and score a $25 coupon code for Techstar's Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, which will take place at the University of Tampa's John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center November 13-15, 2015.

83 Degrees: What's new or different this year at Startup Weekend?
MP: This year, we are really trying to blow it out of the park during the Global Startup Battle event. There are more prizes and tracks to advance to than ever before. We are really trying to connect to the community this event, and we have teamed up with the University of Tampa to also reach out to the younger crowd. 

83D: How is the event financed? Is the city or county providing funds? 
MP: In the past, we have worked with Hillsborough County through their EDI2 grant to help fund our event along with sponsors, but this year we are back to hitting the ground and finding local community sponsors that can make the event possible. If [you] want to get [your] name out there, definitely reach out. Nothing is too big or too small, and it all goes back to making the Tampa Bay community even more awesome.

83D: Who would you recommend consider registering to participate in Startup Weekend?
MP: Anyone with an idea, or an itch to solve a problem: this is your space to be. Whether you are new to the area, or have been here for years, you can always meet new people and grow your network. 

The amount I see people grow in the span of 54 hours during our events is tremendous. I can guarantee everyone will learn something. I have been doing these for almost five years, and have been involved in more than 20 in some way, shape, or form, and I still learn something new every time.

83D: Do you think SW events have positively impacted the community in the past few years? How/why?
MP: I certainly think the past events have greatly impacted our community. We have seen companies form, friendships and partnerships birthed, and ideas come to life. I still hear buzz all throughout the year about the events... I am constantly asked when the next event will be, because someone has an idea they would love to pitch.

Our goal is to show anyone they can follow their dream and build a thriving business here in the Tampa Bay region, and we work with awesome partners and sponsors to help bring that to life.

83D: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
MP: Readers can use code “83DEGREES” to get $25 off any normal price ticket.

Career fair for active, retired military Oct. 29 near Orlando

Veterans and active military service members -- and their spouses -- are invited to attend a free job fair on Thursday, October 29: the Military and Veterans Career Fair and Seminars in Lake Buena Vista.

The military career fair, hosted by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., with seminars beginning at 8:30 a.m. The fair is open to all active duty, retired, former and National Guard or Reserve service members, of all ranks, along with their spouses and government employees.
 
Career seminars before and during the military career fair will focus on topics that help active or retired veterans transition into post-military careers, including:
  • Network Your Way to Employment: 8:30 a.m.
  • Getting the Most from Your MOAA Membership: 9:30 a.m.
  • Evaluating Employee Benefits: 11 a.m.
  • LinkedIn Best Practices: 2 p.m.
"75 percent of employer hires are facilitated through networking," MOAA wrote on the group Facebook page October 24. "Find out why at #‎MOAA’s Networking Your Way to Employment seminar."

Along with attending seminars, job seekers can make connections with company representatives from both regional and national businesses, such as Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Best Buy, Edward Jones, Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education, and other organizations, during the fair.

The MOAA Military and Veterans Career Fair will be at Buena Vista Palace & Spa, 1900 Buena Vista Drive, near Orlando. The fair is free to attend, but registration is required.

MOAA, whose members number more that 380,000 and include the full spectrum of military services, has led military-to-civilian career transition for decades. MOAA will host an annual meeting of military officers at the 2015 Annual Meeting in conjunction with the military career fair in Lake Buena Vista. MOAA also runs the nonprofit Voices for America’s Troops.

Military Hackathon challenges developers to innovate solutions to DoD challenges

A Hackathon focused on solving potential problems using military and defense tactics took place in Tampa over the weekend.

Hackathons are events at which groups of programmers and developers come together to create solutions to posed problems. The Mil-OSS Tampa Hackathon, which kicked off with a Friday night networking event and concluded with a Sunday evening awards ceremony, could “provide potential solutions to challenges faced within the DoD,” says event organizer Jeff Young.

The goal of the Hackathon: to “showcase talent that is interested in supporting the defense community,” Young explains.

Tampa Bay is home to the U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, and the two commands worked with the event organizers to develop the Mil-OSS Tampa Hackathon. The challenge was expected to bring out members of the government and military, as well as local students and professors.

Hackathon topics were selected by experts from the Department of Defense, Young says. Challenges for this event will focus on topics such as open source framework, cyber security and cloud security, tactical terrain models, and 3D model visualization.

The MIl-OSS Tampa Hackathon kicked off at SOFWERX, 1910 North Ola Avenue in Tampa, but teams were able to choose between working from the event headquarters or a location of their choosing. Participants were required to work on their own devices during the Hackathon.

Event organizers expected around 50-70 challenge participants and another 20 to 30 attending to observe. People from across Florida, as well as out of state, visited Tampa Bay to participate in the Hackathon alongside teams “from local industry and academia,” says Young, who is VP of Marketing and Business Development at Marjau Systems Corporation, a tech company that focuses on providing IT solutions for government and private entities. Young, who attended college at the University of San Francisco, previously worked for Brighthouse and Time Warner Cable and is a charter member of the Marketing Advisory Committee for United Way of Tampa Bay.

Mil-OSS goals include improving tech development and innovation through creating networking opportunities, connecting veterans, and creating solutions.

Expenses for the Hackathon are covered by a myriad of event sponsors; all remaining funds will be donated to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Hackathon sponsors include the University of Tampa, Kahwa Coffee, Hillsborough County, Tribridge, Agile Thought, Reliaquest, and other local businesses.

Tampa Innovation Alliance hosts global thought leader at dinner

Tampa Innovation Alliance will unveil an updated plan for revitalizing a section of Tampa once known as “Suitcase City” at a dinner celebrating author Bruce Katz on Oct. 29.

Katz, a renowned expert on innovation districts, is founding director of D.C.-based think tank The Brookings Institute and author of The Metropolitan Revolution. Tampa Innovation Alliance Founder, Mark Sharpe, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, who follows and engages with Katz on social media, invited him to speak at the dinner.

“We realized that as we launch an innovation district, there’s no one better to come in and assess the situation and be a part of it,” explains Kelley Sims, director of communications and community engagement for the Tampa Innovation Alliance.

“It’s time for us to really launch the vision for the district,” says Sims. “We have a sense for the change that can be made and how it will happen here, and it’s really time for us to share that with the community. A great deal of forward movement is happening.”

The Museum of Science and Industry will host the “cooking with science” concept dinner, which is open to the public. The event will “feature science and technology in a lot of different ways,” says Sims.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance was developed by Sharpe in 2014 and launched almost one year ago with four program “anchors”: the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center

“Anchor institutions that were doing things on their own weren’t necessarily working together before,” Sims says, “but now, you see this incredible dynamic between them.”

Membership has increased to around 90 members since the Innovation Alliance launched, including community leaders like MOSI and big-name brands like Brighthouse. The addition of University Mall owners New York-based RD Management to the Alliance executive committee is “very exciting,” Sims says, “because they have plans to put as much as $150 million into a complete revitalization of that mall -- a completely new concept.”

The Alliance sees the mall “as sort of the town center,” Sims says, “a beginning of the revitalization of the whole alliance area.”

The area comprises about 25,000 acres -- bordered by Bearss Ave to the north and Busch Boulevard to the south, between interstates 275 and 75. Working with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Corporation has helped the Alliance to identify an “inner core,” where an innovation district will be centrally defined over time, Sims says.

Discussions regarding some gateway projects have also begun; these could include freeway identifier signs to brand the district.

“There’s serious momentum with regards to change, and it will be nice for folks to see that as they enter the area,” Sims says.

Students and professors from USF are assisting the Alliance with studying the area and conducting planning studies.

“We feel that this is incredibly important: to involve the community that already lives in our area,” Sims says. “We want those who are living here to have opportunities for better wage jobs, better education, startup business support; and we want to make sure the community is involved and their ideas are represented in our planning."

“We’re building an innovation district where people want to 'live, work, play, study, and stay.' Having involvement at every age is really important to us.” 

Unconference draws tech crowd to USF College of Business

Annually each fall, a group of technology enthusiasts from the Tampa Bay community comes together at the University of South Florida’s large, airy College of Business building to listen to local speakers give off-the-cuff presentations about all things tech.

BarCamp Tampa Bay 2015, which is now in its eighth year, bills itself as an “un-conference,” one where tech industry programmers, developers, designers and entrepreneurs come together to share knowledge and develop connections. Marketers, copywriters and other web-related content creators are also welcome at BarCamp events.

One constant of any BarCamp is change. Each year’s speakers and topics are laid out in a first-come, first-served informal format. Instead of assigning topics or asking for presentation outlines ahead of time, BarCamp organizers crowdsource topics and the speakers from the local tech community. Topics can range from agile development and user experience design to 3D printing, startup funding or networking tips. 

“We never know until the morning of the event exactly what is going to be presented,” explains event co-organizer Ken Evans.

The one-day event took place on Saturday, October 17, with early morning speaker signup and a steady stream of topics presented from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A break for lunch included a mile of subs donated by Firehouse.

Startup Monkey Founder Evans hopes to see participants walk away “with an appreciation for what others know and a willingness to freely share with each other as peers. BarCamp’s greatest asset may be that someone in the audience last year is inspired to get up and be a speaker this year.”

"Cool T-shirts" and an after party are also part of the BarCamp package. This year, the after party took place at the newest location of the successful Tampa-based tavern, World of Beer, on Fowler Ave. 

The event has been hosted at USF for the past four years, and Evans, who attended Syracuse University in New York, was “delighted” to see the event welcomed back to the campus in Tampa's growing Innovation District for a fifth.

USF’s Muma College of Business is “a wonderful venue host,” Evans says. “I know they see the value in what we are doing for the students, as well as the broader tech and business community.”

Collaboration is key for technology professionals, Evans says. BarCamp Tampa Bay is a “fun and rewarding program that has meant so much to the growth of the local tech ecosystem.”

Evans estimates that coworking spaces, dozens of companies, and “an effort to bridge government, economic development and the tech community all began as a result of BarCamp and the people involved in fostering that spirit. It all comes down to the fact that BarCamp is not only a day of sharing, but also a day of action.”

Action that Evans hope to see last through the rest of the year. “Get involved and keep that spirit of sharing technical and start-up business knowledge alive,” he urges.

BarCamp Tampa Bay is organized by Evans, Joy Randels and TechNova board members, along with community volunteers, and it is supported by Hillsborough County's Economic Development Innovation Initiative fund (read more about EDI2 here).

TechNova is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization based in the Tampa Bay region that organizes annual community tech events like Ignite Tampa Bay and BarCamp.

Kickstarter campaign launches for Florida conservation

Less than 10 days before the controversial hunt for Florida’s barely-off-the-endangered-species-list-black bear begins, the Florida Wildlife Corridor will launch its Kickstarter campaign Thursday, Oct. 15th, to promote its new film and forthcoming book, The Forgotten Coast: The Return to Wild Florida, based on months of expeditions inspired by the Florida black bear’s journeys through the interior of the state.  

“[The Florida Wildlife Corridor] is hiding in plain sight -- we are all situated on the coast looking outward, and maybe forget about Florida heartlands,” says Florida Wildlife Corridor Executive Director Mallory Dimmitt who is spearheading the project and the expeditions behind it. She notes that there is an urgency to conservation and awareness as Florida’s population is estimated to reach 35 million by 2060. “We can still maintain wild Florida and all the creatures that rely on it as Florida grows.” 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is both the name of the environmental advocacy organization as well as the term used to describe the territory it is dedicated to conserving: nearly 16 million acres of “lands and waters essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife” – including the 9.5 million acres already protected – that span the length and width of the state. 

The Forgotten Coast documentary is gleaned from the thousands of hours of footage taken during two Florida Wildlife Corridor expeditions traversing Florida undertaken by Dimmitt, wildlife Photographer Carlton Ward, Biologist Joe Guthrie, and Filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus on foot, bike and paddle. The idea, says Dimmitt, was to “explore wild Florida the way a bear or a panther could still travel through our state.” She says she hopes the film “inspires people to protect our quality of life, for all of Florida.”

During the first expedition in 2012, the team trekked more than 1,000 miles in 100 days from south-to-north, starting in the Everglades and finishing in the south of Georgia. From January to March of this year, the east-to-west expedition took the team from the Everglades Headwaters to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Florida Panhandle. 

The Kickstarter campaign will run until Friday Nov 20th, the day after the broadcast premiere of the film. The urgency to raise funds is critical and ambitious for the organization as Kickstarter is all-or-nothing crowdfunding, dependent on reaching the target fundraising goal of $37,000.  

The film’s exclusive broadcast premiere will air November 19th on WUSF-TV with a premiere event the week prior at the Tampa Theatre.  The new funds will allow the organizers to raise awareness and promote the film to PBS channels and film festivals around the country. 

Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission wins award for best practices

Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) was honored this month by Sustainable Florida, a statewide organization with a vision to “protect and preserve Florida’s environment while building markets for Florida’s businesses” through sustainable best practices. The group awarded its Best Practice Award for Community Engagement to EPC’s annual Clean Air Fair initiative.

“Our agency is really big on outreach,” says Jeff Sims, General Manager of EPC’s Air Division, which runs the fair. The fair, he says, “becomes a big interaction point for the public.” Sims says the award is new to Sustainable Florida this year and that the EPC was among stiff competition, about 20 businesses, competing for it from around the state. 

Margaret Rush, the EPC’s Sustainability Coordinator says beyond providing a forum for educating the public on what the exhibitor companies are doing – something that is not always easy to understand in the abstract – the Clean Air Fair also creates a unique networking opportunity for a cross-section of business, civic and governmental groups “to talk about minimizing pollution” and for businesses to gain peer-to-peer knowledge on sustainable best practices. 

Launched in 2001, the EPC’s Clean Air Fair is an annual event meant to celebrate the month of May as Clean Air Month, as designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Air Fair is open and free to the public and exhibitors alike, with the aim of raising awareness and promoting environmental and sustainable practices.  

This year’s event attracted more than 1,000 attendees, with more than 50 exhibitors from a wide range of businesses – from solar management and conservation organizations to major companies like TECO and Publix. The bustling, open-air event purposely takes place at a location that is “great for pedestrians” at the Poe Plaza in downtown Tampa. In addition to live music, complimentary food items and other give-aways, for the past several years they have showcased alternative vehicles – such as the fully electric Tesla, which claims to get 270 miles to a single charge. The innovation on display, Sims says, “draws in people to the more cutting-edge stuff.” 

Rush says she is noticing a greater interest in sustainability ”especially if you can make an economic case for it as well as social. More and more [sustainable initiatives] are coming in line as the cost of ‘business as usual.’ It just makes sense,” she notes. “That’s why it is important to learn about them.” 
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