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St. Pete startup aims to save lives with surfboard leash tourniquet

Save a limb for around $50.

That’s the idea behind OMNA Inc, a St. Pete-based startup company that has developed water-friendly tourniquets, which can be used in a sticky situation.

OMNA Inc. Founder and CEO Carson Henderson devised the combination product as a way to help safeguard surfers and swimmers against bleeding injuries from shark attacks or other water hazards.

The idea of an amphibious tourniquet leash, or tourniquet leg rope, came to Henderson after a close encounter with crocodiles and other predators during a 2012 Costa Rican vacation.

Henderson, who was working as a security contractor for the U.S. military in Iraq at the time, explains, “I went surfing with some friends I made there, and we took a boat across a river to get to a surf break. The surf ended up being so good that day that we surfed until it was dark out. When we got back to the river to take a boat back, all the boats were gone.”

No problem – except for the sharks and crocodiles that are known to linger near the mouth of the river. So the group took a chance, gathered their boards into a tight formation, and paddled to safety as quickly as possible.

Although nothing happened, it got Henderson thinking: How many people in the water had run into trouble due to shark attacks or other hazards that cause massive bleeding injuries? As it turned out, enough to warrant a fresh new solution: a surfboard leash with a built-in tourniquet.

“I started researching and identified a recurring problem of people in the water needing tourniquets. I subsequently sketched, filed patents, and began prototyping,” Henderson says.

Along with a tourniquet leash aimed at surfers, Henderson devised an amphibious tourniquet leg rope, which could be used for water-related activities from diving and spear fishing to performing lifeguard or first responder duties.

OMNA “is in the business of saving lives,” Henderson says.

A former recon Marine who was selected as the June Commander’s Call award recipient from veteran business funding organization Street Shares, Henderson earned an AA from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a BS in Organizational Leadership online course work from National University of La Jolla, CA.

“I did the majority of my online coursework from Iraq and Afghanistan in my off-times, when I was not running missions,” he explains. “I was doing coursework chipping away at my BS degree.”

After completing a Certificate in Business Administration from Bond University, Gold Coast in Australia, Henderson left his MBA studies to pursue business fulltime.

The term OMNA comes from Henderson’s days as a recon Marine; it stands for “One Man National Asset” and refers to “people who could do everything. Recon Marines also identify with the jack-of-all-trades slogan, and the company name pays homage to that heritage.”

The startup company has a Prefundia page and may launch a Kickstater campaign. Currently, the bootstrapped company consists solely of Henderson and the occasional freelancer.

Pricing for the Omna Tourniquet leash ranges from $34.99-$59.99. Pre-orders for the leash are now available, with general sales set to begin in fall 2015.

“Our pricing strategy is by price and not volume,” Henderson says. “We are offering two products for one, so we believe this price is fair for the value and quality we provide for our customers.”

Henderson anticipates that product delivery to customers who pre-order will begin in September. Post-general sales launch, Henderson plans to develop partnerships with retailers and wholesalers to sell the leash in stores.

While the tourniquet leash fulfills a niche market role for water board sports, Henderson would like to see OMNA’s amphibious tourniquet stocked by “traditional sporting goods and hunting stores.”

“We want to get these products to people to help enhance life-saving capabilities, in and out of the water,” Henderson says. “A person can bleed out in as little as three minutes. A tourniquet can be worn for roughly one to three hours without the loss of limb. You will not lose a limb if you use a tourniquet.”

Eckerd College alum launches eco-friendly sunscreen, cosmetics line

Each summer, boatloads of sunscreen are sold to beach-goers throughout the country. But where do the contents end up? Often, in the oceans.

Studies have shown that the chemicals found in many sunscreens or skin care products that contain sunscreen can contaminate, and even kill coral reefs (some can also cause problems for humans).

Enter Stream2Sea, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based startup company that aims to revolutionize the way we swim with eco-friendly sunscreen and skin care products that have been deemed safe for marine life.

Entrepreneur Autumn Bloom, who received a chemistry honors B.S. from Eckerd College in 1997, founded Stream2Sea. After starting and later selling off specialty cosmetics company Organix South, the Eckerd alum dove into the idea of protecting endangered ecosystems from human activities.

“Over 6,000 tons of skin care products enter coral reefs from tourist activities alone,” Blum explains in a blog post on the Stream2Sea website, adding that additional contamination products entering waters through runoff or sewage are not included in that statistic.

And even though other sunscreen brands on the market today may call themselves " 'ocean friendly,' many contain ingredients that are known to harm the fragile ecosystems and marine life of our waters,” Blum writes.

After developing Stream2Sea’s initial line of eco-friendly sunscreens and body care products, Blum, with the help of the Eckerd College Alumni Relations department and her mentor, Dr. David Grove, selected a team of scientists and students at Eckerd to conduct testing and research.

The research team, which included Assistant Professor of Biology Denise Flaherty and Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Science Koty Sharp, along with several of their students, worked with Blum on scientific trials refine her products.

“It was wonderful working with the knowledgeable professors and students at my alma mater,” Blum writes. “Watching the students apply their lab skills and education to my ‘real world’ requirements, proving the safety of Stream2Sea products, was an incredible feeling.”

Flaherty, who tested the products on fish with her students, says in a news release that the opportunity to work on applied research in the field and in the lab was a special one for students.

“Being able to see a project like this all the way through was very meaningful,’’ she notes.

Sharp’s team, which included Eckerd College marine science seniors Takoda Edlund and Samantha Fortin, spent a week in the Florida Keys collecting coral larvae samples to use for testing the Stream2Sea products. While sunscreen had been tested before on living corals, tests had never been done on coral larvae, Sharp says.

Stream2Sea products were tested on coral larvae and fish at the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Laboratory in Sarasota. Tests concluded that the Stream2Sea products showed no evidence of harm to fish or to corals.

Participating students were so excited to see the positive results that “they actually cheered when every single fish was still alive after 96 hours of swimming in the shampoo-laced foamy water,” Blum writes.

Stream2Sea has identified a list of ingredients to avoid, such as nano particles that can flake off of skin as we swim as well as an ingredients dictionary to help consumers make sense of biodegradable cosmetics that are eco-friendly. 

Moving forward, the company will continue to invest significant funding into testing, Blum writes, “so that we can state, with complete confidence, that we are the safest product on the shelves.”

Stream2Sea sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are in stock on the company website. Prices range from $3.95-$16.95.

NY Times columnist Charles Blow kicks off Presidential Event Series at Eckerd College

New York Times Columnist Charles Blow, known for his thought-provoking Op-Eds and recent memoir, “Fire Shut Up My Bones,’’ will be the opening speaker for the 2015-16 Eckerd College Presidential Event Series.  

His talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Eckerd College Fox Hall.

The annual Presidential Event Series brings well-known scholars, artists, writers, scientists and other distinguished individuals to the campus for conversations about critical issues affecting the world today. This year’s focus is on race, class, gender and sexuality.

Blow’s frank discussion of race, social injustice, culture and politics has earned him a considerable following both in the New York Times and as a TV commentator for CNN and MSNBC. His memoir details his experience growing up in poverty, his history of childhood sexual abuse, graduating magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, and eventually landing a job with one of the most prestigious newspapers in the country.

The Presidential Event Series continues on Thursday, Sept. 17, with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee. The author of “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War,’’ Gbowee led the women’s peace movement that played a role in ending the second Liberian civil war. 

She is currently president of an organization providing educational and leadership opportunities to girls, women and teens in West Africa. Her TED Talk discusses the untapped potential of girls to transform the world.

For more information about the Eckerd Presidential Series, including additional talks throughout the year, follow this link.

USF, Moffitt team up on study to help breast cancer survivors

USF and Moffitt Cancer Center have joined forces in an effort to better the lives of breast cancer survivors. The team equipped with a $2.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will begin a five-year study on how stress reduction can help repair the cognitive impairment of breast cancer survivors.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 25-percent of cancer survivors suffer from a “mental fog” otherwise known as “chemo brain” after receiving cancer treatment. These cognitive impairments include trouble with memory and concentration, and can last from a few months to 10 years after treatment has ceased.

Dr. Cecile Lengacher, professor and pre-doctoral fellowship program director at the USF College of Nursing, applied for the NCI grant, and says previous studies she has been a part of show a correlation between stress reduction and clearing up this “mental fog.”

“During the study, we teach patients about yoga, breathing exercises and meditation techniques that they can use to help their concentration,” Lengacher says. “We also teach the patients to be mindful of the present, so if the mind wanders, we can train it to come back to the present -- because when the mind wanders to unpleasant thoughts, or thoughts about their breast cancer experience, they can ruminate in those thoughts.”

Lengacher goes on to say that while they do not know how the stress reduction and mindfulness works to improve concentration and memory, research shows there is definitely something going on in the brain to repair the damage.

The study will look at 300 patients from Moffitt Cancer Center and the USF Health Morsani Center for Advanced Care.
Patients will be placed in three different groups: a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), control group and usual care.

“What is great about this is it’s not a pharmacological intervention,” she says. “The drugs don’t [always] work and they have side effects, so we are very excited about this approach, and proving it through this study.”

Who's hiring in Tampa Bay? County offices, local chamber, downtown caterer and more

Did you know? 83 Degrees Media searches for Growing Companies to bring you exciting job opportunities in the Tampa Bay region. Sign up for a sales manager role with the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce; patrol the parks on behalf of Hillsborough County; stage school productions for Berkeley Prep; all of these and more are part of the 83 Degrees Media monthly Tampa Bay jobs roundup.

Here's who's hiring in the Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater area in August 2015:

Berkeley Preparatory School is seeking a Performance Facilities Manager & Productions Technical Director and an Upper Division Administrative Assistant for the 2015-2016 school year. Berkeley Prep, an Episcopal-affiliated day school that was founded in 1960 in Tampa, is co-educational and enrolls students in pre-K through high school.

The manager/director role will include overseeing activities at the school’s Lykes Center for the Performing Arts and Gabos Family Recital Hall, and providing additional technical support for school events as necessary. The administrative assistant applicant should include a cover letter and CV with application.

Do you have a passion for the culinary arts? Local caterer Catering By Kathy is hiring a Catering Administrative Coordinator for the growing CBK team. CBK specializes in corporate catering and recently opened Café 124 inside the University of South Florida Health's CAMLS building in downtown Tampa. The company aims to grow the catering business in the local region and to extend the Café 124 hours. 

Job responsibilities include administrative tasks, including event coordination and related communications; executing day-of duties with the Event Manager; invoicing; and more. The successful candidate will have a bachelor's degree in hospitality or related field; have knowledge of Caterease or similar software; be detail-oriented and highly motivated, and demonstrate proven time-management and organizational skills.
 
CopyPress, a content and software creation company, is hiring for two full-time positions, an editorial campaign manager and a PHP programmer. CopyPress is also hiring for several freelance rolls, including:
  • General Bloggers & Writers
  • Infographic Designers
  • Interactive Developers
Editorial campaign manager responsibilities include brainstorming, overseeing a team of writers and editors, working with the copy manager, and other copy production tasks. A bachelor's degree in English, journalism or communications and two years of professional experience are required.

The PHP programmer role requires four or more years of PHP and LAMP development experience; knowledge of JavaScript libraries like jQuery; and other qualifications.

Hillsborough County is hiring for several fulltime positions in the greater Tampa area, including:
  • Accounting Clerk III
  • Election Technology Specialist
  • Engineering Specialist II (Traffic Engineering)
  • Environmental Technician II
  • Head Start Teacher Assistant
  • Librarian, Youth Services
  • Senior Librarian, Youth Service
Do you love your local community? This might be the perfect fit: the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce is hiring a Sales Manager.

The St. Pete Chamber seeks a sales professional to manage sales and membership. The role will include evaluating and upholding a community investment strategy for membership growth; securing sponsorships; securing advertising and new member sales; and other duties. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in a sales-related field; four or more years sales experience and at least two years with a membership organization; a flexible schedule; and strong verbal and written communications skills.
 
Reach out over on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Hillsborough County budgets $1M for manufacturing jobs training

Hillsborough County is betting big on the manufacturing industry. Through a partnership with the Board of County Commissioners, Hillsborough Community College (HCC) will provide two years of workforce training and resources for manufacturing careers in Tampa. 

The BOCC and community partners like HCC are working together “to develop a shared strategy to strengthen the manufacturing talent pipeline,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director. 

The goal: increase the quantity -- and quality -- of manufacturing talent in the region. In total, the BOCC has reserved $1 million in funds for the Hillsborough County Manufacturing Academy.

The funds “represent a very strong commitment to ensuring that our community has the workforce talent to continue to make our manufacturing base successful," Kimball explains.

With $322,000 in funds from the County, HCC will offer two years of manufacturing training courses and other resources that will allow participants to prepare for careers in the manufacturing industry. Students will be able to learn about aspects of the manufacturing industry from engineering technology to welding techniques. Programs include summer camps, on-site manufacturing training and tours of local operations, paid internship opportunities for students, industry certifications, and more.

$80,000 is allocated to purchasing new or upgraded training equipment.

Overall goals for the program include raising community awareness of production-type jobs (with an emphasis on the engagement of women, minorities and veterans); developing on-the-job training opportunities with local manufacturers; and addressing the manufacturing skills gap through training and certification.

Community partners of Hillsborough County’s Manufacturing Academy initiative also include the University of South FloridaCareerSource Tampa BayUpper Tampa Bay Manufacturers AssociationBay Area Manufacturers AssociationFlorida Medical Manufacturers Consortium and the National Tool and Machining Association.

Also under the umbrella of the $1 million in manufacturing skills funding, in early 2015 the BOCC approved a $325,000 agreement with Hillsborough County Schools to increase manufacturing skills training in area schools. Funds have also been allocated to help develop and improve specialized manufacturing skills training programs at Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Middleton and Tampa Bay Tech high schools, and Brewster Technical College.

“The programs are coordinated and designed to offer students a continuum of learning,” Kimball says.

For example, Kimball explains, students in Manufacturing Academy programs at the high school level can move on to take similar courses at HCC.

"We are hopeful that this commitment to ensuring the success of manufacturing will help us grow our existing industry base and attract new businesses," Kimball says. "Hillsborough County is a very competitive location for manufacturers who can leverage our skilled workforce, excellent infrastructure, low tax-burden environment and business-friendly government."

Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge announces finalists in blue economy competition

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) has announced five finalists in the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge competitive grant opportunity. Thirty teams submitted proposals that focus on key issues surrounding the “blue economy” of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including seafood sustainability, eco-restoration, marine-based medicine and technology. 

The following teams were chosen to proceed to the next stage of the challenge with their proposals to sustain and stimulate our blue economy:
  • Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater 
  • Antibiotics from the Sea 
  • Cancer Therapies from Sharks 
  • Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System 
  • Taking Back the Lion’s Share

“Gulf Coast selected these five finalists because of the potential for their business solutions to have a real economic impact in our region,” says GCCF Director of Marketing and Communications Greg Luberecki. “We engaged a panel of experts to review all of the applications, along with Gulf Coast staff. … It will be up to the finalists to now show us how they can positively affect our blue economy and provide a community benefit in the process.” 

Challenge finalists “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast” and “Taking Back the Lion’s Share” will explore fishery-based solutions for native mullet and invasive lionfish, respectively, to restore and sustain the marine ecosystem and economy of the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Cancer Therapies from Sharks” and “Antibiotics from the Sea,” two projects backed by Mote Marine scientists, explore the biomedical potential of sharks and marine bacterial organisms to develop medical treatment options to fight cancer and infections. 

“Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater,” another Mote-backed project, seeks to refine solar-powered filters to provide affordable, clean water around the world.

Read more about the Challenge competition is this 83 Degrees feature.

The GCCF has awarded each finalist team a grant of $25,000 to develop a prototype and refine its business plan, which the foundation’s judging panel will review in November. The winning team will be awarded a grant of up to $375,000 from the GCCF to fully develop its blue economy solution. In the meantime, Luberecki says the public is encouraged to follow the finalists on the Gulf Coast Challenge website as they make periodic progress updates. 

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized Innovation Challenge team “Living Shorelines” for having the most online votes and community support. The foundation awarded the team a $5,000 People’s Choice Award grant to pursue its seawall restoration proposal.

“All of the ideas submitted for the Innovation Challenge had merit. Each was original and rooted in great thought,” Luberecki says. 

“We have seen momentum build behind several that weren’t named finalists, and Gulf Coast will do what it can to help propel those ideas as well. That’s a great byproduct of this challenge: We are focused on our five finalists moving forward, but the other teams have had a great platform to promote their ideas, and many have garnered real interest outside of our challenge.”

Women's tech group to host August meetup at Cooper's Hawk Winery

Women with a professional or personal interest in technology are invited to join the Tampa chapter of Girls in Tech (GIT), a global networking group for professional women, at their 2015 kickoff event: Vino Night at Cooper's Hawk Winery.

"This is a great opportunity to be a part of an awesome movement," says Sylvia Martinez, Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay founder and CEO, and one of GIT's chapter organizers.

Girls in Tech is a global nonprofit with chapters in tech hubs like Tampa Bay spread across five continents. 

The group works to advance the “engagement, education and empowerment of influential women in technology and entrepreneurship,” Martinez explains. “We focus on the promotion, growth and success of entrepreneurial and innovative women in the technology space."

During the Girls in Tech Vino Night on Thursday, Aug. 13, the group will discuss "what types of events the chapter wants to see moving forward," Martinez says. After a hiatus following the 2014 death of Tampa GIT chapter leader Susie Steiner, the group is reorganizing for the 2015 kickoff event. 

"Unfortunately, our chapter hibernated after the loss of our former Girls in Tech leader," Martinez says. "We are excited to revive the group, and we know that's what Susie would want."

Martinez and Victoria Edwards, a digital content strategist for Florida Blue, served on the GIT board over the past two years and will stay on as group leaders moving forward; New Market Partners CEO and Startup Grind Tampa Bay chapter Director Joy Randels has also taken on a leadership role. All three women are key players in the Tampa Bay tech scene.  

The Tampa Bay Girls in Tech 2015 kickoff event will begin at 5:30 p.m. on August 13 at Cooper's Hawk Winery and restaurant, located at 4110 W Boy Scout Blvd in Tampa. 

The casual networking get together will offer attendees the chance to mingle over wine and cocktails and to meet the women in the growing tech community of Tampa Bay.

Martinez encourages "anyone interested in our mission of supporting and empowering women in the tech and entrepreneur space in Tampa Bay" to attend the GIT kickoff.

Tampa International Airport issues worldwide call for artists

Artists from around the world have the opportunity to showcase their talents as part of Tampa International Airport’s $953-million, multi-year upgrade. TIA and Hillsborough County’s Aviation Authority Board will award contracts to 12 artists for art pieces to display throughout the refurbished airport.

“The new public artwork is an essential part of the upgrades,” says TIA Communications Manager Danny Valentine. “We strongly believe that public art will enhance and enrich the experience for the more than 17 million guests who visit our airport every year.”

The call for artists comes in a year when the airport jumped from No. 3 to No. 2 in the Airport Service Quality Awards, and began construction on extensive upgrades that are expected to be completed by 2017.

TIA will issue a call to artists on Monday, August 17, but interested parties can begin building an online CaFÉ portfolio. The deadline for submissions is Monday, September 14.

Many types of art will be considered, from sculpture to hanging art.

“We have intentionally left the call open to all visual artists so as to get a robust and wide range of forms of artwork,” Valentine says. “The choice of artwork will be up to the Public Art Committee.”

The committee, which will judge submitted work and make a final artist recommendation to the Aviation Authority Board, includes the following members of the Tampa Bay community:
  • Former Aviation Authority Board member Ken Anthony
  • Seth D. Pevnick, Chief Curator and Richard E. Perry Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Tampa Museum of Art
  • Kent Lydecker, Museum Director at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
  • Margaret Miller, Professor and Director at the University of South Florida
  • Robin Nigh, Public Art Manager with the City of Tampa
  • Dan Myers, Public Art Coordinator with Hillsborough County
  • Joe Lopano, Airport Chief Executive Officer
  • Chris Minner, Airport Vice President of Marketing
  • Jeff Siddle, Airport Assistant Vice President of Planning & Development
  • Paul Ridgeway, Airport Director of Maintenance.
TIA’s committee will select up to 12 finalists and present the artists to the board for “final approval and contract award,” Valentine explains.

The Tampa airport’s public art inventory is valued at $11 million, with art from over 30 different collections distributed throughout the airport’s many public spaces. Common themes include the Tampa Bay area and aviation, but decades of artworks from international and local artists combine to give the airport’s collection a wide range. In one baggage claim area, 22 tapestries woven by 20 women from Swaziland, Africa, hang as both an art display and an improvement on acoustics; a flower sculpture that weighs over 1,000 pounds hangs in one airside. A set of murals by a local St. Petersburg artist, George Snow Hill, dates back to 1939.  

Interested in adding your artwork to the collection? Criteria for artist submissions include:
  • A statement of interest that articulates the Artist’s, or Artist Team’s, desire to participate.
  • A resume (one resume per artist team), emphasizing experience in public art and working with public agencies.
  • Confirmation that Artist has completed a commission or sold, at a minimum, one piece of artwork at a value of at least $15,000
  • No more than 10 images that fairly represent the Artist’s, or Artist Team’s, body of work.
  • Three references for recently completed projects.
Local, state, national and international artists will be considered. Interested artists who have not met the minimum qualifications may enter the competition as an Artist Team by collaborating with another artist to submit an application.

To learn more, visit the TIA Call for Artists page or the Public Art program website.

Tarpon Springs launches new water treatment system

Tarpon Springs is the latest Tampa Bay area community turning to an alternative water treatment system to ensure that residents have a safe, affordable supply of drinking water far into the future.

A new reverse osmosis water treatment facility is designed to take brackish or slightly salty groundwater from the Floridan aquifer and send it through a series of filtration systems and treatments to make it safe to drink.

The project has been in the planning stages since 2002, when the city first undertook a feasibility study. It was approved by a local voter referendum in 2006 and groundbreaking took place in 2013. The Southwest Florida Water Management District provided $20.1 million in funding.

Combined with city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities, the new reverse osmosis treatment facility will boost Tarpon Spring’s water supply to 5 million gallons of drinking water per day, a quantity that is expected to meet the city’s water needs for the next 20 years, say city officials.

In comparison, the previous system relied on water purchased from Pinellas County and Tampa Bay Water, along with city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities, to deliver some 3.2 million gallons daily.

According to Judy Staley, City of Tarpon Springs Research and Information Officer, construction of the reverse osmosis water treatment facility will allow Tarpon Springs to achieve greater water supply independence and more local control over costs, water quality and planning for future needs.

Earlier this summer, Clearwater cut the ribbon on its own reverse osmosis water treatment facility – the second one that is now in operation in that community. In addition, Clearwater is undertaking a pioneering project that will recharge the Florida aquifer with up to 3 million gallons per day of reclaimed water that’s been purified to higher than drinking water quality. Tracy Mercer, Director of Public Utilities for the City of Clearwater, says that project “is like banking water for the future.”

Tampa also announced plans this summer for a proposed project that would allow the city’s reclaimed water to be filtered naturally over time through SWFWMD wetlands.  That project still requires permitting and is not expected to be completed until some time in 2020.

Tampa Bay 'best choice' for Accusoft expansion; IT company to create 125 high-wage jobs

Accusoft, a leading global software and imaging solutions provider, is expanding its Tampa Bay headquarters with 125 new high-wage jobs in fields like software development and engineering. The positions will pay an average annual wage of $75,000.

Partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, CareerSource Florida, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation helped to make the Accusoft expansion possible.

A combined incentives package totaling $750,000 was offered to the company through the state of Florida’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and the Tampa City Council. As long as the promised jobs are created, the funds will be allocated over the course of eight years.

"This partnership and support will help us attain our company's goals while also benefiting the local economy,” Accusoft President Jack Berlin says. “It means a lot to Accusoft to be given an opportunity to create meaningful, high-paying jobs in the Tampa Bay area.”

Berlin, who received an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, set his sights on Tampa as a business base after successfully selling a startup company in Atlanta.

He and wife Leslie were seeking a “better place to raise a family; a place to live before a place to work,” Berlin explains. “Having grown up in Savannah, I love the beach and salt water. Florida was very appealing. Tampa, we felt, was the best choice of all the Florida cities.”

Today, the feeling remains.

“The company stays where I want to live, and I love the area,” Berlin says, praising the Tampa Bay area for “plenty of big city amenities, a great airport, the bonus of great weather and beautiful beaches, and no personal income tax.”

A little history: Accusoft began as Pegasus Imaging Corporation in Tampa in 1991. Over the next two decades, Pegasus acquired several companies in the imaging and software development sectors; developed a medical imaging division; and in 2012 rebranded as Accusoft.

While the company never aimed to relocate, expansion outside of Tampa was briefly considered, Berlin says. The company opened a development office in Atlanta, but found that remote work caused problems, so they closed up shop. Accusoft’s Boston office was already established and running efficiently when Pegasus acquired it in 2008.

“Talent is more expensive up there, but we don’t shy away from hiring in Boston if we find the right person,” Berlin says, citing as an example a long-term development manager who speaks fluent Russian and runs much of the company’s outsourced activities.

Berlin hopes to attract a similar caliber of employee in Tampa with the creation of 125 new jobs that will pay a minimum average wage of $75,000. Hiring has already begun; most of the new positions require advanced degrees (B.S. or higher).  

“We continue to attract great talent from Tampa or to Tampa, and hope that continues,” Berlin says. “We will grow, but with continued hiring standards."

Accusoft joins several high-profile companies headquartered in Tampa and Hillsborough County that have expanded locally rather than relocating, including Bristol-Myers SquibbInspirataReliaQuestTribridge and Laser Spine Institute.

During a news conference announcing the company’s expansion, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that 879,700 private-sector jobs have been created in Florida since December 2010. Hillsborough is the fourth largest county in Florida, which is ranked third in the nation for high-tech companies.

“Companies like Accusoft know Florida’s pro-business climate is the best place to grow and create jobs,” Scott says.

Accusoft is headquartered at 4001 N. Riverside Drive and currently has 131 employees. Expansion will allow the company to grow its existing space by up to 25,000 square feet.

Interested in working for Accusoft? Proficient in C++, Node JS, JAVA, HTML5, CSS, .NET skills? Berlin encourages interested parties to connect on Linkedin or visit the Accusoft website

Upcoming Tampa Bay tech events focus on community, collaboration

Summer is here, temperatures are high and tech-centric events are happening all around Tampa Bay. Technology-driven meetups and innovation-fueled gatherings in Tampa Bay during summer 2015 all seem to share a common theme: cooperation and collaboration with other members of the local tech community. 

83 Degrees Media has the scoop on which tech-oriented events are happening when, so settle in with your desktop screen or smart device and start scrolling -- summer in Tampa Bay has a lot of tech to offer!
 
Saturday, July 25: Tech Community Night at the Rays Game
6 p.m.-10 pm.
Tropicana Field
1 Tropicana Drive

Join fellow techies, community leaders and friends as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Discounted tickets at $30/person include a baseline box seat in section 134, and access to the on-field Casey Musgraves concert post-game.

Tuesday, July 29: Startup Grind
6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
CoWork Ybor
1901 E. 7th Ave.

Each month, Startup Grind events around the country unfold as fireside chats between moderators and guest speakers, who share stories of their successes – and failures – as entrepreneurs. Tampa Bay moderator Joy Randels brings speakers from a variety of industries to join chats at locally owned venues around Tampa Bay, including well-known thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

To get a feel for the meetup style, see the above video of a June 2014 Startup Grind event featuring Tampa native Joey Redner, the founder of Tampa's well-known craft brewery Cigar City

Join Startup Grind Tampa Bay in July 2015 at CoWork Ybor Blind Tiger Cafe to hear from Jeff Gigante, founder of Ciccio Restaurant Group, the company behind The Lodge, Green Lemon, Ciccio’s/Water and other well-known South Tampa eateries.

For more information visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website.
 
Friday, July 31: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
Tampa Club
101 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 4200

Homebrew Hillsborough is an innovation of Hillsborough County Economic Development. Monthly meetups take place at coffee shops around the county, and local business owners, tech enthusiasts and community members are encouraged to attend, network and enjoy local coffee as they discuss ways to make a “Homegrown Hillsborough.”

During July’s event, attendees will enjoy a visit to the Tampa Club, a private dining club situated high above the streets of downtown Tampa in the Bank of America plaza. For more information, visit Homebrew Hillsborough's website.
 
Wednesday, August 26: Startup Grind will host patent and intellectual property attorney Christ Tanner, of Tanner Law. 

Thursday, August 27: Ignite Tampa Bay 
6:30 p.m.
Cuban Club
2010 Avenida Republica De Cuba

Ignite events have a simple request: “Entertain us, but make it fast.” During each Ignite events in cities across the country and world, speakers have five minutes to discuss a topic of their choice, aided by slides and whatever props they carry to the podium. In Tampa Bay alone, speakers at annual Ignite events have covered topics that range from extreme sports to inventions to politics. The only thing that’s discouraged is a direct sales pitch.

Friday, August 28: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
The monthly coffee networking meetup for members of the Hillsborough County community will be hosted at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), located at 4801 E. Fowler Ave.
 
Saturday, August 29: TEDxTampaRiverwalk
1 p.m.
John F. Germany Library Auditorium
900 N. Ashley Drive

TEDx events are independently organized talks, modeled after TED talks, that communities can create around topics of their choice. The theme for the 2015 TEDxTampaRiverwalk is "Going Places!" Potential speakers should consider applying that theme to their speeches: scientifically, socially, economically, geographically, artistically and philosophically. The event will be held at downtown Tampa's John F. Germany library auditorium.
 
Thursday, September 3: #Collabtb Q3 Tech and Entrepreneur Peer Networking 
5 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Hyde Out
1809 W. Platt St.

Collabtb quarterly techie and entrepreneur peer networking events bring together several hundred members of the Tampa Bay technology community in low-key environments where appetizers, specialty drinks and networking are the main attractions. Bonus: The first 200 guests receive a free T-shirt. Raffle items will also be given away to a few lucky winners.

Friday, September 25: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
The monthly coffee networking meetup for members of the Hillsborough County community will be hosted at Tre Amici at The Bunker, located at 1907 N. 19th St. in Ybor City.
 
Saturday, October 10- Sunday, Oct. 11: ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2015
9 a.m.
University of Tampa Bob Martinez Athletics Center 
401 W. Kennedy Blvd

ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2015 presents a variety of engaging and innovative activities for teams of students from around Florida, grades K-12, to compete in a fun robots-oriented event. ROBOTICON will host events like the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge scrimmage and build day; FIRST LEGO League practice and training as well as a Jr. FIRST LEGO League mini-Expo; a vendor hall, career expo, and more. Join other teams at the University of Tampa campus Bob Martinez Athletics Center, across the Hillsborough River from downtown Tampa, for the two-day special event.

For more information, visit the ROBOTICON website.

Are you, or an organization you know, hosting a tech-oriented event in the Tampa Bay area in 2015? Email the info here to have your activity included in a future 83 Degrees newsletter!

Job workshop offers training, tips on landing employment

An upcoming Job Readiness Workshop will give members of the local Tampa community -- particularly those who have background complications -- the tools to successfully prepare for and attend job interviews.

Carla Lewis, a neighborhood liaison with the City of Tampa Community Partnerships & Neighborhood Engagement, as well as a member of the Tampa Bay Community Advocacy Committee, says that TBCAC is hosting the “hands on” workshop to help prepare City of Tampa and Hillsborough County residents with the necessary skills to teach them:
  • How to create a resume using action words that will stand out to employers
  • How to interview for a successful job search
  • Job readiness, along with other social service needs
“The ultimate goal is to help prepare applicants for jobs with professional resumes and effective interview skills so that when they are face-to-face with potential employers, they will be ready and eligible for hire,” Lewis says. 

The Job Readiness Workshop will host guest speakers from the local business industry and will stage various solutions-based workshops that cover topics such as resume creation and enhancement, refining interview skills and developing job readiness. 

The event is open to anyone over the age of 18, and participants will be required to register prior to attending. A complimentary light breakfast and lunch will be served.

City of Tampa and Hillsborough County residents who are “actively seeking employment in construction jobs during the Tampa International Airport’s multibillion dollar master plan expansion” should consider attending the workshop, Lewis says.

The one-day workshop, hosted by TBCAC along with Austin Commercial and Ariel Business Group, will be held from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29, at the 34th Street Church of God, located at 3000 North 34th Street in Tampa.

Lewis hopes to see the free workshop help participants prepare for the upcoming TBCAC Job Fair Workforce Initiative in fall 2015.

Job seekers at the TBCAC Job Fair Workforce Initiative can expect to see the sub-contractors who are hiring onsite, Lewis says, and "priority will be given first to the applicants who attend the job readiness workshop in July."

“These potential employers will be ready to interview and hire perspective candidates," Lewis explains. 

Call for Florida companies: Compete to win $150,000 in prize money

Tampa Bay area startup and growth stage companies will have the chance to win $150,000 in prize money this fall.

The 2015 Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase in South Florida will offer select companies from across Florida the chance to present their businesses before a selection committee and to contend for cash awards.

The November 4 showcase, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables, is co-hosted by Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida, Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida.

Interested companies have until Sept. 24, 2015, to apply to compete in the showcase.

“This event offers selected Florida-based companies the opportunity to receive expert coaching and mentoring, in addition to the opportunity to present in front of investors and to compete for prize money,” Florida Venture Forum Managing Director Pat Schneider says. “All in all, this is a great opportunity for Florida's entrepreneurs.”

Cash prizes will total up $100,000 for a growth stage company, or $50,000 for a startup company. To be considered, growth stage companies cannot have raised more than $3 million in equity capital from professional investors, and startups cannot have raised more than $500,000.

Factors for selection will include aspects like a company's potential to attract third-party investment, prior funding, innovation and possibility of job creation. 

Preference will be given to growth stage and startup businesses in sectors like space transportation and advanced aerospace platforms, International Space Station and human life science, cyber security and robotics, and other components of information technology and health technology.

The wide array of industry sectors "offer Florida-based entrepreneurs broad categories for consideration,” Schneider says.

To learn more about the event’s selection criteria, click here; to apply for the 2015 Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase, click here
 
Along with the capital acceleration competition and time reserved for business networking, the showcase will feature an investor panel discussion and a keynote speaker. Retired NASA astronaut Capt. Winston Scott, who was born in Miami and who logged 24 days in space, will be the keynote speaker for the 2015 Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase.

“Since Space Florida is sponsoring the prize money, it seemed befitting to have an astronaut speak,” Schneider says. “Also, many of the characteristics behind a successful space mission can be applied to successful entrepreneurship.”

Space Florida is an aerospace and spaceport development authority that works to promote aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce in the state of Florida. The organization partners with aerospace businesses to help them grow and thrive in Florida, where much of the necessary infrastructure to be competitive in the industry is already in place.

Enterprise Development Corp. of South Florida has advised entrepreneurs and investors for over two decades through mentorship, management of incubator programs and customized services for startups in South Florida.  

Tampa-based Florida Venture Forum, a a nonprofit, statewide support organization for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, connects growing startup businesses with access to capital from local and national resources. The organization hosts the the Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition and the Early Stage Capital Conference. 

Florida Venture Forum will host the 2016 Florida Venture Capital Conference on January 27-28, 2016.

Tampa hotels plan to conserve millions of gallons of water by 2016

Local hotels and motels could begin to conserve 5 million gallons of water by 2016 – all without impacting the guest experience.

The Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association (HCHMA) has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative. Through a voluntary effort, HCHMA aims to reduce water consumption in the Tampa Bay area lodging industry.

“We have a unique opportunity to have our larger hotels lead the way in this effort,” HCHMA Executive Director Bob Morrison said in a news release.

Clearwater-based Terlyn Industries, which specializes in industrial water treatment, will help HCHMA “modify existing building cooling systems in such a way that those properties will see significant improvements in water consumption efficiencies,” Morrison explains.

Large hotels use cooling towers to treat the condensation water that gathers in central air conditioning units. The towers can account for 25 percent of a hotel’s total water use, so updating them to operate more efficiently can decrease energy and water consumption.

Terlyn Industries is offering Tampa Bay hoteliers a complimentary cooling tower water conservation study. For more information, visit the conservation study website.

HCHMA, which represents county hotels, motels and resorts, was initially organized in 1937. Prior to setting the goal of conserving five million gallons of water by 2016 for the EPA’s WaterSense H2O Challenge, HCHMA members made voluntary water conservation efforts through the Water Conservation Hotel and Motel Program. The “Water CHAMP” effort was developed through a partnership between Hillsborough County, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the City of Tampa; it focused on efforts to conserve water through retrofitting toilets and faucets in local hotels, as well as designating towel and linen reuse programs.

WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative program participants must register to “ACT” with the EPA: assess water usage, change products or processes when necessary, and track results. 
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