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New Port Richey : Innovation + Job News

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Pasco Video Game Company Plans Expansion

Artix Entertainment, a developer of online video games, is working on several new projects that are expected to create new jobs in the near future. The company is currently looking for a mobile developer as they continue to grow in the mobile gaming market.
                                   
“If the projects we are working on now, specifically the 3D game we are building, take off we will need a much bigger staff,” says Adam Bohn who founded Artix Entertainment in 2002.
 
Bohn says he was working on a game is his spare time back in 2002, with no intention of starting a business. He simply was fulfilling a dream of making a video game. The original game, AdventureQuest, soon had millions of players and he started recruiting members of the gaming community to work on other projects.
 
“AdventureQuest was one of the very first, if not the first, Flash-based video games that could be played right in your browser,” Bohn says. “We now have six major games with two more in development.”
 
Artix Entertainment currently employs approximately 57 people, and has even more staff in the form of volunteers whom moderate forums. In addition to seeking a qualified mobile developer, Bohn says he may be looking for additional staff when his new games come out.
 
“With the projects we are working on, if they take off, we will need 3D animators and modelers, as well as 2D Flash animators,” he says.
 
As far as a time line for when those projects will be completed, Bohn says there is no specific deadline.
 
“In the gaming industry, a project is done when it’s done.”
 
In the meantime, Bohn plans to add a career section on his website so potential employees can check back for job openings.
 
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Adam Bohn, Artix Entertainment

Verizon Launches Family Video Contest, Tampa Bay

FiOS Quantum, Verizon's latest home broadband service, was recently introduced to the Tampa Bay region. As part of Verizon’s announcement of the new service, the company is holding a contest called “Families on FiOS.” Tampa Bay area families, roommates and friends can enter the contest and the winner will receive a home technology makeover valued at approximately $9,000.

"We want to know how families and friends are using technology in this new day and age for their communications, information and entertainment needs,'' says Jeanmarie Milla, Verizon’s Florida region president of operations. "In turn, Verizon can use this information to help offer Tampa Bay residents the optimal consumer experience.''

According to Milla, FiOS Quantum is a record-setting broadband service, which features download and upload speeds that are twice as fast as those previously offered.

"Verizon is able to offer Internet at speeds two to three times as fast as the competition because it has the nation’s largest all-fiber-optic network,'' Milla says. "The competition can't touch our FiOS Quantum speeds because of their hybrid fiber/copper networks, which constrain their speed.''

To enter the contest, residents must film a short video (three and five minutes long) and upload it to the contest website. All films must be submitted by Aug. 6. Verizon's team will select five entries, and the public will be voting for their favorite video beginning Aug. 13. The contest is open to anyone residing in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties, where FiOS is offered.

"We want to see Tampa Bay in action,'' Milla says. "This contest is about residents showing they're at the cutting-edge of technology trends. Also, being a little entertaining never hurt anyone’s chances.''

The winner of the grand prize will be announced Sept. 19.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Jeanmarie Milla, Verizon

Florida Offers Economic Gardening Certification

Krista Hakes of the Pasco Economic Development Council (Pasco EDC) is one of six people in Florida to complete the Economic Gardening Certification offered through GrowFL.
 
Economic Gardening is part of a larger movement that takes an entrepreneurial approach to economic development through a model created by Chris Gibbons of Littleton, CO. The goal of economic gardening is to create jobs and improve the economy at the local level.
 
“Economic gardening helps second-stage companies with the challenges they face,” says Tammie Nemecek of GrowFL, which is the state’s branch of the larger economic gardening movement.

The certification program that Hakes completed is part of the National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation, which follows the Chris Gibbons model. The certification enables Hakes to launch and administer a successful economic gardening program in Pasco that will help local entrepreneurs and small companies to grow their businesses.   

“The certification process involves online courses and webinars,” says Jessica Nelson, operations manager of the National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation. “Overall the certification takes three weeks to complete.”
 
In addition to Hakes, the five other individuals in Florida who have completed the program include Paul Mitchell of the Volusia County Economic Development Council, Chelsea Jones-Finely of the Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, Debrah Forester of the Charlotte County Economic Development Council, Mandy Hines of DeSoto County and Kara Palmer of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee.
 
GrowFL has plans to certify more people in the future; those interested in becoming certified should contact Jessica Nelson at the National Center for Economic Gardening. Entrepreneurs seeking support for accelerating their business should contact their local economic development council or GrowFL.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tammie Nemecek, GrowFL, and Jessica Nelson, National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation

Virtual Job Fair For Youth Seeking Employers, Tampa Bay

The Suncoast Workforce of Sarasota, in partnership with WorkNet Pinellas and several other Tampa Bay area workforce organizations, will hold a virtual job fair for youth starting May 13th and running through May 19th. The live week-long event will be free for job seekers and is catered to the younger demographic, ages 14-24.

“Businesses can benefit from a younger worker's perspective and new ideas,” says Sally Hill, communications director of Suncoast Workforce. “They tend to be open to learning and they thrive on coaching and mentoring from others. Youth are the workforce of the future.”

This is the second consecutive year for the virtual event that spans six counties. Other workforce organizations include Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance in Hillsborough, Career Central in Pasco, Junior Achievement of West Central Florida, the Pinellas Education Foundation, and Tampa Bay area public school districts and colleges.
 
Unlike a traditional job fair, where businesses set up booths and employers and job seekers engage in formal exchanges, the virtual job fair is done completely online in a much less ceremonial fashion. Employers will post their open positions and job seekers can browse jobs and apply during the week-long event. The virtual environment also takes pressure off employers to hire on the spot.

“Employers have the option to review candidate resumes at their leisure and they can decide whether to interview candidates by phone or in person before making their hiring decision,” Hill says.

Hill says that there is still time for employers to participate in the job fair and they would like more businesses to register. Businesses interested in virtually attending the job fair can register by visiting this link.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Sally Hill, Suncoast Workforce

Sarasota Foundation Gives Scholarships To Florida Community College Students

Seven community colleges were recently awarded $50,000 each as a gift from the Edward K Roberts Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The community colleges that were selected are to use the award money for grants given to part-time students who may not qualify for other financial aid. The award money can be used for tuition, board, books, childcare, whichever will help keep the student in school.
 
“Edward K Roberts established a trust designed to distribute funds to underfunded community colleges in Florida, to the needs of single mothers, and to new and emerging charitable needs,” says Robin Lankton, director of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “Ed believed that his resources should be shared with others, particularly those motivated to move themselves forward to make their own way in the world.”
 
According to Lankton, 456 students received scholarships last year at seven colleges as a result of the fund. This year the following Florida community colleges received $50,000 each: Chipola College, Marianna; Florida Gateway College, Lake City; Gulf Coast Community College, Panama City; North Florida Community College, Madison; Pasco-Hernando Community College, New Port Richey; Sante Fe College, Gainesville; and South Florida Community College, Avon Park.
 
“These were all colleges Mr. Roberts supported in the past with Sante Fe and Gulf Coast added,” Lankton says. “Scholarships will be awarded based on individual student needs and student information will be provided to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for documentation.”
 
Source: Robin Lankton, Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Wheelchairs 4 Kids Keeps Kids Mobile, Tampa Bay

Imagine you're a growing child with a physical disability that prevents you from walking. Your wheelchair is too small. And there is no money to buy a new one.  

It's that harsh reality that motivated Madeline Robinson to create Wheelchairs 4 Kids, a nonprofit entity dedicated to providing low-income families with disabled children with equipment such as wheelchairs, ramps, expanded doors and other vital accommodations.

"We've come across kids who couldn't join their friends on outings or parents who struggled to transfer their growing children into their beds or a bathtub," says Robinson. "We've had a little girl who could not get upstairs in her home, another that could not get her wheelchair through the bathroom door. Once I started delving into it, the myriad of challenges that came to my attention were astonishing. These families deserve more."

Robinson says Wheelchairs 4 Kids depends heavily on donations to achieve its goals. "Some of it is gently used and refurbished," says Robinson. "Most is new because most of the children have special requirements. The fit is most important. We try to get chairs that 'grow' with the children. Manufacturers and distributors give us discounts, but we try to get organizations and businesses to sponsor specific children in their area. We also do special events to raise funds."

Children who qualify for help through Wheelchairs 4 Kids are referred by health professionals and have been declined by insurance providers and/or Medicaid. 

Robinson says requests for help continue to flow into her office. "Right now, we're all volunteers working out of our homes. We need an office, which would enable us to do so much more. I'd like to expand our programs. We'd love to be able to install roll-in showers, to build a few accessible playgrounds and have fun outings for our kids with activities geared for kids with physical disabilities."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Madeline Robinson, Wheelchairs 4 Kids

Pasco County To Provide Loans To Small Businesses

The Pasco County Economic Development Council (EDC) has attracted more than $200,000 to help provide seed money to small businesses throughout Pasco County.

Thanks to CenterState Bank and Saint Leo University, the EDC's microloan program has the funds to launch in March. The bank initially donated $5,000 to the county through its Community Reinvestment Act program. Others pitched in. Then a $25,000 donation from Saint Leo brought the funds to $220,000.

The microloan program is designed to lend money to small businesses located in Pasco County, and will offer entrepreneurs free technical assistance and training to help work through challenges they may face in starting or growing a new business. 

"It developed from a need for small business owners," explains Michael Cox, chairman of the Pasco EDC's Growth Task Force and VP at Wells Fargo Advisors. "The types of loans we're going to make are the ones banks don't like to make or can't make. But it's a need for our small business owners. We've been in the process of doing it for the past six months. And now we have the funds to start it."

Pasco EDC continues to actively seek community leaders and businesses that want to help build the fund. Loan applicants must be for-profit companies located in Pasco County, and borrowers must prove to possess the experience and resources necessary for success. Loans may be used for working capital, inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment, but may not be used for real estate purchases or refinancing existing debt.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Michael Cox, Pasco County EDC and Wells Fargo Advisors

Fireleaf Design In Tarpon Springs To Create 3 Jobs

Fireleaf Design, a creative graphic design and marketing services company in Tarpon Springs, plans to grow and hire three additional staff in 2012. The small company was founded by Alan Brusky, who is a graphic designer and marketer himself.

Fireleaf officially became incorporated in June 2011, however, I was freelancing for about three years before that,” says Brusky.  “We offer graphic design, branding, website design and development, as well as social media consultation. ”

Due to his company’s success, Brusky recently moved business operations from his home office into a dedicated workspace in downtown Tarpon Springs. As his business continues to grow, so will the company’s headcount.

“My goal is to stay small and continue helping small businesses but I will need more staff,” Brusky says. “This year I would like to bring on a designer, a web developer and possibly a service representative or office manager.”

His focus on small businesses is exactly what Brusky attributes to his company’s success.

“I have a real dedication to helping my clients,” he says. “We only work with four to five clients at a time and they don’t go anywhere else. I have clients who have been with me for many years way before becoming incorporated.”

Brusky is also passionate about his company’s location.
.
“Tarpon Springs is a great city for small business,” he says. “The chamber of commerce, which I am a member of, is working hard to bring in young entrepreneurs, especially in the downtown area. It’s a great place to be. ”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Alan Brusky, Fireleaf Design

GreenDreams: Going Organic In Odessa, Pasco

GreenDreams, a new company in the Odessa community of Pasco County just north of Tampa, is promoting organic gardening and eating at home. The owners of the company, Peter and Melissa Kanaris, encourage people to duplicate the 1930's tradition of creating "victory gardens,'' where organic food is grown in your backyard.

“We were inspired to start GreenDreams, because of the high price and limitation of fresh, organic produce in Pasco County,” says Peter Kanaris, owner of GreenDreams: A Sustainable Solutions Company. "We also noticed that among the general community, there was a lack of education on the importance of healthy eating and avoiding chemicals.''

Before starting this business, Peter says he examined the way his own family was eating. He noted that there was a large amount of genetically modified food in their food supply and sought ways to change it.

"Having a family with a small child, we became even more conscious of the way our food is grown and we were compelled to share our knowledge with others,” Kanaris says.

In order to help locals start growing their own gardens, GreenDreams has a retail store in Odessa that sells organic fertilizers, seeds, books, edible trees and garden beds. Weekly classes are also offered at the store to educate individuals on gardening.

"Our goal with opening up this business is to create a more self-sufficient and sustainable community with hopes of improving our local economy,” Kanaris says. "There are so many people who are unemployed or underemployed in the Pasco area. Many of these people are living on government assistance or on the brink of going hungry. With the right amount of knowledge and a small amount of inexpensive or free materials, anyone can grow their own food.”
 
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
 Source: Peter Kanaris, GreenDreams

Eye Center To Open Optical Boutique, Clearwater

Rowan Eye Center of New Port Richey plans to open an optical boutique in downtown Clearwater in early 2012. The eye center, which was founded in 1981 by Dr. Patrick Rowan, was taken over by his son Carey Rowan, M.D. in 2001 and has been treating patients for three decades. Due to the center’s success, the family run business is now gearing up to open its first optical store.
 
“At our store in downtown Clearwater, we will be providing prescription eyewear and specialized lenses that I don’t think many people know about,” says Pam Rowan of the Rowan Eye Center. “You should have different lenses for fishing, bike riding, golfing and computer reading. We will offer the appropriate lenses for all of these activities at the store. We will even offer prescription lenses for mask goggles. ”
 
Rowan says she and her husband plan to open the store in either January or February of next year. In preparation for the opening, Rowan says she is already interviewing candidates.
 
“We will be hiring two optometrists, two to three opticians and two clerical staff for our new store,” Rowan says. “We also hope to open up other boutiques in the area and will hire staff for those stores as well.”
 
While the Rowan Eye Center in New Port Richey focuses on eye diseases and surgery, the optical boutique will focus on fashion.
 
“We want to provide customers will fashionable and trendy eyewear,” Rowan says. “The downtown Clearwater location is the perfect place to do that, it’s a great place for this kind of business. ”
 
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Pam Rowan, Rowan Eye Center

Tampa Bay Credit Unions Attract New Customers

With all of the uproar over proposed banking fees, many people are exploring their options to move their money from big banks to credit unions. GTE Federal Credit Union (FCU), a member-owned credit union serving Tampa Bay, reports an increase in new member applications. Over the past month, the credit union has experienced a 31 percent increase in applications.

“Consumers are looking at banking in a different way now,” says Brian Best, senior VP of member solutions and chief lending officer at GTE FCU. “It’s important for individuals to know that credit unions were designed to help and benefit the member, which is the owner. Banks are designed to benefit shareholders. ”

Due to bank customer anger over fees and the movement of Occupy Wall Street, protesters declared Nov. 5 “Bank Transfer Day” and encourage those who hold accounts at banks to move their money to credit unions. GTE FCU sweetened the deal by offering $5 a month to new members for a 12-month period.

“Credit Unions have been around since the great depression and were formed to help people,” says Best. “With the recent economy, the thing that provides more momentum towards credit unions is that they have always been around to help people during tough times. ”

Best goes on to say that credit unions do not have to charge fees to customers like banks do because of the way credit unions are set up.

We are designed as a not-for-profit, therefore we don’t have to meet significant plateaus of earnings and profits,” he says. “This means we don’t have to charge the fees that banks have to in order to meet a certain profit.”

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Brian Best, GTE Federal Credit Union

Goodwill-Suncoast Aims To Fill 50 Jobs ASAP

It has always been Goodwill's mission to help people get to work. That mission is alive and well today as Goodwill-Suncoast, the local branch of Goodwill Industries, is looking to put people to work in the Tampa Bay region.

"We currently have about 50 openings in the Tampa Bay area," says Chris Ward of Goodwill-Suncoast. "We are filling various positions, everything from retail sales manager, retail associate and donations processing staff to skills trainers and IT staff. We are looking to fill these positions as soon as possible."

In this economy, where jobs and growth are scarce, Goodwill has experienced considerable success. "We opened three new superstores since 2008, these stores opened in Wesley Chapel, Oldsmar and Spring Hill," Ward says. "We also opened a residential work-release center in Largo."

Ward says that most of the jobs with Goodwill-Suncoast are in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties, however, there are a few in other parts of the area. "We have a few jobs in Pasco and Hernando County, where Goodwill is the lead service provider at Career Central employment offices," Ward says. "The list of jobs on our website will give the location of each position."

For potential employees interested in applying, Ward explains what Goodwill is looking for. "We are looking for dedicated, hard-working people who take pride in the work they do," Ward says. "A customer service mindset is especially important for retail and donations staff. Because the nature of Goodwill's mission is helping people achieve their full potential through the power of work, staff can feel especially good about being part of the Goodwill team."

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Chris Ward, Goodwill Industries-Suncoast


Mental Health Services Expand In Pasco, 10+ Jobs

Directions for Mental Health, Inc, a nonprofit organization in Pinellas County that helps the mentally ill, will be expanding into Pasco County later this summer creating 10-plus jobs.

The organization, founded in 1982, currently serves 10,000 people at its various locations in Pinellas. When the new Pasco office opens in August, it will serve a base there of 1,000 people to start. The move to expand into Pasco has been in the works for some time.

"We have been trying to strategically plan a move into Pasco County for years," says April Lott, president and CEO of Directions for Mental Health, Inc. "Recently, we had an opportunity where one of our health insurance providers asked us to partner with them and serve the Pasco community. Our reputation preceded us to the point where we were able to take the leap."

Lott says that for many years people in Pasco would either have to travel south to Pinellas, or go with another provider to get mental health services, which is why Directions has been trying to expand into the community.

The Pasco location is on US Highway 19 behind the Community Hospital. "The site behind the hospital is the perfect location," says Lott. "It's on the bus line and most people who live in west Pasco know exactly where it is."

Lott describes the Pasco location as a smaller version of the Certified Community Mental Health Center in Pinellas. Therefore, all of the job positions found at the Pinellas center will need to be duplicated at a smaller scale in Pasco. "We will need psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, case managers, administrative support positions, and medical record professionals," says Lott.

The Pasco office is at 5642 Meadowlane Street in New Port Richey and is set to open August 1st.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: April Lott, Directions for Mental Health, Inc.


Bay Tech Industries Relocates To Pasco, Adds 27 Jobs

Bay Tech Industries, an aerospace company, recently relocated to Pasco County bringing 27 new jobs to the county. The aerospace company started in August of 1986 with just three employees, and today employs 40. While a majority of the hiring took place earlier this year, Bay Tech's VP Rick Seal says that the company still has more hiring to do.

"We plan on hiring at least three people in the next year," Seal says. "We will be adding someone in our quality department, engineering and operating."

The company relocated to Odessa in Pasco County, from its home of 22 years at the Tri-County Industrial Park in Oldsmar. Bay Tech's new building was completed in January of this year, and is 11,850 square feet.

"We have been up and running in our new building since Feb. 1st," Seal says. "Pasco County was very helpful with expediting our permits and the construction process went smoothly."

Seal says the company has grown so much it needed more space, which was the reason for the relocation.

"I attribute our growth to the relationships with our customers," Seal says. "We have customers that we have been able to keep since starting in 1986, it is not often that you keep a customer that long. We use a system that ships parts to our customers when their parts are low to ensure shipments get there on time, which helps both our company and the customers."

Bay Tech Industries is currently located at 13275 Byrd Drive in Odessa.

Source: Rick Seal, Bay Tech Industries
Writer: Kimberly Patterson

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YMCA Of The USA Considers Tampa Y Website Model For Nation

YMCA of the Suncoast has launched a new website designed to build communities of like-minded people.

The website, launched in March 2011, provides easy access to residents interested in the Suncoast Ys mission and programs. An interactive find-a-program feature helps visitors find classes and activities, a blog offers access to Y news and an Ask-the-Y feature allows visitors to ask questions about anything from summer camps to nutrition. The site also interfaces with Facebook and Twitter.

"Connecting with the community is critical to the Y's mission," says Alisa Jenkins of Springboard Marketing and Communications, who helped with the website. "This  site offers more ways to do this than before. The social media features allow people to choose how they connect. They can interact with their favorites or the entire Suncoast community."

The site was recently recognized by YMCA of the USA as an exceptional example of brand integration and, as a result, the Suncoast association has been invited to present the website to other YMCAs at a national event in Chicago. The Suncoast Y's primary Facebook page grew from 1,200 to over 2,000 fans within the first 30 days of the new launch.

Mandy Griffith, Suncoast Y's marketing and communications director, is excited about the results the site has produced. "This website helps us achieve our mission by making our programs more accessible and by providing more resources to our community."

Sources: Alisa Jenkins, Springboard Marketing and Communications; Mandy Griffith, YMCA of the Suncoast
Writer: Missy Kavanaugh

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