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Project Transition USA Helps Veterans Find Civilian Careers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angelo's Invests $50 Million in Florida, 120+ Jobs In Pinellas

A national pioneer in recycled building materials, Angelo’s Recycled Materials, is expanding rapidly, recently selecting St. Petersburg, as its national headquarters and creating more than 120 new green jobs by the end December 2013.

Angelo’s, which has already created more than 100 jobs locally in 2013, recently added a new container division for construction and demolition job sites and currently operates six active recycling facilities.

As Angelo’s continues to expand through the addition of new recycling operations centers, the company also plans to add more than 200 jobs over the next few years.

"The company saw a real need for this kind of business in St. Petersburg. The entire area and the building has been repurposed to make the property more attractive. It is the perfect place to invest their future," says Mario Farias, public relations manager.

Founded by Angelo Iafrate in 1960, the company originally recycled reclaimed concrete into aggregate and road-base products. Realizing the opportunity to reuse many of the materials that were originally discarded during the demolition process, Angelo & his brother designed a machine to crush the concrete while extracting metals, sand, wood, plastics and other particles in order to avoid unnecessary landfilling and reduce costs on construction projects as they reuse materials.

In addition to the 13-acre site at its new St. Petersburg headquarters, the firm has invested more than $13 million in Pinellas County and over $50 million in the state of Florida, and is committed to continuing its investment in the Tampa Bay region.

"We are committed to investing in the greater St. Petersburg area and all of Florida by building upon our existing locations and developing new locations," says Angelo’s Principal Dominic Iafrate, Jr.

Angelo's recycling rate is over 80 percent in its St. Petersburg and Largo materials processing facilities, which is critical to helping city, county, and commercial clients reach the state's 75 percent recycling goal

The company is also in the permitting process to add four additional yards in Florida in 2014: one in Brandon, one in Tampa, and two in Orlando.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Angelo’s online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dominic Iafrate and Mario Farias, Angelo's

Triad Retail Media Expands, Adds 150+ Jobs In St. Pete

On November 1st, Triad Retail Media moved into its brand new 65,000 square-foot St. Petersburg national headquarters which will accommodate the firm’s growing staff as well as 150-200 new jobs created over the next three years.

The newly created jobs will focus on content, communications, IT, business intelligence, design and creative, ad operations, and video content management.

Triad creates, manages and operates online media programs for leading, high-traffic retail e-commerce websites including Walmart, eBay, Toys "R" Us, CVS, Sam’s Club, and several other recognizable brands.

The company’s move from the Westshore neighborhood of Tampa to the new office at Carillon in St. Petersburg was specifically selected because of the space available to accommodate the company’s expanding workforce.

"It will be a gradual, persistent hiring. We don’t expect to grow and then stop," says Misty Brown, Triad’s VP of communications.

Tampa’s market for technology, art and talented workforce highly resonated with the firm’s decision to further expand its presence in the Tampa Bay region.

"There are many advantages and multiple levels of talent in Tampa Bay. There is terrific talent here, several tech hubs are here, and there great art schools," says Brown.

Recently named on the annual Inc. 500|5000 list as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies and #27 in Tampa Bay, Triad reached a three-year sales growth increase of 143% and employs more than 400 in seven offices nationwide.

"We are a company of entrepreneurs; if you have an idea, you can expect to see it grow here. We welcome challenges," says Brown.

The firm’s early 2013 acquisition by Rockbridge Growth Equity has helped to further position Triad’s stock in the Tampa Bay market as well as the company’s significant and continued growth.

"Rockbridge has been a fantastic partner to enable our growth. It’s been an aid to our continued growth," says Brown.

The City of St. Petersburg worked closely with Pinellas County to facilitate Triad’s relocation to St. Petersburg as well as working directly with Triad and Enterprise Florida to qualify the firm for tax refunds through the Qualified Target Industry program.

For career opportunities, visit Triad online or via LinkedIn.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Misty Brown, Triad Retail Media

USAA Invests $164.3 Million, 1,200+ New Jobs In Tampa

USAA (United Services Automobile Association) is undergoing a major expansion in Tampa Bay, announcing a $164.3 million capital investment to create 1,215 new high-wage jobs and grow its local operations by 2019.

USAA leads the industry in insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services for the military community and their families.

"It’s a big deal, and it will have a pretty significant ripple effect in our economy. Add to that Amazon’s 1,000 new jobs, Bristol-Myers Squibb adding 600 jobs, and HealthPlan Services’ 1,000 jobs -- this is pretty serious economic growth that secures our future and the development of our community," says Rick Homans, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

USAA has operated in Florida for more than 40 years, with a significant presence in Hillsborough County. With more than 1,800 individuals currently employed at USAA’s New Tampa facility and over 600 employees additionally located throughout Florida, the firm has already created nearly 370,000 new jobs in just two years.

"USAA is growing as the demand for our financial products and services among the military community increases. We’ve had a great team of employees in Tampa for forty years, and we are excited to grow that team in this great military community," says USAA CEO Joe Robles.

In April, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a local incentive package of $729,000, supporting a commitment of $2,916,000 from the State of Florida through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program. The total QTI allocation of $3,645,000 will provide the company with $3,000 for the creation of each new high-wage job, incentives which will be payable over a nine-year period.

The company will initially lease 50,000 square feet of office space at Lakeview Center in Tampa and will soon construct a new 420,000 square-foot facility at Brandon’s Crosstown Center by 2015. Once complete, the facility will be the largest built-to-suit office project in Hillsborough County since 2001.

"This is another sign that Florida is becoming the number one place for business. Not only has Florida’s unemployment rate continued to decrease, but we are still below the national unemployment rate at seven percent," says Governor Rick Scott.

Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the Career Center online for more information on available positions.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Joe Robles, USAA; Rick Homans, Tampa Hillsborough EDC; Governor Rick Scott, State of Florida

Salsarita's Plans 500 New Jobs In Tampa Bay

Mexican-inspired Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina is rapidly expanding throughout Florida, and plans to bring up to 500 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region over the next three to five years.

With two locations already existing in Florida, Salsarita’s has more than 80 locations across the United States. The brand has targeted the Tampa and St. Petersburg area as a prime location to plant 20 new locations.

"Growth of the brand is happening in two ways: we are going to continue to build company restaurants in the Carolinas. Outside of the Carolina’s we’re going to be growing through franchising," says Chris Bailey, head of franchise development.

After settling the sale of McAlister’s Deli two years ago, the former owners began to seek out brands having significant growth opportunities. The team identified and purchased Salsarita’s, immediately beginning plans for long-term growth development.

The company’s expansion in Florida is a part of a tailored approach to franchise development that will begin operational investments in Tampa Bay in early 2014. The brand is committed to protecting the market territory of franchisees, adding one or more new locations per franchisee per year.

Each new Salsarita’s location would add between 15 and 22 new positions, including full-time restaurant managers, shift managers and servers.

Franchising has become a source of professional re-birth and a second career investment opportunity for many seasoned professionals seeking solid entrepreneurial opportunities.

"There is a growing appreciation and eagerness to work with franchises. Of all of the areas in industry and business that have been impacted adversely by the last several years of economic challenges, franchising has been the least impacted and the most consistent. It is, by nature, designed to give that go-getter entrepreneurial spirit the engine in which they can execute a good business," says Bailey.

For information on franchising and career opportunities, visit Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Chris Bailey, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

American Strategic Insurance Grows In St. Petersburg, Adds 22+ Jobs

American Strategic Insurance is continuing to grow, moving forward on the construction of its newest structure, expanding to new markets throughout the United States, and adding more than 20 jobs.

The $42 million construction development investment is a part of the firm’s new 13-acre complex for its new St. Petersburg headquarters.

As ASI continues its expansion, claims representatives, underwriters, customer service representatives, marketing representatives, and product managers will be added to the team to accommodate the firm’s bustling growth.

"We are in the process of starting the planning for new hires in 2014," says Executive V.P. Kevin Milkey.

In May 2013, ASI completed construction of its three-story 110,000 square-foot headquarters. The second building in the complex will be complete by the spring of 2014 and will house ASI’s operation center, a new daycare center for employees, and other tenants planning to rent office space.

Founded in 1997, ASI began selling personal and commercial lines insurance in key markets throughout the state of Florida. In 2007, ASI set out on a massive expansion plan to share their product services beyond the state of Florida.

"We wanted to see how it would go in some of the Midwestern states, and it’s been very receptive. Based on that, we believe we can expand into all of the other states because we’ve had success," says Milkey.

By 2012, the firm had expanded into 25 new states. After completing the expansion project, the company decided to further their expansion throughout the United States.

"It just made sense to be a full national company," says Milkey.

ASI will complete development in six to eight additional states per year, expanding into the majority of the United States by 2017. The company will also be hiring marketing and field claim representatives specific to the new markets in other states.

"We will have additional hires that will work remotely in the states that we enter," says Milkey.

For career opportunities with ASI, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Kevin Milkey, American Strategic Insurance

FIVE By FIVE Art Show Returns To Tampa Oct. 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Deal Brings 1,000+ Jobs To Tampa Bay

Signed, sealed and delivered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information, visit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

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

USF Energy Conference Designed To Be Conduit For Collaboration

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

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

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

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

Writer: Marcia Biggs
Source: Eleanor Clements, IDEA

1 Million Cups Of Coffee Support Entrepreneurship In Cities

A new opportunity is brewing for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay. 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg officially kicks off October 9 at St. Petersburg Greenhouse and invites business owners, mentors and the entire community to come together to support local businesses and start-ups.

The concept was launched through the Kauffman Foundation, with the idea of seeing how much business and support entrepreneurs could receive around one million cups of coffee. The idea is simple: every Wednesday at 9:00 am, communities across the country bring together entrepreneurs, mentors, advisers and business minds to learn about and support new businesses. Each event features two businesses that present for six minutes each and then allow 20 minutes of questions, with the event ending at exactly one hour.

The concept began in Kansas City in April of 2012, and has rolled out in 20 communities nationwide. Kauffman provides back end administration, support and promotion, as well as opportunities for participating communities to gather together for benchmarking.  

The organizing team for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg consists of: Sean Kennedy of St. Petersburg Greenhouse, John Morrow with USF St. Petersburg’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance, Reuben Pressman, serial entrepreneur, Danielle Weitlauf of Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Richard Wood with Eagle Datagistics.

“We want more energy, more people coming together to talk about entrepreneurship in a very casual format,” says Danielle Weitlauf, Manager for Tampa Bay Innovation Center and one of the organizers for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg.

In keeping with the 1 Million Cups theme, Kahwa Coffee is donating coffee each week.

Presenters for the kick-off event are Eye Crawler and Causetofund.

A common question that comes up at other 1 Million Cups events is: “What can the community do to support you?” Speakers will walk away with just that -- advice, connections and support from the community.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Tampa Startups Compete For National Attention At Tech Cocktail Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anago Cleaning Systems Grows, Adds 40+ Jobs in Tampa

Anago Cleaning Systems’ Master Franchise Owners Raul Gonzalez and Omar Fernandez are spurring economic growth in Tampa Bay, creating small business opportunities for entrepreneurs while generating more than 40 jobs.

One of the leading commercial cleaning franchise organizations with over 2,400 business units across the country, Anago has been recognized by the Entrepreneur Magazine as the 10th fastest-growing franchise in 2013 in the United States and by the National Minority Franchising Initiative as the top franchise for minorities.

"We are adding small businesses by virtue of those people who open a cleaning business and are simultaneously adding jobs because the unit franchisees are hiring employees to assist them in running their small business," says VP of Marketing Judy Walker.

Cousins that came from a close-knit family in New York, Gonzalez and Fernandez moved to Florida together and saw a need for growing companies that would cater to the entrepreneurial needs of the Spanish community. Many of Anago’s Florida unit franchisees are from different countries -- entrepreneurs seeking business opportunities but who may face market entry and language barriers.

"They saw a need that people wanted. In a community, people really stick together, and we wanted to become part of that community by reaching out to them and fulfilling their needs," says Trish Carr, regional director of Anago Tampa.

For the past 15 years, Gonzalez and Fernandez have successfully added new franchise units in the area, connecting entrepreneurs with a structured business management system, allowing franchise business owners the freedom to concentrate on their craft while fulfilling the American Dream. The Master Franchiser, Anago Tampa, provides the franchise unit with on-going local contracts, mentorship, marketing and administrative services, effectually connecting families and communities with long-term business and job opportunities.

"We work hand-in-hand with our business owners. We build relationships," says Carr.

Gonzalez and Fernandez have already added seven new franchise units this year and plans to plant up to eight more before the end of 2013.

"I have so much faith and belief in Omar, Raul and Trish. Their success has been excellent through the years, and we expect them to grow exponentially and the economy as well," says Walker.

For more information on unit franchise or career opportunities, visit Anago Tampa online or call Trish Carr at 727.535.8752.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Judy Walker and Trish Carr, Anago Cleaning Systems

Granex Opens Manufacturing Facility, Adds 50+ Jobs In Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Raj Emandi, Granex

WellCare Contributes $1M To Step Up For Students

WellCare Health Plans, Inc. is offering scholarships to improve health and educational opportunities for students in need.

WellCare announced its participation in the Step Up For Students scholarship program, contributing $1 million to help provide K-12 students coming from low-income families or poverty circumstances the opportunity to participate in learning environments tailored to their scholastic needs. Since 2004, WellCare has contributed $9 million for 2,400 students throughout Florida.

"WellCare always has a health focus, but we understand that you actually have to touch people’s lives to improve their health. When we start young, we know that we will have healthier adults in our community. Start young and build their futures and potential through these scholarships," says Denise Malecki, Corporate Communications Manager.

Through the Step Up For Students initiative, students are given the opportunity to excel in their educational environment by being able to participate in private schools or out-of-district public schools that may be more tailored to their individual learning needs.

A significant long-term benefit of the program is the potential break in cyclical poverty situations and the creation of successful life paths for children in challenged economic circumstances.

The program recognizes the differences in children’s learning styles and aims to give families choices in their child’s education -- an option that many financially stable families may already have.

Since the program’s start, more than 331,000 scholarships have been awarded.

"For 11 years, our program has been helping our state’s most disadvantaged and academically vulnerable children access the schools that best meet their needs. The program exists to promote equal educational opportunity, so all of Florida’s children have a better chance at a successful future. We are grateful to WellCare for heling us make this mission a reality," says Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill.

For more information on WellCare, visit them online. For information on Step Up For Students and how to get involved, visit their website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Denise Malecki, WellCare; Doug Tuthill, Step Up For Students

Tampa Bay Arts Summit Promotes Regional Collaboration

A first-of-its-kind regional arts summit will take place Oct. 25, 2013 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, bringing together arts organizations, arts advocates, legislators and administrators from the five counties surrounding Tampa Bay. 

The Regional Arts Summit: Return on Investment aims to promote collaboration between arts organizations of all disciplines to better leverage advertising and marketing dollars, avoid scheduling conflicts and to build and share audiences.  Through interactive presentations and breakout sessions, participants will discuss topics such as cooperative programming, advocacy, regional funding, cultural tourism, and arts in healthcare. 

“To be successful, the arts have to be regionalized,” says attorney Peter Zinober, Chairman of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and shareholder at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, who came up with the idea of the summit. He envisions the event as a powerful brainstorming and networking session, “Putting people in the same room to develop strategies and ideas, develop more revenue while spending less.”

Presented by the Hillsborough County Arts Council, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas, the full-day event will feature keynote speaker Randy Cohen, VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts from Washington DC. Cohen who will speak on the future of the arts in America -- “Where will we be in 10 Years?” He is a noted expert in the field of arts funding, research, policy, and using the arts to address community development issues.

Registration is available online through the Hillsborough Arts, Inc. website

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Peter Zinober, Arts Council of Hillsborough County
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