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Gasparilla Fringe Festival Features Uncommon Arts To Make You Gasp!

As the 2014 Gasparilla festivities wind down, there’s one more opportunity to experience the arts Gasparilla style, but not in the traditional realm.

Gasp! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival presented by Creative Loafing and Tampa Museum of Art promises to enlighten and indulge attendees with multidisciplinary arts experiences not to be found elsewhere.

On March 28 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Museum will be transformed into a performing arts mecca with performances from over 30 local visual and performing artists, including both emerging and established.

"The event speaks to the vibrancy of the culture here, that so many different kinds of performing arts are thriving," says David Warner, editor-in-chief for Creative Loafing. "This is a way to support them and also get a taste of all of them.”

Actors and actresses will perform short plays inside Mini Coopers, affectionately referred to as "Mini Plays."

Post Dinner Conversation will perform improv, while letting the audience call the shots.

Musician Acho Brother will collaborate with a live action artist painting an oil canvas in reaction to the music.  

Graphicstudio will bring a printing press, and Creative Loafing’s Peter Meinke and Erica Dawson will create "chat books" called cordelistas. The studio’s exhibition, Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practices at USF, will also be open exclusively for attendees.

Lynn Waddell, author of Fringe Florida, will present in collaboration with Ward Hall, legendary carnival talker.

The event is designed to be a true reflection of the vitality and diversity of the arts community in Tampa Bay.

"They’re very talented people, making this work here," says Warner. "It reflects the community in ways the community doesn’t always get reflected."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Warner, Creative Loafing

Social Mobile Conference Embraces Branding In New Economy

As consumers move beyond traditional ways of finding information, purchase decisions are made based on sharing, comparing and rating experiences using social media. Real-time information through a mobile device is becoming an expectation. In light of this, brands are continuously looking for new and meaningful ways to connect with customers.

The Social Mobile Engagement Conference & Code Challenge, September 4-5, 2014 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina, is designed to be an outlet for this kind of information while highlighting local talent and organizations to senior tech leaders from across the nation.  

The event is an expansion of the Social Mobile Payments Conference, which took place twice since 2011 and focused on social media and mobile commerce. After the last event in 2013, organizer Bruce Burke started looking at the thought process leading up to the transaction of buying a good or service. By focusing on just the payment aspect he felt he was missing part of the story. By widening the scope and audience, Burks hopes to appeal to an even broader audience that is interested in learning more about the customer journey, including the user and social experience. "Engagement starts when the product is first discovered by the consumer," says Burke.

Burke’s company, Gulf Bay Consulting, is organizing the event but his motivation behind it is a sense of purpose and wanting to see the Tampa Bay community help create the next big thing.

The first day will consist of workshops on topics such as user experience, social communities, mobile engagement, big data and gamification. The second day will be a code challenge, sponsored in part by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovative Initiative (EDI2). Coders will hack, explore and create. The afternoon will be open to the public, where people can vote for and cheer on their favorite teams and coders.

Abstracts are being accepted until March 28 for individuals and companies interested in presenting at the event.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bruce Burke, Gulf Bay Consulting

Hillsborough County Grants More Than $200K To Local Tech Events

Hillsborough County has awarded $230,000 in funding to 31 local applicants through its flagship tech-centric program, the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).

The EDI2 program is the first of its kind of Florida. Established in June 2013, the program aims to bring innovation, job creation, technology and new business to the Tampa Bay region. In an effort to lead this movement, the Hillsborough County Economic Development department set aside $2 million in funding to award to events and programs that are centered around technology and innovation. Led by County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, EDI2 awarded $307,000 to applicants in the first round of funding in fall 2013.

Some of the latest round of funding will go toward programs and events already well-established within the Tampa Bay community, such as Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 in March, monthly StartupGrind events, and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Business of BioTech 2014.

The bulk of the funding was awarded to one-off conferences like Gulf Bay Consulting's Social Media Engagement event in September 2014, which received $12,375. Girls in Tech Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was awarded $12,500 for outreach and an event in December 2014, and TiE Tampa Bay's TiE Breaker III 2014, which took place in January, received $19,000. The University of Tampa's Entrepreneurs Student Organization was awarded $14,500 for its Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in February 2014.

Other funded programs include the Computer Mentors Group, Inc., which was awarded $25,000 for the 2014 STEM Education Showcase Tampa, and Nuturism Media Group, Inc., awarded $25,000 for Running Lean Bootcamp. Both are in May 2014.

To view a full listing of funded projects and applications, visit the Hillsborough County website.

Events and programs must meet several stages of criteria before they are awarded funding, including the ability to measure event metrics and a way to clearly identify the economic development impact of each project.

EDI2 is "focused on building a vibrant and sustainable startup community and is centered on the use of technology and innovation,'' according to a news release from Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for its third cycle of EDI2 funding. Applications and additional information can be found at the EDI2 website. The deadline to apply for the third round of EDI2 funding is April 1, 2013.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Annette Spina, Hillsborough County

New Partnership Makes Digital Signage More Accessible, User-Friendly

Wondersign and IAdea recently announced a partnership that will enhance the flexibility and user-friendliness of the digital signage world.

Wondersign is a cloud-based content delivery system for digital signage. Customers purchase the signage hardware for restaurants, stores or other areas and use Wondersign’s product to manage the content design and development. The drag and drop interface works with any web browser and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Based out of Switzerland, Wondersign runs its North American operations from its Tampa office.

Taiwan-based IAdea provides media players and sign boards to power large-scale, commercial grade digital signage projects. The partnership offers customers a way to manage their devices out of the box, simplifying their deployment and operation.

"The fact that [IAdea] has identified a cloud-based software-as-a-service like Wondersign as a strategic partner for the future shows where the industry is going,” says Casper Fopp, director of marketing and public relations for Wondersign.

The partnership is particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may be new to the world of digital signage and overwhelmed with the prospect of managing multiple signage locations. The cloud-based nature of the software is attractive to businesses that have different locations and are not able to have a physical presence everywhere their signage is placed.

"The partnership helps a lot of people get into the digital signage world with easier access," says Alvin Kuo, senior sales manager for IAdea.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Casper Fopp, Wondersign; Alvin Luo, IAdea

Webber Kerr Associates, Junior Achievement Partner To Guide Next Gen Business Leaders

A new partnership utilizes the knowledge and experience of a Tampa-based business to guide and educate local youth.

Webber Kerr Associates, an executive search and consulting firm based in Hyde Park, is partnering with Junior Achievement to provide financial support, mentoring and guidance.

Webber Kerr wanted to select a charitable organization to donate a percentage of search fees for every contract signed during 2014.

"Discussions kept coming back to children, education and preparing the next generation of leadership," says Emily Wagner, managing director for Webber Kerr.

The employees were particularly impressed with Junior Achievement’s mission, which is helping youth achieve skills in entrepreneurship, economics and financial literacy through real-world experience with business leaders.

In addition to the financial support, the company wanted to have a physical connection with the charity. They are allowing their employees paid volunteer time to participate in speaking engagements, mentoring programs as well as the Pam & Les Muma JA BIZTOWN, a mini city that contains up to 23 fictitious businesses to allow youth to experience economics in a real life setting. Students receive "jobs" such as accountant, retail sales representative and banker, and there’s even a city mayor.

A native resident of Dunedin and University of South Florida graduate, Wagner participated in BIZTOWN herself while in fifth grade. "I remember exactly what job I had and what a good experience it was." The experience left such a good impression, she wanted her company to play a major role in giving back to today’s youth in the same way.

"We have to be focused on children, their education and growing their careers, giving whatever we can, whether it be monetarily, guidance or mentorship" says Wagner, speaking about the business community in Tampa Bay. "The economic health of the entire area depends on it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emily Wagner, Webber Kerr Associates

University Of Tampa Receives National Recognition For Excellence In Entrepreneurship

The University of Tampa (UT) Entrepreneurship Center adds to its list of accolades the Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Program Award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The award is given annually to recognize programs that have been in existence for three years or less or have undergone a major revision during the same time period. Programs are judged on: innovation, quality, potential viability, comprehensiveness, depth of support, sustainability and impact. The top four schools were invited to present before a set of judges at a national program in Texas in January.

UT’s program, which boasts 250 undergraduate and graduate students, has undergone a transformation recently from a focus on family businesses to a more comprehensive emphasis on the entrepreneurial mindset, appealing even to students who aren’t interested in starting their own business.

"We focus on building intellectual capital," says Rebeca White, director of the Entrepreneurship Center and professor of entrepreneurship at UT. "We certainly want to have businesses come out of the program, but the real focus is on building entrepreneurs."

White feels that strong support from the university is key to UT’s winning the award, noting that the university wants to be known for entrepreneurship. "We have a lot of great momentum," says White. "We were able to prove our ability to do what we say we’re going to do."

One example of this support is the creation of an entire floor of dedicated space for the center in a new building set to be completed by Spring 2015. The space will bring together students, educators and experienced executives to develop entrepreneurial concepts and launch new ideas. UT also plans to take the concept across campus and provide programming for students outside of the business college, including nursing, art or theater majors who want to be more engaged in an entrepreneurial mindset.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rebecca White, The University of Tampa Entrepreneurship Center

BLUE Ocean Film Festival Casts Wide Net For Talent, Technology

The international BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit, which arrives in the Tampa Bay region for the first time in November 2014, has announced an open call for film submissions. Entries will be accepted through April 28. The early bird deadline is Feb. 28.
 
The week-long festival and summit will be a magnet for filmmakers from around the globe, including emerging talent and amateurs. 
 
Based on previous responses, BLUE Ocean organizers expect to receive 350-370 original submissions. Debbie Kinder, the festival's co-founder and CEO, anticipates an ecosystem of independent entries based on the innovative technologies now widely available.
 
"Cameras like the GoPro are a technology disrupter; they are really changing the way filmmaking's done,'' says Kinder. "I think what we're seeing is a trend of more up-and-coming filmmakers and students that have the ability to get up and tell good stories as technology becomes more affordable.''

These emerging technologies tend to attract young filmmakers. In the past, "we had student films from filmmakers as young as 5th grade,'' says Kinder. The festival will host a separate category for Tampa Bay K-12 students. All students will receive special recognition for participating.
 
The platform of the festival, and the available technologies, make it possible to promote conservation through storytelling. The forward-thinking event will use films, such as Blackfish, to bring up complicated questions, but the dialogue will be focused on finding solutions and encouraging progress.

"We discuss issues, but we also want to highlight success stories. There are great success stories and those need to be heard more,'' says Kinder.
 
In addition to the submissions and summit discussions, the festival has become a hotbed for high-tech unveilings. At the last festival, Google launched its Oceans Street View and the 360-degree underwater camera that would start their work capturing images of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Google has confirmed another product launch for the upcoming festival.

"A lot of people come together at BLUE. There's still a lot of great technology that comes out to the festival in general; whether it's about filmmaking or just communications as a whole,'' says Kinder.
 
The BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit will take place Nov. 3rd through 9th. BLUE will be headquartered in St. Petersburg at the downtown Hilton, with events taking place at venues in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota. For more information on submitting your film, visit the festival's 2014 film competiion page.

Writer: Ash Withers
Source: Debbie Kinder, BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit

Tampa Clothier Scores In Gasparilla Distance Classic

It's been one big year for Black & Denim Apparel Company.

In 11 short months, the boutique clothier has grown from Kickstarter-funded roots into the official sponsor of all branded merchandise and apparel for the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.

For the past three years, footwear and apparel giant Nike has been the official race sponsor, "so we have big shoes to fill,'' says Black & Denim founder Roberto Torres. "This gives us an audience of over 30,000 people. This project is huge!''

After a local runner and Black & Denim fan suggested the company approach the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association with designs, Torres explains, "It just took off from there.''

Black & Denim is set to provide long- and short-sleeve T-shirts for competitors in the annual race, held Feb. 22-23 in downtown Tampa. The company hopes to expand apparel and merchandise to include hats, thermals, "hoods'' (hooded sweatshirts), and more in 2015.

Fans will be able to pre-purchase branded merchandise on the Black & Denim website the week prior to the race as well as on race weekend. In the company's first year as a race sponsor, they will offer "six kick-ass designs that are edgy and fun -- family-friendly, as well,'' says Torres.

Since opening a boutique storefront in October 2013, the company has rapidly outgrown the space, moving to 1907 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City. Torres also has short-term plans to open a store in Channelside and a long-term goal to bring a store to Tampa International Airport by 2018. The company employs five people in Tampa and will hire two more for the Channelside location.

Every semester, notes Torres, "we have four interns from either the University of Tampa, University of South Florida, or the International Academy of Design and Technology.''

Black & Denim will showcase wares in a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center during race weekend. The 2014 Expo will feature 99,000 square feet of vendors, says Torres.

"We are very excited about the opportunity, to say the least,'' says Torres. "This race attracts runners from all over the country.''

By: Justine Benstead
Source: Roberto Torres, Black & Denim

Hillsborough Arts Council Launches Power2Give Donor Portal

A new online crowdfunding platform being launched this week is designed to solicit new donors and donations to support arts and cultural organizations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Power2Give is similar to other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but the focus is on helping local arts and culture organizations fund projects that might not be funded through traditional campaigns.

The concept began with the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC. It has expanded to include 21 metropolitan areas who have raised $4.5 million through 1,880 projects in just two years. The Tampa Bay region will be the 22nd community to join Power2Give.

Projects are listed on the site for 90 days. If the fundraising goal is met before then, the project is removed from the site. If the goal is not met, the money is still given to the nonprofit, another differentiator from the all-or-nothing model used by many other crowdfunding platforms. The organizations also provide donors with non-cash benefits.

In the spirit of transparency, organizations are encouraged to break projects down to explain exactly what they cover. This transparency also aims to create more patrons for the arts by providing a closer glimpse into what goes on within the organizations. This idea has proven successful, with an estimated 44 percent of donors across the 21 metropolitan areas being first time arts patrons.

“You can feel confident that the project is real and the money is going somewhere,” says Terri Simons, director of program services for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the sponsoring organization for the Tampa Bay arm of Power2Give.

Power2give Tampa Bay
launches February 12 with over $100,000 in projects to fund, including: helping students with disabilities attend summer animation camp through VSA Florida, creative journaling projects for families of domestic violence through the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, a mosaic on the outside of the building at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin and underwriting costs for some of the performers at the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Terri Simons, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Straz Center Brings Arts To Underserved Populations

The Patel Conservatory at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa provides programming to underserved populations throughout Tampa Bay through on-site programming and community outreach.

The Center currently has more than 30 partnerships with organizations and schools throughout the Tampa Bay region, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, University Area Community Development Corporation, Big Brothers & Sisters of Tampa Bay, MacDonald Training Center, and Moffitt Healthy Kids Program.

The longest standing partnership is with Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School. Now in its fifth year, the Center provides ballet classes on a weekly basis using a skills-based curriculum. They also have an after school program that includes a theater workshop.

Partnerships allow the Center to send faculty, staff and visiting artists on site to schools and other organizations to teach them about creativity and innovation through exposure to the music, dance and other performing arts.  

The impact the programs have on youth cannot be understated, providing a safe place for children, some of whom are homeless and most of whom would not be exposed to the arts otherwise.

"They get a chance to fully immerse themselves into the magic of the transformational power of the performing arts," says Wendy Leigh, VP of Education for the Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory. "In doing so, they’re making friends and feeling confident. It enlarges their persona and their outlook on life."

Programs are funded by donations.

Applications for the 2014-15 Community Partnerships program will be available March 3 and accepted through April 4.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Wendy Leigh, Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory

Burger 21 Expands, Adds 50+ Jobs in Tampa

Award-winning fast-casual dining chain Burger 21 is expanding to include on-going franchise development, which will create up to 50 new jobs per restaurant. The company is also adding operations as well as research and development positions to support the company’s continued growth.

There's no doubt that Americans love burgers -- especially a better, livelier experience that serves a fresh burger with style. With fast-casual dining and the better burger concept rolling in $75 billion per year within the overall burger industry, fast-casual dining represents less than 3 percent of that number.

Burger 21 serves a variety of high-quality, fresh made-to-order gourmet burgers, fries, salads and shakes to people of all ages in a modern environment.

"It's a very small sliver of the burger business, but it’s growing at a rate of double digits. Clearly, there's enormous potential there. We are capitalizing on the need and desire for consumers to have higher quality burger options. At Burger 21, we focus on variety," says Dan Stone, VP of franchise development.

Founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., Burger 21 opened its first location in Westchase in November 2010 and sold its first franchise in early 2012. The company has since sold more than 20 franchises across nine states and plans to sell 20 new franchises this year.

The Burger 21 brand experienced significant growth in 2013, opening five new franchise restaurants and generating $12.4 million in systemwide revenue. The company’s strategic growth goal also includes the addition of 10 new franchise units this year, which is expected to generate more than $24.5 million in total systemwide revenue.

"The more we sell, it has a trickling effect of us being able to provide increased support to our restaurants. The more we open, the more support we will need at our home office. Much of what will happen this year is a result of activity and sales that happened last year," says Stone.

Since 2010, Burger 21 has added more than 150 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region. The company is targeting expansion in Pinellas County by 2015.

"We definitely have a strong interest in bringing the brand to Pinellas. We are franchising all other areas," says Stone.

The company is hosting a February 13 webinar on franchise development. To register for the live webinar, visit the company’s franchise website. For career development opportunities, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dan Stone, Burger 21

USF, (ISC)2 Partner To Bridge Cybersecurity Workforce Gap

The University of South Florida is taking cybersecurity education head on, partnering with the world's largest not-for-profit information security professional organization (ISC)2 to launch certification and master's degree programs designed to create job preparation for thousands of students and professionals throughout Florida.

The collaboration between the University of South Florida and (ISC)2 (pronounced ISC squared) is chiefly designed to help bridge the workforce gap between the large demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals and the amount of skilled professionals who are prepared for the market.

Last year, the Florida Legislature expressed interest in the state becoming a leader in cybersecurity and proposed that USF take the lead in the effort for our region.

USF has since spearheaded the development, putting together a full academic program that offers more core resources and certifications in cybercrime, cyber intelligence, cyber operations and more.

"The strategic objectives were driven by a lack of resources in the cybersecurity department. There is a real need for cybersecurity professionals. We want to create a robust program that will help create jobs and resources," says Sri Sridharan, managing director at USF’s Center for Cybersecurity.

A November 2013 report found that 49,000 cybersecurity jobs were available throughout the country, yet only 2,000 individuals were professionally qualified to perform the necessary functions that the jobs entail.

The partnership also allows USF to offer CISSP preparation courses and administer the CISSP exam under the (ISC)2 umbrella. (ISC)2 is considered the "gold-standard" of cybersecurity industry certifications.

There is a significant range of professional opportunities within the cybersecurity field, including psychology, forensics, law, compliance, IT, photography, policy and more.

In addition to the focused academic programs, USF’s Center for Cybersecurity will also conduct applied research and outreach as well as collaboration with the healthcare industry and other vertical markets in order to further share the message about the cybersecurity industry.

Online transactions and elaborate tech grid systems are a significantly increasing element of our progressive society, technological innovations, and local regional development. Bridging this workforce gap will prepare and pair thousands of professionals with high-paying, high-demand jobs necessary to help protect the future of our growing digital world.

"Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing issues facing our world today. It's what keeps bank accounts secure, health records private, transportation grids protected and identities from being stolen. We have a huge role to play in ensuring that today's students have the skills to tackle the cyber challenges of tomorrow, so that we can all continue to live, work, bank, travel and communicate safely," says USF Provost Ralph Wilcox.

USF's cybersecurity certification program is targeted to launch later this spring. The master's degree program is scheduled to launch in the fall 2014.

"Anyone who has at least four years of experience, a degree in cybersecurity, and a CISSP certification -- they are looking at a six-figure salary to start off with. So these are high-paying jobs, great jobs, great demand," says Sriharan.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Sri Sriharan and Ralph Wilcox, The University of South Florida

Traveling Tampa To Austin: StartupBus Southeast 2014 Seeks Applicants

Some startups are born in a basement, others in an office. Just a few are inspired by a weeklong bus trip with a group of "hackers, hustlers, and hipsters'' -- an experience known by many in the tech community as the StartupBus. This year, StartupBus Southeast leaves Tampa for Austin on March 2nd, 2014.

As the bus from the Southeast region travels toward SXSW in Texas, a group of 20-30 selected "buspreneurs'' will develop and execute an original startup idea to present at the end of the trip.

2014 StartupBus Southeast organizer Ashley Mooney of Tampa explains, "This is more than a hackathon, more than a road trip, and much more than a pitch competition. It's a journey of passionate entrepreneurs aboard 7 different buses from around the country. Each team must conceive, build, and launch a startup in around three days.''

Interested? Applications are due by mid-February.

"Those who should apply are startup-minded Web and mobile developers, designers and business developers who can generate buzz in a short period of time and know how to pitch their face off,'' says Mooney. "Our advice to applicants is: If you have technical skills, show 'em off -- give us links to your work. Show us why you're an outstanding choice and get creative!''

For almost five years, StartupBus has played a role in fostering the Tampa startup community. StartupBus Southeast invites applicants from the entire region, so "buspreneurs'' from Tampa's startup community will have the opportunity to mingle and make connections with entrepreneurs from surrounding areas.

The ultimate takeaway, says Mooney, is the opportunity that waits at the destination. "You pitch your startup to big name venture capitalists, high profile members of the tech startup community, and in front of hundreds of other entrepreneurs. The best outcome would be that you get funded -- it's happened -- and even if you don't, you are launching your business in front lucrative eyes that can really get the word out about your new startup,'' she explains. "Attendees are pitching to major investors along the way, like Dave McClure from 500 Startups and Robert Scoble from Rackspace.''

Mooney, a digital content manager for Organic Salon Systems and early Google Glass Explorer, will ride the bus as both a participant and organizer in 2014. This year's Bus Conductors, who have participated in previous years, are each members of the Tampa startup and tech scene. Mooney is joined by co-conductors Will Mitchell, of StartupBros, Taylor Wallace, of WeVue, and Lindsey Nickel-de la O, of Nickel Communications.

"Tampa residents who go on the bus have an incredible opportunity ahead of them,'' Mooney says.

The participation fee for "buspreneurs'' is $299. Ticket cost does not include accommodations, food, drink or return trip. To learn more, visit StartupBus Southeast on Facebook or Twitter.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashley Mooney, StartupBus Southeast

Two Maids & A Mop Expands To Tampa, 15 New Jobs

Residential cleaning company Two Maids & A Mop is expanding to Tampa Bay, launching its first franchise development and creating up to 15 new jobs in management, sales and personnel over the next year.

Featured in Inc. 500 as one of the nation’s fastest-growing residential cleaning companies in the consumer products and service industry, the company grew from a small staff of 4 to 140 employees by 2013.

"We are a Southeastern-based company. We identified a couple different markets that we absolutely wanted to be in, and Tampa was one of them," says Ron Holt, CEO and founder of Two Maids & A Mop.

With 12 company-owned locations in five states, Two Maids & A Mop took a large part of 2013 to explore and research the potential for strong franchise development after receiving several inquiries for franchising opportunities from across the country and as far away as the United Kingdom.

The company’s expansion into Tampa Bay was a unique collaboration of a targeted strategy, key business relationships and the right timing.

Holt had developed a friendship with Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, owners of College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving. Friedman and Soliman’s business growth plan included expansion into the cleaning service industry.

And so it was.

A joint-venture business relationship developed, merging Friedman’s and Soliman’s new cleaning concept under the Two Maids & A Mop mantra, and emerging as the company’s first franchise location.

Moving forward, Tampa will serve as regional headquarters for franchise development as the company further develops new franchise locations throughout the United States, creating up to 40 more jobs in Tampa in the process.

"The first step is to create a huge success in Tampa, to build a large business, to employ a lot of people, and to create more job growth in the Tampa area. The second step is to begin marketing the franchise concept all over the country," says Holt.

For more information on career opportunities, visit the Tampa company website. To inquire about franchise development opportunities, visit the company’s franchise website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Ron Holt, Two Maids & A Mop

Covidien Invests $18 Million in Hillsborough, 165 Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information on career opportunities, visit Covidien online.

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