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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

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

B-Sides Event In Tampa Focuses On Cybersecurity

In the midst of the Gasparilla celebrations, Tampa will be infiltrated by a different kind of pirate on February 15.

B-Sides Tampa is an event for cyber-hackers of every type -- professionals, students, tinkerers and people who just want to learn more about the world of information security. The free event at South University in Tampa includes workshops, demonstrations, competitions and lots of networking.

The event is based on the national DEF CON conference that takes place in Las Vegas each year. As the conference grew, smaller events were created that appealed to local communities who wanted more audience participation and group interaction. With the name depicting the “b side,” or flip side of a record, B-Sides events take place in cities across the world including San Francisco, Boston and London, and now for the first time in Tampa.

B-Sides Tampa organizers want to bring people together for networking, training and collaboration, and to see how many people in the area are interested in topic. The results have them pleasantly surprised, with 350 registered thus far.

Presentation topics include Introduction to Forensics, Understanding Your Data, and more technical subjects like SIEM and Anti-SIEM Techniques. A "Capture the Flag" section will feature a set of security challenges that allow people to hack machines and solve problems, with prizes for the winners. There will also be a careers portion with companies in the local area that are hiring.

"We want to help put Tampa on the map with regards to technology in general," says Mick Weiss, operations engineer at Carvoyant and one of the organizers of B-Sides Tampa. "There’s so much technology in Tampa and in Florida in general, but nobody knows about it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mick Weiss, Carvoyant and B-Sides Tampa

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

FindMyClass App Navigates Campus For College Students

The beginning of the semester can be stressful for college students -- learning new faces, making new decisions and finding new classrooms. A mobile app launched at the University of South Florida takes away the guesswork involved in finding classrooms on campus.

FindMyClass was developed by Tampa natives and brothers Michael and Ryan Schmidt. Michael is a graduate and Ryan is a current student in the University of South Florida College of Engineering. The idea came about while the two participated on campus in a Windows Phone Competition sponsored by Microsoft. They attended a series of workshops in which they learned how to code apps and then won a development contest with FindMyClass.

"I always had trouble navigating around campus," says Michael Schmidt. He and his brother felt the need all long but never really thought about building an app to meet that need until the competition.

After downloading the app, users select a campus and then a college. From there they can search for a building. The app puts a line between their current location and the building, and rotates with them as they walk or drive to find it. Users can also view a list of food locations and parking garages.

The app is available on 10 college campuses in Florida, including all campuses of Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida in Tampa and St. Petersburg and The University of Tampa. Eventually the team plans to expand to as many campuses as possible.  

The app is free to download, and the first three building searches are free.

FindMyClass is a charter member of the USF Student Innovation Incubator and is using resources such as pro bono legal advice for their trademark application. "USF is definitely helping us out a lot," says Schmidt.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Schmidt, FindMyClass

BlueGrace Logistics Adds 55 New Jobs in Tampa

Transportation management firm BlueGrace Logistics is expanding its east Tampa operations and is slated to create up to 55 new jobs by the end of 2014.

Featured on Inc. 500 as the 20th fastest growing company in the United States and as the number one fastest growing logistics and transportation company, BlueGrace helps to simplify and streamline supply chain management for their customers by combining industry expertise with innovative technology solutions.

BlueGrace was founded in Tampa in 2007 and quickly grew from a small office of 8 to 35 employees by 2010. Within the last three years, the company has grown to more than 140 employees while additionally hosting satellite offices in Chicago, Baltimore and Salt Lake City.

The company is now preparing for additional growth by expanding its 12,000-square-foot office in Riverview.

"We are increasing the size of our building and are breaking down a few walls to house all of our employees," says Senior Marketing Manager Natalie Lane.

The newly created jobs which will focus on sales, operations, customer loyalty programs, marketing, technology and administrative functions will help to enhance the company’s internal support for its franchise developments.

By the end of 2013, BlueGrace added 42 new franchises to its network and will add more than 40 new franchises in 2014. BlueGrace is also launching their new franchise website this week.

BlueGrace has grown nearly 50 percent in the last year and attributes its growth to its market presence, technological innovation, capital gains, employee additions, and its powerful franchise development channels.

"The logistics industry is seeing a boom and an upswing that is consistent with franchise development," says Lane.

Innovation and technology is at the heart of the company and does not just extend to the logistics solutions that BlueGrace provides to customers.

The company’s corporate culture largely features on-going employee training in an effort to help employees be more valuable to the marketplace -- whether with BlueGrace or in pursuit of a new career opportunity.

"We support that type of growth and are big on culture, which attracts a lot of people to our organization. We love our city," says Lane.

The company is also creating 20 new jobs in the Chicago market, is a member of IFA's VetFran Initiative which helps connect veterans with franchise opportunities, and also is a major supporter of philanthropic causes throughout Tampa Bay.

For more information on career opportunities or franchise development, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Natalie Lane, BlueGrace Logistics

New City Of Tampa Mobile App Makes Services More Accessible

Have you ever driven through a pot hole or seen a street light out and wanted to report it to the city, only to forget about it later? 
 
A new mobile app from the City of Tampa makes it easier to report issues that require the City’s attention in real time, as well as to connect with City government. 

"The goal is to give residents and visitors another way to interact with the city," says Ali Glisson, public affairs director for the City of Tampa.

The most popular feature is the “service requests” area, which allows you to report malfunctioning street lights, water department issues, code enforcement inquiries, parking issues and other needs. Citizens can now be the city’s eyes and ears and give them a better view of what’s going on in neighborhoods through the immediate accessibility. There is also a way to send a picture of the incident, which provides GPS coordinates and allows for a quicker response.

Additional features include a full list of city events, including public meetings and special events, instant access to news and press releases, job openings and ways to connect with Mayor Buckhorn via social media. 

The app was developed in-house by city staff and is available free of charge for Android and iOS-based smart phones and tablets. 

"Mayor Buckhorn has been very focused on upgrading the city’s technology infrastructure, so we’ve been trying to make progress in improving technology across the city," says Glisson. 

Future plans for the city’s technology initiatives include integrating a billing system into the app that allows residents to pay water and utility bills through their smart phone. There are also plans to place Wi-Fi in riverfront parks. 

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ali Glisson, City of Tampa

Forum Addresses Energy Skills Gap In Florida, Tampa Bay

Florida’s manufacturing industry is thriving and has a positive outlook for the future. However, many companies express challenges in finding qualified workers, which is only expected to increase. 
 
According to a manufacturing gap analysis conducted in August 2013 by Tampa Bay area workforce centers, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are home to 2,074 manufacturing companies representing 50,803 employees. However, an estimated 4,000 manufacturing jobs go unfilled each month. 

The Florida Colleges Energy Education Forum, January 31 at Palm Beach State College, will bring together representatives of community colleges from across the state with industry experts to network and generate ideas to help meet workforce needs. Attendees will learn about topics such as: Energy, Electricity and Transportation, Sustainable Energy Resources, and a panel discussion focused on turbines and advanced fuels.

"The event's goal is to bring together community college educators and industry experts from across the state to share current workforce needs," says Nina Stokes, project manager for Florida Advanced Technical Education Center (FLATE), who is coordinating the forum.

FLATE is a partnership between St. Petersburg CollegeHillsborough Community College (HCC) and the University of South Florida College of Engineering, and is based out of HCC. It’s one of 36 centers throughout the United States funded by a grant by the National Science Foundation. 

The center’s focus is to prepare the state’s future workforce for manufacturing careers with programs like grant writing, project development, training and curriculum development. FLATE also conceived and coordinates the Engineering Technology (ET) degree and certificate programs now offered as 14 community colleges and enrolling 1,000 students throughout the state. 

Building this pipeline of qualified workers will help Tampa Bay businesses succeed as well as attract new business to the region. Partnerships like these also increase local educational attainment, a goal of the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative launched in March 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nina Stokes, FLATE

Forward Thinking Initiatives Launches First Youth Entrepreneurship Academy In St. Petersburg

Forward Thinking Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that helps Tampa Bay teens learn the value and principles of entrepreneurship and innovation, is partnering with the St. Petersburg Greenhouse to launch its first youth entrepreneurship academy.

The first class of the academy, ART-repreneurship for Teens, launches in February 2014 and is designed to teach students the importance of incorporating passion of the arts with business savvy in order to promote their expertise while bringing themselves to market.

"It’s a lot more than teaching a business plan. These skills are critical whether you’re an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur," says the organization’s founder and President Debra Campbell.

In 2004 with the support from the Tampa Bay Partnership, Florida High Tech Corridor and Verizon, Campbell created Forward Thinking Initiatives as an economic development initiative aimed at providing teens and educators with entrepreneurship education focused on innovation, leadership and critical thinking necessary to our evolving workforce.

The initiative grew out of an effort to create a vital link between education and economic development.

"We found that entrepreneurship skills were so critical to what is now called common core. It crosses all kinds of educational, real-world curriculum," says Campbell, who has a background in economic development.

FTI recently partnered with the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, an extension of the City of St. Petersburg which evolved from the city’s Business Assistance Center into an epicenter connecting businesses and entrepreneurs with a wealth of resources designed to support and promote successful and continued business growth.

Campbell’s central goal is to encourage and cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviors that transform youth into empowered thinkers, essentially promoting personal growth while motivating the region’s economic growth.

"They are learning entrepreneurship through specific subject matter like arts entrepreneurship or technology entrepreneurship. This is a unique experience that provides valuable employees and workforce associates to our companies," says Greenhouse Manager and Economic Development Coordinator Sean Kennedy.

FTI’s February class will cover:
- How to market yourself, your portfolio and your product for school or career
- Identifying real business opportunities
- Career opportunities in the arts
- Launching your own business in the arts
- Meeting and learning from professional artists and entrepreneurs

FTI is currently registering students for the program which runs from February 17 to March 27. The fee is $260 for the full program.

For more information on Forward Thinking Initiatives' mission and ART-repreneurship program registration, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Debra Campbell, Forward Thinking Initiatives; Sean Kennedy, St. Petersburg Greenhouse

Streamsong Resort Opens, 300 New Jobs In Polk County

Streamsong Resort, a nature-based destination golf resort, will open its main lodge and amenities for business this Saturday, creating more than 300 administrative, sales, marketing, maintenance, technical and culinary jobs in the process.

Streamsong, a creation of Mosaic and touted as "a feast for the senses, a haven for the soul," sits on 16,000 acres of land and features 228 guest rounds, four restaurants, a spa, a lakeside pool, 18,000 square feet of conference space, guided bass fishing, and a host of personal enrichment opportunities.

The golf course and clubhouse opened in January 2013.

The resort was built on reclaimed phosphate mines, previously used in the 1960s. The design re-creates a golfing experience reminiscent of golf venues such as the Links courses in Scotland and the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

Mosaic additionally wants to show what can be done on previously mined land -- something that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

"It was intended to be an alternative to the typical Florida resort experience. It’s an immersion into natural Florida. No pollution, no traffic, no lines," says Dave Townsend, spokesman. for Mosaic.

Mosaic, the seventh-largest land owner in Florida with 250,000 acres, conceptualized development of the property as much more than a new local resort and conference destination.

"We saw a need for something like this in the area, but we also saw a unique opportunity associated with the setting," says Townsend.

The new development allowed Mosaic to work closely and collaboratively with nearby communities to create new jobs in Polk County and create new business opportunities for local businesses that provide goods and services to the resort.

The project also is expected to increase tourism and generate additional tax dollars by bringing more business and luxury travelers into the Tampa Bay region and central Florida.

"This is cohesively supplementary to what Tampa offers," says Richard Mogensen, Streamson's general manager.

For more information on Streamsong Resort and job opportunities, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Dave Townsend, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC; Richard Mogensen, Streamsong

Community Crowdfunding Grows Tampa Hackerspace

Crowd-sourced funding can be a modern, effective way to get innovative ideas off the ground. In Tampa, a hackerspace that opened in fall 2013 has proven this point, exceeding their Kickstarter pledge goal of $10,000 by around 50 percent.
 
Money raised through the Kickstarter project, which will be funded at 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 14, will allow Tampa Hackerspace to grow and evolve as a community innovation hub.

Pledge goals include equipment upgrades and community outreach through workshops, local partnerships, and hosting educational events (specifically: helping people who "don't know they are makers yet,'' and teaching kids).

"Our top priorities are to purchase a CNC Mill, Laser Cutter and electronic kits made specifically to get kids inspired and confident about making,'' says Tampa Hackerspace Cofounder Ryan Holmes notes.

Workshops like the quarterly Restart Tampa event will "inspire/help the local community to repair their own appliances by providing them with tools and the confidence to do so,'' says Holmes. "Besides Restart, we are focusing on making programs specifically focused on kids on Sunday afternoons.''

The first "Kid's Open Make'' was held on January 5, 2014; click here for a calendar of upcoming Hackerspace events.

When the group reached 20 percent of their initial $10,000 Kickstarter goal in just a few hours, Holmes was "flabbergasted.'' So far, over 130 backers have pledged donations ranging from $3 to $2,500.

"I definitely knew that there was support out there, but I didn't know it was that digitally connected enough to push out $2,000 in two hours. Just goes to show how much people really want it,'' says Holmes.

Tampa Hackerspace, a state-level nonprofit, is housed on the ground floor of the CoWork Tampa building in West Tampa at 3104 N. Armenia Ave.

The Hackerspace Kickstarter page notes that CoWork Tampa "will significantly discount their $57 coworking membership to $20 per month for six months to every backer of our Kickstarter, plus every member of Tampa Hackerspace, when we reach our $15,000 stretch goal.''

To pledge a donation, visit the Tampa Hackerspace Kickstarter page before 9 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, January 14.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Holmes, Tampa Hackerspace

James Hardie Invests $80 Million, 100 New Jobs in Plant City

James Hardie, global manufacturer of fiber cement siding and interior products, is making an $80 million capital investment in eastern Hillsborough County, expanding its Plant City operations and creating 100 new manufacturing, engineering, project management, and administration jobs by 2015.

"This is an exciting time for James Hardie in both Plant City and around the world. Innovation that happens in Plant City resonates around the world, and the catalyst is the great environment we have here. Employees see themselves as a family, and that says a lot about the people in the city and the surrounding community," says Ryan Sullivan, south division general manager for James Hardie.

James Hardie's expansion plan includes 100,000 square-feet of additional manufacturing space, new machinery, and new equipment, essentially doubling production capacity to meet the increased industry demand for its fiber cement siding products.

The company first established operations in Plant City site in 1994, which currently employs 100 associates.

In 2012, in an effort to increase the community’s competitive advantage in high-impact economic development projects, the City of Plant City approved a moratorium on the collection of transportation mobility fees.

Resultantly, James Hardie received a fee waiver of $37,300, further solidifying market productivity, regional economic growth, and job creation for Tampa Bay.

"This is great news for our community. Manufacturing is an important part of our economic growth strategy," says Mark Sharpe, chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

The company is also eligible for Florida’s new Machinery and Equipment Sales Tax Exemption program, which was approved by the state legislature in May 2013.

"James Hardie has been a valuable member of our business community for more than two decades. Its decision to expand in Plant City is a testament to the strong business environment we’ve created, and validates our role as a top manufacturing and distribution center," says Plant City Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis.

For more information on career opportunities, visit James Hardie online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Ryan Sullivan, James Hardie; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County BOCC; Mary Thomas Mathis, City of Plant City

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

LumaStream, St. Petersburg College Partner To Meet Workforce Needs

A new partnership combines academic learning with real world training to prepare students for high demand manufacturing jobs.

LumaStream, a designer and manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lighting systems, recently moved into a 22,000 square foot facility in midtown St. Petersburg. Within that facility is classroom space that is used to train and certify students from St. Petersburg College (SPC), providing highly technical training and electronics skills that can eventually leads to an associate of science degree and national certification.

The training is one program being funded by a $15 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Labor provided to the Florida TRADE Consortium, a partnership of twelve state and community colleges throughout the state of Florida. Funds are designed to help colleges better develop the technical workforce in their region through innovative, non-traditional initiatives.

Out of 120 applications, the first class of 11 students started January 4.

Students will use LumaStream’s facility and equipment for hands-on studies and will also be mentored and taught by their engineers and technicians. The company’s ultimate goal is to hire some of the students in the program, but some may go on to work at other companies.

"It’s about developing and growing talent organically in our own community rather than deciding to have to move someplace else," says Kelly Bousman, vice president of Marketing for LumaStream.

The company plans to stay in Tampa Bay, noting the attractiveness of the natural environment, weather and culture. They recently moved their manufacturing base from Canada to St. Petersburg and plan to hire more highly skilled, trained workers as a result of this partnership.

Partnerships like these increase local educational attainment, a goal of the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative launched in March 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kelly Bousman, LumaStream
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