| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Innovation + Job News

1044 Articles | Page: | Show All

Lighthouse Guidance Systems grows, adds COO

A growth stage software company in Tampa recently added a new COO in an effort to grow its services and client base.

Lighthouse Guidance Systems, Inc. was founded in 2012 by William Farragut. A graduate of Sickles High School and the University of South Florida in Tampa, Farragut developed the concept during his community work with teenagers. While helping a student with his college application, he realized how many variances there are among college admissions criteria. For instance, some colleges place more emphasis on a weighted GPA while others look more heavily at the basic GPA. It can be difficult for students to keep track of the varying requirements and establish an academic path early.

Farragut wanted to find a fresh, user-friendly way to use technology to help schools, parents and students master this and other nuances involved with educational processes. The company’ software product, Guidmii, provides a way to enhance communication and tracking to achieve this goal. Parents can track and receive announcements about GPA via text message. Schools can closely monitor academic performance and identify at-risk students early. Students are motivated by setting realistic, attainable academic goals.

The software is currently being used in all middle and high schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

They recently hired Pablo Godel as COO. Godel is a PHP development expert, having founded a PHO Hosting Company and currently co-organizing user groups in South Florida.

"We’re excited about Pablo because not only is he a seasoned developer, but is business-minded because he has owned his own company," says Lisa Farragut, Relationship Manager for Lighthouse Guidance Systems, Inc.

The company currently has three full-time employees in addition to contractors and interns and plans to hire more developers once funding is secured.

They are located at USF Connect, a business incubator at the University of South Florida that provides mentors and seasoned business executives to help start-ups and growing companies with their business models.

Life Prep event prepares youth for leadership, service

Rotary District 6890, which serves Hillsborough, Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties, is hosting a leadership skills and training seminar for youth in the Tampa Bay region.

The program is modeled after the Rotary’s Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders (S4TL) program, which provides a week-long leadership experience for high school juniors and seniors. For the last 30 years, the retreat has brought together 160 students each year to Florida Southern College in Lakeland for an intensive leadership development experience. After the success of this program, the Rotary decided to expand the concept in an effort to reach more students.

Life Prep is a half day leadership skills seminar developed in partnership with local colleges and universities. The event will take place November 15 at Keiser University in Tampa. High school juniors and seniors are invited to attend.

The free, interactive event will focus on leadership and college readiness. Students will work together in groups to learn what it takes to be a successful leader, how to achieve their dreams and how to find scholarships for college.

In an effort to further its mission of uniting leaders who then take action to help their communities, Rotary clubs host Interact clubs in local high schools, which is a high school version of Rotary. Rotarians noticed that students need leadership skills in order to be able to convince more people to become service-minded.

"We have the ability to help people learn more about being leaders," says Gary Gunter, Governor of Rotary District 6890. "It’s a natural thing once you’ve brought together all these leaders to help other people, especially young people, develop themselves so they can have a good career and a good future."

The Rotary plans to continue the Life Prep event on more college campuses after the pilot. "Hopefully this will grow into something that will help young people be better students, better leaders, and think more about their future, which helps everybody," says Gunter.

Air Animal Pet Movers helps ease stress of relocation

A Tampa-based company that built its reputation around transporting pets -- from tiny birds to giant horses -- across country when families move is adding jobs and expanding services due to growing demand.

Air Animal Pet Movers transports an average of 2,000 pets, mostly dogs and cats, each year. The company currently employs 15 staff, including two added recently. They also are outgrowing their 3,600-square-foot location on W. Cypress Street on Tampa and are looking for a new location.

Founded in 1969 by practicing veterinarian Walter Woolf and his late wife, Millie, Air Animal thrives by providing peace of mind while managing the moving process from start to finish. Moving anytime anywhere with a pet can be stressful, Woolf says, from researching the safest travel option to booking the actual accommodations. 

In the beginning, as part of his veterinary practice, Woolf worked with local airlines to provide services for pets arriving at night. In 1977, the company incorporated as a full service pet travel agency.

The company organizes pick-up of a pet at a residence or airport, handles all of the associated airline reservations and required paperwork, and ultimately delivers the pet to the final destination – whether it be a residence or an airport pick-up. They have transported pets to and from destinations across the world, from Lima, Peru to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Woolf’s experience with and knowledge about the relationship between pets and family members was the basis for getting into the business. He wanted to provide the safest, most humane way to minimize stress on families during relocation. "Today, the pet is a very, very cherished member of the family," says Woolf, Founder and Managing Director.

The company recently received the 2014 Impact Award from CARTUS, a relocation network they have been working with since 1994. The honor recognizes innovation and outstanding customer service.

Blind Tiger Cafe, CoWork Ybor open in Ybor City

The Blind Tiger Cafe has a cool factor that is part atmosphere, part architecture and part anomaly in the way that only a fusion boutique/coffee and tea bar/coworking space can be. 

Perched on the corner of 19th Street and 7th Avenue in Ybor City, the well-lit cafe invites passersby in with double doors propped open to the street. Twin, vividly orange tigers, blindfolded to represent the speakeasy tradition that inspired the cafe’s name, are painted on large glass picture windows overlooking the sidewalk.

Inside, a bigger tiger, this one in black, decorates the whitewashed brick walls across from the cafe counter.

Thick slabs of wood serve as high-top tables in the front of the room, where customers can linger after ordering lattes and cappuccinos, or a crumbly guava and cheese croissant; the back of the room is a boutique shop for Owner and Operator Roberto Torres’ apparel company, Black & Denim

Messenger bags mix with soft cotton tees, leather jackets and signature denim jeans. Soft leather wallets and iPad cases are stacked together on top of distressed Singer sewing tables or old trunks.

“We’re so excited to see the way it’s come together,” says Torres, “but there is still more to come.”
 
Murals and modern art from local artists will adorn the walls of both the cafe and the coworking space next door.

In the cafe, several pieces will showcase the different stages of coffee; in the coworking space, an assortment of tools, to inspire DIY creativity, will be painted across one wall.

One thing that’s conspicuously absent from the cafe, and the store as a whole: WiFi access. “Talk to each other. Call your mother!” a marquee sign reads.

Visitors who are interested in Internet access (donated by Verizon) can visit the coworking space next door, where an all-day pass is only $5. CoWork Ybor will open later in November. 

On Thursday, Nov. 13, the Blind Tiger Cafe will celebrate a grand opening, with beer from Coppertail Brewing and food from the Jerk Hut. The regular cafe menu includes Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea and Piquant pastries.

To learn more, visit the Blind Tiger Cafe Facebook page or CoWork Ybor

TEC Garage opens for business in St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay region has taken another step toward establishing itself as a thriving entrepreneurial community with the grand opening of TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg in late October.

Ties to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s well-oiled startup services allow TEC Garage to offer business incubation programs such as “coaching, mentoring, advising, and providing access to connections that have proven successful with launching and growing startups for more than a decade,” says Tonya Elmore, TBIC President and CEO.

TEC Garage’s location on the St. Petersburg College campus at 244 Second Ave. N. in the revitalized heart of downtown St. Petersburg was a strategic choice, aimed at generating a buzz among entrepreneurially minded city residents.
 
“The new location has already attracted coworkers, coders and developers, students and innovators -- all part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that helps startups succeed,” says Elmore.
  
TEC Garage houses a coworking space, complete with amenities that include 24-hour access, dedicated offices, open collaborative areas, conference rooms, a full kitchen, and the opportunity for networking with other entrepreneurs. Some tenants have already set up shop in the spacious TEC Garage quarters.

Why offer 24/7 access? 

“Flexibility is key to entrepreneurs,” Elmore explains. “They have clients all over the world, and conducting business from 8 to 5 isn't logical for a startup.” 

Entrepreneurs who take advantage of incubation services like coaching and advising have been pleased, Elmore says.

“Startups go through several stages. We provide programming and coaching at each level. The best resource is dependent on the stage of the business.” 

In addition to offering just-starting-out entrepreneurs the chance to seek advice and grow connections, TEC Garage has “garnered the attention of potential investors and a larger pool of mentors who wish to connect to the startups,” Elmore says.

More than 300 local residents attended the TEC Garage grand opening in late October.

Tampa-based Vology gets ready to grow with new financing

Technology provider Vology, Inc. expects to accelerate its growth and potentially add 100 jobs in the next two years with $40 million in capital from a newly created senior credit facility financed by SunTrust Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Hancock Bank.

The IT solutions provider is one of the Tampa Bay area's largest privately owned companies, specializing in networking, data storage and technical services. The company's services are geared to help businesses get the maximum benefit from IT budgets. Company officials anticipate searching for new acquisitions over the next two years.

In 2013 Vology merged with Bayshore Technologies, Inc., and earlier this year acquired the California-based division of  Govplace, headquartered in Reston, Va. Govplace serves state, local and education customers.

The financial deal gives Vology a $15 million revolving line of credit, $15 million for acquisitions and a $10 million term loan. There also is an "accordion" option for up to $15 million of additional revolving or term loan commitments.

Vology was able to pay off an existing $15 million senior secured revolving line negotiated with Bank of America four years ago. 

This level of new financing gives Vology flexibility to move quickly when searching for new acquisitions, says CFO Steve Torres.

It gives Vology a nimbleness lacking in the previous financial agreement with BOA.

"This facility certainly provides that," he says. "It will help us create more jobs in the Tampa Bay area."

The greatest need as new jobs open up, across all of Vology's locations, will be in sales and technical engineering, Torres says.

Vology's history of doubling in size every two to three years is expected to continue, Torres adds, with growth fueled both organically within the company and through acquisitions.   

Vology is headquartered in Tampa but has sales and management offices in Syracuse, NY; Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Irvine and Austin, TX; and Oklahoma City, OK.

City of Tampa fast tracks Minority Business Certification Program

Minority business owners in Tampa now have an easier and quicker way to become certified, opening the door for increased exposure and business opportunities.

The Women/Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE)/Small Local Business Enterprise (SLBE) certification program allows women and minority businesses in Tampa to become certified and then placed on a list to enable them to bid for contract opportunities with the City. The program is free and open to businesses that have been in operation for a minimum of one year and who fill out an application and provide the required documentation.

Noting that the certification process can be difficult for some and can take up to 60 to 90 days to complete, The City of Tampa Mayor’s African American Advisory Council (MAAAC) partnered with the City of Tampa to create a fast-track option. Businesses that complete the program can become certified within one week.

The first in a series of events was held October 30 to help qualified businesses expedite the certification or recertification process. Experts assisted with the application process and also provided tips for navigating the City’s online system.

"It allowed us to learn what people actually needed," says Chandra Lee, MAAAC Chairperson. "We’re really excited about being able to help people to become certified with the city so they can get more procurement opportunities."

A total of 24 businesses attended the event, which MAAAC plans to repeat in the near future. Attendees included a fencing company, land development firm, a DJ and several consultants.

In addition to being able to bid on city projects, certified businesses are placed on a list for referrals that are received by the city. For example, a local hair dresser might be needed for a fashion show or concert that comes to town.

"They know if you’re certified, you’re a real business that they can trust and hire," says Lee.

Digital marketing company grows in Channel District in Tampa

A new digital marketing agency in Tampa’s downtown Channel District puts its focus on helping other companies grow while giving back to the community.

The company was founded in 2013 with the name Two Signals by co-founders Matthew Branson and Brian Smith. After a few months of operation, Alex Miningham, founder of their largest client Discount Park and Ride, took an interest in the business. Miningham invested in the company, and the team decided to re-brand as Foundry 119 in March of this year. The re-brand has allowed them to utilize more space, bring in more employees and offer more services to clients.

The company’s unique focus is data aggregation as a service, working with e-commerce businesses and providing a research foundation to enhance branding and advertising.
 
The team has been heavily involved in the Tampa startup community, developing relationships that have helped them succeed through resources such as Tampa Bay WaVE and Channel District Urban Professionals Society (CUPS), a new grassroots community-building organization.

The team has a particular interest in growing startups and other businesses in the Channelside area and is assisting CUPS with promotions.

"We feel there is a sort of yearning for more tech-based businesses," says Branson, Co-founder VP of business development. Branson wants to take the company’s experience and give back in order to help other new businesses grow.

The company currently has nine employees and is hiring for additional Developers.

They also have a strong interest in partnering with civic organizations and students for internship programs. They’re currently working with a client to offer a $2,500 scholarship for students studying in any business program to come up with a business idea and they will help them with development.

Ringling Museum unveils rare circus banners by Belgian artist

A newly restored blast from circus pasts will be on display at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota starting Friday, Nov. 7, through March 2015 as a series of four, rare, early 20th-century, large-scale circus banners by Belgian artist Frans de Vos will be literally unrolled before the public. 

The 9 x 9.5-foot century-old banners were stumbled upon by Circus Historian Howard Tibbals, while paging through a London auction house catalog in 1989.  Listed almost as footnote, with a tiny photograph, were “de Vos banners, good condition.” Tibbals, a collector and model-maker, was intrigued and purchased them, but when they finally arrived, “good condition” was inaccurate: the banners were torn, re-stitched together, crumbling, fragile. The damage was severe, the life of the circus and the century had taken its toll.

Though information about the artist Frans de Vos (1919-1938) is scant, Ringling Museum researchers know he came from a circus family and was a scene designer. There are hints that these banners served as advertisements and backdrops for his family’s own circus. 

“They must have been treasured objects – they kept all four, they kept them together,” says Ringling Circus Curator Debbie Walk. “Truly remarkable, you don’t often find one, and here we have four!” Walk says the banners are also noteworthy in that they show performers performing, not sideshow banners which typically portrayed the unusual or weird.  

Tibbals, primary donor and creator of the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center, selected Barbara Ramsay of ARTEX Conservation Laboratory in Washington D.C. to restore the banners, a seven-year process now complete and ready for viewing.  Ramsay is now part of the Ringling team as Chief Conservator. 

“The whole story of conservation and restoration is a wonderful and remarkable story of survival,” says Walk. She admires Tibbals tenacity in all things circus and says he ”spends a great deal of time searching out the circus world, and goes the next step. He wants people to see it not just today, but a generation from now, two generations from now.”

The de Vos banners will be exhibited in the Ringling Museum of Art through the end of March, 2015. The exhibit includes a looped visual presentation highlighting the comprehensive seven-year collaborative restoration experience.

AIA Tampa Bay gives community a choice in Design Awards

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Tampa Bay is letting the public decide part of its Design Awards program with the People’s Choice category.

AIA Tampa Bay is an association for professionals in the architecture field that provides educational programs, community service and serves as the voice of the profession.

The Annual Design Awards Competition recognizes architectural design accomplishments and service. Design entries can be built or unbuilt projects of all types and sizes. Individuals or firms must be located in the Tampa Bay region, or designs must be planned/built in the region. Categories include: Built Commercial, Built Residential, Unbuilt Instutitional/Commercial, Historic Renovation and Urban Design.

"Our ultimate goal is to reinforce good design in the community," says Carlos Molnar, Co-chair of the Design Awards and owner of Sol Design in Ybor City. "We want to demonstrate the benefit of the architect in the process of construction."

The People’s Choice voting allows the community to select their favorite from a total of 57 projects submitted by Tampa Bay-area architecture firms, teams and students. Entries include the  Westin Puntacana Resort & Club in the Dominican Republic, Ulele Restaurant in Tampa, USF St. Petersburg’s Student Center and TIA’s main terminal modernization program.

A new aspect of this year’s People’s Choice Awards is the addition of a site called Behance which allows people to share a link to projects they want to vote for. Each submission has its own page with a voting option at the bottom.

AIA also plans to allow voting at the Awards Ceremony on November 6, providing an interactive experience including slideshows of submissions.

Online voting closes November 6.

Tampa Water Taxi adds Riverwalk ferry service

Tampa Water Taxi Company, LLC plans to add a continuous loop through the Tampa Riverwalk to its transportation lineup.  

Now going into its seventh year of operation, the company was founded by Capt. Laurence (Larry) Salkin, who was shocked when he moved to Tampa and found a city with a large amount of area surrounded by water that had very little water-based activities. Salkin wanted to show off the city from a different vantage point, to residents and visitors alike.

"Our water is a diamond. It’s a gem," says Salkin. "The views of Tampa from the water are like no views you can get from anywhere on land."

The biggest compliment during his tenure with the company was from a 96-year-old seventh generation Tampa resident, stating that he never knew the city looked this beautiful.

The company offers regular public tours of the water surrounding Tampa’s downtown, including a city overview called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Tampa," history tours, and year-round dolphin tours.There are also sunset and nightlife tours, featuring the lighted bridges.

They also provide private charters for parties and weddings, and transportation to and from Davis and Harbour Islands to Amelia Arena for Tampa Bay Lightning games and concerts. The four boats seating 30 people each have transported as many as 400 people during a single event, lightning the traffic congestion.

The company is planning a new ferry service for the Tampa Riverwalk, which is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The ferry will run a continuous loop along the Riverwalk Friday afternoon through the weekend, with the ability to get on and off at stops along the way. The goal is to charge a minimal cost for riders and obtain sponsorship to cover expenses.

Tampa Housing Authority uses personal touch to make an impact on homelessness

According to a count conducted in February 2014, there are just over 2,200 homeless men, women and children in the Tampa area. Tampa Housing Authority is doing its part to eradicate this through individual outreach and assessment.

The Housing Authority manages affordable housing and support services to help Tampa residents achieve economic self-sufficiency. Recently, the agency asked staff member Patricia Wingo to conduct outreach to get to know Tampa’s homeless population on a more personal level. Wingo spends three to four hours per day talking to individuals and learning their stories, including how they came to be homeless and the best way to help them.

"She has fallen in love with going out and talking to the homeless," says Lillian Stringer, director of public relations for Tampa Housing Authority. "She knows them by name. She tells their story."

Wingo has heard some remarkable stories, like Monsita a 53-year old woman who earned a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology. A medical condition has left her homeless for the past six years. There’s also Samuel, who after working for 20 years was not able to receive social security benefits because his company didn’t take out taxes. Or Crystal, a wife and mother of 10. She and her husband worked for the same company and became homeless when they unexpectedly lost their jobs.

Wingo uses an assessment called the Vulnerability Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI SPDAT) a screening tool which determines each person’s mental state and helps place them into the necessary programs. At first, she found she wasn’t trusted by the homeless and received comments like "you’re just gonna do like everybody else does…nothing." They’re learning that she’s proving them wrong. In all, she has assessed 20 people thus far and placed them on a wait list for housing.

The personal outreach and assessment, as well as other re-housing programs, were made possible by a $60,000 Federal Emergency Solutions Grant.

The Housing Authority recently participated in a nationwide program called 25 Cities Initiative, a national program aimed at assisting 25 cities with ending veteran and chronic homelessness. The program helps train staff to conduct assessments and coordinates other services.

On November 1, a 5K run will be held in Gadsden Park in Tampa, with proceeds benefitting families receiving assistance through the homeless programs. Funding will provide the families with housing, food, blankets and housewares.

Tampa Housing Authority works with a number of local partners, including the City of Tampa’s Affordable Housing Office, Tampa Crossroads, Metropolitan Ministries, Catholic Charities, the Veterans Administration, Francis House and Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

LabTech Software expands Tampa operations, adds jobs

LabTech Software, provider of a remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution, is adding over 100 jobs to its Tampa headquarters.

The company was founded in 2004 by six individuals in Toledo, OH with a managed services provider (MSP) business looking for a way to become more efficient in their business practice through automation. The RMM tool allows companies to automate IT tasks, such as work on multiple machines at the same time, manage billable hours for client projects and solve client issues remotely. The product is unique in that it was built and designed by and for MSP providers, allowing for a high level of detail in meeting client needs.

Tampa-based ConnectWise, an IT automation company that also provides MSP services, took an interest in LabTech and provided the capital needed to take them to the next level. In 2010, LabTech’s headquarters was relocated to ConnectWise’s offices in Tampa. Since then, the company has gone from $1 million to over $50 million in sales revenue.

"Technology companies are starting to grow and find that Florida and the Tampa Bay area are great opportunities for growth," says John Timko, director of marketing for LabTech, noting that the Tampa Bay job market is well positioned to meet that growth.

Now with 325 employees, the company shares both facilitates and staffing resources with Connectwise, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

The company is currently hiring in the areas of marketing, sales, development, support, product management, consulting and training. "Every department within our organization is growing and scaling, not just to accommodate the present but the future as well," says Timko.

LabTech attributes their growth to the strength of the product as well as the company culture and values, which focus on commitment, integrity and service

USF, Stetson collaborate to assist military veterans

A new partnership will help Tampa Bay area military veterans navigate the often difficult and complex Veterans Administration system – from healthcare benefits to education.

USF Health and the Stetson College of Law have worked together for many years, sharing students, research and a joint Master of Public Health and JD degrees.  The new partnership will take this a step further to meet a community need.

The relationship will allow law students to teach medical students how to navigate workers’ compensation and other disability benefits. Medical and physical therapy students will in turn work with law students to help them understand the clinical aspect. Learning teams will be formed with students from both institutions, resulting in a better understanding of both sides of the system.

"The heart of the relationship is to break down the financial, medical and perceived barriers between law and medicine," says Jay Wolfson, PhD., professor of public health and medicine at USF Health. "We’re bringing physicians and other healthcare providers and attorneys together to work toward a common good."

USF health professionals will also provide a second review of difficult cases, which might result in approval of previously denied benefits.

The ultimate goal is to provide a better experience, better assessments and ultimately better quality of care for those who serve or have served.

"Attorneys, law students, medical students, and physicians are being trained toward the goal of being advocates of meeting society’s needs," says Wolfson. "We’re training a new breed of physician and new breed of attorney who think differently. That’s one of the best things we can do as educational institutions."

Air taxi service takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton airport

Statewide travel from the Sarasota area just got a little easier with the emergence of Lift Air, a new air charter and taxi service that elevates intra-state travel above the cloud of rush hour traffic congestion on Florida’s notoriously busy highways.

Based out of the Rectrix Aerodome at the Sarasota International Airport (KSRQ), Lift Air is an outgrowth of SRQ Aviation, a Cirrus Aircraft Training Center that expanded from a pilot’s training facility into a fully-operational air charter service this year. Lift Air currently flies in and out of every airport in the state, offering affordable air travel from Tallahassee to Key West.

“Simply put, air charter is the business of renting the entire aircraft to our customers and their itinerary, as opposed to purchasing individual seats through a traditional airline. Air taxi is air charter operating on an on­-demand basis,” explains Lift Air Consultant Bill Russini.  

Russini says that the air charter and taxi service was created to fill a need that emerged in the wake of the recession, when Census reports documented a nearly 2 percent growth in the populations of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. 

“The demographic potential of offering Florida's Gulf Coast an alternative means of personal air travel gave birth to Lift Air. … The economic impact is immediate in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and extends further to our main maintainence facility located at the Tampa Executive Airport in Hillsborough County,”  Russini says. 

Lift Air currently consists of seven full and part-time employees who maintain operations at the Rectrix Aerodome at KSRQ, as well as in Lift Air’s Hillsborough-based maintenance facility.

The fleet consists of new 2014 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircrafts. These lightweight, single engine piston aircrafts provide a convenient, cost-efficient alternative to jet travel, and are equipped with state-of-the-art emergency technology. Each Lift Air aircraft is equipped with Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) technology, a system that launches a 55-foot diameter parachute that lowers the plane to the ground when activated in the instance of in-flight emergency. 

Although Lift Air currently operates solely within the state lines of Florida, Russin says that the company its working to expand its operations in the near future. 

“As to our future, Lift Air plans further inter­state and international (Bahama) certification next year,” Russini says. “One only needs to contemplate the domino effect we have in advertising and destination service support to Florida's economy.”
1044 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts