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USF Offers Seed Capital To Companies In Technology Incubator

A new source of capital is available for startups that were formed based on the licensing of University of South Florida (USF) technologies.

Companies affiliated with the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) at USF Connect can apply for up to $50,000 in funding to help take their products or services to the next level.

The goal is to assist these companies with reaching their goals within a year or less. The money is designed to help them overcome obstacles that may be keeping them from taking the next step -- whether it be taking a product to market, developing a prototype, paying salaries or purchasing needed materials.

To qualify, a company must have been formed using USF-licensed technology. Companies at TBTI span all industries, from a skateboard briefcase to science education materials, to mobile structures that will be deployed in therapeutics.

The funding is available through the Seed Capital Accelerator Program and is sourced from the USF Research Foundation, which set aside money from its long-term earnings for this purpose.

"One of the biggest things these early stage companies struggle with is getting proof of concept that helps them get investment or move them to the next level," says Valerie McDevitt, assistant VP for Patents & Licensing at USF.
"At the beginning stages it can be really hard to get that money, and it makes a huge difference."

Funding will be based on agreed project objectives being met. The deadline to apply is November 15, 2013.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Valerie McDevitt, USF

TBTF Honors USFSP Technology Thought Leaders

Daniel James Scott, associate director of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) Entrepreneurship Program, and Reuben Pressman, the first graduate of the program, recently received honors at Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s 10th Annual Industry Achievement Awards Gala.

Scott was recognized as Technology Leader of the Year, an award that acknowledged the accumulation of work he has done in the entrepreneurship community for the past 10-12 years. His work includes co-founding the Entrepreneurship Program at USFSP, Gazelle Lab, a seed stage investment fund, and the Tampa Bay 6/20 Initiative, a group of entrepreneurs working on a 20-year plan for the region. Scott also had a part in the development of the St. Petersburg Greenhouse and bringing the headquarters of the Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship to Tampa Bay. He recently founded Alorum, which uses technology to simplify lead generation.

"We’re trying to kick the ball further down the field in terms of what we can do with technology, entrepreneurship and the marriage of the two in our community," says Scott, USF Tampa graduate.  

Scott’s priorities for the future of entrepreneurship in Tampa Bay are focused on two areas: giving students a voice in the discussion and identifying more seed funding for start-ups.

"The community’s students, (including middle school, high school and college), should be given much more of a seat at the table when we talk about how we’re building our community," says Scott, noting that today's young people will be successful entrepreneurs 20 years from now, and therefore they need to be a part of the conversation now.

As for identifying seed capital, Scott says one thing other successful cities have in common is one or more visionaries who have grown a company in the area and are willing to put forth substantial financial support to help other companies succeed.

Pressman received the Rising Star Award, which recognizes someone under 30 who is involved in the technology community.

A recent graduate from USFSP’s Entrepreneurship Program, Pressman runs monthly meet-ups for entrepreneurs and provides assistance for Tampa Bay WaVE, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay and Startup Bus Southeast. Initiatives he co-founded include Awesome St. Petersburg, which provides microgrants for projects that further the livability of the Tampa Bay region, Swings Tampa Bay, which builds communities through public swings, and Reuben & Hunter, a brand identity and web development firm.

His latest endeavor, Check I’m Here, allows universities to track and increase campus engagement through card readers on mobile phones.

"We’re at a continuous growth stage for technology here in Tampa Bay," says Pressman. "I plan on staying here and helping create a better ecosystem for everybody. I’m excited to be able to start and grow companies in Tampa Bay."

His vision is to see the technical community get more involved with non-tech communities, such as investment and the arts, creating what he refers to as "cross-community collaboration."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Reuben Pressman and Daniel James Scott, USFSP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For career opportunities with ASI, visit them online.

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

Sun Boxes Emit Music, Light For Art Center Sarasota

From the concrete rooftop of the downtown Palm Avenue parking garage to the sandy shores of Siesta and Lido Key beaches, Sarasota is humming with “good vibrations’’ this week, as the melodious, portable “Sun Box’’ sound installations created by artist and musician, Craig Colorusso, travel around the city, launching Art Center Sarasota’s 2013-2014 season.

Presented in collaboration by Art Center Sarasota and the City of Sarasota, Arkansas-based Colorusso’s Sun Boxes make their first tour of the city this week, from November 4-7, and will return on January 1-3, 2014 to appear at city parks and beaches.

The portable outdoor installation is comprised of 20 solar-powered wooden speaker boxes that emit different sounds, each composed on guitar and recorded with looping pedals by Colorusso. When exposed to sunlight, the Sun Boxes produce a melodious hum. Some people simply lay down and linger in the boxes’ meditative drone, while others prefer to interact with the symphony by moving around and in front of the solar panels to adjust the hum.

“Sometimes When I do a gig somewhere and I have a really long drive, I can still hear the sounds for a few days rumbling underneath my thoughts,”  Colorusso says.

“I’ve been hearing the sounds of the Sun Boxes all my life, and for a long time, I didn’t know what to to with them. I think they sound familiar, and yet I never grow tired of hearing them,“ he adds.

Colorusso says he created the first Sun Boxes in 2009, in response to a call for art that incorporates sustainability at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Nevada.

The Sun Boxes are an outgrowth of Colorusso’s “CUBEMUSIC,” an electric-powered installation of six aluminum cubes that emanate light and musical tones. “CUBEMUSIC” will be on display through January 3 at Art Center Sarasota.

“As a musician, I was always so envious of my friends who were painters and sculptors because they would make these amazing objects. Music doesn’t really exist as an ‘object.’ Our ears are interpreting vibrations in the air. I make environments,” Colorusso says.

The Sun Box tour schedule for November 4-7, 2013 and January 1-3, 2014 is available here.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Sources: Craig Colorusso; Emma Thurgood, Art Center Sarasota

New Website Uses Gamification To Increase Online Giving

Charities typically rely on core donors over the age of 49 for charitable giving. But a new online platform uses gaming in an effort to expand their reach to a younger demographic.

Please Your Bets is the brainchild of Michael Lindemuth, a St. Petersburg native and University of South Florida graduate, who currently works as a Research Engineer at the USF College of Marine Science. He got the idea when someone used Reddit to bet $100 on a football game, with the money going to whatever charity got the most upvotes from readers.

Users visit the site and place a "bet" on a challenge, which can be anything from an upcoming football game or local charity golf tournament to the outcome of an awards ceremony. Others place their bets on the same challenge, with each player selecting a charity from a defined list that will receive a portion of the total pool if they win.

Lindemuth brought the idea to Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, where he found his business partner, Ken Klatt. The company took second place in the Startup Weekend competition. Lindemuth credits the condensed timeframe of the event for helping them refine the pitch and the concept.

"The goal is to keep people engaged with charities. It’s not just to raise more money, but keep people constantly thinking about donating and pledging and playing," says Lindemuth.

The site also features a leaderboard system and will eventually have badges and other incentives for wins and donations.

Pledge Your Bets used Tampa Bay WaVE, which provides mentors and other help for technology start-ups, to conduct initial user testing.

The site went live on Monday. Future plans include using the site as an add-on to existing charity events. For example, a theater or concert venue might use the site to increase attendance by having people bet on which concert will be the best attended during the season.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Lindemuth, Pledge Your Bets

St. Petersburg Technology Companies Celebrate Art Of Collaboration

It’s not often that two companies with somewhat overlapping services share the same work space.

That’s the case for Big Sea Design and Development and Roundhouse Creative Studio in St. Petersburg. Big Sea Design specializes in content design and graphics for websites and mobile apps, as well as social media strategy. Roundhouse Creative produces videos, as well as motion graphics, websites and other marketing solutions.

In November 2012, the two companies moved into the same space in St. Petersburg’s fully self-sustaining net zero building.

The collaboration came about because of a friendship between two company leaders, Andi Graham (Big Sea Design) and Andrew Lee (Roundhouse Creative). When the space became available that was too large to hold either of the companies separately, they decided to share the space. The work environment is completely open, allowing for each company’s employees to collaborate on projects, asking for advice and ideas, as well as work on joint projects.

"It’s almost like having an additional team available," says Casey Paquet, project manager for Big Sea Design and Development.

To celebrate their one year anniversary in the shared space, the companies are hosting an art show titled: COLLAB: Celebrating the art of collaboration, November 9 from 6 to 10 pm.

Artists are encouraged to collaborate on pieces that explore the benefits of collaboration and will feature mediums such as paintings, photography and mixed media from collaborative artist pairs. Creative Clay and VSA (the State of Florida organization for arts and disabilities) will also have artwork for display.

Artists will be available for conversation at the event, and many pieces will be available for sale. Urban Brew and Barbeque will provide craft beer and wine.

"Most people would consider us tech companies," says Paquet. "But, the work we do is creative and in line with the process an artist goes through. We feel like we’re a part of the artist community. It’s part of our blood."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Casey Paquet, Big Sea Design and Development

Amazon's New Lakeland Facility Adds 1,000+ Jobs

Amazon confirms additional expansion in Florida with plans to open its newest fulfillment center in Lakeland, kicking the job meter to more than 1,000 full-time jobs to and sticking to their proposed plan to create more than 3,000 jobs in the Sunshine State.

"We look forward to offering more than 1,000 full-time jobs with comprehensive benefits at our new fulfillment centers. We appreciate the state, city and county officials who have worked with us to bring these fulfillment centers to Florida. We’re excited to join the community, bringing great jobs and investment to the area," says Mike Roth, Amazon’s VP of North America operations.

The announcement to open Amazon’s newest fulfillment center in Lakeland comes less than one month after the company’s purchase of land in Hillsborough County to begin construction on a fulfillment center that will create more than 1,000 permanent, seasonal and construction job opportunities in Tampa Bay.

On average, Amazon’s fulfillment center jobs pay 30 percent higher wages than traditional retail jobs.

The Lakeland facility will be developed by Johnson Development Associates, Inc. and will feature more than one million square feet of operational space. The Lakeland team will focus on picking, packing and shipping large items such as kayaks and TVs to customers.

The company additionally offers stock grants for full-time employees as well as healthcare benefits, 401(k), and company stock rewards. Through Career Choice, which pre-pays up to 95 percent of tuition courses related to in-demand fields, employees also have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees and further grow within the company.

"This announcement signifies that Florida has the infrastructure, workforce and business-friendly climate needed to support companies like Amazon. We are extremely fortunate in Florida to have announced numerous game-changing competitive job projects over the last two years, and we look forward to watching Amazon grow in our state," says Gary Swoope, Secretary of Commerce and President and CEO of Enterprise Florida.

Click here for a list of career opportunities and to learn more about working at an Amazon fulfillment center.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Mike Roth, Amazon; Gray Swoope, Florida Department of Commerce, Enterprise Florida

Bristol-Myers Squibb Brings 579 Jobs To Tampa Bay

Bristol-Myers Squibb is moving forward on development plans to open its new North America Capability Center in Hillsborough County. The expansion project will bring 579 highly skilled jobs in life sciences to the Tampa Bay region.

"We are pleased to locate our North America Capability Center in Hillsborough County. We evaluated many locations and considered many factors before deciding that Florida was the best state for our new facility," says Senior VP Gareth Morgan.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, a BioPharma leader in the research, development and manufacture of therapeutic prescription medicines, specifically selected Hillsborough County for several reasons: talented work force, strong university presence, the Tampa Bay region’s business climate, economy and quality of life, and availability of the necessary logistics and office facilities.

Set to open in January 2014, the new 70,000-square-foot center located at 5104 Eisenhower Boulevard South in northwest Hillsborough County will begin staffing in the first quarter.

The company will focus on hiring 250 knowledge workers having an expertise in information technology, marketing services, business and finance, and other functions supporting the company’s biopharmaceutical business in the United States.

The 10-year lease agreement includes an option to lease an additional 60,000 square feet. The firm also plans to locate and add 325 more jobs supporting scientific and technical activities by 2017.

"We are seeking people in the Tampa area who are looking for an opportunity to change lives, including their own," says Morgan.

The company has a large focus on a culture of innovation that translates to the delivery of high-quality services.

The new center will help the company improve overall quality, efficiency and productivity while increasing competitiveness by housing these services in a single location.

"Innovation and continuous improvement are hallmarks of our culture at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Our new North America Capability Center will help us build our capabilities and expertise in order to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of our customers in an increasingly complex and competitive industry," says Morgan.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Bristol-Myers Squibb online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Gareth Morgan and Frederick Egenolf, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Hillsborough Community College Launches Certificate Program, Event For Entrepreneurs

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) enhances its offerings for current and aspiring entrepreneurs with a new certificate program open to the public and an event focused on active military and veterans.

The 12-credit, one semester certificate program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation launches in January 2014. Students will learn from local business owners and HCC faculty as well as conduct field research in the business community.  

"It will give our students a chance to develop their ideas and collaborate with other entrepreneurs to begin contributing pretty substantially to the local economy," says Andy Gold, business faculty member at HCC and a driving force behind the program’s creation.  

A lifelong entrepreneur, Gold moved to Florida a year ago and has since immersed himself into the Tampa Bay entrepreneurship ecosystem. "I’ve met some really amazing people in Tampa Bay. We’re well on our way to building a substantial program at HCC that can work with everybody."

Students will start off in the same cohort, and will then be broken into groups based on where they are in their entrepreneurial journey:

Path one – Intrepreneur: People who enjoy the innovation, adaptability and problem solving skills that come with entrepreneurial education but still want to work in a traditional corporate environment.

Path two – Specialization: People with a desire to be self-employed but without a business idea. After the certificate program is completed, they can take additional courses in a specialized area of focus such as event planning or computer repair.

Path three – Launch: People who are prepared with a concept and ready to start their own business. The program will help students develop their idea and make it more scalable.

HCC is also hosting a Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) October 26 at its Dale Mabry campus in Tampa. Open to active military, veterans and their spouses, the program will provide entrepreneurs with a day’s worth of seminars about starting a business.

Greg Celestan, local entrepreneur and CEO of Celestar Corporation and U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel is the keynote speaker. At the end of the day, a business pitch competition will award $5K in assistance to the winning pitch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Andy Gold, HCC

Valet Boss App Among Hottest Tech Startups In Nation

After lunch one summer afternoon, Susie Steiner stood in the hot sun for "what felt like forever.'' Steiner was waiting for her valet-parked car to be retrieved by an attendant at International Plaza in Tampa.

"It felt like 95 degrees,'' she recalls, "and I was frustrated that there was not a faster way to retrieve my vehicle.''
 
Steiner, who is CEO of ExecuTrans Services in Tampa and organizer and facilitator of Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, is no stranger to the startup community. So when she identified a need for a more streamlined valet retrieval service, she created one herself. The mobile app Valet Boss was born.

At last week's Tech Cocktail Social at Fox Jazz Cafe, Valet Boss competed with four local startups for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the area, and for the opportunity to continue on to a national conference and showcase in Las Vegas.
 
The October 8th demo "went so well that we couldn't demonstrate the product fast enough!'' Steiner says. "Fortunately, we were allotted two minutes to pitch on stage and ended up winning the community vote -- as well as corporate Tech Cocktail's vote.''

Now, the startup will join 24 other companies from around the country to compete for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the Nation at Tech Cocktail Celebrate, held Oct. 24-25 in Las Vegas.

Valet Boss will launch in Tampa in Dec. 2013, in anticipation of the holiday season. With no outside funding to date, the Tampa startup is completely bootstrapped. The app, which is free to the consumer, can be implemented at restaurants, bars, hospitals, casinos, hotels, airports and private events.

Valet Boss provides as a great a benefit to locations that implement the service as it does to consumers, says Steiner.

"Our peers have spoken, and 100 percent of valet users said they would use the app,'' she explains. "Additionally, many stated they would valet park more frequently because of the cashless system Valet Boss offers.''

The startup's public launch will include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, LA and Minneapolis, Steiner says. To join the queue, visit ValetBoss.com.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Susie Steiner, Valet Boss

Service Design + Tourism Conference Explores Creative Thinking, Sarasota

Design, service, tourism and creative thinking come together in Sarasota November 7 – 9 at the Service Design + Tourism Conference.

Hosted by Ringling College of Art and Design, the 2nd annual event focuses on improving services at every point of contact with customers. A global event, the first conference took place in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012.

Attendees include business leaders, designers, service and tourism providers, faculty and students from across the globe. They will walk away with new ideas and the latest best practices to help create meaningful, engaging customer service experiences.

The three-day experience includes speakers from across the world talking about service innovation in every setting from airports to cruises, theme parks and general service businesses. Luc Mayrand, creative director and senior show producer from Walt Disney Imagineering, will talk about developing an authentically Disney experience in a changing international marketplace. Simon Bradley, vice president of marketing, North America for Virgin Atlantic will discuss how the airlines focuses on the passenger experience to engage customers year round and turn them into brand ambassadors. Jonathan Frolich, vice president-global innovation for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, will talk about how Hyatt is using design thinking to transform the hotel guest experience.

Several local speakers will appear as well, including Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg who will discuss how thinking local helped transform the theater into a major arts destination.

Thursday a pre-show will feature the first Tourism Service Jam in the United States, led by initiators of the Global Service Jams. Similar to a musical jam, the all-day event brings participants together in a cooperative spirit for a design challenge. Teams will be asked to develop a prototype for a completely new service with a shared theme.

On Saturday afternoon, Lorraine Buck of Marvel Brand of Feld Entertainment will give a preview of Marvel Universe Live.

"Tampa Bay has so many opportunities to distinguish itself as an important business ally to people from around the world." says Michelle Bauer, president and chief strategist for Common Language and member of the conference production team. "By bringing the heads of firms and universities from across the globe here to see this region for the first time, we have an opportunity to create impressions on them that could ripple in huge ways for our tourism, service, and education industries,"

Event partners and supporters include: RIDG, St. Petersburg Chamber, Visit Florida, WeVue, AIGA Tampa Bay, Spark Growth, BIG, Luxury Hoteliers, atLarge, Inc., Visit Sarasota, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, SRQ Airport, and The Ringling Museum of Art.

83 Degrees readers can get 20 percent off the full conference ticket price by using the code DESIGN when registering by Oct. 30.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michelle Bauer, Common Language

RPE Expands to Pasco County, Adds 16 High-Tech Jobs

Retail Process Engineering made a major move to its new Devonwood office park location off State Road 54 in Pasco County, bringing 16 new high-tech jobs to the county with an average salary of $105,000 -- three times the county’s average wage.

"We recently renovated our office space to better serve our worldwide clients with the consulting and technical support they have come to expect from RPE. Shorter commute times for our corporate office staff and Pasco’s aggressive local incentives were two major reasons we chose to expand in Pasco County," says CEO Cliff Epstein.

Founded in 1999, RPE serves clients across the United States and Canada, specializing in delivering merchandising and supply chain consulting, technology and computing solutions to the needs of the retail industry.

"The retail economy is coming back. They were a little more conservative over the past few years, and now they are back to wanting to invest more on technology," says RPE’s Marketing Manager Jeanette Miller.

The company is currently hiring project managers, business development specialists and technology programmers having a significant level of experience in retail merchandising solutions, programming, technology and business consulting.

For the creation of each new job, RPE will receive a cash incentive of $5,000, payable over the next four years.

RPE has more than 100 current employees and also recently expanded its secure data center in Tampa.

Three other technology firms -- InvestCloud, Communication Concepts, Inc. and MB2x -- have moved to Pasco County over the past year.

"We’re thrilled about RPE’s decision to expand and bring high-wage jobs to Pasco County. Technology companies can operate from anywhere in the world, but thanks to Pasco’s strong sense of community and aggressive local incentives, they are choosing to do business in Pasco County,"  says John Hagen, president and CEO of Pasco Economic Development Council.

For information on career opportunities, contact RPE Solutions online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Cliff Epstein and Jeanette Miller, RPE; John Hagen, Pasco EDC

Absolute Mobile Solutions Combines Internships With Philanthropy

Real-world experience in internships and appreticeships in addition to classroom learning can greatly increase a student’s chance of finding gainful employment upon graduation. Internships are also good for the Tampa Bay region in that they encourage students to complete their college degrees and create a sense of belonging to the area, keeping talent local.

Absolute Mobile Solutions, a Tampa-based mobile app design and development company, is furthering this mission and helping the community with an internship program that supports local nonprofits.

The 10-week, paid program allows interns to experience the entire app design process from start to finish, beginning with the first customer meeting and a needs analysis to understanding the target audience and final solution delivery. The interns work with nonprofits, which receive the services free of charge.

Interns are given guidance and mentoring from internal experts within the company. During each phase of the process, they work directly with staff members who would cover that engagement with a paying client, making sure they participate and actively engage in the experience.

“We let them venture out of the safety of the classroom experience and actually engage,” says Alfred Goldberg, president of Absolute Mobile Solutions. “You have to give the interns the freedom to make some mistakes, but also to have successes and build confidence.”

One example is a recent project that provided a website resdesign for Westchase Foundation, which gives financial assistance to those in need.

Absolute Mobile Solutions hires interns from a variety of local colleges, including Hillsborough Community College, International Academy of Design and Technology , University of South Florida and The University of Tampa.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alfred Goldberg, Absolute Mobile Solutions

EmbroidMe Adds 20 New Locations, 200+ Jobs in Tampa

EmbroidMe, a world leader in custom embroidery, screen printing and promotional products, has selected Tampa Bay for its next wave of expansion, adding 20 new locations that are expected to bring more than 200 professional jobs to the area.

It all began with Signarama, a custom brand signage franchise which has grown to more than 900 locations in 50 countries. In 2000, the EmbroidMe brand was added to create custom branded promotional solutions for businesses. With six different  brands under the United Franchise Group, businesses can grow their companies with brand solutions from outdoor advertising to convention planning to business brokerage and energy efficiency.

"We specialize in helping business from advertising to being more green. A lot of times our franchisees work together on providing solutions to businesses," says Erin Crawford, VP of Development.

The EmbroidMe brand has grown to more than 300 locations, with 200 in Florida and 15 abroad.

As the economy experienced a climate shift in recent past years, the company decided to focus its growth plan on strengthening its existing locations for long-term sustainability.

Now, the brand is opening up expansion and new franchise opportunities, centering its focus on the promotional products industry, which is one of the strongest forms of marketing for many businesses.

"We are not just an embroidery company; we are a full-service promotional marketing solutions partner. We’re growing and expanding throughout the United States, specifically in markets where we see things picking back up," says Crawford.

Over the next five years, EmbroidMe plans to add at least seven new locations in Tampa, four in St. Petersburg, and one in Clearwater. The new additions will call for up to five new employees per store which can grow to have up to 15 employees focused on production and sales.

"We have a strong presence in this area and in this market, so we have a heavy growth plan for the bigger markets in Florida -- like Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and south Florida," says Crawford.

For more information on franchising and career opportunities, visit EmbroidMe’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Erin Crawford, EmbroidMe & United Franchise Group

Bus Toll Lanes Offer Innovative Approach To Tampa Bay Transit

Hillsborough County may become home to a different kind of transit solution that involves toll roads, bus lanes and shared road space.

Bus toll lanes (BTL) are managed lanes that will be added to existing expressways, allowing express transit buses to transport large numbers of people and avoid road congestion. Cars and other vehicles will also be able to use the lanes on a toll basis, with cost varying by traffic flow.

The concept is being developed by a partnership between Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART). The partnership utilizes the strengths of each system, with toll roads providing the operations and maintenance and transit moving large numbers of people.

Although not a new concept, Hillsborough’s BTL financial model is innovative. Federal funds would be used for the initial construction, and toll revenue would then take over to pay for the operations and maintenance of the buses using the lanes. Excess revenue would be used to help fund future transit improvements, keeping the money local.

"It’s a local solution for local transportation problems," says Bob Frey, planning director for THEA. "It’s Hillsborough taking care of Hillsborough, and that, to me, is a positive."

A concept study funded by a federal grant was recently completed, which is now being broken down into segments to determine the best placement of the lanes. The partnership is currently evaluating a variety of roadway which will provide both good transit routes and toll roads. Once the location is determined, a pilot project will be implemented.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bob Frey, THEA
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