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Quest Diagnostics Opens National Center In Tampa, Creates 350 Jobs

Quest Diagnostics will provide about 350 jobs at the new diagnostics center that is now open in Tampa near Busch Gardens.

Job positions are in customer service, logistics and human resources. Company officials anticipate hiring will continue through 2015. Some of those jobs will be subsidized with state and local funds.

The 48,000-square-foot facility, at 10441 University Center Drive, will provide customer service and logistics operations for  Quest's nationwide operations. As one of two Quest Diagnostics National Operations Centers, it also will share human resource services for the company's 45,000 employees. The second national center is in Lenexa KS.

"This new center will elevate Quest's customer services to the next level of responsiveness and quality," says James E. Davis, Quest's senior vice president of operations. "It reflects our comittment to delivering a superior customer experience and providing diagnostics insights that will help people lead healthier lives."

The architectural design is by San Francisco-based Gensler which has a Tampa office. Construction is by Rhode Island-based Gilbane which has several locations in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa facility will provide state-of-the-art technology to monitor air and ground transportation of patient specimens from about 2,200 patient service centers nationwide. Quest's services include advanced genetic cancer tests as well as routine cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

In Florida, Quest has full-service clinical laboratories in Tampa, Miramar and Orlando.  There also are dermatological pathology laboratories and offices and patient service centers statewide.

The center is expected to create about $9.3 million in capital investment.

Quest is eligible to receive about $675,000 in incentives from the state's Qualified Target Industry Program. About $540,000 is from the state with the remainder from the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County. The funds will subsidize up to 175 jobs that will pay a minimum average annual salary of slightly more than $47,500.

"Florida's life science industry is one of the best in the nation and as companies like Quest Diagnostics expand their presence in Florida, the sector will continue to grow and more businesses will look at the state as a vital location," says Gary Swoope, president of Enterprise Florida, the state's chief economic development organization.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Swoope, Enterprise Florida

Bike-Share Program Gets Ready To Roll In Tampa

Bicycle wheels are almost ready to roll on Tampa streets. Some assembly is required.
 
Beginning in late August, 300 rent-able bicycles scattered across more than 30 locations in downtown, Channelside, Ybor City, Hyde Park and Davis Islands will kick-start Coast Bike Share, the city's long-anticipated "bike share" program.
 
Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopped aboard one of the blue bicycles for a short spin down the sidewalk by City Hall.
 
"I think it is one more amenity that will allow the city to take its place as a great American city," he says. "I couldn't be more excited. We want them to succeed. I want to see blue bikes all over downtown. We're going to paint the town blue with these bikes."
 
Before residents get their pedal time, Coast Bike Share  will assemble more blue bicycles at a warehouse on Franklin Street. But ahead of the August launch, memberships are available for purchase.
 
They include a special $99 annual membership that comes with 90 minutes of ride time per day instead of the standard 60 minute ride, and a free helmet.
 
Daily ride costs will be $5, monthly memberships, $30, and annual memberships, $79. Reservations will be available on the spot via a keypad on the bicycle, online or by phone.
 
The bicycles weigh in at a relatively light 39 pounds, well below the industry standard of 51 pounds. Cruising speed is 11 miles per hour. They have baskets in the front and operate with a shaft drive rather than greasy chains. "They are very easy to ride," says Eric Trull, Coast's program manager.
 
The bike share system, and its tech savvy bicycles, are from New York City-based Social Bicycles which also has programs in Phoenix, Orlando and San Francisco. Tampa's program is managed by Miami-based Cyclehop which has 20 years experience in the cycling industry.
 
Residents can keep their eyes peeled for "coming soon" signs that will be placed at rental hubs including Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and City Hall. As the program expands, Coast officials anticipate adding kiosks in the SoHo district, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and Westshore. The University of South Florida plans to launch its own bike-share program, Trull says.
 
Advertising opportunities also are available for small businesses and other organizations that want to sponsor a bicycle kiosk. For information send an email to this address.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Startup Aims To Increase Connections, Community With Micro Experiences

In today’s digital world, we often lose the ability or desire to connect on a personal level or try new experiences. A new start-up hopes to change this by giving millennials (defined as ages 21 – 33) and others a chance to network and engage in a whole new way.

Tampa-based Outeraction encourages people to step outside of their comfort zone by participating in micro experiences such as rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, cooking classes and brewery tours. In order to facilitate interaction, the experiences are limited to 30 people, cost $30 each and last no longer than three hours.

"Social media drowns everything out. I wanted to change the way people interact." says founder Matt Rutkovitz, University of Tampa graduate.

Rutkovitz formed the company out of a need to help people and make their lives better. He wanted to create a consistent and trustworthy environment that would make people comfortable with trying something different.  

The intention of the events is not business networking or dating. The goal is to create experiences that will get people connected with their community and their peers.

Outeraction also works with local companies to provide an outsourced employee benefit called a "Fun for Businesses" package. These events are not limited by age or quantity and are aimed at increasing employee team building, communication skills and productivity.

Some events also have a philanthropic component, such as an upcoming Habitat for Humanity event.

"Community is the capstone of growth," says Rutkovitz "We have to connect with each other as much as possible."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Matt Rutkovitz, Outeraction

Tampa General Hospital Designs Prediabetes Education Program

A new community outreach program at Tampa General Hospital is designed to prevent diabetes and other health conditions by identifying those at risk before the diseases take effect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated over 79 million Americans age 20 and older have a condition known as prediabetes. Most do not realize they have the condition because their symptoms are not as severe as those with diabetes. It is a serious health condition that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Risk factors can include: being a woman who has had a baby over nine pounds in weight at birth, having a parent, sister
or brother with diabetes, being under 65 years of age and getting little to no exercise and being 45 years of age or older.

Recognizing the need in the community, Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is offering free educational sessions to help those at risk to achieve optimal health through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. The program involves 16 weekly sessions followed by eight monthly support group meetings.

"We’d like to teach people the skills to prevent developing diabetes," says Tamika Powe, Community Health Educator for TGH, adding that the benefits can trickle down to family members as well. "Hopefully they’re taking the information they learn in this program back home to their families to help everyone make better choices."

The program is funded by TGH and is limited to 12 registrants per class in order to maximize effectiveness. The next session begins in September at locations in Tampa Palms and South Tampa. Participants must meet qualifying criteria.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tamika Powe, Tampa General Hospital

St. Petersburg Greenhouse Launches Craft Entrepreneurship Program

Etsy, the most popular online marketplace for handmade items, is collaborating with cities across the U.S. to make it easier for crafters to supplement their income through workshops and expert advice. Because of its thriving arts culture, St. Petersburg was recently selected as one of 10 cities to pilot the program this year.

The program started last March in Rockford IL and has since expanded to places like Newark NJ and Santa Cruz County, Dallas TX.  The idea is to create an open source curriculum that can be used by other areas to run their own classes.

Unlike most economic development programs that provide tools to start businesses, Etsy’s goal is to provide supplemental income for people out of work during seasonal periods or perhaps to help a household boost itself over the poverty line.

Local classes will be hosted by the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, a collaborative effort between the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and City of St. Petersburg. Classes are free and available to crafters who have not sold on Etsy in the past.

Classes are taught by local craft sellers who have been successful using Etsy as an outlet. Topics include time management, branding, pricing, shipping and photography. Participants will be able to sell their first 20 items for free on Etsy. The first session begins August 4.

"Here in St. Petersburg, such a large part of our economy and what makes us go is in the arts," says Sean Kennedy, Greenhouse Manager and Economic Development Coordinator for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. "We think it’s important to help artists be in the best position to succeed financially as well as develop their craft."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Sean Kennedy, St. Petersburg Greenhouse

Embracing Our Differences Receives Donation For Art, Inclusion Programs

A recent donation will allow even more K-12 students in Sarasota and Manatee Counties to appreciate diversity through art.

Sarasota-based home builder Neal Communities recently donated $10,000 to support the efforts of Embracing Our Differences. A project of Coexistence Inc., Embracing our Differences’ mission is to create awareness and promote the value of diversity and inclusion, particularly among youth. The nonprofit achieves this through community-based outdoor art exhibits as well as teacher training.

The organization's pinnacle event is its annual juried art exhibit, which displays billboard-sized images in downtown Sarasota and Bradenton. The images depict diversity and acceptance through the use of art and writing.

"It's about teaching the next generation how to get along,'' says Michael Shelton, Executive Director for Embracing our Differences. The organization focuses on relevant topics such as bullying, making a statement in a visual and effective way.

Through working with the Sarasota and Manatee County school districts as well as other educational organizations, Embracing our Differences was able to reach over 30,000 children during the 2013-14 school year.

The funding will be used to support educational programming such as the "Make-a-Day-of-It!" program, which provides free bus transportation for students and teachers to view the outdoor exhibit and other cultural venues, including Florida Studio Theatre, Mote Marine Aquarium and Ringling Museum. More than 13,000 students participated in the program last year, and the additional funding will make it possible for close to 25,000 to participate this year.

"Teaching children at a very young age will have not only a societal benefit, but a huge economic benefit as well from those who buy into it and accept it," says Shelton.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Shelton, Embracing our Differences

Florida Universities Rank Among Best For Patents, Innovation

Innovation continues to grow among Florida’s top research universities, as indicated by a recent global ranking of universities by the number of patents granted in 2013.

The University of South Florida (USF), University of Florida (UF) and University of Central Florida (UCF) were granted 239 patents all together. This puts the group ahead of other prestigious groups such as the research Triangle in North Carolina (Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and the Texas universities (the entire University of Texas system, Rice University and Texas A&M University), all of which have a longstanding tradition of high quality research and technology innovation.

Together, the Florida universities head the Florida High Tech Corridor Council,  an economic development initiative whose mission is to grow the state's high tech industry through research, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurship. The Corridor’s partnership involves over 25 organizations, 14 state and community colleges and 12 workforce boards.

"It’s great to be recognized by the National Academy, which is well more than 100 universities." says Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor Council President. "The report reflects the strength in our 23-county corridor region."

The report was produced by the Tampa-based National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association and recognizes the role that patents play in university research, innovation, technology and eventually workforce enhancement. The goal is eventually to commercialize the patents, thus creating companies and jobs surrounding the success of the products or services.

Berridge attributes the success to the leadership within each university and the emphasis placed on the importance of high quality research. "It represents not only the university but the professors who are doing the heavy lifting in generating the technologies through their input and that of their top students," says Berridge.

USF was ranked 12 overall, with 95 patents granted – up from 83 in 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor

USAA Expands To Brandon, Adds New Jobs In Hillsborough County

USAA broke ground recently on a new facility near the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Brandon. The facility will be a mirror image of its current operating center in New Tampa, with similar jobs and functions.

The growth is being driven by the company’s members -- military veterans and their families.

The company has been in Tampa for over 40 years, with its first operations beginning in the Westshore area. It has expanded since then to more than 2,500 employees in locations across Tampa.

"USAA as a whole is seeing growth everywhere," says Robert Hoyland, VP and general manager for USAA’s Tampa operations "We started as an insurance company and have expanded in the last 30 to 40 years to run the gamut of financial services."

In addition to insurance products, the company provides banking products, mutual funds, investments and financial planning.

As a result of the expansion, the company is hiring Member Contact Representatives, who will take incoming calls and reach out to members about products.

The new facility is scheduled to open in October, but hiring has already begun.

"Part of the expansion is to tap into the workforce here in Tampa," says Hoyland.  "We came here because we know there’s a great market for hiring financial services folks."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robert Hoyland, USAA

Crisis Center Asks Youth To 'Drop An F-Bomb' In New Campaign

In a new effort to curb human trafficking in the Tampa Bay region, teens are being asked to drop the f-bomb, the "f" standing for "friend."

The campaign is a grassroots effort led by the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay in partnership with the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT) and Dunn&Co, a Tampa-based advertising agency that took on the project pro bono.

The tagline is designed to immediately grab the attention of teens through social media and events, asking them to stand up for friends touched by human trafficking to get them help. A website and a social media campaign (#fbomb211) list ways a pimp typically targets teens with warning signs such as a young girl dating an older man, buying things she can’t afford, or acting secretive, depressed or afraid. Friends of potential victims are encouraged to talk to their friend and seek help through a confidential call to 2-1-1.

The campaign will also include guerrilla marketing techniques such as hangers placed in dressing rooms of stores where teens frequently shop.

"If we can help to prevent one or more girls from being trafficked, then this campaign will have been a huge success," says Crisis Center CEO David Braughton.

According to the FBI, an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. are trafficked each year, mostly young girls. The average age a girl enters into prostitution is 12.

Most of the girls entering into trafficking situations had friends at one time who might have noticed they were wearing nicer clothes or jewelry, or spending lots of time with an older man. The campaign is targeted at those friends who can make a difference early on, noting that the victims are often vulnerable and don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

"If we can identify these issues early on and a friend can call, then we can do something about it," says Braughton.

The campaign is already catching on. Braughton’s high school daughter tried it out with stickers on her car, and has received questions about it.

The Crisis Center’s Women in Action group is funding the campaign, along with funds given to FCAHT Founder Anna Rodriguez from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Community Hero award.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Braughton, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

Urban Charrette, CNU Tampa Bay Host:'Urbanism On Tap 3.3: Youthpreneurs'

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of downtown Tampa on July 8, 2014 starting at 5:30 p.m.

Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event, focused on generating constructive conversations within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping the city of Tampa.

Moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance our ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event, the third in a three-part series, is entitled "Youthpreneurs.'' This last event of the series features Tampa's young entrepreneurs involved in startups, creative professions and small businesses. How do public or private interests support young professionals and small businesses? What do such professionals and businesses need to thrive? The event will focus on how these young professionals and small businesses may shape urban development in Tampa and revitalize the city's downtown, an urban trend that is sweeping the rest of the nation.

The events are free and open to the public.

Organizers encourage people to visit Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online following the event.

Venue: Pour House at Grand Central, Channel District, Tampa (1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33602);
Date and Time: July 8, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

Fitness Website Helps Users Find Their YES!

Fitness is the new craze. Everywhere you look you hear about someone running a race, reaching a fitness goal or buying the latest gadget to track their progress.
 
Lakeland-based Make YES! Happen is a hub for all things fitness, with the goal of making things easier and more accessible to both novice and advanced fitness buffs.  The site defines YES! as “that moment when aspiration and inspiration come to fruition in exuberant success.”  

The concept was developed in 2008 when CEO Kevin Transue (also known as Captain YES!) was a financial planner training for a half iron man triathlon in his spare time. The experience made him realize how fragmented the event and fitness industry is. He wanted to create a stadium concept of sorts, to help people stay motivated and support others with common interests.

"I want one location where I can see how many calories I’ve burned and how far I run," says Transue. "At the same time I want to connect with others who are like me."

The idea became reality in 2012 when Transue connected with co-founder Scott Parker to create the site, which is expected to officially launch toward the end of June.

The team hopes to help users find their YES! moment through education, guidance, mentoring, accountability, interaction and rewards.

Users will be able to connect their fitness devices such as Fit Bit or Run Keeper into one location to easily access statistics such as calories burned or run times. They will also connect with others with similar fitness interests for motivation and support. Through the event portal, they can find out which events their friends are participating in. Nonprofits that run fitness-related events will be able to use the fundraising platform to easily capture funds and attract runners. The coaching portal will allow fitness coaches to access information for their clients and make comments about their workouts.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kevin Transue, Make Yes Happen

St. Petersburg College's Innovation Lab Offers Free Flow Of Ideas

A new lab at St. Petersburg College (SPC) offers an open, creative learning environment for all ages to play and discover.

The Innovation Lab is now open to the public and located in the Seminole Community Library at SPC. If you have an interest in computers, science or digital arts, you can share new ideas and develop new skills with equipment such as the FreeFab3D Monolith 3D Printer, which was built locally using other 3D printers. Or, discover your inner musician with the littleBits Synth Kit, which allows you to produce music and create your own instruments. Use the MaKey MaKey Original Invention Kit to turn an everyday object into a keyboard and connect it to the Internet.

"I think of it more as a collaborative learning incubator for ideas," says Chad Mairn, Information Services Librarian at SPC and the lab’s creator.

The original premise was to give people an open space where they can be uninhibited and have the freedom to fail, a key aspect of the creative process. With a recent trend in libraries becoming more than simply a source of books and growing into a hub for information, both physical and digital, it was a natural fit.

The lab’s equipment was funded by an Innovation Grant from the SPC Foundation. Knowing the importance of design, Mairn also wanted an environment that is conducive to creativity and innovation, so he approached SPC Provost Jim Oliver and obtained additional funding for interior design work.

Future plans include workshops and other business-oriented thinking in the lab. The main goal is to give people the resources to become successful.

"It’s an invitation to play," says Mairn.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Chad Mairn, St. Petersburg College

USF Encourages STEM Majors With Summer Academy

First-year students at the University of South Florida in Tampa will soon have a way to better integrate into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors early in their studies through a new summer STEM Academy.

The Academy will be offered to incoming freshmen beginning in the summer of 2015. It aims to serve 480 students, who will break into groups of 24 and receive mentoring from seniors and graduate students as well as connect with peers who share their academic interests. They will be able to experience the disciplines first hand through lab exercises that provide a realistic picture of their first year in the courses.

The concept was developed by a team of faculty and administrators at USF who researched student records of incoming students across multiple majors. They learned that four of every 10 of the 1,500 – 1,800 students who enter USF and declares a STEM major each year ultimately graduates with that degree. Their research suggests that a high population of those students are not leaving college all together, but are changing majors. Possible causes for this may be students not feeling connected or engaged with the large cohort of peers in their major, or that the entry level curriculum isn’t what they expected.

 "This particular experience will not only help the students understand what they will experience walking into the university, but more importantly will allow them to truly connect with other students and peers who have been successful to really understand how they can have the greatest student success and also that it’s possible to build relationships with others within the university," says Richard Pollenz, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Director of the Office for Undergraduate Research at USF and member of the team that developed the STEM Academy.

Students participating in the Academy will also have the opportunity to be a part of an innovative Living Learning Community, where they will live on the same floor of a campus residence hall and share experiences with their peers throughout their first year. The community is one of 12 similar concepts on USF campus, where students who share common interests live and study together.

The program recently received a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the summer enrichment program, one of 37 research universities to receive the grant aimed at bolstering the nation’s STEM capabilities.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Richard Pollenz, USF

AT&T Wireless Growth Spurs Hiring In Florida, 40 Jobs In Tampa Bay

AT&T is expanding its employee base across the State of Florida, with nearly 640 total openings.

The growth is fueled by an expansion of mobile services and an enhanced focus on customer service being offered through the company’s new Project Velocity IP (VIP). Project VIP is a $14 billion plan to invest in and expand the company’s wireless and wireline IP broadband networks. The investment is a result of increased customer demand for high-speed Internet access, enhanced TV services and mobile cloud services.

"We’re growing our mobile devices, and what we’re doing in stores," says Karen McAllister, spokesperson for AT&T. The recently opened store of the future in Tampa is an example of the new interactive, customer-focused shopping experience. "Our job growth is really fueled by being able to ensure that our customers have a great experience."

Current openings in Tampa Bay include Principal Database Developer and Database Programmer. Retail Sales Consultants and Manager positions are also available. In all, the company is looking to hire 40 retail employees in the Tampa Bay market, with more than half being newly created jobs. Currently there are 860 employees in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

"We’re looking for people that are looking to grow with the company and are excited about the future of mobile," says McAllister.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Karen McAllister, AT&T Florida
 

The Beer Project Taps Into Arts, Crafts And Beer Scene

Downtown St. Petersburg turns into a mecca for beer and art lovers June 12-14.

The Beer Project is the merging of beer crafts and craft beer, showcasing the growing craft beer and arts industries in St. Petersburg.

The event is the first of its kind for St. Petersburg, presented by the Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with Green Bench Brewing, St. Petersburg's first craft microbrewery. It’s all about inspiration, bringing together artists, authors, venues, businesses and home brewers to enjoy beer inspired by art and art inspired by beer.

Green Bench Brewing Company will introduce new recipes inspired by the Museum’s collections. Double Rice IPA, brewed with a base of rice and Japanese hop called Sorachi Ace, was inspired by the Asian collection. The Agave Green Chili Blonde Ale will also be introduced, infused with lime peel known as Rubia Caliente and inspired by the Museum’s recently closed New Mexican piece.

"It will be exciting to see what their interpretation is on our collection. It’s a nice pairing of art and craft and business," says Mary Szaroleta, associate curator of public programming at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Authors Shawn Bowman of Portland and Gerard Walen will be on hand to sign copies of their books. Bowman’s wearable jewelry, birdhouse and sculptures using beer can and bottle parts will inspire new ways to use resources. Walen’s book, Florida Breweries, lists some of the best places to find beer in the State of Florida.

Participants will taste home brewed beer and vote for their favorite from over 40 local home brews at a competition sanctioned by the American Home Brewers Association.

An art walk turned beer trail will drive beer lovers into the downtown arts districts, where seven arts venues will offer tastings.

"We’re trying to engage people who don’t normally go into the galleries to see what is downtown and to also taste local brewing companies’ beers," says Szaroleta.

Other event partners include: Cigar City Brewing, Brew Bus Tampa Bay, CD Roma Restaurant and Avid Brewing and Growing Supplies.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mary Szaroleta, Museum of Fine Arts
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