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Triad Retail Media Expands, Adds 150+ Jobs In St. Pete

On November 1st, Triad Retail Media moved into its brand new 65,000 square-foot St. Petersburg national headquarters which will accommodate the firm’s growing staff as well as 150-200 new jobs created over the next three years.

The newly created jobs will focus on content, communications, IT, business intelligence, design and creative, ad operations, and video content management.

Triad creates, manages and operates online media programs for leading, high-traffic retail e-commerce websites including Walmart, eBay, Toys "R" Us, CVS, Sam’s Club, and several other recognizable brands.

The company’s move from the Westshore neighborhood of Tampa to the new office at Carillon in St. Petersburg was specifically selected because of the space available to accommodate the company’s expanding workforce.

"It will be a gradual, persistent hiring. We don’t expect to grow and then stop," says Misty Brown, Triad’s VP of communications.

Tampa’s market for technology, art and talented workforce highly resonated with the firm’s decision to further expand its presence in the Tampa Bay region.

"There are many advantages and multiple levels of talent in Tampa Bay. There is terrific talent here, several tech hubs are here, and there great art schools," says Brown.

Recently named on the annual Inc. 500|5000 list as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies and #27 in Tampa Bay, Triad reached a three-year sales growth increase of 143% and employs more than 400 in seven offices nationwide.

"We are a company of entrepreneurs; if you have an idea, you can expect to see it grow here. We welcome challenges," says Brown.

The firm’s early 2013 acquisition by Rockbridge Growth Equity has helped to further position Triad’s stock in the Tampa Bay market as well as the company’s significant and continued growth.

"Rockbridge has been a fantastic partner to enable our growth. It’s been an aid to our continued growth," says Brown.

The City of St. Petersburg worked closely with Pinellas County to facilitate Triad’s relocation to St. Petersburg as well as working directly with Triad and Enterprise Florida to qualify the firm for tax refunds through the Qualified Target Industry program.

For career opportunities, visit Triad online or via LinkedIn.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Misty Brown, Triad Retail Media

USAA Invests $164.3 Million, 1,200+ New Jobs In Tampa

USAA (United Services Automobile Association) is undergoing a major expansion in Tampa Bay, announcing a $164.3 million capital investment to create 1,215 new high-wage jobs and grow its local operations by 2019.

USAA leads the industry in insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services for the military community and their families.

"It’s a big deal, and it will have a pretty significant ripple effect in our economy. Add to that Amazon’s 1,000 new jobs, Bristol-Myers Squibb adding 600 jobs, and HealthPlan Services’ 1,000 jobs -- this is pretty serious economic growth that secures our future and the development of our community," says Rick Homans, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

USAA has operated in Florida for more than 40 years, with a significant presence in Hillsborough County. With more than 1,800 individuals currently employed at USAA’s New Tampa facility and over 600 employees additionally located throughout Florida, the firm has already created nearly 370,000 new jobs in just two years.

"USAA is growing as the demand for our financial products and services among the military community increases. We’ve had a great team of employees in Tampa for forty years, and we are excited to grow that team in this great military community," says USAA CEO Joe Robles.

In April, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a local incentive package of $729,000, supporting a commitment of $2,916,000 from the State of Florida through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program. The total QTI allocation of $3,645,000 will provide the company with $3,000 for the creation of each new high-wage job, incentives which will be payable over a nine-year period.

The company will initially lease 50,000 square feet of office space at Lakeview Center in Tampa and will soon construct a new 420,000 square-foot facility at Brandon’s Crosstown Center by 2015. Once complete, the facility will be the largest built-to-suit office project in Hillsborough County since 2001.

"This is another sign that Florida is becoming the number one place for business. Not only has Florida’s unemployment rate continued to decrease, but we are still below the national unemployment rate at seven percent," says Governor Rick Scott.

Interested candidates are encouraged to visit the Career Center online for more information on available positions.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Joe Robles, USAA; Rick Homans, Tampa Hillsborough EDC; Governor Rick Scott, State of Florida

Salsarita's Plans 500 New Jobs In Tampa Bay

Mexican-inspired Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina is rapidly expanding throughout Florida, and plans to bring up to 500 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region over the next three to five years.

With two locations already existing in Florida, Salsarita’s has more than 80 locations across the United States. The brand has targeted the Tampa and St. Petersburg area as a prime location to plant 20 new locations.

"Growth of the brand is happening in two ways: we are going to continue to build company restaurants in the Carolinas. Outside of the Carolina’s we’re going to be growing through franchising," says Chris Bailey, head of franchise development.

After settling the sale of McAlister’s Deli two years ago, the former owners began to seek out brands having significant growth opportunities. The team identified and purchased Salsarita’s, immediately beginning plans for long-term growth development.

The company’s expansion in Florida is a part of a tailored approach to franchise development that will begin operational investments in Tampa Bay in early 2014. The brand is committed to protecting the market territory of franchisees, adding one or more new locations per franchisee per year.

Each new Salsarita’s location would add between 15 and 22 new positions, including full-time restaurant managers, shift managers and servers.

Franchising has become a source of professional re-birth and a second career investment opportunity for many seasoned professionals seeking solid entrepreneurial opportunities.

"There is a growing appreciation and eagerness to work with franchises. Of all of the areas in industry and business that have been impacted adversely by the last several years of economic challenges, franchising has been the least impacted and the most consistent. It is, by nature, designed to give that go-getter entrepreneurial spirit the engine in which they can execute a good business," says Bailey.

For information on franchising and career opportunities, visit Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Chris Bailey, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

Need A Ride? RideCommand App Promises To Get You Where You Need To Go

A new partnership makes it easier to find a taxi service when you need it within the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa-based Cab Plus, an upscale taxi service in the Tampa Bay region recently partnered with mobile app RideCommand  to provide a way to book transportation on demand or up to three months in the future through the web or a mobile phone.

The "ride now" feature lets you request an immediate pick-up from the location of your choice, including airports or places of business. The network identifies the closest car who will get to you in the shortest amount of time. A countdown clock displays within the app, and after 90 seconds if no car is available a message displays to please try again.

The "ride later" feature allows car services to compete for business by placing bids that you can choose from. You can pick the type of car and desired fare from those presented. The information provided also includes the company’s customer rating.

"We call it 'RideCommand' because we’re putting the passenger in command of their fate," says Alan Stapleton, founder and CEO of RideCommand.

The idea came about when Stapleton had a bad car service experience while trying to attend a wedding a few hours away from the airport. Having no idea where to start or what competitive prices should be, he went through a frustrating experience only to end up stranded at the airport. Although the company is based in Maryland, the app launched recently in Tampa based on connections made at a recent limo show in Atlantic City.

"We’re in Tampa because it’s innovation-friendly," says Stapleton.

The app is free and available on Android and iPhone.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alan Stapleton, RideCommand

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
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