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Manufacturer Moves To Pasco, Plans High-Paying Jobs

J.T.D. Enterprises, a company that makes tubular assemblies for various products, is planning to relocate from Michigan to Pasco County next year. The business will create 10 new jobs that are expected to exceed average annual salaries in Pasco County by 115 percent. The owners of J.T.D. Enterprises were drawn to Pasco County by tax incentives, weather and a significant regional customer base.
 
"My wife and I own the business, which was started by my father over 30 years ago,'' says Tom Nihra, VP of J.T.D. Enterprises. "We have a lot of customers in Florida and throughout the Southeast. Also, it's certainly a lifestyle change for us to move to a warm climate year round.''
 
J.T.D. Enterprises is unique from other manufacturers in that they have proprietary technology, which enables them to manufacture tubular assemblies used in golf ball accessories, flagpoles and defense technologies. With a growing customer base, the company will be able to expand as it relocates.

"The relocation is scheduled for the middle of next year,'' says Nihra. "We are looking at starting the first phase of hiring in April of 2013, which will be five or six positions. The balance of the jobs will be filled by September 1, 2013.''

Nihra says he plans to hire a couple customer service representatives, who will be expected to perform administrative support duties as well as sales. He will also be looking for qualified candidates who are skilled in machinery.

"For the skilled manufacturing positions, candidates will need to bring an applicable skills set, however, there will still be some training on the proprietary technology we use to make our products.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tom Nihra, J.T.D. Enterprises

Tampa Bay Startups Vet Ideas At Startup Weekend

Tampa Bay culminates Global Entrepreneurship Week with Startup Weekend Tampa, beginning November 16 at 6 pm at Keiser University.

The 54-hour event allows Tampa Bay entrepreneurs to pitch their startup ideas and receive feedback from peers, mentors, coaches and other experts. Participants select the top ideas, and teams are formed to create business models and take the concepts to the next level. 

The third of its kind in Tampa, the Startup Weekend Tampa event is part of a global grassroots movement, which has inspired more than 400 events in 100 countries around the world.  This fall's event is part of a larger competition, providing the winning team with an invitation to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Brazil in March 2013. There, they will give a 90-second pitch in a live competition featuring investors, government officials and policymakers from around the world.

Startup Weekend brings together developers, designers, marketers, business people and entrepreneurs to form a community network that is focused on action.

"It's very powerful to have these interconnections and opportunities so we're not just meeting up for a casual conversation,'' says Ryan Sullivan, brand manager for TVGoods and co-organizer of Startup Weekend.  "We say, 'think of a concept, build a product'.'' Eighty percent of participants globally have continued to work on their startups after the weekend concluded.

Past winners of the Tampa event include Trivia Wars (now Trivia Bash), a gaming platform that allows people to play trivia games with different partners on mobile devices, and Checkout My URL, which rates websites on usability and feasibility.

Ultimately, events like this produce more centered businesses that help the Tampa Bay region grow.

Cost for Startup Weekend Tampa at Keiser University is $99 for general admission; $49 for students.

For more information or to register, visit: Startup Weekend Tampa.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa

Plasma-Therm Continues Hiring Through 2013

Rev-Tech Manufacturing Solutions, a division of Plasma-Therm in St. Petersburg, plans to add 10-15 manufacturing jobs in 2013.

Rev-Tech manufactures semiconductor chips that are used in many retail products, including LED televisions, cell phones and hard drives. With the growing popularity of smart phones, Plasma-Therm is seeing their product sales soar.

"With the rapid penetration of smart phones such as the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5, we see an increase in demand for our products,'' says Abdul Lateef, CEO of Plasma-Therm. "With a combination of increased focus on the customer, and the expansion of our distribution worldwide, we have been able to capture a larger market share.''

Since 2011, the company has added 16 new employees to its Rev-Tech subsidiary, and close to 50 people to the Plasma-Therm parent company.

"We anticipate the business to continue on a growth trajectory, and as such we expect to add another 10-15 people to the Rev-Tech team, and an even higher number to the overall company,'' Lateef says.

The company is looking for CNC programmers and operators, mechanical workers, welders and sheet metal fabricators.

Qualified candidates can apply for open positions here through the company’s website.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Abdul Lateef, Plasma-Therm

IDEA Camp Helps Launch Entrepreneurs, St. Pete

Are you an entrepreneur or small business with an idea, but aren’t sure about next steps to get it off the ground?

Tampa Bay Innovation Center hosts its Fall 2012 IDEA Camp Wednesday, November 14, 8 am - 2:30 pm at Collaborative Labs, St. Petersburg College. The goal of the collaborative event is to help Tampa Bay businesses and individuals in technology fields create a winning pitch and add value to their concept, positioning them to move their idea forward.

The full day workshop provides advice, direction and one-on-one assistance from volunteer business consultants, investors, lawyers and entrepreneurs to help participants refine an idea into a 60-second pitch.

“Often someone who is deep into their idea can’t look at it from the 60,000-foot level,” says Danielle Weitlauf, New Venture Manager for the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. “The event helps open the door to whatever type of partnership they are trying to get.”

IDEA Camp participants will leave with a refined business model, credibility for their product or idea, confidence to deliver an effective value proposition, new contacts and a plan for next steps.

The event has taken place since 2009 and has assisted many companies with getting their ideas off the ground. One such idea is Head of Lettuce Media, this year’s social media sponsor. The company was launched at IDEA Camp in 2009 and is now growing and thriving in the Tampa Bay area. 

“The event is part of supporting the full entrepreneurship ecosystem in Tampa Bay,” says Weitlauf. “It could be a launch pad to getting a great idea off the ground.”

The event is open to 15 concepts, with one to two attendees per concept. If selected, the cost to attend is $99. The deadline to apply is Friday, October 26. Click here for more information, and to apply.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

IT Workforce Initiative Aims For Qualified Workers, Tampa Bay

Leaders of the local technology community have come together to create a task force that will target qualified IT professionals. The task force recently held in-depth interviews with business and academic leaders, sent out surveys to IT professionals in the local workforce, in addition to conducting focus groups with students, executives, HR professionals and educational institutions. The purpose of their research was to discover what challenges the IT community faces both now and in the future in regards to ensuring a steady flow of qualified workers for future economic growth.

The task force discovered several areas for improvement, including making the Tampa Bay area more marketable to IT professionals, ensuring students receive the necessary education and training needed to succeed in the field, and bridging the gap between educational institutions and local businesses.

Heather Kenyon, CEO of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF), is on the task force and will be taking the lead on the action plan set forth by the task force to resolve the issues that were raised in the report.

"The TBTF has taken the lead on the recommendations because this issue affects all of our members, particularly the small- and medium-sized companies that comprise the majority of the area’s businesses,'' Kenyon says.

TBTF has already embarked on various initiatives such as student chapters at local colleges and intern fairs, in addition to working with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on a strategy to help veterans get the training needed for a career in IT. She has also been given a secured commitment from industry partners to take on interns and newly graduated college students.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Heather Kenyon, TBTF

Novation: Two New Startups, 200 New Jobs In Tampa

Novation Companies, Inc., which acquires and operates technology-based startups, plans to create 200 local jobs in the Tampa Bay region through two new small businesses.
 
Novation’s startups are Mango Moving, a residential and corporate mover, and Advent Financial, which provides prepaid credit cards for those without bank accounts. New jobs will be created in both.

"We expect to add approximately 100 employees to Advent Financial, and another 100 or so employees to Mango Moving over the next year,'' says Steve  Haslam, COO of Novation.

Haslam says a majority of the approximate 200 positions will be in the areas of sales, quality control and customer service.

Novation currently operates a home appraisal management company known as StreetLinks, which arrived in Tampa last year and has 200 employees. Haslam expects StreetLinks to expand as well as the housing market rebounds

While Novation is headquartered in Kansas City, MO, the company has two Tampa locations: 9314 E. Broadway Ave. and its most recent addition at NetPark office complex on East Hillsborough Avenue. Haslam credits the area’s pro-business climate for Novation’s expansion in Tampa.

"We chose a present and future expansion strategy in Tampa because of the positive hiring environment, positive facilities pricing and availability,'' Haslam says. "The Florida Economic Development folks worked with us closely as well, and we felt very welcome here by Governor Scott and his economic team.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Steve Haslam, Novation

$1M Grant Bolsters Tampa Bay Startups, 245 New Jobs

A $1 million dollar federal grant has been awarded to USF and its regional partners as part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s i6 challenge. The purpose of the grant is to support new web and mobile app startups, with the goal of creating high-wage jobs.

USF along with Tampa Bay WaVE, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, the University of Tampa and other private companies have come together in a partnership to support local tech entrepreneurs in their efforts to get their ideas and products to market.

"We are partnering with Tampa Bay WaVE and working with them to provide participants of our program with educational workshops, mentoring and access to existing programs here at USF,'' says Tracey Swartz, assistant director of the innovation and incubation program of USF Connect. "We will also be working with Tampa Bay WaVE to develop educational content for the program.''

With the money from the i6 Challenge grant, the partnership expects to help at least 50 Florida-based startups secure funding and grow into viable tech companies, creating an estimated 245 high-wage jobs. The grant money will also be used to open and operate the FirstWaVE Venture Center, which will be an innovation and incubation facility headquartered in downtown Tampa.

The next step for the partnership is to attend a one-day conference for all i6 Challenge winners in Washington D.C. on Oct. 2. USF President Judy Genshaft has also been invited to participate in a panel discussion hosted by the Department of Commerce at the White House the day before. President Genshaft will be a panelist discussing student and faculty innovation and entrepreneurship.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tracey Swartz, USF Connect

Florida Lt. Gov. To Speak At Reverse Trade Show, Clearwater Beach

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will be the featured luncheon speaker today [Tuesday, Sept. 18] at the Federal Defense & Technology Showcase presented by Tampa Bay Innovation Center. She will speak on the defense industry in Florida, its importance and what the state is doing in terms of support.

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s (TBIC) annual reverse trade show event runs through Wednesday [Sept. 19] at the Sheraton Sand Key on Clearwater Beach. The event is in its sixth year, and is presented by TBIC along with the Florida Federal Contractors Association.

“This event has been very successful in the past,” says Danielle Weitlauf, manager of TBIC. “We have moved to a new location this year, which enables us to accommodate a larger audience.”

The annual three-day event includes a reverse trade show, a luncheon featuring Carroll and a golf tournament. The trade show is the most unique aspect of the event in that the exhibitors are defense subcontractors presenting their products and services to industry contractors looking for suppliers.  

Weitlauf says U.S. Congressman C.W. Bill Young is very involved in the event, and plays a vital role in showing contractors the capabilities of defense companies in Florida. She explains that the event is great for local suppliers in the defense sector to get exposure to various contractors and federal officials, regardless of their current size.

“About 80 percent of the exhibitors are local,” Weitlauf says. “Exhibitors range from early stage companies to large contractors within the defense sector.”

 In addition to the reverse trade show, there is a matchmaking event that matches contractors with specific suppliers.
 
“Attendees fill out a matchmaking form in advance of the event and then we are able to set up appointments based on the information provided,” Weitlauf says. “Local companies have increased their sales as a result of the trade show and matchmaking event.”

Click here for more information on the 2012 Florida Defense and Technology Showcase.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Shark Tank Contestant Opens Five Local Stores

New York City Entrepreneur Frank Scozzafava found success on the reality TV show, Shark Tank, and is now seeking further success in the Tampa Bay market as he opens new stores selling his innovative bikinis. MiX Bikini offers customers the unique opportunity to create their own bathing suits online, assembling the pieces themselves to become their own fashion designers.

While customers can access the website from home to design and purchase their swimsuits, the stores offer shoppers the ability to try on their creations and purchase them on the spot.

"Coming off of Shark Tank I was itching to get into malls,'' says Scozzafava. "When I was on Shark Tank I said that my plan was to open up at malls, franchise and license the product. The Westfield Mall chain made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and we are opening up five stores in Florida.''

There is already one MiX Bikini store at Westfield Brandon Mall in a kiosk out front of Abercrombie and Fitch. Later this year stores will open in Westfield Countryside and Citrus Park Mall. Plans are also underway to open additional stores in Sarasota and Broward.

In addition to creating quite a buzz at local malls, the stores will also create jobs.

"Right off the bat I hired a regional manager to oversee all of the stores in Florida,'' Scozzafava says. "At each location we will have six part-time sales positions as well, creating approximately 30 jobs in the area.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Frank Scozzafava, MiX Bikini

Insurance Company Expanding In Pasco, 200 Jobs

1Brick, LLC, an insurance and financial services customer relationship management company, is opening a new office in Pasco County creating an estimated 200 jobs. The company, which is a virtual insurance agency and financial consulting firm, is licensed to operate in multiple states servicing mobile consumers over the phone and through mobile apps.
 
1Brick, LLC, recently received county tax incentives, which helped seal the deal for the company’s expansion in Pasco. While the company did look at other U.S. locations in the Midwest and on the West Coast, Florida seemed to be the best fit.
 
“We felt Florida was very competitive, not only from a tax perspective, but for its location and workforce as well,'' says Sam Bloomfield, executive VP of 1Brick, LLC. "We attended a local job fair last week and were very impressed by the resumes we received.''
 
Bloomfield says the company will be filling various positions including licensed insurance agents, IT professionals, quality assurance and supervisory managers. The salaries associated with the new jobs are expected to exceed current average wages in Pasco by as much as 115 percent.
 
"We could be hiring up to 40 people in the next 30 days,'' Bloomfield says. "We have a number of clients and relationships built that need us to get going, so we have a good reason to start hiring very soon.''
 
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Sam Bloomfield, 1Brick, LLC

Growing Sarasota Communications Company To Add 100+ Jobs

Star2Star Communications in Sarasota, one of six local companies featured on Fortune Inc.’s 500 List of Fastest Growing Companies, plans to add more than 100 jobs by September 2013.

The IT company that provides phone over the internet services to businesses has had tremendous success including growing sales, which boosted revenues to $18.2 million in 2011.  The company plans on continued growth, including hiring additional staff.

“We’ve doubled our revenues every year since we started, and we intend to continue on the same course,” says Les Freed of Star2Star Communications. “We expect to roughly double our employee count over the next 12 months.”

The company currently employs approximately 110 employees and is actively recruiting new talent.

“We have several openings in our sales, development and operations departments,” Freed says. “A list of openings can be found on our website.”

Star2Star Communications, which was founded in 2006, sells its integrated communication solutions through various distributors and dealers. Its internet communication systems are available and installed in both small and large businesses across North America.

 The company’s headquarters is located at 600 Tallevast Rd., Suite 202, in Sarasota, near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The headquarters, which are housed in a state-of-the-art building constructed to withstand a category five hurricane, is quite large with several areas including development and testing, order fulfillment, a customer support floor and a training facility.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Les Freed, Star2Star Communications

TEDxTampaBay: The Future Of Stories At MOSI

With the motto "ideas worth spreading,'' TED (technology, entertainment, design) events bring together inspiring thought leaders with fascinating and motivating messages. The mission is to use ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world.

TEDxTampaBay, taking place September 21 at MOSI in Tampa, connects local people who have big ideas and want to create change. "It brings people together at a very human level, which is a powerful force for change of any kind,'' says Gina Clifford, co-founder and organizer. "It's kind of an organic entrepreneurial experience.''

Now in its third year, the 2012 theme "The Future of Stories'' explores the past, present and future of storytelling, particularly in an age of digital media. Storytellers include Sidney Pierce, a professor at the University of South Florida Tampa, who will share his research on an animal that steals chlorophyll from plants and then uses it to make energy. And Jayme Cellitioci, whose B.S. in psychobiology and M.S. in creativity help her explore the power of storytelling through free-choice learning platforms such as science museums and zoos.

Last year's event inspired meaningful connections that span beyond the event. Stanford University student Vineet Singal spoke about nonprofit health organizations he founded. As a result of his talk, he met a local woman who started a nonprofit to honor her daughter, who died from multiple sclerosis. Vineet now serves as her adviser and is helping her get the organization off the ground. 

Innovators, creatives, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists and anyone open to new ideas is encouraged to attend -- especially those who believe they can and will change the world. The cost is $40 and includes admission to MOSI, free parking, a catered lunch, various activities during breaks and a full day of inspiring TED-style talks.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gina Clifford, TEDxTampaBay

Sarasota IT Company Expanding, Creating 50 Jobs

Datum Corporation, a global information technology services and business process consulting firm based in Sarasota, has plans to add 50 new jobs. The company, which was founded in 2002, will relocate from its current location in Sarasota to a larger facility in Lakewood Ranch.
 
"We will be creating 50 new jobs over the next five years,'' says Karla Walker of the Datum Corporation. "We will be hiring network engineers, help desk support specialists, project managers and sales executives.''
 
Datum consults with businesses and helps them improve operations and profitability through technology. Clients are small-to mid-sized businesses across the U.S. in various industries including hospitality, health care, retail, government, insurance, financial services and manufacturing. The company's new facility will enable Datum to add equipment to better service their clients.
 
Datum is able to complete its expansion with help from Sarasota County's economic development center. The county approved $200,000 in performance-based economic development incentives. In order for the company to receive the funds, Datum must add 50 employees over the next five years. The incentives are a part of Sarasota County's dedication to creating jobs through helping high-tech, top-tier businesses meet their growth potential. The EDC's goal is that these incentives will help strengthen the local economy.
                                              
As part of the company's expansion Datum will nearly double its workspace as it relocates to a 12,000-square-foot office located at 6909 Business Blvd. in Lakewood Ranch.
 
Those interested in learning more about career opportunities with Datum are encouraged to email their inquiries.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Karla Walker, Datum Corporation

Pasco Video Game Company Plans Expansion

Artix Entertainment, a developer of online video games, is working on several new projects that are expected to create new jobs in the near future. The company is currently looking for a mobile developer as they continue to grow in the mobile gaming market.
                                   
“If the projects we are working on now, specifically the 3D game we are building, take off we will need a much bigger staff,” says Adam Bohn who founded Artix Entertainment in 2002.
 
Bohn says he was working on a game is his spare time back in 2002, with no intention of starting a business. He simply was fulfilling a dream of making a video game. The original game, AdventureQuest, soon had millions of players and he started recruiting members of the gaming community to work on other projects.
 
“AdventureQuest was one of the very first, if not the first, Flash-based video games that could be played right in your browser,” Bohn says. “We now have six major games with two more in development.”
 
Artix Entertainment currently employs approximately 57 people, and has even more staff in the form of volunteers whom moderate forums. In addition to seeking a qualified mobile developer, Bohn says he may be looking for additional staff when his new games come out.
 
“With the projects we are working on, if they take off, we will need 3D animators and modelers, as well as 2D Flash animators,” he says.
 
As far as a time line for when those projects will be completed, Bohn says there is no specific deadline.
 
“In the gaming industry, a project is done when it’s done.”
 
In the meantime, Bohn plans to add a career section on his website so potential employees can check back for job openings.
 
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Adam Bohn, Artix Entertainment

Clearwater IT Company Adds 50+ Jobs, Seeks Developers

Systems Made Simple (SMS), an IT Services provider headquartered in Syracuse, NY, is looking for developers to work out of the company’s new Clearwater office. The company, which was founded in 1991, also has offices in Virginia and Utah.

“We had our official office opening and celebration of our Clearwater office on July 12th,” says Amanda Fraina of Systems Made Simple. “We opened that office after winning a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veteran’s Network.”

Fraina says that SMS has had a presence in the Tampa Bay area for well over a year, with employees working remotely. Due to the workload associated with the VA contract, more than 50 employees have been hired to work out of the local office and the company is still seeking qualified developers.

“Right now we are pretty much at staff, however, we continue to look for Java and Oracle developers,” says Jennifer Eshenfelder, director of recruiting at SMS. “We are looking for qualified developers, which is hard to find because of their advanced skill set.”

Eshenfelder says that the company is looking for developers with a bachelor’s degree, as well as at least three to five years of experience. Also candidates must be proficient in working with large and complex software systems, as well as knowledge of tools and methodologies supporting application design and development. She adds that additional IT certifications are also helpful.

Systems Made Simple is located at 1901 Ulmerton Rd., Suite 200, in Clearwater.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Amanda Fraina and Jennifer Eshenfelder, Systems Made Simple
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