| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

diversity : Innovation + Job News

204 diversity Articles | Page: | Show All

SoHo businesses to host April block party in South Tampa

Local businesses and nonprofits in the growing Courier City neighborhood of South Tampa are coming together in April to host SoHo's first “block party” of 2015.

Austin’s Board Shop, Fruitwood Standup Market, Surf Outfitter and onbikes will co-host the block party on April 18 at 2205 W. Swann Ave. (near the corner of Swann and Howard Avenues). The block party will be 5-8pm that Saturday, with live music by Morgan Davis.

“We’re going to try to do one every couple of months, rotate it around and get more people involved,” Austin’s Board Shop Owner Michelle Marcum explains. “We just want to get the whole neighborhood interested.”

Austin’s Board Shop, located at 301 S. Melville, usually carries around 60 boards in stock, which can range from $100-200 to more than $500 for custom boards and upgrades. The shop has created custom boards for Gorrie Elementary and Berkeley Prep to auction in fundraisers. Marcum and her son, co-owner Austin Anderson, will be raffling off a longboard during the block party to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida. 

“It’s very important to both of us that we are very connected to the community,” Marcum says.

Other items will be raffled at the April 18 block party, including a GoPro; along with RMHC, proceeds will benefit Surfrider Foundation, a grassroots environmentally focused nonprofit, and a fundraising group for ALS awareness, Pray for Jay.

In 2013, Justin Clark opened Fruitwood Standup Market at 2203 W. Swann Ave. next door to the Smoothie King he owns in SoHo. Marcum recommends the apple lemonade and flatbreads at the casual, fresh concept space where salvaged brick and wood decorate the space and light bulbs hang in mason jars.

Marcum has known Clark since her father coached the Tampa Bay Storm years ago. They reconnected and, in turn, she was connected with Charlie Schiller of Schiller's Architectural and Design Salvage in Seminole Heights, who supplied wood for the Fruitwood space and later worked with Marcum and Anderson on the design concept for Austin’s Board Shop.

Surf Outfitter, located at 1413 S. Howard Ave., Suite 104, sells a range of “lifestyle” apparel, accessories and equipment that is handpicked by staff members. The Tampa-based small business counts contributing to nonprofits and charity, along with supporting the environment, as a primary part of their mission.

Florida Bike Association chose onbikes as the 2014 Program of the Year because of the group’s efforts to help make bicycling safe and accessible. Onbikes Executive Director Julias Tobin called the recognition an “unbelievable honor” on social media sharing service Instagram.

As the Courier City area grows into a South Howard foodie paradise and welcomes bicyclists or foot traffic to a more pedestrian-friendly Platt Street, the Neighborhood Association has been actively developing a community presence by hosting social meetups at The Hyde Out and MacDinton’s Irish Pub in recent weeks. Meanwhile, a new boutique, The Paper Seahorse, hosted a Maker’s Market in Feb 2015, bringing together local vendors.

Now, the upcoming block party’s hosts aim to continue the momentum of a neighborhood on the move.

“We knew this neighborhood was the most ‘walkable’ in Tampa, and we just love it – it’s perfect,” Marcum explains. "This whole group (the Neighborhood Association) is so excited that we’re here, that Mr. Penguin’s here – that it’s not another just bar.” 

Who's hiring? Brew Bus, Tampa Musuem of Art, and more

Did you know? 83 Degrees Media searches for growing companies to bring you exciting job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area. Reach out over on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success!

On the search for a job in advertising? Two high-profile Tampa ad agencies are currently hiring.

Schifino Lee 

Hyde Park-based advertising agency Schifino Lee seeks an experienced Media Buyer. The successful candidate will plan and buy for a variety of B2C and B2B accounts. Job requirements include superior negotiation skills, attention to detail, the ability to work directly with clients, and a familiarity with new media opportunities and digital strategies. 

Required Education: Bachelors Degree or related experience. Send a resume and work samples via e-mail to jobs@schifinolee.com.

Walker Brands

Full-service Tampa branding agency Walker Brands seeks a Brand Manager and a Part-Time, In-House Graphic Designer in Tampa. To apply for either position, submit a resume and work samples via email to careers@walkerbrands.com.

The brand manager role requires 8+ years in branding, marketing or advertising, with a preference for agency experience as well as real estate branding and marketing experience. The position will require leading several client accounts, and the ideal candidate will combine creativity and innovation with logic and business aptitude. Required Education: Bachelors Degree in a related field.

The part-time graphic designer position requires 2 years of related professional experience in file packaging for both online and print vendors. Advanced proficiency in Creative Suite (including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat) is preferred. Mac proficiency is required.

Tampa Museum of Art

Card-carrying museum-goers, read on: the Tampa Museum of Art seeks a Development Officer for Sponsorship and Corporate Programs.

The Development Officer's primary responsibilities include securing corporate support and meeting event sponsorship goals for the Museum; stewarding funders and collaborating with board trustees, volunteers, long-time supporters, and other staff; and engaging with the region’s business community. The successful candidate will have fundraising or sales experience, with marketing and donor database experience preferred. An education that includes art history or a related field is a bonus. A Bachelor’s Degree and minimum of 2-4 years of related experience is also necessary.

Brew Bus

Hop aboard the Brew Bus, which takes patrons on tours of Tampa Bay craft beer breweries, bars, and restaurants, is hiring for two part-time positions: “Beertender” and Brew Bus Vehicle Operator

The Beertender position requires familiarity with the craft beer industry (particularly local breweries); basic service industry knowledge; strong social skills; and the ability to lift up to 50 lbs. A high school diploma or equivalent GED is required. Safe Serve certification and Cicerone beer certification are a bonus. 

The Vehicle Operator role requires a clean driving record and CDL with P endorsement, with previous experience. Brew Bus Vehicle Operators transport clients or “riders” throughout the area and possibly throughout the state. Qualified Brew Bus Vehicle Operators will possess a high school diploma or equivalent GED, the ability to lift up to 50 lbs, and a CDL Medical Card. 

Employers, if you have a career opportunity you would like to promote, please email innovationnews@83degreesmedia.com with "Hiring" in the subject line. 

Hannah's Shoebox provides stylish shoes to preteen girls

Tampa mother Colette Glover-Hannah has had a difficult time finding age-appropriate shoes for her preteen daughter since she was only six years old and in the first grade. By the time her daughter reached fifth grade and age 11, she was also wearing a size 11 women’s shoe.
Many parents of preteen and “tween”-aged girls know first-hand the challenge of finding affordable, suitable yet stylish footwear that is outgrown long before it’s used out. For young girls with larger shoe sizes, it can be even more challenging to find age-appropriate shoes, especially for special occasions or formal events.
Most women’s shoes for special occasions either have high heels or an overall aesthetic that is too mature for a young girl, Glover-Hannah says. And after talking with other parents in the Tampa area, she realized that she wasn’t the only person with that predicament.
“Many girls enter women's shoe sizes while in elementary school,” she says, “so I decided to open an online shoe store to address this challenge.” 
Glover-Hannah founded Hannah’s Shoebox, a new online retailer for age-appropriate shoes for preteen or “tween” girls who wear women’s shoe sizes 5-13, in 2014.
The online store carries a range of fashion footwear, from boots to flats to dressy and casual sandals, as well as special occasion shoes. The criteria for shoes that make the Hannah’s Shoebox cut? All heels are below two inches.
The company has no immediate plans to move into areas beyond specialty shoes, but will continue to expand services in the Tampa area.
“Tampa is where the core of my customers are and it's where I am developing and growing my business,” Glover-Hannah says.

Hannah’s Shoebox ships to all 50 states in the U.S. and to the District of Columbia. For additional information or to place large or custom shoe orders, email Hannah’s Shoebox.
The online startup store was recently selected to be part of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce 2015 Startup Scholars class, along with:
No Mo Nausea, a wristband that combines mint and pressure to relieve feelings of nausea;
Arcturus Creative, a creative marketing team that builds custom visual brand strategies;
LilyPad, an activity management platform for professional workforces; and
PikMyKid, a simple but streamlined mobile app that allows public schools in the U.S. to organize and manage the after-school dismissal process.
“I am looking to the Startup Scholars program to help me develop a solid foundation for building a sustainable business,” Glover-Hannah says. “I simply want Hannah’s Shoebox to become synonymous with age-appropriate, larger size shoes for preteen and tween girls.”

HCC awarded $100,000 to create Tampa jobs for low-income residents

Hillsborough Community College was recently awarded $100,000 to help promote job creation for lower-income residents of the city of Tampa.

As part of regional and local efforts to create a wide spectrum of jobs in tech and innovation, HCC’s Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education (ICCE) was granted the $100,000 through the Community Development Block Grant by the City of Tampa’s Housing and Development Division.

These funds will aid the creation and development of a Workforce Development and Training Initiative (WDTI) at HCC, which aims to promote job creation for low-income residents who reside within a specific target region in the city of Tampa’s borders.

That area, defined as a “Green Tech Corridor area" or the Tampa Industrial Park/ USF Research Park, falls along East Fowler Avenue, between 30th Street and 50th Street. The neighborhood is along the edges of the innovation district of the University of South Florida, which represents a critical mass of education, science, medicine and research including the Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida Hospital, and USF.

The up-and-coming neighborhood is part of an innovative district whose revitalization is under the leadership of Mark Sharpe, a former county commissioner working to revitalize the USF neighborhood from a “Suitcase City” into a vibrant and sustainable area.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance plans to create to “live, work, play” atmosphere in the USF and Busch Gardens area of north Tampa.

Meanwhile, ICCE expects the implementation of the WDTI to serve as a catalyst for improving employment opportunities for residents and businesses within the target area.

“With this funding, HCC will be able to provide free, career-driven training programs that will effectively increase the competencies of individuals seeking professional development in preparation for the workforce,” said Yolanda Levell-Williams, HCC’s executive director, in a press release.

HCC’s Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education promotes short-term educational programs and services which lead to economic growth and advancement in the community, including continuing education, professional development, and personal enrichment programs and services. 

Other efforts the county has taken to promote economic development include the support of many local startup events, pitch contests, and the economic development innovation initiative. The next round of EDI2 funding for Tampa area startups closes on Monday, March 2, 2015.

Nationally acclaimed works bring dialogue on race and identity to USF

International tour ensemble, Progress Theatre, is performing “The Burning’’ in Tampa at 3 pm Saturday afternoon, Feb. 21, 2015 at USF. The program will be followed by an interactive dialogue and reception with the artists and audience.  

An original work inspired by two horrific real-life African-American nightclub tragedies, decades and miles apart, is written in the innovative “neo-spiritual” aesthetic of Progress Theatre Founder, Director and Playwright Cristal Chanelle Truscott. 

Truscott’s development of neo-spiritualism – the term she uses for “work that engages African-American performance and tradition – from negro spirituals through blues, jazz, spoken word to the present” -- earned her the prestigious Doris Duke Impact Award last year. “The Burning’’ is an a’capella musical of original song, movement and dialogue rooted in African-American tradition.

“The Burning’’ imagines the social and political dynamics surrounding each of the tragic scenarios -- the Rhythm Night Club Fire of Natchez, MI (1940) and the E2 Club Stampede of Chicago, IL (2003) -- and how race, class, gender and generation play out in different ways. Truscott says she wanted to examine “the way we understand identity and community when it’s a matter of life and death.” 

Truscott, an African-American woman and Muslim, was invited to bring the performance to USF as part of USF and Art2Action’s THIS Bridge project. The project hosts national and international performance artists and events with the aim of enhancing understanding of Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures and identities, over the course of two years. 

“Truscott is an artist who can talk about those identities and the history of African-American Muslims in the country,” notes Arts2Action Founder Andrea Assaf.

This performance also bridges Black History Month with February’s lesser known celebration, Islam Awareness month. Assaf and Truscott both note that the date of the performance is also the 50th Anniversary of assassination of Malcolm X.

Truscott and the Progress Theatre will also participate in the USF Institute on Black Life "Race & Place" conference Friday, February 20th, which is free and open to the public. 

New Hyde Park paper boutique in South Tampa hosts Valentine's Day makers market

Paper Seahorse, a new artisanal paper goods and crafts store in Hyde Park, is the fulfillment of founder Tona Bell’s longtime desire to create a space centered on writing, paper and presentation.

The Paper Seahorse will host a free pop-up inspired retail event, the Makers Market, from 10 am-6 pm on Saturday, Feb. 14. The market’s carefully curated selection of crafts and wares from local artisans will be open to the public.

A unique mix of makers, materials and mediums include: letterpress, leather, girl’s dresses, jewelry, sweets, men’s accessories, and fresh floral and body products. Tampa Makers Market vendors include:
  • Ella Bing: bow ties, accessories, and all things Southern
  • Fortenberry: leather wallets, bags, and other accessories made locally in Ybor City
  • Lellow: girls' clothing remade from recycled materials
  • Strands of Sunshine: ladies' jewelry
  • Tampa Type: vintage typewriters
  • A South Tampa teen who creates confections using homemade recipes and fondant frosting.
Makers markets are the latest iteration of a national and international trend concerning makers, says style consultant Alex English: “Specifically, people who want to use their hands to create products or consumables in small quantities, using the best materials for superior products.”

English, who runs local blog Remarqed, is Bell’s partner in staging the upcoming event. 

English recently worked with Christopher Devitt of Fortenberry on the launch of the Blind Tiger Café and CoWork Ybor. Bell and English are longtime friends who share a “keen appreciation for quality, handmade goods,” English explains. “We love local, and love shopping.”

With the Maker’s Market, Bell and English hope to build awareness of local makers and to help increase their business.

“We all make choices about which brands and people to support with our dollars. Goods with a story, made from the highest quality materials, should at least be an everyday option, rather than the exception,” Bell says. “These makers are, after all, our neighbors and friends.”

St. Pete “does a tremendous job in their community,” says Bell, who hopes to see Tampa shine a similar spotlight on makers. “I think Tampa can do better.  We have found some folks who are indeed motivated by this and hope the momentum continues.“

The Paper Seahorse boutique, located at 211 S. Howard Ave., brings a unique touch of charm to the Hyde Park neighborhood.
Upcoming Paper Seahorse classes set for spring include collage, 'zine making, paper crafts, card making, and lettering. More classes will be added in coming months. Later in 2015, Paper Seahorse will be available to host parties for wedding showers, baby showers and children’s birthdays.

“We aim to have a community creative space where like-minded folks can have a place in Tampa to meet,” Bell says.

Pasco County opens its first STEAM magnet school

The nation’s best schools are places where children can grow, discover and learn in a collaborative environment, asking questions to help them gain a deeper understanding of subject matter in a way that facilitates lifelong learning.

That’s what Pasco County’s Sanders Memorial Elementary School plans to be when it opens in August, 2015. 

The county’s first magnet school for elementary students, Sanders has a unique emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects. 

The STEAM focus is workforce-driven, with the prediction that jobs in STEM fields are increasing at double the rate of non-STEM fields. The addition of the arts exemplifies the role arts play in creative problem solving and innovative thinking critical to all careers. 

“That’s important to Pasco, when we look at college, career and life readiness,” says Jason Petry, recently appointed Principal at Sanders. “We want to start installing an excitement and curiosity about these subjects in students at a young age.”

A New Port Richey native and University of South Florida graduate, Petry has worked in Pasco County schools for all of his career. His passion and excitement about the learning environment at Sanders is evident by hearing him speak. 

“This school will look different, and it will feel different,” says Petry.

The LEED-certified buildings will feature group learning stations, where students will at times move in between classrooms during the day. The hands-on instruction will allow them to make real-world connections. To borrow from entrepreneurship education, Sanders will employ a “failing forward” philosophy, which believes that perseverance through failure is key to providing a positive learning experience. 

As a public school, Sanders will mirror other schools in the district. The curriculum will include the same core standards that other public schools adhere to, but with the addition of STEAM-focused subjects such as computer coding. Arts subjects such as design thinking, music and humanities will be integrated into the curriculum.

“Engagement is a big factor,” says Lauren Burdick, STEAM coordinator, K-12 for the Pasco County School District. “We want to create a felt need in students and relate that to concepts around STEAM.” 

With 1,699 applicants for the 762 openings at the school, the need is evident. According to Burdick, the county has implemented project-based learning and cross-curricular connections in other schools throughout the district as well. 

Pasco aims to expand the model to middle and high schools in the future.

Local library Venture Club introduces Tampa Bay area kids to entrepreneurship

Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Libraries has taken another step toward embracing modern technology and innovation with a new five-month program aimed at elementary-school children: the Venture Club. 

Venture Club begins with students brainstorming to identify a need that they see either in their home or their school communities. Then, with the help of volunteer speakers and mentors, students will attempt to develop ideas for something that can help solve that issue. 

“It’s more about the process than the product,” Senior Librarian Laura Doyle emphasizes. “We want to help students figure out the skills that entrepreneurs use to recognize an audience, evaluate the resources around them and information in front of them, and how to make decisions based on that.”
Venture Club is based on curriculum provided to the library by Venture Lab, a group that has developed several successful programs geared toward teaching children how to innovate. Venture Club has been implemented as an after-school program in other areas of the country, but Tampa’s is the only club based in a library. 

The club, open to students in grades 3-5, will meet two Saturdays per month from January through May in The Hive at John F. Germany Library. Classes will run through May to coincide with the academic school year. The Friends of the John F. Germany Public Library subsidize program materials and costs.

Bimonthly sessions include topics like, “What is Entrepreneurship?” and “Prototyping” and “Practicing/Preparing Pitches,” which will be presented by volunteers who are well-versed in the subject matter.
Current volunteer speakers and mentors come from a wide range of skills, backgrounds and experience levels, from a high school student who runs his own successful photography business to community leaders like Daniel James Scott, the new Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum.
Good mentors are “people who can share their experiences, encourage kids, challenge them, empower them, ask questions and help guide them to resources to develop their ideas,” Doyle says.

Venture Club first met on Jan. 10, but several seats are still available for interested students. Doyle plans to offer a recap of previous sessions to new students. 

HCPL introduced programs like volunteer-run CoderDojo (where mentors teach children to code) in 2013, along with Alligator Zone (a family-friendly ‘Shark Tank’-like pitching event) and the revamping a large area in the John F. Germany Library into The Hive, a mixed-use maker space, in 2014.

The library is aligned with Hillsborough County’s efforts toward building up the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the area, says Doyle. 

“We’re trying to get to know the entrepreneurial community better, to serve them better,” Doyle explains. “Starting with the kids and getting them to see that they can solve problems right here in their community is very important.”

1 Million Cups comes to Tampa, Hillsborough County

Entrepreneurs and startup founders in Tampa will soon have a new platform for sharing their visions with the local community. 

1 Million Cups, a Kauffman Foundation program that operates in cities across the country, is set to launch at the Hillsborough County Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City. Tampa’s inaugural 1MC Cups will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 8-10 a.m. at the ECC.

Those 1 million cups? That’s the amount of coffee 1 Million Cups hopes to serve during weekly meetups. Each week, two startup founders present their companies to local leaders, entrepreneurs and students. Presentations are followed by Q&A sessions with audience members.

While a coffee sponsor for Tampa’s location has not yet been announced, Kahwa Coffee has served 1 Million Cups at its St. Petersburg location The Greenhouse since that program launched in Oct 2013.

Some of the many startup companies that have presented at the 1MC St. Petersburg location include SavvyCard, a web-based business card; Florida Funders, a crowd-funding portal for entrepreneurs; WazInIt, a mobile application that won Startup Weekend Tampa Bay in Nov 2013; and Venture House, an effort to turn vacant houses into housing and job sites for local entrepreneurs and artists.

The ECC, located at 2101 E. Palm Ave. in Ybor City, celebrated their grand opening in Dec 2014.

The ECC serves as a small business services center, as well as a meeting place for community partners and local businesses. Entrepreneurs and “wannapreneurs” alike can use the center’s resources, all of which are at little or no cost, says the county’s Economic Development Manager Lindsey Kimball. Those resources include conference space, free classes, business training, and workshops aimed at helping startup founders build their businesses.
Headquartering 1 Million Cups in Tampa at Hillsborough County’s new entrepreneurial space is the latest in a series of efforts to bring a focus on local business to the community, from the upcoming Startup Week Tampa Bay to Venture Club, a meetup for entrepreneurial children that lauched in Jan 2015 at the county’s flagship library. 

Meanwhile, north of Ybor City, near the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens and Moffitt Cancer Center, steps are being taken to revitalize the area into an “innovation district,” led by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Sharpe, for whom the ECC is named. Sharpe stepped into the role of executive director for the Tampa Innovation Alliance in late 2014.

Innovation Alliance invites businesses to help transform University area of north Tampa

The Tampa Innovation Alliance aims to transform almost 15,000 acres of commerce, housing and retail surrounding the University of South Florida and affiliate hospitals into a revitalized “Innovation District” that will attract local visitors and tourists.

After a 10-year stint as a Hillsborough County commissioner, Mark Sharpe has stepped into the role of executive director for the Tampa Innovation Alliance. The group formed in 2011 with intentions to redevelop the university area as a premiere destination, but focused too much on a “master plan,” Sharpe says. “I want to make sure that we focus on our key mission: to create this ‘Innovation District’ core.”

The area, which stretches from I-75 on the east to I-275 on the west; north to the Bearss/Bruce B Downs intersection; and south to Busch Blvd, is comprised of thousands of acres in which run-down retail and residential blocks co-mingle with specialized hospitals like Moffitt and the VA center, the University of South Florida’s campus, and popular entertainment destinations like Busch Gardens and MOSI Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry.

“I think there is a way to capture some of the market that is driving past or through, not stopping, at the local businesses that abut these major anchors,” Sharpe explains. “We’re going to focus on outreach and bring in members, large and small, who will all partner together.”
A kick-off luncheon on Friday, Jan. 9, serves as the group’s first outreach to the broader community, Sharpe says. Local businesses both inside and outside the future Innovation District are invited to join Sharpe and other Tampa Innovation Alliance members, such as USF President Judy Genshaft, at the USF Connect Building to discuss the group’s next steps and ideas for area branding.

Businesses are invited to provide feedback at Friday’s meeting, along with a series of monthly meetings Sharpe plans to host, similar to those he conducted at Buddy Brew during his run as a county commissioner. The first of these meetings, open to the public, is scheduled for Jan 23.

The first focus is getting organized, Sharpe says. “I’m doing it all right now – I’m approving colors of the logo, and spellchecking things, and calling people to encourage them to come.”

The group’s current members and partners include Fifth Third Bank, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brighthouse, Tampa International Airport, EWI Construction, and more. Tampa Innovation Alliance’s Kickoff Luncheon will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at USF Connect, 3802 Spectrum Boulevard in Tampa.

Valpak ventures to St. Pete, adds jobs and an app

If you’ve saved money recently by using a coupon from one of the seemingly ubiquitous blue envelopes that appear in your mailbox monthly, it’s thanks to Valpak. But did you know that you could get the same coupons for local and national businesses online -- and even through your smartphone?

For modern shoppers, the company has developed an array of up-to-the-minute digital advertising products and online services to complement its traditional direct mail campaigns. 

Most innovative is Valpak’s Local Savings smartphone app, where customers can search for coupons for local businesses like restaurants, spa services and auto care. Those coupons can then be automatically integrated into the Samsung Wallet, iOS Passbook, Google Wallet and Windows Phone Wallet. 

“We are in an exciting time here!” says Valpak’s PR Manager Marsha Strickhouser.

The company is currently hiring for a number of new jobs in the Tampa Bay area, including positions like Senior Computer Operator and Digital Process Planner. A complete list of current job openings can be found here.

At Valpak’s new North St. Pete offices, collaboration and a fun atmosphere -- with perks like ping-pong tables, cushy beanbag chairs and even scooters -- are all part of the design.

Strickhouser credits Valpak president Michael Vivio for the changing company culture, which includes a focus on community. An emphasis on volunteering through the employee-led “Blue Crew” has helped Valpak sponsor volunteer activities like the United Way Day of Caring, Habitat for Humanity, PACE, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Boys and Girls Club. 

Valpak was listed #37 on United Way Suncoast’s 2014 list of Tampa Bay’s most generous workplaces.

In Dec. 2014, the coupon aggregator moved to new corporate offices located at 805 Executive Center Drive West in St. Petersburg, Fl. The move places the company’s headquarters closer to their manufacturing center, an automated facility that prints Valpak coupons and envelopes for the almost 170 Valpak franchises around North America. Between the two facilities, Valpak has around 700 local employees, along with another 1,000 franchise employees throughout the US and Canada.  

Valpak is owned by Cox Target Media, whose parent company, Cox Enterprises, is based in Atlanta.

TekBank appoints Tampa tech leader, expands to Tampa Bay

Washington, D.C.-based technology consulting firm TekBank has chosen Tampa Bay as the hub for its Southeast expansion efforts. The firm has a global reach and more than 20 years of industry experience, with enterprise giants like Amtrak on their list of customers.

TekBank’s expansion into the Tampa Bay market will mean job creation locally, along with a focus on growing consulting efforts in Florida and nearby states.

The company “strategically picked Tampa Bay as an expansion hub for the Southeast,” says newly appointed Senior Partner S. Khurrum "Sid'' Hasan.

Hasan will head up TekBank’s business development efforts in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Orlando and Miami, Florida. 

Hasan brings over 15 years of consulting and business development experience to TekBank. While he moved to Tampa from D.C. only recently (in 2014), Hasan has already begun to establish himself as a community leader in the Tampa Bay scene. The technology executive was selected as a judge for the 2014 HULT Prize regional competition at the University of Tampa, where student entrepreneurs pitched startup ideas as solutions to a global social issue. Hasan also co-founded CUPS, a neighborhood program for Channelside District residents.

Now Hasan will bring his leadership and expertise to TekBank’s consulting services.

The company specializes in the compute stack and offers businesses functional and technical consulting, from conceptualization to post-launch follow-up. TekBank’s services include: application development, mobility, quality assurance, infrastructure support, and PMO.

“Our DNA historically has been centered around customers that offer a B2B and B2C land, sea and air function,” says Hasan. “We hope to employ a consulting practice centered around our suite of services.”

TekBank’s Southeast Launch will take place at The Tampa Club, 101 E Kennedy Blvd, from 5:30-7:30 pm on Thursday, Feb 12.

Kobie Marketing in St. Petersburg grows, adds 55 jobs

Kobie Marketing is experiencing tremendous growth and as a result adding jobs in all departments.

The loyalty marketing firm will be 25 years old this coming April. Founded in St. Petersburg, Kobie Marketing helps companies bring customers closer to their brand and increase revenue through marketing programs. The company uses touch points and communication tools such as point of sale, email and social media to keep customers informed and engaged with the products and services they love. They also provide research, data analytics, brand management and creative services to support the loyalty marketing programs.  

The company’s growth has been trending for several years, going from 30 employees in 2007 to 138 today. 35 new hires were made in 2014, and 55 are expected in 2015. The company attributes its growth to new clients both nationally and globally, particularly those with large branding needs such as a recent partnership formed with Synchrony Financial. Other industries the company works with include consumer package goods, retail, entertainment and lifestyle.

Current open positions include: IT Developers, Project Managers, Account Managers, Senior Data Analyst, Director of Business Intelligence, Director of Loyalty Strategy, Loyalty Consultant, Email Specialist and Email Marketing Manager.

"It’s an amazing organization with huge potential for growth," says Selena McLaughlin, director of human resources and administration. "It’s small enough that it feels like a small company, and the impact that anybody has coming into the organization can be huge. You really do have a voice here."

Custom and disaster recovery software provider adds 3 jobs

A growing company that provides software for custom design and to assist with disaster recovery is adding project and developer positions.

Tampa-based Zenzio has two major areas of focus: custom software development meeting a variety of client needs, and disaster recovery for events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

The disaster recovery product is designed to assist private contractors who ultimately receive FEMA funds with operations and efficiency after a natural disaster. The software provides operational efficiencies and ensures safety and other protocol are met during tasks such as cleaning up debris, inspecting houses and keeping track of assets such as generators.

"We’re positioning ourselves as a technology provider to all of the players, all of the contractors who deal with a disaster clean-up," says Andrew Grubbs, founder and CEO, a serial tech entrepreneur who moved to Tampa from Washington in 1995.

The company was founded in 2011 as a different product all together that didn’t pan out, which led to the increase in custom software clients and eventually the disaster recovery product.

Zenzio is expanding its current team of six full-time workers and seven subcontractors with the addition of a Project Manager and two Microsoft Developers. The growth is the result of client’s expansion as well as the enhancement of the disaster recovery focus.  

Grubbs plans to keep the company in Tampa for the long run, noting that the business environment is a nice mix of fast and moderate pace. "It’s both relaxed, and it has energy," says Grubbs. "I like dealing with the people down here."

Mobile software development company adds 7 tech jobs In Tampa

At Nitro Mobile Solutions, company culture is critical.

The software development company, based in Hillsborough County just east of Tampa near the intersection of I-75 and I-4, is currently hiring for seven tech positions. Nitro Mobile Solutions is seeking: two iOS developers; two C# developers; one Android developer; one support specialist and one quality assurance specialist.

“The characteristics we seek in our employees, in order of importance, are: passion, drive, ownership, critical thinking, problem solving, and then skill,” explains Nitro’s Social Marketing Specialist Lauren Webber. “Many companies put ‘skill’ first, but we can teach skill -- we can’t change who you are. It is vital to our company to find employees who align with why Nitro exists, not only what we do during our existence.”

Nitro CEO Pete Slade founded the company in 2009 in Tampa after years of experience as a programmer ad solution architect both here and in the UK. The company’s products include full-service mobile applications and platforms that can be fully customized and managed by customers, with no coding experience required. 

“Our mission is to empower our clients through mobility,” says Webber. “Our services have morphed overtime from building business applications, to including middleware, to offering a complete ecosystem atop a platform. Flexibility in our vision, especially in this industry, keeps us current and competitive.”

Could you be the right fit for Nitro? The company, which has nearly doubled in size in 2014 alone, focuses on organic growth and cultural fit when seeking new talent. 

“Being open to different personalities who can collaborate together is vital to our office culture, “explains Webber. “We play just as hard as we work—and we work extremely hard, so it’s important to find new employees who fit into the culture we’ve created.”

A few unique job perks include quirky office lighting like lava lamps, complimentary coffee, and healthy snacks. Creativity, innovation, and freedom to “think outside the box” are encouraged, Webber says.

“Nitro provides an environment in which our employees can exercise their creativity. We encourage our employees to make each project their own,” Webber says. “The freedom, trust and value given to each team member adds to our collective job satisfaction.”

8-Count Studios adds new twist to urban dance battles

Downtown Tampa’s newest renovated theater space turned dance studio hopes to revolutionize the way dance battles are run.

Traditionally, a ballroom or swing dance studio will host a recital to allow its students to show off their work, sometimes with a competition element. In the urban and hip hop scene, their version of a recital is referred to as a battle or jam. Jamming originated as an informal show-off of dance moves in a social circle, where dancers would clear a circle and then take turns displaying their best moves. In a battle, the circle becomes more formal and individuals or pairs of dancers pair off against each other in a competition-style event.

Most battles lack an element of formality, with different dance styles competing against each other. In a desire to formalize these events, 8-Count Studios on North Franklin Street in Tampa is hosting a Layer Cake Battle on January 3.

"We want to revolutionize how battles are run," says Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios.

The event is named Layer Cake Battle because of the layered judging that will be done in rounds. Using Donnelly’s sports dance background, the studio will introduce a bracket system that will list names of dancers on a board. Dance brackets include: popping and locking, wacking and voguing, breaking, and krumping. Each winner will progress to the next level with prizes awarded in each bracket until an ultimate Best of Show winner is announced.

"Dancing is a sport, so we’re treating it like a sport," says Donnelly. "Dancers are athletes; they are competitors."

Well-known choreographers and judges will be flown in from across the country. The event will also include workshops, vendors and a concert. Cash and other prizes will be given to the winners, as well as a private brunch session with the judges.

The event is open to the public. The price of admission is $20 per person.

BAMA offers scholarships to support manufacturing education

High school seniors looking into manufacturing careers have an opportunity to apply for a scholarship to continue their education.

The Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA) is offering three $1,000 scholarships to students in Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas County. Any student planning to continue his or her education at a technical, state or community college in a program that supports manufacturing industries is encouraged to apply.

BAMA has been providing the scholarships for over 20 years to students entering into a manufacturing field, which can include machining, welding and trade jobs as well as technical and engineering fields. The organization is partnering with Hillsborough Education Foundation and Pinellas Education Foundation to administer two of the scholarships in those counties.

The goal of the scholarship program is to support the local manufacturing workforce in an effort to support the industry. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 2,728 manufacturing companies in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County in 2013. Employment in manufacturing industries increased by 1.8% in Florida that same year.

"We want to promote education, and in turn to help manufacturing grow," says Becky Burton, association executive for BAMA. "Without continuing education for people going into manufacturing, you aren’t going to bring new industry here or help them fill the jobs they need in order to keep them here."

BAMA is a 100-member organization whose mission is to support manufacturing in the Tampa Bay region through growth and economic development efforts. Services include networks for idea exchange and support of local educational programs. BAMA hosts an annual awards ceremony that highlights local science fair winners and also supports the robotics team at Middleton High School in Tampa.

Blind Tiger Cafe, CoWork Ybor open in Ybor City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of Tampa fast tracks Minority Business Certification Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ringling Museum unveils rare circus banners by Belgian artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USF, Stetson collaborate to assist military veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE by FIVE celebrates every dimension of the arts

'Tis the season for arts-lovers and collectors to find reasonably priced original artwork! The Arts Council of Hillsborough County is hosting its third annual FIVE by FIVE event, Friday, Oct. 17th, at 8 p.m., where the flash exhibit of nearly 700 original pieces of pieces of 5-inch by 5-inch art will be available for sale for $25 each.

“If you love art or are an arts supporter, this is an environment where you are immersed in it,” says Terri Simons, the Arts Council’s Director of Program Services and organizer of the event.  “Artists of all disciplines - visual, performing, literary artists; friends and supporters can come together and be part of one community.” 

The exhibit encourages guests to experience art intuitively, not based on the fame or reputation of a given artist or the criteria of a curator. While there are many award-winning professional artists who have contributed pieces to the exhibit, they are mixed democratically with emerging and new artists and all are exhibited without attribution. The artists’ signatures are on the back.  

“Because the art is displayed anonymously, people learn to appreciate the beauty of a particular piece,” notes Simons. 

The artwork, submitted by artists from the Tampa Bay area and around the nation and world, is highly varied with a spectrum of media from painting, etching and sculpture to glass, metal, fabric and even jewelry. 

The FIVE by FIVE theme is thread throughout the event, which will take over the first floor of the Tampa Museum of Art, and includes about 40 five- to 10-minute live performances of music, dance, theatre and spoken word in a pop-up club in the lecture hall. The constant flow also mixes in some more recognized performance artists such as Kuumba Dancers and Drummers, Soho Indigo,The Lint Rollers and Stageworks Theatre.

The event, which grew to 900 guests last year, benefits the Arts Council’s individual artist grants program.  The $13,000 raised by last year’s FIVE by FIVE contributed to eleven individual artists grants, which are also in part funded by the Hillsborough County Commission and Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. 

Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance through the Tampa Museum of Art’s website for $10.  Admission to the event includes the museum’s current exhibition, Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color exhibition. Museum members are admitted free.

USF's Graphicstudio invites you to purchase artwork

Don’t be timid, art-lovers! USF’s Graphicstudio is opening its inventory and inviting the Tampa Bay community to start or add to their personal art collections for its annual one-day sale Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. 
“This is the one time of year where you can see everything out of the vault,” says Kristin Soderqvist, the studio’s director of sales and marketing. She is expecting up to 500 guests throughout the day and notes this is not an auction, “the earlier you come, the more opportunities you will have.”

Hundreds of pieces of original fine art prints and sculpture multiples from “bluechip” names, such as Mapplethorpe, Rauschenberg and Katz, to emerging artists, are deeply discounted for this event, which aims to engage the community and raise funds for Graphicstudio’s mission.
“People think they can’t afford [such quality] work, but there are plenty of pieces people can afford,” comments Soderqvist. “There is no pressure, it’s very relaxed.”

Soderqvist says not only is it an excellent opportunity to buy original artwork, but also to understand how Graphicstudio works and its relevance in the world of art on a national and international scale. The studio provides the technical expertise and hardware for a spectrum of printing - lithography, etching, photogravure, aquatints, silkscreens, cyanotype, to name a few.  

“You can ask questions, up close. You can see the printers. Ask, how does this process work?,” says Soderqvist.
Graphicstudio, founded in 1968, is the largest university-based press in the United States and invites artists to work in the studio throughout the year. 
Sales will benefit Graphicstudio’s continuing artists-in-residence programs, educational programming and commitment to research and the application of traditional and new techniques for the production of limited edition prints and sculpture multiples.

Cowork Ybor provides space for local creatives, plans open house Oct. 9

CoWork Ybor plans an open house on Oct. 9th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to share the vision for the coworking space with Tampa residents. That vision? A creative community.

CoWork Ybor Founder Roberto Torres hopes to see the space at 1903 E. 7th Ave become ''an informal incubator/accelerator for the other industries in Tampa -- besides tech -- that don't always get the mention or the attention that they should.''

Torres envisions CoWork Ybor as a ''community storefront for creatives only. We want to be a space that fosters and grows industries like food and beverage, retail and hospitality.''

The emphasis at CoWork Ybor is placed on creative jobs, he says, because startup entrepreneurs in these industries might not know much about the tech world – or about being an entrepreneur.

"We really want this space to be about the people who are going to be in it,'' Torres says. "Their work is going to be better, because they are going to be in a community that fosters and brings creativity and knowledge to them.''

To that end, the space may play host to exhibits from local artists in the future. Torres also plans to develop "curated experiences'' each month, by bringing in lunchtime speakers through a partnership with the Visit Tampa Bay program Unlock Tampa Bay.

Torres cites Brooklyn-based Hyper Akt as an inspiration for the concept he would like to bring to Tampa. "There's really nothing like that in Tampa. We're like a band of outsiders trying to bring creatives together,'' he says.

Along with freelancers and entrepreneurial creatives, Torres also hopes to attract young members from Entreprenuership programs at nearby schools like the University of Tampa and St. Petersburg College.

Torres is in talks with Verizon to donate the Internet for CoWork Ybor, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The space will have seating for about 40: two conference rooms, a handful of communal tables, and a more relaxed lounge space with couches in the area facing 7th Ave.

CoWork Ybor will host a membership drive from Oct. 27-31st before formally opening Nov 1st, 2014. Membership, which will be capped at 75, is $100/month. Click this link to email for more information.

Next door, the Blind Tiger Cafe is the result of a partnership between Torres' men's apparel company Black & Denim and local businesses Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea Company and Piquant, along with Tricycle Studios.

The Blind Tiger Cafe will feature fresh tea and coffee drinks along with pastries like German chocolate cake and guava and cheese croissants, but it will not have wifi; instead, customers can pay $5 for a pass to gain access to the coworking space for the whole day. The mixed-use storefront at 1901 W. 7th Ave in Tampa's historic Ybor City is set to open on Nov. 5th, 2014.

Tampa startup offers combination personal and professional social network

With the myriad of social networks available for personal and professional use, it can sometimes become confusing and cumbersome to manage everything. A new startup in Tampa hopes to ease this burden by creating a combination personal and professional network, with an added job search component.

Founded in November of 2013, Flipsetter provides an online tool that meets several goals. At the basic level, it operates as a social network similar to LinkedIn or Facebook, allowing users to share news, photos, links and videos. Addressing a common concern with other networks, Flipsetter provides users with ultimate control of privacy settings, allowing them to choose which of their networks can see which information.   

A user can create one or more of three profile types: business, organization or individual. Each type has their own tools, and all can be used within the same login or profile.

An added benefit is a feature similar to a virtual resume or portfolio where users can list their academic history, work history and other accomplishments. Businesses and other organizations can also use the service to set up a page for promotional and organizational purposes, and to post jobs.

"We call it one stop shopping," says founder Sabaresh Krishnan, USF graduate and current MBA student.

Krishnan thought of the name when hearing about the frustrations involved with having multiple networks and resources to manage profiles, time and organizations. Wanting to find a way to resolve this, he thought "let me flip that around and come up with a way to make it happen."

The service currently has approximately 300 users in beta phase, including several student groups at USF, and plans to go live by October.

SPC launches international film series for students, community

Partnering with embassies and cultural organizations, St. Petersburg College is launching its own free international film series open to its students and faculty, and welcomes the surrounding local communities to take part. 

The first of the series, a Mexican classic, "Frida Kahlo: naturaleza viva,'' will take place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, at the SPC Clearwater Campus Arts Auditorium

"Part of my job is strategic internationalization, to increase global engagement for students here and engage the community in global awareness,'' says Ramona Kirsch, Director for the Center for International Programs. "International films have always played a part in bringing awareness and understanding of other cultures.''

St. Pete College has a surprisingly robust international program including 16 faculty-led programs for study abroad, and nearly 200 international students from 56 countries. Kirsch says the college is committed to providing its students a rich educational experience and making it relevant to the world. 

The first film, timed to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month and in partnership with the Mexican Consulate, is a biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Kirsch says they chose this film to kick of the series for its relevance to the Clearwater campus and its ties to the sizable local Hispanic community. Prior to the film, SPC will host a Hispanic food and Information Fair in front of the Auditorium. 

The timing and content of the remaining films -- four in total -- is still being finalized, but the subsequent screenings will be spread out to other SPC campuses: St. Petersburg/Gibbs, Tarpon Springs and Seminole.

"Our hope is that this becomes an annual event,'' says Kirsh. "We have 10 learning centers, so we hope that they will all host at least one and that it will be ongoing for the community, not just for faculty, staff and students.''

Carrollwood Day School Hosts Startup Weekend For Youth Entrepreneurs

Pitch an idea, form a team and become part of the world’s largest entrepreneurial community in 54 hours. That’s the strategy behind every Startup Weekend around the globe – and it’s the mission for the first ever Startup Weekend Tampa Youth on September 12-14, 2014.
The intensive, team-based concept at the backbone of the global Startup Weekend movement has gained steam in Tampa Bay over several years of biannual events.

Growing, innovative local startups such as Wazinit, and breakout success stories like Eventjoy (formerly EXMO), are the result of previous Tampa Bay Startup Weekends.
Ryan Sullivan, a “Global Facilitator” and local organizer for Startup Weekend Tampa Bay and Startup Weekend Tampa Youth, says that the goal for the events in over 200 cities worldwide “is to educate and inspire people in the community to take action in entrepreneurship.”

Startup Weekend Youth is specifically geared toward 5th–8th graders - “the next generation’s entrepreneurs.” Sullivan notes that the event will look and feel a little different this time around. Participants will still pitch ideas and work in teams, but with a focus on teaching and inspiring young thinkers. Attendees will also have the opportunity to interact with coaches who are experts in their field and successful entrepreneurs.

“This is something special,” Sullivan says. “We will create an atmosphere of exercises and experiences that will inspire creative ideas in young minds and help kids to learn how to move those ideas forward towards action, and in the process, collaborate with their peers.”
Students are encouraged to register under one of three categories (Creative/Design, Coding/Programming, Business/Finance) based on their interests. Hands-on activities will be geared toward helping students identify a challenge to solve, learn to understand potential customers or users, work effectively with others, “and in the end, build something they are proud of as a team,” says Sullivan.

“Today’s youth are full of creative ideas for how to make lives and the world a better place. This will be a place for them to take those ideas and move them towards reality,” he explains. “This event will also help build confidence in creating and sharing ideas for those that tend to keep them inward.” 

Along with Sullivan, Nicholas Catania, Deborah Neff and Todd Broyles are co-organizers of the event. They expect more than 50 students to attend and participate in Startup Weekend Tampa Youth.
“We like to say that it is the least expensive babysitter at $25 for the weekend,” Sullivan says.

Startup Weekend Tampa Youth starts Friday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m. The event will take place at Carrollwood Day School, 1515 W. Bearss Ave. in Tampa. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here for $25.00. 

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay's First Senior Care ER Opens In St. Petersburg

Seniors looking for emergency care in Pinellas County will now have an option for a more personalized experience.

St. Petersburg General Hospital opened the first Senior Care Emergency Room in the Tampa Bay region in mid-August.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 23 percent of the population in Pinellas County is over 65 years of age, and this population continues to grow each year. The hospital noticed that approximately 20 percent of patients are over 60. That, combined with the growing number of seniors in the Tampa Bay region prompted the emphasis.

The hospital talked with patients to find out what they could do to better meet their needs. The result was a remodeling of a 4-bed wing and waiting area in the emergency room into a senior care area. The remodeled space includes non-skid floor, dimmer lighting and more comfortable chairs at the bedside for family members. The stretcher pads themselves are also thicker and more comfortable.

"We tried to make it a little bit more of a healing, comfortable environment," says Diane Conti, director of ER services for the hospital.

A section of the waiting area is now set aside for seniors as well, with softer lighting, more comfortable chairs and a larger television. Hearing and visual aids are available for patients who may have forgotten their hearing aids or glasses. Three parking spaces close to the building are designated as senior parking.

The hospital’s staff also underwent training on the needs of senior patients, such as dementia screening, fall risks and social screening. Emphasis is placed on working with caregivers to maximize the at-home healing experience.

"We don’t want them to be thought of as a different group, but rather a group with different needs," says Conti.

The move is part of a national trend, with over 50 hospitals in the U.S. opening senior specific emergency centers since 2011, according to the ECRI Institute.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Diane Conti, St. Petersburg Hospital

Florida Bookstore Day Celebrates Local Bookstores, Authors

Tiffany Razzano was driving down Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg when she spotted a poster in the storefront window at Daddy Cool Records promoting Record Store Day. She then drove past Wilson’s Book World and thought, "Why is there no bookstore day?"

She did some research only to learn that California is the only state that has fully developed the concept of a bookstore day.

So why not Florida? Why not now? she thought. The result?

The inaugural Florida Bookstore Day will take place at independent and used bookstores in cities throughout the state on November 15, concentrating on the Tampa Bay area, where Razzano runs Wordier Than Thou, a group that supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show.

"I wanted to do something big," says Razzano. "It’s a celebration of independent bookstores and the writing community. People won’t even know they’re at a literary event."

Her goal is to showcase local bookstores and the writing community. Soon after she started talking up the concept in social media and elsewhere, Razzano connected with book lovers in Orlando who wanted to be part of the celebration. Bookstores from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys have now signed on to participate. Expect a day of book releases and author signings, open mics and workshops on literary topics

Local participants include: Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Music, Old Tampa Book Company and Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Standup Librarians, Wilson’s Book World and Wings Bookstore in St. Petersburg, Book Bank in Largo and Back in the Day Books in Dunedin.

An after party will take place at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, featuring local authors and literary organizations, the Bluebird Books Bus, raffles and food trucks.

The event is sponsored by Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and also received a grant from Awesome Tampa Bay.
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tiffany Razzano, Florida Bookstore Day

Working Women Of Tampa Bay Expands Statewide

A Tampa-based networking group for female professionals and entrepreneurs is expanding throughout Florida.

Working Women of Florida is an expansion of the Working Women of Tampa Bay professional networking group, which Jessica Rivelli founded in Tampa in 2009. WWoTB currently has 750 local members in Tampa, with an additional 100 statewide. The group expanded to include an Orlando chapter in 2012.

"Our immediate goal is to grow Working Women throughout the state of Florida to includes chapters in Fort Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville,'' says Rivelli.

Events include lunch-and-learns, coffee chats and educational seminars with local and national successful female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.

The group's second annual state conference will be Sept. 11 and 12, 2014, at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. Rivelli expects 300 female entrepreneurs and executives from around the state to attend.

Keynote speakers include Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer for the state of Florida; Bevan Gray-Rogel, Encore Tampa Bay president and founder; Lisa G Jacobsen, Executive Coach at Workplace Solutions Tampa; and Dr. Jennifer Hall, Director of Coaching at the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College.

Tampa Bay-based speakers also include Angela Ardolino, founder of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine; Dotty Bollinger, COO and president of Laser Spine Institute; and Lee Lowry, past president of The Junior League of Tampa.

Registration for the Working Women of Florida State Conference is available on the event website.

To help grow WWoF, Rivelli hired Lauren Tice as Director of Development for Working Women of Florida. Tice is a Florida native who grew up in Temple Terrace, northeast of Tampa, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Communications.

"Lauren's role is to expand Working Women through out the state,'' says Rivelli. “She'll be traveling regularly to grow chapters and get talented professionals involved. I'm very excited to have her on board.''

Tice has a background in networking and communications, having previously served as Coordinator of Member Services for the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce for close to five years. More recently, Tice worked as events manager and eventually director of The Regent, a special events and performance venue in Riverview, southeast of Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Jessica Rivelli, Working Women of Tampa Bay

Programming Academy The Iron Yard Expands To Tampa Bay

A new school for programmers is coming to Tampa Bay this fall. The Iron Yard Academy, an intensive 12-week-long training program, is set to open its doors in downtown St. Petersburg in September 2014.

The programming school will be located "within walking distance of some of the best local spots in town,'' says George Junginger, campus director for the Iron Yard's Tampa Bay location.

Aspiring developers can apply to either Rails or Front End Engineering courses. The cost for each 12-week course is $10,000. Part of this price tag includes mentoring, job placement after course completion and career support.

The Iron Yard Tampa Bay staff has already begun to build partnerships with local software and tech companies, including Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay.

"[CToTB] founder and CEO Sylvia Martinez is on our Employer Advisory Board, and will work closely with our staff to help us develop our program in a way that's best for Tampa Bay area companies,'' says Junginger.
A full staff, including two Tampa natives, has been hired to run the Tampa Bay branch of the Greenville, S.C.-based startup school. The Iron Yard has 10 other locations scattered through the country, mostly in the southeast. Tampa Bay is the second Florida location for the startup school; the other is in Orlando.

Brian Burridge, a Safety Harbor resident who attended St. Petersburg College, is set to be Rails instructor. Burridge is the CEO and founder of Commendable Kids. Justin Herrick, a Tampa resident who is a self-taught programmer, is Front End instructor.

Students in the Rails program will be taught Ruby on Rails (a popular framework for building servers) and develop skills to manage databases. Front End Engineering students will learn skills to create attractive, functional websites and applications.

The Iron Yard is currently accepting applications for classes, which are slated to begin September 22nd, 2014. Each course will be capped at 15 students per 3-month session.

"We chose to start small, so that we'd maintain the level of quality we know employers are looking for in developers,'' says Junginger, who expects both courses to fill. A few applicants have already been accepted.

The Iron Yard Academy welcomes students from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels.

"We're looking for a pre-existing mindset, not necessarily a pre-existing skill set,'' says Junginger. "The five attributes of the optimal Iron Yard student are: passion for solving problems with technology; genuine enjoyment of the craft of programming; genuine desire to have a career in or related to programming; extremely strong work ethic; and an ability to learn quickly,'' he explains.
Before searching for a space, the Iron Yard began conversations with leaders in the local tech community. The feedback is clear, says Junginger: "Everyone has been extremely excited about what we are bringing to the tech economy in the area and sees it as a need.''
Free programming classes for kids aged 7-17 will be offered later in 2014.

"There are great resources for startups in Tampa, and we want to support the people doing that work by training great developers,'' says Junginger. "We're privileged to play a part in the growing Tampa Bay tech scene.''
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: George Junginger, The Iron Yard

Sarasota Welcomes Heated Exchange Art Exhibit, French Connection

Art Center Sarasota hopes to engage locals and tourists alike with its 2014-15 exhibition series.

The series kicks off October 23 with a traveling exhibit titled Heated Exchange, which features encaustic art, or arts made of molten wax using heated tools. This little known art process can be used for painting, sculptures and other mediums.

The biggest exhibition of the season will be unveiled in May. Titled "Confluence France," the display is part of an 8-year series showcasing artwork and artists from regions and countries where Sarasota has a sister city. Sister Cities International pairs cities with those in other countries with whom they share interests, whether it be due to historical connections, a trade relationship, strong expatriate communities or personal experiences. Sarasota has nine sister cities in all, with this exhibit focusing on Perpignon France. The confluence series began in 2013 with a focus on Tel Mond, Israel.

"We’re finding ways to mutually benefit and grow each other’s municipalities," says Emma Thurgood, exhibitions curator for Arts Center Sarasota.

The series is the first international exhibition for the Center.

The Center is also running a community project allowing people to create pieces of paper installation that will be featured in galleries as part of a Collective Paper Aesthetics exhibit in May and June 2015.

The over 20 exhibitions taking place in the next year were funded in part by a Tourist Development Center (TDC) grant awarded by the Sarasota County Commission, designated for tourist development.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emma Thurgood, Art Center Sarasota

Omega Communities, Sarasota Churches To Develop Senior Living Communities, Create 300 Jobs

Omega Communities, a Birmingham, Ala.-based organization that develops senior living communities on land leased in partnership with faith-based organizations, is bringing its unique business model to Florida's Gulf coast.

Omega is partnering with the Church of Hope in Sarasota and the South Biscayne Church in North Port to develop two assisted living and memory care campuses in Sarasota County.

Omega works with qualified investors in the financing, development and operation of senior care facilities, which are built on land leased by local faith-based organizations. In return, the churches receive a percentage -- between 10 and 25 percent -- of the profit generated by the senior living communities.

"These senior living communities are designed from the inside out. What that means is they are built with a core mission -- a partnership with a large, community impacting church -- and that foundation becomes the center of not only the design of the facility, but more importantly, the core programmatic level of care that will be provided in that community,'' says Omega Communities COO James Taylor, Jr.

Taylor says that the project cost on each Sarasota County facility is just over $30 million, and that once both facilities are completed, the economic impact on Sarasota County is estimated to be in excess of $30 million per year.

The Springs at South Biscayne Church broke ground in January 2014, and the project is expected to reach completion in early spring 2015. The 11,000-square-foot facility will feature 38 memory care units and 95 assisted living units.

The Fountains of Hope broke ground in Sarasota earlier this month (July), with an estimated completion date in fall 2015. Between 150 to 200 jobs will be created during the construction phase, and upon completion, the 9,000-square-foot facility will require 100 fulltime employees.

"We have built a model that utilizes the very best of both the nonprofit and for-profit models for senior care communities. At the core, we've developed a partnership with the church that will provide ministry, volunteers and marketing … to provide a vital resource for the local community,'' says Taylor.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: James Taylor, Jr., Omega Communities

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

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

Young Chinese Artists Make U.S. Debut At 2 Tampa Bay Area Art Museums

An unprecedented look inside modern Chinese art of will be on display this summer in Tampa and St. Petersburg through a pioneering exhibit featuring 27 emerging artists from China.

"My Generation: Young Chinese Artists'' features work shown for the first time outside of China. The exhibit opens to the public at both the Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete on Saturday, June 7th. The exhibit also features a series of related lectures and performances, such as an exploration of the history of "Red Rock'' -- the Chinese rock scene and corresponding concert, another first to the Tampa Bay region.

Hand-picked and curated by Author Barbara Pollack, one of America's foremost authorities on Chinese art, the young artists have almost all grown up under their nation's one-child policy and tend toward subtlety where politics are concerned. Yet they express issues of alienation, self-definition, cynicism and rebellion though their work in variety of media. The environment, reaction to massive urban areas, the paradoxical market economy, the personal side of growing up as only children and the pressure for marriage and family despite sexual orientation are backdrop themes to much of the work.

The exhibit will ''introduce us to parts of Chinese culture that we know nothing about and I think people will be really surprised,'' says David Connelly, an MFA spokesperson.

"This exhibition represents a milestone in the life of this institution, and our partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is an important step forward for the nature of regional partnerships,'' says Todd Smith, Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art, who originated the project and recently resigned to pursue another museum opportunity in California.

The collaboration between the two museums is an innovative approach that allows more art to be shown. For example, one of the more acclaimed artists in the show, Sun Xun, is creating a large installation specifically for the MFA, utilizing animation and drawings, which will take up an entire gallery.
At the same time, the concurrent approach cross-pollinates the region's art lovers. The museums are offering a $20 discounted combination ticket so that visitors can enjoy the full experience.

"We are hoping that with the outstanding innovative work in the show,'' museum patrons and art lovers will cross Tampa Bay to see both exhibits, says Connelly.
"My Generation: Young Chinese Artists,'' will be on view June 7 through Sept. 21, 2014. The exhibit will then travel to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for display later this year.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Sources: David Connelly, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

Lakeland Art Installation Honors Veterans, Public Servants

A new public art installation in Lakeland pays tribute to veterans, police, firefighters and emergency responders.

The piece is a collaboration among Platform Art, Polk County Veterans Council and Lakeland youth.

Platform Art worked with Polk County Public Schools to provide workshops for high school teachers to help them incorporate 3D curriculum into their classrooms. They then held a design challenge, asking students to create a sculpture that represents public agencies using a one foot square footprint. Over 60 students responded to the challenge.

The winner was Lake Region High School senior Maria Vazquez, whose sculpture was then fabricated on a larger scale in glass and steel by regional artist Tom Monaco. The final piece consists of two vertical slabs of steel with images of first a couple looking at each other and then a baby behind them. A glass plate in front is engraved with the poem "Honor" by William McGehee, which wraps around a silhouette image of a soldier.

"You’re not only looking at a public servant, but at the reasons they do their job – their family, children," says Cynthia Haffey, executive director for Platform Art and graduate of the University of South Florida.

Vasquez first got the inspiration for the sculpture when she came across McGehee’s poem. After further research, Platform Art realized the poem was written while McGehee was in high school, and that he is currently on his second deployment in Afghanistan. He recorded himself reading the poem, which is incorporated into the display.

Once Vasquez’s design was selected, she met with Monaco and talked about how the public could interact with the piece and how people could approach it physically and visually.

"It was a great learning process for her," says Haffey. "She was stunned at the amount of thoughtful consideration you have to put into a work of art when doing something for the general public."

Vasquez is the daughter of immigrants living in Polk County. After graduating, she will attend Polk State College and then plans to further her education at a design school.

Platform Art is a nonprofit organization in Polk County that focuses on visual arts, leaning toward public art. The project is the first in a series of three with a similar theme and purpose. It will be displayed in City Hall for the summer, and will then be installed in Veterans Park. Eventually, the hope is for this and other sculptures in the series to tour the Tampa Bay region and potentially the State.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Cynthia Haffey, Platform Art

USF's Patel College Hosts Internationally Acclaimed Climate Change Expert

USF students studying sustainability now have another resource to help understand the global impact of climate change and steps that can be taken to reduce the effects.  

The Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida recently awarded Rajendra Pachauri, Ph.D. the Eminent Global Scholar in Sustainability Award. The newly created award was designed to recognize professionals who are doing significant work to advance the well-being of the wider global community.

"It reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the work we do at the Patel College," says Patel College Dean Kala Vairavamoorthy.

The College also hopes the award recipients will be an ambassador and adviser for them and support their research and education programs, which include a focus on sustainable communities and environments.

Pachauri is a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He visited USF recently and spoke with students about the Climate Change report recently released by the United Nations. His lecture, titled "Energy Scenarios and Climate Impacts," focused on the impact humans are having on the environment and the results of this impact such as shrinking polar caps, rising sea waters and higher concentrations of greenhouses gases. He also discussed projected risks of these changes such as slowed economic growth, new poverty traps in urban areas, food utilization issues and increase in disease.

His lecture wasn’t all doom and gloom though. He discussed the opportunities for change, which was inspiring for the students. Possible solutions include more rapid improvements in energy efficiency and more utilization of low-carbon energy supplies from renewable sources. The Patel College is working on some of these very issues.

"Having someone of his stature who is at all the meetings where [climate change] is discussed and debated, sharing where the planet is in terms of external pressures and impact of resource management -- for our students, it’s a really big deal," says Vairavamoorthy.

Pachauri also communicates the political dimensions and interests from other countries, helping students learn how different governments respond to this information and the nuances involved in trying to negotiate and operate as a global community in light of these uncertainties.

USF is looking to continue Pachauri’s involvement with a more formal partnership, leading to more visits and engagement with students.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kala Vairavamoorthy., Patel College of Global Sustainability at USF

Florida Music Students Win Scholarships For Piano Performances

Six young pianists from around Florida were awarded a total of $22,500 in scholarship and prize money in the 2014 Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota Competition for Piano. 

Ten pianists made it to the final stage of the three-round competition in late March, which was judged by Julian Martin of the Juliard School; Robert Sherman, an award-winning radio broadcaster, music critic and educator; and acclaimed Pianist Derek Han.

Three pianists from the Scholarship Level (ages 14-19) received a total of $7,500 in scholarships. Priscilla Navarro, 19, of Ft. Myers was awarded the first prize Lee & Jerry Ross Scholarship of $3,000. Second-place Prize Winner Alvin Xue, 15, of Wellington, received $2,500 in prize money; and Third-place Winner Tiffany Chen, 16, of West Palm Beach received $2,000. 

In the Performance Level (ages 20-25), Heqing Huang, 20, of Boca Raton was awarded the first place Virginia B. Toulmin Award, amounting to $6,000. Second-place Winner Emily Charlson, 23, Tallahassee, received $5,000, and Third-place Winner Dan Sato, 25, Miami, was awarded $4,000. 

Endowments from private donors and money raised by Friends of the Artist Series organization provide the scholarship funding for the Artist Series Competition. 

The Artist Series Concerts Competition was established by Artistic Director Lee Dougherty Ross in 2002. Under the guidance of Coordinator Joy McIntyre, Professor Emerita of Music at Boston University, the competition grew to the statewide level in 2007. Since 2007, McIntyre says the competition has run on a multi-disciplinary cycle that annually celebrates top pianists, string musicians and vocalists.

“I applaud the Artist Series and its known leaders, Lee Dougherty Ross and Executive Director John Fisher. They have done really marvelous things with it. …  They are investing money in the future of classical music by supporting these young musicians,” McIntyre says. 

McIntyre adds that the city of Sarasota itself provides a unique cultural environment that fosters young musicians and artists.

“It’s a cultural mecca, if you will, where all kinds of things are going on. People of all levels of appreciation, whether it’s orchestra or theatre or art; classical or jazz music -- or the circus, of course -- are active supporters of the arts. Sarasota is where it’s at in terms of lively cultural life.”

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Joy McIntyre, Artist Concert Series Competition Coordinator

Ignite! Tampa Bay Announces Speakers For 4th Annual Event

Notable names in the growing Tampa entrepreneurship scene will take the stage at the Cuban Club on May 22, 2014. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the fourth annual Ignite! Tampa Bay, an event billed with the phrase "Enlighten us, but make it quick!''

Speakers will cover a range of topics from local politics to TED-like inspirational talks. Armed with slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds and whatever props they can carry, presenters take the podium for exactly five minutes to inspire and "ignite'' the audience. 

Ignite! Tampa Bay 2014 presenters include local Tampa and St. Petersburg residents who are active members of the startup community: USFSP Entrepreneurship program co-Founder Nathan Schwagler will discuss his love for Tampa Bay with a talk titled "On Gratitude''; Software Engineer and Technologist Aubrey Goodman is tackling "Active Vulnerability''; and Launchtrack Founder Jonathan Cordeau is talking about "How NO Empowers.'' A complete list of speakers will be released in coming weeks. 

Chris Krimitsos, founder and CEO of the Tampa Bay Business Owners, will be the evening's emcee.

Held at the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City, the 2014 Ignite! will strive to find a balance between inspiring and overwhelming the audience, says Joy Randels, one of the event's organizers.
The national movement (founded in Seattle in 2006 through O'Reilly Media) launched in Tampa in 2011. Some might say that Ignite! Tampa Bay has found footing after three years of trial and error.

Almost four years ago, Ignite! was one of the first entrepreneurial showcases to step into the Tampa limelight. The event moved from the former Wyndham Tampa Westshore (now Holiday Inn Tampa) in summer 2011 to the Glazer Children's Museum in January 2012, doubling in audience size. By 2013, the evening was staged at the Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa, where over 800 attendees heard from more than 30 speakers.
"It was too much,'' Randels says of the 2013 event, which ran long. "This year, we will be done on time so that people can go out and connect afterward, and the number of presenters will be limited to 20.''

Randels spoke at the 2013 event, challenging local entrepreneurs to work together to change the status quo and be supportive of each other's endeavors.
Ignite! Tampa is subsidized by the Hillsborough County EDI2 fund through Technova, Florida Inc., a nonprofit that produces entrepreneurial events like Ignite! and Barcamp Tampa Bay throughout the year, along with supporting independent events like Startup Weekend, Startup Bus, Tampa Hackerspace, FIRST Robotics and Robocon.

Join the Ignite Tampa Bay Meetup group for event updates or visit the website to purchase tickets.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joy Randels, Ignite! Tampa Bay

Iconic Ringling Cube Gets Facelift From Students

For decades, motorists and visitors to Ringling College of Art + Design have been greeted by the same image on the college’s front lawn: A minimalist, tilted cube that stands more than 15 feet high at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Martin Luther King Boulevard. 
Over the years, time and the elements weathered the Cube into a drab, gray block, and it faded into the scenery for most passersby. Three Ringling College students, however, recognized the sculpture as a six-sided blank canvas, and seized the opportunity to give the Cube a fresh makeover. 
Graphic Design Seniors Mariana Silva, Anna Jones and Kim Daley developed the concept for the “Faces of Ringling” project, a school-wide collaboration aimed to give the Cube a literal “facelift” by combining the self portraits of two dozen students.
“A lot of alumni like the Cube a lot, so we didn’t want to remove it. Instead, we were looking for a cost effective way of bringing life back to the Cube, and in a way that would represent the college today and its diverse student body,’’ Silva says. “We found that bus wrap is cost effective and can be done quickly.” 
The team worked within the RCAD Design Center, an internship class that gives students the opportunity to work on “real world” projects, to draft the concept for “Faces of Ringling,” and presented to the college board early in the Spring 2014 semester. They also put out a call to student artists for self portraits, and received more than 100 submissions.
The team selected the work of 24 students from approximately half of the college’s 14 majors to be displayed in four-portrait collages on each of the Cube’s six sides. Sarasota-based sign company, Signs in One Day, installed the Cube portrait wrap on April 11, providing the Cube with a fresh face -- 24 of them, in fact.
“The idea is to create something different every year, or at least regularly, with lots of student involvement. It’s a better representation of the school,” Silva says. 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Sources: Mariana Silva, Kim Daley, Anna Jones: RCAD Graphic Design ‘14

Global Business Forum Discusses Indo-U.S. Partnership, Economic Growth

As actors, actresses and film fans converge in Tampa for the International Indian Film Acacemy’s (IIFA) Bollywood awards, the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum focuses on the business side of the relationship between the U.S. and India.

A joint initiative of the IIFA and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Forum takes place at the Tampa Convention Center April 24 – 25.

The theme: "Indo-U.S. Partnership: A Catalyst for Economic Growth'' focuses on the trade relationship between India and America, bringing in change makers, thought leaders and business owners to discuss new and existing business opportunities.

Speakers will represent government, education and industry, and will include Consul General of India Ajit Kumar, Dr. RK Pachauri, who leads the Nobel prize winning UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate change, Raj Biyani, managing director of Microsoft IT-India and N.R. Narayana Murthy, executive chairman of Infosys Limited.

Prominent women leaders will speak about issues particularly relevant to women. Speakers include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Nisha Desai Biswal, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs; Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida; and Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston and former USF Provost. Actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopera and actress Tara Abrahams will present the Girl Rising Project, a global campaign for girls’ education.

The Indian economy is currently the 10th largest in the world, with trade between India and the U.S. reaching the $60 billion level in 2012.  

The event is the 10th of its kind, and the first time in the United States, indicating a strong interest in developing relationships and strengthening ties between the two countries. With close to 30,000 people of Indian descent, the Tampa Bay region was a natural fit for the forum’s U.S. debut.

The event will increase the visibility of local brands on an international scale. "It’s a recognition of Tampa Bay to the world," says Kunal Jain of TiE Tampa Bay, an event partner.

The event is led by the University of South Florida College of Business and Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council, among others. Partners include Enterprise Florida, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Visit Tampa Bay and TiE Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kunal Jain, TiE Tampa Bay

Too Funny! Eckerd College Improv Team Among Top In Nation

An improv group from Eckerd College was selected to perform at the longest-running and largest improv festival in the world.  

The 11-student group, Another Man’s Trash, performed at the Chicago Improv Festival on April 4. The team is one of only two student groups selected to perform at the event, which featured 150 performances. Seven of the group’s members performed, and the trip was partially funded by the Eckerd College Organization of Students.

Formed in 2008, the group was founded and is completely run by students from all majors, from theater to marine science. The group has grown in popularity, with weekly shows bringing sellout crowds on campus, even having to turn people away at times. The audience selects the subjects for the shows, and the students make it their own.

Being a part of the group is not only fun, but a learning opportunity for the students. Being on stage in front of hundreds of peers takes a considerable amount of poise, not to mention communication skills and the ability to think on your feet.

These skills can be applied to a wide range of future careers -- any job that requires presentations or working with people. The group's director, Geoffrey Fella, takes a more personal view. "My favorite skill that the group has taught us is how to honestly portray life on stage,” says Fella. “People think improv is about making jokes in front of an audience, but truly beautiful improv aims at presenting the truths of our day-to-day lives in a way that is funny in and of itself."

Fella, a philosophy major, learned about the group second-hand and at first wasn’t particularly interested in performing. He underwent an apprenticeship to see if he was a good fit for the group, and he learned to enjoy the challenge. Eventually, he fell in love with the craft. "Improv makes you a better human being."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Geoffrey Fella and Tom Scherberger, Eckerd College

'This Is Big': TEDxTampaBay Gears Up For Fifth Year

Do you enjoy learning about big ideas? Are you interested in hearing about the human brain from a neurobiologist's perspective? How about an award-winning journalist's thoughts on media and psychology?

These, and other innovative ideas, will be at the forefront of the fifth annual TEDxTampaBay conference.

The theme for 2014 is "This is big,'' and TEDxTampaBay plans to deliver.

"We want to explore an expansive topic, and chose an eclectic mix of presenters that will explore a truly 'big' idea-- our brain, our minds and our selves,'' explains founder Gina Clifford. "The energy that builds during TEDx events is incredible, and we hope to inspire that level of engagement again this year.''

The half-day event in May will showcase speeches and presentations from several Tampa Bay area innovators and thought leaders. TEDxTampaBay 2014 presenters include:

·      USF Health neurobiologist Dr. Edwin Weeber: "What we know about the human brain.''

·      President Emeritus of The Poynter Institute Karen B. Dunlap: "Is media shaping our psychological development?''

·      Root Learning CEO Jim Haudan: "Why does authenticity matter?''

·      Latin-inspired Jazz Musicians La Lucha: "Eclectic musicians challenge our thinking about music.''

TEDxTampaBay is based on the popular international TED conference model -- community talks where presenters discuss "ideas worth spreading'' for inspired audiences. Subsequently formed independent TEDx events have evolved in cities worldwide.

TED and TEDx are often marginalized as tech-centric events, but Clifford says the experience is much more diverse. She notes that TED, a nonprofit organization that first appeared on the scene in 1984, stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks.

"Over the years, we've hosted poets, scientists, social activists, journalists, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs,'' Clifford explains. "Furthermore, TEDx presenters strive to connect with our humanity -- so, you could say that TEDx presenters are part performer and part presenter.''

Clifford founded TEDxTampaBay in 2009 "to inspire, energize and build a critical mass of people who enjoy sharing truly big ideas.''

TEDxTampaBay is completely run by a volunteer crew and made possible through ticket sales and sponsors like IBM, ThinkTank, Industrial Strength, Studio@620, ClearpH and Creative Loafing.

"Because TEDxTampaBay is not a money-making endeavor, we couldn't produce an event of this magnitude without generous sponsorship support,'' Clifford says.

500 attendees are expected at TEDxTampaBay 2014, which takes place on Thursday, May 15, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. General admission tickets to TEDxTampaBay 2014 are now available for $30.00, including lunch; or $75 for lunch, premium seating and a TEDxTampaBay T-shirt.
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source, Gina Clifford, TEDxTampaBay founder

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay V14 Focuses On Community Spirit

Attendees at the 14th installment of Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay will meet new people and discover new things and happenings in the Tampa Bay region.  

Pronounced "pech chak cha," the event on April 11 is a place for the community to network, share stories and open their minds. Speakers will share 20 slides that run 20 seconds each in an effort to keep their talks precise and keep the audience engaged.

The events typically don't have a pre-determined theme, but rather seem to evolve based on the speaker lineup. V14 carries the theme of cool and interesting things groups are working on in the city. You’ll hear about a bike sharing program called Coastbike, as well as Tampa Hackerspace, a community space in downtown Tampa where members share equipment and projects.

City of Tampa Councilwoman Lisa Montelione will talk about the importance of open lines of communication both inside and outside of local government.  Montelione attended one of the first Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay events and was blown away by the atmosphere and the topics. "There’s something for everybody," says Montelione."Often times there’s something being presented that you've never heard of before."

Other speakers include:
    •    Angelo Nales - Tattoo Artist
    •    Bill Shaw - Tampa Hackerspace
    •    Brandon Murphy - Ad guy
    •    Eric Trull - Coastbike
    •    Noel Smith - GraphicStudio
    •    Noelle Mason - Skydiver
    •    Steven Fage - Robotics

The event takes place at the Tampa Museum of Art. Admission is $5 and includes access to the Museum’s exhibits. This is the second event at the Museum, and plans are to continue to host future events there.  

"Besides being a phenomenal space, there’s a good synergy between the Museum, which presents national works, and what individuals are doing on a local level," says Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay founder and organizer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Lisa Montelione, City of Tampa Council

Startup Aims To Improve Your Shopping Experience With One Simple App

Almost every product you purchase in day-to-day life has one thing in common: a paper receipt.

For flexReceipts, that's a problem. What's their solution? Going paperless.

Backed by an investment from TiE Tampa's Angel Network in late March 2014, the startup company is poised to enter the national market with a tech-savvy answer to traditional paper receipts.

Customizable digital receipts tie in modern tech trends such as recommendations from retailers, social media, tailored special offers and more. flexReceipts intends to simultaneously solve a pain point for consumers and provide an enhanced marketing platform for businesses.

"flexReceipts has great growth potential,'' says TiE Tampa Charter Member Ashok Kartham. "I think it can be a success story that the area needs, to showcase tech startups from the Florida region.''

Tomas Diaz, flexReceipts founder and CEO, was a sales executive at Whirlpool for more than a decade before developing the startup company in 2011. Diaz and other management team members "bring deep retail experience'' to the startup, says Kartham.

flexReceipts has received several previous rounds of funding, including an investment by The Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund, LLC (FTSCF), a subsidiary of the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, in March 2014, and an investment from Winter Park venture fund and business accelerator venVelo in August 2012. The company is also active on AngelList.

Four investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Network -- Kartham, Prashanth Rajendran, Seema Jain and Dr. Rajan Naik -- invested in the Orlando-based startup. The company, which has already partnered with some major retailers, plans to bring new technology jobs to Florida over the next few years.

TiE Tampa's goal is to expand angel investors beyond charter members and commit $1 million in angel capital in 2014. To this end, Rajendran is assembling a structured, experienced team and due diligence processes as part of an Angel Forum initiative to help lower the risk associated with angel investment and enable more syndicated deals, Kartham says.

"TiE is uniquely positioned to make a difference to the growing startup ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and Florida,'' Kartham says. "We hope to invest in innovative startups in Tampa in coming months.''

This is the second angel investment out of TiE Tampa. The first was awarded to mobile conference app Feathr, which "has made significant progress and grown revenues since receiving TiE angel funding more than a year ago,'' Kartham says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa

Hillsborough Community College Hosts April Job Fairs

Students and alumni from Hillsborough Community College (HCC) as well as the general public can meet local employers at one of three upcoming job fairs.

The job fair series begins with the HCC Brandon Campus fair April 2, continuing with the Ybor City Campus April 7 and ending with the Dale Mabry Campus April 15.

"We are proud to serve the Tampa Bay area and want to help individuals succeed in their professional and academic life," says Gianna Nicholas, job placement assistant at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus.

Companies in attendance will discuss current position openings in the Tampa Bay region. A wide range of industries and companies will be represented. Participants include Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa Electric Company, Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Early Autism Project, Randstad, Hilton Worldwide and USAA.

Position openings will be both part-time and full-time, and include: research analysts, therapists, customer service associates, retail sales associates, benefits consultants, law enforcement officers, engineers, information technology professionals and accountants.

The job fairs are marketed for HCC students, but are open to anyone in the Tampa Bay community who is seeking a new position.

"Our Career Center’s mission is to assist anyone in the community, not just our students," says Randy Disks, manager of the Career Resource Center at HCC’s Brandon Campus. "Our philosophy as a community college is that we are part of the [larger] community."

Disks noted that the job market seems to have steady growth in recent years, as is demonstrated by the strong employer interest in the upcoming career fairs. The fairs are a good way to gauge the companies that are hiring in the Tampa Bay area.

Workshops will also be held leading up to the job fair on topics such as resume writing and how to prepare for the fair.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Randy Disks, Gianna Nicholas, HCC

Gasparilla Fringe Festival Features Uncommon Arts To Make You Gasp!

As the 2014 Gasparilla festivities wind down, there’s one more opportunity to experience the arts Gasparilla style, but not in the traditional realm.

Gasp! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival presented by Creative Loafing and Tampa Museum of Art promises to enlighten and indulge attendees with multidisciplinary arts experiences not to be found elsewhere.

On March 28 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Museum will be transformed into a performing arts mecca with performances from over 30 local visual and performing artists, including both emerging and established.

"The event speaks to the vibrancy of the culture here, that so many different kinds of performing arts are thriving," says David Warner, editor-in-chief for Creative Loafing. "This is a way to support them and also get a taste of all of them.”

Actors and actresses will perform short plays inside Mini Coopers, affectionately referred to as "Mini Plays."

Post Dinner Conversation will perform improv, while letting the audience call the shots.

Musician Acho Brother will collaborate with a live action artist painting an oil canvas in reaction to the music.  

Graphicstudio will bring a printing press, and Creative Loafing’s Peter Meinke and Erica Dawson will create "chat books" called cordelistas. The studio’s exhibition, Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practices at USF, will also be open exclusively for attendees.

Lynn Waddell, author of Fringe Florida, will present in collaboration with Ward Hall, legendary carnival talker.

The event is designed to be a true reflection of the vitality and diversity of the arts community in Tampa Bay.

"They’re very talented people, making this work here," says Warner. "It reflects the community in ways the community doesn’t always get reflected."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Warner, Creative Loafing

Social Mobile Conference Embraces Branding In New Economy

As consumers move beyond traditional ways of finding information, purchase decisions are made based on sharing, comparing and rating experiences using social media. Real-time information through a mobile device is becoming an expectation. In light of this, brands are continuously looking for new and meaningful ways to connect with customers.

The Social Mobile Engagement Conference & Code Challenge, September 4-5, 2014 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina, is designed to be an outlet for this kind of information while highlighting local talent and organizations to senior tech leaders from across the nation.  

The event is an expansion of the Social Mobile Payments Conference, which took place twice since 2011 and focused on social media and mobile commerce. After the last event in 2013, organizer Bruce Burke started looking at the thought process leading up to the transaction of buying a good or service. By focusing on just the payment aspect he felt he was missing part of the story. By widening the scope and audience, Burks hopes to appeal to an even broader audience that is interested in learning more about the customer journey, including the user and social experience. "Engagement starts when the product is first discovered by the consumer," says Burke.

Burke’s company, Gulf Bay Consulting, is organizing the event but his motivation behind it is a sense of purpose and wanting to see the Tampa Bay community help create the next big thing.

The first day will consist of workshops on topics such as user experience, social communities, mobile engagement, big data and gamification. The second day will be a code challenge, sponsored in part by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovative Initiative (EDI2). Coders will hack, explore and create. The afternoon will be open to the public, where people can vote for and cheer on their favorite teams and coders.

Abstracts are being accepted until March 28 for individuals and companies interested in presenting at the event.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bruce Burke, Gulf Bay Consulting

Hillsborough County Grants More Than $200K To Local Tech Events

Hillsborough County has awarded $230,000 in funding to 31 local applicants through its flagship tech-centric program, the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).

The EDI2 program is the first of its kind of Florida. Established in June 2013, the program aims to bring innovation, job creation, technology and new business to the Tampa Bay region. In an effort to lead this movement, the Hillsborough County Economic Development department set aside $2 million in funding to award to events and programs that are centered around technology and innovation. Led by County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, EDI2 awarded $307,000 to applicants in the first round of funding in fall 2013.

Some of the latest round of funding will go toward programs and events already well-established within the Tampa Bay community, such as Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 in March, monthly StartupGrind events, and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Business of BioTech 2014.

The bulk of the funding was awarded to one-off conferences like Gulf Bay Consulting's Social Media Engagement event in September 2014, which received $12,375. Girls in Tech Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was awarded $12,500 for outreach and an event in December 2014, and TiE Tampa Bay's TiE Breaker III 2014, which took place in January, received $19,000. The University of Tampa's Entrepreneurs Student Organization was awarded $14,500 for its Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in February 2014.

Other funded programs include the Computer Mentors Group, Inc., which was awarded $25,000 for the 2014 STEM Education Showcase Tampa, and Nuturism Media Group, Inc., awarded $25,000 for Running Lean Bootcamp. Both are in May 2014.

To view a full listing of funded projects and applications, visit the Hillsborough County website.

Events and programs must meet several stages of criteria before they are awarded funding, including the ability to measure event metrics and a way to clearly identify the economic development impact of each project.

EDI2 is "focused on building a vibrant and sustainable startup community and is centered on the use of technology and innovation,'' according to a news release from Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for its third cycle of EDI2 funding. Applications and additional information can be found at the EDI2 website. The deadline to apply for the third round of EDI2 funding is April 1, 2013.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Annette Spina, Hillsborough County

New Partnership Makes Digital Signage More Accessible, User-Friendly

Wondersign and IAdea recently announced a partnership that will enhance the flexibility and user-friendliness of the digital signage world.

Wondersign is a cloud-based content delivery system for digital signage. Customers purchase the signage hardware for restaurants, stores or other areas and use Wondersign’s product to manage the content design and development. The drag and drop interface works with any web browser and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Based out of Switzerland, Wondersign runs its North American operations from its Tampa office.

Taiwan-based IAdea provides media players and sign boards to power large-scale, commercial grade digital signage projects. The partnership offers customers a way to manage their devices out of the box, simplifying their deployment and operation.

"The fact that [IAdea] has identified a cloud-based software-as-a-service like Wondersign as a strategic partner for the future shows where the industry is going,” says Casper Fopp, director of marketing and public relations for Wondersign.

The partnership is particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may be new to the world of digital signage and overwhelmed with the prospect of managing multiple signage locations. The cloud-based nature of the software is attractive to businesses that have different locations and are not able to have a physical presence everywhere their signage is placed.

"The partnership helps a lot of people get into the digital signage world with easier access," says Alvin Kuo, senior sales manager for IAdea.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Casper Fopp, Wondersign; Alvin Luo, IAdea

Webber Kerr Associates, Junior Achievement Partner To Guide Next Gen Business Leaders

A new partnership utilizes the knowledge and experience of a Tampa-based business to guide and educate local youth.

Webber Kerr Associates, an executive search and consulting firm based in Hyde Park, is partnering with Junior Achievement to provide financial support, mentoring and guidance.

Webber Kerr wanted to select a charitable organization to donate a percentage of search fees for every contract signed during 2014.

"Discussions kept coming back to children, education and preparing the next generation of leadership," says Emily Wagner, managing director for Webber Kerr.

The employees were particularly impressed with Junior Achievement’s mission, which is helping youth achieve skills in entrepreneurship, economics and financial literacy through real-world experience with business leaders.

In addition to the financial support, the company wanted to have a physical connection with the charity. They are allowing their employees paid volunteer time to participate in speaking engagements, mentoring programs as well as the Pam & Les Muma JA BIZTOWN, a mini city that contains up to 23 fictitious businesses to allow youth to experience economics in a real life setting. Students receive "jobs" such as accountant, retail sales representative and banker, and there’s even a city mayor.

A native resident of Dunedin and University of South Florida graduate, Wagner participated in BIZTOWN herself while in fifth grade. "I remember exactly what job I had and what a good experience it was." The experience left such a good impression, she wanted her company to play a major role in giving back to today’s youth in the same way.

"We have to be focused on children, their education and growing their careers, giving whatever we can, whether it be monetarily, guidance or mentorship" says Wagner, speaking about the business community in Tampa Bay. "The economic health of the entire area depends on it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emily Wagner, Webber Kerr Associates

University Of Tampa Receives National Recognition For Excellence In Entrepreneurship

The University of Tampa (UT) Entrepreneurship Center adds to its list of accolades the Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Program Award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The award is given annually to recognize programs that have been in existence for three years or less or have undergone a major revision during the same time period. Programs are judged on: innovation, quality, potential viability, comprehensiveness, depth of support, sustainability and impact. The top four schools were invited to present before a set of judges at a national program in Texas in January.

UT’s program, which boasts 250 undergraduate and graduate students, has undergone a transformation recently from a focus on family businesses to a more comprehensive emphasis on the entrepreneurial mindset, appealing even to students who aren’t interested in starting their own business.

"We focus on building intellectual capital," says Rebeca White, director of the Entrepreneurship Center and professor of entrepreneurship at UT. "We certainly want to have businesses come out of the program, but the real focus is on building entrepreneurs."

White feels that strong support from the university is key to UT’s winning the award, noting that the university wants to be known for entrepreneurship. "We have a lot of great momentum," says White. "We were able to prove our ability to do what we say we’re going to do."

One example of this support is the creation of an entire floor of dedicated space for the center in a new building set to be completed by Spring 2015. The space will bring together students, educators and experienced executives to develop entrepreneurial concepts and launch new ideas. UT also plans to take the concept across campus and provide programming for students outside of the business college, including nursing, art or theater majors who want to be more engaged in an entrepreneurial mindset.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rebecca White, The University of Tampa Entrepreneurship Center

BLUE Ocean Film Festival Casts Wide Net For Talent, Technology

The international BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit, which arrives in the Tampa Bay region for the first time in November 2014, has announced an open call for film submissions. Entries will be accepted through April 28. The early bird deadline is Feb. 28.
The week-long festival and summit will be a magnet for filmmakers from around the globe, including emerging talent and amateurs. 
Based on previous responses, BLUE Ocean organizers expect to receive 350-370 original submissions. Debbie Kinder, the festival's co-founder and CEO, anticipates an ecosystem of independent entries based on the innovative technologies now widely available.
"Cameras like the GoPro are a technology disrupter; they are really changing the way filmmaking's done,'' says Kinder. "I think what we're seeing is a trend of more up-and-coming filmmakers and students that have the ability to get up and tell good stories as technology becomes more affordable.''

These emerging technologies tend to attract young filmmakers. In the past, "we had student films from filmmakers as young as 5th grade,'' says Kinder. The festival will host a separate category for Tampa Bay K-12 students. All students will receive special recognition for participating.
The platform of the festival, and the available technologies, make it possible to promote conservation through storytelling. The forward-thinking event will use films, such as Blackfish, to bring up complicated questions, but the dialogue will be focused on finding solutions and encouraging progress.

"We discuss issues, but we also want to highlight success stories. There are great success stories and those need to be heard more,'' says Kinder.
In addition to the submissions and summit discussions, the festival has become a hotbed for high-tech unveilings. At the last festival, Google launched its Oceans Street View and the 360-degree underwater camera that would start their work capturing images of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Google has confirmed another product launch for the upcoming festival.

"A lot of people come together at BLUE. There's still a lot of great technology that comes out to the festival in general; whether it's about filmmaking or just communications as a whole,'' says Kinder.
The BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit will take place Nov. 3rd through 9th. BLUE will be headquartered in St. Petersburg at the downtown Hilton, with events taking place at venues in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota. For more information on submitting your film, visit the festival's 2014 film competiion page.

Writer: Ash Withers
Source: Debbie Kinder, BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit

Tampa Clothier Scores In Gasparilla Distance Classic

It's been one big year for Black & Denim Apparel Company.

In 11 short months, the boutique clothier has grown from Kickstarter-funded roots into the official sponsor of all branded merchandise and apparel for the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.

For the past three years, footwear and apparel giant Nike has been the official race sponsor, "so we have big shoes to fill,'' says Black & Denim founder Roberto Torres. "This gives us an audience of over 30,000 people. This project is huge!''

After a local runner and Black & Denim fan suggested the company approach the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association with designs, Torres explains, "It just took off from there.''

Black & Denim is set to provide long- and short-sleeve T-shirts for competitors in the annual race, held Feb. 22-23 in downtown Tampa. The company hopes to expand apparel and merchandise to include hats, thermals, "hoods'' (hooded sweatshirts), and more in 2015.

Fans will be able to pre-purchase branded merchandise on the Black & Denim website the week prior to the race as well as on race weekend. In the company's first year as a race sponsor, they will offer "six kick-ass designs that are edgy and fun -- family-friendly, as well,'' says Torres.

Since opening a boutique storefront in October 2013, the company has rapidly outgrown the space, moving to 1907 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City. Torres also has short-term plans to open a store in Channelside and a long-term goal to bring a store to Tampa International Airport by 2018. The company employs five people in Tampa and will hire two more for the Channelside location.

Every semester, notes Torres, "we have four interns from either the University of Tampa, University of South Florida, or the International Academy of Design and Technology.''

Black & Denim will showcase wares in a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center during race weekend. The 2014 Expo will feature 99,000 square feet of vendors, says Torres.

"We are very excited about the opportunity, to say the least,'' says Torres. "This race attracts runners from all over the country.''

By: Justine Benstead
Source: Roberto Torres, Black & Denim

Hillsborough Arts Council Launches Power2Give Donor Portal

A new online crowdfunding platform being launched this week is designed to solicit new donors and donations to support arts and cultural organizations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Power2Give is similar to other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but the focus is on helping local arts and culture organizations fund projects that might not be funded through traditional campaigns.

The concept began with the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC. It has expanded to include 21 metropolitan areas who have raised $4.5 million through 1,880 projects in just two years. The Tampa Bay region will be the 22nd community to join Power2Give.

Projects are listed on the site for 90 days. If the fundraising goal is met before then, the project is removed from the site. If the goal is not met, the money is still given to the nonprofit, another differentiator from the all-or-nothing model used by many other crowdfunding platforms. The organizations also provide donors with non-cash benefits.

In the spirit of transparency, organizations are encouraged to break projects down to explain exactly what they cover. This transparency also aims to create more patrons for the arts by providing a closer glimpse into what goes on within the organizations. This idea has proven successful, with an estimated 44 percent of donors across the 21 metropolitan areas being first time arts patrons.

“You can feel confident that the project is real and the money is going somewhere,” says Terri Simons, director of program services for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the sponsoring organization for the Tampa Bay arm of Power2Give.

Power2give Tampa Bay
launches February 12 with over $100,000 in projects to fund, including: helping students with disabilities attend summer animation camp through VSA Florida, creative journaling projects for families of domestic violence through the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, a mosaic on the outside of the building at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin and underwriting costs for some of the performers at the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Terri Simons, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Straz Center Brings Arts To Underserved Populations

The Patel Conservatory at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa provides programming to underserved populations throughout Tampa Bay through on-site programming and community outreach.

The Center currently has more than 30 partnerships with organizations and schools throughout the Tampa Bay region, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, University Area Community Development Corporation, Big Brothers & Sisters of Tampa Bay, MacDonald Training Center, and Moffitt Healthy Kids Program.

The longest standing partnership is with Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School. Now in its fifth year, the Center provides ballet classes on a weekly basis using a skills-based curriculum. They also have an after school program that includes a theater workshop.

Partnerships allow the Center to send faculty, staff and visiting artists on site to schools and other organizations to teach them about creativity and innovation through exposure to the music, dance and other performing arts.  

The impact the programs have on youth cannot be understated, providing a safe place for children, some of whom are homeless and most of whom would not be exposed to the arts otherwise.

"They get a chance to fully immerse themselves into the magic of the transformational power of the performing arts," says Wendy Leigh, VP of Education for the Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory. "In doing so, they’re making friends and feeling confident. It enlarges their persona and their outlook on life."

Programs are funded by donations.

Applications for the 2014-15 Community Partnerships program will be available March 3 and accepted through April 4.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Wendy Leigh, Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory

Burger 21 Expands, Adds 50+ Jobs in Tampa

Award-winning fast-casual dining chain Burger 21 is expanding to include on-going franchise development, which will create up to 50 new jobs per restaurant. The company is also adding operations as well as research and development positions to support the company’s continued growth.

There's no doubt that Americans love burgers -- especially a better, livelier experience that serves a fresh burger with style. With fast-casual dining and the better burger concept rolling in $75 billion per year within the overall burger industry, fast-casual dining represents less than 3 percent of that number.

Burger 21 serves a variety of high-quality, fresh made-to-order gourmet burgers, fries, salads and shakes to people of all ages in a modern environment.

"It's a very small sliver of the burger business, but it’s growing at a rate of double digits. Clearly, there's enormous potential there. We are capitalizing on the need and desire for consumers to have higher quality burger options. At Burger 21, we focus on variety," says Dan Stone, VP of franchise development.

Founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., Burger 21 opened its first location in Westchase in November 2010 and sold its first franchise in early 2012. The company has since sold more than 20 franchises across nine states and plans to sell 20 new franchises this year.

The Burger 21 brand experienced significant growth in 2013, opening five new franchise restaurants and generating $12.4 million in systemwide revenue. The company’s strategic growth goal also includes the addition of 10 new franchise units this year, which is expected to generate more than $24.5 million in total systemwide revenue.

"The more we sell, it has a trickling effect of us being able to provide increased support to our restaurants. The more we open, the more support we will need at our home office. Much of what will happen this year is a result of activity and sales that happened last year," says Stone.

Since 2010, Burger 21 has added more than 150 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region. The company is targeting expansion in Pinellas County by 2015.

"We definitely have a strong interest in bringing the brand to Pinellas. We are franchising all other areas," says Stone.

The company is hosting a February 13 webinar on franchise development. To register for the live webinar, visit the company’s franchise website. For career development opportunities, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dan Stone, Burger 21

USF, (ISC)2 Partner To Bridge Cybersecurity Workforce Gap

The University of South Florida is taking cybersecurity education head on, partnering with the world's largest not-for-profit information security professional organization (ISC)2 to launch certification and master's degree programs designed to create job preparation for thousands of students and professionals throughout Florida.

The collaboration between the University of South Florida and (ISC)2 (pronounced ISC squared) is chiefly designed to help bridge the workforce gap between the large demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals and the amount of skilled professionals who are prepared for the market.

Last year, the Florida Legislature expressed interest in the state becoming a leader in cybersecurity and proposed that USF take the lead in the effort for our region.

USF has since spearheaded the development, putting together a full academic program that offers more core resources and certifications in cybercrime, cyber intelligence, cyber operations and more.

"The strategic objectives were driven by a lack of resources in the cybersecurity department. There is a real need for cybersecurity professionals. We want to create a robust program that will help create jobs and resources," says Sri Sridharan, managing director at USF’s Center for Cybersecurity.

A November 2013 report found that 49,000 cybersecurity jobs were available throughout the country, yet only 2,000 individuals were professionally qualified to perform the necessary functions that the jobs entail.

The partnership also allows USF to offer CISSP preparation courses and administer the CISSP exam under the (ISC)2 umbrella. (ISC)2 is considered the "gold-standard" of cybersecurity industry certifications.

There is a significant range of professional opportunities within the cybersecurity field, including psychology, forensics, law, compliance, IT, photography, policy and more.

In addition to the focused academic programs, USF’s Center for Cybersecurity will also conduct applied research and outreach as well as collaboration with the healthcare industry and other vertical markets in order to further share the message about the cybersecurity industry.

Online transactions and elaborate tech grid systems are a significantly increasing element of our progressive society, technological innovations, and local regional development. Bridging this workforce gap will prepare and pair thousands of professionals with high-paying, high-demand jobs necessary to help protect the future of our growing digital world.

"Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing issues facing our world today. It's what keeps bank accounts secure, health records private, transportation grids protected and identities from being stolen. We have a huge role to play in ensuring that today's students have the skills to tackle the cyber challenges of tomorrow, so that we can all continue to live, work, bank, travel and communicate safely," says USF Provost Ralph Wilcox.

USF's cybersecurity certification program is targeted to launch later this spring. The master's degree program is scheduled to launch in the fall 2014.

"Anyone who has at least four years of experience, a degree in cybersecurity, and a CISSP certification -- they are looking at a six-figure salary to start off with. So these are high-paying jobs, great jobs, great demand," says Sriharan.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Sri Sriharan and Ralph Wilcox, The University of South Florida

Traveling Tampa To Austin: StartupBus Southeast 2014 Seeks Applicants

Some startups are born in a basement, others in an office. Just a few are inspired by a weeklong bus trip with a group of "hackers, hustlers, and hipsters'' -- an experience known by many in the tech community as the StartupBus. This year, StartupBus Southeast leaves Tampa for Austin on March 2nd, 2014.

As the bus from the Southeast region travels toward SXSW in Texas, a group of 20-30 selected "buspreneurs'' will develop and execute an original startup idea to present at the end of the trip.

2014 StartupBus Southeast organizer Ashley Mooney of Tampa explains, "This is more than a hackathon, more than a road trip, and much more than a pitch competition. It's a journey of passionate entrepreneurs aboard 7 different buses from around the country. Each team must conceive, build, and launch a startup in around three days.''

Interested? Applications are due by mid-February.

"Those who should apply are startup-minded Web and mobile developers, designers and business developers who can generate buzz in a short period of time and know how to pitch their face off,'' says Mooney. "Our advice to applicants is: If you have technical skills, show 'em off -- give us links to your work. Show us why you're an outstanding choice and get creative!''

For almost five years, StartupBus has played a role in fostering the Tampa startup community. StartupBus Southeast invites applicants from the entire region, so "buspreneurs'' from Tampa's startup community will have the opportunity to mingle and make connections with entrepreneurs from surrounding areas.

The ultimate takeaway, says Mooney, is the opportunity that waits at the destination. "You pitch your startup to big name venture capitalists, high profile members of the tech startup community, and in front of hundreds of other entrepreneurs. The best outcome would be that you get funded -- it's happened -- and even if you don't, you are launching your business in front lucrative eyes that can really get the word out about your new startup,'' she explains. "Attendees are pitching to major investors along the way, like Dave McClure from 500 Startups and Robert Scoble from Rackspace.''

Mooney, a digital content manager for Organic Salon Systems and early Google Glass Explorer, will ride the bus as both a participant and organizer in 2014. This year's Bus Conductors, who have participated in previous years, are each members of the Tampa startup and tech scene. Mooney is joined by co-conductors Will Mitchell, of StartupBros, Taylor Wallace, of WeVue, and Lindsey Nickel-de la O, of Nickel Communications.

"Tampa residents who go on the bus have an incredible opportunity ahead of them,'' Mooney says.

The participation fee for "buspreneurs'' is $299. Ticket cost does not include accommodations, food, drink or return trip. To learn more, visit StartupBus Southeast on Facebook or Twitter.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashley Mooney, StartupBus Southeast

Two Maids & A Mop Expands To Tampa, 15 New Jobs

Residential cleaning company Two Maids & A Mop is expanding to Tampa Bay, launching its first franchise development and creating up to 15 new jobs in management, sales and personnel over the next year.

Featured in Inc. 500 as one of the nation’s fastest-growing residential cleaning companies in the consumer products and service industry, the company grew from a small staff of 4 to 140 employees by 2013.

"We are a Southeastern-based company. We identified a couple different markets that we absolutely wanted to be in, and Tampa was one of them," says Ron Holt, CEO and founder of Two Maids & A Mop.

With 12 company-owned locations in five states, Two Maids & A Mop took a large part of 2013 to explore and research the potential for strong franchise development after receiving several inquiries for franchising opportunities from across the country and as far away as the United Kingdom.

The company’s expansion into Tampa Bay was a unique collaboration of a targeted strategy, key business relationships and the right timing.

Holt had developed a friendship with Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, owners of College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving. Friedman and Soliman’s business growth plan included expansion into the cleaning service industry.

And so it was.

A joint-venture business relationship developed, merging Friedman’s and Soliman’s new cleaning concept under the Two Maids & A Mop mantra, and emerging as the company’s first franchise location.

Moving forward, Tampa will serve as regional headquarters for franchise development as the company further develops new franchise locations throughout the United States, creating up to 40 more jobs in Tampa in the process.

"The first step is to create a huge success in Tampa, to build a large business, to employ a lot of people, and to create more job growth in the Tampa area. The second step is to begin marketing the franchise concept all over the country," says Holt.

For more information on career opportunities, visit the Tampa company website. To inquire about franchise development opportunities, visit the company’s franchise website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Ron Holt, Two Maids & A Mop

Covidien Invests $18 Million in Hillsborough, 165 Jobs

Leading global healthcare product provider Covidien is making its mark in Tampa Bay, planting a new medical device manufacturing facility and making an $18 million capital investment in Hillsborough County, which will create up to 165 new jobs by 2017.

The company is hiring engineers, scientists and manufacturing operators at an average salary of $41,375.

Covidien is among an extensive list of biotech, life sciences, health and medical development firms that have recently selected the Tampa Bay region to expand their research, innovation and manufacturing operations.

As Tampa Bay’s talent pool, innovation, technology and medical market grows, the region is sure to gain additional developmental and growth opportunities that, in-turn, stimulate our regional growth.

"We specifically selected Hillsborough County for several reasons, including its talented workforce and the Tampa Bay region’s business climate, economy and quality of life. Our new facility will not only provide jobs for the local community; it will support Florida’s growing life science industry as well," says Phil Devlin, Covidien’s VP and General Manager.

In January 2013, a $165,000 local incentive package was approved by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, additionally supporting a commitment of $660,000 from the State of Florida through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program.

The total QTI allocation of $825,000 will provide Covidien with $5,000 for the creation of each new job, incentives which will be payable over an eight-year period.

Currently occupying temporary office space in Sabal Park, the company will expand operations to its new 62,000-square-foot Riverview facility by mid-2014.

"Covidien’s choice to expand its presence in the state validates Florida’s position as a leader in life sciences and manufacturing. The company’s investment and jobs created adds to these extensive sectors. The opportunities created by Covidien will add value to Florida’s workforce, and I look forward to seeing their success continue in our state," says Gray Swoope, President & CEO of Enterprise Florida.

For information on career opportunities, visit Covidien online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Phil Devlin, Covidien; Gray Swoope, Enterprise Florida

St. Pete Celebrates Women Of Vision, Inspiration

Do you know a woman in Pinellas County who provides vision, leadership and inspiration to others? Perhaps someone who shows a passion for the region and puts her heart and soul into her business and the community?

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce is looking to recognize these women at the Iconic Women of St. Petersburg luncheon on May 14 at Hilton St. Petersburg, Carillon Park.

"There are so many amazing people in Pinellas County," says Jo-An Thomas, Chair of the luncheon and multimedia consultant for Business Observer. "We often don’t know who these people are who are doing wonderful things in our communities every day."

Now in its 15th year, the event celebrates women who live or work in Pinellas County and are nominated by their peers in one of seven different categories: large business, small business, entrepreneur, nonprofit, community service, Woman to Watch (under the age of 40) and INSPIRE! Women of the Year.

Past honorees include Ashley Rhodes-Courter, 2012 International Woman of the Year. Rhodes-Courter spent a majority of her childhood in 14 different foster homes and is now an international speaker and advocate for education, community, youth and families. Lorraine Yaslowitz, 2013 INSPIRE! Woman of the Year, founded The Partners for Life Foundation in honor of her late husband Jeff, a fallen police officer. The Foundation offers support for families who have lost loved ones due to acts of violence. Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Jelks-Tomalin, 2012 Woman to Watch, is a fifth generation St. Petersburg resident and healthcare industry leader on the local and national levels. Her rich history of community involvement also includes Pinellas County Urban League and the Green Light Pinellas transportation initiative.

The event’s presenting sponsor is Ceridian. Nominations are sought through January 31.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jo-An Thomas

BlueGrace Logistics Adds 55 New Jobs in Tampa

Transportation management firm BlueGrace Logistics is expanding its east Tampa operations and is slated to create up to 55 new jobs by the end of 2014.

Featured on Inc. 500 as the 20th fastest growing company in the United States and as the number one fastest growing logistics and transportation company, BlueGrace helps to simplify and streamline supply chain management for their customers by combining industry expertise with innovative technology solutions.

BlueGrace was founded in Tampa in 2007 and quickly grew from a small office of 8 to 35 employees by 2010. Within the last three years, the company has grown to more than 140 employees while additionally hosting satellite offices in Chicago, Baltimore and Salt Lake City.

The company is now preparing for additional growth by expanding its 12,000-square-foot office in Riverview.

"We are increasing the size of our building and are breaking down a few walls to house all of our employees," says Senior Marketing Manager Natalie Lane.

The newly created jobs which will focus on sales, operations, customer loyalty programs, marketing, technology and administrative functions will help to enhance the company’s internal support for its franchise developments.

By the end of 2013, BlueGrace added 42 new franchises to its network and will add more than 40 new franchises in 2014. BlueGrace is also launching their new franchise website this week.

BlueGrace has grown nearly 50 percent in the last year and attributes its growth to its market presence, technological innovation, capital gains, employee additions, and its powerful franchise development channels.

"The logistics industry is seeing a boom and an upswing that is consistent with franchise development," says Lane.

Innovation and technology is at the heart of the company and does not just extend to the logistics solutions that BlueGrace provides to customers.

The company’s corporate culture largely features on-going employee training in an effort to help employees be more valuable to the marketplace -- whether with BlueGrace or in pursuit of a new career opportunity.

"We support that type of growth and are big on culture, which attracts a lot of people to our organization. We love our city," says Lane.

The company is also creating 20 new jobs in the Chicago market, is a member of IFA's VetFran Initiative which helps connect veterans with franchise opportunities, and also is a major supporter of philanthropic causes throughout Tampa Bay.

For more information on career opportunities or franchise development, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Natalie Lane, BlueGrace Logistics

Gulfport's 2Cool Art Show Features Florida Artists

Artists from the Tampa Bay region and across the state have a chance to show and sell their work at the 2Cool Art Show, February 8 and 9 at the historic Gulfport Casino in Gulfport.

The juried event is hosted by the Professional Association of Visual Artists (PAVA), a statewide organization located in Pinellas County. PAVA began 28 years ago to provide a means for artists to exhibit and work together. Programs include educational materials, guest speakers, networking opportunities and other resources to help new and veteran artists further their careers.

The group’s signature event is the Cool Art Show, which takes place each summer in St. Petersburg. Now celebrating 25 years, the event’s success led the City of Gulfport to invite PAVA to Gulfport Casino for the third annual 2Cool Art Show, co-hosted by the City of Gulfport and the Downtown Merchant Association.

Some 37 artists are expected to attend with a variety of mediums – from paintings to ceramics, jewelry and sculpture. James Parziale, a furniture maker from New Port Richey, will be attending for the first time as well as Joyce Curvin, a paper mache artist from Palm Harbor.

"Most of the people there are local artists, so you get to know who in the community is making what kind of art," says Susan Gehring, the event’s co-chair.

While attending the show, patrons can visit the surrounding community and get a taste for what Gulfport has to offer – including unique boutique shops and restaurants. "Make a day of it, come to visit us and the rest of Gulfport," says Gehring.

Admission and parking are free.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Susan Gehring, PAVA

Moffitt Cancer Center's SPARK Offers Internships

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Summer Program for the Advancement of Research Knowledge (SPARK) is helping to stimulate and strengthen medical innovation by preparing student interns for career growth in cancer research and biomedical science.

"The mission of Moffitt Cancer Center is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer, so one important way to do that is education and training of researchers," says Dr. Doug Cress, SPARK program director.

Through a 10-week intensive research training program, SPARK allows experienced undergraduate students having a career interest in biomedical science or fields related to cancer research an opportunity to significantly dive into specialized research areas via a variety of programs, including cancer biology and evolution, cancer epidemiology, chemical biology and molecular medicine, health outcomes and behavior, and immunology.

With such an in-depth and expansive field as cancer research, students are able to explore their interests in policy, scientific writing, psychology, laboratory experimentation, and more.

"Every student has a different experience at Moffitt. It depends on what they are interested in," says Cress.

To help guide the creative process, students are assigned a mentor within a particular research group and define goals with which to make an impact over the 10 weeks.

The idea is to increase the students’ knowledge base while providing training and instruction on methodologies, processes, and intricacies critical to the development of cancer research.

The internship program is among key opportunities in medical research and development available in the Tampa Bay region’s growing healthcare provider industry.

"Moffitt as a business is a huge contributor to the economy in the area. You can’t necessarily bring all the talent from the outside. The more talent you train from the inside, the better your perspective is. We hope to be able to bring the interns that we train back into Moffitt as they become independent researchers and independent physicians that contribute to our mission," says Cress.

Moffit is accepting applications through February 15 for participation in SPARK. The program is free to participants, and a taxable stipend is provided.

Selection into the program is based upon relevant experience, a written essay and academic performance as well as recommendations from teachers or faculty.

Selected students must commit to a 40-hours-per-week schedule, which may be completed during any 10 weeks between May 1 and August 31.

For more information on SPARK, visit the program online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dr. Doug Cress, Moffitt Cancer Center & SPARK

Forward Thinking Initiatives Launches First Youth Entrepreneurship Academy In St. Petersburg

Forward Thinking Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that helps Tampa Bay teens learn the value and principles of entrepreneurship and innovation, is partnering with the St. Petersburg Greenhouse to launch its first youth entrepreneurship academy.

The first class of the academy, ART-repreneurship for Teens, launches in February 2014 and is designed to teach students the importance of incorporating passion of the arts with business savvy in order to promote their expertise while bringing themselves to market.

"It’s a lot more than teaching a business plan. These skills are critical whether you’re an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur," says the organization’s founder and President Debra Campbell.

In 2004 with the support from the Tampa Bay Partnership, Florida High Tech Corridor and Verizon, Campbell created Forward Thinking Initiatives as an economic development initiative aimed at providing teens and educators with entrepreneurship education focused on innovation, leadership and critical thinking necessary to our evolving workforce.

The initiative grew out of an effort to create a vital link between education and economic development.

"We found that entrepreneurship skills were so critical to what is now called common core. It crosses all kinds of educational, real-world curriculum," says Campbell, who has a background in economic development.

FTI recently partnered with the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, an extension of the City of St. Petersburg which evolved from the city’s Business Assistance Center into an epicenter connecting businesses and entrepreneurs with a wealth of resources designed to support and promote successful and continued business growth.

Campbell’s central goal is to encourage and cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviors that transform youth into empowered thinkers, essentially promoting personal growth while motivating the region’s economic growth.

"They are learning entrepreneurship through specific subject matter like arts entrepreneurship or technology entrepreneurship. This is a unique experience that provides valuable employees and workforce associates to our companies," says Greenhouse Manager and Economic Development Coordinator Sean Kennedy.

FTI’s February class will cover:
- How to market yourself, your portfolio and your product for school or career
- Identifying real business opportunities
- Career opportunities in the arts
- Launching your own business in the arts
- Meeting and learning from professional artists and entrepreneurs

FTI is currently registering students for the program which runs from February 17 to March 27. The fee is $260 for the full program.

For more information on Forward Thinking Initiatives' mission and ART-repreneurship program registration, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Debra Campbell, Forward Thinking Initiatives; Sean Kennedy, St. Petersburg Greenhouse

Community Crowdfunding Grows Tampa Hackerspace

Crowd-sourced funding can be a modern, effective way to get innovative ideas off the ground. In Tampa, a hackerspace that opened in fall 2013 has proven this point, exceeding their Kickstarter pledge goal of $10,000 by around 50 percent.
Money raised through the Kickstarter project, which will be funded at 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 14, will allow Tampa Hackerspace to grow and evolve as a community innovation hub.

Pledge goals include equipment upgrades and community outreach through workshops, local partnerships, and hosting educational events (specifically: helping people who "don't know they are makers yet,'' and teaching kids).

"Our top priorities are to purchase a CNC Mill, Laser Cutter and electronic kits made specifically to get kids inspired and confident about making,'' says Tampa Hackerspace Cofounder Ryan Holmes notes.

Workshops like the quarterly Restart Tampa event will "inspire/help the local community to repair their own appliances by providing them with tools and the confidence to do so,'' says Holmes. "Besides Restart, we are focusing on making programs specifically focused on kids on Sunday afternoons.''

The first "Kid's Open Make'' was held on January 5, 2014; click here for a calendar of upcoming Hackerspace events.

When the group reached 20 percent of their initial $10,000 Kickstarter goal in just a few hours, Holmes was "flabbergasted.'' So far, over 130 backers have pledged donations ranging from $3 to $2,500.

"I definitely knew that there was support out there, but I didn't know it was that digitally connected enough to push out $2,000 in two hours. Just goes to show how much people really want it,'' says Holmes.

Tampa Hackerspace, a state-level nonprofit, is housed on the ground floor of the CoWork Tampa building in West Tampa at 3104 N. Armenia Ave.

The Hackerspace Kickstarter page notes that CoWork Tampa "will significantly discount their $57 coworking membership to $20 per month for six months to every backer of our Kickstarter, plus every member of Tampa Hackerspace, when we reach our $15,000 stretch goal.''

To pledge a donation, visit the Tampa Hackerspace Kickstarter page before 9 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, January 14.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Holmes, Tampa Hackerspace

James Hardie Invests $80 Million, 100 New Jobs in Plant City

James Hardie, global manufacturer of fiber cement siding and interior products, is making an $80 million capital investment in eastern Hillsborough County, expanding its Plant City operations and creating 100 new manufacturing, engineering, project management, and administration jobs by 2015.

"This is an exciting time for James Hardie in both Plant City and around the world. Innovation that happens in Plant City resonates around the world, and the catalyst is the great environment we have here. Employees see themselves as a family, and that says a lot about the people in the city and the surrounding community," says Ryan Sullivan, south division general manager for James Hardie.

James Hardie's expansion plan includes 100,000 square-feet of additional manufacturing space, new machinery, and new equipment, essentially doubling production capacity to meet the increased industry demand for its fiber cement siding products.

The company first established operations in Plant City site in 1994, which currently employs 100 associates.

In 2012, in an effort to increase the community’s competitive advantage in high-impact economic development projects, the City of Plant City approved a moratorium on the collection of transportation mobility fees.

Resultantly, James Hardie received a fee waiver of $37,300, further solidifying market productivity, regional economic growth, and job creation for Tampa Bay.

"This is great news for our community. Manufacturing is an important part of our economic growth strategy," says Mark Sharpe, chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

The company is also eligible for Florida’s new Machinery and Equipment Sales Tax Exemption program, which was approved by the state legislature in May 2013.

"James Hardie has been a valuable member of our business community for more than two decades. Its decision to expand in Plant City is a testament to the strong business environment we’ve created, and validates our role as a top manufacturing and distribution center," says Plant City Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis.

For more information on career opportunities, visit James Hardie online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Ryan Sullivan, James Hardie; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County BOCC; Mary Thomas Mathis, City of Plant City

Project Transition USA Helps Veterans Find Civilian Careers

For many military veterans, making the transition from military to civilian life can prove challenging -- especially landing a good job.

Project Transition USA is on a mission to ease that process by using the power of LinkedIn to help military veterans find and position themselves for unique post-military career opportunities.

The nonprofit organization teaches LinkedIn workshops to transitioning military, veterans, and dependents, showing them effective LinkedIn and professional strategies that will help ease their transition into the civilian workforce.

"We teach them how to brand themselves and be attractive in the market," says Nancy Laine, president and workshop facilitator.

Laine, the daughter of an Army Chaplain and also known as "The Linked Concierge," discovered the potential of LinkedIn after making a valuable new client connection via the online professional network.

Laine and the Project Transition USA workshop team share personal experiences and success stories with veterans about the benefits of using LinkedIn as a networking resource that can lead to rewarding civilian career opportunities.

For several, personal networking or using a platform such as LinkedIn can be a bit uncomfortable after having been removed from the normalcy of every-day career advancement opportunities.

"We start out by addressing their number one fear -- privacy," says Laine.

The Project Transition USA team then starts veterans out with LinkedIn 101, easing them through the learning curve of LinkedIn’s platform while teaching them how to best share their skills that many employers and recruiters look for in candidates, sharing information on:

- Creating a noticeable profile to showcase your skills
- Strategies to build a network to promote hiring
- Effective job-searching techniques on LinkedIn's website
- How to connect with influential people with common interests
- Guidance from professional recruiters and influential community leaders

Although 93 percent of recruiters are currently using LinkedIn as a resource to find qualified candidates, a substantial 69 percent of military veterans report finding a job as the most significant hurdle in their transition.

In November 2012, Project Transition USA collaborated with MacDill Air Force Base to bring the LinkedIn Job Search Workshop to MacDill’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) -- the first held on a military base anywhere in the world.

The organization’s progressive goal is to additionally teach civilian career transition strategies to active duty service members prior to being discharged, integrating the approach in collaboration with each United States military base to capitalize upon the long-term benefits of career preparation to prospective employers after military service.

"They want a meaningful career, and we point them in the direction of whatever makes them come alive," says Laine.

For information on workshops or how to get involved, visit Project Transition USA on LinkedIn or online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Nancy Laine, Project Transition USA

Angelo's Invests $50 Million in Florida, 120+ Jobs In Pinellas

A national pioneer in recycled building materials, Angelo’s Recycled Materials, is expanding rapidly, recently selecting St. Petersburg, as its national headquarters and creating more than 120 new green jobs by the end December 2013.

Angelo’s, which has already created more than 100 jobs locally in 2013, recently added a new container division for construction and demolition job sites and currently operates six active recycling facilities.

As Angelo’s continues to expand through the addition of new recycling operations centers, the company also plans to add more than 200 jobs over the next few years.

"The company saw a real need for this kind of business in St. Petersburg. The entire area and the building has been repurposed to make the property more attractive. It is the perfect place to invest their future," says Mario Farias, public relations manager.

Founded by Angelo Iafrate in 1960, the company originally recycled reclaimed concrete into aggregate and road-base products. Realizing the opportunity to reuse many of the materials that were originally discarded during the demolition process, Angelo & his brother designed a machine to crush the concrete while extracting metals, sand, wood, plastics and other particles in order to avoid unnecessary landfilling and reduce costs on construction projects as they reuse materials.

In addition to the 13-acre site at its new St. Petersburg headquarters, the firm has invested more than $13 million in Pinellas County and over $50 million in the state of Florida, and is committed to continuing its investment in the Tampa Bay region.

"We are committed to investing in the greater St. Petersburg area and all of Florida by building upon our existing locations and developing new locations," says Angelo’s Principal Dominic Iafrate, Jr.

Angelo's recycling rate is over 80 percent in its St. Petersburg and Largo materials processing facilities, which is critical to helping city, county, and commercial clients reach the state's 75 percent recycling goal

The company is also in the permitting process to add four additional yards in Florida in 2014: one in Brandon, one in Tampa, and two in Orlando.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Angelo’s online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dominic Iafrate and Mario Farias, Angelo's

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

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

FIVE By FIVE Art Show Returns To Tampa Oct. 18

The Hillsborough County Arts Council is hosting its second annual FIVE by FIVE fundraiser on Friday, October 18, at the Tampa Museum of Art. 

The $10 entrance fee is an excellent deal for catching up on culture and to possibly walk away with a valuable piece of art.

"The Tampa area has great artists both visual and performing,'' says Terri Simons, Director of Programming for the Arts Council. "This is a night you can come to one location and see a variety of visual arts, but you can also see scenes from theater, performances by professional musicians, actors, poets and dancers throughout the evening.''

Benefiting the Arts Council's individual artist grants, the FIVE by FIVE international call-to-artists has brought in more than 700 pieces of original artwork fit concisely to the required five-inch-square surface (artists are also permitted to extend five inches in depth). The individual artist grants program has provided $640,335 to 390 individual artists since 1989. Last year's FIVE by FIVE event raised $9,625. "It's truly small art for a BIG cause,'' says Simons.

This uniquely mosaic exhibit will be displayed in the Tampa Museum of Art's Stephen Dickey Lecture Hall and each piece will be available for sale from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a flat price of $25 each. The pieces are displayed anonymously, only after purchase is the artist's name revealed.

The skill levels of participating artists range from beginning student to longtime professional. The organizers hope to encourage patrons to choose their art "democratically'' according to how it appeals to them visually, not by artist name.

Artwork submissions were largely from the greater Tampa Bay region, but a significant contribution came from artists around the nation and the world -- including pieces from as far away as Canada, the Ukraine Europe and Asia. 

Building on its inaugural success last year, which drew in a crowd of nearly 900, the surprisingly multidimensional event includes a powerful array of 38 professional performance artists donating their time, with five-minute performances non-stop throughout the night. Attendees can also avail themselves of the Tampa Museum of Art's current exhibitions during the event, which include the Modern Masters: Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miro as well as Fragile Waters: Photographs from Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly.

New this year, and highly encouraged, is the availability to purchase tickets in advance to avoid cumbersome lines the night of the event.  Also, the exhibit will be maintained in its entirety until 9 p.m. so that guests will have the opportunity to view it as a whole before those purchasing the artwork will be permitted to leave with it.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Terri Simon, Hillsborough Arts Council

Amazon Deal Brings 1,000+ Jobs To Tampa Bay

Signed, sealed and delivered.

Amazon is set to open its newest fulfillment center in Ruskin, creating 375 new quality jobs having at least 115 percent of the state’s average wage. The new operation will bring more than 1,000 permanent jobs to Tampa Bay.

The expansion of Amazon into Florida will additionally create several hundred seasonal temporary employment opportunities as well as construction jobs.

"This is bigger than landing the Super Bowl, a national convention or the Olympics. It’s a mega-storm of growth that’s hitting our county with feeder bands that will create economic growth all over this area," says Commissioner Sandy Murman.

USAA Real Estate Co., a company that works with Amazon on the development of its distribution centers, and Ryan Companies US, Inc. reached an agreement late Wednesday, closing on the sale of land for the South Hillsborough County property that will house Amazon’s new distribution facility.

Amazon has signed a long-term lease with USAA for the South Shore Corporate Park property near Interstate 75 and State Road 674 in Ruskin. Construction of the fulfillment center will begin immediately.

The deal comes nearly four months after Amazon’s proposal to expand and create more than 3,000 jobs in Florida.

The company’s expansion project for the development of the center in Ruskin also includes a 3rd party investment of $200 million toward improvements and equipment, further increasing Amazon’s stock in the Tampa Bay market.

For additional information, visit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Commissioner Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County

USF Energy Conference Designed To Be Conduit For Collaboration

A conference aimed at bringing together students, researchers, businesses and other members of the Tampa Bay community to network and exchange ideas on sustainable energy will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in the University of South Florida's Marshall Center.

"IDEA: InterDisciplinary Exchange in Action'' is the name of both the conference and the student group organizing the event. A diverse mix of topics will be presented in the day-long conference, ranging from the emergence of "green'' computer networks to geothermal technology, energy-saving techniques for waste minimization, and the future of global sustainable societies.

"Our goal is to create an annual conference where ideas from different disciplines can be shared and eventually lead to collaborations,'' says Eleanor Clements, a PhD student in chemistry and president of the newly formed IDEA group. "We chose sustainable energy as the first topic and have had a great response from academics at the University who want to share their research.''

In addition to a full slate of speakers, the event will feature a trade show for local businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs involved in sustainable energy, Clements adds.
Conference speakers include:
  • Dr. George Philippidis, Patel College Associate Professor of Sustainable Energy, will discuss his research in biomass and algae technologies for sustainable production of transportation fuels and  renewable power. As director of the Renewable Fuels Laboratory, Philippidis has engineered technologies to grow fuel-producing algae while reducing water and energy consumption.
  • Kenneth Christensen, a professor in USF's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, will be discussing his research on energy efficiency of computer networks or "green networks.''
  • Professor James Stock will speak about environmental and energy implications of "reverse logistics'' and the energy required for product returns, including remanufacturing, repairing, and refurbishing of products, packaging reuse, recycling, minimization and substitution.
  • Dr. E. Christian Wells, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Founding Director of the USF Office of Sustainability, will share his global perspective on  environmental economic decision making, sustainability science and social issues such as the global culture of environmentalism and sustainable societies of the future.
  • Allan Feldman, Professor of Science Education, will discuss his research on the role that K-12 teachers and students can have in scientific and engineering research projects, particularly in fields related to sustainability.
  • Cheryl Hall, Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs, will look at the ways in which different understandings of freedom, happiness and sacrifice influence our imagination of the possibilities for creating environmentally sustainable societies.
  • Michael J. Lynch,  Professor of Criminology,  will address environmental justice in the United States, the distribution of hazardous waste sites and chemical accidents, global warming, environmental law and regulation, and  environmental crimes.
  • Friedemann Buschbeck, Green Party liaison to Germany, will speak on his recent visit and how the German government encourages green innovation.
  • Ashleigh Stewart of Young of Americans for Liberty will discuss free markets in relation to energy innovation.
  • Jay Egg of EggGeoThermal will discuss geothermal technologies  and  his recently published article in National Geographic on the same topic.
The conference is open to the public and will be held in the Royal Palm Ballroom in the Marshall Center. Admission is free; sponsors and exhibitors may follow this link for more information.

Writer: Marcia Biggs
Source: Eleanor Clements, IDEA

1 Million Cups Of Coffee Support Entrepreneurship In Cities

A new opportunity is brewing for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay. 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg officially kicks off October 9 at St. Petersburg Greenhouse and invites business owners, mentors and the entire community to come together to support local businesses and start-ups.

The concept was launched through the Kauffman Foundation, with the idea of seeing how much business and support entrepreneurs could receive around one million cups of coffee. The idea is simple: every Wednesday at 9:00 am, communities across the country bring together entrepreneurs, mentors, advisers and business minds to learn about and support new businesses. Each event features two businesses that present for six minutes each and then allow 20 minutes of questions, with the event ending at exactly one hour.

The concept began in Kansas City in April of 2012, and has rolled out in 20 communities nationwide. Kauffman provides back end administration, support and promotion, as well as opportunities for participating communities to gather together for benchmarking.  

The organizing team for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg consists of: Sean Kennedy of St. Petersburg Greenhouse, John Morrow with USF St. Petersburg’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance, Reuben Pressman, serial entrepreneur, Danielle Weitlauf of Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Richard Wood with Eagle Datagistics.

“We want more energy, more people coming together to talk about entrepreneurship in a very casual format,” says Danielle Weitlauf, Manager for Tampa Bay Innovation Center and one of the organizers for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg.

In keeping with the 1 Million Cups theme, Kahwa Coffee is donating coffee each week.

Presenters for the kick-off event are Eye Crawler and Causetofund.

A common question that comes up at other 1 Million Cups events is: “What can the community do to support you?” Speakers will walk away with just that -- advice, connections and support from the community.

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

Tampa Startups Compete For National Attention At Tech Cocktail Event

Have you heard of Taskvilla, a Tampa company that offers business-hiring software? How about Tie the Knot, a custom website and iPhone app builder for the modern bride and groom?

Tonight at Fox Jazz Cafe on West Kennedy Boulevard, these local startups, along with LilyPad, Seat by Seat, and Valet Boss, will each compete for the title "Hottest Showcasing Startup'' and the chance to continue on to a two-day national conference in Las Vegas.

Since 2006, Tech Cocktail has hosted "Socials'' in cities worldwide, including tech hubs like San Francisco and Austin. For the first time, Tech Cocktail is coming to Tampa.

"Tech Cocktail was created to stimulate local tech communities,'' explains Gracie Stemmer, marketing director for Tampa Bay WaVE and head of the Tech Cocktail Committee in Tampa. "The event will showcase some of the area's most exciting tech companies and most supportive organizations.''

Entrepreneurs, supporters of the tech community or members of the public who are interested in what is taking place in Tampa Bay's tech world are welcome to attend, Stemmer says.

Criteria for selection of the five startups that will demo tonight included being established less than three years ago, raising less than $1 million in total funding, and having a working product in at least beta stage.

Each startup will have two minutes to pitch their products, while attendees will have the opportunity to network with members of the local entrepreneurial community and area tech enthusiasts.

Community-building events are an asset to Tampa's entrepreneurs, Stemmer says. "When our local community comes together and rallies around our startups, we are re-enforcing and strengthening what Tampa Bay has to offer.''

Tech Cocktail Celebrate, to be held in Las Vegas on Oct. 22-23, will offer 30 worldwide finalists the opportunity to showcase their companies to big names in the tech world.

"Becoming a recognizable tech community in the national entrepreneurial arena will not only keep our talent here in Tampa Bay, but also allows us to move talent in to our thriving area,'' says Stemmer.

Tech Cocktail's Social is Tuesday‚ Oct. 8th‚ 6-8:30 p.m., at Fox Jazz Cafe at 5401 W. Kennedy Boulevard.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVE

Anago Cleaning Systems Grows, Adds 40+ Jobs in Tampa

Anago Cleaning Systems’ Master Franchise Owners Raul Gonzalez and Omar Fernandez are spurring economic growth in Tampa Bay, creating small business opportunities for entrepreneurs while generating more than 40 jobs.

One of the leading commercial cleaning franchise organizations with over 2,400 business units across the country, Anago has been recognized by the Entrepreneur Magazine as the 10th fastest-growing franchise in 2013 in the United States and by the National Minority Franchising Initiative as the top franchise for minorities.

"We are adding small businesses by virtue of those people who open a cleaning business and are simultaneously adding jobs because the unit franchisees are hiring employees to assist them in running their small business," says VP of Marketing Judy Walker.

Cousins that came from a close-knit family in New York, Gonzalez and Fernandez moved to Florida together and saw a need for growing companies that would cater to the entrepreneurial needs of the Spanish community. Many of Anago’s Florida unit franchisees are from different countries -- entrepreneurs seeking business opportunities but who may face market entry and language barriers.

"They saw a need that people wanted. In a community, people really stick together, and we wanted to become part of that community by reaching out to them and fulfilling their needs," says Trish Carr, regional director of Anago Tampa.

For the past 15 years, Gonzalez and Fernandez have successfully added new franchise units in the area, connecting entrepreneurs with a structured business management system, allowing franchise business owners the freedom to concentrate on their craft while fulfilling the American Dream. The Master Franchiser, Anago Tampa, provides the franchise unit with on-going local contracts, mentorship, marketing and administrative services, effectually connecting families and communities with long-term business and job opportunities.

"We work hand-in-hand with our business owners. We build relationships," says Carr.

Gonzalez and Fernandez have already added seven new franchise units this year and plans to plant up to eight more before the end of 2013.

"I have so much faith and belief in Omar, Raul and Trish. Their success has been excellent through the years, and we expect them to grow exponentially and the economy as well," says Walker.

For more information on unit franchise or career opportunities, visit Anago Tampa online or call Trish Carr at 727.535.8752.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Judy Walker and Trish Carr, Anago Cleaning Systems

Granex Opens Manufacturing Facility, Adds 50+ Jobs In Tampa

New and emerging stone processing company Granex, Inc. is beginning construction on its new manufacturing facility and will create new jobs for more than 50 new employees. Over the next four months, the company will add crane operators, machine handlers, office administration, marketing specialists and accounting team members.

Granex specializes in processing dimensional stones like granite and marble. By sourcing stone from several different countries and importing them directly into the United States for processing here, it essentially creates a new industry segment for domestic engineering of distinct stones.

"It’s a new kind of industry. This industry will bring the Tampa Bay area onto the world map of manufacturing cities. We will be importing from almost 40 different countries, and we will proudly put Made in USA," says Granex President Raj Emandi.

The opening of the new northeast Tampa manufacturing facility is a part of a $6 million capital investment that will provide a place to process the direct imports, attracting American buyers while presenting a significant cost-savings alternative to purchasing from other countries.

"We are producing huge blocks of granite and marble stone and cutting them in America," says Emandi.

After production, Granex will also begin exporting to other countries including Europe, and Central and South America.

The company is obtaining final permitting for construction of the new facility, will complete construction within four months, and will go straight into production.

Emandi’s goals are to create a wholesome environment for employees by introducing them to the new jobs, offering training, and positioning them for long-term growth with the company's specialized services.

Granex’ growth plans include targeting $8 to $12 million sales within the first two years, expanding the capability and volume of the company and increasing sales, further creating additional job growth.

"Within two years, we will be increasing the capacity of the company by adding a few more machines. We are anticipating to double sales and add more jobs," says Emandi.

For more information on unique business partnerships or career opportunities, visit Granex online or call 813.874.8400.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Raj Emandi, Granex

WellCare Contributes $1M To Step Up For Students

WellCare Health Plans, Inc. is offering scholarships to improve health and educational opportunities for students in need.

WellCare announced its participation in the Step Up For Students scholarship program, contributing $1 million to help provide K-12 students coming from low-income families or poverty circumstances the opportunity to participate in learning environments tailored to their scholastic needs. Since 2004, WellCare has contributed $9 million for 2,400 students throughout Florida.

"WellCare always has a health focus, but we understand that you actually have to touch people’s lives to improve their health. When we start young, we know that we will have healthier adults in our community. Start young and build their futures and potential through these scholarships," says Denise Malecki, Corporate Communications Manager.

Through the Step Up For Students initiative, students are given the opportunity to excel in their educational environment by being able to participate in private schools or out-of-district public schools that may be more tailored to their individual learning needs.

A significant long-term benefit of the program is the potential break in cyclical poverty situations and the creation of successful life paths for children in challenged economic circumstances.

The program recognizes the differences in children’s learning styles and aims to give families choices in their child’s education -- an option that many financially stable families may already have.

Since the program’s start, more than 331,000 scholarships have been awarded.

"For 11 years, our program has been helping our state’s most disadvantaged and academically vulnerable children access the schools that best meet their needs. The program exists to promote equal educational opportunity, so all of Florida’s children have a better chance at a successful future. We are grateful to WellCare for heling us make this mission a reality," says Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill.

For more information on WellCare, visit them online. For information on Step Up For Students and how to get involved, visit their website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Denise Malecki, WellCare; Doug Tuthill, Step Up For Students

Tampa Bay Arts Summit Promotes Regional Collaboration

A first-of-its-kind regional arts summit will take place Oct. 25, 2013 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, bringing together arts organizations, arts advocates, legislators and administrators from the five counties surrounding Tampa Bay. 

The Regional Arts Summit: Return on Investment aims to promote collaboration between arts organizations of all disciplines to better leverage advertising and marketing dollars, avoid scheduling conflicts and to build and share audiences.  Through interactive presentations and breakout sessions, participants will discuss topics such as cooperative programming, advocacy, regional funding, cultural tourism, and arts in healthcare. 

“To be successful, the arts have to be regionalized,” says attorney Peter Zinober, Chairman of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and shareholder at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, who came up with the idea of the summit. He envisions the event as a powerful brainstorming and networking session, “Putting people in the same room to develop strategies and ideas, develop more revenue while spending less.”

Presented by the Hillsborough County Arts Council, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas, the full-day event will feature keynote speaker Randy Cohen, VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts from Washington DC. Cohen who will speak on the future of the arts in America -- “Where will we be in 10 Years?” He is a noted expert in the field of arts funding, research, policy, and using the arts to address community development issues.

Registration is available online through the Hillsborough Arts, Inc. website

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Peter Zinober, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Hackerspace Builds A Community Home In Tampa

How would you like to use a 3D printer to turn a wild invention into a working prototype? At Tampa Hackerspace, this kind of dream will soon be a reality.

Sufficient funding for the group's founding members to set up shop at CoWork Tampa was met in early August.

Working under a "short deadline to make it happen,'' founder Bill Shaw explains, the group appealed to Facebook members to help raise enough initial revenue to secure their new space, a large open-floor plan venue on the ground floor of the West Tampa building.

Education is the primary goal of the Tampa Hackerspace, says Shaw, founder of nonprofit Inspiration Labs. Shaw hopes to "build a community of people who like to experiment and tinker.'' 

Along with offering free classes and facilities where individuals and groups can work on projects, Tampa Hackerspace will house "equipment that's mostly too expensive for people to purchase on their own. We'll have 3D printers, laptop location equipment, soldering stations -- there will be a lot of things that people can come to use as members,'' Shaw explains.

Classes will be taught by members and the curriculum will be regulated by member interest, but Shaw notes that the Tampa Hackerspace hopes to bridge the gap between a "hackerspace and a makerspace.''

He emphasizes, "The type of audience that we're targeting are people who are into the do-it-yourself thing -- and not just traditional 'hardware' people. We have a pretty large number of people now who are into electronics and robotics and technology, and I think we have the potential to bring in members who enjoy different types of art projects, like the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society.''

Classes will also cover a broad range of topics: "Technology is not the only component; there's a large creative side to what we're trying to accomplish, as well,'' Shaw explains.

The group relies on the community it brings together, with "a small amount of revenue from classes,'' Shaw says, to raise enough funds for furnishings, equipment, and consumable resources.

"Primarily, our revenue will come from members. … There are a lot of other operating expenses now that we've secured the space,'' explains Shaw, "but CoWork Tampa has been really supportive in helping us make it work. And as we grow, we'll be improving equipment and adding new things to make it more valuable as a member.''

Tampa Hackerspace will offer 24/7 access to "keyholder'' members for $100 monthly, while lower-priced options are also available. Meetings, which Shaw hopes will becomes a weekly occurrence as Hackerspace finds footing, are open to the public.

Over 35 participants attended the group's second meeting. The next Tampa Hackerspace event will be held tonight (Aug. 20), at 7:00 PM, at 3104 N Armenia Ave.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Bill Shaw, Inanimate Reason, Inc.

Where Love Grows: Meals Reconnect Tampa Families

A family is anyone under your roof for a day or a lifetime.

That’s the motto of Where Love Grows, a Tampa-based nonprofit with the mission of enriching families so they may in turn enrich themselves.

The organization was founded in 2012 by Vicki Anzalone, who moved to Tampa from New Jersey six years ago seeking warmer weather to help her fibromyalgia.

The inspiration came from watching her two sons, Chase and Chad, help their friend raise his son, Cam. Cam was being raised by single parents who had no extended family in the area. Anzalone watched the "it takes a village" concept come to life as Cam’s family became a network of his parents’ friends, who would often gather around the dinner table for laughs and good conversation.

The most recent initiative is Victoria's Good Table. Inspired by Anzalone’s grandmother, Victoria, the program provides a safe dinner table for hungry children in the Tampa area.

"My best memories came from around the table," Anzalone recalls of growing up. Her idea is to create these memories for children who would not otherwise have them due to poverty.

Anzalone cooks the meals out of her own home with just a 4-burner electric stovetop and receives help from volunteers for the delivery and serving, feeding 70 – 130 kids at a time, mostly at the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa Bay. Meals are served family style, while people engage in conversation.

 "I’ve been asked to cook and come live with many children," laughs Anzalone.

Victoria's Good Table has fed 800 kids in Hillsborough County since its launch in January. Anzalone has received support from organizations such as Feeding America Tampa Bay, Chobani and the Tampa Yankees, who recently donated tickets to the Field of Dreams event which fed 130 kids.

"I’ve been blessed to be able to serve, but what I get back in return outweighs any efforts or cost," says Anzalone.  
Future plans include larger scale events with parents in attendance.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Vicki Anzalone, Where Love Grows

Tampa Entrepreneurs Develop BuzzMe App

Imagine that it’s 5 o’clock and you just remembered that today is a friend’s birthday. What do you do other than admit you forgot? You could call, post on Facebook, send her a text, or do something really cool, like buy her a martini at a local restaurant. You don’t even have to be at the venue to make it happen. And neither does she.

Thanks to BuzzMe, a new startup by Tampa entrepreneurs Nathaniel Waring and Philippe Theodore, users can browse a venue’s drink list or menu (pre-loaded on the app) from anywhere in the world, select and pay for the item they want, and then send or “buzz” the surprise to a friend. The recipient can redeem the gift whenever they happen to be at the venue. BuzzMe takes a small commission on each order.

What’s in it for the venue? “It doesn’t cost the restaurant or bar anything to participate, it gives them great visibility and they’re getting a sale from someone not even in their place of business,” says Waring. “It’s absolutely risk free.”

BuzzMe launched in June and so far, says Waring, about 15 local places are participating as are several national liquor brands. 

“I get pitched every day about different marketing ideas and this is one of the best,” says Alex Steppacher, Florida sales manager for Russian Standard Vodka. “People ages 25 to 35 are very social media-oriented. The brand exposure for us could be tremendous.”

Waring’s goal is to sign up 100 bars and restaurants in the Tampa region by fall, eventually expanding to Orlando and Gainesville and then to other areas around the country.

Writer: Janan Talafer
Sources: Nathaniel Waring, BuzzMe; Alex Steppacher, Russian Standard

Project GenYes! Brings Arts To Life For Generation Y

The Tampa Bay area is booming with technology accelerators, which provide mentoring and other resources to take a new company from idea to implementation. Inspired by the success of this model, Studio@620 in St. Petersburg offers a new accelerator for emerging artists in the millennial generation.  

Project GenYes! is led by Tampa Bay entrepreneurs Hunter Payne and Reuben Pressman, along with John Collins of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, artist-in-residence Sharon Scott, grant master Sandy Tabor and Bob Devin Jones of Studio@620. Funding is provided by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

"We’re inspired by accelerators for tech company startups because of their focused collaborative energy and are excited to see artists function within this platform," says Pressman.

The accelerator, which focuses on jazz, dance and theater, uses both virtual and physical space to turn concepts into performances while bringing multigenerational audiences together. Twelve artists will be selected initially from those who apply online to participate in a private two-month online workshop with vocalist, writer and mentor Sharon Scott. Six artists from that group will then go on to the second stage, where they will receive one-on-one mentoring, a website to gather additional support from the community, a $1,000 stipend to use toward their performance, and access to volunteers and creative space at Studio@620 to work and perform.

"This is crucial for the Tampa Bay community to keep our emerging artists engaged," says Pressman. "It says to them: We want you to share your journey here with us in Tampa Bay. Let’s all stick around and make something beautiful together!"

The team hopes the creativity collaborative energy of the project will serve as a sustainable model for other arts organizations around the world.

The deadline to apply is mid-October.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Reuben Pressman, Project GenYes!

Awesome Tampa Bay Engages Community In New Pitch Sessions

Now the Tampa Bay community will have a front row seat to the people, projects and organizations that make the region awesome.

Since 2011, Awesome Tampa Bay has been providing quarterly $1,000 microgrants to support projects that make the region a better place. Whereas in the past the decisions were made during a selection meeting with nine trustees, the group is now choosing grant recipients using a Shark Tank-style pitch session. The top five applicants will pitch their idea to the now 12 trustees in a public format. They will then receive feedback on what they can do to improve their idea. Although the grant will still be awarded to one recipient each quarter, the pitch session will allow everyone involved to benefit from the connections. The first session will take place August 22.

Awesome Tampa Bay is also joining other similar organizations around the world to participate in "Awesome Day in the World" June 27 with a Mid-Summer Awesome Party. The free community event from 5 to 7 pm at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa will celebrate the vitality and richness of the region, asking people to communicate what they like best about Tampa Bay and what could be done to make it even more attractive.

"Awesome Tampa Bay gives us the platform to celebrate the great, bright spots in our community and encourages people to take risks in order to make the community great," says Rafaela Amador, dean of awesomeness for Awesome Tampa Bay. "Every quarter we find a way to say 'yes' to making the community better, $1,000 at a time."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rafaela Amador, Awesome Tampa Bay

Teen's Gaming App Wins Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

More than 100 entrepreneurs, software developers, online designers and marketers convened to collaborate and compete in creating innovative startups during the fourth Startup Weekend Tampa Bay June 7–9 at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

Taking first place was Live Warfare, an interactive, person-to-person video game that takes place in real life using a smartphone. Players take a picture of someone and then digitally "shoot'' them, sending a notification to their opponent's phone.

The game is the brainchild of 14-year old Nathan Eyal, whose father Omer brought him to Startup Weekend and also participated in the product development. Other teammates included: Ed Galarza, Akira Mitchell, Ken Morris and Matt Saulding.

The judges used three sets of criteria to select the winners: customer validation, business model and execution. The Live Warfare team reached out to Eyal's friends and other participants for validation. They also created and executed the entire app over the weekend, allowing for a live demonstration at the event.

"We focus on the team, and I think their team was really strong,'' says Ryan Sullivan, co-organizer for Startup Weekend. "Because Nathan was so passionate about the idea, he kept the team moving forward and making decisions.''

Second place went to BuySignal, which monitors Twitter feeds to pull out indicators, or "signals'' that someone is about to make a purchasing decision. For example, someone might tweet that they need a repair for their car, which triggers a mechanic to reach out to them.

Taking third place was StreezWize. A team of 13 participants developed an app that allows people to provide real time feedback about potential crimes. The app attaches police and emergency service data to citizen input, which assists in solving crimes. 

"Crowdsourcing real time data is becoming a huge niche,'' says Kim Randall, co-organizer for Startup Weekend. "I'm super excited to see where Streetwize will go.''

Sources: Ryan Sullivan and Kim Randall, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay
Writer: Megan Hendricks

Metropolitan Ministries Grows, Adds 20 Jobs

Metropolitan Ministries plans to open the doors to MiraclePlace on North Florida Avenue in Tampa in August, and is expanding staff to accommodate growing outreach initiatives.

Listed as one of the Top Places to Work in 2013, the organization has increased its staff by 20 percent over the past year and is now adding 20 new client services team members, including social workers, resident services assistants, counselors and administration.

"We look for what we call four C’s: confidence, character, chemistry and calling. It’s critical that our team believes in what we do and believes in recovery and self-sufficiency for our clients," says Keri Howard, director of human resources.

For more than 40 years, Metropolitan Ministries has served the Tampa Bay region, providing special care for at-risk and homeless individuals and alleviating suffering through resources that instill hope, love and reconciliation.

"Over the last six years, we’ve seen a great recession take hold of many families in our community that are living paycheck to paycheck. The needs of the community have really expanded, and we’ve expanded to meet that need," says President Tim Marks.

Two years ago, Metropolitan Ministries presented a value proposition to its board that would stir local economic change and stimulate sustainability for families in crisis:

Double the organization’s capacity, serving twice as many families at just a 25 percent increase in overall expenses.

Thus, MiraclePlace was born, an initiative to stamp out homelessness while offering transitional housing, crisis counseling, life skills, and educational and career development.

Prior to MiraclePlace, more than 50 families in crisis were on the waiting list to receive housing -- a number that did not sit well with Marks.

"We just thought it was wrong. We were just disturbed that many that were on the waiting list -- 25 percent or so -- were children," says Marks.

The first phase of MiraclePlace will open in August, featuring 52 new units of housing, an early childcare education center, an expanded dining room and a new welcome center. The opening allows Metropolitan Ministries to increase capacity to serve a 20 percent growth in families living on campus.

The final phase of MiraclePlace is expected to open by March 2014, adding another 47 units of housing and leading to a transition plan for 99 additional families. As the organization meets the needs of the initiative, forward growth includes a new K through 5 school, a new gymnasium, an assembly hall, a youth activity center and additional warehousing.

"We expect to be in construction for another 24 months at the main campus. We are also trying to put together a capital campaign for Pasco County to build out a new kitchen and 24 units of housing," says Marks.

The construction of MiraclePlace will add more than 115 construction jobs as well as additional subcontract positions. As developments continue, Metropolitan Ministries will continue to engage partners, staff and volunteers.

"Our civil engineer teams will continue to be engaged with us at the main campus and some additional resources will be involved in construction in Pasco. We have a very vibrant volunteer program, and we’d like to provide more volunteers and mentors that can be involved with the day to day activities," says Marks.

For information on hiring or volunteer opportunities, unique business partnerships, or the donation process, visit Metropolitan Ministries’ website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Tim Marks and Keri Howard, Metropolitan Ministries

4th Startup Weekend Tampa Bay Moves To St. Pete

Do you have a business idea but need support and feedback to get it off the ground? Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur who wants to meet others of like mind and become a part of the next big business venture in Tampa Bay? Startup Weekend might be the place for you.

Holding its fourth event in Tampa Bay, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay is part of a larger network that has hosted more than 400 events in 100 countries around the world since 2011. The event is attended by individuals, teams and groups of entrepreneurs set out to make their mark on the business community and become a part of something new.

Attendees pitch their startup ideas and receive feedback from other participants. Teams then form around the top ideas (voted on by participants), which starts the 54-hour event complete with design, planning, collaboration and presentations. Groups receive feedback on their ideas from a panel of experts, and everyone comes out of the experience with new knowledge and connections.  

"Success is having people leave the event with a better understanding of how to take their ideas and bring them to life," says Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay organizer and facilitator.

Sullivan also helps facilitate other Startup Weekends across the country. What’s unique about Tampa Bay’s event is that it doesn’t focus on a specific industry or niche. "We have a very passionate community and an abundance of unique ideas from different background," he notes.

The St. Petersburg location was chosen in hopes of better connecting the Tampa Bay region, as well as for the open layout that will encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing among attendees.

The event begins Friday, June 7, at 6:30 pm and concludes Sunday, June 9, at 9 pm at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

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

TIE Investors Back Event Networking Mobile App

A group of investors in Tampa Bay is backing a new app designed to better facilitate networking connections at business events.

Four members of the Tampa Bay chapter of TiE, The Indus Entrepreneurs, recently invested in a 20 percent ownership of Feathr, a start-up created by former University of Florida students Aidan Augustin and Neal Ormsbee. The mobile app is designed to create better connections during events and conferences by serving as a virtual business card. It provides profiles and contact information for speakers, exhibitors and attendees, allowing people to connect instantly for meaningful communications. It also provides real-time schedule and room updates as well as logistical information about the event.

"Feathr has assembled a very talented team to build a mobile app to revolutionize the age old practice of business card exchange," says Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa Bay Charter Member and board member for Feathr.

TiE Tampa Bay was founded in 2012, and is part of a global organization with 25,000 members in 17 countries. The organization provides local entrepreneurs with connections, education, mentoring and financial support. There are 22 charter members who provide most of the investment funding. The group is also open to general members, most of whom are local entrepreneurs and business owners taking advantage of the expertise.

The philosophical foundation’s primary goal is to nurture and invest in up-and-coming companies with good ideas. Quarterly pitch sessions provide general members with a chance to have their idea heard in front of potential investors.

"We hope the Tampa chapter can make a huge difference in helping to grow tens if not hundreds of businesses in Tampa and Florida in the coming months and years," says Kartham.

TiE has already helped Feathr with product repositioning and marketing and billing and accounting systems. The app will be launched at VenturePitch Orlando on May 7.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa Bay

USF Student Makes Cosmetics From Moroccan Oil Plant

Chafik Abdellaoui has always considered himself an entrepreneur. Originally from Morocco, he first came to the United States in 2008 to pursue a BA in business. After traveling and launching a website in France, he returned to the U.S. in 2011 to attend the University of South Florida. He graduates this spring with an MBA degree.

Abdellaoui's mother was a beauty professional for many years, owning a spa in Casablanca, Morocco. Seeing his mother's success gave him the inspiration to get into the business himself.

In March 2012, Abdellaoui launched Prettymanagement.com, an online solution that allows beauty salon and spa managers to manage their customers, inventory, staff and marketing.

In March of this year, he started another company by the name of Pretty Argan. The cosmetics company produces organic, all-natural products using argan oil, a plant oil extracted from the kernel of the argan tree in the Souss Valley of Morocco.

The oil is extracted from the argan fruit, which grows on a 200-year-old tree that only grows in that part of the world. Women in a local cooperative pick the fruit, break the kernel inside and extract the oil from the kernel by hand.

Abdellaoui and his fiance discovered the oil while traveling to the Souss Valley. They noticed the Berber people there used it for almost everything – their skin, hair, food and some medicinal purposes. The oil is very popular in Europe, but isn’t as well known in the United States. Abdellaoui decided to dive in and launch a company to increase awareness of the benefits of the oil in the U.S. The oil is imported from Morocco, and the products are formulated and marketed in Tampa Bay.  

"I enjoy the entrepreneurial venture of trying to achieve something using my energy, time and investment," says Abdellaoui. He also likes that the company helps guarantee jobs for women in the Souss Valley.

Abdellaoui attributes the connections made while in the USF MBA program with helping him get the business launched. His graduate assistant position gave him direct access to the resources in the USF Center for Entrepreneurship. He also joined Tampa Bay WaVE’s roundtable and is using their co-working space.

"I'm trying to take advantage of as many resources as possible that are available to entrepreneurs in Florida," says Abdellaoui. "Tampa is a very good area because it does provide a lot of these resources."

Once becoming more established in Tampa, Abdellaoui plans to distribute Pretty Argan statewide and eventually across the nation.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Chafik Abdellaoui, Pretty Argan

Tampa Bay Touts Itself As Incubator For Healthcare Innovation

The Tampa Bay Partnership has decided to target market four industry sectors identified in the Regional Business Plan as industries that provide high-wage, sustainable job growth opportunities, thus shedding light on the Tampa Bay region as an incubator for healthcare innovation.

The goal is to ensure that Tampa Bay, which accounted for 41 percent of the state’s job growth in 2012, is recognized as one of the nation’s hubs for medical innovation. The industry of applied medicine and human performance leads the region’s target sectors, adding more than 7,000 jobs since 2009.

The applied medicine and human performance industry incorporates core clusters of medical technology and research, including senior health and wellness, personalized medicine, clinical trials, medical instruments and devices, health information technology and bioinformatics.

“Our target sectors have performed better than jobs in Tampa Bay, better than jobs in Florida, and better than jobs in the nation as a whole. The wages in these jobs are higher, and these jobs create more spin-off jobs,” says Dave Sobush, VP of regional business planning and development at the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Tampa Bay not only has the foundation of medical research and the presence of such large medical firms as H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and revolutionaries such as M2Gen to create a supply chain for programs, but the region also has great technical training for people to work in laboratory settings.

“Pinellas County is among a handful of communities in the nation with a strong cluster of medical devices,” says Sobush.

Several companies have selected Tampa as a base from which they can conduct ground-breaking medical research.

“We realize that we have something and we want to have one broad message to share with the world. We’re a hotbed for medicine,” says Katie Franco, sr. VP of regional development at the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Tampa Bay is strategically positioning itself as one of the nation’s regions to follow.

“We chose target sectors that are regional in nature, and we present the region purposefully to showcase the strength of the region. There’s no place stronger than the State of Florida,” says Sobush.

For more information on Tampa Bay’s Regional Business Plan, visit Tampa Bay Partnership’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Dave Sobush and Katie Franco, Tampa Bay Partnership

Sunscreen Film Festival Features Spanish Language Filmmakers, St. Pete

Hecho en Mexico is a documentary about the heart, soul, life, dreams and hopes of the artists and performers in contemporary Mexico. It captures the spirituality, identity, culture and tradition of what it truly means to be made in Mexico.

The film will be featured on opening night of the Sunscreen Film Festival, April 18 – 21 at the Muvico 20 Theaters and IMAX at Baywalk in St. Petersburg. It’s one of 30 Spanish language films that will be screened over the course of the four-day event, in addition to numerous other documentary, feature, short and independent films that span all genres.

The event is hosted by the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society. Now in its 8th year, it has received national recognition and grown to more than 11,000 attendees.

The Spanish Language Filmmaker Showcase is funded by a grant received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and will feature films from Spain, Cuba, South America, Latin America and other places around the world, all made by Hispanic filmmakers.

Other Spanish Language feature films include: La Gran Facacia (The Great Falllacy), a documentary about the current political, social and economic situation in Puerto Rico, and Girl in Progress, a fiction film about single mom juggling work, bills an affair and her daughter’s attempted shortcut into adulthood.

It's the first Spanish Language film showcase in the Tampa Bay region, reflecting the strong influence of the Hispanic population and heritage in the region.

"Arts play a big role in the community," says Tony Armer, executive director of the Sunscreen Film Festival. "From an economic development standpoint, they bring more to the community than sports do."

The festival offers a way to support the arts, as well as to "enjoy some good films, workshops and parties," says Armer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tony Armer, Sunscreen Film Festival

Juvenile Welfare Board Hiring Senior Contract Manager, Pinellas

The Juvenile Welfare Board Children’s Services Council of Pinellas County (JWB) is adding a senior contract manager to their team to perform project management of core program initiatives that provide resources and funding to ensure the positive well-being of children and families.

With a central mission to ensure the development of children who are maltreated, children unprepared to begin school, or children who may be unsuccessful in educational development, the JWB collaborates and contracts with agencies to ensure that that the lives of each child are dynamically improved through special service programs. JWB is also finalizing the selection process for a new executive director.

“JWB is a vital bridge to a better future for the children in Pinellas County,” says Communications Manager Benjamin Kirby, so it is important for the senior contract manager to work as an internal and external liaison to JWB. “They are really the face of JWB.”

“We are looking for someone that embraces professionalism, the valuing of every child, the willingness to embrace collaboration, pursue innovation and celebrate results.”

The position calls for inter- and intra- departmental support in addition to grassroots efforts in the field -- to evaluate and perform contract compliance with collaborating organizations as well as meeting with social workers, childcare development workers, and families and children involved. Having a significant background in program management and social work as well as being familiar with GAAP, nonprofit management, youth & child development, health & substance abuse, and family counseling is fundamental to the success of the organization.

The senior contract manager will facilitate contract negotiations on behalf of JWB, evaluate and perform contract compliance, should have a master’s degree and should exhibit knowledge of state-related regulations as applied to human service organizations.

“It is incumbent that they carry themselves with a manner of accountability to the tax dollars expended through the programs, but to also understand the difficulties organizations face when providing services that so many people need.”

Interested candidates may view the full job description online and submit resumes by March 8, 2013 to human resources via email, fax to 727.530.7416, or via regular mail to Juvenile Welfare Board Children’s Services Council, Attn: Human Resources, 14155 58th Street North, Clearwater, FL 33760.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Benjamin Kirby, Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board

March Madness In Tampa Is All About The Arts

Mayor Bob Buckhorn officially proclaims the entire month of March as Gasparilla Arts Month in Tampa.

It all kicks off the first weekend of the month with the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts March 2 – 3 featuring  traditional fine arts, such as ceramics, glass, pottery, jewelry, sculpture and photography, and two brand new, non-traditional mediums showcasing a different side of the arts.

Exploring Pirates

"PIRACY REDUX: Re-examining the Myth of the Buccanneer," looks at the contemporary vs. traditional idea of the pirate. A diverse group of artists will interpret and re-contextualize the idea of piracy in our local culture, whether it be in the traditional sense or the more modern piracy of copyrighted information.

The pod installation will feature art, video, dance and music in Kiley Gardens through the Sunday. The installation is presented by The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and curated by TEMPUS PROJECTS and Hampton Arts Management.

"It’s a new venue for art in Tampa, a cultural middle ground," says Tracy Midulla Reller, creative director for TEMPUS PROJECTS.

Kiting Tampa Bay

Kites will also be flying high, along with miniature kite displays featuring aerial photography produced by rigs attached to kites that take photographs while in mid-air. If the weather is right, a 252-square-foot kite will make an appearance.
The project is organized by Kiting Tampa Bay, a club with more than 50 members across the region who will also be on hand with information about kiting.

"Our goal is to share our passion for kiting with others," says Kelly Nunes, co-founder of Kiting Tampa Bay.

Kiting Tampa Bay was founded in October of 2011 with the motto "Just Friends Flying Kites." They chose the arts festival for a kite display because of the two organizations’ mutual goal of supporting children’s cancer charities.

Other Arts Events

Additional arts events in Tampa during the month of March include:

The Gasparilla Music Festival the weekend of March 9. This year's bands include Best Coast, Dr. Dog, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Dawes, Lord Huron, Ozomatli, The Meter Men with special guest Page McConnell, The Iguanas, Applebutter Express, Ozokidz, The Hip Abduction, Nervous Turkey and more.

The Gasparilla International Film Festival the week of March 19-24. Film showings take place in downtown, South Tampa and Ybor City.

Details about all the events can be found on the websites for the Arts Council of Hilsborough County and Visit Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Kelly Nunes, Kiting Tampa Bay, Tracy Midulla Reller, TEMPUS PROJECTS

Week-long Event Showcases Tampa Bay's Craft Beer Scene

More than 70 breweries, restaurants, retail establishments, bars and festivals across the Tampa Bay region are coming together for 2013 Tampa Bay Beer Week, March 2 to March 10.

Now in its second year, the collaborative event began with the goal of showcasing Tampa Bay as a vibrant craft and specialty beer destination. 

"We actually have a thriving craft beer community in this area," says Gary Kost, executive director for Tampa Bay Beer Week. "There are some local breweries making world-renowned beer. It’s becoming a bigger culture."

The event is managed completely by volunteers. Participants include breweries, distributors, restaurants and even home brewers. Last year there were 150 events during the week. 188 have been scheduled so far this year, with over 200 expected.

On March 2, Florida Brewers Guild hosts their Annual Beer Festival at Centennial Park in Ybor City, where the Best Florida Beer Championship winners will be announced. The awards ceremony will be held March 3 at the 14th Annual Brewers Ball at the Cuban Club.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will also kick off the week by tapping a ceremonial keg at Tampa Bay Brewing Company on March 2nd.

At the conclusion of the week, Cigar City Brewing in Tampa will host Hunahpu’s Day on March 9, featuring the annual exclusive release of the brewery’s Hunahpu Imperial Stout beer.

Other events include tastings at liquor stores, restaurant events featuring full four and five-course meals and food truck rallies -- all with lots of opportunities to sample local brews from Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gary Kost, Tampa Bay Beer Week

Suncoast Tiger Bay Club Seeks Executive Director

St. Petersburg's Suncoast Tiger Bay Club is all about sharing core public and political issues, and they are looking for a new executive director to manage administrative operations, membership and club programs.

Founded in 1978, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, Inc. is a nonprofit, non-partisan political membership organization that fosters a platform for collaboration and sharing a better understanding of public issues.

The executive director will work closely with the board of directors, the club's president and the chairman to accomplish organizational goals including networking and securing speakers that fit the interests and objectives of the organization.

“We’re looking for someone who has experience in association management, and having a flare for it is important,” says Rick Edmonds, search committee chair.

As the organization’s mission centers on public and political matters, it is also important for the executive director to "have some interest and awareness in politics because it’s what we’re all about.''

The position requires a dedicated 60 to 70 hours per month and includes leading monthly meetings and acting as a liaison to "support the members and the goals of the club.''

Interested candidates may submit a resume and cover letter by March 8, 2013 to Rick Edmonds via email. Candidates may also respond via regular mail to: Rick Edmonds, Search Committee Chair, Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, Inc., c/o Poynter Institute, 801 South Third Street, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Rick Edmonds

Alpha House of Tampa Adding Residential Assistants

Alpha House of Tampa is expanding its staff and seeking residential assistants to provide residential care, vocational preparation and childcare assistance to Alpha House residents. Alpha House is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving homeless pregnant women and mothers with young children in crisis by providing safe housing and professional skills. Residential assistants will help Alpha House create safe, sustainable and effective futures for individuals in crisis.

The organization provides parenting classes, counseling, vocational training, spiritual support and other tools necessary for residents to become self-sufficient. They are now adding additional residential assistants to their roster and are also hiring a senior case manager to support their growing initiatives. Residential assistants will provide planning, scheduling and 24-hour residential support and care for 23 maternity residents.

Residential assistants play a core role in providing care and developmental assistance to Alpha House residents. "They are with the residents and help with maternity care, appointments, and transportation needs,'' says Rachel Luis, communications director.

Residential assistants should have experience working in human services and will be required to complete DCF background clearance and fingerprinting as well as receive and maintain CPR and Basic First Aid certification.

Several positions are available to help Alpha House achieve its goal of providing around-the-clock residential support: Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm to midnight and 3 pm to 11 pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 4 pm to midnight and 11 pm to 7 am.

Candidates may apply at the agency or may send resumes via email, via fax to 813.876.0657 or via regular mail to: Alpha House of Tampa, Inc., Attn: Barbara McCormick, Program Director, 201 S. Tampania Avenue, Tampa, FL 33609.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Rachel Luis, Alpha House of Tampa

Tampa Bay Youth In Florida Robotics Competition

A group of 10 Tampa Bay middle and high school students plan to show off their teamwork and technical skills at FIRST Tech Challenge’s Florida State Championship on March 2 in Daytona Beach.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge
is an annual robotics competition for students in grades 7 to 12. The challenge is run by FIRST, a the national organization that fosters youth interest in science and technology.

Teams of up to 10 students are provided with a robot kit and asked to design, build and program their robots using a game scenario that changes from year to year. The students are judged based on robot performance, an engineering notebook which documents the design and building process, a team video and overall teamwork.

Team Duct Tape, sponsored by Learning is for Everyone, is a group of 13- to 15-year-olds with the philosophy: Character before Completion. Typically based out of just one high school, Team Duct is unique in that it includes students from public, private and home schools across the Tampa Bay region. 

Teams receive the challenge in September of each year. This year's challenge, called "RING IT UP," involves a tic tac toe game, where the robot has to grapple plastic rings and score them on a peg board. At the competition, teams are randomly paired with another team who could end up being their opponent in the next round. In addition to the technical skills required, students must learn to collaborate and stay professional throughout the process.

"These are important skills that we want kids to develop as we grow our tech community," says Terri Willingham, president of Learning is for Everyone.

The team will compete against 24 students for various awards and prizes, including scholarships. To financially support the  team by helping subsidize travel costs, visit the Team Duct Tape website.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Terri Willingham, Learning is for Everyone


Polk College Presidents Sign Petition To Increase College Degree Attainment

For the first time in Polk County's history, all regionally accredited public and private colleges and universities have come together with the common goal of increasing the number of students who finish their college degrees.

The presidents of Florida Southern College, Keiser University, Polk State College, Southeastern University, Warner University, Webster University and Webber International University signed a letter in recognition of their support. 

The initiative is led by Graduate Polk, a collaboration of businesses and higher education championed by Polk Vision.

In addition to the letter, Graduate Polk is offering a phone number -- 863.298.6855 -- for those looking to return to college. Staffed by employees at Polk State College, the informational line directs callers to the institution that best meets their needs.

"The economic benefit as people advance in their careers and move into jobs where they have more options to earn more directly benefits the community we live in," says Eileen Holden, president of Polk State College. "It also sets the course in motion for future generations that college is attainable and affordable."

Polk State College recently signed the Reverse Transfer Agreement with the University of South Florida, which allows students who completed some academic coursework at both colleges but didn’t finish a degree to apply credits toward an Associate in Arts Degree at Polk State and automatically graduate.

Polk area businesses involved in Graduate Polk include: DSM, Mosaic, Polk County Appraisers Office, Polk County School District and Publix.

The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is part of the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Graduate Tampa Bay initiative, which aims to increase overall degree attainment in the region by focusing on those who have started college but haven’t finished their degree. The MSA is also competing with over 50 other metropolitan areas in the national Talent Dividend Competition, which will award a $1 million prize to the area with the largest increase in college degrees by the end of 2013.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Eileen Holden, Polk State College; Sara Roberts, Polk Vision

Young Inventors Win For Creativity, Innovation, Tampa

Tampa Bay K-12 students showed off their ingenuity at the USF Young Inventor Competition on February 11 at the Patel Center at the University of South Florida.
The event is an annual tradition honoring Thomas Alva Edison’s birthday. Now in its fifth year, the competition was founded by patent attorney Anton Hopen and his daughter Anna to inspire creativity and innovation among Tampa Bay youth.
The event has grown tremendously, from 80 entries at inception to almost 600 this year. Volunteers, including attorneys, executives, patent holders and inventors, narrow down the entries to determine 10 finalists, who ultimately present their invention in front of judges during the final competition.
Inventions are judged on creativity and originality, quality and persuasiveness / value, benefit to the public and marketability.

"They really look at the whole package," says Kari McDermott, assistant to the director at Innovation Express, the nonprofit organization that organizes the event.
This year's winner was middle school student Mica Jadick, for her cereal sifting device that filters out the crumbs in the last bit of cereal. The second place winner was George Seits, for his French fry condiment holder. Third place went to Katie Warren for her Boo Boo Baboon, a plush toy that holds a cold pack around a child’s arm or leg after an injury. Other finalists included Keely Karnes, who received the Outback Top Trademark Award for HEAR-RINGS, audio ear buds that combine with earring jewelry. Jonathan Ullom also received special recognition for his device that safely clears clogs of grass from lawn mowers. 
First, second and third place winners received cash prizes for themselves and their schools, and all participants received passes to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).
The competition currently involves students from Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties. The goal is to eventually expand to include more schools within these counties.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kari McDermott, Innovation Express

Pasco's Microloan Fund Grows Small Businesses

The Pasco Economic Development Council (EDC)'s community-based microloan program is helping  to grow small businesses in the county.

The microloan program has funded 15 jobs since its inception in April 2012. Aimed at companies that have a difficult time obtaining traditional loan funds (mainly due to size), the revolving loan continues to support businesses as funds are paid back.

"It's really important to support start-up and small businesses and give them access to capital to help them grow and hire," says Krista Hakes, economic development manager for Pasco Economic Development Council.

Eight small businesses have received funding thus far:

BVT Products, manufacturer of the Go Caddy multicompartment carry all bag, is using the funding for inventory support.

Good Faith Insurance, a health and life insurance brokerage firm specializing in educating retirees about their Medicare choices and benefits. The owner was the first Hispanic and woman-owned business to receive a microloan, which was used to hire an additional staff member to help with recent growth.

The first loan recipient, Dr. Jay Harvey at Personal Pediatric Care, is fueling growth and a change in business plan.   

Statewide Blinds, a mobile company that installs window treatments and cleans and repairs blinds across the state, is purchasing a trailer and other equipment.

Suncoast Fire Safety, offering training to help businesses stay in compliance with state and local fire safety laws, is growing inventory and upgrading equipment.

Tampa Bay Urodynamics, serving local physicians through mobile medical testing and therapy, purchased equipment and expanded services.

United Underwriters of Tampa Bay, a woman-owned insurance firm covering auto, homeowners, business and motor vehicle insurance, purchased marketing collateral and created a new part-time office position.

And the newest recipient, 301 Designs is an online retailer offering apparel and electronics products.

Pasco EDC partners with SCORE to walk applicants through the loan application process. Recipients also continue to receive technical assistance after the loan is dispersed.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Krista Hakes, Pasco Economic Development Council

Innovators, Educators, Businesses Join In Creative Exploration, Sarasota

What do Legos, Disney, musicians and improvisation have in common? They’re all part of the learning experience at the 10th Annual Florida Creativity Weekend, March 1st to 3rd in Sarasota. 

The Florida Creativity event begins on Friday, with intense immersion workshops to allow for intimate exploration of a selected topic. For example, Christine Alexander of the Florida Studio Theatre Improv and Lazy Fairy Improv Troupes, will help participants find their inner voice and discover new possibilities through the use of Improvisation and theater games. Jane Goldwasser of New Directions Consulting will help participants translate their dreams into an action plan, solve a great problem or get through the initial hurdle of starting a business on their own.

Friday evening, Sarasota-area musician Scott Blum will engage people in a musical experience by creating a band using conference participants.

Saturday and Sunday’s programming will feature speakers such as David Lunken from Cedarcroft Advisors, who will guide teams through the use of LEGO bricks to improve individual and organizational performance. Gert Garman, Global Creative Development Manager for Disney Destinations, will explore how to tell your own story through the use of creativity and senses.  

The goal: Participants might walk away with a new skill, a renewed sense of self, practical ways to make their business or team more productive or innovate, or even see themselves as creative for the first time.

“We are all potentially creative as human beings, and yet too many people do not realize that positive potential,” says Katherine Heusner, PhD, chair of Florida Creativity Weekend. “Having opportunities to unlock our own creative energies, finding ways to empower others. What a difference this can make in our lives, our region and our world.”

More than 200 participants are expected, including entrepreneurs, teachers, students, nonprofit professionals and artists.

The conference will be held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and Florida Studio Theatre.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Katherine Heusner, Florida Creativity Weekend

Three Pinellas County Nonprofits Grow, Hiring Staff

Three Pinellas County nonprofit organizations are expanding their staff and seeking directors, program facilitators and case managers to accommodate their developing community growth initiatives. ALPHA House of Pinellas County, Inc., Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, and Homeless Emergency Project, Inc. are amongst a passionate hub of nonprofits dedicated to providing sustainable, secure futures for individuals and businesses.

ALPHA House of Pinellas County, Inc. is adding a new position for a part-time development director. With an emphasis in providing supportive services to homeless pregnant women and teens, new mothers and families experiencing crisis pregnancies, ALHPA House is seeking to expand itsresources and network of collaborative partnerships. The development director will network within the community, initiate new relationships and focus on creating and increasing sources of revenue through available grants and other associations. Interested professionals should have a two- to four-year degree or equivalent developmental experience. Resumes may be faxed to Jennifer Stracick at 727.821.4378 or sent by email.

Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is hiring a new governmental affairs and leadership program facilitator. Tampa Bay Beaches recently launched an affiliate program to better focus on policies that affect the growth and success of businesses in beach communities. The role of the facilitator will “allow us to be readily available to act on behalf of our businesses and to enhance our advocacy efforts in a more grassroots way,” says CEO Robin Sollie. For information, contact Sollie at 727.360.6957 or by email.

Homeless Emergency Project, Inc. (HEP) is hiring for several new positions including a resource development director to secure private and corporate funding and case managers to provide structured goals and supportive services for program participants. HEP’s mission is to provide homeless and very low-income individuals and families with housing and services necessary to become self-sufficient and have improved quality of life. HEP is also hiring an activities coordinator to support a new program that provides “transitional housing for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans having post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Vice President Libby Stone. For a full list of available opportunities and to apply, visit HEP’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Jennifer Stracick, ALPHA House of Pinellas County; Robin Sollie, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce; Libby Stone, Homeless Emergency Project

New Alliance Aims To Support Tampa Bay Creatives

Do you work independently and want a way to connect with others for ideas? Are you wondering if it's possible to make a living as an artist or designer? Or maybe you're a musician or actor who wants to meet others in your field. Now there's a way for creative professionals in Tampa Bay to find camaraderie and support to help them make a living doing what they love.

Creatives' Alliance is a professional membership organization for established and aspiring creative professionals such as writers, musicians, painters, actors and actresses, dancers, film makers, tattoo artists, designers and photographers.

The group appeals to all creative disciplines, something that makes it unique in the Tampa Bay region. Strong professional circles exist for those in advertising, photography, architecture and the like. The new multidisciplinary alliance brings together everyone working in a creative field in order to form a more cohesive, collaborative community.

"I love the arts and have built my life on creative endeavors,'' says Aris MacInnes, countess of creativity for Imaginary Mind productions and founder of the Creatives’ Alliance. "I get so inspired by the culture we, as artists, create, and I am bothered by watching the struggles we face to be appreciated, supported and paid well.''

Offerings include mentoring, professional guidance, group brainstorming, coaching, training, industry benchmarks and collaborative tools.

The group's first event is a LaunchPad Workshop on January 19 from 9 am till noon at Keiser University in Tampa, which focuses on launching a freelance career, improving your focus and making contacts with like-minded people.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Aris MacInnes, Creatives' Alliance

Tampa Bay Inventors Named Fellows By National Academy Of Inventors

Six Tampa Bay innovators were recently named as Charter Fellows by the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), a global nonprofit organization of universities and research institutions. The group is part of a class of 98 Fellows from 54 institutions, which includes leading scientists and inventors from around the world.
Tampa Bay's Fellows were selected based on outstanding leadership, product development, and their support of and participation in innovation as a whole. Here are the locals from the complete list:

    •    Richard D. Gitlin, Sc.D., professor of Electrical Engineering, University of South Florida -- Gitlin has more than 45 patents in the field of electrical engineering. His research includes areas such as digital communication, broadband networks and wireless systems.

    •    D. Yogi Goswami, Ph.D., P.E., professor of Chemical Engineering, University of South Florida -- Goswami is co-director of USF's Clean Energy Research Center. He has developed 18 patents, his major accomplishment is a device that uses sunlight to purify indoor air.

    •    Barbara C. Hansen, Ph.D., professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, College of Medicine, University of South Florida -- Hansen is a Director of the USF Center for Preclinical Research and holds a patent in the area of diabetes treatment.

    •    Alan F. List, MD, president and CEO, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute -- List holds several patents, including one involving stimulating growth in stem cells and bone marrow.

    •    Shyam Mohapatra, Ph.D. Endowed Chair, College of Medicine Internal Medicine, University of South Florida -- Mohapatra is director of the Division of Translational Medicine in the USF College of Medicine. His patents and research focus on molecular and cellular inflammation of allergens.

    •    Paul R. Sanberg, Ph.D., D.Sc., Sr. VP for Research and Innovation and President, Research Foundation, University of South Florida -- Sanberg holds over 100 health-related patents worldwide, primarily in the neurology field. His most recent research focused on innovative ways to repair brain damage.

"Tampa Bay should take great pride in this recognition of great minds who are conducting ground-breaking research,'' says Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, a sponsor of the NAI Fellows Program. "Their work has a direct impact on economic development, career opportunities, the potential for entrepreneurial success and our ability to build an innovation economy.''

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor Council; Keara Leach, National Academy of Inventors

Knowledge M Hosts Innovation Guru, Tampa

Businesses in Tampa have an opportunity to take their innovation up a notch with the arrival of Guy Kawasaki on February 28. Kawasaki will be the keynote speaker at The Art of Innovation event at The Tampa Convention Center in downtown Tampa.

Kawaski, an entrepreneur, bestselling author and Silicon Valley venture capitalist, played a critical role in marketing Apple's Macintosh computers in the 1980s and was named an Apple Fellow in 1995. He is currently managing director of Garage Technology Ventures and co-founder of Alltop.com, an "online magazine rack'' of trending topics on the web.
"We're trying to help inspire small businesses to break out of their shell and be more competitive and innovative in their sector,'' says Charise Strandberg, social media marketing manager for Celestar Corporation, which is coordinating the event. "We want Tampa to jump to the next curve, to be in that thoughtful set of innovation.''
What does innovation really mean? What does it take to innovate? How do today's businesses innovate to remain competitive? Kawasaki will speak to these things and more, as he provides hands-on learning with specific actions that can be implemented after the event. The topics will be tailored toward the audience and will include strategic steps to creating new products and services, how to break down barriers to innovation, and how set and achieve high goals. 

Attendees will include large and small businesses from the Tampa Bay region, including Florida Blue, Bank of Tampa, Digital Hands and 352 Media.

"A lot of businesses are doing the same thing day after day,'' says Strandberg. "We want to break out of that, to make Tampa an innovation hub. We're only going to do that by bringing people like Guy to Tampa.''

For more information and to register, visit Knowledge M, a division of Celestar.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Charise Strandberg, Celestar Corporation

Operation Transition Prepares Veterans For Civilian Careers, Helps Grow Tampa Bay Companies

Because of the large percentage of unemployed veterans, WilsonHCG has launched Operation Transition, a veteran's initiative with a "holistic approach'' to creating sustainable careers and life paths for veterans and their families. The ultimate purpose of the initiative is to acknowledge the commitment of veterans and to support their transition back to civilian life by "providing the career tools they require to present themselves and their experience effectively.''

The concept emerged in the fall of 2011 when WilsonHCG and other companies from around the nation partnered with the TV show Dr. Drew's Lifechangers on the CW Network in an effort called "Putting America Back to Work.'' As Bridget Webb, Wilson HCG senior director of marketing & recruitment technology, sat in the audience, the story of a young marine veteran stood out. On a flight back to Tampa Bay post-collaboration, Webb thought about the significant number of veterans struggling to make the transition after returning from military service.

Webb pitched the idea of creating an initiative to prepare veterans for military to civilian life transition to company CEO John Wilson who loved  the idea; thus Operation Transition came to life and officially launched in the fall of 2012. As many veterans hold degrees and other expert certifications, Webb explains how the program helps them "get acclimated and find jobs'' while fostering an environment where they can get a one-stop collage of tools and resources. The program offers ''free career assessments'' which help veterans translate their unique skills to the current market in addition to helping them build a LinkedIn profile to showcase their expertise.

"We encourage companies to adopt veteran recruitment programs -- to find someone within their organization who is a veteran and who can be their champion,'' Webb says. This provides veterans with inspiration and the "tools they need to be successful which effectively increases the economy in Tampa.''

Operation Transition 2013 is partnering with several organizations to launch an April webinar geared toward sharing specific career assistance to transitioning veterans. In the summer, Operation Transition will have on-site locations where veterans will be "paired with hiring managers who are informed of the veterans' expert skills and who are ready to make the introduction and start the interview process,'' says Webb.

For individuals, companies or organizations wishing to get involved, contact Webb by email.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Bridget Webb, WilsonHCG

Tampa Company Serving Disabled People Adds Contractors

With a focus on serving families with disabled members, Positive Behavior Supports Corporation (PBS) is building a network of professionals who can provide quality services in Tampa Bay.

The company strives to ensure stringent internal quality standards in order to impact the families and improve their quality of life, says Clinical Director Jennifer Agganis. The company is currently contracting with board certified behavior analysts, board certified assistant behavior analysts and behavior assistants, thereby offering an alternative for unemployed professionals having a specialized expertise. It also opens doors for teachers, psychologists, doctors and other certified professionals to pursue part-time and fulltime work opportunities.

Many of PBS Corp.'s clients are individuals or families with children who suffer from mental illness and other disabilities that may present behavior and basic skill challenges that limit functional abilities. The firm has a growing demand to support Autism Spectrum Disorder, which includes Asperger's Syndrome, PDD-NOS and Autistic Disorder. Particularly for individuals diagnosed with these disorders or related disabilities, it is important to have behavioral services provided to them in "their naturally occurring environment; it's where their world occurs,'' says Agganis.

In just over three years, the company's overall client base grew from 100 to 600. "It's a constant ebb and flow based upon what each of our clients need,'' says Agganis. One family with a child having specific behavioral needs may require between 8 and 40 dedicated hours, so PBS is "constantly looking for analysts and behavior assistants.''

Additionally, professionals will be offered on-going online training on different behavioral aspects as well as mentorship hours toward ensuring final certification for those that require it.

The firm is expanding its core Tampa Bay services to incorporate speech and language pathologists and licensed mental health counselors. Interested candidates can apply online. For more program information, contact the West Coast Regional Coordinator Milissa Yeagley at 855.832.6727, ext. 1013.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Jennifer Agganis, PBS Corp.

New Grants For Artists In Tampa, Hillsborough County

In a continuing effort to develop local artists and integrate arts into the community, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County is offering seven grants of up to $2,000 each to individual artists.

"The arts are what give us a quality of life,'' says Teri Simons, director of program services for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. "They bring us together as individuals. Creativity of a community is a pretty good measure of the quality of the community.''

Since 1989, the Council has awarded $600,000 in grants to individual artists through this program. Last year's winners included Erin Cardinal Wright, who choreographed and directed a dance film called "The Enormity of Two,'' which explores the common threads that bring two people together.  

"The goal is to enable the artists to pursue a project that will help them take their career to the next level,'' says Simons. "That might be through education, a specific medium or technique, or maybe equipment.''

The council is also looking for ways people can bring the arts back into the local community to benefit the citizens. For example, last year's grant winner Crystal Haralambou used the funding for education and support of Shakespeare Behind Bars, a nonprofit program that uses theater to help juvenile justice offenders develop life skills and successfully reintegrate back into society.

Funds for this year's grants are provided by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and the Council's FIVE by FIVE art event.

The Council also funds a grant program for arts groups and cultural organizations, which typically opens in August.

Requirements and an application for the individual artist grants can be found on the Arts Council website. The deadline to submit an application is Friday, January 18, 2013.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Teri Simons, Hillsborough Arts Council

Tampa Company Helps Businesses Define Market Through Data Analytics

Tampa Bay businesses now have a way to make sense of the often ambiguous analytical data available about their website and other digital media platforms. A franchise of E-Nor, a web analytics company originating in Silicon Valley, recently opened in Temple Terrace.

The company's name is derived from Noor, the traditional Mediterranean word for light. As a certified Google partner, the company's expertise is in bringing to light meaningful digital analytics that will help businesses better understand their market. Many companies already access data for free through Google analytics, but they might not realize the full potential of how valuable the data can be to their growth.

"The digital economy is really growing rapidly, and big data is a major part of its progress,'' says Bilal Saleh, principal partner for E-Nor and owner of the Tampa franchise. "With all that's going on online and with social media, companies have tons of data they don't have real access to or insight about.''

Saleh has worked in the telecommunications industry for the past 20 years at companies such as Motorola and MCI Communications. He and E-Nor's founder, Feras Alhlou, started their careers together at Precision Systems Inc (Psi) in St. Petersburg in 1990. Alhlou, an MBA graduate from the University of South Florida, moved to California. PSi was acquired by a California-based company.

The technical work is currently being done by E-Nor's parent office in California, but as the local office grows, the plan is to become a fully functioning operation, covering the southeastern U.S.
"The Tampa Bay area is really growing in the IT sector,'' says Saleh.

"There's a lot of emphasis on growing the IT talent in the area. We're very upbeat about the future of these services in the Tampa Bay area.''
E-Nor is hosting a two-day, hands-on training workshop focused on Google analytics January 22 – 23, 2013, in Tampa. The agenda includes in-depth information about market segmentation, data tracking and generating reports. For more information, visit E-Nor's website

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bilal Saleh, E-Nor

Tampa Bay Businesses Team Up To Help Family In Need For The Holidays

Ten locally owned businesses in Tampa Bay are coming together to make the holidays a little brighter for a deserving family.

The initiative is coordinated by LocalShops1, a grass roots organization that supports locally owned businesses through community events and promotions.

"This is truly a regional approach to what local means, with businesses banding together and crossing city lines to do this,'' says Ester Venouziou, founder of LocalShops1. "By coming together, local businesses can have a bigger impact, which of course helps the community.''

Over $3,500 worth of donations have been secured thus far, including a Christmas turkey from Three Birds Tavern in St. Petersburg, two mattresses from Tampa Bay Discount Mattresses, a collection of items from vendors at the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market and the grand prize of a full child's bedroom set from The Iron Pelican Antiques & Home Décor. Thirty businesses are expected to attend a holiday party hosted by Island Flavors and Things in Gulfport to donate toys for the family.

A holiday party will be hosted at The Yellow House Event Venue, where the prizes will be given to the family. 

"Local businesses, in general, give much back to the community,'' says Venouziou. "Some studies show that, on average, local businesses give three times as much to local charities as compared to national corporations, so we weren’t surprised to see so much generosity.''

Families can be nominated by contacting: theironpelican@yahoo.com by December 14. Nominations should include the name, contact information, city they live in, ages of children and reason the family deserves to win. Self-nominations are not accepted.

Other local businesses interested in contributing prizes can contact LocalShops1 or call 727.637.5586.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ester Venouziou, LocalShops1

T-Mobile Adds 150 Jobs At Tampa Call Center

T-Mobile plans to add 150 employees to its Tampa call center operations.

"We're investing in our Tampa facility, which we are expecting will be taking more calls as a result of increased sales,'' says Katie Bookey, PR representative for T-Mobile. "We’re staffing up in order to provide the first-class service we are known for.’

All of the positions that T-Mobile is looking to fill are full-time financial care representative roles. The company is looking for experienced reps, including bilingual reps who speak Spanish and English. Collections experience, as well as a history of work in a call center environment, is required.

The call center is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight, so there are plenty of shifts available to potential employees. T-Mobile offers employees a comprehensive benefits package, which includes medical/dental/vision coverage, matching 401(k) program and paid time off. In addition, employees receive mobile phone and service discounts.

According to Bookey, the company is actively recruiting and plans to fill all of the positions by the end of March 2013. Those interested in applying for the financial care representative positions can do so through T-Mobile’s website.

T-Mobile’s Tampa Call Center is located at 18205 Crane Nest Drive in Tampa.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Katie Bookey, T-Mobile

New Crowdfunding Website Helps Tampa Bay Nonprofits

The Money Crowd, a crowdfunding website designed for nonprofits in Tampa Bay, provides a new option for  community members to support the causes they care about. The site aims to give nonprofits an avenue to fundraise with little to no overhead and less administrative work than traditional projects.

"We wanted to see if crowdfunding could work on a local level for a niche market,'' says Kostas Stoilas, senior associate at Cushman & Wakefield of Florida and founder of The Money Crowd.

Nonprofits develop a need with a specific project, event or cause. The Money Crowd's volunteer team then meets with the organization to fine tune the concept and shoot video to be used on the site. Promotions are done by both the nonprofit and The Money Crowd, and donations go directly to the organization through their Paypal account.
A Venice, FL native and graduate of The University of Tampa's MBA program, Stoilas developed the idea while on the leadership council at Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is also the site's first project. The goal is to fund an event that will recognize volunteers who have been with the organization for five years.

The most recent -- and most successful -- project is Hannah's Homeless, a winter clothing and food drive to benefit St. Petersburg's homeless population. The project began in September and has already exceeded its $2,500 goal. The success of this project in the early stages indicates they're on the right path and the community embraces the concept.
Future plans include events to allow donors to meet the organizations they are benefitting for happy hours and networking. 

"Charities love it,'' says Stoilas. "Now we're trying to build the audience and get people to regularly visit the site to find other causes they can get involved with.''

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kostas Stoilas, The Money Crowd

Tampa Business Partners Recycle Used Clothing, Shoes

Going Green Tampa, a directory and advocate for eco-friendly businesses and City Recycling Group, a professional clothing recycling company, are partnering to keep textiles such as clothing, shoes, purses and stuffed animals out of landfills while benefitting those in need. The companies are seeking businesses to host bins at their site, making donating convenient and accessible to the community.

Clothes and shoes take up more space than any other non-durable good in the solid waste stream, accounting for approximately 12.5 million tons of total waste per year in the U.S. alone. That amounts to 67 pounds of clothing contributed by the average person.

Currently, 185 business host bins throughout the Tampa Bay region. Any type of business qualifies to host -- apartment complexes, gas stations, restaurants, retail establishments. Businesses can receive money back from the collections they turn in or choose to donate the money to a charity. City Recycling Group picks up collections weekly.

Most of the clothing collected is recycled as second-hand clothing and sent to Second and Third World countries. Some is made into cleaning and polishing cloths for industrial use, while some is recycled into fiber for insulation.

"It's a triple benefit,'' says Tara LaSalla, partner and account manager for Going Green Tampa. "Most importantly, it keeps things out of the landfill. The host also gets money back, and it furthers their green efforts.''

If companies don't have a lot of money to spend on a green initiative, this is an easy way for them to make a difference.

"It's helping people, and it's good for the environment,'' says LaSalla.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tara LaSalla, Going Green Tampa

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

FEAST Benefits St. Petersburg Arts, Artists

A small contribution can make a big difference to St. Petersburg artists at FEAST Tampa Bay on November 15 at 6:30 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Each $20 ticket includes a taste of St. Petersburg's best restaurants and a glimpse into current and future projects from local artists. Participants use their ticket to "vote'' on their favorite projects, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the artists.

"We're engaging supporters of the arts with the artists that are doing work in the community in a very personal way. You get to meet the people and hear directly from their mouth what they're working on, making a direct line of support,'' says T. Hampton Dohrman, director of Creative Pinellas and co-organizer of FEAST Tampa Bay.

The event is the third of its kind in Pinellas, and the first collaboration between Creative Pinellas, Keep St. Petersburg Local  and the Museum of Fine Arts. The synergy between the three groups with their common support of the Pinellas arts and business community allows this innovative event to localize arts funding with a community voice. 

The partnership allows the event to capitalize on the pride of St. Petersburg restaurants that are donating the food so that ticket sales directly benefit the artists. As a new twist for this event, every artist will walk away with something. Each "vote'' from participants will directly transfer to cash for the artist, with the project with the largest amount of votes receiving additional funding from Creative Pinellas.

 The event "injects cash into the arts community for ambitious artists who are looking to do something cool and can make a lot of impact with the small amount,'' says Dohrman.

Artists can apply online through October 31. Tickets are available online or onsite.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: T. Hampton Dohrman, Creative Pinellas

Straz Center Takes Arts To Tampa Schools, Students

The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa offers high quality arts instruction to K-12 schools through a new Conservatory-To-Go initiative. Instructors from the Center offer on-site curriculum on a fee basis, allowing for a custom package designed to meet the needs of each individual school.

"They're getting a fully catered ongoing palate of arts education,'' says Wendy Leigh, VP of education for the Straz Center.

Subjects offered through the program include music classes such as string, percussion and woodwind instruments, theater and musical theater, and dance classes such as ballet and hip-hop. Most classes that are taught on site at the Center are also taught though the traveling program, which is meant to supplement arts programs currently in place in schools.

"In Hillsborough County in particular, the arts are very well served,'' says Leigh. But, most schools don't offer programs in dance or musical theater, allowing Straz to fill the gaps and provide additional enrichment for the students.

The pilot program at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic School provides theater and/or music classes to students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, serving more than 230 students since it began in September.

The program is in Tampa initially, but the goal is to eventually expand regionally.

"Not everyone can get downtown [for our onsite courses], so the more we can get these models to work the more we can serve the community all over the Tampa Bay region,'' says Leigh.
The Straz Center is participating in the Great American Teach-in on November 15. Schools interested in getting a sampling of this program can contact: (813) 229-7827.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Wendy Leigh, Straz Center

Snapshot: Images Portray Tampa Bay's People, Places

Tampa Bay's communities offer eclectic blends of culture, creativity and ways of life. A new website uses photographs to profile the people and places that contribute to this vibrancy.

Snapshot Tampa Bay looks at what makes Tampa Bay the cultural mecca that it is -- its people. The project is a labor of love by two local residents and creative advocates, Bryan Hunt and Julia Gorzka Freeman.

"It's our way of spotlighting people, events and places that are going on here in a novel way, to provide a glimpse into how we live,'' says Bryan Hunt.

The inspiration for the website came from their realization that there is lots going on in Tampa Bay that people don't know about. The site offers a different way of looking at people, by taking images inside their homes and businesses to show how they live.

They plan to highlight different neighborhoods to help people discover new restaurants, organizations and people, like Larry and Charlie Schiller of Schiller Salvage in Odessa. The Schillers travel the country to find the neatest and most quirky salvage items to sell in their store.

Other features will include the realm of Tampa Bay's creative economy, from someone living in a condo on the beach to a farmer in the rural areas of Brandon. Future plans include an "explore'' page that will help people navigate the Tampa Bay region and find cool places to go and things to do.

"We're creating a place for people to look at Tampa Bay in a new light,'' says Hunt.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Snapshot Tampa Bay, Bryan Hunt

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

USF, New College Pledge: Award More Degrees

The University of South Florida and New College of Florida are among just under 500 public colleges and universities across the nation pledging to raise the number of bachelor's degrees awarded by the year 2025.

Project Degree Completion, a joint program of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), joins with the Lumina Foundation and other national organizations to increase the number of Americans with college degrees by 3.8 million, or to 60 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Among other things, the commitment pledges the institutions to reach out to students who took classes in the past but didn't finish their degree. A similar local effort began in March of this year as part of the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative led by the Tampa Bay Partnership.

"By signing on to Project Degree Completion, we publicly commit USF to doing its part to achieve these goals and add our collective voice to others calling for a renewed partnership between colleges and universities, states and federal government to restore 'best in the world' status to American higher education,'' says Dr. Paul Dosal, VP for student success at the University of South Florida.

The institutions signing the commitment also agreed to minimize expenses while making sure educational quality is enhanced, uphold quality student access, success and diversity, reduce the amount of time it takes to graduate and to support economic growth in the local regions including research and innovation. 

AASCU is highlighting innovative partnerships and programs on its website through initiatives such as the Innovations Exchange, an online forum for sharing information.

"New College of Florida is committed to providing students with a high quality, affordable, public liberal arts education which allows them to uniquely impact the world around them. The College has several initiatives underway to improve student success and thus help with the larger goal of reaching 60 percent degree attainment for the country,'' says Dr. Raymonda Burgman, associate provost for New College of Florida.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Paul Dosal, USF; Raymonda Burgman, New College of Florida

St. Joseph's Children's Mobile Medical Clinic Expands To Pinellas

The Mobile Medical Clinic (MMC) at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is crossing the Bay to expand its free services to children in Pinellas County.

The arrival in Pinellas will take place October 18 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Family Center in Clearwater. Appointments are required by calling 727-442-5355.

The MMC began in 2004 with the goal of providing required immunizations for children who weren't able to receive them due to health care or financial constraints. The service was so popular and critical to the community that additional services such as physical exams were added the next year.

"We're seeking to fill the healthcare gap, especially for people who don't have health insurance,'' says Kate Kennedy, child advocate for St. Joseph's Children's Advocacy Center and the MMC's coordinator. "We strive to be a bridge to care to give families the services they need at a time and place that's convenient for them.''

The 40-foot bus is staffed with nurses, a childhood specialist, a bilingual child advocate and volunteer pediatricians. Services include: well child physicals and immunizations, developmental screenings, and education and referrals about other community programs for those who have additional needs. Children are also assessed for unintentional injury risks. In 2011, the MMC assisted just under 1,000 children in Hillsborough County, from infants to 18-year-olds.

The expansion into Pinellas County is funded by a grant from Allegany Franciscan Ministries. Future plans include taking individual services off the bus when specific needs are identified in a particular community.

Children must be 18 years old or younger to participate. Parents much accompany children and provide a current vaccine record.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kate Kennedy, St. Joseph's Children's Hospital

Lakeland Firm Offers Local NonProfits Free Branding

24 straight hours of branding, marketing, strategizing, design and community service. That’s what Lakeland-based Madden Brand Agency is planning for its 2nd Annual Brandathon, November 8 at 8 am.

The company's entire team of eight employees will work through the night to provide pro bono services for selected nonprofit organizations in Polk County. Deliverables will include logo redesign, branded collateral, strategic development or advertising campaigns.

"We really have a culture here about giving back,'' says Michelle Ledford, director of client services for Madden Brand Agency. "We get requests for pro bono work quite often, and this gives us an opportunity to go all in with a focused effort.''
Fourteen projects were completed during last year's inaugural event, with overall donations valued at $54,000. Projects included a brochure design for Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), which provides meals and visits to seniors, and a logo design for Achievement Academy, which assists children with special needs. They also developed a donor development strategy for SPCA Florida in Lakeland. 

The company will provide a live feed with a web cam on their website and will also be posting updates to their blog and Facebook page to keep people up to date during the event.

Interested nonprofit organizations can submit an application by Wednesday, October 17, at 5 pm. Organizations must be a 501(c)3 located in Polk County and have an active Board of Directors who meets on a quarterly basis.
For more information or to submit an application, visit: http://brandmadden.com/brandathon

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michelle Ledford, Madden Brand Agency

Tampa Chamber Targets Startups, Entrepreneurs

Local entrepreneurs and startups now have an ally in their hunt for success. The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is starting a new initiative known as the Startup Scholars Program, which will focus on helping innovators and entrepreneurs access the resources needed to succeed.

"The chamber is in a unique position to unite entrepreneurs with the many isolated resources that are across the Tampa Bay region,'' says John Wakefield, business innovation subcommittee chair for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "We feel the chamber can play a role in helping entrepreneurs by offering needs assessments and offering our resources to help them.''

Wakefield says the Chamber is looking for startups or entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of development for their product or service. Once entrepreneurs are chosen. they will be provided guidance and assistance in three major areas the Chamber has identified as crucial to a company’s success: seed capital, best management practices and sales growth.

In addition to receiving an assessment, the Chamber will also offer those chosen entrepreneurs membership to their organization, as well as a mentor.

The program is open to entrepreneurs in any industry sector. The Chamber’s mission with the Startup Scholars initiative is to ultimately help the greater economy.

"Our mission is to improve the likelihood of success for entrepreneurs,'' Wakefield says. "If we have more entrepreneurs and startup successes the result will be more jobs and economic development, as well as innovation.''

Applications are being accepted until October 19 and can be completed through the Chamber’s website. Entrepreneurs will be selected by the end of November.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: John Wakefield, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

Free Event On Breast Cancer Prevention, Early Detection

The University Area Community Development Center (UACDC) honors Breast Cancer Awareness Month with its sixth annual "Day of Pampering'' event, Saturday, October 20, from 8 am to 2 pm. The event takes place at the University Area Community Center, 14013 North 22nd Street in Tampa. The goal is to educate women about prevention and early detection of breast and cervical cancer and wellness.

"This event empowers women to take charge of their health with screenings and workshops that are both free and fun," say Martine Dorvil, event organizer and director of community outreach at UACDC.

More than 300 women are expected to attend the free event to participate in on-site screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose and other common health concerns. Workshops will provide information on cancer prevention and early detection, healthy lifestyle and nutrition, overcoming stress and resources for cancer survivors.

The event has touched the lives of more than 1,500 women since it began five years ago. Attendees enjoy the interaction and sharing with other women, many who are going through treatment for cancer and other ailments. Their stories and positive attitudes are inspiring and contagious.

Funding is provided by donations and groups including the USF College of Public Health, Tampa Bay Community Cancer Network and Hillsborough County Health Department.

The focus is on the university area community, where there is a critical need to address health care issues and provide opportunities for quality, compassionate and accessible care. It is open to the public, and those who qualify based on income will also receive referrals for free mammograms and pap smears.

Activities will be conducted in both Spanish and English, and other translators will be available.

Pre-registration is encouraged; walk-ins will be allowed as space permits. To register, call the Hillsborough County Health Department at 813-307-8015, ext. 7112 or 3502. The registration deadline is October 12.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Martine Dorvil, UACDC

Selby Gardens Hosts Florida Wildlife Corridor Photos By Carlton Ward Jr.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens' Museum of Botany and the Arts in Sarasota is featuring the photography of environmental photojournalist and Clearwater native Carlton Ward Jr. now through November 27.

A gallery walk and talk will be hosted October 17 from 5 to 6 pm. RSVP here for the special tour or call 941-366-5731, ext. 237.

The exhibit will feature 20 original photographs taken during the recent Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, of which Ward participated along with three other Floridians. The 1,000-mile expedition took place over a 100-day period beginning in January of this year with the goal of raising public awareness and generating support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Project.

The project connects natural lands, waters, farms, forests and ranches from the Everglades to Georgia to protect the health and welfare of the people, wildlife and watersheds. This ultimately ensures the sustainability of Florida's water supply, as well as agricultural heritage and economies.

"Selby Gardens shares a common mission of environmental conservation with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. We are invested in the success of the Corridor from the perspective of native plant conservation,'' says Jeannie Perales, director of education at Selby Gardens.

The exhibit promises to provide a unique opportunity to see the beauty of Florida in its many facets, most of which have never been seen by the general public. The vivid images of water, plants and animals will allow viewers to feel as if they are standing in the actual Florida Wildlife Corridor.

The exhibit will also include select images from Ward's Gulf Coast Collection, including shots of the sun setting and moon rising over Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jeannie Perales, Selby Gardens

Tampa Bay’s Young Professionals Call Regional Summit

Young professionals in Tampa Bay recognize that regional cooperation helps advance the strength of our communities and future opportunities for everyone.

In an effort to promote this cooperation and further the conversation, several young professionals groups are coming together for the second annual Tampa Bay Young Professionals Summit on Friday, October 12, from 1 to 5 pm at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City campus, room 204 in the Ybor Building.

The event is presented by Emerge Tampa Bay and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, with Clearwater Young Professionals and St. Petersburg Chamber Young Professionals.

The interactive Summit will feature a slate of local guest speakers and presenters as well as breakout sessions to energize participants about the future of Tampa Bay.

Presenters and participants will answer questions like:
-- How can we improve the current business climate and encourage rapid growth?
-- How can young professionals take an active role to improve the region?
-- What would be a game changer for Tampa Bay?

The focus will be on five industry sectors: urban growth/environment, medical tech and healthcare research, entrepreneurship and high tech, cultural impact and education.

"The main goal of the Summit is to educate, engage and gather ideas from Tampa Bay's young professionals for improving the regional economy,'' says Brian Seel, public policy chair for Emerge Tampa Bay and chief organizer of the event. "This is a unique collaborative opportunity to advance the priorities of our generation.''

The Summit will produce a 10-item Economic Action List which will serve as a guiding framework for young professionals to continue to contribute to the regional economy in a meaningful way.

A Happy Hour will also be hosted immediately following the event at New World Brewery in Ybor City.

Cost is $25 per person. Pre-registration at this link is encouraged.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Brian Seel, Emerge Tampa Bay

Tampa Celebrates Hispanic Heritage With Entertainers, Role Models

The City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with its 24th annual celebration, taking place Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 11 am. at the Tampa Theatre.
"Our goal is to promote awareness of Tampa's Hispanic roots and diverse population, as well as raise funds for the USF Latino scholarship fund,'' says Israel Segarra, contract management officer for the City of Tampa and chairman of the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee. "It's a great event, and we'll have a lot of fun.''

Entertainment at Tampa Theatre will include performances from the Showstar dance team from Tampa Gym and Dance and Marina Orosco from the local singing duo Latin Fun Singers.

Keynote speaker Lissette Campos, director of Community Affairs and Emmy Award-winning journalist at ABC Action News, will offer her personal story of trials and accomplishments and an inspiring message for local youth. Some 150 to 200 elementary school students are expected to attend, along with senior citizens groups and other members of the community.

Tedd Webb from 970 WFLA radio will serve as emcee.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn will present a proclamation recognizing Tampa’s Hispanic roots and diverse population.

Formed in 1988, the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee is a grass-roots, volunteer committee comprised of city employees and retirees.

The group preserves and celebrates Tampa's Hispanic culture and promotes the importance of education to local Hispanic youth through mentoring and scholarships. Other events include Latin Fest and an annual gala event.

The event is free and open to the public. The first 200 guests will enjoy a light lunch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Israel Segarra, City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee

Brookings Targets Tampa Bay For Export Training

The Tampa Bay region has been chosen among other selected metro areas in the U.S. to participate in the prestigious Brookings Metropolitan Export Exchange. The Brookings Institution initiative helps local economies come up with their own export plans that target growth through market intelligence designed to increase the region’s exports and create jobs.

"The real impact of the selection will be increased business opportunities and jobs,'' says Betty Carlin of the Tampa Bay Partnership. "Tampa Bay makes up 25 percent of the state’s economy, yet we represent only 15.6 percent of Florida’s merchandise exports. We see that gap as an opportunity for real growth that a customized export plan could help us bridge.''

Tampa Bay exports increased more than 18 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Carlin says that some of the area’s major exports include computer and electronic equipment, chemicals and transportation equipment.

The Brookings Metropolitan Export Exchange, part of the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on state and metropolitan innovation, is a six- to 12-month program that involves training, and regional team work assignments.  Tampa plans to prepare an export market assessment, export strategy, as well as an implementation plan and policy memo as part of the exchange project.  Tampa leaders involved in the project expect to be completed with their export plan within six to nine months.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Betty Carlin, Tampa Bay Partnership

Polk State College Gets Creative To Up Graduation Rate

Polk State College in Winter Haven is increasing the number of degrees awarded, as motivated by the Graduate Tampa Bay initiative.

The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is one of three in Tampa Bay competing with over 50 other metropolitan areas in the national Talent Dividend Competition. A $1 million prize will be awarded to the area that sees the largest increase in college degrees by the year 2013.

Led by the Tampa Bay Partnership, Graduate Tampa Bay focuses on people who have started college but haven't finished their degree. 

"Getting their foot back in the door is a scary thing,'' says Naomi Boyer, associate VP for strategic initiatives at Polk State College. The College is making it less scary with some innovative ways to help former students finish school.

For example, they are removing barriers by graduating students who received enough credits but have not completed certain administrative steps required to graduate. They are also creating a "fast track'' online option for general education courses to help those who have completed some courses.

Another possibility being considered is reverse degree completion. Some students take courses at the College and then transfer to a four-year institution for the additional classes. These courses can be reversed back to Polk State College's system to show that the degrees were completed, providing students with the credential they earned.

The College is also reaching out to local businesses to provide services tailored to their employees, such as on-site advising. College reps  recently participated in a community event hosted by Polk Vision, where this idea, among other things, was explored with local businesses and other universities.

"We're dialoging with the businesses to help them conceptualize what's even possible within their scope of reference,'' says Boyer. The group plans to continue meeting on a monthly basis to explore other creative ways to increase college attainment.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Naomi Boyer, Polk State College

Tampa Screening Of "Unfinished Spaces'' Celebrates Arts Of Cuba

The Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) hosts a release of the film “Unfinished Spaces” October 5 at 7 pm at the Cuban Club in Ybor City.

The film documents the struggles and passion of three young, visionary architects commissioned by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to build a National Art School in Cuba in 1961. Their radical, pioneering designs attracted dancers, musicians and artists from across the country. Construction was abruptly halted with the onset of the Cuban Revolution, and to this day the project remains unfinished.

The film includes archival footage from 1960s-era Cuba, including Fidel Castro discussing his plans for the national art schools. It offers a unique window into the history of the arts in Cuba that is not often available to American viewers.

Woven within the historical presentation is a social message about the importance of art in Cuban culture -- and in any culture.

The architects offer an inspiring message about the power of the arts and the need for artists to push forward and create beauty in the face of adversity, be it censorship, oppression or political setbacks.

"We hope the film will offer a new perspective on the role the artist plays in society, and the way art can shape history,'' says Alysa Nahmias, the film's New York-based co-director and co-producer.

Tampa is one of five U.S. locations chosen to showcase the film during its public release in October, partly because of its large population of Cuban-Americans and Latinos. The producers aim to forge new dialogue with creatives, designers and anyone interested in learning more about Cuba's preservation and history.  The film is part of AIA's Archtober, a month-long set of events designed to get the public thinking about the impact of architecture and design.

Other events include an architectural walking tour of downtown Tampa on October 5, a Design Mixer on October 11, a screening of the film Design & Thinking on October 18, a Photography Awards Reception on October 25 and the annual Celebrate Design event on November 1.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alysa Nahmias, "Unfinished Spaces''

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

Front Row Tampa Bay: Live Webcasts Offer Media Alternative

The Tampa Bay Partnership and The Victory Group have teamed up to create live webcasts of interviews with community, business and political leaders from across the state in hopes that you and the rest of the world will tune in rather than watch traditional media coverage surrounding the Republican National Convention.

The idea behind Front Row Tampa Bay is to showcase the stories of innovators, investors and thought leaders in their own words unfiltered by outsiders or insiders who may be more focused on different perspectives or unfavorable comparisons.

"The program provides opportunities for organizations of all types to showcase leading industries, groundbreaking research, up-and-coming entrepreneurs and our unparalleled quality of life,'' writes Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Partnership. "Using cutting-edge technology, our four-day Web TV broadcast will spotlight some of the key drivers that position the area so well in the new economy.''

Stories and interviews with people like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn specifically showcase investment opportunities and job growth in industries targeted by the Partnership, namely applied medicine and human performance, high-tech electronics and instruments, business, financial and data services, and marine and environmental activities.

Front Row will also offer stories on local attractions and RNC-related parties as a way to show the experiences and faces of Tampa Bay residents and visitors.

The overall investment -- more than $500,000 -- is among the largest the Partnership and its investors or any other organization is spending to market Tampa Bay.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Stuart Rogel, Tampa Bay Partnership

MOSI Tampa Seeks Exhibitors For November Idea Faire

MOSI in Tampa is hosting its two-day inaugural Idea Faire in November. The Idea Faire is a celebration of human creativity and innovation. Exhibitors with ideas and creations related to technology, creativity and innovation are encouraged to participate in the event.

“We are looking for innovators in gaming, robotics, design, technology, music and art,” says Shannon Herbon, communication manager for MOSI. “This event provides exhibitors the opportunity to share their ideas and creations with the Tampa Bay community.”

The Idea Faire will be part of MOSI’s Idea Zone, which is a “do-it-yourself” lab that is currently open at the museum. Exhibitors who want to participate by sharing their ideas and creations can do so free of charge, however, participants must send in an application by Aug. 31st. Vendors who wish to participate in the Idea Marketplace can do so for a nominal fee.

The organizers of the event hope to have a diverse group of innovators and creative thinkers; therefore, there is currently no limit to the amount of exhibitors or vendors that can participate. Businesses, groups, educational institutions, innovators and clubs are invited to take part in the event.

“MOSI is the largest science center in the Southeast [U.S.], so we will find room for everyone,” says Herbon. “Rarely do you see an event that provides opportunities for vendors focused on robotics, video gaming, science and engineering.”

The 2012 Idea Faire at MOSI will take place Nov. 17th and 18th. To learn more about becoming an exhibitor or vendor at the event, contact MOSI at 813-987-6000.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Shannon Herbon, MOSI

Aviation Company In Manatee Expanding, Hiring 26

Radiant Power Corporation, a designer and manufacturer of backup power and cabin power management products for commercial aviation, is expanding and hiring in Manatee County. The company, which relocated to Florida from California in 1999, will expand its 20,000-square-foot facility by more than 6,000 square feet. According to the president of the company, the growth is attributed to strong sales and strategic planning.

“We have experienced organic business growth as the aerospace market continues to recover,” says Anish Patel, president of Radiant Power Corporation. “Also, we completed an acquisition in mid-April of Moritz Aerospace, and the strategic decision making, along with the funding we received from the county, we were able to make the decision to bring that business to Manatee.”

Patel says that he plans to hire additional employees over the next four years. According to the Manatee County Economic Development Council, the added jobs will pay 15 percent more  on average than the county average wage.

“We estimate we will add seven to 10 jobs within the next year, three of which will be engineering in production and production support,” Patel says. “As the business continues to grow based on the forecast, we anticipate the balance of the remaining 26 positions will be filled over the next four years, and those positions will be in product and product assembly as well.”

Radiant Power designs and manufactures custom power supplies, inverters and lighting controls for all production models of Boeing aircraft, as well as numerous regional jets and business jets. Job candidates may send their resumes or inquiries to human resources by clicking here.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Anish Patel, Radiant Power Corporation

Pinellas Author Offers Job Workshops For Veterans

Every Thursday morning at a church in Clearwater a group of veterans attend Lee Savage’s job search workshop. The program, AIM for Jobs-4-Veterans, was created by Savage to help military veterans transition into the civilian workforce.

"AIM for Jobs-4-Veterans is open to veterans regardless of age, gender or length of service,'' Savage says. "Since workshops are provided each week, unemployed veterans can jump in any time.''

Savage is no stranger to helping people with their job searches; he has more than 25 years of experience in human resources and job placement. He recently published a book titled, AIM for Jobs, which helps jobseekers navigate the job search process.

"One night I was awakened around 2:30 a.m. with the word 'aim' and a target,'' he says. "I got up and wrote it down including the arrow, which has the words of the acronym: attitude, initiative and motivation. I told this to my wife, Joan, and my kids and they encouraged me to write the book with that title and logo.''

Savage uses the information found in his book in the workshop that he leads every week at Heritage Church, 2680 Landmark Dr. in Clearwater. His goal is to reach 100 veterans each month until every unemployed veteran in the Tampa Bay region, and ultimately Florida, finds employment. To reach his goal, he seeks $25 donations from individuals in the community to pay for an unemployed veteran to attend the workshops and receive materials.

"Currently we have 10 individual sponsors at all levels and four corporate sponsors covering 52 veterans,'' Savage says. "We stay with each of our vets until they find a job; four have found jobs in the past six days.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Lee Savage, AIM for Jobs-4-Veterans

St. Pete Indies Reward Shoppers, Give Prizes In July

Big spenders at local businesses could win a sizable "thank you'' this month from Keep Saint Petersburg Local. The St. Pete-based independent business alliance has organized the "St. Pete’s Greatest Local Lover'' contest to celebrate Independents Week (July 1-7), a national celebration of local businesses organized annually by the American Independent Business Alliance.

To participate, customers can locate member businesses at Keep Saint Petersburg Local’s website. Shop, hire, dine, etc., and save your receipts on purchases made during the two weeks from June 30 to July 15. Then register on the KSPL website by July 18 to compete for the contest prize. (Only the top three spenders will be contacted to show their receipts as proofs of purchase.)

With more than 200 members including restaurants, retail stores, hair salons, web designers, lawyers, a dentist and a pest control company, KSPL is ready to connect customers with businesses, says founder and president Olga Bof, who launched the organization in January 2012. The goal of the contest is less to encourage spending sprees than to entice customers to drop the dough they'd be spending anyway at local, independently owned establishments.

"Maybe it's stuff that you're doing anyway these two weeks, but you're going to up the ante a little bit and support even more,'' Bof says.

The contest winner will take home a package of prizes that includes $3,000 worth of gift certificates from dozens of KSPL members including Mazzaro’s Italian Market, St. Pete Brasserie, Peaceful Warrior Massage, Vintage Interiors and Kathryn Cole Jewelry; $200 in KSPL currency to spend at member businesses; dinner for four at the winner's home, catered by Meze 119; a half-page ad in weekly newspaper Creative Loafing; and a one-of-a-kind commemorative award conceived and crafted by artist Joshua Poll of Zen Glass Studio.
Both individuals and businesses are eligible to compete as spenders. For a complete list of rules and regulations, click here.

Writer: Megan Voeller
Source: Olga Bof, Keep St. Petersburg Local

USF Ranks 10th Worldwide In Patents, Tampa

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) ranked USF 10th  worldwide among all universities granted U.S. patents in 2011. Every year the IPO ranks the top 300 organizations worldwide to receive patents; this year 11 universities were included. Other institutions on the list include Stanford, MIT and Caltech. While USF ranked 281st among all organizations, it was the only university in Florida to be included in the report.

USF is a global research university, and part of what distinguishes us is that our faculty, staff and students are true innovators, free to think in any direction, and given incentives for success,” says Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, USF VP for research and innovation. “The discoveries and patents that come as a result of USF’s unwavering focus on research and innovation represent the potential for new products, new jobs and new businesses.”

USF was issued 86 patents, which is an increase of more than 3 percent from 2010. Valerie McDevitt, assistant VP for patents and licensing at USF, shared some of the most innovative patents USF created. They include:

1. Radioactive seeds that allow a breast surgeon to find suspected lumps or lesions for biopsy, resulting in earlier surgery times, a better procedure and improved outcomes;

2. A new type of roller coaster that lets the rider control their path to a larger degree than on most roller coasters;

3. A hands-free “dancing wheelchair” on which the rider uses his or her entire body like a joy-stick to move the chair;

4. A “backpack relocator” for wheelchairs that moves the backpack from the back of the chair to where the user can access its contents, providing tremendous independence for returning veterans and others with handicaps that limit their range of motion. 

Click here for a full list of the IPO report.
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Paul R. Sanberg and Valerie McDevitt, USF

Florida Offers Economic Gardening Certification

Krista Hakes of the Pasco Economic Development Council (Pasco EDC) is one of six people in Florida to complete the Economic Gardening Certification offered through GrowFL.
Economic Gardening is part of a larger movement that takes an entrepreneurial approach to economic development through a model created by Chris Gibbons of Littleton, CO. The goal of economic gardening is to create jobs and improve the economy at the local level.
“Economic gardening helps second-stage companies with the challenges they face,” says Tammie Nemecek of GrowFL, which is the state’s branch of the larger economic gardening movement.

The certification program that Hakes completed is part of the National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation, which follows the Chris Gibbons model. The certification enables Hakes to launch and administer a successful economic gardening program in Pasco that will help local entrepreneurs and small companies to grow their businesses.   

“The certification process involves online courses and webinars,” says Jessica Nelson, operations manager of the National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation. “Overall the certification takes three weeks to complete.”
In addition to Hakes, the five other individuals in Florida who have completed the program include Paul Mitchell of the Volusia County Economic Development Council, Chelsea Jones-Finely of the Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, Debrah Forester of the Charlotte County Economic Development Council, Mandy Hines of DeSoto County and Kara Palmer of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee.
GrowFL has plans to certify more people in the future; those interested in becoming certified should contact Jessica Nelson at the National Center for Economic Gardening. Entrepreneurs seeking support for accelerating their business should contact their local economic development council or GrowFL.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tammie Nemecek, GrowFL, and Jessica Nelson, National Center for Economic Gardening at the Edward Lowe Foundation

Manatee, Sarasota Entrepreneurs Can Get Coaching

Suncoast Community Capital (SCC) and the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership (UEP) are working together to offer personalized coaching to Sarasota and Manatee business owners. The UEP is part of the Kauffman Foundation, an organization dedicated to entrepreneurship. Individuals who qualify will receive one-on-one coaching from successful professionals with business expertise.

“The UEP approached us because it saw enormous untapped potential in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and it was impressed by what we have been able to do in supporting entrepreneurs in a short period of time,” says Mike Kennedy, president and CEO of Suncoast Community Capital. “Kauffman is the largest foundation in the world devoted to entrepreneurship, and we knew the UEP would be a wonderful partner to support entrepreneurs who want to quickly improve profitability and create jobs by offering personalized, one-to-one business coaching.”

In order to participate, eligible applicants must either have an idea for a business or be currently operating a for-profit or nonprofit business in either Sarasota or Manatee county.

“We simply are looking for ideas or companies of any type or size that have the potential to quickly increase profitability and create jobs as a result of the coaching,” he says. SCC and the UEP will assess that potential during the application and screening process.”

While approximately 48 entrepreneurs will be selected to receive training annually, only 12 applicants will be selected to receive the next round of coaching, which will begin mid-July.

Kennedy says that while his company is accepts applications year-round online, those interested in receiving coaching this summer need to apply by June 20.
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Mike Kennedy, Suncoast Community Capital

TBTF's coolTECH 2012 Comes To Tampa On June 22

The annual coolTECH event hosted by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF) in Tampa is scheduled for Friday, June 22. Every year the event showcases the latest in technology and innovations created locally.

"coolTECH is important to our region's technology community because it shines a spotlight on the innovations and technologies being developed right here in our own backyard that will change the way we live and work,'' says Kimberly Wander, events manager at TBTF. "It also gives us the opportunity to highlight the entrepreneurs in our community.''

Wander says there is a fresh lot of exhibitors at this year’s event, including a solar thermal powered air-conditioning and water pumping system, the only web-based family emergency notification system tied to the national 911 agency network and a keyless keyboard that enables individuals with special needs the ability to communicate.  Nearly 50 exhibitors will display their latest technological innovations.

In addition to the exhibits, coolTECH 2012 will also feature Dr. Kenneth Ford, founder and CEO of the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC).

"Dr. Ford will be talking about human-centered computing, which is how human thought and action are inextricably linked to technology systems,'' Wander says. "Attendees will hear what the future will hold when computational systems are designed to amplify the human and machine components together in ways that exploit their strengths.''

Now in its fifth year, coolTECH will be held at the Tampa Convention Center on June 22 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sponsorship opportunities are still available, and tickets can be purchased online.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Kimberly Wander, Tampa Bay Technology Forum

Popular Clothing Swap Goes Monthly, Gulfport

A free clothing swap at the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market is becoming so popular that city officials have agreed to make it a regular event on the second Tuesday of each month (June 12, July 10, etc.).

The idea is to bring in your gently used clothing and swap it for someone else's. Tired of that Hawaiian shirt? Swap it for a Guayabera! Lose 10 pounds on a vegan diet? Size down till you stabilize the weight. Buy a pair of shoes that pinch your big toe? Trade 'em in for a pair of sandals.

Items for men, women and children are accepted. So are extra items. And, if you can't find something to your liking, keep a voucher and come back next time.

Leftovers -- clothing and cash -- is donated to the Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) nonprofit organization, which serves survivors of abuse and violence.

"This is a great, easy way for community to come out and show support for some of our neighbors in their time of need as they flee domestic violence and being a new life,'' says Stuart Berger, CASA development director. "Simply go through your closets and pick out some gently used items. Then enjoy the swap, knowing that all remaining clothing will be donated to CASA to help others.''

The weekly Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market features more than 50 vendors, including fresh fruits and veggies, Florida beef and chicken, local herbs and crafts as well as live music, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The clothing swap is co-sponsored by the Gulfport Merchants Association, Historic Peninsula Inn & Spa and the Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Daniel Hodge, Gulfport Merchants Association

Virtual Job Fair For Youth Seeking Employers, Tampa Bay

The Suncoast Workforce of Sarasota, in partnership with WorkNet Pinellas and several other Tampa Bay area workforce organizations, will hold a virtual job fair for youth starting May 13th and running through May 19th. The live week-long event will be free for job seekers and is catered to the younger demographic, ages 14-24.

“Businesses can benefit from a younger worker's perspective and new ideas,” says Sally Hill, communications director of Suncoast Workforce. “They tend to be open to learning and they thrive on coaching and mentoring from others. Youth are the workforce of the future.”

This is the second consecutive year for the virtual event that spans six counties. Other workforce organizations include Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance in Hillsborough, Career Central in Pasco, Junior Achievement of West Central Florida, the Pinellas Education Foundation, and Tampa Bay area public school districts and colleges.
Unlike a traditional job fair, where businesses set up booths and employers and job seekers engage in formal exchanges, the virtual job fair is done completely online in a much less ceremonial fashion. Employers will post their open positions and job seekers can browse jobs and apply during the week-long event. The virtual environment also takes pressure off employers to hire on the spot.

“Employers have the option to review candidate resumes at their leisure and they can decide whether to interview candidates by phone or in person before making their hiring decision,” Hill says.

Hill says that there is still time for employers to participate in the job fair and they would like more businesses to register. Businesses interested in virtually attending the job fair can register by visiting this link.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Sally Hill, Suncoast Workforce

Tampa Bay Partnership Plans For Local Job Growth

The Tampa Bay Partnership, an organization focused on the economic growth and development of the region, recently revealed details of its three-year strategic plan to create high-wage jobs. The Regional Business Plan involves local community, business and education leaders working together to create quality jobs with a focus on industry clusters including: applied medicine and human performance; high tech electronics and instruments; business, data and financial services; and marine and environmental activities.

“The four industry clusters identified currently represent more than 350,000 jobs in the Tampa Bay market,” says Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “That is nearly a quarter of the region's employment base. At an average annual wage of approximately $46,000 or 19 percent higher than the region's average annual wage. With successful implemention of the regional business plan, we can grow this number to 500,000 jobs. Question is, how quickly can we get there?”

While the race is on to achieve the goal of 500,000 jobs, the partnership released its 12th edition of its economic scorecard, which showed that the Tampa Bay area gained 24,133 jobs between the third quarter of 2010 and 2011, which is the largest jobs gain since its 2007 scorecard.

“Our top gainer was professional services, such as legal, accounting and engineering, which is encouraging as it suggests some momentum within the economy,” Rogel says. “The regional business plan will further rebound and accelerate job growth in our region.”

According to Rogel, it is important that the community get involved. The partnership has been presenting its regional business plan throughout the area to groups who wish to work on the economic initiatives and job creating opportunities.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Stuart Rogel, Tampa Bay Partnership

Finnish Marina Builder Sails Into St. Pete, Creates 12+ Jobs

Marinetek North American, Inc. is anchoring itself in downtown St. Pete with plans to hire more than a dozen employees, and make an even bigger economic wave on the Tampa Bay region as the company buys materials locally. The company, which is a subsidiary of Marinetek Group based in Finland, builds luxury marinas, pontoons and related floating solutions and equipment.
While the company is global and sells to businesses around the world, business is booming in the U.S.
“The American market for marinas is what is driving the growth for our company,” says Kent Johansson, CEO of Marinetek North American, Inc. “Right now we already have seven people working in our St. Pete office, but we will be hiring more down the line.”
The growing company plans to build a staging and casting yard as part of its expansion and will need extra staff to make it all happen.
“The first phase of production will take place once we reach an agreement with the city of St. Petersburg, at that point we will hire five people,” Johansson says. “The second phase will be when we start production, which will result in an additional 10 to 12 people being hired, depending on how production is going.”
Johansson says the positions he will be looking to fill include management, engineering draftsmen and general labor, however, he says more jobs will be created indirectly because his company will be purchasing a large amount of supplies and equipment in the local economy.
Source: Kent Johansson, Marinetek North American, Inc.

Universal Health Care Hiring 70 Bi-Lingual Phone Reps

If you speak Spanish and English, and are looking for employment, Universal Health is hiring.

Universal Health Care is actively recruiting member services representatives for its St. Petersburg call center. 

"We currently have about 200 people in member services," says Michael Holohan, Universal's chief operating officer. "We’re hoping to fill a class of 18 bilingual people."

Holohan says the current hiring is part of a long-range plan to ensure more of the staff is bilingual. "Our demographic of the senior population we serve is about 10 percent Spanish speaking. So we're always looking for bilingual people to provide service to them. We employ about 700 people at our corporate headquarters. We’re looking to, over time, have 10 percent of those people be bilingual. In every recruiting class we have, we’re looking for 10 percent of the individuals who have bilingual skills."

Founded by licensed geriatrician and physician Dr. A.K. Desai in 2002, Universal provides managed care services for government sponsored health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The company was voted one of TampaBay.com's Top 10 Workplaces in Tampa Bay in 2011. Career benefits include health, dental, vision, 401(k) and free gym membership. Interested candidates must be detail and customer service oriented and able to read and write in Spanish. 

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Michael Holohan

Imagine Tampa Bay As A Startup At CEOs For Cities National Meeting May 17-18

In a January opinion piece in TechCrunch, entrepreneur Jon Bischke suggested the most successful urban leaders are those who view cities like startups.

CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders dedicated to creating next generation cities, will examine that premise at its 2012 Spring National Meeting: The City As a Startup -- Creating Demand, Attracting Talent, Taking Risks and Going to Scale.

The meeting is set for May 17-18 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and is made possible with support from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. Former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case will deliver the morning keynote and also sit on a panel conservation about Startup America.

CEOs for Cities will also release its latest City Vitals report, a framework for measuring the success of cities. Other panels include considering Songdo, South Korea as the planet's smartest city and using the collective impact approach to catalyze social change. There will also be opportunities to tour Cincinnati attractions and examples of success.
Register by clicking here. View a draft agenda here.

Writer: Joe Petrucci
Source: CEOS for Cities

Roaming Hunger: Street Food App Launches In Tampa Bay

As the food truck phenomenon continues to gain momentum in the Tampa Bay region, friends and followers are presented with a unique problem: How do you keep track of them all? Enter Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Ross Resnick, 27, and his app Roaming Hunger.

Resnick, a University of Southern California grad with a degree in international business management, started the concept as a street food blog in August 2009 when the movement was just starting to pick up steam in major cities.

What began with a database of nearly 300 trucks in San Francisco, L.A., Washington D.C., New York, Portland, Seattle and Pittsburgh has blossomed into a mobile app featuring 2,228 trucks in more than 25 cities including its newest addition, Tampa Bay, which launched on April 6 and currently features 33 registered mobile eateries.

"We're here to help push this industry to make a new medium accessible to the general public," Resnick says.

Looking for the closest truck in your neighborhood? Roaming Hunger provides a map, updated hourly, of businesses in your area featuring info, photos, menus and Twitter feeds. Users even have the option to separate trucks by savory, sweet and vegetarian.

The site's main goal is to promote and build a community around street food culture, according to Resnick. Any truck with an identity can sign up for free and users can create a free login or connect via a Facebook account.

Roaming Hunger's had its eye on Tampa Bay's "exploding" street food scene for a while, Resnick says, but the timing was finally right to go live.

"Tampa's one of the best new cities for food trucks," he says. "It's been really accepting. We wanted to come out and help push the movement even further."

Writer: Matt Spencer
Source: Ross Resnick, Roaming Hunger

Awesome Tampa Bay Winner: Teacher Of Jailed Teens

Sylvia Albritton says she believes everyone has a story to tell. And now she has $1,000 to put her students' stories into a nicely bound cover.

Albritton received the money as a gift from Awesome Tampa Bay on Thursday, March 1, 2012. It is the second award Awesome has given to those whose work is having a positive impact on the Tampa Bay region.

Albritton teaches youth ages 14 to 18 at the Falkenburg Jail in Hillsborough County. Her students are facing adjudication as adults for crimes Albritton considers acts committed without thought for repercussions. Her writing program gives them an outlet for exploring their feelings about their lives and their actions.

"I retired after 35 years of teaching and I wasn’t tired," says Albritton. "I wanted to teach again. My thought was a traditional
middle or high school. But what I ended up in was a drug treatment facility for at-risk kids. And I loved it. Now I teach at the jail.

"I’ve learned that our youth oftentimes don’t have an outlet for expression. And I think it helps them to write. Sometimes it’s a thoughtless act and they don’t see the repercussions of it. This helps them confront that. I come home from work happy every day."

Albritton says she plans to use the money to create a bound book of her students' writing. "I spoke to my principal about soliciting more writing and artwork from the students and binding them in a book that addresses how we’d do things differently given the chance. Make it look like a professional text for the library at the school and maybe share with other programs as well. And you never know. I was told me that sometimes an award like this leads to other resources. I could just gather the papers together and staple them myself. But that's just not the same."

Awesome Tampa Bay is part of the Awesome Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides money to those making a positive difference in their communities. Albritton was chosen from nearly 70 applicants.

Writer:  Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Sylvia Albritton, Hillsborough County Jail

Language Service Creates At Least 65 Jobs, Tampa Bay

Bi-lingual or multilingual job seekers have an opportunity to work from home thanks to a national language services provider.

California-based Language Line Services plans to hire approximately 300 interpreters throughout the state of Florida to meet increased demand among its client base for multilanguage interpreters. Sixty-five of those jobs are estimated to be filled by Tampa Bay job seekers with second-language skills.

Language Line CEO Louis Provenzano says the company plans to hire 2,000 interpreters nationwide. "With the number of cultural consumers out there, our clients are finding if you speak to the customer in their native language, they're a lot more likely to buy," explains Provenzano. "Approximately 15 percent of the 2,000 we plan to hire are slated for Florida," he explains. "Florida is one of our top five states for recruiting and we're expecting to see approximately 20 to 25 percent of those to come from the Tampa Bay area. That translates to roughly 60 to 75 jobs in Tampa."

Provenzano says those hired can expect to make between $30,000 to $60,000, depending on work volume. Many interpreters are able to work from home and experience isn't necessary.

"It really doesn't depend on experience," Provenzano says. "We have one of the best training programs in the country. Some interpreters make as high as $60,000 depending on the volume of work due to overtime and demand. And they don't have to worry about gas or paying for meals because they'll be working from home and setting their own schedules."

Languages currently in demand include Mandarin, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish, Spanish and French. Those interested with the language skills necessary can apply online.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Louis Provenzano, Language Line Services

Tampa Bay Strategy: Grow International Trade, Jobs

Top officials from Tampa Bay business and economic entities joined U.S. Commerce Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez at the Port of Tampa on Monday, Feb. 6, to sign a Memo Of Intent (MOI) that serves to create collaborations and connections among trade exporters and government officials to build a business strategy that will attract more jobs to Tampa Bay.

"Individually none of us has the potential to fulfill and carry out on a sustained level an international trade," says Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. "But collectively we can sustain and focus on areas where we can bear fruit." 

The entities represented at the MOI signing include the International Trade Administration, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, the City of Tampa, and their partners, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and the Tampa Port Authority

"Not only is this a sign of the Tampa Bay community coming together to advance international activities," says Rogel. "But the under secretary's [presence] represents an administration that wishes to double export activity over the next five years. Sanchez talked about how they're on track to meet that goal, which is in line with Florida Gov. Scott's goal to expand the state's export activity. So we're seeing this [MOI signing] as consistent with efforts on a state and federal level."

The signing is in part an answer to President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI) to double U.S. commercial exports by the end of 2014.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Stuart Rogel, Tampa Bay Partnership

Bank On Florida Initiative Launches In Tampa Bay

Florida residents without bank accounts are the target of a new initiative called Bank On Florida that is designed to increase financial literacy and help people navigate the sometimes intimidating complexities of banking.

The Florida Prosperity Partnership launched Bank On Florida to bring together financial institutions and community partners throughout Tampa Bay to help residents access mainstream financial services and financial education.

"The whole idea behind Bank On Florida is to build on existing bank programs," says Bill Mills, director of strategic initiatives for Florida Prosperity Partnership. "We are trying to build the initiative on models used across the state. Most people [who don't currently have a bank] have lost a bank account due to bank fees. There are also people who have just never had a bank account. So if someone comes into Bank On Florida in Tampa Bay, that person will get financial education – learn how to use a bank account correctly. And then they'll be put with the correct financial institution, which varies. A credit union may make sense for them. It depends on how much they intend to keep in their account."

The program is based on successful models in about 100 cities around the country. Its goal is to increase financial stability by providing access to bank accounts and financial education, making it easier to save for the future, manage money and access credit and lower-interest loans.

A pilot Bank On program -- the first in Florida -- launched in St. Petersburg in August 2009 and has already opened more than 2,500 accounts, which made it the perfect place to launch the Bank On Florida program.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation [FDIC] estimates that more than 7 percent of Florida households are "unbanked,'' meaning no one in the household has any type of checking or savings account. 

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Bill Mills, Florida Prosperity Partnership

Niche Marketing Company Hiring In 2012, 8 Jobs

A marketing company specializing in strategic services for loyalty management is planning to hire in 2012.

Kobie Marketing plans to fill at least eight positions in coming months, which will include adding a director of client services, a solutions architect and several positions in its IT department.

Selena McLaughlin, human resources manager, says that the client services director and solutions architect positions require specific skill sets from candidates looking to fill them. "We are a specific niche," McLaughlin explains. "The person filling the director position needs to be familiar with loyalty rewards and marketing so they can hit the ground running. Any candidate for the solutions architect definitely needs to be business as well as tech savvy. This position used to be in Operations and we've shifted it to IT. So the person in this position needs to know IT solutions with respect to business. It's tough to fill because it's a compilation of roles rolled in to one. It will take a very specific individual with a very specific skill set: IT, business analytics and sales."

McLaughlin says Kobie has enjoyed steady growth and hiring, due mostly to word of mouth. "We've been growing exponentially every year," she says. "Last year we hired more than 25 employees, which speaks to our client base increasing as well as the diverse industries they represent. Certainly from a market perspective, we never stopped recruiting and hiring, even during the down time. When I've interviewed potential candidates, everyone is surprised that Kobie has continued to grow.
"Kobie also has enjoyed a lot more exposure in the media," McLaughlin continues. "We've won some awards and been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the area. That's helped, too. And we're a women-owned business, which definitely gives us some exposure. Our employees talk about us a lot. Social media has been a big plus for us as well. So for us it's really word of mouth. We are very thankful for our success and try to give to the community on a quarterly basis. We don't forget our roots and where we've come from."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Selena McLaughlin, Kobie Marketing

Metropolitan Ministries Opens Cafe, Downtown Tampa

There's a new cafe in town that feeds not only customers, but those looking for a second chance.

Metropolitan Ministries has opened a cafe, Inside the Box Cafe, at 505 N. Tampa St. in Tampa. Now serving lunch to the general public, all proceeds earned by the cafe go directly to helping those who depend on Metropolitan Ministries for assistance in finding shelter, food, employment and a new start.

The cafe is an extension of a program Metropolitan Ministries Chef Cliff Barsi started last year to help those struggling to get back on their feet. Barsi says an initial idea he brought to Metropolitan Ministries a few years ago began a process that led to the cafe and helping more people than he ever imagined. "The main reason I came to Metropolitan Ministries three years ago was to start a culinary institute for high school dropouts," says Barsi. "I went to Metropolitan for advice, and they asked me to start working for them."

From there, Barsi's vision for a culinary institute became a reality. He began to teach Metropolitan Ministries' clients the skills needed to work in a kitchen. "Our four-month program gives them hands on training. They feed up to 2,000 people a day. They learn how to deal with high volume and work with high-tech equipment .They probably wouldn't get that at a regular culinary school."

But Barsi wanted to give them more. "In order to give them everything they need, I decided we needed a for-profit for them to use in their training," says Barsi. "

So Barsi opened a catering business for his students, Inside the Box Catering, which won the 2010 Innovative Business Plan Award sponsored by the Children's Board of Hillsborough County. And Bob Basham, a founding partner of the Outback Steakhouse franchise, offered the space on North Tampa Street for a retail food outlet. The cafe was born.

Barsi is optimistic about what these connections can do for those under his tutelage. "Hopefully they will get a job as a cook somewhere and move their way up. Partners like Outback and Hard Rock Café can help them get their foot in the door."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Cliff Barsi, Inside the Box Cafe, Metropolitan Ministries

TruGreen Job Fair In Tampa, 175+ Sales Jobs

Jeff Walter says TruGreen is growing like a weed -- pun intended.

The company's director announced TruGreen's Job Fair, to be held at the lawn care company's new call center at the Netpark office complex located at 5701 E. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012. Orientations will be held from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 2 to 2:30 p.m. The company plans to fill 175 sales positions and has immediate needs for inside sales, sales supervisors and management positions. Candidates should be professionally dressed with resumes and valid identification in hand, and be prepared to talk about their experience in sales.

"We are looking for highly engaged people to build a high-performing, diverse team," says Walter. "We are looking for people who can display core competencies as demonstrated in prior sales positions. And they need to be on board with TruGreen's core values: Honor God by doing the right thing; help people develop; grow profits and excel with the customer."

Walter explains that the new call center is a result of nationwide growth for the Memphis-based lawn care company, and that Tampa was chosen for the call center due to the area's own high-performing track record.

"We had opportunities in other areas," says Walter. "But we chose Tampa for two reasons: 1. We had a small regional center in Clearwater whose high performing staff we wanted to retain; and 2. Tampa has a very diverse recruitment population and a high concentration of contact centers. We knew we'd find the kind of employees we are looking for here."

The new contact center boasts an on-site gym, food court and on-campus daycare. New hires will receive three weeks of paid training. Seasonal sales associates will receive an hourly wage plus commission; management staff salary plus bonus. Minimum requirements for sales staff include a high school diploma or GED and six months' direct sales experience.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Jeff Walter, TruGreen

Medical Records: eDocs To Add 8 Jobs In Tampa Bay

Doctors are facing a big deadline in 2014, and a Spring Hill company is hiring more staff to help them make that deadline.

By 2014, all patient medical records must be electronic, and eDocs Conversion Solutions is helping docs throughout Tampa Bay to convert their paper records to electronic. eDocs needs additional staff to accomplish its goal.

The company, owned and operated by Victoria Kaczynski and Teresina Jessie, added two employees since the beginning of 2012 and plans to add eight more by the end of the year. They also have entered into a partnership with Hielix, a company that helps facilitate the conversion process by assisting doctors' offices in choosing the right IT vendor.

"We saw an approximate 16 percent growth in 2011 and anticipate that if not more next year," says Kaczynski. "As we grow, we’re going need to hire staff to prepare records, to scan charts, someone to handle Q & A and, of course, more medical transcriptionists."

Kaczynski explains the relationship between her company and Hielix, and how it benefits their doctor-clients. 

"Hielix helps the doctor decide on a vendor that will work best for their practice. The next step involves what to do with all the existing patient records. This is where eDocs comes in. We help them incorporate their old charts to integrate seamlessly with the EMR system Hielix has helped them choose."

Kaczynski and Jessie attribute the growth of the business not only to the impending conversion deadline, but also to their focus and ability to stay ahead of industry trends. 

"We started out as transcribers," explains Kaczynski. "In the last couple of years, we've been focusing on branching out." 

Adds Jessie: "We’ve always tried to keep a step ahead. We saw the move to EMR compliance as an opportunity. So we hopped on board."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Sources: Victoria Kaczynski and Teresina Jessie, eDocs Conversion Solutions

Kauffman Foundation Invests In Bradenton, Sarasota

Suncoast Community Capital recently announced major investments from two major financial institutions to support its collaboration with an urban entrepreneurship program. 

SCC, which is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties, has formed a partnership with the Kauffman Foundation's Urban Entrepreneur Partnership program to further develop small and emerging businesses reach their goals and create jobs. Wells Fargo recently invested $50,000 in the program and the Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency invested $40,000.

Mike Kennedy, SCC president and CEO, shares three ways the investments in the partnership will stimulate economic development in the area.

"First, UEP-coached entrepreneurs are going to create badly needed, good-paying jobs," says Kennedy. "Next, it’s going to create a relationship with our region and the world’s most-renowned and largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship. Finally, Kauffman UEP has a track record of delivering results in the communities it serves. The UEP has identified $204 million in opportunities for its clients, helped secure $87 million in contracts for them, increased their business revenue by 44 percent since 2005 and increased their profits by 24 percent."

Kennedy explains that businesses will be admitted to the program based on their willingness and ability to grow their businesses to scale and creating jobs. But points out that certain industries present ideal opportunities. 

"We bet on the jockey and not the horse," says Kennedy. "Therefore, the entrepreneur’s commitment and make-up are important. However, Kauffman does like our region’s mix of businesses related to manufacturing, agriculture, aquaculture and Port Manatee, just to name a few.Therefore, we’ll look for opportunities in those sectors as we evaluate applicants."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Mike Kennedy, Suncoast Community Capital

St. Petersburg Housewives Start Vegan Business

Kortney Campbell became vegan three years ago and has an affinity for cooking. Soon cooking vegan fare became her passion, and a few months ago she started Vegan Housewives with her friend Katie Charos.  Their goal is to not only share vegan food with others, but show people it can be affordable as well.

“We see a lot of people shy away from a vegan lifestyle due to the cost of food,” Campbell says. There are so many amazing vegan recipes out there, but half the time they call for obscure ingredients that are either hard to find or so expensive that it just isn't worth the effort.  We appreciate these fancy recipes but we want to show people how to turn them into delicious, simple, cheap, user-friendly versions. ”

In an effort to make the public aware of their newfound business, the women are working on a blog that will offer recipes, restaurant reviews and even fashion tips. The women also envision a market in St. Petersburg.

“We are trying to start up a week night market that will focus on the local art community in St. Pete,” Campbell says. “We would serve a vegan meal and it would give the artists a place to network and feature their creations in their community. We hope to round up a lot of participation from local businesses and artists with the intention of increasing artist retention in the area. ”

Campbell and Charos have long-term plans to open up a shop where they can share their vegan concoctions with the community, but for now will focus on their blog and getting the word out about Vegan Housewives.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Kortney Campbell, Vegan Housewives

Tampa Moving Company Grows, Adds 20 Jobs

Strong College Students, a moving company in Tampa, plans to hire up to 20 people as soon as possible. The company, which was founded in 2005, offers moving services to commercial and residential customers. What makes this moving company unique is its workforce.

“Currently everyone in our company is a student,” says Shaun C. Robinson, CEO of Strong College Students. “Education is one of our core values, and we want to provide students with practical work experience while in school.”

Robinson says that while the company currently employs only students, he is open to hiring non-students for his warehouse. For those non-students who are interested in attending college, the company offers a program that helps them with applications, finding financial aid and enrolling in school.

“The program mentors employees who want to attend college,” Robinson says. “Those individuals are put on a six- to 12-month track to enroll in school. ”

As the company grows, Robinson is actively seeking college students to be movers, interns to work in all areas of the business, and service representatives to book moves and handle customer services issues.

“We will be hiring between five to 15 strong college students, two to four strong service reps and three to four interns,” says Robinson. “The number we hire depends upon our employee’s schedules. With all of our staff being students, we have a lot of part-time employees, and we work around class schedules. ”

Strong College Students serves the greater Tampa Bay region, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Shaun C. Robinson, Strong College Students

Pecha Kucha V10 Tampa Bay Brings Back Faves

Pecha Kucha volume 10 (PK v10), an innovative and creative event that enables participants to tell their success stories to a live audience, will take place on Friday, Oct. 28, in Tampa.

Pecha Kucha is a Japanese term for “chit-chat,” therefore the event is centered on creative people talking about their passions. What makes the Oct. 28 gathering different from previous get-togethers is the all-star line-up.

“For PK v10, we decided to invite back our favorite presenters from earlier volumes,” says Kenneth Cowart, event organizer and architect with ASD. “The presenters come from a wide variety of backgrounds from a hair stylist to a high school teacher to an architect and a few artists. All of the presenters are experts in their fields and are heavily involved in various ways throughout the community. ”

PK v10 is open to the public and is for anyone interested in learning about creative, innovative ideas and how they can be more involved in the community. The presenters are given a forum at PK v10 that they would not otherwise have to share their views and perspectives with peers.

“The goal for PK is to give a person a chance to tell his story to an audience,” Cowart says. “At PK v9, one guy talked about his work in Guinea worm extraction in Africa. PK gave him a chance to tell people about his hard work and a way to celebrate his accomplishments. ”

Like previous PK events, the format for presenters will be 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This format keeps the presentations moving along quickly and also keeps the audience interested and engaged.

PK v10 will be held in the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center for Performing Arts on Oct. 28 from 7 to 10 p.m.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Kenneth Cowart, Pecha Kucha Night Tampa Bay

Poynter, TEDx Tampa Bay Team Up For Media Talks

The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg will host an innovative and interactive one-day event on Oct. 28th to discuss the future of journalism and media.

The event, known as TEDx Poynter Institute will feature leaders in media, as well as representatives of the business community. These leaders along with event attendees will discuss and analyze the changing landscape of journalism and the media.

“With journalism the way it is today, anyone can be a publisher,” says Ellyn Angelotti, event organizer and Poynter Institute faculty in digital trends and social media. “It’s important that the journalistic values are not diminished in the future. I think it’s important that publishers find the right tools that are available to tell stories that are cognizant of the journalistic fundamentals of the past. ”

In addition to discussing the future of journalism, social media will also be a hot topic at the TEDx Poynter Institute event.

“Social media has completely changed the role of journalism because it's enabled us to go from a passive publication cycle where people of news organizations were the only ones to share and report news, where now anyone can,” Angelotti says. “Social media has taken us from a one-way publication into a multiway publication. ”

The event is interactive and all discussions will be live-streamed and recorded. A Tweetup, where those who Twitter meet face-to-face, will follow the event.

The TEDx Poynter Institute event will be Oct. 28th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 801 Third Street S. in St. Petersburg. Sponsors include St. Petersburg College, Bright House and 83 Degrees Media.
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter Institute

Tampa Mayor, Jewish Federation Plan Israel Trip

Tampa Bay area business and community leaders are preparing for a trip to Tampa’s sister city in Israel as part of a trade mission led by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The leaders will travel to the port city of Ashdod, Israel to provide humanitarian aid and investigate economic opportunities that will create jobs in Tampa.

Leaders who will be visiting Ashdod include Tampa’s Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Jewish community leaders Jack Ross and Herb Swarzman, Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen and Tampa City Attorney Jim Shimberg. The group plans to  meet with representatives of Israel’s high-tech and innovative companies to see what solutions to everyday municipal challenges can be implemented in Florida.

“The Mayor and his municipal colleagues, together with a variety of Tampa Bay area business professionals, hope to meet with Israeli companies who offer products and services that can find a new market and home in the Tampa area, thereby creating new jobs, revenue and other economic stimulus, which typically accompanies outside investment in a local economy,” says Jack Ross, one of the directors of the mission trip.

During the trip, Mayor Buckhorn will meet with the mayors of both Jerusalem and Ashdod. Also, the Tampa Jewish Federation will present a gift in the amount of $108,000 to the city of Ashdod to be used to renovate a bomb shelter and fund medical services.

The trip is scheduled for Nov. 16th through the 22nd, and is limited to 24 people on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on the mission, email Mark Segal at the Tampa Jewish Federation. Or call Segal at 813-769-2805.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Jack Ross, 2011 Tampa Sister City Mayoral Trade Mission to Israel

Puerto Rican Chamber: Increased Trade Would Create Florida Jobs

The Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida is working hard to increase bilateral trade between Florida and the island nation.

"There is an opportunity for Florida to trade with Puerto Rico, which could create a lot of jobs," says Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, president and CEO of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida, Inc. "Puerto Rico has a large amount of fruit that cannot be found in Florida to export."

Cuevas-Neunder says that not only will Floridians enjoy the Puerto Rican exports, but the economic benefits as well. "Increasing trade with Puerto Rico could provide 200-300 jobs locally," says Cuevas-Neunder. "As product is imported, there is a need for workers in the port and workers to transport the goods when they come in."

According to Cuevas-Neunder, not only will Floridians benefit from importing goods from Puerto Rico, but exporting as well. "The island currently gets it berries from California," says Cuevas-Neunder. "The berries are green when they are shipped and ripen as they are transported, which means they aren't very fresh. Florida could export its berries via the Tampa Port and it would take a fraction of the time that it takes to ship from California."

In an effort to create jobs and increase trade, the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida, Inc. will be hosting an event on June 23rd in Tampa. "Anyone who owns a business and is interested in establishing themselves in Puerto Rico should attend," says Cuevas-Neunder. "All reservations need to be made through our website."

The Florida & Puerto Rico Domestic Trade Summit will be at the Tampa Westshore DoubleTree Hotel.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida

Tampa Financial Firm DTCC Gets Award, Hiring 15+

DTCC, a financial services company that moved from New York to Tampa following 9/11, is looking to fill at least 15 jobs in finance and technology.

The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC) processes securities transactions, including mutual funds and insurance transactions.

"DTCC was established in Tampa about six years after the 9/11 attacks in New York," says Rich Marulanda of the DTCC. "At that time there were federal requirements moving us to duplicate operations at a different site for the purposes of business continuity."

The DTCC Tampa office, otherwise known as the South Business Center (SBC), recently won the Florida Governor's Sterling Award for the advanced work related to business continuity. The award recognizes organizations that demonstrate managerial and operational excellence.

"As an organization we are constantly looking at our processes, including leadership strategy, process and data management," says Eric Miller, DTCC managing director and head of SBC. "We have evolved into a culture of quality, performance and metrics."

DTCC's SBC currently has more than 15 openings.

"At any given time we have 10-20 openings at our Tampa facility," says Marulanda. "We are currently looking for individuals who are highly talented in the areas of finance and technology."

One of the pillars of excellence that DTCC promotes is diversity. "We have a diversity inclusion council," says Miller. "We are constantly looking at initiatives, which promote and celebrate diversity."

One of those initiatives includes generational diversity. "We have a group for young professionals, which has a reverse mentoring program," says Marulanda. "In the reverse mentoring program we have our younger professionals train our executives on the use of social media in the workplace."

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Sources: Eric Miller and Rich Marulanda, DTCC South Business Center

Gift To USF St. Pete Supports Math In Middle Grades

"If young people are not successful in algebra in the middle grades, the likelihood they will graduate from high school, go on to college and get good paying jobs decreases dramatically," says Vivian Fueyo, dean of USF's College of Education-St. Petersburg (USFSP). 

Fueyo and USFSP are so dedicated to this belief that they began measuring teaching methods in 2009, and developed a program, the Sunbay Digital Mathematics Project, that prepares teachers to help students successfully master algebra.

It is the only such program in existence to Fueyo's knowledge, and recently got an added boost from a gift of $125,000 from Progress Energy, a part of a $185,000 gift to the university that will go to several other projects at the university. Fueyo says the Sunbay project is vital to building strong communities for tomorrow.

"If you think about it, up until middle-grade algebra most of the math students do is fairly concrete. Algebra is more abstract. The ability to solve algebraic problems is really the foundation of the kind of problem solving abilities needed to build strong communities. There is more than 10 years of research -- strong evidence from the National Science Foundation -- that the middle grades are the breakpoint."

Fueyo says the money will be used to support tuition for middle school teachers to participate in a five-course sequence for digitally enhanced middle grades mathematics education. The first group of teachers to go through the program will complete the sequence in June 2011, and a new group of teachers will begin the program that same month. She says it was the success of the first session that earned Progress Energy's respect and support.

In year one of the pilot, there was evidence that middle grade students who were part of the project improved across race, ethnicity, language in key concepts in algebra."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Vivian Fueyo, University of South Florida-St. Petersburg

Inaugural Diversity Conference In Palmetto, April 6

A diversity conference will be held on April 6 in Palmetto for business leaders and professionals who are seeking tools, techniques, best practices and strategies to enhance diversity leadership, recruitment and management.

The conference is hosted by the Latino Community Network, the State College of Florida and the Suncoast Workforce.

According to Ximena Granada, chair of the diversity conference, the event will be a great networking opportunity for those in the business community.

"Attendees have the opportunity to create a network in which to share ideas and develop a strategic advantage through the implementation of diversity initiatives," says Granada. "Conference participants will have the opportunity to continue this conversation and participate in the planning of future conferences by online collaboration through the Manasota Diversity Council's website."

Granada explains the inspiration behind hosting the inaugural conference: "There is a need to change attitudes and perceptions about diverse populations. This conference is a step towards opening the door to appreciating diversity."

Granada points out that as we enter further into a global economy, it is imperative that people understand and respect those from different cultures other than their own.

"We need to overcome stereotypes and to be able to celebrate and respect each individual for their worth as a human being," Granada says. "Only then will we be able to harness the innate potential each of us has."

The conference consists of presenters, networking opportunities and workshops. Some of the topics of the workshop sessions include women in leadership, strategies for engaging a multigenerational workforce and uncovering unconscious bias.

The Manasota Diversity Conference will be held at the Manatee Convention and Civic Center in Palmetto on Wednesday, April 6.

Source: Ximena Granada, Manasota Diversity Conference
Writer: Kimberly Patterson

Follow 83DegreesMedia on Twitter.

YMCA Of The USA Considers Tampa Y Website Model For Nation

YMCA of the Suncoast has launched a new website designed to build communities of like-minded people.

The website, launched in March 2011, provides easy access to residents interested in the Suncoast Ys mission and programs. An interactive find-a-program feature helps visitors find classes and activities, a blog offers access to Y news and an Ask-the-Y feature allows visitors to ask questions about anything from summer camps to nutrition. The site also interfaces with Facebook and Twitter.

"Connecting with the community is critical to the Y's mission," says Alisa Jenkins of Springboard Marketing and Communications, who helped with the website. "This  site offers more ways to do this than before. The social media features allow people to choose how they connect. They can interact with their favorites or the entire Suncoast community."

The site was recently recognized by YMCA of the USA as an exceptional example of brand integration and, as a result, the Suncoast association has been invited to present the website to other YMCAs at a national event in Chicago. The Suncoast Y's primary Facebook page grew from 1,200 to over 2,000 fans within the first 30 days of the new launch.

Mandy Griffith, Suncoast Y's marketing and communications director, is excited about the results the site has produced. "This website helps us achieve our mission by making our programs more accessible and by providing more resources to our community."

Sources: Alisa Jenkins, Springboard Marketing and Communications; Mandy Griffith, YMCA of the Suncoast
Writer: Missy Kavanaugh

Follow 83DegreesMedia on Twitter.

Moffitt Cancer Center Ranks In Top 50 For Executive Women, Tampa

Moffitt Cancer Center was recently recognized by the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) as one of the top 50 companies for executive women. The annual list produced by NAFE honors companies that strive to encourage women's advancement and presence at the executive level. According to Amy Durham, Moffitt's director of strategic workforce management, the recognition by NAFE proves that the cancer center has been successful in the implementation of policies and procedures effecting women.

"There are many benefits that we offer our employees, which are beneficial for women," says Durham. "Those benefits include flexible work arrangements, on-site child care and tuition assistance."

One of the most unique benefits that Moffitt offers its employees is back-up care. The back-up care program offers employees at-home childcare for children who are home sick, not well enough to go to school or daycare.

"I have used the back-up care program for my son,'' says Durham. "It's great! You just call the 800 number to our childcare provider and they send someone to stay with your child at home. The copay is very reasonable, approximately $20 for the day."

Durham also attributes Moffitt's success in women's advancement to the "promote from within" mentality that the center holds.

"When I look at the female executives at Moffitt, many of them were promoted from within the company," Durham says. "We were able to cultivate and give them opportunities to grow into those roles."

With approximately 70 percent of the workforce at Moffitt being women, Durham says that having women in executive leadership roles is important.

"We want our executive leadership team to be reflective of our workforce," Durham says. "At Moffitt, 62 percent of employees at the director level are women. At the executive level, which also includes physician leaders, 28 percent are women."

Source: Amy Durham, Moffitt Cancer Center
Writer: Kimberly Patterson

Esurance Quotes 9 Open Positions At Tampa Office

Esurance, a growing insurance company, is hiring for several different positions at its office in Tampa.

The company, one of the first dot-com auto insurance sites, has grown from modest roots to one of the more recognizable names in the industry. Today the company offers 24/7 customer service, online policy management tools and innovative services like RepairViewTM, which allows customers who have submitted an auto claim the opportunity to monitor the progress of their car repair on their smartphone.

"Florida is a great market for us, and our business overall is thriving, so we need talented telesales agents, sales managers as well as auto insurance claims professionals, to support our growing business,'' says Steve Beard, director of sales at Esurance. "The car insurance industry is highly competitive, so we are looking for associates that can thrive in a fast-paced, high volume environment.

"Successful individuals, who have a proven sales or claims track record, are dependable and interested in opportunities for growth are considered qualified candidates."

Beard says the company is proud to offer a diverse workplace.

"We have achieved a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for the past four years, so diversity in the workplace is very important to us, says Beard. "We've also been rated one of the Top Places to Work in the Tampa Bay Area by the St. Petersburg Times."

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Steve Beard, Esurance

Diversity Job Fair Arrives In Tampa On March 10

A Diversity/Professional Job Fair will be held in Tampa on Thursday, March 10. The event is sponsored by DiversityJobFairs.com and, according to Sr. Account Director Nicholas Pizzone, this job fair is unique.

"What sets our job fairs apart from others is that the employers attending the event are looking to attract a diverse candidate group," says Pizzone. "We put the right job seekers in front of the right employers."

DiversityJobFairs.com holds job fairs in cities around the country throughout the year. Pizzone says that Tampa is a location that his company often visits.

"It seems like there are always companies in Tampa that are hiring," he says. "We get a good turnout in the area, and the companies that participate are always impressed with the quality of candidates at the event."

Employers attending the March 10 job fair include AFLAC, Sears Home Improvement, Valpak and Coca-Cola.

Pizzone says he expects about 600 job seekers, and has some tips for success for those attendees.

"Go to our website and pre-register so you can see the full list of employers in attendance," Pizzone says. "On the day of the event, make sure you are professionally dressed, bring plenty of resumes and be ready to talk to employers about your experience and qualifications."

The Diversity/Professional Job Fair is free and open to the public. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Nicholas Pizzone, DiversityJobFairs.com

Flower Power To Promote Downtown Bradenton

Downtown Bradenton is groovy. And it's going psychedelic to prove it.

From March 5 to April 16, downtown Bradenton will celebrate the '60s through art, fashion, literature and music during its SHOUT the 60s event.

"The 14 events offer something for everyone," says Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, the organization sponsoring the event. "Fashion, films, food, music, politics, performances, baseball, and demonstrations."

Isham says the idea for the '60s event was spurred by a performance taking place at the Manatee Players.

"About six months ago, we decided to expand upon the production that Manatee Players was doing called Shout!, about a girls' group in the '60s. The idea came out of the monthly meetings of our Cultural Partners Work Group."

Isham further explains that, like the spirit of the '60s, the event is all about collaboration.

"One of our key core values is collaboration, explains Isham. "The 60s promo grows out of and depends on our collaborative action. Whereas other groups say they are interested in collaboration, we 'walk the talk.' "

Partners for the event include ArtCenter Manatee, DeSoto Historical Society, Manatee County Cultural Alliance, the Manatee County Historical Commission, the Manatee Players, the Pittsburgh Pirates, South Florida Museum and the Village of the Arts.

Isham points out that while the event is fun, there is a serious component, too. On March 19 the Rowlett Magnet School's drama department will present a performance of Healing the Hurt that chronicles veterans' experiences of and healing from the Vietnam War. Flash Back, Flash Forward on April 4 will explore the role of government and conservative and liberal values at the Institute for Public Policy on the the USF campus.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Johnette Isham, Realize Bradenton

atLarge of Sarasota Grows, Adds 4 Jobs

atLarge, Inc., a digital advertising company in downtown Sarasota, rewards creative employees with innovative benefits. Founded in 2004 by Anand Pallegar, the company's work environment reflects the creativity in work product that clients expect. From the foosball table in the office to the company's dog-friendly policy, this is not your typical workplace.

The company's success means four jobs will be added in 2011 to the current 15. While employees don't have official titles, Amanda Eyer of atLarge says the company plans to hire a developer, project manager, customer service representative and a senior marketing manager.

"These will not be their official titles, but these are the positions we are looking to fill," Eyer says. "We are looking for people who are passionate about what they do, are not afraid of change, and are focused on our client's needs."

Eyer says the company is hiring due to the addition of several new clients, as well as an increase in projects from existing clientele. "Most of the growth is coming from new clients, however, at least 45 percent of our workload is coming from existing clients who are engaging us in multiple projects simultaneously," Eyer says.

While the workload is heavy for this growing company, Eyer says atLarge offers its employees the benefits of work-life balance.

"We offer employees flexibility, because everybody here works so hard sometimes you need to take a walk or take a break and that is OK," Eyer says. "Employees are allowed to bring their dog to work. Having dogs around makes the office better, they put everyone in a better mood, which provides a relaxed atmosphere."

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Amanda Eyer, atLarge, Inc.

Tampa Career Fair On Feb. 9 Is Open To Public

Job News Tampa will host a career fair on Wednesday, Feb. 9, in Tampa.

Fara Kneitel, general manager of Job News Tampa, says the fair draws a large crowd. "We typically have about 1,000 attendees," Kneitel says. She goes on to say that the fair is for everyone, covering career ranges from entry level to upper management. Employers attending the event include CarMax, ABC Action News and USAA among others. FrankCrum Staffing and Barry University will be offering free resume reviews for job seekers as well.

Kneitel says that hiring in the Tampa Bay region has picked up since the New Year. "All the numbers and research point to 2011 being a much better year in the job market," Kneitel says. She shared that even though December is typically a slow hiring month; the unemployment rate in Tampa dropped nearly a whole percentage point as we entered 2011.

Attendees are encouraged to dress professionally and be ready to interview on-the-spot. "The best advice I can give to anyone attending the career fair is be prepared," Kneitel says. "Bring plenty of resumes as well as a notebook and pen with you. Take your time and visit all the booths as you never know what companies are right for you."

The job fair, which is free and open to the public, is being sponsored by Ferman Chevrolet, Progressive Insurance and the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The career fair will take place on Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel, 700 N. Westshore Blvd. in Tampa.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Fara Kneitel, JobNewsTampa.com

International Networking Event Arrives In St. Pete

You may have heard of Administrative Professionals Day or Bosses Day, but are you familiar with International Networking Week?

The International Networking Week starts Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 11. A business networking organization known as BNI started Networking Week and holds networking events around the world, including in the Tampa Bay region.
BNI in connection with the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and the St Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce will host "Get Connected -- Mix and Mingle After Hours'' on Feb 8 in St. Petersburg.

"The event is open to the public,'' says Tracy Baer of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. "We would love to have anybody from one of our organizations, or a non-member to attend."

Baer says the event is a great opportunity for both business owners and job seekers.

"We have a variety of businesses that are represented at these functions, from local small businesses, to executives of larger companies," Baer says. "There is always the possibility of coming across people who know of job openings, or they themselves are looking for someone to add to their staff. Most business owners are looking to expand their opportunities, and this would be a great way to meet potential clients or employees, and to diversify where sources of business are coming from."

To attend the event there is a $15 charge. Appetizers and a cash bar will be available.

Tom Fleming, executive director of BNI, will give a speech on effective networking, including tips and best practices. The event will take place at the Hilton Carillon at 950 Lake Carillon Drive in St. Petersburg beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tracy Baer, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce

Innovative Anytown Program Brings Youth Together

There is a youth program in Tampa Bay that boasts 4,000 graduates. It's been around for 20 years and has enjoyed recognition from the U.S. Department of Education, National Council on Crime and Delinquency and "One America," the nationwide Initiative on Race Relations.

Anytown is the brainchild of Community Tampa Bay, a nonprofit agency dedicated to erasing discrimination by cultivating leaders and changing communities. The five-day annual summer program, which began in 1991, provides youth ages 14-19 with an opportunity to explore bias, prejudice and stereotyping and their effects on the community.

"Anytown is the one place where your race, your religion, your social class and your gender don't come between you and your peers," says Stacie Blake, Community Tampa Bay's executive director. "It represents an ideal community -- an inclusive world where everyone is equally respected regardless of socio-economic status, culture or ethnicity.''

Each year approximately 60 participants gather at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg for a five-day, four-night journey into the dynamics of prejudice, stereotypes, gender, racism, ableism, homophobia, genocide, and other issues by confronting them through interactive workshops, presentations and discussion groups. Youth of diverse backgrounds and experience share dorm rooms and meals.

"The students live, socialize and dine alongside people who, at first glance, appear to be different from them," says Blake. "Through interactive educational activities, the delegates explore their own identities and have discussions in a safe environment about issues that divide their homes, schools and communities. The lessons are challenging and, at times, uncomfortable.''

Blake says that the program, which is now practiced in other communities and hosted 4,000 youth, has inspired its graduates to return and help guide new participants.

"Many are eager to change the life of another youth," says Blake. "Learning from peers is a powerful demonstration of the possibilities inherent in each delegate."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Stacie Blake, Community Tampa Bay

Tampa Artists Compete To Do Suds Label

T. Hamptom Dohrman had an idea he was sure would benefit both his artist friends and his entrepreneurial business colleagues. So he took it to his colleagues, and an innovative contest was born.

The the 2011 Cigar City Brewing Local Artist Label Design Competition invites visual and graphic artists throughout the Tampa Bay region to submit their visions of what the bottle label should look like for Cigar Factory Brewing Company's Tocobaga Red Ale, which will make its debut in June 2011.

The artist with the winning design will be announced on June 3, 2011, and awarded $500 and a free case of the new beer. The top 10 entries will be exhibited in print at the Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room at 3924 W Spruce St., from June 3 through July 10, 2011. Limited edition, artist-signed Tocobaga bottles also will be available. Todd Smith, executive director of the Tampa Museum of Art will be a guest judge for this project. Submissions will be accepted through February 25, 2011.

"Joey Redner (Cigar City owner)  is a great citizen and friend," says Dohrman, owner of Hampton Arts Management, who is handling the contest. "He and Wayne Wambles, the brewery's head brewer, supported a gallery I worked with through product donations before the brewery was even fully operational. I had the idea for a label project, presented it to Joey, and we worked together over the past few months to make it happen."

Dohrman, who opened Hampton Arts Management in the fall of 2010 is no stranger to creative ideas. having been involved in such innovative events as Deep Carnivale literature festival, Homemade Music Symposium, Ybor Festival of the Moving Image. His arts management company is currently planning an arts incubator.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: T. Hampton Dohrman, Hampton Arts Management

FRAMCO: Last Big Gig At Old Dali Pours Beaujolais

French wine, some art, meeting new friends and reuniting with old friends? Oui, s'il vous plaît!

The annual Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau will be held at the Dali Museum on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Organized by the French American Business Council of West Florida (FRAMCO), along with the Tampa Le-Havre Sister Cities International, Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau is in its 12th year in Tampa Bay.

In France, the third week of November is when the Beaujolais wine is released and is a popular "vin de primeur," a young wine.

"Most wines you just let them age and they get better as they age," says Jean-Charles Faust, president of FRAMCO. "As soon as the Beaujolais wine is released, it can be consumed. It is not a wine you should keep and let age. This is a wine you have to drink when its young."

FRAMCO was founded by Rose Marie Magriby in 1998, and is part of a network of 19 French American chambers in the United States. Tampa has an official relationship with sister city, Le Havre, France, which is the second largest European port.

Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau is used to gather together the local community and French American community members. This year's event will benefit the new Dali Museum, which is scheduled to open January 11, 2011, and Fete du Beaujolais Nouveau will be the last event prior to the Dali's move to their new home. Guided tours of the Dali artwork will be provided during the event and special guests include the Honorable Gael de Maisonneuve, Consul General of France; Hank Hine, museum director and Yann Weymouth, French American HOK architect.

Tickets are $45 in advance for museum and FRAMCO members, $55 for non-members and $60 after November 16. To RSVP, email: president.FRAMCO@gmail.com or call Beth Curts at 813-391-4407.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Jean-Charles Faust, FRAMCO

High-Tech Manufacturer Adds Jobs In Oldsmar

MicroLumen Inc., a medical tubing manufacturer, plans to relocate in early 2011 to a new facility in Oldsmar. The company, which produces catheters, stents and other medical devices, has experienced positive growth and as a result will move from its current location in Tampa's Bald Cypress Place, to its new headquarters in Oldsmar's Brooker Creek.

Robin Reynolds, MicroLumen's controller, explains the need for the relocation due to the company's expansion.

"Over the past five years, we've diversified our product line and started to offer more services to our customers, and that has helped to keep business steady,'' Reynolds says. "In 2010, we have seen increased business as the capital markets have freed up a little bit and our customers have been able to access funds to do more R&D projects."  

The jobs that MicroLumen aims to fill as the relocation approaches will be mostly high-tech positions, and Reynolds says the company welcomes diversity.

"As a small business, we've relied on traditional methods to fill positions such as newspaper ads, word of mouth, networking, things like that,'' Reynolds says. "We haven't so much promoted diversity as diversity has found us. We focus on talent, looking for people with a good work ethic and good team skills. Keeping that as the focus rather than focusing on a specific type of person to fill positions has increased our diversity."

With the expansion of the new office space, MicroLumen plans to increase its workforce to approximately 100 employees within the next three years.

Writer: Kimberly Pattterson
Source: Robin Reynolds, MicroLumen, Inc.

GOP Convention To Offer Innovations, Diversity For Tampa Bay Businesses

When the Grand Old Party comes to Tampa's St. Petersburg Times Forum for the Republican National Convention in August 2012, it will bring with it innovations and diverse opportunities never seen before at a political convention of its size.

"It will essentially serve as our own stimulus program," says Bob Grammig, partner at Holland & Knight, the legal firm chosen by the Tampa Host Committee to provide legal counsel for issues relating to the upcoming convention. "There will be a lot of jobs -- in the hospitality sector as well as build-outs and hook ups for media at the Forum. On the face of it, they may not seem big, but they're pretty important jobs."

Grammig says that the convention will offer innovative, state-of-the-art security that will offer long-term benefits to the city of Tampa for many years to come.

"There will be a significant grant of more than $50 million for security, and much of that will rebound to the city of Tampa," says Grammig. "In cities like Minneapolis (where they have had similar conventions), they ended up upgrading whole security systems. There will be a big security sector around the Forum to make it less vulnerable to terrorist attack. Some of it will be usable for years and years."

In addition, Grammig says there are plans for a convention village in which corporations and small businesses throughout the Tampa Bay region can showcase their goods and services before visiting delegates.

There will be a lot of opportunities for minority businesses to participate," says Grammig. "This is a unique concept that hasn't been done at any convention to my knowledge before."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Bob Grammig, Holland & Knight

Arts Fuel Significant Portion Of Tampa Bay Region's Economy

The growing arts community in St. Petersburg provides 519 jobs and attracts 1.3 million visitors per year for an annual economic impact of more than $23 million, according to a newly released study conducted by the USF St. Petersburg College of Business.

The study, commissioned by the city of St. Petersburg's Arts Advisory Committee and underwritten by Bank of America, surveyed 32 arts and culture organizations, including galleries, museums, theater and dance companies and private companies that belong to the Downtown Arts Association.

A news release says the USF College of Business study also found:

    --    Every $1 million spent at St. Petersburg arts-related venues creates more than 22 jobs;  
    --    Every $1 spent at an arts-related business generates $1.78 in economic activity throughout the region;
    --   Every $1 spent at an arts business generates six cents in household earnings throughout the greater St. Petersburg area;
    --    Every two new jobs in the arts and cultural industry supports 1 in the area;
    --    Arts and culture as an industry ranks fifth among all industries in the area;
    --   Of the 1.3 million visitors attracted to the arts in St. Petersburg, 25 percent are from outside the city -- potentially visiting restaurants and other tourism-related businesses in the city; and
    --   More than 7,000 volunteers donate more than a quarter million hours at local arts institutions.
"We are thrilled the survey emphasizes what we've known all along -- that visual and performing arts and continued development of arts education play a significant role in job creation and the overall economic growth of our community," said Elizabeth Brincklow, St. Petersburg's arts and international relations manager.  "Our residents and businesses appreciate the arts, understand how essential they are to a city's growth, and are willing to support them long-term."

The complete survey and participating organizations may be viewed online.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Robert Danielson, City of St. Petersburg

Tampa Artist Creates 3D Art, Draws Inspiration From Ancestors

Elio Lopez comes from a family of inspirational movers and shakers. That inspiration is reflected in his work as an artist, and his most recent painting captures the important roles his grandfathers played in Ybor City's cigar industry.

Wilfredo Rodriguez, Lopez's Cuban maternal grandfather, has been documented as the last surviving lector. A lector was hired by cigar workers to read aloud the news and literature to keep them current on what was happening in their industry and the world. Cigar factory management and elected officials frowned upon the reading in the workplace and attempted to abolish the practice in an effort to gain more control of the workers.

Servando Lopez was Lopez's Spanish paternal grandfather and a master cigar maker in Tampa. Servando was active in politics and is known for creating the first unionization in Ybor City's cigar factories. The successful formation of the union was also the end of lectors in cigar factories. Management agreed to the unionization as long as the lectors were dismissed.

Like a tragic story, the beginning of one good thing came at the demise of another good thing. Paying homage to his grandfathers, Lopez has painted "El Lector" to share their story and celebrate the wins that were achieved by both of their efforts in historic Ybor City's cigar industry.

"I always wanted to honor my grandfathers for what they did," says Lopez. "I don't believe they ever got the recognition they deserve for what they contributed to this city."

Aside from the history and story-telling that is encompassed in this painting, Lopez has also used a 3D painting technique and further explored a collage effect in the artwork. Lopez is known for his invention of the resist painting technique, where the artwork begins by drawing the negative space instead of the positive space (the outline around the subject is the negative space). In El Lector, Lopez uses a unique molding compound called moulage (French for mold), which adds to the uniqueness of the painting. Moulage is an eco-friendly mold made from seaweed that is non-toxic, can be used repeatedly and is safe to put on the skin.

"The environment is very important to me. A lot of art materials can be rather bad for the environment. This is a way to get the best of both worlds," says Lopez. "I can keep myself pushing techniques forward, but at the same time I'm doing my part to keep the environment safe."

El Lector will be unveiled at the Louise & Arnold Kotler Art Gallery in the John F. Germany Library on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m. His painting launch also serves as a celebration of National Literacy Month, highlighting the importance of the literacy movement among Cuban, Italian and Spanish immigrant who worked Ybor City's cigar factories, as well as Hispanic Heritage Month.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Elio Lopez, artist

University of Tampa Freshman Will Study In England This Fall

What if your first year away from home and in the college scene involved actual trips to Buckingham Palace? Trafalger Square? Stonehenge and The Tower of London?
This fall, college freshman at the University of Tampa will have an opportunity to experience that and more in UT's new Freshman Abroad program.

"One of the academic reasons we've been pursuing this program is because we think it's a valuable experience for students to spend a semester abroad, but over the last 20-30 years or so, certain majors have gotten more and more prescriptive of what they require of students when they come in," says Kevin Beach, associate dean of the baccalaureate experience who is helping to coordinate the program. "Once a student starts on campus, if they're in one of those majors, perhaps the sciences, education, nursing, it's very difficult for those students to take a semester off, then come back and reintegrate into the program."

For this reason, the Freshman Abroad program allows select students to experience studying abroad before getting rooted into their major. Beach says by sending first year students, they're not as indoctrinated into their programs yet and they feel like they have a little more freedom to get out and experience this opportunity.

While a few other universities across the country have freshman study abroad programs, this will be UT's first. Approximately 30 students will be studying at Roehampton University in southwest London. Participation in the program allows students to also fulfill some of their general education requirements. Beach says Freshman Abroad is also a way to attract and catch the attention of really good students and introduce them to the exceptional program offerings at UT.

Olivia Doctor will be one of the first participants in UT's Freshman Abroad program this fall. She graduated from Rutherford High School in Panama City in June 2010 and says she is excited to be one of the students accepted to participate.

"I'm looking forward to just being in England, meeting new people and experiencing the culture. It's a great opportunity and it's going to be a lot of fun!" says Doctor. She also mentioned she was really pleased that all scholarships transferred and it didn't cost extra to participate.

UT's Freshman Abroad
program invites the most academically qualified students to participate. "We want to make sure these students are real ambassadors of the United States, and ambassadors of the University of Tampa," says Beach.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Kevin Beach, University of Tampa

Gulf Coast Latin Chamber Of Commerce Searches For Development Director

The Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce is looking for someone to fill the position of development director.
Members of the chamber's board of directors and other business leaders from the community are involved in the search.
Chamber committee members include Carlos Cardenas, Veteranarian Gilberto Corona, Accountant David Cumberland and Ervin Helmuth. Community business leaders include Luis Eduardo Baron, Manuel Chepote, Lawyer Jim Delgado, Norma Martin and Alina Mugford.
Fermin "JJ" Miranda, board chairman, says he is pleased with caliber of the search committee members and appreciates their willingness to serve.
The search committee already has begun a series of interviews and will make recommendations to the board of directors.
The directors will make the final decision.
The applicant must have excellent communications skills in English and in Spanish. He or she must also be able to work with business owners and community leaders
Applicants are required to know Microsoft Office applications and be able to multitask, possess sales and managerial skills, and be able to develop relationships with volunteers and groups.
The Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce lets the Latino business community know about developments, information, trends and opportunities available to them in the Gulf coast of Florida.
The Chamber also works through its sister foundation to provide needs-based scholarships and events for Latino individuals in the Tampa Bay region.
To see a timeline for filling the position and to get more information, visit the Chamber website.

Writer: Mandy Erfourth
Source: Fermin "JJ" Miranda, Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce

Time For A Change? Tampa Bay Radio Show Can Help!

"Change is life in motion. Anything that lives changes," says Afsaneh Noori.

Noori is the founder and president of Socio-Tech Systems, Inc., a consulting firm that supports organizations in develop balance strategies for transformational change and the founder of the soon to air, Change Thrivers Radio.

Noori is the author of the Change Thrivers Resource Guide which reviews the cycle of change, the predictable stages of change and understanding the emotional responses to each one of the stages. It also addresses the techniques that can help people through the stages, harnessing the power to make change work for them.

For years Noori has been conducting workshops, hosted speaking engagements and women's circles to discuss "change" and she wanted to have a way of reaching more people. "I wanted to bring in information, inspiration and tools to empower women to live authentic lives and work through the challenges that many have experienced in the many roles they play as mothers, wives and business owners," says Noori.

ChangeThriversRadio.com will launch on Monday, July 26, and the first radio show will air on Monday, Aug. 2. The radio show will address four different categories: change in business and business success; personal empowerment and growth; relationships, children and family; and women's health.

Noori says that we can't always choose change, but we can always choose our attitude and reaction to it. "My mission is to deliver that message to those who want to learn it and apply it to their lives," says Noori.

To learn more about Afsaneh Noori, click here and visit ChangeThriversRadio.com on July 26, 2010 or tune in to www.blogtalkradio.com/change-thrivers the first and third Monday of every month at 6:30 pm starting on August 2. For more information or to be a guest on the show, e-mail: info@changethrivers.com or visit their Facebook fan page.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Afsaneh Noori, Change Thrivers

IdeaField Coworking Expands In Ybor City For Solo Creatives, Techies

Freelance professionals, sole proprietors and entrepreneurs launching new businesses know what it's like to be a lone ranger. Even though their trusty, furry companion with four legs may be an "official member of the team," the value of human interaction is irreplaceable.

For this reason, IdeaField Coworking may be an the ideal spot for creative think-tanking and human interaction.

Launched by Ken Evans and Daniel Davie in 2008, IdeaField began with impromptu co-working sessions at a coffee house in Tampa Heights. They've since become a fully operational network, with new office space in Ybor City. Davie is the president of DAVIEMCLEAN, an advertising and marketing firm, and Evans is a technology entrepreneur.

IdeaField Coworking moved into larger offices in Ybor City to meet growing demand for the concept. The new location at 1911 N. 19th St. opened on July 1.

"We've gotten a lot of support from the Ybor community, which is great," says Davie. "We're excited because it's an opportunity for us to set an anchor for our community, for creative and innovative business to get done."

IdeaField offers a desk, wifi access, free coffee and a collaborative, supportive environment for anyone who opts to work there.

Recognizing that Tampa Bay has a strong freelance community, IdeaField provides a little more support to those solopreneurs, who may one day run very large corporations as their businesses grow.

Ideafield's philosophy is that great ideas can come from anyone, anytime, anywhere so all are welcome. If someone can take advantage of a space like IdeaField, Davie says they are encouraged to drop by anytime. The collaborative workspace provides an option to interact with peers on your own time, or to work in solitude and just have the presence of other human beings in the room.

Fridays are free at IdeaField, so it's a perfect time to visit the offices and experience if it's the right environment. Plus, first-time drop-ins are always free on any day.

For more information, visit IdeaField.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Daniel David and Ken Evans, IdeaField

United Voices Takes Capitol Leadership Academy to DC, Tallahassee

Tampa-based United Voices for America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic engagement organization dedicated to increasing minority and immigrant participation in political leadership, is seeking applications for two summer youth programs.

"The U.S. would benefit greatly by having a more inclusive government. Not just one that serves minorities and people of color, but also one that includes them in the leadership," says Founder Ahmed Bedier in advocating for greater diversity among lawmakers and people in power.

The Capitol Leadership Academy, a project of United Voices for America, started in Tampa in 2009. The CLA is a summer intensive program for youth ages 15-24. The program equips young minorities from around the country with tools to "take civic action, run for office, engage directly with policy makers, and network with like-minded young people.''

From interactive workshops and mock sessions, to hands-on training from working professionals in the field of politics, students are taught  how to begin a career in politics, fundamentals to be implemented into grassroots organizing, public speaking, debating and leadership skills. The goal is to encourage students to leave feeling empowered and excited to engage in the political process.

Bedier points out that diversity in leadership creates a better representation of society and democracy. "It empowers those minorities rather than looking to appeal to the people in power; they themselves become empowered and they start providing solutions for their own problems," says Bedier.

There will be two summer class offerings in 2010, one in Washington, D.C. and one in Tallahassee so that CLA can incorporate real "Capitol" into its programs.

The Washington program, focusing on "Politics and National Security,'' is scheduled from July 19-23, and will be held at American University.

The Tallahassee program, "Advanced Campaigning and the Legislative Process,'' will be at Florida State University and runs from Aug. 2-6.

Scholarships are available for both programs.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Ahmed Bedier, Capitol Leadership Academy

Panama Trade Mission Aims To Create Jobs, Trade Via Manatee, Sarasota

Manatee Economic Development Council and Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County are teaming up to create jobs and increase the International trade in Florida.

The Manatee Economic Development Council and Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County are hosting a trade mission to Panama on Sept. 6-9.

To participate in this trade mission, companies need to apply by July 9. Only 15 will be selected. They will be picked out of Florida manufacturers, distributors, exporters and service companies who meet the best criteria to participate.

These companies will be able be to partake in appointments for groups and one-on-one meetings with Panama businesses.

There will also be meetings arranged with potential customers in Panama that will be set up by The U.S. Department of Commerce.

The EDC of Sarasota County, a private nonprofit organization, develops tactics to add high-wage jobs and diversity to the community in partnership with chambers of commerce and local governments.

The Manatee Economic Development Council, a division of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, helps build programs designed to attract  companies and attempts to sustain and grow existing companies in Manatee County.

For more information, contact Lauren Kratsch at 941-748-4842, ext. 134, or at laurnk@manateeedc.com

Writer: Mandy Erfourth
Source: Lauren Kratsch, Manatee EDC

Multicultural Visitor Guide Showcases Diversity In Tampa Bay Region

The updated "Tampa Bay Your Way!" Multicultural Visitor Guide has received a certificate of nomination from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and was a finalist in the 2010 Diversity and Inclusion Awards hosted by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

First published in 2007, the Visitor Guide is designed to show visitors and residents the diversity of people, places and cultures that thrive in Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and the greater Tampa Bay region. Featuring an enhanced history section, the guide highlights the county's diverse American Indian, African-, Asian- and Hispanic-American heritage, as well as landmarks to visit in the area. Information regarding ethnic restaurants, arts and entertainment and various local services are also available in the guide.

The 29-page guide was funded by the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council (TDC), the Tampa Bay History Center and the Hillsborough County Arts Council. The guide will be used as a tool to attract diversity conventions, conferences and meetings, and it will provide a range of local events, activities and venues that will encourage visitors to stay for extended periods of time.

Tampa Bay & Company coordinated the design and printing for the guide, which is available at the county's Visitor Information Centers and online.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Marilyn Hett, Hillsborough County

Attention Gen X, Gen Y: Want To Make Money? Capitalize On Boomers

Reinventing Life After 50, the second annual Florida Boomer Lifestyle Conference, will be held on April 15 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

The conference is geared toward Baby Boomers, those born between 1946-1964, and anyone who wants to gain greater insight and capitalize on this huge demographic market that consists of 78 million people.

"In the wake of the recession, Boomers have really been hit on multiple fronts: personally, physically, professionally and spiritually. Our conference will address all of those aspects of reinvention," says Michelle Bauer, founder and chief strategist at Common Language.

Attendees will have an opportunity to learn about research trends in healthcare, marketing, employment and entrepreneurship, and hear more from 33 speakers from across the country. Bauer says that Boomer entrepreneurship and franchise ownership are two hot trends for the next decade that will help jumpstart the economy.

This year's conference also ]will unveil a study conducted by Schwartz Research in March 2010 asking Boomers about the economy and their impact on it. 

Among the findings:

• 72% of the respondents purchased vitamins or nutritional supplements in the last year
• 40% purchased organic food
• 25% purchased diet books and exercise DVDs.

"If you are a 25-year-old entrepreneur and you are looking for a business to get into that is recession proof and that is going to continually grow over the next two decades, looking at the Boomers and what they are facing is going to be your ticket to getting rich," says Bauer.

The conference will also address issues facing Boomers, such as caring for elderly parents, helping adult children and working with multiple generations of co-workers.

Registration information for the conference, which is being produced by ChappellRoberts and Common Language, is available online by visiting Florida Boomer Lifestyle Conference.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Michelle Bauer, Common Language

Ultramatics Seeks High-Tech Workforce, Adds Jobs At Oldsmar Headquarters

Ultramatics, a company that provides innovative and strategic methods to enable organizations to deliver effective solutions faster, has several high-tech vacancies at its company headquarters in Oldsmar.

Ultramatics is seeking "top quality experienced professionals who are highly motivated," according to its website.

Current vacancies include sales executive, senior architect, senior business analyst, application support engineer, senior WebSphere commerce ceveloper, and WebSphere portal developer. Ultramatics now employs 40 and company leaders are optimistic about growing that number to 100 by the end of 2010. Future jobs are expected to be filled by highly technical workers including architects and developers in the WebSphere space. 

Lisa Martinez, director of human capital, says the company is among "the most successful, results-oriented providers'' of service-oriented architecture solutions and related services.

"We are known for technological innovation based on proven SOA principles that help customers achieve ambitious business goals while preserving important infrastructure investments,'' says Martinez. "It's why IBM awarded its prestigious Beacon Award for SOA Innovation to Ultramatics in 2007, and it's why many leading companies in healthcare, finance, transportation and telecommunications continually turn to Ultramatics."

"Our ability to seamlessly integrate Web 2.0, Enterprise Search and Security advances further differentiates Ultramatics,'' she adds. "We apply a flexible delivery model that gives our customers the option of relying on their in-house IT development resources and our training and consulting services – or to leverage our own high-quality, industry-certified development teams."

Founded in 2001, Ultramatics is privately held and has offices in India. Clients include IBM, AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Bell South Corporation, CSX, Perot Systems, United Healthcare, Panasonic and others.

Writer: Lisa Clementi
Source: Lisa Martinez, Ultramatics

Encore In Downtown Tampa Hosts Job Fair, Seeks Construction Workers

ENCORE's development team is inviting qualified individuals in all aspects of construction, including skilled labor, project managers, foremen, site supervisors and general labor, to attend a Job Fair on Thursday, March 25th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ENCORE construction site in Downtown Tampa.

Entry to the site will be off of East Cass Street. between North Orange Avenue and North Nebraska Avenue.
The plans for Encore include 40 acres of transit-oriented design, which will combine space for retail, commercial, office and residential in a planned urban community. Plans call for a formal town square with public artwork, pathways and a history museum, mingled with shops, restaurants, hotels, apartments and offices. The plans also include a grocery store on Nebraska Avenue that would be situated in a new 36,000-square-foot structure.

For more information on the plans, visit the ENCORE website.
Writer: Lisa Clementi
Source: Encore! Tampa

Celestar Corporation Expands Workforce In Tampa Office

Celestar Corporation, a privately owned intelligence consulting and training company headquartered in Tampa, is looking to fill the following jobs:  

· All-Source Intelligence Analyst (SOCCENT)
· Asset Validation Manager
· C-IED Analyst
· Command Post of the Future (CPOF) and Collaborative Applications Operator/Instructor
· Contracts Manager Level II
· Imagery Systems Specialist
· Logistics Analyst 
· SharePoint Web Developer Program of Instruction Manager 

Applicants selected will be subject to a government security investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified information.  
Celestar is an experienced provider of consulting solutions to the U.S. government, and its industry partners engaged in strategic and operational intelligence analysis, operations support, planning, strategic communications and intelligence training.
Begun in 2001, the company initially worked as a purely intelligence consulting and training enterprise at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.  It has since then expanded to work with additional military commands situated around the world.
"Our substantial growth was recognized as Celestar earned a spot on 2009 Inc. 500 List,'' says Lori Larsen, VP of Business Operations.  "Celestar's success has been a result of talented staff we have and continue to bring on board as well as our satisfied clients." 
Most of Celestar's 90 current employees work at MacDill. Almost all are former military or government civilian personnel with recent intelligence, operations and planning experiences who can support and manage projects.

Roughly 90 percent of Celestar's personnel have government security clearances, and are working in Tampa, Northern Virginia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other deployed locations.
Writer:    Lisa Clementi 
Source:   Lori Larsen, Celestar Corporation

USF Establishes Diversity Partnership Program

The University of South Florida and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs Tampa Bay chapter have partnered to increase diversity in the USF College of Business program.

As part of NSHMBA's University Partnership Program (UPP), the University of South Florida College of Business will provide an award to qualifying master's level students in the College of Business.

Minimum eligibility requirements include:
• U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
• Preference may be given, but is not limited to, students of Hispanic heritage or students with a demonstrated commitment to the Hispanic community
• Minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale, or the equivalent) from either a bachelor's degree or master's degree

The partnership furthers the mission of the NSHMBA-Tampa Bay chapter to impact the development and visibility of Hispanic professionals, MBAs and students in the area, while assisting with the recruitment of Hispanic professionals in corporate and business organizations.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: National Society of Hispanic MBAs

Historical African-American Baseball Experience Plays In Tampa

The Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System features a new exhibition, "Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience." The exhibition, running through Feb. 19, examines the story of African-American baseball players in the late 19th century, the formation of their own professional leagues across the country and their quest for equal opportunity.

A ceremony honoring the exhibition's opening will take place at the John F. Germany Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 16, at 2 p.m. Special guests include: Dr. Lawrence Hogan and Dr. Robert Cvornyek, Negro League experts; Kadir Nelson, acclaimed book author/illustrator; Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson; Tampa Bay Rays representatives; and former Negro League Players.

The exhibition will showcase original documents, photos and artifacts from the collections of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as other institutions across the United States. Various libraries within the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System will host their own programs and events to celebrate Pride and Passion, like baseball park food and movie maker, an opportunity to make your own Jackie Robinson Story at Bloomingdale Regional Public Library, and use of the Wii gaming system at South Shore Regional Library and College Hill.

The program utilizing the Wii will provide background information on the 1946 World Series game between the Kansas City Monarchs and Newark Eagles. The names of characters who played in the historic game will be programmed into the gaming system.

"The kids will learn the names of the guys who were playing, learn about their stats, what was going on in the world at that time, and then they're also going to have fun and just play baseball," says Renelda Sells, chief librarian.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Renelda Sells, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System

New Leaders Guide Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival

The Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, Jan. 14-23, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary this year, along with new leaders on the board of directors and a new website.

Ruby Jackson, festival chairperson and events coordinator, and William Sanders, festival chairperson and entertainment coordinator, are leading the Heritage Festival's new board of directors.

The festival's new website features direct connections with the Heritage Festival's board, all-access media updates, and it provides awareness of the Heritage Festival's community activities.

The Heritage Festival is a family-friendly event that brings together an estimated 5,000 people to promote diversity and cultural sensitivity. Selected as one of the Top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society for 2010, the Festival's 10-day event features local and national speakers, musicians, artists, poets and more.

The photograph shown above of a Tampa streetcar emerging from Greco Plaza (near the Marriott Waterside and the Tampa Convention Center) was shot by Janasia Harris and won first place in the Annual Heritage Photography Contest.

For a complete list of Heritage Festival events and additional Heritage Festival information, visit www.TampaBlackHeritage.org.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival

Co-Op Spirit Unites South Tampa Shops

What happens when 13 shopkeepers are anxious to ignore any talk of a recession? They band together to form a shopping co-op and encourage the community to shop local. Led by Jennifer Dutkowsky, owner of Why Not Boutique, an eco-friendly boutique, Shop Local South Tampa began informally with the owners of three shops: Why Not Boutique, Indigo Bee and Sweet Emotion Boutique.

The three boutique owners met to share ideas and discuss business challenges. "There was nothing in South Tampa that focused on the small retail businesses. We started meeting to discuss the problems we face as small business owners," says Dutkowsky. "We got together and said, 'I'm struggling, you're struggling. How can we help each other?'"

Finding value in their small coffee gatherings, Dutkowsky began to research other cities with "shop local" mentalities and was inspired by Shop Local Montclair, based in New Jersey. 

"Shop Local South Tampa consists of local, independently owned businesses. No franchises or chains," says Dutkowsky. "Our goal is to provide support for small, independent businesses through cooperative advertising, marketing and events. By shopping locally, people support their local community."

While the group launched at an economically challenging time, it was a seasonally good time (during the holidays), and Dutkowsky expects that the collaborative effort will lead to more opportunities for all, including freeing up resources to allow an increase in staff and possible employment opportunities.

At this time, the business owners who make up SLST are all women. Finding strength in numbers, the co-op consists of boutiques that sell designer garments, children's clothes and toys, home decor and unique finds for animal lovers.

"I'm really excited about Shop Local South Tampa. We found we all craved a group like this and decided to just start one ourselves. I think it's great to be a part of a small business community and support local businesses," says Monica Stewart of Sweet Emotion Boutique.

Shop Local South Tampa meets the first Tuesday of the month at 8:45 a.m. at various member shops, giving members a chance to get to know one another's businesses.

The following boutiques currently participate in Shop Local South Tampa:
Bohemian Vintage
DKM Accessories
Indigo Bee
Kooky Kidz/Gigglebox Couture
La Chic Boutique
Love That!
Silly Dilly Tot Spot
Sparkles Plenty
Sweet Emotion Boutique
Sweet Pea Gallery
Why Not Boutique

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Sources: Jennifer Dutkowsky, Monica Stewart

Boomer Lifestyle Conference: Reinventing Life After 50

The second annual Boomer Lifestyle Conference will be at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on April 15, 2010. The conference theme is: Reinventing Life After 50. The conference will explore key trends that are influencing the reinvention in four intersecting aspects of their lives: personal, professional, physical and spiritual; and how these trends impact companies who market to this demographic.

The conference was launched in 2009 by ChappellRoberts and Common Language at the Tampa Convention Center. Recognizing the need to address this large population of influencers, the two communications firms created the conference to provide resources and materials for Boomers experiencing reinvention after the loss of a job, caring for aging parents, raising children, going through a divorce, etc.

According to statistics on the Boomer Lifestyle website, Boomers include 78 million people born between 1946 and 1964. They will play a large role in Florida's economic future as more than 30 percent of the state's population by 2015.

"Successfully engaging today's boomer customer is all about niches and life stages, not a one-size-fits-all approach," says Colleen Chappell, CEO of ChappellRoberts and co-producer of the Conference. "This year's program will show marketers how to weave messages that zero in on their target customers' unmet needs together with the most effective mix of traditional media, online media, and other vehicles for reaching them.''

"Today, every penny counts – from both the marketers' perspective and the consumers," Chappell adds. "We'll showcase the people who are achieving maximum return on investment for their companies and the greatest satisfaction for their customers."

Early registration for the conference is available now through January 30. Click here for more information.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Colleen Chappell, ChappellRoberts; Michelle Bauer, Common Language
204 diversity Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts