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Career Readiness: USF pilots program to digitally demonstrate skills

If you’re a jobseeker, there’s something you really ought to know: more than likely, your resume will have to pass the muster of a machine before you’re given an interview. It works very much like search engines when they rank websites, except it’s your resume that is ranked by keyword.

“It’s just easier to let computers make the first pass,” explains Peter Thorsett, Communications and Marketing Officer for Career Services at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

That is not to say you should stuff your resume with keywords so it’s nonsensical. After all, humans are behind the machinery. Still, it can help to know how your resume is being screened.

Networking is advised to help you build your skills and connect you to potential employers. “It’s best not to go it alone,” advises Lynn Chisholm, USF’s Director of Internships and Career Readiness. “So much of it is based on who you know and whether you are branded effectively for the company.”

Keeping current also is important. “I have not seen a lot of success in individuals who think what they did 15 years ago will help them get a job now,” she adds. “The whole process has changed.”

USF is helping students compete in an increasingly automated job market through its new Career Readiness Badging program, now in pilot mode on the main campus. It works pretty similar to the Scout badges system, except students don’t wear the badges on a sash. Instead, they post digital badges on resumes or electronic job boards, helping students rank higher on applicant tracking systems.

“The more we can have a student showcase those skills ... The more likely it is that they are going to be called in for an interview,” Thorsett says.  “We also empower them with the right language to be able to talk to an employer.”

The pilot began last fall and is expected to roll out across the Tampa campus next fall.

USF recognizes students may not be able to articulate their academic experiences effectively, or in ways employers expect. So the badging program helps by building and demonstrating eight key skills including communication, leadership, critical thinking technology, global citizenship, career management, professionalism and teamwork.

Through various partners on campus, even more badges are offered. For example, USF Libraries are offering workshops to build skills in Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator and Premiere. The workshops, which are one and half hours long, are in the afternoons and evenings, says Barbara Lewis, USF’s Digital Learning Librarian.

More workshops are planned, and students can also use the school’s subscription to Lynda.com for online tutorials, she adds.

The program helps prepare students for broader, open learning sources in the future. “It is exciting for our students. They’re learning how to do something they’re gong to use their entire career,” Chisholm says. “It’s going to set them up for career success beyond USF.”

Students on the Tampa campus can enroll in the program through the online job platform Handshake or through Career Services. Professors can involve students through their department or individual coursework. There is no charge to participate.

There are lots of opportunities for jobseekers in Tampa Bay, if the numbers of recruiters on campus are any indication. Top career fields are healthcare, tech, sales, and financial services.

Internships are being used to recruit new talent. “We find that there is a very healthy market for internships in the Tampa Bay area,” Chisholm says. “There are likely more internships than there are students to fill them.”

Read on to learn more about the local job scene.

• Two of the 2018 FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For are based in the Tampa Bay region, including the Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets ranked 47th, and the Clearwater-based Baycare Health System ranked 65th. Power Home Remodeling, which ranked 87th on the list, has a Tampa Bay office at 4135 Crescent Park Drive in Riverview. It is based in the Philadelphia region.

Publix hires for a wide variety of careers in the region, including corporate and administrative, real estate, quality assurance, marketing, pharmacy, distribution, manufacturing and human resources. It likes to promote its associates. An online search tool lets potential employees track opportunities that suit their particular interests and qualifications.

Baycare operates 15 hospitals in the Tampa Bay region, including St. Joseph's Hospital in West Tampa, and has openings listed for medical technologists, registered nurses, clinical nurses, patient support technicians, histologists, pharmacy technicians, cooks, medical office reps, environmental services techs, home health clinicians and more.

Power Home Remodeling currently lists openings for sales representatives in Riverview. Learn more.

• Interested in a career in Finance? Raymond James lists a wide variety of openings in St. Petersburg, including summer internships, a staff accountant’s position for a new graduate, a number of analyst positions, a reconciliation specialist, a portfolio reviewer, and a marketing associate for investment products.

Headquartered in Herndon, VA, Indexcel, a technology provider specializing in Cloud Services, Application Modernization, and Data Analytics is looking for a Tableau Developer/Data Reporting Analyst in Tampa. The job requires the ability to act as a data storyteller and liaison between tech and non-tech workers. The position requires one to three years in reporting and analytics.

Synthetic body manufacturer grows in Tampa

The Tampa manufacturer of synthetic bodies for medical testing and training is in a growth streak. SynDaver, located near Tampa International Airport, has acquired the London area-based Lifecast Body Simulation, which specializes in making life-like mannequins, and a $186 million contract from the U.S. Department of the Army.

“Our bodies are made of a proprietary mix of water, salt and fiber,” explains Kevin King, the company’s VP of marketing. “It’s the closet thing ... to a real human for the medical training market.”

SynDaver, which handles management and assembly in Tampa, expects to merge the companies’ capabilities to create ultra-realistic, next-generation synthetic human and animal bodies. The models will include fully functioning anatomy and life-like tissues; humans will appear realistic enough to replace stuntmen in films.

“We’ve been making such great tissues from the skeleton on up,” King says. “Lifecast we thought was the world leader in the exterior.”

SynDaver did not release details about the acquisition made Sunday, Jan. 14.

Its models, distinguishable from cadavers because they don’t have a grayish cast caused by preservatives, are designed for use in anatomy and funeral science instruction, surgery simulation, clinical training, consumer product testing, automobile crash testing, TV and movie production, medical device testing and military product development. They are replacing live animals and cadavers.

“We want to continue driving the notion of patient safety and patient care as far as we can take it,” King says. “It’s all about the patient. As long as the focus remains there, we believe we are going to be successful.”

The company, which derived its name from the words synthetic and cadaver, is expected to supply both virtual patient simulation systems and whole body patient simulators for human medical and veterinarian training through its new government contract. Mark Owens, head of the company’s new Global Government Business Unit charged with overseeing the Army contract, described the deal as the "largest single award from DOD [the Department of Defense] that SynDaver has received."

Under the five-year contract with the Department of the Army’s Joint Project Management Office for Medical Modeling and Simulation, SynDaver is expected to deliver an indefinite number of simulators inside and outside of the United States for the training, evaluation and certification of medical personnel. The models will be used to train surgical personnel for both humans and canines.

Owens is one of seven recent hires in leadership roles, according to its website. "We are hiring nonstop right now for production and sales and also hiring in engineering," Founder Christopher Sakezles says.

Started in 2004, the company is experiencing rapid growth. “We’re growing at multiples of the compound annual growth rate of the industry,” King explains.

Among its clientele are industrial clients like Apple and Google, educational clients like the University of Florida and University of Saskatchewan, government customers like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and media customers like CBS, NBC and PBS.

The company’s models range in cost from $8,000 to $100,000 depending on the features sought.

SynDaver also is screening potential investors of $100,000 or more for its next private offering.

The technology used in the synthetic bodies dates back to 1993, when UF was involved in initial studies to create synthetic tracheas to replace live animals when testing airway devices. The materials developed are now used in the industry to mimic simple veins and arteries.

Sakezles, the president, chief technology officer, and chairman of the Board of Directors for SynDaver, is a Tampa native who earned a master’s in Materials Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science from UF. He earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida.

Sakezles is expected to investigate live tissue replacement such as artificial hips or knees in the future. “We believe can play a role in the medical device and replacement arena,” King says.

For now, the company with strategic national and international flight access is working on new animals; a cat is coming out in the spring. They’re also working with a horse model. “We are driving toward rats and mice as well. They are being used so prevalently in testing,” he explains.

While the synthetic bodies are expected to replace real animals in surgeries like gastropexy, used to treat a life-threatening condition involving the stomach, they aren’t life-like enough to use in movies because they have no fur.

But Lifecast already has supplied human synthetic bodies for films like Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, for which it won an Academy Award.

There are no plans for SynDaver models to be paired with robotics to do mundane tasks like clean house or pick fruit. “It’s just not something that’s in our wheelhouse, nor is it in our short term roadmap,” King says.

If something like that becomes a reality, he says, “it won’t be our stuff.”

DOD courts local innovators for MD5 accelerator

Business accelerators and hackathons are all the rage these days. Even the federal government is getting in on the act: its MD5 is on the local tech scene to help innovators create new products.

“We reach out to innovators that typically would not be working with the DOD [Department of Defense],” explains William Kernick Ph.D., a principal in the MD5 national security technology accelerator, which is part of the DOD. “We want to make these communities of innovators aware of very interesting and challenging problems. ... Part of what we’re doing is building those connections.”

MD5 held its first event in the Tampa Bay area in December in partnership with the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, an organization formed to facilitate collaboration between innovators and the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM. Called Hacking the Human Element, the three-day hackathon brought together participants from across the United States to develop prototypes using wearable technology to boost productivity in austere environments.

Squad Dr. Bones McCoy claimed a prize worth up to $15,000 to work on a prototype that monitors vital signs through wearable technology, helping first responders to more easily assess the urgency of medical treatment.


“What we focused on was the telemedicine aspect,” says team spokesperson Tracy Ingram, CEO of Intention Technology based in Dade City, which is building non-invasive medical diagnostic tools.

In a combat situation, Squad Dr. Bones McCoy’s automated alert system would enable medics to identify stable patients from those whose conditions are rapidly deteriorating, or who are deceased. It relies on off-the-shelf technology that is commercially viable.


A member of Pasco Economic Development Council’s SMARTstart Incubator, Ingram recruited a seasoned team after showing up at the event's trade show. “We had this perfect mix of all these people that kind of came together to make this happen,” he says.

Members of the large team included David Hirschberg, Natalie Concors, Asia Hall, Alec Thurman, Brian Meredith, Steve McCalmont, Yves St Laurent and Terry Shaw.

The team expects to use the money to seek a Small Business Innovation Research grant for $200,000 to further the technology, with the goal of making it available to the military and commercial markets.

“Really what you are doing is extending telemedicine from the hospital room to potentially the home or wherever that patient would be,” says Ingram, co-Founder of the nonprofit Healthcamp Florida, which identifies innovative medical technologies.

The other teams receiving up to $15,000 were:

• Squad Smart Tourniquets, which showed how tourniquets embedded in undergarments could stop bleeding in extremities;

• Squad Blood Suckers, which demonstrated how an intravenous diagnostic probe can provide real-time and continuous blood analysis; and

• Squad Fabric Communications, which showed how fabric could be used to ensure communication in austere environments.

In addition to the money and mentoring, teams were recognized by Manufacturing USA at the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC 2017) in Tampa in December.

While MD5 is working to improve the national security, its efforts are not solely to assist warfighters. “When we work with entities on these ideas, we like to focus on something called dual use,” Kernick says, adding it should be aimed at national defense and commercial markets. “Just doing a national security application is not sufficient for a company to be successful. You also want them to make sure they’re looking at dual use.”


A good example of why this is important is GPS, which was military technology 40 years ago. Commercializing the product advanced the product and reduced its cost.


The prize money will be awarded to teams for follow through on product development, with installments given at designated milestones. “We give them the freedom to put their plan in place,” he says. “We’re very flexible about how they deploy the funds. They have to keep it going.”

MD5’s customized approach doesn’t include a physical cohort, application process, or set program. Instead, the hackathon is the “lead-in,” Kernick says.

“It’s more like they’re now in the fold, so we continue to work with them,” he explains.

Kernick says discussions are underway about another event with SOFWERX. “We want to keep going and figure out another way to do a collaboration,” he says.

Interested in learning more about SOFWERX? Check out this article in 83 Degrees Media.

Tampa Bay job fairs match people with jobs; one caters to veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, CareerSource is holding its annual Florida Paychecks for Patriots Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at The EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., St. Petersburg.

“Paychecks for Patriots has made a difference in the lives and careers of thousands of veteran candidates and military family members in the past four years," says CEO Ed Peachey of CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which are hosting the event. "We expect the fifth year to continue that tradition, so Florida can continue to be the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

For the first hour, the fair will be open exclusively for the military transitioning to civilian life, veterans, and their families, giving them the first opportunity to meet with potential employers. The event opens for the general public at 11 a.m.

At the event, information also will be provided on training and development programs available through CareerSource centers, such as the TechHire, CyberSecurity, CareerReady, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.

Over 30 employers will be present at the event seeking to fill over 200 positions,” Peachey adds.

Among the job openings are positions for bus driver, caregiver, customer service representatives, fulltime sales, housekeepers, insurance agents, line cooks, mechanic, respite and servers.

The annual event is hosted by many of Regional Workforce Boards across the state.

Job candidates who want help preparing for the event can contact their local job center. Assistance is available with job applications and resumes. There also are Employability Skills Workshops (including Resume Development and Interviewing Skills Training).

Walk-ins are welcome to this free event, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance at either CareerSource Tampa Bay or CareerSource Pinellas.  Click on Career Seekers and then Career Fairs to access the webpage. Jobseekers also can also visit the CareerSource websites for more information on employers attending the opportunities available.

Here are some other career fairs you may want to check out soon.

  • Biz Bulls Connect gives students at USF St. Petersburg an opportunity to connect with potential employers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Lynn Pippenger Hall Atrium. Learn more on Handshake.
  • The Fall Instructional Job Fair, an event for teachers interested in working for Pasco County Schools, is slated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at J. W. Mitchell High School, 2323 Little Rd., New Port Richey. Attendees can meet with principals, attend information sessions on certification, learn about the district’s benefits, and be hired for substitute or permanent positions. The event is free. Learn more and/or register here.
  • The Black Excellence Business Expo and Job Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at Pinellas Technical College, St. Petersburg Campus, 3548 11th Ave. S. General admission to the event, organized by The Community Development And Training Center Inc., is free. Register online here.
  • The Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair held by The Tampa Bay Times is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore, 700 N. Westshore Blvd. Tampa. Admission and parking are free; no pre-registration is required. More than 50 local employers will be there. More information and online registration is available by visiting here.
  • The JobNewsUSA.com Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. N., St. Petersburg. There are hundreds of job opportunities in various fields. The event is free and job candidates are encouraged to register online. Click on Search Career Fairs.
  • Interested in a job with a cruise line? Norwegian Cruise Line is holding a Cruise Ship Job Fair in Tampa. It’s looking to hire for a variety of positions, including assistant chief butcher, assistant cook, assistant waiter, broadcast technician, restaurant steward, stateroom steward and more. Bring your resume! There are two information sessions, one at 10 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N. Tampa St., Tampa. On-site registration is held one hour beforehand; the doors close at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively. Interviews follow the sessions. More information and online registration are available here.
  • The Florida Joblink 2017 Career Fair is slated from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 16, at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Dr., Tampa. The fair, which serves jobseekers in Tampa, Brandon, Lakeland and the surrounding communities, is free. Career advice and resume assistance are available at the fair. Learn more and/or register here.

Natural skin care company grows with help from black business development initiatives

Renee Edwards didn’t set out to start a business. She was a mom with a problem: Her daughter was suffering from acne -- and she wanted to help.

So Edwards, who works in clinical research at St. Petersburg’s Hill Top Research, began experimenting with essential oils and exfoliation.

“It worked for my daughter [Jakara Fitzpatrick],” she says. “I thought I could sell it.”

And sell it she has. Her Skin Kandii products are available in nine retail outlets in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, including the St. Pete Store and Visitor’s Center.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held last Thursday at the Second Avenue North store to mark the occasion.

“I think the real root of cleaning the skin, and relieving acne, is exfoliation,” she asserts. “I think the vitamins that are added to the scrub, and the essential oils ... aid in the healing.”

Edwards, Skin Kandii’s CEO, participated in two Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg-funded initiatives designed to help black businesses open and grow: Community Business Development Initiative and CATCH.

“It [the Community Business Development Initiative] has resulted in the creation of 27 new businesses,” says Sean Kennedy, Manager of The Greenhouse, which created the program. “Twenty existing businesses have seen revenue growth.”

The initiative was designed to encourage black-owned businesses, which are under-represented in the community, Kennedy says.

“The point of the program was to eliminate the barriers to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth,” he explains.

Skin Kandii became the first African American-manufactured product line sold in The St Pete Store, a retail showcase backed by the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fitzpatrick was about 13 when she was experiencing severe skin issues, Edwards recalls. “She wouldn’t wear shorts or skirt in her early middle school and high school years,” she continues.

It took three years of testing, but Edwards eventually discovered sugar and essential oils could be used to exfoliate two or three times a week -- and get that problem under control.

“Once you exfoliate your skin, you also need to use a sunscreen,” she adds. “The fresh skin was turning darker.”

Along the way, with feedback from family and friends, Edwards learned enough to develop eight different scrubs she’s priced at $12.99 each. She’s also developed a lotion bar, lip balms and bath balms.

She has a stress reliever, a skin replenisher, a relaxing anti-inflammatory scrub, and even an Island blend to boost energy. Edwards’ best-selling product is a dry skin formula that has become popular as a foot scrub. It also can help with eczema.

Skin Kandii got is name as Edwards developed the dry skin formula to help her nephew, Jeremieco Robinson, with eczema. She enticed him by saying the product was candy for his skin.

Edwards also offers create-your-own formulas made with the essential oils the user prefers and containers labeled with a distributor’s name. In addition to being available in stores, Skin Kandii is sold at house parties.

Edwards would like to have a TV commercial in six months and eventually sell on St. Pete’s Home Shopping Network.

While Skin Kandii currently is run by a staff of three, she hopes to expand to hire “a whole lot of people,” she says.

She’s working on soy candles, to go on sale in December, and all natural soaps, to sell in the summer of 2018.

The Greenhouse is looking at funding options to continue the initiative, which offered training and business financing. The program already has assisted 60 businesses, among them the affordable housing firm Sago House, the youth employment company I Support Youth, the educational consulting company Global Intelligences and Brea’s Coffee, which also held a ribbon-cutting in October.

Meanwhile Tahisia Scantling, a consultant working with the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, which now is backing the other program Edwards participated in, says the community development financial institution holds two cohorts of CATCH per year. It offers training and financing to help businesses.

Although a $100 application fee is charged, the fee is returned to the 10 businesses selected for the 15-week training program.

The CATCH acronym stands for coachable, action-oriented, timely, collaboration help. The program now is also being offered in Hillsborough County, with sponsorship by Wells Fargo.

Clearwater advertising firm grows, new manufacturing jobs come to Pasco County

The 45-year-old Our Town America, an advertising firm that targets new residents, has moved its headquarters into 44,000-square-feet of office space in Clearwater -- and is making plans to hire 15 to 20 additional staffers.

I’m anxious to get them in here and give them an opportunity to grow with our company,” says CEO Michael Plummer Jr.

The company in a growth mode by working with businesses that want to advertise to new residents. Such businesses are often grocery stories, restaurants, hair salons and auto repair shops, or doctors and dentists who want to develop new business relationships. Businesses pay on average $200 a month to target potential customers by things like age, size of household, income, and other demographics.

About two to six weeks after move-in, residents receive an envelope offering “housewarming gifts” such as gift certificates for a free pizza or haircut to entice them to drop by and check out the neighborhood businesses.

When people move in, they’re still searching for those business,” Plummer explains. “They want to know where to go.”

Our Town America disseminates about half a million envelopes every month -- or more than 8 million each year. With some 63 franchises nationwide, they focus primarily on neighborhoods rather than zipcodes.

A lot of it is designed ... to get you off the couch and into those locations,” he says.

Once the initial contact is made, businesses may choose to follow up with another offer, a simple thank you, or a request for feedback.

Our Town America moved last week from smaller rented space in Pinellas Park to its own headquarters at 13900 U.S. Highway 19 N. Clearwater. Built by local contractor Mike Sinwelski, the facility features a 2,700-square-foot, high-tech conference room, a huge breakroom, and LED lights, plus a roof with solar power options.

The company, which employees about 58 locally, was founded by Plummer’s father in Des Moines, IA. After relocating to Omaha and Houston, the company moved to the Tampa Bay Area in 1990. It began selling franchises in 2005, and sold a record-breaking 12 this year. Despite its growth, it continues to be a family-based business with a welcoming atmosphere, which includes catered lunches, potluck dinners, company cruises and other perks.

“The vast majority of our folks have been here for a very long time,” he adds.

Our Town America is hiring for both part-time and full-time positions, with openings in customer service, appointment setting, inside sales and possibly production help for mailouts. Learn more by visiting the OTA website or calling 1-800-497-8360.

Here are more job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

Meopta U.S.A. will be opening a new facility in western Pasco County and hiring for 47 new advanced manufacturing positions. Headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, Meopta U.S.A. specializes in the manufacture of and distribution of precision optics such as binoculars and spotting and rifle scopes. It also makes prisms, optical mirrors, aerospace and medical assemblies, and tank periscopes. The jobs will be in the Trinity area and pay an average of about $49,000 annually.

• With all the jockeying by communities seeking Amazon’s second headquarters, the major online retailer is certainly on people’s minds. If you’re wondering about job prospects, read on. Brenda Alfred, Amazon’s Regional Operations PR Manager, says the retailers will be hiring 5,000 employees in Florida, most of them for the holiday season. She did not provide specifics for the Tampa Bay region.

“We employ temporary employees as a way of finding high-quality talent while managing variation in customer demand,” she says. “Following last year’s holiday season, thousands of seasonal employees found regular, full-time roles with Amazon.”

Interested individuals should visit the Amazon website.

Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco, an agency working to increase the number of foster children who are successfully adopted, is looking for an Executive Director in St. Petersburg.

Startup Week 2018 recruits volunteers, planning kicks off now

Organizers of the fourth annual Tampa Bay Startup Week are recruiting volunteers for the 2018 event that will again span both sides of the bay, offering presentations and mentoring for budding entrepreneurs.

“We really try to have a wide range of industries and topics for anyone,” says Gracie Stemmer, President of Startup Tampa Bay and Co-Leader of the event.

The event, organized by the nonprofit Startup Tampa Bay, is scheduled Feb. 12-16, 2018.  A kickoff, scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at The Franklin Manor, 912 N. Franklin St., Tampa, gives interested individuals a chance to learn more about the event and how they can become involved. Those who can't make it can get in touch with organizers through Facebook or the Startup website.

Stemmer says they are trying to tap into the community’s top talent to speak and run workshops, in addition to reaching out to experts regionally and nationally.

Co-Leader JR Griggs, President of Tampa’s Red Wall Marketing, says volunteers are needed to run industry or topic tracks. These track captains will line up speakers and help locate sponsors. There’s also a need for help with sponsorships, marketing, public relations, the street team, check-in, customer service, and cleanup.

“We’re just eager to work with anyone and everyone that wants to be a part of this,” Stemmer says.

Startup Week is designed to help people vet a business idea, get one-on-one mentoring to launch or grow their business, showcase their businesses, develop their professional networks, or expand their knowledge base. Businesses can be tech related, or traditional brick and mortar.

This year’s Startup Week, which might be starting in St. Petersburg and finishing in Tampa, is expected to feature some tried-and-true topics like design, veteran-owned, PR and marketing, hospitality, women-owned, robotics, cybersecurity and possibly a social entrepreneur track.

Mentors will be on hand throughout the week – and individuals can book a time slot with someone with expertise in their industry, Griggs says.

The current plan is to hold the event at the same venues as last year, Station House in St. Pete and Realto Theatre in Tampa.

“Our biggest goal right now is to get as many volunteers as possible,” Griggs says. “The goal is to make this bigger and better.”

Dreamit’s UrbanTech program launches in Tampa

The New York City-based Dreamit, a top-10 ranked global accelerator and venture capital firm, has chosen eight companies for its first UrbanTech accelerator program, which it is holding in Tampa. One of the companies, Raxar Technology Corp., is Tampa-based.

“We’re really hoping to be able to contribute to the progress that is happening in Tampa Bay,” says Kurt Akman, who heads the company’s growth and marketing division.

Raxar, founded by Akman’s brother Peter, helps companies go mobile with its platform of tools that facilitate data collection and background analytics. The tools are especially helpful in any industry where people manage complex physical assets.

Dreamit received more than 300 completed applications for its first accelerator program focusing on technological solutions for real estate, city infrastructure and urban living. The selection process looked at the company’s idea, its potential in the market, the competitive landscape and the company founders.

It became interested in Tampa through a Dreamit alumni, Gainesville resident Bharani Rajakumar, an advocate of keeping Florida talent in the state. Rajakumar connected Dreamit with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is partnering in a massive $3 billion, 53-acre project downtown called Water Street Tampa.

The accelerator program had been scheduled to officially kick off September 11 in Tampa, but the Tampa component is being rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma.

“We didn’t allow it to put a hindrance on what we were doing. We did things virtually rather than in person in Tampa,” says Seth Berk, Dreamit’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re going to be spending a few weeks in Tampa for sure as part of the cycle.”

The accelerator is placing the startups at CoWorkTampa offices within close proximity to the Water Street Tampa project, facilitating collaboration and instruction.

The UrbanTech program includes two, two-week road shows, one focusing on potential customers and the other one on investors. “Our hope is always that these customer meetings result in business relationships, a pilot program or full-fledge contracts,” Berk says.

The program includes a December 5 summit at downtown’s Marriott Waterside, which is expected to draw some 200 to 250 for a program including guest speakers and workshops.

Here are the other seven companies chosen for the cohort.

• Bignay Inc. is the developer of Gi Fly, a foldable, electric bike commanded by a mobile app. The bile can ride 40 miles on a single charge and is intended to facilitate urban commutes.

Cityzenith helps builders aggregate and analyze data sources involved with construction. Its InstaBIM tool offers easy drag-and-drop assistance with designing, building, and operating complex projects.

Ecomedes simplifies the buying process with a digital data management program. It helps users find the best products for their projects and simplifies the analysis of economic and environmental impacts.

• The wind turbine manufacturer Flower Turbines, which creates small and quiet turbines to be used near buildings and people, offers turbines ideal for urban settings.

Knowify, which offers a software platform for commercial subcontractors, assists users with bidding, tracking, and invoicing jobs. The platform increases efficiency, decreases mistakes and sets the stage for growth.

Lotik uses wireless sensors in its water monitoring service. The sensors clamp onto pipes to recognize water flow, find leaks and send the data in for analysis.

Twist Homes offers a turnkey lighting control system that includes wireless speakers, wifi repeaters and a platform for sensor modules.  It adapts easily to changes in building codes.

Clearwater boat manufacturer adding jobs after merger

After a merger, one of the largest catamaran builders in the United States is ramping up its Pinellas County headquarters and marina with plans to double its staff.

The Seattle-based Coastal Marine initiated the merger with the Clearwater-based Endeavour Catamaran Corporation because it was looking to increase its market base.

The new company is called Endeavour Corporation.

“We saw a potential for both brands,” explains Rob Harty, Endeavour Corporation’s President. “We used to have boats only up to 42 feet and now we have boats up to 50 feet. The brands complement each other.”

Coastal Marine was founded in Hong Kong in 2008 during the economic downturn. As the company looked to scale upwards, it moved to Seattle in 2012. Now it has resettled in Clearwater, where Endeavour Catamaran had an established name in boatbuilding.

“If we’re going to be in the United States, the Florida market is 10x larger than anywhere else in the country,” he says. “This is the mecca of boating.”

Endeavour, which is producing luxury and performance catamarans, is looking to double its local staff of 20, possibly in the next year. It is seeking skilled boat builders: people experienced in carpentry, mechanics, electrical, and fiberglass technology. It also is looking for office staff in sales, administration and marketing.

The company may hire at the entry level, train workers, and move them up in the company. “That’s always how I found it to work best,” he says. “Some of our needs are bigger than entry level.”

Experience in a related field may be helpful. “A boat’s very much like a house,” he says.

Endeavour Catamaran, which dates back to the 1970s, already had an extremely experienced staff that has been with the company for decades, he notes.

“When owners bring their EndeavourCats in for upgrading or maintenance, they’re likely to have the same staff who built their boat performing that service,” he says.

The merger occurred as a result of a successful collaboration between the two companies, which both were industry leaders in the design, manufacture and sales of power catamarans.

“The collaboration is a win-win for all involved. Blending the 40-year history and stellar reputation of EndeavourCats with the innovative spirit of ArrowCat has made the Endeavour Corporation a power cat powerhouse,” Harty says.

Endeavour is operating its manufacturing facility at 3703 131st Ave. N. in Clearwater and a marina at 13030 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg.

We’ve made a substantial investment in our 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Clearwater, where we’re planning to introduce and build two new entry-level boat models in the next six months,” Harty says.

“American Yacht and Custom, our servicing center, is due to open by the end of the year, thanks to a significant investment. We’re excited to offer top-notch boatyard services as well as custom rigging and detailing,” he says.

“We’re really proud of our new, massive, state-of-the-art paint facility. As the largest in the region, it’s certainly going to advance the use of composite coatings in the boating industry,” he adds.

The company’s boats are typically used for expeditions. “Our boats are used by people who really want a more all-purpose boat,” Harty says. “You can stay on this boat for extended periods of time protected from the elements.”

The catamarans are stable, high-performing, comfortable and convenient, he says.

“These boats are like Humvees. If there was ever a four-wheel drive monster boat, that is what we build,” he says. “People are not afraid to take it anywhere.”

The semi-custom boats sell for $289,000 up to $1 million.

Endeavor will be producing luxury catamarans under the Endeavor TrawlerCat brand and performance catamarans with the ArrowCat name. Its Endeavour 340 model, the result of collaboration between Coastal Marine and Endeavor Catamaran Corporation, will be featured this fall, offering a blend of simplicity, elegance, and efficiency.

What does the future hold? “Down the road we’ll expand to offer sailing catamarans,” Harty says.

Tampa service enables customers to text business phone lines

John Dalrymple called his veterinarian with a simple request. He wanted medication for his chocolate Labrador, George. But what he hoped would be a brief phone call turned into a 15-minute or more exchange, with him on hold the bulk of the time.

Dalrymple realized telephone calls weren’t always the most efficient way to do things -- and Text Our Company was born.

“We’re text enabling your traditional business landline and giving you the capacity to send and receive messages on that number,” says Dalrymple, CEO, President and Founder of Mobex, the Tampa company offering the texting service. “No one else is doing this to my knowledge.”

Text Our Company’s innovative service isn’t looking to replace the phone, he says.

“There are some kinds of transactions that just make it [texting] more efficient for the company,” he explains.

He points out most business lines don’t have texting capability and emails can become buried. “Texts get seen and responded to right away, but they are not so immediate you have to drop everything,” he says.

Companies access Text Our Company using a computer, tablet or phone connected to the Internet. Individuals log into the company account, where they can utilize a chatroom to communicate with clients.

Converting to the service is seamless. Customers can retain their existing business number, without changing providers, and/or add a new line.

Text Our Company is available as a monthly subscription, with no contract, for $29.95 and up. It has the ability to go beyond automated texts with their yes and no answers; customers can ask questions and receive answers to their questions.

“We’re really focusing on businesses that have a traditional business line,” he says.

Founded in 2013, Mobex is a telecommunications provider of VoIP, text messaging, and phone systems management services. It began developing the Text Our Company service last year with Haneke Design, a Tampa-based custom software developer, which transformed the idea into a usable product.

Dalrymple’s son Johnny, who earned an MBA from UT, has been working with him.

Text Our Company has been participating in the University of Tampa’s Community Incubator. It took first place in technology at 2017 New Venture Expo in April at the university.

Now UT’s Entrepreneur Center is among the firm’s customers, along with the Pinellas County Democratic Party, some doctor’s offices and an accounting firm. Mobex is rolling out Text Our Company to customers nationwide.

Because its business customers probably won’t be expecting to be able to communicate by text, the package includes an initial mass mailing to notify clients of the texting option.

AirSpew: Teams build prototypes, compete for cash

Good will missions usually take a pilot, a co-pilot and an assistant to toss pamphlets out of the plane about an impending drop of food, medicine and supplies. But thanks to the Tampa-based OpenWERX, the process might become cheaper and easier.

It's latest challenge, AirSpew, has attracted 30 teams creating prototypes that spew information. They're vying for a $10,000 grand prize.

“We’re just trying to think outside the box, what else would make it easier for war fighters to communicate to a crowd,” explains Jeff Young, one of OpenWERX’s creators.

The challenge is the latest in a series by OpenWERX, which was formed nearly a year ago to help the public help the military and others. “If purely based on participation, this will be our biggest one,” he says.

The contest is called AirSpew because teams are making prototype devices that literally spew out literature or a verbal message using a speaker or radio. Teams also are working on mounts to attach the prototypes to the popular Phantom 4 drones.

The devices would reduce flight time and personnel hours.
 In addition to helping with good will missions, the invention might be used for law enforcement, Young adds.

Prototypes were due August 21; judging and awards will be on September 7. The first place team receives $10,000, while second place winners claim $5,000 and the third prize winners take away $3,000.

OpenWERX initially held month-long competitions, but decided to switch to quarterly contests because the teams asked for more time to work. The change also allows OpenWERX to offer larger cash prizes.

Challenges appeal to what he describes as the “maker community,” folks that like to use their hands to make things on their off hours. They may be engineers by trade, but most teams have people with differing skill sets. Some are students.

“I’ve seen definitively an outstanding turnout from folks like the University of South Florida, their engineering students have definitely been involved," he adds.

Ideas are submitted by war fighters and screened to see which ones are most suited to the program. The topic for the next challenge has not yet been chosen, and will be announced at September’s event.

Interested parties can sign up for alerts here.

OpenWERX is part of the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, named for its connection to Special Operations Forces. SOFWERX is a place the public can go to share ideas for what might become tomorrow’s hot inventions.

Think Anew, Superior Precast, announce new jobs in Tampa Bay Area

An innovative, Mississippi-based tech company serving the healthcare market has opened its first Florida office in Tampa and is hiring 20 with a budget of $1.2 million.

“What we desire is to make a call to Florida’s and Tampa’s best and brightest,” says Don Glidewell, President, Founder and CEO of the Flowood-based Think Anew. “Their only limitation is how big they want to dream, and how hard they are wiling to work to achieve those dreams.”

Think Anew opened in June at 1413 Tech Blvd., Suite 213, in Pinebrooke Office Park in the Interstate 75 corridor of eastern Hillsborough County. It is expanding its eight-member staff to include entry-level support staff as well as individuals in engineering, tech administration, network administration, field services, development or programming, web development, and marketing and sales.

“We are extremely competitive with our salaries,” he says.

Plans already are underway to double its 3,500-square-feet offices as part of a $100,000 investment into the community.

Glidewell was impressed with the area’s passion to recruit employers and the growing tech workforce. “This tech talent growth is really starting to bubble over,” he says. “We feel like we’re in the best place to achieve our business goals.”

Glidewell expects the Tampa office, the company’s third, to become a hub for the 10-year-old company that strives to be a one-stop, tech shop targeted to the senior living, long-term healthcare sector. A government mandated switch to electronic data keeping has brought major change to the industry.

“Imagine doing everything on paper and never using a computer, and then one day your facility is filled with computers. There was no in between there,” he explains. “We handle everything: training, implementation, security, disaster preparedness.”

Among its innovative products is a BOOMBOX,TM a disaster communications system that allows a healthcare facility to continue to chart medications and produce electronic health records with a 16-pound box emitting wireless Internet. It also offers phone calling, video conferencing and HAM radio. The company is accepting pre-orders for the $299-a-month emergency service.

“We’re a group of creators. We love to create new things,” he adds. “We’re really good at listening to our client’s pain points.”

Gov. Rick Scott announced Think Anew’s expansion into Florida August 8.

Here are some other companies hiring in the Tampa Bay region.

• A new Florida Department of Transportation supplier, Superior Precast, has decided to locate in Dade City in 62,777 square feet at Dade City Business Center. It plans to hire 100 people from the communities in the area, 27 of them by September.

Superior Precast makes precast concrete products for major road projects in the state. It is working with CareerSource Pasco-Hernando to recruit, hire and train its workforce. Salaries are close to 125 percent of the county’s average annual wage.

Jobs they are looking to fill include Plant Manager, Quality Control Manager, Office Manager, Administrative Assistant, Quality Control Technician, Forklift Operators, Carpenter, Welder, and Precast Production Workers. Jobseekers can apply here.

• The Tampa-based BlueLine Associates is seeking a Technical Recruiter with a bachelor’ degree and/or relevant experience in the staffing industry.

Tops Barber Shop on Temple Terrace Highway in Tampa is looking for a barber/hair stylist to cut men and women's hair. A barber or cosmetology license is required, along with at least two years of experience. The barber/stylist, who will work as an independent contractor, must know how to shave with a straight blade and hot lather. The position is for 36 to  38 hours a week, with Sundays and Mondays off.

Sun Trust is looking to hire and train a full-time universal banker for Pinellas County. Applicants should have at least a high school diploma and its equivalent plus one year of experience in service, sales, cash handling or payment transaction for another firm. The individual would be trained while waiting for a permanent assignment.

Linder Industrial Machinery Company has an opening for a payroll specialist in its Plant City Office. Applicants should have an associate’s degree and at least five year’s of payroll experience, plus excellent communications skills and proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and other related software.

If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.

Digital marketplace can cut surgical supply expenses

A Largo-based startup has opened a digital marketplace for the surgical supplies resale industry. Think eBay. Or Amazon. For single-use surgical supplies like staples, needles, shears, forceps, mesh and patches.

The company, called The Index, wants to combine both E-bay and Amazon online sales strategies for the niche market where waste adds up to billions annually.

“The manufacturers, they typically sell in boxes of six, 10 or 100. That’s the only way a facility can buy a product,” explains Founder Jon Bird. “Once they open a box, the manufacturer won’t take it back.”

These medical/surgical supplies only have a limited shelf life, so items used infrequently can easily expire. Additionally, a change in physicians and/or contracts may mean certain supplies are not used, or not used as much.

“They come from the manufacturer with a finite shelf life, typically about five years,” Bird says. “We have an opportunity to sort of rescue those products before they expire.”

The first online marketplace designed to bring together hospitals, surgical centers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and resellers, The Index requires users to sign up and be vetted. Sellers can list their own products for sale, much like vendors do on Ebay, or let The Index handle the sales and shipping, much like Amazon does.

Membership is free. The Index makes money by keeping 10 or 20 percent of the sales, depending on the sales model.

Bird noticed the need for more advanced technology when he was employed in the medical supply industry. He realized how inefficient it was for buyers to request multiple quotes on one or two items by email, then wait for replies.

“I just felt that there had to be a more efficient way, without having all the overhead of brick and mortar,” he says. “I felt we could accomplish this if we had the right tool, the right technology.”

The Index, started in late 2015, has 50 buyers and sellers primarily in the southeastern United States, plus more than 10,000 unique product listings.

“The back-end technology, which is proprietary, is relatively revolutionary,” Bird says. “What it can accomplish can be revolutionary.”

It will save money, reduce waste and allow hospitals to do what they do best: save lives, adds spokesman Franco Ripple.

Although the medical/surgical resale market is huge, with some hospitals potentially spending $5 to $10 million annually on these products, the company doesn’t plan to stop there. Its goal is to expand into medical equipment and medical power tools.

The privately-funded company has a staff of six and plans to grow its sales staff in the next year. “Our goal is to add between four and eight sales people,” he says. “Some would be inside, and some would be out.”

 It also plans to double its 3500 square foot offices at the end of the year.

The Index is entering the scene at a time when the industry’s group purchasing organizations are coming into disfavor. Some facilities are choosing to do their own purchase negotiations -- and avoid the fees.

I think we’ve come in at a great time,” Bird notes.

Tampa tech company helping brewery sales reps do their jobs

Much like a lily pad offers strategic help to frogs leaping across a pond, the Tampa company Lilypad is assisting brewery sales reps on their daily routes.

And it’s growing in leaps and bounds.

“We’re all about keeping these reps moving and executing in the field,” explains Eric Rabinovitz, CEO, who co-founded the company with Peter Ladis about five years ago.

Lilypad has grown more than 1,200 percent since January, 2016, and now logs 107 clients, all in the alcoholic beverage industry.

Rabinovitz was working as Executive Vice President for Actsoft, a Tampa company providing mobile solutions for field workers, when he came up with the idea.

Actsoft is serving the blue-collar worker; he saw a need for help with sales. So Actsoft CEO and Founder, Tom Mitchell, helped them get started with a “strategic investment,” Rabinovitz  says.

Although they initially served sales people in different industries, Lilypad settled into the alcoholic beverage industry about three years ago. There they allow brewery sales reps, who work through distributors to sell their products, to sidestep more time-consuming sales methods involving spreadsheets, text messages and email.

“Lilypad enables the supplier sales team to execute more efficiently in the field and communicate more efficiently with their distributors,” he says.

The mobile- and web-based platform costs $50 per user per month; volume discounts are available.

Lilypad makes it fun for sales reps by enabling them to score points for performing sales activities. Much like a Fitbit makes users more conscious of the steps they log every day, Lilypad makes sales reps more conscious of their efforts.

A majority of distillery reps are millennials, and it works well, he says.

“Technology made you more aware, which made you change your behavior,” he says. “We’ve added that element to the business world.”

Being in the niche beverage market allows Lilypad to address needs specific to the industry, some through ancillary services, he says.

Lilypad currently employs 10 at its location at Waters Avenue and Anderson Road. It likely will hire five more staffers within the next six months, three in customer service/implementation and two in product development.

It is serving customers in more than 35 states, including Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, and in the northeastern United States. It recently signed up its first international customer, from Australia.

Lilypad is part of the Tampa Bay WaVE Launch program. “We love what they’re doing,” Rabinovitz  says.  “It really does open up a lot of doors.”

Tampa tech company speeds up business site selection process

The stakes are high when a company decides to invest in a brick-and-mortar storefront. A business can spend millions, only to fail because of the wrong location.

But the Tampa-based SiteZeus® is working to boost their clients’ odds of success.

“Our software helps you determine what are the best sites,” says Chuck Cooper, Executive VP of Product Development for SiteZeus.

The company is attracting quite a bit of attention lately. On May 2, it won two bronze Stevie® Awards at the 15th Annual American Business Awards for “Best Software Product of the Year,” Data Visualization Technology, and “Tech Startup of the Year,” Software. Then it claimed the $75,000 Gold Award at the 10th Annual Florida Early Stage Capital Conference May 19.

It also was featured in Microsoft’s BizSpark Startup Stories May 23.

Last year, it racked up two awards, claiming both BIG Awards, as Startup of the Year and CIO Review’s Top 100 Big Data Solutions.

What makes SiteZeus unique is its transparency -- and its ability to do in seconds or minutes what normally could take months, explains Jorge Hermez, Director of Marketing.

There’s no curtain where all this stuff is happening behind the scenes,” he says.

It is able to process data that humans can’t.

“We’ve created a data agnostic pipeline,” Hermez says. “The more data we inject into SiteZeus, the larger variety of users we’ll get.”

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, if you’re in business to make money,” asserts Cooper.

SiteZeus’ partnerships with data set add-ons, UberMedia, Black Box Intelligence, and INRIX, have helped to fuel its success.

The cloud-based software, offered on subscription, lets users securely input data and receive predictive models without sharing it with anyone. “Once you’ve imported your data you can play around with the models. You can adjust the variables to see what kind of impact that it has on sales,” Cooper says.

SiteZeus was founded in 2013 by brothers Keenan and Hannibal Baldwin. Business climbed an average 51 percent each quarter during the last year. The number of employees rose from seven to 13 in the last year as well, and it continues its search for talent in sales, software engineering, quality assurance engineering, graphic design, web development and content creation.

The company currently serves the United States, but is planning to go global by next year. Among its clients are the Pincho Factory, a fast-casual burger and kebab chain popular in South Florida; Fitness Premier, a midwest fitness company now available for franchising in 40 states; Campers Inn RV, one of the largest U.S. RV outlets, located in 10 states; and SafeSplash Swim School, the leading swim school franchise in North America.

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