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Casting call: Musicians, show how 'St. Pete Shines' in the city's new national ad campaign

The City of St. Petersburg will place local singers and bands on the national stage in an upcoming advertising campaign.

During a live competition on Saturday, May 9, musicians who are based in the St. Pete community will have the chance to publicly perform a rendition of the classic song “You Are My Sunshine” at a live, battle-of-the-bands style competition.

Four winners will be selected, and the winning performances of the song will be featured in the city’s first national ad campaign.

Nina Mahmoudi, Creative Services Manager for the City, describes St. Pete as “a city filled with talented people, from artists and musicians to technology innovators and food and brewing connoisseurs.”

"We are a community known for our growing arts and culture,” Mahmoudi says. The casting call is “just one way we are engaging the community to show how ‘St. Pete Shines’.”

Bands and artists who are interested in competing in the “You Are My Sunshine” Music Contest must submit an entry to the contest website by Friday, May 1, 2015. Entry submissions should include a link to your website or reel (new recordings are not required from musicians, as long as a video of the artist performing is submitted).

Finalists will be notified and invited to play their version of “You Are My Sunshine” before a live audience.

The promotional campaign will “highlight our city's greatness," Mahmoudi explains, “and we decided using local talent was the best way” to do that.

Interesting in putting your own twist on the song, but don’t have much experience? That’s OK, says CLEAR Labs executive director Jenn Greacen. Interested parties who have never performed before are invited to submit a pitch video explaining why they should be selected as finalists.

“Anyone who would like to share their love for St. Pete should send in an audition," explains Greacen, whose St. Pete-based marketing agency is partnering with the City of St. Petersburg for the "Casting Sunshine" campaign. "You don't have to be a professional singer, you just have to have love for St. Pete!” 

Fans of the Sunshine City's local music scene are invited to attend the free public concert/competition, which will be held from 4-10 pm on May 9 at Sly Bar in DTSP.

“Even if you are not a performer, the entire community is welcome at the event to cheer on the finalists, help us in our selections, and, just in general, to come out and have a good time,” says Greacen.

Along with the chance to be featured in the campaign, contest winners will receive a $500 cash prize and a recording studio session, and will retain master publishing rights on their rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Visit the City of St. Petersburg's "Casting Sunshine" website to learn more or refer to the contest’s rules of entry for details.

“You Are My Sunshine” Music Contest sponsors include local Sly Bar, The Hideaway Café & Recording Studio, and Urban Brew and BBQ.

Spring/Summer startup events guide: Tampa Bay

Technology and innovation enthusiasts in the Tampa Bay area can look forward to an array of upcoming events for meeting like-minded peers and mingling with successful serial entrepreneurs in the coming spring and summer months. From recurring meetups such as Startup Grind and Homebrew Hillsborough to annual adventures like the Startup Bus Florida (launching from Tampa on June 4), 83 Degrees has the details on upcoming spring and summer 2015 technology, networking and startup-centric events.
 
StartUp Xchange
April 23, 5 pm
Green Bench Brewing Co.
1133 Baum Ave. N. St. Petersburg

Hosted by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, StartUp Xchange is a monthly gathering that brings TBIC mentors together with local entrepreneurs and innovators. Small business owners have the opportunity to network with other local leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs, and to discuss business-related questions or concerns with mentors.

April 2015 Startup XChange mentors include Chris Paradies, an Intellectual Property Attorney at Paradies Law PA; Kellye Dash, a social media and virtual assistant expert who founded her own company The Busy Buddy; and JJ Roberts, Client Service Manager for TBIC.

The event will take place at Green Bench Brewing, a local business named for the iconic colored benches that once resided on DTSP's Central Ave. To register for April's Startup XChange, visit the event’s Meetup page or the TBIC website for more information.
 
Homebrew Hillsborough
April 24, 8:30 am
Krazy Kup
101 East J. Arden Mays Blvd. Plant City

Join your local area network of small business owners at monthly Homebrew Hillsborough coffee shop meetups. As part of Hillsborough County’s economic development initiatives, Homebrew Hillsborough brings local leaders in the county’s Economic Development Department together with small business owners from Seminole Heights to Plant City. Each month, the meetup is hosted in a different neighborhood of Hillsborough County.

Along with the April 24 meetup at Krazy Kup in Plant City, upcoming Homebrew Hillsborough events will take place on May 29 at Kahwa Café in Westchase; June 26 at Tu Sabor Café in Town n Country; and July 31 at the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa.
 

DRINKandCONNECT
April 30, 5:30 pm
The Patio
421 South MacDill Ave. Tampa

During the free networking event on April 30, entrepreneurs and techies are invited to come out to the The Patio’s large indoor/outdoor courtyard and mingle with Cigar City Brewing VP Justin Clark and Angry Chair Brewing co-founder Ryan Dowdle. Enjoy a cold local brew as Cigar City & Angry Chair “takeover” the taps for the night.

Along with the tap takeovers and networking, the event will host raffles to benefit the Tampa Police Department's Honor Guard. Raffle items include spa gift certificates, a custom skateboard, and Cigar City or Angry Chair baskets.

To register, visit the event Meetup page.

Plum Alley's Jan Mercer Dahms at Startup Grind
May 6, 6:30 pm
CoWork Ybor/The Blind Tiger Café
1901 E. 7th Ave. Ybor City

Each month, Joy Randels and the Tampa Bay chapter of Startup Grind host fireside chats and intimate gatherings, where entrepreneurs share the secrets of their successes – and failures – with attendees, who range from small business owners to students to serial entrepreneurs. Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Jan Mercer Dahms, managing director of Plum Alley, at Ybor City's mixed use cafe and coworking space, The Blind Tiger Cafe/CoWork Ybor, on May 6. Entry fee is $10.

Plum Alley is “the premier crowdfunding platform for women in the world,” Randels say. During May’s Startup Grind, guests from across the state will discuss their products and how Plum Alley can help them. To learn more about Plum Alley and the campaigns it supports, visit the company website. 

Startup Weekend Youth Tampa Bay
May 15-17, 5:00 pm
Trinity School For Children
2402 W Osbourne Ave, Tampa

Students, do you dream of starting the next Facebook or Snapchat? Startup Weekend is back with a special youth edition, open to aspiring designers, developers, business leaders or entrepreneurs! The 54-hour event has been a staple in Tampa Bay for several years, and in 2015, the event will include coaches and mentors from across the Tampa Bay area, including Todd Broyles, David Harris, Gregg Hilferding and founder and host Angela Ardolino.

Step into the shoes of an entrepreneur during Startup Weekend Youth Tampa Bay at Trinity School for Children. The three-day startup crash course includes pitching your ideas, forming teams, building a tangible product (including coding and creating a business model), and launching (I.e., presenting your case to the event judges, local entrepreneurial leaders).
 
#Collabtb (Q2 Tech & Entrepreneur Peer Networking Event)
June 4, 5 pm
1930 Grande Room
1930 East 7th Ave. Ybor City

Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay hosts quarterly networking events for tech-savvy designers, developers, programmers and other entrepreneurs who want to interact with peers without hearing sales pitches from recruiters. Students, job seekers, entrepreneurs and tech professionals are encouraged to attend the June event at Ybor City's event space and unique venue, the 1930 Grande Room.

#Collabtb events are free, but registration is required. Entrance into the event includes a free T-shirt for the first 100 attendees, a free drink ticket for the first 200 and light appetizers. Click here to register for the #Collabtb Q2 networking event.
 
StartupBus Florida
June 4-8, Tampa-Nashville

For the sixth straight year, StartupBus participants across North America will join together on buses and work to pitch and develop a startup idea. The 72-hour competition ends in Nashville in June 2015, with buses originating from six different regions competing. The Southeast region bus will leave from Tampa on June 4. One catch: you’re on your own for the return trip.

“Hackers, hustlers, and hipsters” are encouraged to apply for a seat on the bus. To pre-apply for the 2015 Startup Bus Florida, visit the Startup Bus website
 
Startup Surge
June 5, 10 am
Tampa Bay WaVE
400 N. Ashley Dr., St. 200. Tampa

Hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE at the Sykes building in the heart of downtown Tampa, Startup Surge is a one-day opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and students to meet and hear from more than 50 mentors from around the region. Attendees will be matched up with mentors, all of whom are successful entrepreneurs, before participating in coaching sessions and workshops. Learn about building a successful startup (from identifying a target market to crowdfunding and early stage marketing); the launch process (development, updates, and analytics); and growing your company (fundraising, bring on a Board of Directors, and more).

Click here to register for Startup Surge; to learn more about event mentors, visit the Tampa Bay WaVE website.
 
Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay
June 5-7, 6:30 pm

For the first time in Tampa, creative entrepreneurs and artists will have the chance to come together for a Startup Weekend event! Startup Weekend Design Edition will follow the traditional 54-hour format and aims to bring together Tampa Bay designers, developers, entrepreneurs and experts from all domains. Fashion entrepreneurs, interior designers, architects, graphic artists and other creatives are invited to take part in the collaborative event.

Meet peers, network with creative industry leaders, and design or develop ideas to help solve real-world problems faced by those in creative industries. Pitch your ideas and form a team (or join another -- popular vote wins out), develop a product and business model, and then present the final version to local entrepreneurial leaders in creative or design industries.

To register, visit the Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay website. Use code "83D'' for $25 off. 

TEDx Tampa Riverwalk
August 29, 1 pm
John F. Germany Library Auditorium
900 N. Ashley Dr. Tampa

TEDx events are independently organized meetups of thinkers and innovators based on the popular TED talks that focus on the slogan of “ideas worth spreading.” The theme for the 2015 TEDx Tampa Riverwalk session is “Going Places!” TEDx presenters should consider the theme and how it applies scientifically, socially, economically, geographically, artistically and philosophically.

Nominations for speakers and presenters will be accepted through June 2015. Click here to apply or to nominate a speaker for the August event at downtown Tampa's John F Germany public library. Learn more at the TEDx Tampa Riverwalk website.

Temple Terrace hosts new craft beer festival, food trucks

Tampa Bay, grab your growlers: there's a new craft beer fest in town.

The inaugural Temple Terrace Craft BrewFest will take place May 9 in Woodmont Park, a 20-minute drive from downtown Tampa. The beer festival, hosted by the City of Temple Terrace in partnership with the Rotary Club of Temple Terrace, will feature more than 30 craft brews, including varieties from:

3 Daughters BrewingBayshore Beer Co., Big Storm Brewing Co., Big Top Brewing Co.Bold City BreweryBrew Hub, Brooklyn BreweryCigar City BrewingCoppertail Brewing Co., Florida Avenue Brewing Co.GolfBeer Brewing Co.Harpoon Brewery, Oskar Blues BreweryTampa Bay Brewing Company, Tenth and Blake Beer Co.Two Henrys Brewing, and more.

If all that beer sipping stirs up an appetite, guests can enjoy food from a variety of local Tampa Bay area food trucks and on-site vendors, including Doogie Dogs a GogoMichelle Faedo’s On the GoNapolitanos Wood Fired Pizza & Calzones, PaniniRifficPop-N-Good Kettle Corn, and Smokin’ Aces BBQ.

Live music will be provided by local band jazz fusion band Jurika.

Cheri Donohue, one of the event’s organizers, anticipates more than 1,000 attendees at the one-day event. Donohue, a member of both the Temple Terrace City Council and the Rotary Club, calls the BrewFest “a thrilling new event for the city.”

Rotary Club members worked with City Council members to develop the BrewFest. Community leaders “immediately saw it as a good way to show off our lovely city,” Donohue says. 

Sponsors include local businesses such as Ward Seaford Attorneys at LawGaspar’s Patio Bar & Grille and Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club.

As an event sponsor, local company Brewmasters Club “takes pride in contributing to any effort to re-vitalize” the Temple Terrace area," founder Donnie Gallagher says. “The goal is to really get the community of Temple Terrace involved. I expect a great turnout.”

By hosting the craft beer festival, the Rotary Club hopes to attract “young movers and shakers to see what a ‘service’ club can do,” Donohue explains. “Our motto, ‘service above self,’ is one we take seriously, but our meetings are fun and invigorating. Even though we were established in 1925, we think creatively and are working to invite people to live, work and play in Temple Terrace." 

Event proceeds will benefit charities supported by the Rotary Club of Temple Terrace including CAIRFlight, the Bridge Healthcare Clinic at USF and Rotary's Camp Florida

Tickets bought before May 8 cost $30 ($35 after) and include unlimited tastings of more than 30 craft brews, two of which are custom Temple Terrace beers brewed exclusively for BrewFest. 

For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, visit the Temple Terrace Craft BrewFest website.

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.” 

Tampa Tank expands to Hillsborough County, adds 108 jobs

A new headquarters for Tampa Tank, Inc. & Florida Structural Steel in Ybor City could spell up to 24 new jobs at the company’s main offices. A refurbished manufacturing facility in Port Redwing at the Port of Tampa will create as many as 84 new jobs.

Altogether, the company’s expansion into Hillsborough County is anticipated to generate more than $18 million in capital investment and up to 108 new jobs. New positions will pay nearly 150 percent of the state’s average wage.

To learn more about open job opportunities, refer to the company’s website.

“Tampa Tank has long been a supporter of the Tampa community and Port Tampa Bay,” said Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay’s President and CEO, at the annual State of the Port luncheon in late January 2015. “We are excited for their growth and expansion. We look forward to supporting them for years to come.”

Tampa Tank, which has been in business since 1953, and Florida Structural Steel, which was acquired by the company in 1984, provide custom designs and repair steel products for customers around the world.

The company considered going outside the United States to other locations, but a hefty incentives package from the Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the City of Tampa, and Hillsborough County kept them close to home. Tampa Tank was provided with a competitive package of state and local incentives totaling $2,080,795. 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn commended the move, saying at the luncheon, “This project is a big win for Tampa, for Port Tampa Bay, and for our local residents who will secure high-wage jobs. Tampa Tank’s expansion will kick off an historic revitalization of this important industrial asset, and fuel greater economic growth for our port community.” 

The company will lease two buildings at the port to fabricate steel and iron structures for export, and will invest some $18 million  into the expansion at Port Redwing. 

The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation works to develop and sustain a thriving local economy through the attraction, retention and expansion of high wage jobs and capital investment within targeted industry sectors. Locally, the EDC helps existing businesses access the tools and resources they need to succeed, now and in the future.

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.

Connections, coffee brew at new meetups in Tampa, Hillsborough County

Homebrew Hillsborough, a coffee shop meetup where community members can make connections and share ideas with local government, is the latest in a series of efforts to support small business by Hillsborough County’s economic development department.

For those familiar, Homebrew Hillsborough will be essentially the same as Mark Sharpe's Friday meetups at Buddy Brew, during his run as county commissioner before stepping into his current role.

“We wanted to carry on the tradition that he started,” says the Economic Development Director Lindsey Kimball. “We welcome everyone to join us and be part of the community of creatives.”

One marked difference in Homebrew Hillsborough from previous events is that the coffee shop meetups will take place at a different location each month.

Upcoming Homebrew Hillsborough talks will take place on Feb 27 at Jet City Espresso in Seminole Heights; on March 27 at Zeal Coffee Roasters & RareHues in Carrollwood; and on April 24 at Krazy Kup in Plant City.

Homebrew Hillsborough’s kickoff coffee shop meetup is at 8:30 a.m. on Fri., Jan. 30, at Buddy Brew, 2020 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Manager, will represent the economic development department during these monthly meetups.

“Come collaborate and support your local area coffee shop to help our community expand with people, ideas and connections. I look forward to meeting up monthly to see how we can help make our community a ‘Homegrown Hillsborough’,” says Whelihan. “We look forward to welcoming everyone.”

Attendees “can expect a chance to network with others from the technology and innovation ecosystem,” says Kimball. “Our partners never have a strict agenda -- we are there to let ideas flow and make new connections.”

Homebrew Hillsborough supporting partners include Laicos, National Day of Civic Hacking and Eureka! Factory.

“Our goal is to take the show on the road and bring the energy around the county,” Kimball says. “We want to reach as many people as possible. We want to hear everyone's voices.”

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.

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.

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

TEC Garage opens for business in St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay region has taken another step toward establishing itself as a thriving entrepreneurial community with the grand opening of TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg in late October.

Ties to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s well-oiled startup services allow TEC Garage to offer business incubation programs such as “coaching, mentoring, advising, and providing access to connections that have proven successful with launching and growing startups for more than a decade,” says Tonya Elmore, TBIC President and CEO.

TEC Garage’s location on the St. Petersburg College campus at 244 Second Ave. N. in the revitalized heart of downtown St. Petersburg was a strategic choice, aimed at generating a buzz among entrepreneurially minded city residents.
 
“The new location has already attracted coworkers, coders and developers, students and innovators -- all part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that helps startups succeed,” says Elmore.
  
TEC Garage houses a coworking space, complete with amenities that include 24-hour access, dedicated offices, open collaborative areas, conference rooms, a full kitchen, and the opportunity for networking with other entrepreneurs. Some tenants have already set up shop in the spacious TEC Garage quarters.

Why offer 24/7 access? 

“Flexibility is key to entrepreneurs,” Elmore explains. “They have clients all over the world, and conducting business from 8 to 5 isn't logical for a startup.” 

Entrepreneurs who take advantage of incubation services like coaching and advising have been pleased, Elmore says.

“Startups go through several stages. We provide programming and coaching at each level. The best resource is dependent on the stage of the business.” 

In addition to offering just-starting-out entrepreneurs the chance to seek advice and grow connections, TEC Garage has “garnered the attention of potential investors and a larger pool of mentors who wish to connect to the startups,” Elmore says.

More than 300 local residents attended the TEC Garage grand opening in late October.

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.

For one day, Cyclovia reserves downtown Tampa street for bicyclists, pedestrians

No cars or trucks allowed! On Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa will be closed from Nebraska to Tampa Street from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., allowing the residents and visitors to run, bike, walk and play together.

The idea for the event, coordinated by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)’s Tampa office, came from Florida State Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad. Prasad traveled to Bogato, Columbia recently and witnessed a weekly event known as Cyclovia (spelled Ciclovia in Columbia), where major city streets are closed temporarily and turned into family-friendly street parties. The name comes from the Spanish word for “cycle path.” The practice has become a worldwide event and takes place in Costa Rica, Brazil, New Zealand, Peru and India, among other countries.

The goal of Cyclovia Tampa Bay is not only to promote community, but also to educate the public about bicycle, pedestrian and driving safety. Florida has ranked in the top three in the nation for bike and pedestrian fatalities since 2001, and the FDOT plans to change that with events and programs such as this aimed at creating a cultural shift.

:We can use this as a way to not only get people out experiencing walking and biking, but also increase awareness and visibility," says Stephen Benson, bicycle and pedestrian safety program specialist for the FDOT. Benson is a Tampa native and USF graduate.

Each block will have an interactive activity, including, “slow” bike races, interactive street games, food trucks and bike safety information.

The event is the first of its kind for Tampa, and FDOT plans to make it an recurring event, as well as replicate it in other parts of Tampa Bay.

Community partners include the City of Tampa, Tampa Downtown Partnership, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, HART, the Urban Conga, Tampa Bay Cycle and Walk Wise.

Clearwater Continues Greening Efforts With LED Streetlights

Residents of Clearwater will soon have softer streetlights and fewer outages as a result of the City’s latest efforts to go green.

The City is replacing the standard incandescent light bulbs in all 11,290 streetlights with LED bulbs. The new bulbs will produce the same amount of light, but use less energy and last longer.

"In light of the city’s green policy, we wanted to say the whole city is green and reduce the carbon footprint," says Paul Bertels, traffic operations manager for the City of Clearwater. "It’s important to the City Council and to the residents that we try to do everything we can to reduce our impact on the environment."

The major benefit from the move will be less outages. Standard bulbs typically have to be replaced every 18 months. The new LED bulbs will last an average of seven years before outage problems are experienced.

The decision was made by the City of Clearwater and Duke Energy, which currently provides maintenance for the streetlights. In a true public-private partnership, the bulbs will be funded by Duke Energy, so the replacement will be at no cost to citizens. Duke’s costs will be reduced due to less frequent maintenance.

Residents will mainly notice the white color of the lights vs. the orange color of the current bulbs. They will also notice a lot more stability with the less frequent outages.

The move is part of the city’s overall efforts to go green, which include a full service citywide recycling program, streetscaping, and water management.

"Clearwater has always been a very progressive place, and I think this policy on being green fits right in line with that thinking," says Bertels.

The project will begin in the Northeast quadrant of the city, with an estimated citywide completion in 18 months.   

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Paul Bertels, City of Clearwater

Bike-Share Program Gets Ready To Roll In Tampa

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