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Car sharing network zips into downtown Tampa

A car sharing network has arrived in downtown Tampa.
 
Zipcar, which offers on-demand, self-service access to cars, is now up and running with a fleet of 14 vehicles. These vehicles can be accessed at several locations, including the Tampa Convention Center, the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk, the Skyhouse Channelside Apartments, the University of Tampa, Tampa International Airport and the Tampa Westshore Marriott.
 
“Reservations can be made on our mobile app for an hour or several days; gas, insurance and 180 miles of driving is included,” says Katelyn Chesley of Zipcar.
 
Six new Zipcars are now available downtown by the hour or by the day. In addition to using the mobile app, reservations can be made on Zipcar’s website or over the phone.
 
The benefits of having a car sharing network in the downtown area are plenty, according to Chesley. It gives residents and visitors the opportunity to travel to local destinations that are not within walking distance, it helps reduce the amount of cars on the road and businesses can use it as well.
 
“The official launch in Tampa builds on successful Zipcar programs at the University of Tampa, Tampa International Airport and the Tampa Westshore Marriott,” says Chesley. “With a number of members already using Zipcar in Tampa, we were eager to expand to the downtown area to provide more residents and visitors with convenient access to wheels where they live, work and play.”
 
In addition to the fleet of vehicles in Tampa, Zipcar members can reserve and drive vehicles in 12 other Florida cities where the company operates. For more information, visit the company’s website

Escape game room opens on Kennedy near downtown Tampa

A new form of live-action entertainment has popped up on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. Who's the center of the action? You!

Escape Countdown joins downtown Tampa's Great Escape Room and Town N' Country's Can You Escape? as the latest in a series of puzzle and adventure games for groups. 

Inside Escape Countdown and the sistering Sarasota location, visitors will have to use their wits to escape from an interactive room in 60 minutes or less. 

Room themes are immersive, ranging from fantasy -- Alice in Wonderland -- to sci-fi -- it's up to your team to save the world! Other adventure themes include Paris and Jail Break. Finding and solving clues and puzzles, while working together with your team, will help players "escape" the room in the allotted time.
 
Room escape games, which gained popularity in Asia before making their way through Europe to the United States, have gained traction even in Florida in recent months.

“We are excited to see how the public will respond to this unique concept that is taking the world by storm,” explains Houdini Partner Group CEO Brent Alexander. 

Escape Countdown has locations in Tampa and Sarasota, with a third location opening in Atlanta in 2016. 

“Our goal is to make this a premium experience," Alexander said. "We want to be more like the Disney of escape room attractions.”

Alexander and Escape Countdown plan to keep the experience fresh for visitors by adding new themes to the attraction during the upcoming summer months.
 
While participants are not actually locked into rooms during the one hour of gameplay, exiting the room and not returning before the end of the game will mean disqualification. 

Games are $29.99 per player, and teams of 2-8 can register to play. Parties and corporate outings are encouraged.

The Music Box: Tampa Bay launches in Sulphur Springs neighborhood

A free, experiential and pioneering “musical architecture” project constructed on the grounds of  the Community Stepping Stones (CSS) in Sulphur Springs will be open to the public for a month starting March 25, 2016.  

“The Music Box: Tampa Bay” is an interactive public artwork and performance space that allows visitors to participate in creating sound and music through a temporary village of musical structures. 

“The project is about inspiring and building community,” says Sarah Howard, Curator of Public Art and Social Practice at the The University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), who is leading the project. “Anyone can access it: It’s music, it’s architecture, and a there’s a little magical realism that goes along with it.”

The Music Box village is situated on the Mann-Wagon Park along the Hillsborough River and will celebrate not only local artists and musicians, but also the history of Sulphur Springs. 

Concerts by local musicians are planned for Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. Cultural programs will occur on Thursday evenings, including a presentation of storied Sulphur Springs history by Historians Rodney Kite-Powell and Hermann Trappman. The history discussions will cover geographical details to Sulphur Springs’ role through time from serving as a Native American destination for healing waters to becoming a tourist destination to its modern day purpose.

The music village will be open for exploration and play on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon-6 p.m. 

Howard says many layers of collaboration and community engagement are already taking place on the grounds. She notes that neighbors have stopped by out of curiosity and then become volunteers on the project. Other collaborators include more than 20 USF students of architecture, history, music and studio art students and students from the host organization, Community Stepping Stones, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting underserved youth through after-school programs in the arts. 

“They are getting the value of working with professional artists and seeing a project through from planning to execution to public presentation,” says Howard referring to the students’ participation. 

Howard notes that many jobs have been created as well and that the professional artists and musicians involved are paid. She hopes and expects that the events will attract visitors to local businesses and restaurants. 

The Tampa installation is modeled after the New Orleans Airlift (NOA) initiative, which sought to restore artist communities after Hurricane Katrina. The NOA has provided guidance and collaboration with local Artists Jan Awai, Devon Brady and Michael Lemieux from Livework Studios and community-based land Artist Tory Tepp in designing and constructing the village. The project was funded by grants and donations from the National Endowment of the Arts, the University of South Florida, the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation and several local organizations. 

The Music Box is fun and family-friendly, Howard says, and “gives you the sense of awe and wonder that unites people. That’s the goal.”

All programming is free but tickets are recommended for evening events because space is limited. For more information on scheduling and ticketing, click here.

March job news: Who's hiring in Tampa Bay? IT company, architecture firm, and more

Work for one of the most popular city destinations in the state; sign on with an architectural design firm; perform quality control as a software engineer. These Tampa Bay area job opportunities -- and more -- are available in March 2016. 

The City of St. Petersburg is hiring for a number of opportunities, including Librarian, Digital and Media Specialist, and many other roles in maintenance, sanitation, and with the golf course. To search the available job opportunities with the city of St. Pete, click here and select “search vacancies.” 

HDR design firm is hiring a Project Architect for the company’s Tampa offices. The position will entail leading a team of engineers, designers and architects on architectural projects. A Bachelor's or Master's degree in Architecture is required, along with five or more years of experience. Registered architects only.

Follow this link to search for the role and apply on the company website. 

Suncoast Credit Union is hiring for a number of roles in Tampa and Brandon, including an investment operations manager and several member advocates and tellers to serve the Brandon community.

The operations manager should have a Bachelor’s degree in a business-related field, at least six years of experience in the securities industry, and two to four years of experience serving as a supervisor.

To learn more or apply for the role, click here.

IT management service SunView Software, Inc. is hiring for dozens of positions in Tampa, with a recent office expansion that created room for 45 new jobs. Click here and follow instructions to submit a resume. 

National staffing firm iTalent, LLC is hiring for a full-time copywriter position. The successful candidate will have five or more years of creative copywriting experience (previous advertising agency is a plus). The copywriter will assist in marketing and advertising campaigns and communication including advertisements, promotions, mailers, fliers, brochures, posters, in-store signage and digital media.

iTalent is also seeking an Interaction designer/UI designer for a six-month contract that could become a full-time role with benefits. To learn more about either job opportunity, visit the company’s website.

Cloud-based commerce company Verifone is hiring for several roles in the company’s Clearwater offices, including multiple software QA engineers, a senior business analyst, a recruiter, and more. The Software QA Engineer role requires a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and 5-10 years of experience in software test engineering. The role is responsible for developing and performing test plans.

To see a complete list of available roles with Verifone, click here

Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Impromptu popup gallery features art by newcomer to Tampa

In an innovative trifecta of art, marketing and real estate, art consultant Kathy Gibson of Arthouse3 will present Tampa newcomer and artist Taylor Thomas’s body of work entitled “The Chase.”  

The impromptu exhibit will take place at an empty South Tampa loft whose owner, Michael Palori, hopes will also spur interest from potential renters. The exhibit will be held at 1617 West Platt Street in South Tampa, March 4-6th. 

“All of us are looking for a way to enjoy our business, celebrating talent and new development,” says Gibson who has done this before, in empty houses. She says the art sold, and the houses, too. She is expecting success here, too. “A modern abstract in a loft space, attracts people in general. Tampa is building and changing and becoming more and more contemporary.”

Though this is Taylor’s debut exhibit in Tampa, she is represented around the country by various galleries. She relocated from Nashville in November to be closer to her Tampa-native boyfriend, Will Wellman, catalyst and raison d’etre of the Pig Jig Foundation which raises money for Nephcure Kidney International. In 2014, she was awarded a Regional Artist Project Grant from Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council to travel to Bennington VT and study under Cullen Washington, Jr. -- a contemporary artist whose work, she says, inspires and challenges her. 

Gibson, who describes her role as  “an art finder, an art communicator” connects businesses and individuals with artists and works. Gibson describes Taylor’s body of work for The Chase as a collection of “deeply, richly layered colored abstracts,” about 20 pieces in all sizes from small drawings to 4’ x 6’ works. Pricing ranges from $100 to $3,500 or more, depending on size. 

Palori, whose family has been long-involved with Tampa real estate, with major commercial and residential holdings throughout the city, says the loft, one of three 1,000-square-foot units over a restaurant, was transformed from what was once a printing warehouse. He says he likes the idea of the pop up art and says it fits with the character of his building. “I think its good for the area, and good exposure in the meantime.”

Taylor says her previous exhibitions have been in conventional settings but says this space is “spontaneously ideal -- it nearly mirrors what one would often look for in a gallery space: clean walls, concrete floors, an influx of natural light. The drool-worthy garage door that opens up to a balcony is definitely the cherry on top.” 

The Chase will be open to the public Friday, March 4th, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, March 5th, 1-6 pm; and Sunday, March 6th, 1-4 pm. For more information on the exhibit, click here. For more information the apartment, click here

How Gasparilla Interactive Conference aims to inspire attendees

The Gasparilla Interactive gathering in mid-March will focus on a creative theme: discovering inspiration. 

During the inaugural event in 2015, the Gasparilla Interactive Founder's Club focused on branding the first-year festival as a companion to other well-known and well-attended Gasparilla events that take place in Tampa each spring - the film and arts festivals, for example. 

The focus on branding helped establish Gasparilla Interactive and made sense, since the event's roots are in AAF Tampa Bay and Ad 2 Tampa Bay; lead event organizer Vinny Tafuro is a past president of both organizations.

The second time around, the conference "covers a broader range of topics, and focuses much more on entrepreneurship and the future” than technology alone, Tafuro explains. 

For 2016, replacing the word ‘festival’ with conference was a specific choice, Tafuro says. 

“We discussed what attendees should expect to leave with," Tafuro explains. "We felt that regardless of current industry or profession, everyone should walk away feeling inspired about the future in some way.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference will draw presenters from big-name companies in the tech world, like product designers Gabe Valdivia of Facebook and Alison Chefec of BuzzFeed. Tampa’s World IA Day organizer Amy Espinosa will moderate a discussion on information architecture between the two.

Gasparilla Interactive Conference presenters also include:To see all of the speakers scheduled to present at Gasparilla Interactive, click here

“Anyone who wants to be inspired by, and prepared for, the vast opportunities that technology affords us to create value” should consider attending, Tafuro says. “Regardless of industry.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference is a non-profit event that will be held March 10-11 at the Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor City. Register and find more information by clicking here.

Follow along with the Gasparilla Interactive Conference by using the hashtag #GasparillaIX.

In-Towner trolley gives free rides in downtown Tampa

The free In-Towner trolley makes getting around downtown Tampa a little less expensive. 

The trolley, operated by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Authority, provides weekday trips from 6-8:30 a.m. and 3:30-6 p.m. 

“It’s more convenient,” says HART CEO Katharine Eagan. “It’s one more option we’re providing so people can easily travel downtown while leaving behind their cards and congested parking lots. Whether it’s for medical appointments, shopping, entertainment, or work, we want people to be aware that the can use public transportation to take them there.” 

The rubber-wheeled trolleys make trips every 15 minutes along their routes that conveniently take riders to several major destinations, including Harbour Island, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa Convention Center, Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Park, David A. Straz, Jr., Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa Theatre, Tampa City Hall, the major downtown Tampa hotels, the TECO Line Streetcar system, the federal and county courthouses, and the Marion Transit Center. Service animals are allowed on the trollies, which are also equipped with bicycle racks for those who wish to take along their bikes. 

According to HART Public Information Officer Sandra Morrison, the free trollies are seeing sufficient foot traffic, though service is confined now to fairly limited service hours that largely serve the rush-hour crowd. “There has been talk about extending hours on the weekdays and also offering weekend hours,” she says. “The trollies were just made free on October 1, so it’s still a relatively new service.” 

St. Pete launches free shuttle route in time for holiday visitors

Visitors to St. Petersburg have one more reason to spend their weekends seeking out award-winning cuisine, strolling through local parks or window shopping in the many boutiques and stores found in downtown and the nearby thriving Central Arts District.

On Friday and Saturday nights through May 2016, weekend visitors to DTSP and the Central Arts District neighborhood can park once at the Sundial (117 Second Street North) or South Core (101 First Ave. South) parking garages (regular rates apply), then board the free shuttle.

Destinations along the Park Once route include the downtown waterfront, Beach Drive and the Central Arts District. Shuttles will run on a continuous loop on Friday and Saturday nights between 5 p.m. and midnight, with about 7-10 minutes between each stop. 

The Park Once shuttle route also intersects with the area’s already implemented Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's Central Avenue Trolley and Downtown Looper routes. 

Five Park Once shuttle stops are located at the Sundial garage on First Avenue North; outside the South Core garage on Central Avenue; on Central Avenue, at Fourth Street; at Fifth Avenue North, in front of the Vinoy; and on Bayshore Drive at Second Avenue North.

Evan Mory, director of Transportation and Parking for the city of St. Petersburg, notes that the program will be re-evaluated after six months to determine whether the Park Once program “should be made permanent, with any tweaks to make it even better.”

The City of St. Petersburg launched the Park Once downtown shuttle pilot program in November 2015 and Mory says that the response from the public has been “very positive.”

By the second weekend of the Park Once program, “we had a good turnout that will continue to grow,” Mory says.

Drivers and two motor coaches for the Park Once program are contracted through Largo-based Escot Bus Lines, Mory says. Shuttles are air-conditioned, equipped with bicycle racks and a wheelchair lift, and can each seat 30 passengers.

Along with the free shuttle, the Park Once program will expand in 2016 to include components like a bike share program and bus route re-alignments in the downtown neighborhood.

8 female entrepreneurs to compete in regional SBA InnovateHER Challenge

LocalShops1 Creator Ester Venouziou is partnering with the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce to offer eight Tampa Bay area female entrepreneurs the chance to compete for up to $70,000 in prizes during the Small Business Association InnovateHER Challenge. 

While all of the applications in the local round came from women entrepreneurs, the competition is open to both male and female business owners whose products and services focus on women and their families.

Finalists in the Pinellas County regional round of the InnovateHER Challenge include:“One of the goals of LocalShops1 is to put local businesses in the spotlight,” Venouziou says, and the SBA InnovateHER Challenge “gives us an excellent opportunity to do so on a national level. Tampa Bay has so many creative and talented entrepreneurs, so let's show them off to the rest of the world.”

The LocalShops1 round of the national SBA InnovateHER Challenge will take place from 5-8 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Catherine Hickman Theatre, 5501 27th Ave S in Gulfport.

Following an opening reception hosted by Pinellas County businesses Three Birds Tavern, Out of the Weeds and Red Hot Tiki Market, finalists will participate in a live pitch competition moderated by Gulfport Chamber president Barry Rubin.

Isabel Laessig, Founder of Family Foodie, is keynote speaker for the event.

Laessig “turned a hobby -- cooking and blogging -- into not only a successful business, but a national movement encouraging families to eat together,” Venouziou says. 

The judges panel for the pitch competition includes Gallerie 909 Owner Carla Bristol; Diana M. Hechavarria, an entrepreneurship professor at the University South Florida; Marie Tomassi, a managing partner at Trenam Law; Rita Lowman, COO of C1 Bank; and Robin King, co-Owner of  Three Birds Tavern and Out of the Weeds.

Winners of regional rounds will be submitted to the SBA National headquarters for consideration in the live pitch final round on March 16 and 17, 2016, in Washington. DC, where selected finalists will compete for prizes from Microsoft that total $70,000.

Venouziou expects to see more than 100 local business owners, civic leaders and community members attend the regional round of the challenge. To register for the free event, click here

“We hope the contestants and all the entrepreneurs -- and entrepreneurs-to-be -- in the audience walk away inspired and with a better understanding of what they need to run a successful business,” Venouziou says. “And of course, we hope that our local winner will make it to the national round and win one of the cash prizes!”

Venouziou commends the city of Gulfport and the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as event sponsors and community partners, for supporting the event. St. Pete Chamber of Commerce, St Pete Greenhouse and SCORE will be on hand during the Dec. 2 competition to provide free resources available to local businesses.

Meanwhile in Tampa, The Centre for Women is working with the SBA as a partner agency to prepare Tampa entrepreneurs for the competition. Winners of the local round will receive $5,000 in cash or prizes furnished by sponsors and supporters of The Centre.

Popular Tampa blog partners with Ybor City businesses to create candles, clothing

In 2012, Nicholas Catania and Ryan Sullivan, along with friend Allison Vetter, formed the social group Never Have I Ever Tampa Bay, launching a blog and a tradition of trying everything local.

The goal of the three transplants from the Northeastern U.S.: to 'discover' and share all of the unique sights, sounds and tastes of the Tampa Bay area with friends and strangers alike through their blog, social media platforms and word of mouth.

Today, newfound friends and first-time visitors attend NHIE events across the Tampa Bay region. Through their joint efforts, Catania and Sullivan (graduates of local colleges University of Tampa and the University of South Florida, respectively), also have a hand in helping to shape many of the entrepreneurially focused or innovative startup business events that occur throughout the region, such as the upcoming Startup Weekend at UT.

Now, NHIE branded merchandise can be found at select Tampa stores.

In October 2015, the NHIE team announced a new partnership with Ybor City mainstay Seventh Avenue Apothecary, a local small business where candles are still poured by hand. Earlier in 2015, the team partnered with Black & Denim's Roberto Torres to create the 'Everything Local' T-shirt, which is sold in Torres' Blind Tiger Cafe and online.

Catania, a teacher, and Sullivan, a marketer, "decided to branch out and create local products because we love supporting local businesses," Catania says. "We live by the phrase ‘everything local,’ and enjoy finding all of the new and unique stops throughout Tampa Bay.”

Black & Denim and 7th Avenue whose candles are sold in boutiques throughout the country, became NHIE's first partnerships because those two businesses are “local companies doing cool things in the community,” Catania says.

NHIE’s candle from 7th Ave “carries a locally inspired Black Tea and Valencia Orange scent, representative of Tampa Bay," says Catania. Meanwhile, the 'Everything Local' T-shirt collaboration with Black & Denim "is meant to appeal to anyone who appreciates and supports local businesses."

Take a look at the shirt's design here.

Any proceeds from the sales of locally inspired merchandise will allow the duo to expand efforts in the Tampa Bay area. NHIE also plans to invest in future partnerships with other local businesses.

“We hope to expand our collaborations in the future to include a whole line of NHIE ‘Everything Local’ products,” Catania says. In fact, the NHIE team is currently “in talks with a few other local brands -- so stay tuned.”

Upcoming in February 2016, NHIE will host the first-time Everything Local Market, showcasing local goods from artisans and business owners in the Tampa Bay community.

“We want our community to experience these products in their own lives, and also want new people to join us as we continue to explore ‘Everything Local,’ Catania says. 

Local artisans and business owners interested in being featured at NHIE’s market event in February can email NHIE for more information. 

Pitch competition offers prize money, mentorship to local winners

Startup companies affiliated with several business incubators in the Tampa Bay area will have the opportunity to win $1,000 in prize money at an upcoming business pitch competition.

Building Entrepreneurship Around Tampa (B.E.A.T.) Pitch Competition, sponsored by South-Florida based investors New World Angels, is a collaborative pitch event open to companies currently working with Tampa's USF CONNECT or Tampa Bay WaVE, Pasco County's SMARTstart and St. Pete's TEC Garage.

The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will provide local entrepreneurs from six finalist companies with the opportunity to pitch their ventures to angel investors on November 17, 2015. The winner of the pitch competition will receive $1,000 in prize money. Perhaps equally as valuable, winners also earn 20 hours of coaching. 

First, second and third place winners will also receive the opportunity to pitch in front of 15 investors at a New World Angels monthly meeting.

The pitch competition comes at a time when local innovation efforts are expanding through the leadership of groups like the Tampa Innovation Alliance and Hillsborough County. USF CONNECT Program Coordinator Amy Yonai expects the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition to attract “an expanded network of individuals, due to the growth of the economic ecosystem in Tampa.”
 
The B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition is tapping into that growth by hosting a “TEC Talk” during the event -- attendees can sip coffee and start a conversation with Tampa Innovation Alliance Director Mark Sharpe and Stephanie Ashley, Director of Incubation Programs and Economic Development at USF Research.

Along with the TEC Talk, the B.E.A.T. Pitch Competition will feature a keynote speaker and “Entrepreneurship Breakout Sessions” that cover a gamut of topics from potential legal concerns to adversity and leadership or startup funding.

“B.E.A.T. is an event that supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem though a showcase of innovative start-ups, educational programming and opportunities to pitch for capital,” says Yonai, who received a BA from the University of California, Irvine.

Local start-ups, business leaders, entrepreneurial support organizations, [and] anyone interested in becoming involved in the economic ecosystem in Tampa" should consider attending the event, says Yonai, who has worked as a program coordinator at Duke University and a fellowship coordinator at UNC Chapel Hill.

Yonai stepped into the role of program coordinator at USF Connect and the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) in May 2015.
 
USF CONNECT works to provide support for technology start-ups and connects new companies from counties across Florida to business opportunities with the school. USF CONNECT and the USF Research Foundation are located at the University of South Florida, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 100, in Tampa. To learn more about the B.E.A.T event, click here.

Tampa Innovation Alliance hosts global thought leader at dinner

Tampa Innovation Alliance will unveil an updated plan for revitalizing a section of Tampa once known as “Suitcase City” at a dinner celebrating author Bruce Katz on Oct. 29.

Katz, a renowned expert on innovation districts, is founding director of D.C.-based think tank The Brookings Institute and author of The Metropolitan Revolution. Tampa Innovation Alliance Founder, Mark Sharpe, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, who follows and engages with Katz on social media, invited him to speak at the dinner.

“We realized that as we launch an innovation district, there’s no one better to come in and assess the situation and be a part of it,” explains Kelley Sims, director of communications and community engagement for the Tampa Innovation Alliance.

“It’s time for us to really launch the vision for the district,” says Sims. “We have a sense for the change that can be made and how it will happen here, and it’s really time for us to share that with the community. A great deal of forward movement is happening.”

The Museum of Science and Industry will host the “cooking with science” concept dinner, which is open to the public. The event will “feature science and technology in a lot of different ways,” says Sims.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance was developed by Sharpe in 2014 and launched almost one year ago with four program “anchors”: the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center

“Anchor institutions that were doing things on their own weren’t necessarily working together before,” Sims says, “but now, you see this incredible dynamic between them.”

Membership has increased to around 90 members since the Innovation Alliance launched, including community leaders like MOSI and big-name brands like Brighthouse. The addition of University Mall owners New York-based RD Management to the Alliance executive committee is “very exciting,” Sims says, “because they have plans to put as much as $150 million into a complete revitalization of that mall -- a completely new concept.”

The Alliance sees the mall “as sort of the town center,” Sims says, “a beginning of the revitalization of the whole alliance area.”

The area comprises about 25,000 acres -- bordered by Bearss Ave to the north and Busch Boulevard to the south, between interstates 275 and 75. Working with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Corporation has helped the Alliance to identify an “inner core,” where an innovation district will be centrally defined over time, Sims says.

Discussions regarding some gateway projects have also begun; these could include freeway identifier signs to brand the district.

“There’s serious momentum with regards to change, and it will be nice for folks to see that as they enter the area,” Sims says.

Students and professors from USF are assisting the Alliance with studying the area and conducting planning studies.

“We feel that this is incredibly important: to involve the community that already lives in our area,” Sims says. “We want those who are living here to have opportunities for better wage jobs, better education, startup business support; and we want to make sure the community is involved and their ideas are represented in our planning."

“We’re building an innovation district where people want to 'live, work, play, study, and stay.' Having involvement at every age is really important to us.” 

Visit Eventbrite for tickets to the Premiere Innovation dinner or visit the Tampa Innovation Alliance website for more information. Katz will also speak at the Florida Chamber of Commerce quarterly innovation caucus during his visit; contact Sims to attend.

Uber hosts "ride-and-pitch" for Tampa Bay investors, entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and aspiring startup founders in Tampa Bay enjoyed a new way to reach an investment audience for one day only: in an Uber car.

For three hours on Friday, October 9, select Uber drivers hosted investors from the local Tampa Bay area, giving entrepreneurs the chance to "ride and pitch." 

Following two successful stints in its home base of San Francisco and in Philadephia, ridesharing company Uber paired up with Florida Funders, LLC to bring Tampa Bay investors and entrepreneurs together - for 15 minutes per ride. 

David Chitester founded Florida Funders, a Tampa-based company that connects local businesses with investors and financing, in 2014, after noting that the Tampa Bay region was "losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin. If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''

Using modern technology to give them a few minutes of investors' time could be a good way to keep those young, promising entrepreneurs. 

Chitester found himself hesitant to get involved with the UberPitch contest initially - "but when I returned the call from Uber and discussed the concept, it really made sense for us to get involved," he says. "We are well connected in the Tampa Bay region with both investors and entrepreneurs. Also, we are disrupting the investment industry and Uber is disrupting the transportation industry, so it is a great match of philosophies." 

Since Uber has run the pitch contest in only a few cities around the country, the unconventional company's selection of Tampa as a host city "shows we are getting national recognition for the efforts everyone here is making in the local startup community and eco-system," Chitester says.

Each Uber car involved in the pitch contests hosted two investors, riding separately, for an hour and a half each on Friday morning. Altogether, two UberPitch cars could be requested around downtown St. Petersburg; two in Tampa's downtown and West Shore business districts; and one in the University of South Florida's growing "Innovation District." That means that selected riders were able to talk about their ideas with ten potential investors during the three-hour event.

To access Uber cars with investors, individuals simply input a code (TBPITCH) when reserving a ride through the Uber smartphone app. Once an investor car picked them up, riders had 15 minutes to pitch to an investor before getting dropped back off at their original locations.

Not all rider requested were granted in the "lottery-style" special event time frame.

Several of the participating investors are based in Tampa Bay; all in the state of Florida. Investor riders include:Interested in learning more about the Uber Pitch events? Search the hashtag #UberPITCH on social media sites and follow @Uber_Florida on Twitter for real-time updates.

Marlow’s Tavern hires 62 new employees, opens in Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa

Marlow’s Tavern, a neighborhood-style tavern known for its low employee turnover, is making its first foray into the Tampa Bay area with a new restaurant in Tampa’s Carrollwood community.

Although the company eventually expects to open several restaurants in the region, opening first in Carrollwood in September made good business sense, says Harold Phillips, local operating partner for the restaurant.  

“Carrollwood is an established community with a diverse, fairly affluent residential base and a significant number of homes are within a five mile radius of our location,” says Phillips.

The restaurant will be located in the Village Center (13164 N Dale Mabry Highway), a high-traffic area that has seen substantial investment in the last few years.  

In 2014, the shopping and dining destination completed a multi-million dollar renovation project that resulted in an updated courtyard, a reconfigured entryway and a major remodel for anchor tenants, including an expanded, 49,000-square-foot Publix grocery store.

Marlow’s Tavern opened its first location in Alpharetta, GA, in 2014 and now has restaurants throughout Georgia, as well as locations in Orlando and Winter Park.

In an industry known for its high turnover – the average restaurant has a 100-to-150 percent annual turnover – Marlow’s Tavern has been averaging 18-to-20 percent, perhaps attributed to the company’s rigorous employee screening process.

“We’re looking for people who fit with our culture, what we call Marlow’s Magic,” says Phillips. “It’s a set of principles, beliefs and promises we make to our stakeholders, which includes everyone from our guests to vendors, the neighborhood and our employees.” 

Sixty-two employees were hired for the new Carrollwood restaurant from an initial applicant pool of nearly 1,000 online applicants, says Phillips. Personality tests, an interview with the management team, pre-orientation and then a two-week training program are all part of the hiring process.

Caution: Flashing yellow left-turn arrows light up more Tampa Bay intersections

Florida motorists still getting used to flashing yellow left-turn signals, are seeing more of them at intersections throughout the Tampa Bay area. The signals have become increasingly common along major roadways, such as State Road 60 in Clearwater, Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa and State Road 54 in Pasco County. 

The flashing left-turn arrows started appearing across the United States several years ago and caught on quickly as innovative devices to improve traffic flow. The first one was installed locally at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and Belcher Road in Palm Harbor in November 2009. 

“Since then, the use [of these signals] has been implemented at state and local intersections throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties,” says Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Kristen Carson. 

In some respects, the distinctive-looking, four-lens traffic signals generally function in much the same way as the more widely recognized three-lens traffic signals; a green arrow provides a protected left turn; a red arrow tells drivers to stop. It’s the blinking yellow arrows that sometimes confuse drivers.

The flashing yellow arrows (actually an amber color) indicates that motorists in the left-turn lane are permitted to cautiously make left turns, but they must yield to oncoming traffic. 

A solid yellow left-turn light signifies that a red light is about to illuminate and therefore motorists should prepare to stop if they have not yet proceeded into the intersection. 

The flashing yellow lights have been replacing a common five-lens traffic signal widely referred to as a “doghouse” signal. Doghouse signals, featuring a clustered arrangement of four lenses topped with a single red light, provide drivers with a green left-turn arrow for a short time; once the protected green left-turn light disappears on the doghouse signal, a solid, circular green light indicates motorists should yield to oncoming traffic before making left turns. 

“Research from the Federal Highway Administration found that the flashing yellow arrow made significant improvements to left-turn safety compared with the circular green signal,” Carson reports. 

There are currently about 90 intersections in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties with the flashing yellow left-turn signals. More are on the way.

“The department has received positive feedback from citizens with continued requests for locations, on a case-by-case basis, to be modified with the flashing yellow arrows installed.”
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