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Neighborhoods : Innovation + Job News

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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.


QDI to move to Channel District, downtown Tampa

Fifteen years ago it was only a vision. Today, there is a truly walkable retail neighborhood in Tampa’s Channel District, with restaurants, a hair salon, dry cleaners, pub and Grand Central at Kennedy condominiums.

Now Quality Distribution Inc. has signed a new 10-year lease at the $145 million mixed used development at Kennedy Boulevard and Meridian Avenue. It is expected to move in Sept. 1 and relocate about 250 employees to the location.

“It’s certainly the largest office deal in the market this year,” says Ken Stoltenberg, co-director of Mercury Advisors, developer of the project.

QDI, a global supplier of liquid bulk transportation, logistics and depot services, signed a lease for 45,000 square foot on the ground floor of the development that includes condominiums and retail. A 38,000-square-foot Publix Super Market, now under construction adjacent to Grand Central, is slated to open in the last quarter of 2018.

“Our hope is to be a catalyst for other companies to consider relocating here,” Stoltenberg says.

He called the new lease for 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd. a “stamp of validation” for the area. “We only have 11 condos units left to sell,” he adds.

QDI, which will relocate from 4041 Park Oaks Blvd. near Brandon, provides services to many Fortune 500 companies, including Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical Company and PPG Industries.

The buildout for its new headquarters is being financed by Bank of the Ozarks.

There remains just under 40,000 square feet to lease at Grand Central and “several tenants interested,” says Stoltenberg, who is partnering with Frank Bombeeck.

Grand Central’s East and West buildings were constructed in 2007, but the west unit didn’t sell out before the 2008 recession. The property received approval last year for 3- to 5-percent financing rates through the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, as long as buyers would make units their primary residence.

Mercury Advisors is developing Channel Club with a 22-story residential highrise at 1105 E. Twiggs St.


Tampa Bay Area cities, counties offer summer jobs for teens

The city of Tampa is looking to hire 36 teens to spruce up East Tampa neighborhoods. The Grounds Maintenance Interns will mow, edge, trim and pick up trash. Safety training is included.

We have had many applications with a great response. All applicants must be enrolled in the Hillsborough County School System and reside within the boundaries of East Tampa: Hillsborough Avenue to the north, I-4 to the south, 56th Street to the east and I-275 to west,” says Jerry Williams, the city’s District Supervisor.

Applicants also must be 16- to 18-years-old and be able to pass background tests and drug screens.

Applications are being accepted online through April 7. The jobs through the Summer Youth Program run from June 5 through July 28, with pay at $8.10 an hour.

According to the city’s online solicitation, youths will be trained on how to use hand tools and motorized line trimmers, edgers, blowers and lawn mowers.

Other government agencies in the Tampa Bay also have summer-related jobs openings posted online, often related to recreation. They include Temple TerracePlant City, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakeland

More opportunities for students exist beyond the traditional fast-food jobs.

“Malls, small- to medium-sized retail businesses, family-owned restaurants, Recreation Centers, Summer Camps, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island -- all offer very flexible, part-time opportunities into the summer and beyond,” says Jason Druding, Special Projects Coordinator with CareerSource Tampa Bay and Pinellas. 

As the summer approaches, students may want to attend a job fair, network and build up their resumes.

“Each [work] experience adds value to your resume, can enhance your skills, and also add new perspective as you grow within your career,” Druding explains. “With each job you take on, whether it be flipping burgers, mopping floors, or stocking shelves, make sure you always put your best foot forward, and excel in every aspect of your work-it will always carry forward.”

When a young person is short on experience, they need to “showcase their personality” and “can-do attitude,” he advises.

“Any references related to character, letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or other influential community members will be very beneficial,” Druding adds.


Mobile app helps property owners find repair services

Imagine your toilet is overflowing and you call a repair service only to learn no one can come out for a couple of days. Or temperatures are 90+ degrees and your air conditioner quits running. You have to pay extra if you want someone the same day, if anyone is available at all.

A Tampa-based fix-it company, Homee on Demand, was created to help out in times like these. It maps subcontractors in your area who can arrive quickly, usually within 30 minutes around the clock.

“Pricing is usually 30 percent better than you’ll get going direct to the individual company,” says Doug Schaedler, Co-founder and CEO.  “You can select who you would like to come.”

Homee does repairs and remodeling on homes, condominiums, apartments and commercial establishments.

Homee Founders Schaedler and business colleague Dave Theus, Chief Technology Officer, have discovered people like to use the service even for non-emergency situations. About 60 percent are looking for a handyman primarily for “non-urgent work,” Schaedler says.

Homee’s app lets property owners and managers connect with repair workers on demand through their Smartphones or tablets. “It’s meant to be a mobile platform,” Schaedler says. “It automatically identifies your location.”

Users download the app at the Apple or Google Play stores, connecting with 350 repair services in the Tampa Bay region. They can find plumbers, electricians, handymen, and heating/venting/air conditioning repair service providers.

Nearly 20,000 people already have installed the app and can access more than 1,000 total subcontractors in the Homee network.

Homee serves the Tampa Bay region, in the north up to Inverness, in the south to Sarasota, in the east to Lakeland and the west to the Gulf of Mexico. It also services Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville. In January, it began serving Cincinnati as well.

“Our plan is begin the national rollout here in the next few months, and do an additional 12 to 15 cities by the end of this year,” Schaedler says.

The company has raised $1.35 million in capital.

Theus and Schaedler got the idea for the app after experiencing problems getting home repairs themselves. Homee launched the app last summer and, as the licensed general contractor, screens and signs up subcontractors.

Homee, which offers work to subcontractors during idle time, is able to set discount pricing, Schaedler says.

“Every month we’ve been doubling both the number of transactions and the number of users,” he says.

Homee on Demand currently is hiring for a variety of positions. “We’re doing a lot of hiring especially here in Tampa which is our headquarters,” Schaedler adds.

He expects to double the staff of 15, adding tech savvy individuals for positions like VP of marketing and marketing managers. Other jobs are in software development or involve staff interaction with subcontractors.

“We just brought on an additional three people,” he says.

Wages are negotiated but, in general, will be “above local Tampa wages,” he says.

“We think it [Homee] is a unique thing for Tampa. We’re really pleased with the progress so far,” he says.


Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay are hiring at locations in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The organization is looking for helpers for its Summer Day Camp as well as its year-round after-school programs.
 
“We’ve starting the process, coordinating the number of hires we’ll actually need [for the summer],” says Sandra Kay-Weaver, VP of Talent. “Ideally we’d like to have everyone on board by the end of May, and in our training.”
 
The organization usually brings on 50-70 staffers to oversee camp programs; experience in childcare is not mandatory. “It’s very helpful if they have experience working with children in groups,” she says.
 
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. The camp positions’ pay averages $8.75 to $15 an hour depending on job experience, Kay-Weaver says. Some positions are fulltime and some are part-time, depending on the club’s need. “Hopefully they [the applicants] are engaging, fun,” she says.
 
Part-time positions are available year-round for the after-school program. “We are always recruiting for a pipeline of part-time positions,” Kay-Weaver says.
 
Cassandra Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications, says there usually are more part-time positions than full. “One of the biggest areas we seem to have trouble filling is bus drivers,” she adds.
 
Because staff interacts with children, screening is rigorous. “We do very meticulous drug screening, background checks,” says Thomas, “and it does include people working on the administrative side as well. We tend to go into the clubs too.”
 
At Bethune Park in Wimauma, Club Director Ronneka Peacock says the need for after-school program specialists is immediate. “My club absolutely needs people right now,” she says.
 
She prefers people with some kind of childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting. “I’m looking for staff and are able to have fun and still have the kids respect them and listen to them,” she says.
 
Those who are interested in applying for jobs at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay can begin the process online. Information is available on internships and volunteer opportunities as well. Candidates also can check the club locations and pick up an application on-site.
 
The organization has a full-time staff of about 40 to 50, who work at the administrative offices or the clubs. These positions do open up periodically. “It’s always a great idea if they have Boys and Girls Clubs in their background,” Kay-Weaver says. “We want people who are dedicated to our mission.”

Restaurateur encourages patrons to skip the straw

Drinking straws are standard fare at most restaurants. Whenever we order a cold beverage, it usually comes with a straw, and we use it to slurp our water, teas or sodas in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, the straws end up littering our beaches and landfills.
 
“We see those [straws] out on the beach everywhere, those and cracker wrappers,” says Ed Chiles, owner of Chiles Restaurant Group.
 
So Chiles decided to do something about it. He has quit serving “old-style,” non-biodegradable plastic beverage straws.
 
“If they want a straw they’re going to get a straw. We’ve got a good [biodegradable] backup,” says Chiles, who owns Ana Maria’s Sandbar, Bradenton Beach’s Beach House and Longboat Key’s Mar Vista Dockside restaurants.
 
Chiles is partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy to educate the public about the single-use plastic straws and protect our oceans. According to the Conservancy, straws are one of the top 10 items collected during cleanups.
 
Chiles’ campaign includes green messages encouraging customers to “Skip the Straw.”  So far, it has been working.
 
“I think it has gone very well overall. I think people understand. At first, there’s that little pause. They think about it and they get it,” Chiles says.
 
His servers are on board. “Our people have embraced it. If your servers aren’t behind it, you’ve got a problem,” he explains.
 
Chiles calls removing the plastic beverage straw “one small step.” He’s already ditched plastic cups and individually wrapped crackers, opting for glasses and sleeves of crackers. Plans include a complete line of eco-friendly “to go” containers and reusable packing crates.
 
He has gardens to grow their own herbs and spices. “The kitchen guys go out and work it,” says Chiles, an honorary faculty member of the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability. “We are all about local sustainable.”
 
Although his menus feature seafood, you also may find wild boar, considered an invasive species. “We take lemons and make limoncello,” he quips. “People think they [wild boars] are not any good, but they’re wrong. It’s fabulous. It’s one of my favorite meats.”
 
Even his parking lots are environmentally friendly. For the last decade, he has been a leader in pervious or porous parking lots, setting an example about how to deal with stormwater on commercial properties.
 
Chiles isn’t stopping with the beverage straw. Now he’s looking for a bio-degradable cocktail straw.

HART begins innovative rideshare program in Tampa

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority wants to meet you where you are. Its new HyperLINK system, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows customers to book a ride -- with a smartphone app -- to and from bus stops in designated areas.
 
“Transit is really effective at taking people down dense corridors. There’s no more efficient way to move people,” explains Sean Quigley, Project Manager for HyperLINK. “Transit isn’t very good at getting you from your door to your door, from one specific address to another.”
 
HyperLINK aims to change that with a new app, which allows customers to arrange service on demand through their Apple and Android phones. Apps can be downloaded at the iTunes store or Google Play online.
 
HART has contracted the services from Transdev, a Chicago area private-sector transit provider that created the HyperLINK platform.
 
“We're developed this as a first mile, last mile [service],” says Quigley, Transdev’s Business Development Manager. “ We’re looking at doing the same platform in Denver, New Orleans, Nassau County, NY, San Diego.”
 
 They would like to grow the service all over the country.
 
“The unique component with this is there is an app to it,” explains Sandra Morrison, HART’s Public Information Officer. “The fact that there’s this app connected with this service hasn’t been done anywhere else. Hopefully this will catch on.”
 
Apps are free. Alternatively, riders can book by calling 813-298-0455. 
 
Service is currently available within a three-mile radius north of University Area Transit Center at 13110 N. 27th St. (near Veterans Hospital) and north and south of Carrollwood at 10108 W. Fletcher Avenue (where Fletcher intersects with Dale Mabry Highway). There is no HyperLINK service to the University of South Florida south of Fletcher. Vehicles with wheelchair access are available.
 
Service at Brandon Mall and Brandon Hospital is anticipated in mid- to late December.
 
HART is funding the project through a $200,000 Florida of Department of Transportation grant, provided over two years, Morrison says.
 
“We’re hoping and seeking to extend the footprint ... that HART has in the community,” she says. “It exposes them to the transit system. They’ll be able to try it and hopefully like it.”
 
HyperLINK passengers receive five free rides with a promotional code available on social media or through HART literature. Then the cost is $3 per ride; riders can pay by cash or credit. For more details as the service expands, call customer service at 813-254-4278 or visit ww.gohart.org.
 
“Anytime the HART buses are running, we are running too,” Quigley says.
 
 They are hoping to serve 60,000 riders in the first year. The service may create 200 driving jobs during the next two years, he adds.
 
“The idea here is to create a service that is personalized,” Quigley explains. “You can still take the bus. You can get that really cheap fare. ... You don’t have to walk half a mile in the baking heat or in the rain.”

USF's mobile Alzheimer's unit brings trials, medications to community

An innovative service from USF Health will bring help to those suffering from memory loss in their own neighborhoods.

The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Mobile Research Suite is a clinic on wheels that is able to bring clinical trials and medications to those showing signs of the deadly disease. The idea behind the concept came after researchers discovered the need for outreach to the community.

“The mobile unit idea stemmed from our knowledge that it can take years and millions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies to recruit subjects into clinical trials, and to get new drugs approved for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease," says Dr. Amanda Smith, Medical Director at USF Health. “Part of the reason is that many people do not live near centers that are conducting the trials. By bringing research trials to their communities and making it convenient for them to participate, we can fill studies faster with the ultimate goal of bringing new treatments to the market sooner.”

The mobile service, which started in August, goes into neighborhoods around the region.

“We have visited The Villages and St. Petersburg, with plans to bring it to New Port Richey, Sun City Center, Bradenton, Clearwater, Lakeland, and beyond.”

There is no charge to participants, and they do not need an appointment to be seen. If a patient does show signs of Alzheimer's Disease, they can enroll in trials for new medications.

“We are currently using the mobile unit to screen people in the community for memory problems, whom we can then refer for further evaluation,” Smith says. “More importantly, we are using it to recruit subjects for participation in clinical trials so ultimately we can bring new treatments to market sooner.”

For more information, visit USF Health.

New Pinellas housing partnership launches Get Ready program

The Pinellas County Housing Authority and Habitat For Humanity of Pinellas County have partnered in an effort to streamline the many steps of buying and keeping a home.

Their collaborative new program, called “Get Ready,” aims to help aspiring first time homeowners by offering what they call “wrap around services” for people who know they’d like to own their home, but may be unaware of all the things that need to be in place to make those dreams come true. 

“People looking from afar don’t always know the ins and outs of home ownership,” says Debbie Johnson, Executive Director at the Housing Authority

The counseling provided by Habitat for Humanity will include training on the various aspects of what people need to think about when becoming first time homeowners, from personal finance management to cleaning up credit scores.

People will also be coached on practical things, like taking into account how many bedrooms and bathrooms they’ll need to accommodate their family, and then looking at how much money it will cost yearly to afford that home. 

The goal is to make sure home buyers are financially stable so they’re set up for success from the beginning. 

Once the training is completed, the PCHA will award participants first-time homebuyer certificates that can help them with their downpayment.

“Partnering with Habitat for Humanity was natural. They coordinate it all so well and they require sweat equity. They require commitment,” Johnson says. 

The first orientation for the “Get Ready” program was Sept. 22, and about 30 people came to the event. The following week Habitat For Humanity of Pinellas County had already received five applications.

“It was a great turn out. Just a huge amount of enthusiasm in the room. I think a lot of people are ready,” says Johnson. “I’m excited for the families to have an opportunity for someone to sit down and show them what to do. They can do it. I have full faith they can do it.” 

For more information about the “Get Ready” program, contact Candi Hagler, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas’s VP of Homeowner Services, at 727 678-3692.

How to design a street banner for Clearwater

As the city of Clearwater continues its redevelopment plans, it has put out a call to artists to design a banner that will run the length of Cleveland Street between North Lincoln Avenue and North Betty Lane, along the fence that borders a “thriving community garden.” The winning artist will be compensated with an honorarium of $500 for the design.  Artist proposals are due by Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. 

“Our mission is to revitalize the downtown area. So this particular project helps us fulfill our mission as it is beautifying a stretch of Cleveland Street that is right now lacking in any sort of visual interest,” says Seth Taylor, Director of the Community Redevelopment Agency. “We saw this as an opportunity to have a big impact on the streetscape.”

Public art is just one facet of the plans “to help lift up the community,” notes Taylor. 

“We are working with our engineering and planning department to improve the entire streetscape along Cleveland Street,” says Taylor. Among other things a “road diet” is planned -- reducing the current five lanes to three, incorporating bicycle lanes, pedestrian walkways, landscaping and horticulture as well as space for retail. Conceptual design is underway and Taylor hopes that after community presentations, construction will begin by late 2017.

“Bright and Beautiful • Bay to Beach” is the city of Clearwater’s new brand and tagline and thus the theme of the artwork. Artists are to submit designs that would be rendered to a scale of approximately 400 linear feet by about six feet tall (click here for specifics), connecting visually to the neighborhood and also to “what bright and beautiful means to them,” Taylor says. Artists are strongly encouraged to visit the site “to get a feel for the landscape of the neighborhood.” He says it is a terrific opportunity for artist’s work to be showcased in the public realm.

St. Pete ups prize to $50K for mural to entwine art, history

The City of St. Petersburg has put out a global call to artists for artwork that will serve as a replacement of a Works Progress Administration-era mural that once hung in City Hall and also as a reminder of the significant and fascinating piece of local history that brought it down. The budget for the approximately 7-by-10 foot piece, initially set at $10,000 has been increased to $50,000; submissions are due Oct. 3, 2016.

The call to artists states that “the art must respect the event(s) that caused the still vacant space where the mural once hung while honoring and celebrating the advances in civil rights and inclusivity in the city today.”

Wayne Altherholt, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of St. Petersburg, says the selection will be determined by the Project Committee, a diverse group made up of three members of the Public Arts Commission and six community members. Altherholt describes the group as “a driven committee” taking the project on “with the deepest respect and recognition of the past. They will spend hours and hours to figure out the best solution.”

The original mural by George Snow Hill, the artist perhaps best known locally today for his flight murals at Tampa International Airport, was commissioned in 1940, along with another that is still prominently in place along the grand staircase of City Hall.
 
The piece in question ostensibly illustrated a scene where white beachgoers enjoyed black musicians at the local beach Pass-a-Grille. Viewed through a modern lens, though arguably obvious even in the era in which it was painted, it is not at all hard to understand why people found it offensive, particularly during the incendiary times at the start of the civil rights movement in the 1960s when African-Americans were still largely prohibited from even going to some beaches.
 
Joseph Waller, an African-American and then vice-chairman at the time of the state’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), had petitioned to have the mural removed for its derogatory and racist depictions of black people. The request was denied. In what was apparently a spontaneous moment of outrage during a subsequent march on City Hall, Waller tore the canvas down in 1966 and was jailed for more than two years on felony larceny charges. The wall has remained vacant ever since.
 
The call for public art is open to professional and student artists internationally; support on finding a mentor is available for those whose experience is more limited. Once selected, finalists will be asked to prepare a site-specific proposal, and will be paid $1,500 for their submissions at that time.
 
For specific details, please visit the City of St. Petersburg’s Cultural Affairs Department website.

Engineering firm in Tampa adding 5 new positions

An engineering firm in Tampa is gearing up to create five new jobs in the next year. 

VHB, an engineering science planning design firm, with an active footprint on Florida's Gulf coast since the early 1960s is opening up an office in downtown Tampa. Based out of Watertown, MA, the company has 23 offices along the Eastern seaboard. This will be the third office to open in Florida, with two others in Orlando and Sarasota. 

The new office in Tampa will focus on creating urban living spaces, increasing mobility and developing more sustainable communities in the region. Due to the area's increased interest in improving communities through urban living, the company saw a fit for its presence in the conversation. 

"A lot of the type of work we are doing, especially in the areas of transportation and environmental work, we feel we can do here to make an important impact on what is going on in the Tampa Bay region," says  Margaret Kubilins, Traffic Engineering Manager and Southeast Region Pedestrian and Bicycle Leader for VHB. 

She cites the upbeat and active climate, as well as the enthusiasm in the community for urban living as reasons why the company is expanding in Tampa. 

"It’s exciting to be in an area that is experiencing so much growth," she says. Kubilins and her team look forward to working on public projects, and have an interest in becoming part of many projects including Tampa's downtown, design of the west bank of the Hillsborough River and downtown St. Petersburg. The firm has worked on creating healthy, sustainable communities throughout Florida, including Parramore in Orlando. 

"The whole public environment component is really important," Kubilins says. "Looking beyond just land uses, but evaluating how communities can be healthier with safe paths for walking and biking, and ensuring quality food is accessible. All of this is part of what we look at when we plan communities."

To help with this effort, the firm will be adding at least five to its Tampa office headcount. Kubilins says the company will be recruiting an Environmental Scientist, a Water Specialist, and engineers.  She hopes to have all five positions filled by summer of next year. 

For more information on the company and its career opportunities, click here

Solar co-op arrives in St. Petersburg, Sunshine City

Residents of St. Peterburg are serious about solar energy.

The city is the first in the area to develop a solar co-op committed to drive the city of St. Petersburg to 100-percent renewable energy. The idea for the co-op came about from a partnership between the Suncoast Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg.

“We discovered that the League of Women Voters had been looking at developing a program like the East Orange co-op in Orlando, so we worked with the League and Community Power Network to bring a solar co-op program to St. Pete,” says Emily Gorman, Sierra Club 100% St. Pete Campaign Manager. “The St. Pete Solar Co-op is the first of its kind in the state as it is open to both home and business owners.”

Gorman says the co-op makes going solar easier and more affordable, with a payback period seen within 10 years of the system's 25-plus year lifetime. She cites East Orange co-op members who are saving more than $200 per month on their electricity costs.

Aside from the savings residents can see in their bills, Gorman states there is a larger economic byproduct of going solar.

“Solar installers are small, local companies. So, in addition to saving money on their own energy costs, solar panel owners stimulate local economy by keeping their dollars close to home.”

Those interested in learning more about the co-op are invited to attend an information session. The first session was held on July 28th at the Sunshine Center. There were approximately 80 people in attendance, with over 50 homeowners who registered with the co-op. Gorman says residents will still be able to sign up and join until December 2016.

For more information, visit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods.

NY luxury fitness company expands to Tampa, estimates 400 new jobs

A new gym may be popping up on a block near you, which may mean good things for Tampa Bay's health. Blink Fitness, which promotes the emotional benefits of working out as opposed to just the physical, plans to open up to 20 gyms in the area.

The company currently has over 50 locations open or in development in the New York metro market, and President of Blink Fitness, Todd Magazine, now has his sights set on Tampa.

“There’s an opportunity in the market to fill a need for a luxury fitness experience at an affordable price starting at $15 per month for a membership," Magazine says. "Given our focus on the emotional benefits of working out versus strictly the physical benefits of exercise, we have an opportunity to distinguish our brand in Tampa.”

Magazine goes on to explain how his company is unique in its approach to fitness. He cites the use of certain colors that he says scientifically have been proven to improve one's mood, and the selection of music for motivation.

“We have created empowerment campaigns for our members, such as 'Monday without Mirrors,' in which we cover all the mirrors in the gym to stress the importance of mood above muscle," he says. 

He expects this approach to fitness to change the fitness landscape in the Tampa Bay region by negating the theory that gyms are only for fit, beautiful people.

“At Blink, we believe that exercise isn’t just about looking good; it’s also about how it makes you feel," he says. "We hope to spread that idea within the Tampa area and empower residents to exercise to both feel and look good.”

With up to 20 gyms opening, Magazine says he anticipates his company will create up to 400 local jobs in addition to more than $20 million in local new business investments.

“Our franchising initiative in Tampa is just underway, and we are looking to award the opportunity to qualified individuals and groups who can open one or multiple locations throughout the region,” he says. “The types of locations where Blink Fitness will perform well include corporate and residential high-rises, strip malls and standalone buildings in both urban and suburban markets.”

Save the dates for upcoming Tampa Bay Area tech events

Want to get plugged into the Tampa Bay technology community? In the coming months, there are a plenty  of meetups, gatherings and events focused on technology and innovation.

83 Degrees has the scoop on where these tech-centric events are taking place and when, so get ready to mark your calendars because there is a lot happening in the Tampa Bay region.

Friday, June 24: HomeBrew Hillsborough
Tampa Bay WaVE-4th Floor
8:30 a.m.
500 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa
 
Homebrew Hillsborough is a monthly collaborative coffee networking group for techies and entrepreneurs. The group meets at different locations throughout Hillsborough County. In June, the group will have its monthly meeting at Tampa Bay WaVE. Known for helping startups, Tampa Bay WaVE, is an incubator accelerator that helps turn ideas into growing tech businesses.
 
Tuesday, June 28: StartUp Xchange
 
St. Pete Brewing Company
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
544 1st Avenue North, St. Petersburg
 
Presented by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, this monthly networking event helps entrepreneurs, innovators and mentors connect.
 
June 30: Ignite Tampa
 
The Cuban Club
6 p.m.-9 p.m.
2010 North Avenue Republica De Cuba, Ybor City
 
This annual event best known for its fast, entertaining pitches, allows speakers the opportunity to share 20 slides in five minutes or less. The object is to tech, enlighten or inspire the crowd with your presentation.
 
Ignite is a production of Technova Florida Inc., a Tampa nonprofit, which is dedicated to creating inclusive tech communities that empower positive change. This all volunteer organization also produces the popular, Barcamp in Tampa Bay.
 
Wednesday, July 13: Build Your Own Mobile App
 
USF Connect-Oak View Room
3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
 3802 Spectrum Boulevard, Tampa
 
Ever wanted to build your own app? Here is your chance. The event is presented by Chris Tanner, a patent and trademark attorney, as well as an entrepreneur himself. Using iBuildApp.com, this interactive seminar will help attendees learn how to create an app from scratch.
 
If attending, you must bring a device to build your app on and visit iBuildApp.com before the event to become familiar with the content. Knowledge of HTML is not required.  
 
Wednesday, September 7: Tampa Bay Technology Forum
 
Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront
8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
333 1st Street South, St. Petersburg
 
This half-day event connects Tampa Bay’s best and brightest in the tech arena. The day features a morning of discussions on the region’s top technologies and its impact on the world by Tampa Bay’s top technology thought leaders and innovators. There will also be a lunch panel moderated by Ryan Dorrell, Chief Solutions Officer at AgileThought, and plenty of networking opportunities.
 
Are you, or an organization you know, hosting a tech-oriented event in the Tampa Bay area in 2016? Email us to have your activity included in a future 83 Degrees newsletter. 
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