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Co-ops to help homeowners save money on rooftop solar panels

Tampa Bay Area property owners have yet another incentive to go solar: the solar co-op. By banding together to buy rooftop solar systems, landowners can save up to 20 percent.

“We’re hoping that we get more than 100 signed up that would be interested in pursuing rooftop solar,” says Dr. Rick Garrity, a Volunteer Coordinator with Hillsborough League of Women Voters, a partner in the co-op project.

The nonprofit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods is collaborating with the League of Women Voters, Hillsborough County, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County and others to spread the word about co-ops. It held a meeting at the University of South Florida in Tampa September 25 to explain more about the opportunity to purchase discounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“There’s never been a better time to go solar. Prices came down 65 percent in the last five years,” explains Garrity, who retired two years ago as Director of the county’s Environmental Protection Commission. “You get a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, right off the income tax bill.”

Here’s how the program works. When about 40 sign up, Florida Sun puts out the specifications to vendors, who submit bids. “Florida Sun will then evaluate the bids, rank them and provide that ranking to the homeowners,” he explains.

Homeowners form a committee that decides which installer to use.

Members of the co-op don’t need to live in the same neighborhood, but they need to live in the designated city or county. The co-op remains open for about three months to sign up any additional members.

Folks who are interested in going solar can sign up at the Florida Sun website, without obligating themselves to buy a system. They also can RSVP for area information meetings at the website.

Three informational meetings are scheduled in Hillsborough County, the first one from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, October 9, at South Shore Regional Library, Community Rooms 1 and 2, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin. Additional meetings are planned from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 8, at Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library, Community Rooms C and D, 2902 West Bearss Ave., Tampa; and from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 5, at Seminole Heights Branch Library, Community Rooms A and B, 4711 Central Ave., Tampa.

Pinellas County residents living north of State Road 60 can also sign up for a co-op. Informational meetings are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, at the Clearwater Library, 100 North Osceola Ave.; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 9, at the Tarpon City Government Office, 324 East Pine St.; and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, December 4, at the Safety Harbor Library, 101 2nd St. N.

A home solar system can cut your monthly power bill to $5 a month, but reducing the carbon footprint is important too, Garrity says.

“You’re doing your own little bit to decrease the amount of fossil fuels that are being burned,” he says.


Checkers rolls out new look, expands in Tampa Bay Area in new year

Shaji Joseph is a man of firsts. He owns the oldest Checkers in Tampa and the first Checkers in a Walmart in the Tampa area, which is in Oldsmar. Now he is now making plans to open the first updated modular Checkers in Tampa.
 
For all appearances, this Indian immigrant is living the American dream. “I am so proud and happy to cherish what this great nation has offered me and my family,” the 46-year-old entrepreneur says. “[I] will forever be in debt to this great organization [Checkers] that believed in me and gave me such an awesome avenue.” 
 
Joseph attended business school in India, then became an assistant manager for Checkers in Pennsylvania. Fast forward 19 years, and Joseph owns eight franchises, with a commitment to build five more. His eighth location, in Spring Hill, is scheduled to open this month. The modular restaurant on Busch Boulevard is slated to open in the second quarter of 2017.
 
“I hit the ground running. I never stop. I never look back. I just keep going,” he says.
 
Formerly the corporation’s Director of Operations, Joseph is excited about the new design options, which enables him to save money and time. Each restaurant with a new modular design costs approximately $250,000 to build, which is $100,000 less than the traditional option.
 
The new modular restaurant features structural steel, which enhances sturdiness. It will have one instead of two drive-thru lanes plus a covered, outdoor seating area and a walk-up window.
 
His new Busch Boulevard location, which is currently awaiting city approval, is right by his franchise office, Wow Burgers LLC.
 
The new restaurants will incorporate the company’s traditional red, black and white colors. “There’s a lot of excitement and how it’s convenient,” he says. “We’re not losing our charm.”
 
Joseph’s Busch Boulevard location will be one of more than 50 in the nation with the Tampa-based Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants' updated designs. The new design is rolling out in key markets in Tampa, South Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Columbus and Houston.
 
Its Model 4.0 design gives franchise holders three options: traditional, modular and hybrid.
 
Jennifer Durham, Checkers & Rally’s Senior VP, says both the modular and hybrid designs are built offsite and feature structural steel. The hybrid design includes structural steel recycled from shipping boxes from overseas.
 
“It’s actually cheaper for manufacturers overseas to leave them behind than to ship them back empty,” Durham says. “We’re working through a third party to acquire the used shipping containers and remanufacture them into our buildings.”
 
Reusing the boxes isn’t quite as cost effective as she initially thought. “The more people that go after them, the price goes up,” she explains. “We weren’t the first or the last one to think of this design concept.”
 
She became interested in the concept after reading about them in architectural and design magazines. “To me, it was worth exploring. Given the size of our restaurant, its seemed like there was a natural fit,” she says.
 
With transport costs at $10 to $15 a mile for the pre-fabricated buildings, Checkers & Rally’s is considering multiple manufacturers across the country. It has more than 840 locations in the United States, and more than 250 more in the works.

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.

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.

Test your sleuthing skills in The Great Escape Room

It's elementary, dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick would fit right in at a new entertainment space in downtown Tampa.

Inside The Great Escape Room, mysteries abound as teams of up to 12 “detectives” participate in a timed adventure to escape a locked space, solving riddles along the way.

Part scavenger hunt, part puzzle, the real-life room escape game is based on similar computer and mobile application-based games. Some puzzles involve strength in mathematics, some strategy, and others organizational skills. All are equally important for solving the room's challenges -- and escaping -- in under 60 minutes.

In February 2015, reporter and social media personality Meredyth Censullo joined a small group of Tampa Bay area bloggers and social media users for an early preview of The Great Escape Room, which she says is “unlike any other entertainment experience I've ever had -- and I'm all about trying new things!”

Tampa's version of the Great Escape Room is located in the heart of downtown, just upstairs from Taco Bus and Crumb and Cork on a busy block in easy walking distance from the Tampa Riverwalk, Tampa Theatre, and other downtown attractions restaurants, cafes, and The Vault event space.

The first Great Escape Room location opened in Orlando in May 2014, quickly followed by branches in Miami, Royal Oak (MI), and a soon-to-come Washington D.C. destination.

During their visit to The Great Escape Room, Censullo's teammates initially worked together to find clues, and then “generally gravitated toward working on the individual challenges and puzzles that suited their skills best,” she explains.  

Many “detectives” don’t solve the room’s riddles in time, but Censullo’s team of eight outwitted their competitors by a few minutes, escaping the room in 44 minutes and 29 seconds.

And if the challenge proves impossible –- or you simply get stuck? There is a little help available in the form of a representative who remains in the room during the detective game and can trade hints for clues hidden within the space.

“I love that Tampa is bringing new, fresh ideas to the city,” Censullo says. “Overall, the experience was a lot of fun -- there was a ton of laughing, which always makes for a great time.”

The blogger outing to The Great Escape Room was organized by Never Have I Ever Tampa, a trio who run a website dedicated to exploring local events, activities, and Tampa Bay area destinations, from dining to detective work (read more about NHIE Tampa in an 83 Degrees feature).

While there is no minimum number of attendees required to participate, heading to The Great Escape Room with familiar faces can make it even more enjoyable, Censullo says. The space’s website recommends visiting for parties or team-building sessions.

“I would definitely recommend that others try it,” Censullo says. “This would be a group date night out.”
 
You don’t have to leave junior detectives at home, either; the Great Escape Room is suitable for anyone over 12 years of age.

“I think kids would love searching for clues, and older kids likely could solve the puzzles,” Censullo says.

The Great Escape Room in Tampa opened Thursday, Feb. 26, at 300 E Madison St, Ste. 301. The cost is $28 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Incubator Brings Coworking Space To Bradenton

A new “innovation center” for entrepreneurs and small business owners is unofficially open in Bradenton. 

Collaborative coworking, along with an incubation program to provide formal education and mentoring for client companies, is the focus of the space. The Innovation Center will also house a cafe, training areas, open workspaces, and several dedicated workstations for regular visitors. Offices for incubator clients are currently being built out. 

The space may be rebranded from Bradenton Innovation Center in the future, but “we know that the name of the incubator lies in the history of the firehouse and area of town we're located in -- the historic Village of Manatee, now part of the City of Bradenton,” explains cofounder Stan Schulte.

Bike racks, lockers, mail facilities and free parking in a historic downtown setting round out the amenities that will be offered to community members.

Fundraising and architectural renovations are currently underway. Applications for client companies will be accepted in late fall 2014, and programs should begin in early 2015.

Currently, meetings are being held with community supporters and potential partners for the Bradenton Innovation Center, says Schulte.

The incubator will be organized as a 501(c)3, Schulte explains. “The building is city-owned, and support will come from both the city and county,” he says. “Grants and sponsorships will be utilized for build-out and programs, but the majority of sustainable funding will come from coworking memberships, office rentals and incubator program fees.“ 

In order to qualify for the incubator program, companies will have to complete an application process along with a prerequisite 4-week Excellence in Entrepreneurship course. 

They will be evaluated quarterly for suitability to the program based on growth and meeting plan objectives, says Schulte. Mentors and partner businesses in the community will also have to apply.

Goals of the incubator include creating “sustainable, knowledge-based, high wage jobs that will stay in the local area, and to help to mitigate the “brain drain” from local universities & companies,” says Schulte. 
 
The programs at the Innovation center will be geared toward companies that have already launched and are seeking sustainable, rapid expansion. 

“There will not initially be any lab or industrial space available, so it will be most suitable to knowledge-based companies not needing specialized facilities,” says Schulte.

“It will serve as a catalyst for development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem for creation of new companies in high-growth strategic industry sectors,” he explains.

“Communities today need innovative companies and strong entrepreneurial networks to link and leverage assets to boost productivity and convert 21st Century brainpower into wealth through innovation.”

Schulte and Sara Hand, founder of SP Hand and Associates, are cofounders of Spark Growth in Sarasota and jointly back the BIC project.

The Bradenton Innovation Center is located at 912 7th Ave. E. Photos of progress can be found on the center’s Facebook page.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Stan Schulte, Bradenton Innovation Center

Streamsong Resort Opens, 300 New Jobs In Polk County

Streamsong Resort, a nature-based destination golf resort, will open its main lodge and amenities for business this Saturday, creating more than 300 administrative, sales, marketing, maintenance, technical and culinary jobs in the process.

Streamsong, a creation of Mosaic and touted as "a feast for the senses, a haven for the soul," sits on 16,000 acres of land and features 228 guest rounds, four restaurants, a spa, a lakeside pool, 18,000 square feet of conference space, guided bass fishing, and a host of personal enrichment opportunities.

The golf course and clubhouse opened in January 2013.

The resort was built on reclaimed phosphate mines, previously used in the 1960s. The design re-creates a golfing experience reminiscent of golf venues such as the Links courses in Scotland and the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

Mosaic additionally wants to show what can be done on previously mined land -- something that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

"It was intended to be an alternative to the typical Florida resort experience. It’s an immersion into natural Florida. No pollution, no traffic, no lines," says Dave Townsend, spokesman. for Mosaic.

Mosaic, the seventh-largest land owner in Florida with 250,000 acres, conceptualized development of the property as much more than a new local resort and conference destination.

"We saw a need for something like this in the area, but we also saw a unique opportunity associated with the setting," says Townsend.

The new development allowed Mosaic to work closely and collaboratively with nearby communities to create new jobs in Polk County and create new business opportunities for local businesses that provide goods and services to the resort.

The project also is expected to increase tourism and generate additional tax dollars by bringing more business and luxury travelers into the Tampa Bay region and central Florida.

"This is cohesively supplementary to what Tampa offers," says Richard Mogensen, Streamson's general manager.

For more information on Streamsong Resort and job opportunities, visit them online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Dave Townsend, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC; Richard Mogensen, Streamsong

USF Entrepreneurship Alumni Crowdfund Youth Community Center

Alumni from USF are on a mission to “Turn on the Lights” at the yet to be opened Youth Development Center in Tampa Heights.

The USF Alumni Society of Entrepreneurs, an organization of Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship and Applied Technologies graduates from USF, has developed Tampa Heights Unite. The project is using the crowd funding platform Indiegogo to raise funds for lighting a the new youth community center. Donors can contribute any amount toward their goal of $5,000, which they hope to raise by December 31.

The center is a project of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, a community-based nonprofit that provides leadership and civic development for youth in Tampa Heights through mentoring and support. The group is renovating an abandoned church at 2005 N. Lamar Ave., built in 1905, to turn it into a thriving, inviting place for at-risk youth and families.

"I walked into the church and could see the vision they had for the center," says Mit Patel, USF Masters in Entrepreneurship graduate and board member for the Tampa Heights Civic Association. "I fell in love with the project."

Patel’s company, MIT Computers is donating a computer lab, and Columbia Restaurant Group is providing a kitchen.

"We’re getting a lot of support from the community," says Patel. "It’s really a community-based, grassroots movement."

The renovation is part of a larger project, which includes a community garden, entrepreneurial garden club and playground that are already in existence.

The 9,055-square-foot center will include a Learning Center, Teen Center, Center for Creativity and rental space for meetings and events. Programs to be offered include: leadership skills, business and entrepreneurship, financial literacy, workforce preparation and technology training.

Completion of the renovation is expected for summer 2014.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mit Patel, USF Alumni Society of Entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xByte Technologies Adds New Location, Jobs

Sarasota-based xByte Technologies nearly tripled its physical space recently with the purchase of a new 30,000-square-foot facility in south Manatee County.

The company refurbishes and resells IT equipment, specializing in servers, storage components and networking equipment. They relocated to Tampa Bay in 2006, seeking a great living environment for employees.

They currently work mostly with Dell, HP and IBM computers. The new facility will allow them to expand their offerings to include Cisco products as well as expand their server manufacturing lines. In addition to hardware, the company will also be adding services component to its business model, including leasing, hosting and short-term equipment rentals.

The company participates in the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) jobs incentives program to help identify qualified candidates.  

"The community involvement with organizations like the Bradenton Area EDC has been tremendously helpful for us to get our name out there," says Stephen Jaynes, COO for xByte Technologies, noting that the recognition they receive locally helps them attract good candidates and support their growth.

The expansion will bring about 10 to 20 new positions within the next year, adding to the current employee base of 32. Positions will be sales, administrative and IT technicians.

The company was recently honored in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Florida Fast 100 privately held companies. "It’s big news for us, something we’re very excited about," says Jaynes. The award reflects revenues, job growth and community involvement.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Stephen Jaynes, xByte Technologies

CGHJ Architects Grows, Adds 4+ Jobs In Tampa

For more than 30 years, Curts Gaines Hall Jones Architects, Inc. has built and followed a value system of innovation and trust relationships among staff and clients. The company is now experiencing significant market growth and is adding new architects to its 11-member team.

Between 2007 and 2009, private sector development of multifamily and high-end condominiums began to slip away -- hit hard during the economic climate shift -- significantly swaying the architectural and development community and forcing CGHJ to reduce the size of its staff of 55 team members by nearly 90 percent.

"That market practically disappeared, but that’s a market we see coming back strongly. Things are changing." says Bob Hall, Executive VP of CGHJ.

By Christmas 2012, new projects began to emerge and existing projects began further developments, indicating positive change and the call for additional team members. The firm has more than doubled its staff size in recent months.

"The beginning of 2013 was when the doors started to open. By the end of the first quarter, we started looking at each other realizing that the light of the end of the tunnel was getting brighter and it seemed like it was going to stay lit. All we’ve had since then has been more indication of that," says Hall.

CGHJ attributes much of the market growth to the resurgence and community interest in urban living. Developers and residents alike are moving to pre-recession lifestyle habits, seeking out properties that place them in the heart of the city.

"It’s happening in St. Petersburg very strongly and happening in Tampa more, where people are moving out of the suburbs and close to the city core. That’s a very exciting type of project," says Gerry Curts, President & CEO.

As the firm continues to identify additional market opportunities, staff will be added to accommodate project needs.

"We have a terrific staff of seasoned, experienced architects that are coming back on board. We focus on doing things right, and have a great reputation as a result," says Hall.

For additional information on hiring opportunities, visit CGHJ online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Gerry Curts and Bob Hall, CGHJ Architects, Inc.

Tampa Convention Center Increases Green Efforts, Saves Money

The Tampa Convention Center (TCC) recently joined over 15,000 organizations (49 in Tampa) to become an ENERGY STAR PARTNER, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that encourages companies to use energy efficient practices. Among other things, the partnership encourages companies to improve their energy efficiency by 10 percent or more.
 
"Our facility decided that we wanted to do a better job of being a good partner, not only in the community but also to the environment," says Eric Blanc, director of sales, marketing and convention services for TCC.

During the last year, TCC staff looked at ways to make the 23-year old building more efficient. They started by moving from a standard method of observing energy usage after the fact to a new system that allows them to monitor the electricity used on a real time basis. This allowed internal programs and controls to be put in place to help control electrical usage, such as only running air conditioning in areas that are occupied and decreasing use of escalators when they are not being used. Overall, these efforts led to a 10% decrease in electrical costs over the last six months.

TCC also has an agreement with TECO that allows them to buy back electricity during peak periods, diverting power they would be using to other areas of demand. Additionally, they underwent a $1 million project to retrofit the lighting system in the exhibit hall, using a federal grant to replace outdated lighting with high efficiency LEDs.

They are also active in recycling, going beyond the traditional plastic, paper and aluminum. For example, shows that use building products donate leftover supplies to local charities such as Habitat for Humanity. They also donate extra convention supplies such as pens, tote bags and books to Teaching Tools for Hillsborough Schools, which provides these supplies to public school teachers for use in the classroom.

The ENERGY STAR partnership is one step in TCC’s long-term efforts to become a LEAD certified facility.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Eric Blanc, Tampa Convention Center
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