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Kobie Marketing in St. Petersburg grows, adds 55 jobs

Kobie Marketing is experiencing tremendous growth and as a result adding jobs in all departments.

The loyalty marketing firm will be 25 years old this coming April. Founded in St. Petersburg, Kobie Marketing helps companies bring customers closer to their brand and increase revenue through marketing programs. The company uses touch points and communication tools such as point of sale, email and social media to keep customers informed and engaged with the products and services they love. They also provide research, data analytics, brand management and creative services to support the loyalty marketing programs.  

The company’s growth has been trending for several years, going from 30 employees in 2007 to 138 today. 35 new hires were made in 2014, and 55 are expected in 2015. The company attributes its growth to new clients both nationally and globally, particularly those with large branding needs such as a recent partnership formed with Synchrony Financial. Other industries the company works with include consumer package goods, retail, entertainment and lifestyle.

Current open positions include: IT Developers, Project Managers, Account Managers, Senior Data Analyst, Director of Business Intelligence, Director of Loyalty Strategy, Loyalty Consultant, Email Specialist and Email Marketing Manager.

"It’s an amazing organization with huge potential for growth," says Selena McLaughlin, director of human resources and administration. "It’s small enough that it feels like a small company, and the impact that anybody has coming into the organization can be huge. You really do have a voice here."

Parts of The Invisible Man video web series shot in Tampa

Bathed in palm trees and scenic waterfront vistas, Tampa is not the typical spot used as a stand-in for a Rocky Mountains movie location.

But two independent filmmakers with ties to Hillsborough County made it work.

Sean Malone and Timothy Compton have recreated H.G. Wells’ classic novel “The Invisible Man’’ into a five-part web series set in present-day America. Produced by their company, Waterfoot Films, the web series was filmed in Tampa, North Carolina and Colorado over a 15-month period.

“We really couldn’t have done it without a couple of businesses that helped us out,” Malone says. “The Frontier Cattleman’s Steakhouse on Sligh Avenue near I-275 let us shoot our saloon scenes there. The other was Behind the Fence Bread and Breakfast in Brandon.

“Even though the series takes place in Colorado, we shot a good part of it in Tampa.”

The two former University of Miami film students hatched the idea to turn the classic story into a modern-day adaptation after watching the 1933 original movie about five years ago. But their creative collaborations date back years before then.

Malone and Compton both attended Florida College in Temple Terrace. Although they were on campus several years apart, it was that connection and a mutual interest in filmmaking that brought them together.

During Malone’s eight years in Tampa, he also taught at the University of Tampa. Compton, who lived here four years, earned his bachelor’s degree at UT.

Malone, 33, now lives in Los Angeles, and Compton, 30, calls Chicago home, but their long distance partnership has produced numerous award-winning short films.

They attributed much of the success of producing “The Invisible Man’’ to the supporters of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

“A lot of people who helped us out in Kickstarter was from Florida and particularly Tampa,” Malone says.

The creative duo reintroduced The Invisible Man as a cinematic work that reflect both men’s different approach to the genre. Malone emphasized the classic Hollywood feel. Compton saw the film as an intense thriller.

“Sean (Malone) is a very talented cinematographer, so the snowy Colorado vistas are gorgeous,” says Lucy Griggs of JL Art House Productions in Tampa. “He and Tim (Compton) write suspenseful, moving films that portray the struggle between self and other, power and belonging.”

The main character, Griffin, portrayed by actor Johnny Hightower of Tampa, is a creepy anti-hero with issues. The film leaves viewers to decide whether the mad scientist is just crazy or are his actions a result of the personal experimentation.

Following a special screening in Tampa in October, the web series now is available on YouTube and expected to be released on DVD by the beginning of the year.

Plant City native brings Christmas cheer in new movie

A new Christmas-theme movie set to debut December 18 at Tampa Theatre and on digital video devices features a Tampa Bay connection.

The film, “An Evergreen Christmas,’’ starring Plant City native Charleene Closshey, brings her home for the holidays.

“It means a lot to bring the film back to my home, where I grew up,” Closshey says. 

An Evergreen Christmas is loosely based on the family of Closshey’s fiancé, Jeremy Culver, who directed and co-wrote the story with his sister, Morgen Culver.

The Culvers’ grandfather owned a Christmas tree farm in Michigan before he died last year.

The heartwarming film celebrates the values and community support often found in small towns.

In “An Evergreen Christmas,’’ Closshey portrays Evie Lee, a young woman forced to put her glamorous Hollywood career on hold to return to her small Tennessee hometown when she learns about her father’s sudden death.

As the eldest sibling, Evie discovers she has been named the executor of the family’s once thriving Christmas tree farm, an estate now strapped with a massive inheritance tax, much to her younger brother’s dismay.

Evie faces a life-altering decision whether to save the family’s legacy or pursue her music career. Her decision would ultimately determine her place in the world.

“Life is about reaching goals and dreams, and community support is important to that happening,” Jeremy Culver says.

Closshey agrees: “My character is more like a rock until she realized she needed that community support,” says Closshey, who attended Harrison Performing Arts Center, a performing arts high school in Lakeland.
 
The movie’s colorful cast includes veteran actor Robert Loggia and country singer and actress Naomi Judd, who portray Evie’s paternal grandparents; and Tyler Ritter, son of the late actor John Ritter, plays Evie’s ex-boyfriend who has grown up but still holds romantic feelings for her.

A special screening of the dramedy will be at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa. Closshey, Jeremy Culver and Morgen Culver are scheduled to attend, make introductions and participate in an audience Q&A after the film.

Closshey, an accomplished violinist who also plays several other instruments, says a three-minute video of a song in the movie called “My Tennessee Home” will be shown at the screening. The music video, filmed at the Southern Barn in Lithia, features about 100 Plant City and Tampa area residents.
 
Supporting and promoting the film industry in Florida is important to Closshey. 

“It’s where I grew up, so I have a great love for the state and its people,” she says.
 
“An Evergreen Christmas’’ also is available at Walmart and on iTunes, Amazon, and it hits Netflix on Dec. 21.

Custom and disaster recovery software provider adds 3 jobs

A growing company that provides software for custom design and to assist with disaster recovery is adding project and developer positions.

Tampa-based Zenzio has two major areas of focus: custom software development meeting a variety of client needs, and disaster recovery for events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

The disaster recovery product is designed to assist private contractors who ultimately receive FEMA funds with operations and efficiency after a natural disaster. The software provides operational efficiencies and ensures safety and other protocol are met during tasks such as cleaning up debris, inspecting houses and keeping track of assets such as generators.

"We’re positioning ourselves as a technology provider to all of the players, all of the contractors who deal with a disaster clean-up," says Andrew Grubbs, founder and CEO, a serial tech entrepreneur who moved to Tampa from Washington in 1995.

The company was founded in 2011 as a different product all together that didn’t pan out, which led to the increase in custom software clients and eventually the disaster recovery product.

Zenzio is expanding its current team of six full-time workers and seven subcontractors with the addition of a Project Manager and two Microsoft Developers. The growth is the result of client’s expansion as well as the enhancement of the disaster recovery focus.  

Grubbs plans to keep the company in Tampa for the long run, noting that the business environment is a nice mix of fast and moderate pace. "It’s both relaxed, and it has energy," says Grubbs. "I like dealing with the people down here."

Aqua Marketing positions Bradenton as top travel destination for sports enthusiasts, pet owners

St. Petersburg-based Aqua Marketing & Communications recently received international recognition for promoting unique aspects of the Bradenton area for tourists.

Founded in 2011, the company is a full service firm specializing in the tourism and economic development industries within the State of Florida. Current and past clients include Collier County, the City of Dunedin, Manatee County and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The company’s recent projects for the Bradenton area helped them win international recognition from the Hospitality Sales & Marketing International (HSMAI), the lead international association for the hospitality industry.  

The company put together a sports marketing campaign to position the area as a destination for athletes, coaches and tournament directors to come for training and competitions. The campaign included a virtual “Sports Playbook,” which provided highlights of the region as a destination, facilities available for tournaments and other events, and resources such as medical rehab and therapy, dining and entertainment.

The second piece targeted men’s travel, an often untapped market for the tourism and travel industry, where marketing if often focused on women. They offered a 3-night, 4-day “guys’ getaway,” which included boating, fishing and cigar bars. The promotion is believed to be the first of its kind in the travel and hospitality industry.

A third piece for the Bradenton area was a sweepstakes targeting pet travel. Bradenton is already well-positioned in this area, with several beaches, cafes and restaurants that allow dogs, as well as a high percentage of pet-friendly accommodations. Aqua Marketing created a Pet Owners’ guide to the Bradenton area, which included a list of all of pet-friendly hotels and resorts, activities that can be done with dogs and dog boutiques and bakeries.  

The judges were impressed with the innovation displayed in the campaigns, as well as the results achieved.

The company has nine full-time employees, in addition to part-time employees and freelancers and recently hired several new employees to meet demand. They intend to remain in St Petersburg for the long term.

"Downtown St. Petersburg is a very robust, great place to have a business," says Dave Di Maggio, the company’s Founder and President, noting the central location, robust restaurants and events and the accessibility and attractiveness for clients.

Littlejohn engineering firm opens new office in Tampa

A national engineering firm specializing in transportation, urban planning, health and safety and community development opened its first office in Tampa in October.

Littlejohn was founded in Nashville in 1989 and has since grown to a national company with nine offices, including one in Orlando. Tampa Bay-based projects have historically been handled by the Orlando office, which opened in 2011. Recent growth has caused the company to open an office in Tampa for closer proximity to its customers and to manage future growth.

Projects already completed or currently underway in Tampa Bay include: Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville and Largo Free Standing Emergency Department (FSED) in Clearwater.

The Tampa and Orlando offices specialize in civil engineering, land planning, landscape architecture, economic development and transportation and traffic planning. The transportation design and planning in particular is what started the Tampa office, seeing the area primed for growth and opportunities.

"We wanted to introduce our transportation design capabilities into Florida through the Tampa Bay area," says Lennie Arnold, Florida Regional Manager for Littlejohn.

The firm recently brought on Senior Project Manager Marty Morlan to lead the Tampa office. The goal is to increase capacity within the next two to three months and then hire additional employees to manage the work.

"The workforce seems to be well established here," says Arnold, noting that a gap in experience level has been seen across the nation, mostly attributed to the recession. The company sees more people with the experience they are looking for to fill that gap in Tampa than in other areas.

BAMA offers scholarships to support manufacturing education

High school seniors looking into manufacturing careers have an opportunity to apply for a scholarship to continue their education.

The Bay Area Manufacturers Association (BAMA) is offering three $1,000 scholarships to students in Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas County. Any student planning to continue his or her education at a technical, state or community college in a program that supports manufacturing industries is encouraged to apply.

BAMA has been providing the scholarships for over 20 years to students entering into a manufacturing field, which can include machining, welding and trade jobs as well as technical and engineering fields. The organization is partnering with Hillsborough Education Foundation and Pinellas Education Foundation to administer two of the scholarships in those counties.

The goal of the scholarship program is to support the local manufacturing workforce in an effort to support the industry. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 2,728 manufacturing companies in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County in 2013. Employment in manufacturing industries increased by 1.8% in Florida that same year.

"We want to promote education, and in turn to help manufacturing grow," says Becky Burton, association executive for BAMA. "Without continuing education for people going into manufacturing, you aren’t going to bring new industry here or help them fill the jobs they need in order to keep them here."

BAMA is a 100-member organization whose mission is to support manufacturing in the Tampa Bay region through growth and economic development efforts. Services include networks for idea exchange and support of local educational programs. BAMA hosts an annual awards ceremony that highlights local science fair winners and also supports the robotics team at Middleton High School in Tampa.

Special networking events for techies help make connections in the Tampa Bay area

Are you looking for a job in the tech industry? Networking with the attendees at Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay’s upcoming event could be your ticket to scoring an interview at a hot new startup or growing local company.

Likewise, businesses looking to invest in top regional talent for a freelance or full-time role might want to send a representative to The Getaway on December 4 for the Q4 Tech & Entrepreneur Peer Networking Event, hosted by CToTB.

Tech students, established entrepreneurs and those just starting out all mix, mingle and network at the quarterly events, which usually see around 300 attendees. Treats like free T-shirts, a tech-themed drink special and giveaways from Microsoft are all part of the draw. 

“We’re making great connections, especially with USF St. Pete and their Entrepreneur and tech programs,” explains CToTB founder Sylvia Martinez.

Martinez, a longtime Tampa resident, launched the staffing company in January 2014. With a background in business development, marketing and sales within the tech world, Martinez felt poised to fill a gap in Tampa Bay’s workforce: connecting skilled professionals with companies looking to make a new hire.
 
“It was a natural place for me, to help people find their dream job or find a connection that can lead them to doing great things. That’s really been my passion,” she says.

The business is largely based on a referral system from networking events within the Tampa Bay area – typically, Martinez or her contractors attend 2-3 per week. 

Too many of the events Martinez attended shared a similar theme: technical resources thought they were inundated with vendors, sales people and recruiters, and didn’t want to attend. So she started quarterly events for entrepreneurs to come together with no agenda besides networking amongst peers.

“It’s a safe zone to talk and collaborate. You meet people from all different technologies – Java, .Net, mobile – but who can all share experiences,” Martinez says.
 
Hillsborough County’s EDI2 program is helping CToTB fund some of the events. Both former Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made appearances in support of the event, which has provided tangible results already.

“Not only have I heard about great hires taking place, but I have also heard of people working on applications or creating products together,” Martinez says. 

“If you’re hiring and you want to collaborate with people that can help your company grow and succeed, come and meet people with the skill sets to help you obtain those goals,” says Martinez. “Our main initiative is to help small startups to mid-size companies build out their technical resources and teams. We like to recruit out of our network. Our tagline is ‘Put our network to work for you.’ “

Lighthouse Guidance Systems grows, adds COO

A growth stage software company in Tampa recently added a new COO in an effort to grow its services and client base.

Lighthouse Guidance Systems, Inc. was founded in 2012 by William Farragut. A graduate of Sickles High School and the University of South Florida in Tampa, Farragut developed the concept during his community work with teenagers. While helping a student with his college application, he realized how many variances there are among college admissions criteria. For instance, some colleges place more emphasis on a weighted GPA while others look more heavily at the basic GPA. It can be difficult for students to keep track of the varying requirements and establish an academic path early.

Farragut wanted to find a fresh, user-friendly way to use technology to help schools, parents and students master this and other nuances involved with educational processes. The company’ software product, Guidmii, provides a way to enhance communication and tracking to achieve this goal. Parents can track and receive announcements about GPA via text message. Schools can closely monitor academic performance and identify at-risk students early. Students are motivated by setting realistic, attainable academic goals.

The software is currently being used in all middle and high schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

They recently hired Pablo Godel as COO. Godel is a PHP development expert, having founded a PHO Hosting Company and currently co-organizing user groups in South Florida.

"We’re excited about Pablo because not only is he a seasoned developer, but is business-minded because he has owned his own company," says Lisa Farragut, Relationship Manager for Lighthouse Guidance Systems, Inc.

The company currently has three full-time employees in addition to contractors and interns and plans to hire more developers once funding is secured.

They are located at USF Connect, a business incubator at the University of South Florida that provides mentors and seasoned business executives to help start-ups and growing companies with their business models.

Life Prep event prepares youth for leadership, service

Rotary District 6890, which serves Hillsborough, Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties, is hosting a leadership skills and training seminar for youth in the Tampa Bay region.

The program is modeled after the Rotary’s Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders (S4TL) program, which provides a week-long leadership experience for high school juniors and seniors. For the last 30 years, the retreat has brought together 160 students each year to Florida Southern College in Lakeland for an intensive leadership development experience. After the success of this program, the Rotary decided to expand the concept in an effort to reach more students.

Life Prep is a half day leadership skills seminar developed in partnership with local colleges and universities. The event will take place November 15 at Keiser University in Tampa. High school juniors and seniors are invited to attend.

The free, interactive event will focus on leadership and college readiness. Students will work together in groups to learn what it takes to be a successful leader, how to achieve their dreams and how to find scholarships for college.

In an effort to further its mission of uniting leaders who then take action to help their communities, Rotary clubs host Interact clubs in local high schools, which is a high school version of Rotary. Rotarians noticed that students need leadership skills in order to be able to convince more people to become service-minded.

"We have the ability to help people learn more about being leaders," says Gary Gunter, Governor of Rotary District 6890. "It’s a natural thing once you’ve brought together all these leaders to help other people, especially young people, develop themselves so they can have a good career and a good future."

The Rotary plans to continue the Life Prep event on more college campuses after the pilot. "Hopefully this will grow into something that will help young people be better students, better leaders, and think more about their future, which helps everybody," says Gunter.

Air Animal Pet Movers helps ease stress of relocation

A Tampa-based company that built its reputation around transporting pets -- from tiny birds to giant horses -- across country when families move is adding jobs and expanding services due to growing demand.

Air Animal Pet Movers transports an average of 2,000 pets, mostly dogs and cats, each year. The company currently employs 15 staff, including two added recently. They also are outgrowing their 3,600-square-foot location on W. Cypress Street on Tampa and are looking for a new location.

Founded in 1969 by practicing veterinarian Walter Woolf and his late wife, Millie, Air Animal thrives by providing peace of mind while managing the moving process from start to finish. Moving anytime anywhere with a pet can be stressful, Woolf says, from researching the safest travel option to booking the actual accommodations. 

In the beginning, as part of his veterinary practice, Woolf worked with local airlines to provide services for pets arriving at night. In 1977, the company incorporated as a full service pet travel agency.

The company organizes pick-up of a pet at a residence or airport, handles all of the associated airline reservations and required paperwork, and ultimately delivers the pet to the final destination – whether it be a residence or an airport pick-up. They have transported pets to and from destinations across the world, from Lima, Peru to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Woolf’s experience with and knowledge about the relationship between pets and family members was the basis for getting into the business. He wanted to provide the safest, most humane way to minimize stress on families during relocation. "Today, the pet is a very, very cherished member of the family," says Woolf, Founder and Managing Director.

The company recently received the 2014 Impact Award from CARTUS, a relocation network they have been working with since 1994. The honor recognizes innovation and outstanding customer service.

Tampa-based Vology gets ready to grow with new financing

Technology provider Vology, Inc. expects to accelerate its growth and potentially add 100 jobs in the next two years with $40 million in capital from a newly created senior credit facility financed by SunTrust Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Hancock Bank.

The IT solutions provider is one of the Tampa Bay area's largest privately owned companies, specializing in networking, data storage and technical services. The company's services are geared to help businesses get the maximum benefit from IT budgets. Company officials anticipate searching for new acquisitions over the next two years.

In 2013 Vology merged with Bayshore Technologies, Inc., and earlier this year acquired the California-based division of  Govplace, headquartered in Reston, Va. Govplace serves state, local and education customers.

The financial deal gives Vology a $15 million revolving line of credit, $15 million for acquisitions and a $10 million term loan. There also is an "accordion" option for up to $15 million of additional revolving or term loan commitments.

Vology was able to pay off an existing $15 million senior secured revolving line negotiated with Bank of America four years ago. 

This level of new financing gives Vology flexibility to move quickly when searching for new acquisitions, says CFO Steve Torres.

It gives Vology a nimbleness lacking in the previous financial agreement with BOA.

"This facility certainly provides that," he says. "It will help us create more jobs in the Tampa Bay area."

The greatest need as new jobs open up, across all of Vology's locations, will be in sales and technical engineering, Torres says.

Vology's history of doubling in size every two to three years is expected to continue, Torres adds, with growth fueled both organically within the company and through acquisitions.   

Vology is headquartered in Tampa but has sales and management offices in Syracuse, NY; Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Irvine and Austin, TX; and Oklahoma City, OK.

City of Tampa fast tracks Minority Business Certification Program

Minority business owners in Tampa now have an easier and quicker way to become certified, opening the door for increased exposure and business opportunities.

The Women/Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE)/Small Local Business Enterprise (SLBE) certification program allows women and minority businesses in Tampa to become certified and then placed on a list to enable them to bid for contract opportunities with the City. The program is free and open to businesses that have been in operation for a minimum of one year and who fill out an application and provide the required documentation.

Noting that the certification process can be difficult for some and can take up to 60 to 90 days to complete, The City of Tampa Mayor’s African American Advisory Council (MAAAC) partnered with the City of Tampa to create a fast-track option. Businesses that complete the program can become certified within one week.

The first in a series of events was held October 30 to help qualified businesses expedite the certification or recertification process. Experts assisted with the application process and also provided tips for navigating the City’s online system.

"It allowed us to learn what people actually needed," says Chandra Lee, MAAAC Chairperson. "We’re really excited about being able to help people to become certified with the city so they can get more procurement opportunities."

A total of 24 businesses attended the event, which MAAAC plans to repeat in the near future. Attendees included a fencing company, land development firm, a DJ and several consultants.

In addition to being able to bid on city projects, certified businesses are placed on a list for referrals that are received by the city. For example, a local hair dresser might be needed for a fashion show or concert that comes to town.

"They know if you’re certified, you’re a real business that they can trust and hire," says Lee.

Digital marketing company grows in Channel District in Tampa

A new digital marketing agency in Tampa’s downtown Channel District puts its focus on helping other companies grow while giving back to the community.

The company was founded in 2013 with the name Two Signals by co-founders Matthew Branson and Brian Smith. After a few months of operation, Alex Miningham, founder of their largest client Discount Park and Ride, took an interest in the business. Miningham invested in the company, and the team decided to re-brand as Foundry 119 in March of this year. The re-brand has allowed them to utilize more space, bring in more employees and offer more services to clients.

The company’s unique focus is data aggregation as a service, working with e-commerce businesses and providing a research foundation to enhance branding and advertising.
 
The team has been heavily involved in the Tampa startup community, developing relationships that have helped them succeed through resources such as Tampa Bay WaVE and Channel District Urban Professionals Society (CUPS), a new grassroots community-building organization.

The team has a particular interest in growing startups and other businesses in the Channelside area and is assisting CUPS with promotions.

"We feel there is a sort of yearning for more tech-based businesses," says Branson, Co-founder VP of business development. Branson wants to take the company’s experience and give back in order to help other new businesses grow.

The company currently has nine employees and is hiring for additional Developers.

They also have a strong interest in partnering with civic organizations and students for internship programs. They’re currently working with a client to offer a $2,500 scholarship for students studying in any business program to come up with a business idea and they will help them with development.

AIA Tampa Bay gives community a choice in Design Awards

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Tampa Bay is letting the public decide part of its Design Awards program with the People’s Choice category.

AIA Tampa Bay is an association for professionals in the architecture field that provides educational programs, community service and serves as the voice of the profession.

The Annual Design Awards Competition recognizes architectural design accomplishments and service. Design entries can be built or unbuilt projects of all types and sizes. Individuals or firms must be located in the Tampa Bay region, or designs must be planned/built in the region. Categories include: Built Commercial, Built Residential, Unbuilt Instutitional/Commercial, Historic Renovation and Urban Design.

"Our ultimate goal is to reinforce good design in the community," says Carlos Molnar, Co-chair of the Design Awards and owner of Sol Design in Ybor City. "We want to demonstrate the benefit of the architect in the process of construction."

The People’s Choice voting allows the community to select their favorite from a total of 57 projects submitted by Tampa Bay-area architecture firms, teams and students. Entries include the  Westin Puntacana Resort & Club in the Dominican Republic, Ulele Restaurant in Tampa, USF St. Petersburg’s Student Center and TIA’s main terminal modernization program.

A new aspect of this year’s People’s Choice Awards is the addition of a site called Behance which allows people to share a link to projects they want to vote for. Each submission has its own page with a voting option at the bottom.

AIA also plans to allow voting at the Awards Ceremony on November 6, providing an interactive experience including slideshows of submissions.

Online voting closes November 6.
418 Talent Articles | Page: | Show All
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