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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look at the shirt's design here.

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

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

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

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

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

Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival, Nov. 7-8

Run into any random pieces of photography lately, with a “take me, I’m free” note attached?   

Could be one of the 25 pieces of “abandoned” art strategically placed throughout the Tampa Bay area in a clever marketing effort by the Temple Terrace Arts Council to promote their 42nd annual Arts & Crafts Festival taking place this weekend -- 10 a.m- 4 p.m. -- November 7-8, 2015 at the seven-acre Greco Event Field in Temple Terrace.  Admission and parking are free.

“It’s a fun day that is free, family friendly, and it’s all about art,” says Kim Straub who spearheads the marketing efforts and organization of the festival. “The festival is kind of one of those well-kept secrets, and this year we are really trying to expand beyond Temple Terrace.” She says this is keeping with the all-volunteer Council’s mission statement, “to bring art to the community and beyond.” She notes that last year in a sampling they found attendance included 78 zip codes, including 13 from out of state, and over 7,000 attendees.

In addition to the 55 artist’s and crafter’s booths, food trucks and live entertainment, there are interactive arts activities to engage children and adults alike.  

Tampa-based artist Terry Klaaren (creator of the Recyclosaurus at the MOSI) will host demonstrations of painting “en plein air” techniques.  A display of 30 works of art by area elementary schoolchildren will be on exhibit and a dedicated kids arts area, “Fresh Impressionists,” will be available which will also include culinary activities scheduled throughout the day, provided by Farm 2 School.

For the first time, a “Public Pollock” collaborative art project will take place inviting people “of all ages and skill levels” to apply paint. 

“When you are involved with putting paint on the canvass – and that is what Jackson Pollock was all about – you become one with the paint and the painting,” says Straub. “It’s a different way of looking at art.”  The abstract expressionist masterpiece is slated to become a traveling exhibit after the festival.

Another “big draw”: a free raffle to win $250 Saturday, $500 Sunday toward a “festival shopping spree” for adults. Children can enter two drawings to win free art kits filled will paints and supplies.  Winners will be announced at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. 

For more information on the 42nd Temple Terrace Arts & Crafts Festival, click here

Kickstarter campaign launches for Florida conservation

Less than 10 days before the controversial hunt for Florida’s barely-off-the-endangered-species-list-black bear begins, the Florida Wildlife Corridor will launch its Kickstarter campaign Thursday, Oct. 15th, to promote its new film and forthcoming book, The Forgotten Coast: The Return to Wild Florida, based on months of expeditions inspired by the Florida black bear’s journeys through the interior of the state.  

“[The Florida Wildlife Corridor] is hiding in plain sight -- we are all situated on the coast looking outward, and maybe forget about Florida heartlands,” says Florida Wildlife Corridor Executive Director Mallory Dimmitt who is spearheading the project and the expeditions behind it. She notes that there is an urgency to conservation and awareness as Florida’s population is estimated to reach 35 million by 2060. “We can still maintain wild Florida and all the creatures that rely on it as Florida grows.” 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is both the name of the environmental advocacy organization as well as the term used to describe the territory it is dedicated to conserving: nearly 16 million acres of “lands and waters essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife” – including the 9.5 million acres already protected – that span the length and width of the state. 

The Forgotten Coast documentary is gleaned from the thousands of hours of footage taken during two Florida Wildlife Corridor expeditions traversing Florida undertaken by Dimmitt, wildlife Photographer Carlton Ward, Biologist Joe Guthrie, and Filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus on foot, bike and paddle. The idea, says Dimmitt, was to “explore wild Florida the way a bear or a panther could still travel through our state.” She says she hopes the film “inspires people to protect our quality of life, for all of Florida.”

During the first expedition in 2012, the team trekked more than 1,000 miles in 100 days from south-to-north, starting in the Everglades and finishing in the south of Georgia. From January to March of this year, the east-to-west expedition took the team from the Everglades Headwaters to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Florida Panhandle. 

The Kickstarter campaign will run until Friday Nov 20th, the day after the broadcast premiere of the film. The urgency to raise funds is critical and ambitious for the organization as Kickstarter is all-or-nothing crowdfunding, dependent on reaching the target fundraising goal of $37,000.  

The film’s exclusive broadcast premiere will air November 19th on WUSF-TV with a premiere event the week prior at the Tampa Theatre.  The new funds will allow the organizers to raise awareness and promote the film to PBS channels and film festivals around the country. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Rosenquist donates art for raffle at FIVE by FIVE in Tampa

The Arts Council of Hillsborough County is hosting its one-of-a-kind FIVE by FIVE art sale and fundraising event, now in its fourth year, at the Tampa Museum of Art on Friday, October 16, 2015 at 8 p.m. There is a $10 admission fee which includes access to TMA’s fall exhibition, XTO+J-C: Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

New this year is a donation by popular American Artist James Rosenquist, a “protagonist in the pop-art movement,” whose very large scale work and exhibitions have graced some of the most important museums in the world including the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the MoMA in New York, and many others. 

Rosenquist’s signed artist proof entitled “The Meteor Hits Picasso’s Bed” is a 11’’ x 14’’ black photogravure monoprint and is the twelfth of only 28 artist’s proofs. Clayton Galleries in Tampa donated the framing of the piece.

“Instead of auctioning it, we are going to raise money with this print through a raffle -- keeping the same philosophy, making it democratic,” says Terri Simons, Director of Program Services at the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and organizer of the event. Raffle tickets for the Rosenquist piece will go for $25.

The FIVE by FIVE event is in many ways “artists helping artists” notes Simons, as artists donate original artwork, the proceeds of which fund the Council’s individual artist grants and workshop programs. This concept, she says, is what inspired Rosenquist’s donation. She says that in addition to the exposure and prestige artists receive by participating in the event, the FIVE by FIVE also aims to “enable those who might not usually buy original art to start collecting and thereby benefit artists beyond this one-night event.” 

The FIVE by FIVE theme entwines itself throughout the event as nearly 600 pieces of 5”x 5” art created from a wide range of media -- and submitted from around the world -- will be on display for sale, at $25 per piece. The artwork is displayed anonymously, without the artist’s name being visible, to encourage buyers to choose the work on its appeal only, and not whether the artist is well-established. 

Local professionals in theater, dance, music and spoken word will perform in five- to 15-minute increments throughout the event in the FIVE by FIVE “Lounge” located in the Stephen Dickey Lecture Hall at the Tampa Museum of Art, set up with a club-like atmosphere with lighting, seating and bar for the evening. 

The complete list of performers is still shaping up, but attendees can look forward to The Kuumba Dancers, Lucha Libro Tampa Bay, Monday, Monday, Shoes at the Door, Soho Indigo and Yellowish Blue & Pink among others.

For more information, click here.

Design Week art installations to transform Selmon Greenway

A pop-up festival, art installations along the Selmon Greenway and design-inspired events throughout the local region are all part of the expanded Tampa Bay Design Week in October 2015.

“As our urban core continues to grow and we discuss issues of mobility, it is critical to engage the public in a conversation about design's impact on our daily lives,” explains Design Week chair Kim Headland.

Interested parties are welcome to attend a design charrette session on September 25 and join a team, Headland says. After that session, teams will begin the process of building and displaying their final installation along the Selmon Greenway path, which opened in spring 2015.

Already, teams include members from an array of design disciplines, such as architects, landscape architects, graphic artists, artists, photographers, planners, interior designers and students. Those interested in the role that public art plays in the local community may want to join.

Design charrettes are “an opportunity for guided brainstorming” for teams to begin developing concepts around the TBDW theme, 'Mobility and Connectivity','' explains Headland, a member of event sponsor American Institute of Design Architects.

Topics for consideration include:
  • What design elements will encourage pedestrian activity?
  • How does design and art impact our daily routines in the city?
  • What role does tactical urbanism play in our downtown community?
  • How can design influence the experience along the Greenway and make it "uniquely Tampa"?
  • What is the future potential of our City's under-utilized areas?
  • How can design elements and space adjacent, positively impact the greenway?
  • How can design promote economic growth and development along pedestrian paths?
  • How do historic events and places impact future design on a variety of scales?
The main objective of Design Week is “to promote the importance of design to the broader community, while engaging the community in relevant conversations about how design shapes our built environment,” Headland explains.

The Design Week team hopes to accomplish that goal by demonstrating the impact of design on local community through temporary art installations by the design teams, which will be placed along the Selmon Greenway, between the Tampa Riverwalk and Jefferson Street.

Headland hopes to see the designs “engage festival goers in thinking about 'Mobility and Connectivity,’ specifically along the Greenway.”

Events for TBDW will begin October 9 and conclude with a “Made in the Shade" event and a pop-up festival on October 17th.

The free, family-friendly pop-up fest is set to coincide with Tampa’s Streetcar Fest on the same day. The TBDW lineup has also expanded to include stops in St. Petersburg: a Dining by Design event, and a panel discussion with Rogers Partners Architects and ASD about the new St. Pete Pier designs.  

“Tampa Bay Design Week brings together designers, enthusiasts, leaders and citizens to celebrate, inspire, showcase and grow Tampa Bay’s creative community,” Headland says.

For a full schedule of events or to learn more about the Sept. 25 design charrette, visit the Tampa Bay Design Week website

Top comedian returns home to Tampa to perform

Ranked as one of the 50 greatest stand-up comedians by shareranks.com, Tampa native Steven Lolli is bringing his High Class Poverty comedy tour to the Carrollwood Cultural Center September 18 at 8 p.m. Hand-picked by Lolli, up-and-coming comedians Tyler Horvath and Tarik Lewis, also locals, will open and emcee the two-hour show in the heart of Carrollwood.

Lolli, a graduate of Gaither High School, moved to Los Angeles in search of comedic success and began earning his underground status as the only Jewish comedian in black comedy clubs in south L.A. in early 2002.  His brand of comedy is described on his website as “controversial,” “dirty,” “foul-mouthed” and “sexual” and has garnered acclaim by some of the most important faces in comedy today, collaborating with the likes of Katt Williams and headlining for an awards benefit honoring Lily Tomlin, Jane Lynch and the President of HBO. Lolli’s video “Yoga Ho” may give you some insight into his sense of humor.

Steven Lolli is “a bit of a grittier comic, a little bit edgier than what we typically have programmed,” says Adrienne Hutelmyer, Marketing & Community Relations Director at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, which hosted him successfully last year as well. She notes that the Center offers “something for everyone -- audiences like to go to a comedy show. They are very loyal and laughing is good for everybody.” 

Hutelmyer says the Cultural Center has been offering different kinds of comedy shows for over four years, which has proven popular. Girls Night Out is next on their comedic agenda featuring comedians Catherine Maloney, Traci “The Princess of Parodies” Kanaan and Aniria. 

For more information or tickets for the shows, follow this link.

Tampa Museum of Art hosts high fashion to raise awareness of domestic violence

Tampa Bay area fashionistas will unite at the Tampa Museum of Art (TMA) to see the acclaimed New York City-based designer Zang Toi’s spring 2016 collection, Saturday, September 19 in a runway event that kicks off at 7pm.  The fashion show, the sixth annual CITY: Fashion+Art+Culture, is a collaboration between the Tampa Museum of Art and its new partner this year Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota.   

Zang Toi, a celebrated designer championed from early in his career by U.S. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, has won national awards for his designs and has been repeatedly featured in fashion and mainstream media -- from Vogue and Vanity Fair to The New York Times, among many others.

“Zang Toi is very excited about the Tampa Museum of Art as the venue to showcase his Spring 2016 collection for the very first time following his recent show at the New York Fashion Week this last weekend,” commented Sally Schule, Saks Fifth Avenue Sarasota’s Director of Marketing.

“Making the arts accessible to everyone is a priority for the Tampa Museum of Art,” says Robin C. Sharp, Museum Trustee and Chair of CITY 2015. TMA spokeswoman Nancy Kipnis says that in addition to bringing  “a fresh approach to fashion and one-of-a-kind entertainment” to downtown Tampa, the event is a fundraiser benefiting the Museum’s exhibition and education programming. Last year the event raised $116,000.

Kipnis notes that this year and through the support of presenting sponsor Verizon Wireless, the event aims to create awareness in the fight against domestic violence. “Throughout the evening, messages of inspiration to domestic violence survivors striving for the freedom and confidence to stand out and express themselves can be shared by tagging event photos throughout the evening with #StandOutWithVZW,” says Kipnis.
Organizers warn the event sells out every year. For ticket information, follow this link to CITY: Fashion + Art + Culture

Local horror theme park hiring hundreds of seasonal Halloween employees

An expansive wooded park located in the quiet suburban neighborhoods north of Tampa will be transformed into a horror park for fall 2015. Think haunted hayrides, a house of horror and a monster-themed midway, all with a hint of zombie or other pandemic-inducing mayhem.

The horror park, “Scream-A-Geddon,” is located in Dade City on the grounds of aerial adventure park Treehoppers, which opens to the public at noon on September 15.

Treehoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says that the 60-acre, independently owned park “offers the most immersive scream park experience in Central Florida.”

To staff the new Halloween attraction, Nagengast is seeking around 400 seasonal employees for both full- and part-time positions. Job opportunities include actors, shift supervisors, greeters, parking attendants, cashiers, make-up artists and more.

Training will be provided; no experience necessary. To apply for a seasonal role with Scream-A-Geddon, please visit the attraction’s website.

“Scream-A-Geddon” will open on September 25, and remain open for select dates through November 1, 2015. Find a list of frequently asked questions here.
The Scream-A-Geddon theme is “fear to the extreme,” Nagengast says, and the park’s forested location helps increase the spook factor. Several of the park’s six attractions take advantage of the natural surroundings – the half-mile 'Cursed Hayride' through the woods; the 'Dead Woods', a forest trail attraction complete with a creepy back story.

Other attractions of the horror park include an interactive haunted house with Hollywood-quality special effects and the midway, where visitors can enjoy carnival games, food and beverages, and beer.

Scream-A-Geddon “is Florida’s scariest haunted horror park,” Nagengast says. “Once victims enter Scream-A-Geddon they will all be subjected to the horrors within.”

Due to the nature of the event, Scream-A-Geddon is recommended for adults and teenagers aged 13 years old and older.

"Being an independent Halloween horror park allows us to stretch the boundaries of what customers have come to expect at the more 'corporate' Halloween attractions in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas," Mark Bremer, creative director at Scream-A-Geddon, said in a press release. "Victims who want a more interactive, intimate and terrifying haunted experience will be thrilled when our facility opens this fall."

Who's hiring? College, construction company, custom T-shirt designers, and more

Create custom T-shirts for customers around the country at Big Frog in Clearwater; take part in exciting biology lab research at the University of South Florida's Tampa campus; or promote the local area to international eyes in a media relations role with Visit Tampa Bay.

All of these and more are part of the 83 Degrees Media monthly Tampa Bay jobs roundup. Here's who's hiring in the Tampa, St. Pete and Clearwater area in September 2015:
Big Frog of Clearwater

The custom designed T-shirt retail store seeks a Graphic Artist/Retail Consultant for the Clearwater location. Job responsibilities will include management of daily retail operations, generating quotes for custom work, creating custom artwork, and printing and fulfilling orders.

The successful applicant will have a working knowledge of graphics programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator or CorelDraw, or a related program. To learn more about the role or to apply, click here.

Bloomin’ Brands

The popular Tampa-based parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and other well-known national chains is hiring for a Digital Marketing Manager for Carrabba's Italian Grill. Responsibilities will include writing and editing blog and other social content; conceptualizing seasonal campaigns and other promotions and social program strategy; monitoring social media channels; and more.

A Bachelor’s degree with a copywriting or journalism background preferred; the successful applicant will have 3-5 years of related business experience.

The company is also hiring for a Director of Marketing Communications for Bonefish Grill. The role includes assisting with strategic planning and development of marketing communications programs; implementing various advertising initiatives across multiple print and digital platforms; developing strategies to drive system traffic, revenue and growth; developing partnerships with internal management stakeholders; and more.

To apply for either position or explore other opportunities, click here.
Ryland Homes

The construction and home design company seeks a Homebuilding Supervisor for the Tampa team. The role will include managing all aspects of homebuilding while maintaining a budget; keeping construction on schedule and managing materials; monitoring cleanliness and safety standards; obtaining necessary building inspections as required; and more.

Successful applicants will have a B.A. or B.S; be familiar with current building codes; and have at least 2-3 years of experience in high-volume production homebuilding.

To apply or learn more, visit the company website

University of South Florida

USF is seeking a full-time Research Lab Assistant in the Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology at its Tampa campus. The candidate will work in the research laboratory of Dr. Kristina Schmidt, study mechanisms of genome instability in human cells; participate in scientific research such as analyzing data and performing genetic assays; and perform general lab maintenance duties such as ordering supplies and maintaining inventory.

A B.A., B.S. or M.S. in Biology and basic knowledge of molecular laboratory techniques is required. Interested parties should email a resume and 3 letters of recommendation, as a single PDF, to Schmidt  (Find her email here).
Visit Tampa Bay

Not-for-profit corporation Visit Tampa Bay, a tourism and economic development driver in the region, seeks to fill a full-time role in National Media Relations. The role will include serving as a PR liaison responsible for national and international media relations; copywriting external and internal content such as sales brochures, destination guides or website, e-mail and online content; identifying and maintaining appropriate media outlets and contacts; compiling editorial calendars and weekly editorial leads; and more.

A Marketing, Communications or Journalism B.A is required, along with a minimum of 5 to 8 years of marketing, PR or communications experience, and at least two years of experience in Tourism Marketing; destination marketing experience also required.

Visit Tampa Bay also seeks a full-time Sales and Promotions Coordinator. The successful applicant will be knowledgeable in CRM, Salesforce or other industry software; hospitality experience and a degree in hospitality, business or a related field preferred.

Job responsibilities include assisting a team of National Sales Managers, including guiding preparation for sales presentations; bid proposal creation and assembly; planning and preparation of a tradeshow booth; preparing and processing sales leads, bookings and other related communication; and more.

To learn more about salary and benefits for either position, head to the Visit Tampa Bay website. To apply, send your resume to: HR@VisitTampaBay.com
Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

CourseDrive app brings mobile tech to golfers, country clubs

Imagine standing on the green at your favorite golf course in the Tampa Bay area, or elsewhere in the country, when heavy, dark storm clouds begin to roll in. By the time the clouds clear and the rain stops falling, the course – and clubhouse – is long empty.

What if there was a quick, convenient way for the club to send a message to golfers, enticing them to head back out by, say, lowering cart fees to half off for the rest of the day?

CourseDriver, a mobile application for golfers and clubs, evolved from co-Founder Gabriel Aluisy’s “passion for connecting golfers to golf clubs and creating a better experience for both parties.”

“Golfers are craving more technology to enhance their rounds and interact with the club. Clubs are looking to attract younger members as well as show existing members and guests that they are improving and innovating,” says Aluisy, a golfer himself. “Our app facilitates this.”

Acccording to Aluisy, CourseDriver creates “that immediate connection” between a golf club and its members.

Aluisy, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from American University in Washington, D.C, is also the Founder of Tampa-based advertising agency Shake Creative. Advertising is an important aspect of the app; in-app instant messaging functionality is what makes it most attractive to clubs, Aluisy says.

“Clubs using our app have the ability to reach back out and communicate to anyone who has ever played a round at their course and downloaded the app,” he explains. “As long as our app is on a player's phone, the club is in the pocket of their target market to initiate a conversation or send a marketing message.” 

The app, which is free for the players to download, features the instant messaging function, along with features that golfers might need during a round, such as GPS distance tracking, score tracking, live satellite weather, round history and upcoming tournaments. Players can even order food and drink from the club via the app.

CourseDriver launched in April 2015 at Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club in St. Petersburg, and in August expanded to Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Stuart, on Florida’s east coast. After a stint in beta mode, the app will be available nationwide.

Aluisy developed the idea for CourseDriver into an app along with Gary Teaney, a business consultant with Transformational Consulting for Business.

“We brainstormed a feature set that would remedy the pain points my clients in the private club industry had,” Aluisy says. “They were losing members and had trouble attracting younger folks to the game. This was my solution.” 

Aluisy hopes to see the app in 200 clubs by the end of 2016. As the platform expands, he anticipates hiring locally in the Tampa Bay area for a sales team, developers, and designers.

To learn more about CourseDriver or request a demo, visit the website.

Tampa exhibit features photos of sealife, oceans

Something fishy is going on in downtown Tampa.  

Marvels of the Reef opens Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (FMoPA). The exhibit was produced in collaboration with the Florida Aquarium and runs through the end of the year. 

The collection, which showcases “mysteries of the sea” by seven international photographers whose work has appeared in National Geographic, is also intended to highlight the importance of environmental protection and environmental studies, a theme of relevance to the Tampa Bay community. 

“We are surrounded by water, which is important for every aspect of day-to-day life, [yet] it can be overlooked how important our bay is in Tampa,” says FMoPA executive director Zora Carrier. The exhibit, she says, “places the viewer at the scene of interaction; the images emphasize the spectacles of deep sea life and appreciation for aquatic nature.”   

“It’s an honor to partner with the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts on this exhibit,” Thom Stork, president and CEO of The Florida Aquarium said in a press release. “Through this exhibit, our community has yet another way to revel in the beauty of the ocean and hopefully become inspired to protect this very important asset.” 

A portion of the show’s proceeds will go toward the Florida Aquarium’s conservation efforts including the rescue and rehabilitation of animals.

About a five-minute drive from the Aquarium in the Channel District, The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, is located inside the Cube next to the Sykes building in the waterfront arts district in downtown Tampa. It is one of fewer than 10 museums in the United States dedicated exclusively to photography and one of two such museums in Florida.

Carrier says the two museums are working on putting together a weekend to give free admission to members of the opposite organization. 

HART CEO earns White House recognition as innovator in transit

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has a slogan: Driven to Serve You.

The public transportation authority serving Hillsborough County is currently experiencing record numbers of riders, expanding the TECO streetcar line, employing innovative technology and enabling young professionals to go carless.

Now HART CEO Katharine Eagan is garnering national attention for HART with her nomination for the White House "Champion of Change" program as an innovator in transportation for the future.

Eagan is recognized in the category "Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation." The U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host the winning White House “Champions of Change” focused on this category at an event on October 13, 2015; selected individuals will be notified in late September.

For consideration, individuals must have shown outstanding leadership in transportation and innovation in developing and implementing strategies for enhancing transit systems for the future.  

Eagan credits “the hard work of our entire team” at HART for the recognition.

“As a team, we are incredibly proud that our efforts to be a change agent and a transportation agency of choice have been noticed on a national scale,” she says. “Personally, I’m honored to be considered, and excited to build on this momentum as we keep moving forward.”

One of the drivers behind Eagan’s nomination: technology. HART is pursuing updated fare technology for eight Tampa Bay area counties, Eagan says.

If implemented, Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties would utilize the same fare technology – including “smart cards and bus passes that you purchase from and scan on your phone,” Eagan explains. 

HART, which was founded in 1980, will also be the first transit agency in the state to be ISO 14001 certified, Eagan says, “which draws environmental stewardship and sensitivity into all aspects of how we deliver service.”

Eagan credits HART’s innovation in tech and transit to necessity: “We don’t have the time to wait! Like many public agencies, we shrank our administrative staff during the recession, but technology kept evolving and new challenges arose in transit and transportation.”

Business as usual, Eagan says, wasn’t cutting it. “So what would?”

Solutions like a low-cost semester pass for Hillsborough Community College students “made transit more affordable and didn’t require a special fee,” Eagan explains. “That’s been a very popular innovation.”

Another example of change: HART’s newly revamped website.

One of the first agencies to use real-time bus arrival tool OneBusAway, HART has also developed partnerships with MegaBus and RedCoach to bring more routes to downtown Tampa from across the state; additionally, the MegaBus Orlando-Tampa route will expand to include Burnett Park and Ride in eastern Hillsborough County.

HART routes include fixed and express bus service, as well customized services like HARTplus, which offers door-to-door paratransit in vans, and HARTflex, a neighborhood connector route. The agency is seeking partnerships with taxis to make these services even more viable, Eagan says.

A partnership with “private transit providers [including private cabs, Uber and Lyft] to provide a rideshare-style program as part of our 'first mile, last mile' solution” is being considered, Eagan says.

Eagan, who earned a BA in history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and an MPA at Angelo State University, has been HART CEO since May 2014. Eagan has earned prior recognition for her leadership and track record in transportation: she was placed on the 2012 Mass Transit 40 under 40 List and was named the National Association of Women in Construction's Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

Concentrating efforts on the goals of increasing ridership, refining HART’s community image and setting “the transit agency bar higher as a trendsetting innovator” led to success for the agency, Eagan says.

“Thanks to the great work of our over 750 employees, we are better positioned today to provide the Tampa Bay area with quality service and choices.”

In other words, Eagan – and HART – is driven to serve you.

Local actors put on 2nd festival in downtown Tampa

Drawing on its debut success last year and added star power, the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival is calling on area actors and theatre enthusiasts to attend the three-day event Sept. 4-6, 2015.

Festival events will take place at the Straz downtown, Stageworks Theatre in Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District and at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Ybor Main Stage. The Festival is packed with original plays and workshops, including quite a coup for such a new festival: master acting class with Broadway, TV actor/director and NBC’s Blacklist co-star Harry Lennix.  

“My goal is to empower the local actor,” says Festival Founder Rory Lawrence, a Tampa resident who founded his own theatre companies, RQL Productions and RL Stage, about six years ago and will present his latest comedy, “Hour Confessions,’’ at the opening events of the festival. Lawrence says he started the festival here because he had attended theatre festivals in other parts of the country, and realized, “Man, we don’t have a festival here!” 

He believed local theatre actors needed more support and networking opportunities. “There are so many actors here that don’t know how or where to go,” says Lawrence.

With much nail-biting leading up to last year’s first Tampa Bay Theatre Festival given the event’s meager pre-sales, he was thrilled when, by his most conservative estimate, more than 1,200 people attended, with several events sold out. “Plays were packed, workshops filled.” Lawrence says this year, they have expanded and are hoping to double attendance.

Thanks to the venue sponsors and the event’s premier sponsor, local law firm Maney Gordon, the festival is reasonably priced and accessible – with professionally taught workshops priced at $10, or $45 gets you into all of them throughout the weekend with discounts for other activities (the Lennix master class is charged separately). Several events are free of charge. 

In addition to the workshops and networking, there will be short- and long-form playwriting contests taking place as well as a monologue contest. Five full-length original plays written by local playwrights will be presented over the course of the weekend. Winners will be announced at the concluding awards ceremony, which is already sold out, though Lawrence may open more seats closer to the event. 

Advance tickets to the festival may be purchased through its website
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