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Next for travelers? Ridesharing app for charter flights

A Jacksonville company is test marketing a ridesharing program for air travelers which would enable them to split the cost of chartering small planes with others. Called Whooshfly, the company -- currently in the Tampa Bay WaVE early launch program -- is making plans to move to Tampa next year, potentially in the spring.

“This is not for everyone pricewise. If you were to share the flight ... with a bunch of people, it would still cost you a little bit more than a first class ticket, but it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg,” explains Joel Relova, Founder and CEO.

The service, being tested in Florida, Georgia and Utah, relies on smaller aircraft with 3 to 12 seats. It is available in beta as an Apple iphone app, with Android and web-based apps anticipated later. “You can fly anywhere as long as you can afford it,” he says.

People can defray the cost of a chartered plane by sharing a flight with friends, relatives and co-workers attending the same event, or with other people in their network. Or they can open the flight up to others who are flying to the same destination. They also could choose to book a private flight.

People download the app from the Apple Store and make a request for service, which is submitted to operators who respond with price quotes. The users can then choose a veted provider and book their flights.

Co-founded with Wendell Chindra, Whooshfly currently has about 400 users and 12 operators, who have access to 60 airplanes in the Florida/Georgia region. Users pay a service fee in addition to fares. “Once you use it, you don’t want to go back to any other means,” Relova says. “The value there is really the experience.”

He explains users can avoid lines while enjoying the perks of a small airport, like having the airplane parked 50 feet from the door or being greeted by a pilot who knows them by name.

“That’s what people love,” he says.

The idea started about 10 years ago when Relova noticed a smaller jet at an airport, and learned it cost less than a million, far less than other jets. Things took off about two years ago after a presentation on the concept in Jacksonville. Since being admitted to the WaVE program last spring, Whooshfly has been utilizing the co-work space at the WaVE periodically.

“The WaVE has been very good to us. I love the people there. I love the energy. I love their passion for startups,” he says. “They’ve opened a lot of doors for us.”

What sets Whooshfly apart is travelers’ ability to pay as they go, without encountering membership/subscription fees or having to become one of the plane’s owners.

Moving to Tampa is part of their plan once the platform passes the market-testing phase. “We believe Tampa is the right fit for us. They have the environment, the ecosystem, that would support a tech startup like us,” Relova explains. “I understand there’s a lot of things going on from a tech and from a startup business perspective. We want to be part of that."


Transit companies using new technologies to lower emissions, improve efficiency

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has been awarded $1 million in federal funding earmarked for an all-electric bus and/or charging equipment. The allotment from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration comes from $55 million disbursed through its Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle program.

The grant money was awarded to 51 projects in 39 states in September. PSTA was one of five transit authorities in Florida to receive an award.

“It’s a competitive grant.” says Henry Lukasik, PSTA Director of Maintenance. “We’re very thankful that we did receive it.”

We’re looking at all ways [of spending it] to really make sure that every dollar is maximized,” he adds.

Joe Cheney, PSTA’s Deputy Director of Fleet Operations, says PSTA has been moving toward all-electric buses for nearly 10 years. It already has some 70 hybrid electric buses, which make up about 36 percent of its fleet.

One of the big advantages we’re anticipating, obviously, are zero tailpipe emissions," Cheney says. “The overall life cycle costs would be lower over the course of 12 years.”

Two electric buses priced at $800,000 each are on order, and likely will be delivered in May or June 2018. PSTA will be installing overnight, plug-in chargers as well as a charging plate to partially recharge the battery while buses are on their newly designed route in downtown St. Petersburg.

Buses will pull over and recharge for about three to five minutes. “While it won’t recharge the entire bus,” Lukasik says, “it will keep it maintained at a level of charge where it can continue out there all day long.”

Ashlie Handy, PSTA’s Media Liaison/Public Information Officer, says PSTA also has secured nearly $600,000 through the British Petroleum settlement fund to reimburse victims of the massive Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. “We are actively seeklng partners and grant opportunities,” she says.

“We’re finding ways to bring money from other places. We’re not tapping into our reserves,” she explains. “These are monies we are bringing to Pinellas County.”

Riders will find the buses similar in layout to its other buses, but much quieter. “Because there’s not an engine, it will be very quiet on the bus, probably to the point where people can carry on a conversation,” Lukasik says.

Across Tampa Bay, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is awaiting the delivery of 15 compressed natural gas buses by the end of the year. It acquired 35 CNG buses in 2015-16, and 10 of its 25 additional buses earlier this year.

These new buses will be put into service in fall/winter 2017-2018, giving HART one of the youngest fleets in the state,” says HART’s Public Information Officer Sandra Morrison.

“Since 2015 we’ve saved approximately $720,000 using our natural gas compared to the cost of diesel fuel,” she says.

HART plans to transition the entire fleet of some 187 buses by 2025 as part of its move to cleaner, alternative fuel. The CNG buses cost approximately $300,000 less per vehicle than electric and have the ability to operate when the power is out, Morrison says.

Since 2014, the HART fleet has used the equivalent of 1 million gallons of diesel fuel.


Clearwater boat manufacturer adding jobs after merger

After a merger, one of the largest catamaran builders in the United States is ramping up its Pinellas County headquarters and marina with plans to double its staff.

The Seattle-based Coastal Marine initiated the merger with the Clearwater-based Endeavour Catamaran Corporation because it was looking to increase its market base.

The new company is called Endeavour Corporation.

“We saw a potential for both brands,” explains Rob Harty, Endeavour Corporation’s President. “We used to have boats only up to 42 feet and now we have boats up to 50 feet. The brands complement each other.”

Coastal Marine was founded in Hong Kong in 2008 during the economic downturn. As the company looked to scale upwards, it moved to Seattle in 2012. Now it has resettled in Clearwater, where Endeavour Catamaran had an established name in boatbuilding.

“If we’re going to be in the United States, the Florida market is 10x larger than anywhere else in the country,” he says. “This is the mecca of boating.”

Endeavour, which is producing luxury and performance catamarans, is looking to double its local staff of 20, possibly in the next year. It is seeking skilled boat builders: people experienced in carpentry, mechanics, electrical, and fiberglass technology. It also is looking for office staff in sales, administration and marketing.

The company may hire at the entry level, train workers, and move them up in the company. “That’s always how I found it to work best,” he says. “Some of our needs are bigger than entry level.”

Experience in a related field may be helpful. “A boat’s very much like a house,” he says.

Endeavour Catamaran, which dates back to the 1970s, already had an extremely experienced staff that has been with the company for decades, he notes.

“When owners bring their EndeavourCats in for upgrading or maintenance, they’re likely to have the same staff who built their boat performing that service,” he says.

The merger occurred as a result of a successful collaboration between the two companies, which both were industry leaders in the design, manufacture and sales of power catamarans.

“The collaboration is a win-win for all involved. Blending the 40-year history and stellar reputation of EndeavourCats with the innovative spirit of ArrowCat has made the Endeavour Corporation a power cat powerhouse,” Harty says.

Endeavour is operating its manufacturing facility at 3703 131st Ave. N. in Clearwater and a marina at 13030 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg.

We’ve made a substantial investment in our 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Clearwater, where we’re planning to introduce and build two new entry-level boat models in the next six months,” Harty says.

“American Yacht and Custom, our servicing center, is due to open by the end of the year, thanks to a significant investment. We’re excited to offer top-notch boatyard services as well as custom rigging and detailing,” he says.

“We’re really proud of our new, massive, state-of-the-art paint facility. As the largest in the region, it’s certainly going to advance the use of composite coatings in the boating industry,” he adds.

The company’s boats are typically used for expeditions. “Our boats are used by people who really want a more all-purpose boat,” Harty says. “You can stay on this boat for extended periods of time protected from the elements.”

The catamarans are stable, high-performing, comfortable and convenient, he says.

“These boats are like Humvees. If there was ever a four-wheel drive monster boat, that is what we build,” he says. “People are not afraid to take it anywhere.”

The semi-custom boats sell for $289,000 up to $1 million.

Endeavor will be producing luxury catamarans under the Endeavor TrawlerCat brand and performance catamarans with the ArrowCat name. Its Endeavour 340 model, the result of collaboration between Coastal Marine and Endeavor Catamaran Corporation, will be featured this fall, offering a blend of simplicity, elegance, and efficiency.

What does the future hold? “Down the road we’ll expand to offer sailing catamarans,” Harty says.


Think Anew, Superior Precast, announce new jobs in Tampa Bay Area

An innovative, Mississippi-based tech company serving the healthcare market has opened its first Florida office in Tampa and is hiring 20 with a budget of $1.2 million.

“What we desire is to make a call to Florida’s and Tampa’s best and brightest,” says Don Glidewell, President, Founder and CEO of the Flowood-based Think Anew. “Their only limitation is how big they want to dream, and how hard they are wiling to work to achieve those dreams.”

Think Anew opened in June at 1413 Tech Blvd., Suite 213, in Pinebrooke Office Park in the Interstate 75 corridor of eastern Hillsborough County. It is expanding its eight-member staff to include entry-level support staff as well as individuals in engineering, tech administration, network administration, field services, development or programming, web development, and marketing and sales.

“We are extremely competitive with our salaries,” he says.

Plans already are underway to double its 3,500-square-feet offices as part of a $100,000 investment into the community.

Glidewell was impressed with the area’s passion to recruit employers and the growing tech workforce. “This tech talent growth is really starting to bubble over,” he says. “We feel like we’re in the best place to achieve our business goals.”

Glidewell expects the Tampa office, the company’s third, to become a hub for the 10-year-old company that strives to be a one-stop, tech shop targeted to the senior living, long-term healthcare sector. A government mandated switch to electronic data keeping has brought major change to the industry.

“Imagine doing everything on paper and never using a computer, and then one day your facility is filled with computers. There was no in between there,” he explains. “We handle everything: training, implementation, security, disaster preparedness.”

Among its innovative products is a BOOMBOX,TM a disaster communications system that allows a healthcare facility to continue to chart medications and produce electronic health records with a 16-pound box emitting wireless Internet. It also offers phone calling, video conferencing and HAM radio. The company is accepting pre-orders for the $299-a-month emergency service.

“We’re a group of creators. We love to create new things,” he adds. “We’re really good at listening to our client’s pain points.”

Gov. Rick Scott announced Think Anew’s expansion into Florida August 8.

Here are some other companies hiring in the Tampa Bay region.

• A new Florida Department of Transportation supplier, Superior Precast, has decided to locate in Dade City in 62,777 square feet at Dade City Business Center. It plans to hire 100 people from the communities in the area, 27 of them by September.

Superior Precast makes precast concrete products for major road projects in the state. It is working with CareerSource Pasco-Hernando to recruit, hire and train its workforce. Salaries are close to 125 percent of the county’s average annual wage.

Jobs they are looking to fill include Plant Manager, Quality Control Manager, Office Manager, Administrative Assistant, Quality Control Technician, Forklift Operators, Carpenter, Welder, and Precast Production Workers. Jobseekers can apply here.

• The Tampa-based BlueLine Associates is seeking a Technical Recruiter with a bachelor’ degree and/or relevant experience in the staffing industry.

Tops Barber Shop on Temple Terrace Highway in Tampa is looking for a barber/hair stylist to cut men and women's hair. A barber or cosmetology license is required, along with at least two years of experience. The barber/stylist, who will work as an independent contractor, must know how to shave with a straight blade and hot lather. The position is for 36 to  38 hours a week, with Sundays and Mondays off.

Sun Trust is looking to hire and train a full-time universal banker for Pinellas County. Applicants should have at least a high school diploma and its equivalent plus one year of experience in service, sales, cash handling or payment transaction for another firm. The individual would be trained while waiting for a permanent assignment.

Linder Industrial Machinery Company has an opening for a payroll specialist in its Plant City Office. Applicants should have an associate’s degree and at least five year’s of payroll experience, plus excellent communications skills and proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and other related software.


If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.


Get on board: Tampa StartupBus rolls toward New Orleans July 31

Led by Conductors Kevin Mircovich and Brent Henderson, a busload of techies and innovators will leave Tampa July 31 to travel more than 650 miles to New Orleans on the StartupBus.

Described as an entrepreneurial boot camp and hackathon on wheels, the StartupBus brings together marketers, developers and designers to launch startups in 72 hours.

“StartupBus offers a platform to launch your idea. It’s an opportunity to build a team around your concept and take it from idea to reality,” Mircovich explains. “You’ll validate your idea, build an MVP [minimum viable product] and get traction all in a week.”

What riders usually have in common is an interest in entrepreneurship, plus a desire to sharpen their skills and develop a network. “We get people from all kinds of careers and backgrounds. We get everything from successful business owners, to aspiring entrepreneurs, students, and retirees,” he says. “Generally participants have some kind of experience or background in tech, but we’ve of course had non tech-savvy riders that excel.”

The StartupBus offers prospective entrepreneurs an opportunity to build a business team -- or work on someone else’s. “This is a chance for people with a business idea to recruit a team, and the people without an idea to find a team or idea they are interested in working on,” he says.

Riders face a number of challenges, such as working in the limited space onboard the bus with sporadic wifi service. “Some of the best work you’ll get done is in hotel lobbies along the way. Most teams take advantage of that and will work all night in the lobby,” he advises.

Participants pay a $299 registration fee, plus reduced rates on lodging. They also must pay for food and transportation home.

The journey ends for the approximately 30 riders August 4 at StartupBus Finals in New Orleans, where they have a chance to pitch their new business projects to investors and industry experts -- along with teams from six other regions in North America.

Although there aren’t any cash prizes, Mircovich says the rewards are greater than cash. “You’ll learn a ton about starting a company (through experience), you’ll find that you’ve become a no-excuses / get things done kind of person, and you’ll build great relationships with people you may work with in the future,” he explains.

Mircovich, now a software engineer, knows firsthand. In 2014, he rode the bus to Austin, TX, as a rookie. “I jumped on the bus, not knowing what to expect, and in the 72 hours my team and I came up with an idea, developed a solution, created a brand, closed some sales, and pitched what we built on stage in front of hundreds of other entrepreneurs. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone and into entrepreneurship,” he recalls.

The experience led him to learn software development.

More than 2,000 have participated in StartupBus since it began in San Francisco in 2010. Hundreds of companies have formed on the bus or through the alumni network.

The first Tampa bus rolled in 2012 after a number of residents participated in the 2011 trek from Miami. If you'd like to apply for the 2017 ride, visit North America Startup Bus and use the invite code 83degreesmedia.


QDI to move to Channel District, downtown Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Natural gas-powered buses ready to roll in Pasco County

Pasco County Schools will soon be the first in Florida to build and run their own fast-fill compressed natural gas station. The first of its natural-gas buses will arrive in mid-May, when they will be completing the new gas station just south of State Road 54 along Interlaken Road north of Tampa.

“We are about a month away from taking ownership,” says Tad Kledzik, Manager of Transportation Services. “We will begin operations with start of the fiscal year [July 1].”

Thirty 2017 Bluebird Vision CNG buses will begin arriving, three at time, in mid-May, and be phased into the existing fleet of more than 400 buses. Some 48 of them are propane, which use the same motor but a different fuel.

Each bus costs about $130,000, about $30,000 more than a diesel bus.

Pasco County Schools are investing $3 million each in their fast-fill station and a maintenance, operations and parking facility for the new natural gas-powered buses. The district is expecting to pay an additional $3.9 million for the first 30 buses and potentially a total of $11.7 million for 90 natural gas buses at the facility. It also would use some 10 to 12 diesel buses already in the fleet.

There are a number of advantages of the buses fueled by gas from Louisiana and Texas, which is piped into Florida at Jacksonville.

“The big thing ... is cleaner emission,” Kledzik says.

It’s also less noisy, a plus when hauling a bus-load full of talking children. “That allows our drivers to hear a little bit better on the bus as to what is going on,” he says.

As a domestic source of fuel, CNG is less volatile in price. The ability to essentially lock-in the price gives the district a greater ability to manage finance costs. “What happens elsewhere is less likely to impact the cost of CNG here,” he explains. “There’s enough CNG here in the U.S. to meet certainly our needs and many more needs.”

The district has tapped into the system in the Odessa area. The CNG will be provided by Clearwater Gas.

A grand opening is scheduled at 9 am. May 16, says spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. The new buses will roll for the 2017-18 school year.

The district began looking into alternative fuel sources in 2012, before buses like these existed, Kledzik says. The vision for CNG came from Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd.

Though the Pasco district will be the first to build and operate its own station, others are already going green with CNG buses using third-party fuel providers. “Leon [County’s school district] has a similar facility to what we’re producing right now. Leon entered into contract with a 3rd party provider,” he says.

In the Tampa Bay area, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority became the first public transit authority in Florida to begin converting from diesel to CNG in 2014, according to Sandra Morrison, Public Information Officer.

HART currently runs 34 CNG buses in its fleet of nearly 200 buses, plus an additional 39 of its 61 HARTPlus vans and all eight HARTFlex vans. Some 25 additional CNG buses are arriving this fiscal year, Morrison says.

Hillsborough County public schools are running 50 propane buses and another 40 are on order. “We just didn’t have an interest in it [CNG], simply because of the cost,” says Jim Beekman, General Manager of Transportation.

The propane buses cost only $4400 more than diesel.

Pinellas County’s school district began running 58 new propane-powered buses this school year. The buses save the district money on fuel and maintenance, in addition to being more environmentally friendly, a spokeswoman says.

As the Pasco district's personnel are trained on the new buses, Kledzik says they plan to let surrounding districts in on the education process, which will include information on propane buses as well. “We’re looking to open it up and make it more a multi-county effort,” he says.

Kledzik says the new CNG buses are a way to “diversify the composition” of the fleet. He expects the school district will continue to invest in propane – and diesel. Diesel still is preferred for long trips outside of the county, and even longer trips within the county, he says.

“I don’t believe we’d get away completely from diesel buses,” he says.

Tampa Bay Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo is slated from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 at 11780 Tampa Gateway Blvd, Seffner.

More information on alternative fuels is available at the Alternative Fuels Data Center or the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Cities Program at 1-800-CCITIES.


Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

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

Local software developers to hack cars in GM event

General Motors has chosen Tampa Bay for the first stop in its Makers Hustle Harder Hackathon tour, enabling software developers to put their apps into GM cars here for testing.
 
“My team will help them load their app in the car and drive it around and test it,” says Daphne L. Zargar, GM’s Global Manager – Partner Relations, Application Ecosystem and Development. “For any developer, of any age, or background, or company, that’s unprecedented.”
 
Zargar’s team developed the software that developers can download to make apps, potentially for GM’s app store. Apps may be able to do things like turn your car into a moving weather station, map the locations of potholes in the road, or even select your preferred music before you enter the car. A user, for example, also might be able to choose a preferred Global Positioning System.
 
The event kicks off Feb. 27 at Tampa Hackerspace at 4931 W. Nassau St. in the Westshore area. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., a live webinar will introduce participants to the hackathon.
 
“We’re expecting 60 to 80 developers to participate,” says Bill Shaw, President and Founder of Hackerspace. “It’s going to be a pretty packed event. We’re actually expecting it to reach capacity.”
 
When the kickoff webinar is completed, hackers can get to work. The GM team will be available for support throughout the week that culminates in Hackathon Day March 4. That’s the day developers will be able to see their apps in action; presentations start at 4 p.m. with prizes following.
 
“This is a brand new thing for GM. They’ve never really opened up their software like this before,” Shaw says.
 
The Detroit automaker, which employs 215,000, released a software development kit in late January that lets developers interact with its cars. With its kit, developers can test in-vehicle applications for GM’s infotainment systems without traveling to Detroit.
 
GM approached the 4-year-old Tampa Hackerspace, described as the largest facility of its kind in Florida, about putting together the event. “I really am wanting to get out into the new grass roots cities that are helping to support these kinds of technology,” Zargar says.
 
Rather than hold the event in New York or the West Coast, they opted for “non-obvious cities,” Zargar says.
 
A former Clearwater resident, she’s familiar with the Tampa Bay area. Much like Detroit, she says, St. Petersburg has “come full circle with restaurants.” And tech sector has grown. “I’m very passionate about supporting them,” she says.
 
Plans are being made for separate events in Boston and Chicago. “We want to get our platform out to developers and hackers’ hands without a lot of constraint,” she explains.
 
Learn more or sign up to participate. Developers can download what they need here.
 
Hackers, tinkerers and builders have lots of options with the new GM data. In addition to all the practical apps, there’s also potential for fun and games, literally. The car can be a simulator for video games.
 
While it may seem like a far out idea now, things will change when cars are able to run driverless. “There are all of these things you can suddenly do,” Shaw observes.

HART begins innovative rideshare program in Tampa

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

Engineering firm in Tampa adding 5 new positions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Quality Logistics opens new office in Sarasota, adds 100 jobs

Ohio based freight-brokerage firm Total Quality Logistics (TQL) is expanding to open a Sarasota office, the company’s seventh location in Florida. The new Sarasota office joins TQL locations in Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. 

TQL’s new office in the BB&T Building at 1800 2nd Street in downtown Sarasota is scheduled to open in June, and will include a $600,000 capital investment. The expansion was made possible through partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Sarasota County, The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Sarasota County, and the city of Sarasota. 

“This expansion will bring job opportunities to Sarasota, and we think it’s a great fit,” says TQL Communications Specialist Mark Motz. 

Total Quality Logistics plans to create 100 jobs in Sarasota by 2020 including sales, managerial positions and customer service agents to manage the processes and logistics of transportation between shippers and truck carriers. TQL opened its first offices in Florida in 2010, and currently employs 450 people in the state.

“Whenever we look for a new office, one of the first things we seek out is a good pool of professional talent. Sarasota is an excellent location, and we were fortunate to be able to work with the city, the county and the state of Florida to make that happen,” Motz says. 

Jennifer Taylor, EDC of Sarasota County VP of Business Development, says that Sarasota’s pool of talented professionals and its exceptional livability are two of the region’s greatest assets in attracting new companies like TQL to Sarasota. 

“TQL is expanding and growing very quickly all over the nation, but Florida is definitely a hotbed for them. Access to talent and quality of life are critical to their success. When analyzing a new location, they look for communities where talented people not only want to work but also want to live. It didn’t take them long to realize that Sarasota was a natural fit,” Taylor says.

Total Quality Logistics is headquartered in Cincinnati OH and employs over 3,800 people nationwide. In 2015, TQL’s sales topped $2.2 billion.

Car sharing network zips into downtown Tampa

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

Uber, Tampa Bay WaVe partner to drive innovation forward

Entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay will now have the chance to work with representatives from a revolutionary startup with international reach: Uber.

A new partnership between the ride-sharing company and local business incubator Tampa Bay WaVe was announced in February 2016.

Tampa Bay WaVe will offer Uber Technologies space in the nonprofit’s FirstWaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa, where Uber drivers can plan and host driver training sessions. In return, Uber representatives will participate in entrepreneur workshops and other open-to-the-public events hosted by Tampa Bay WaVe, offering the local tech community a first-hand look at the company that revolutionized the car services industry.

“We are ecstatic about this new partnership and look forward to welcoming Uber as part of the WaVE community,”  WaVe Marketing Manager Gracie Stemmer says. “Uber’s insights and experiences are invaluable for entrepreneurs who are in the same position Uber was before their breakout success.” 

Tampa Bay WaVe is billed as 'by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs,' while Uber allows drivers to create flexible schedules and work as independent contractors in Florida.

Uber has helmed previous events for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay; in October 2015, the company sent established angel investors out in Uber cars around Tampa and St. Petersburg for a three-hour pitch event. Local startup founders or residents who scored a ride got 15 minutes to make a backseat business pitch to angel investors from groups like the Tamiami Angel Fund and Florida Funders, LLC.

“This is a great opportunity for local startups to benefit from the past experiences of a successful startup that has reached their breakout success,” Stemmer wrote in a blog post announcing the WaVe/Uber partnership. “Uber has been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and created the app!”

Tampa Bay WaVe, home to an entrepreneurial business center and coworking space in downtown Tampa sponsored an event track at Tampa Bay Startup Week in February. Learn more about Startup Week by clicking here.

Uber of Tampa Bay has also developed a partnership, Direct Connect, with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in neighboring Pinellas County. The pilot program, which was announced in late February, will reimburse riders who use Uber to reach designated bus stops by half of the fare, or up to $3.

New water taxi aims to transport passengers on Tampa area waterways

Yacht Starship Dining Cruises is launching a new pirate-themed water taxi service around Tampa that will help “landlubbers” travel the high seas of the Hillsborough River, Hillsborough Bay and Garrison Channel. 

Pirate Water Taxi will offer three 50-foot vessels that make stops at 14 locations along the waterfront in the Channelside District, Davis Island and downtown Tampa. Passengers aboard each vessel will enjoy the convenience of onboard restrooms and concessions while the captains, acting as pirates, engage guests with witty, whimsical narrations. 

“The pirate inspiration is part of the rich Gasparilla tradition here in the city,” says Troy Manthey, president and CEO of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises. Manthey, who hails from New Orleans and is a fifth-generation Mississippi River passenger boat captain, began cutting the currents of Tampa Bay when he visited the area in 2001 and realized the potential here. “I wanted to open up the beautiful waterfront to the community.” So he did, when he established Yacht Starship. Now, Manthey hopes his Pirate Water Taxi service, which debuts on February 27, helps locals and tourists connect with Tampa’s growing number of waterfront attractions.

“There will be multiple stops between The Florida Aquarium and Rick’s on the River, including Ulele, Curtis Hixon Park, Bayshore, and other places.” Unlike other water taxi services, which often have just one vessel, Pirate Water Taxi will field three. “That way, one boat can be undergoing maintenance, another can handle a private charter, and we’ll still have a vessel operating for public service,” he explains. The water taxis will operate seven days a week, with extended hours during weekends and special events. 

While Tampa Bay’s new water taxi will handle the utilitarian duties of ferrying 40 to 50 people around downtown Tampa, Manthey stresses that his new water taxis will be more than just another way to get around the city. 

“This service is as much a tourism attraction as it is a mode of transportation,” he says. “Our captains will be cast as pirates and they will engage with passengers, telling them about the area, where the best places to go are, and what they can enjoy at each attraction.”

Pirate Water Taxi will be officially unveiled Friday, Feb. 26, during a christening ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center. Hearkening a longtime tradition for launching new boats, bottles of champagne will be smashed against the new water taxi vessels, and the boats will be ceremoniously named. 
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