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Synthetic body manufacturer grows in Tampa

The Tampa manufacturer of synthetic bodies for medical testing and training is in a growth streak. SynDaver, located near Tampa International Airport, has acquired the London area-based Lifecast Body Simulation, which specializes in making life-like mannequins, and a $186 million contract from the U.S. Department of the Army.

“Our bodies are made of a proprietary mix of water, salt and fiber,” explains Kevin King, the company’s VP of marketing. “It’s the closet thing ... to a real human for the medical training market.”

SynDaver, which handles management and assembly in Tampa, expects to merge the companies’ capabilities to create ultra-realistic, next-generation synthetic human and animal bodies. The models will include fully functioning anatomy and life-like tissues; humans will appear realistic enough to replace stuntmen in films.

“We’ve been making such great tissues from the skeleton on up,” King says. “Lifecast we thought was the world leader in the exterior.”

SynDaver did not release details about the acquisition made Sunday, Jan. 14.

Its models, distinguishable from cadavers because they don’t have a grayish cast caused by preservatives, are designed for use in anatomy and funeral science instruction, surgery simulation, clinical training, consumer product testing, automobile crash testing, TV and movie production, medical device testing and military product development. They are replacing live animals and cadavers.

“We want to continue driving the notion of patient safety and patient care as far as we can take it,” King says. “It’s all about the patient. As long as the focus remains there, we believe we are going to be successful.”

The company, which derived its name from the words synthetic and cadaver, is expected to supply both virtual patient simulation systems and whole body patient simulators for human medical and veterinarian training through its new government contract.

Under the five-year contract with the Department of the Army’s Joint Project Management Office for Medical Modeling and Simulation, SynDaver is expected to deliver an indefinite number of simulators inside and outside of the United States for the training, evaluation and certification of medical personnel.

Mark Owens, tapped as head of the company’s new Global Government Business Unit charged with overseeing the Army contract, is one of seven recent hires in leadership roles, according to its website. A financial controller still is anticipated.

Started in 2004, the company founded by Dr. Christopher Sakezles is experiencing rapid growth. “We’re growing at multiples of the compound annual growth rate of the industry,” he explains.

Among its clientele are industrial clients like Apple and Google, educational clients like the University of Florida and University of Saskatchewan, government customers like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and media customers like CBS, NBC and PBS.

The company’s models range in cost from $8,000 to $100,000 depending on the features sought.

SynDaver also is screening potential investors of $100,000 or more for its next private offering.

The technology used in the synthetic bodies dates back to 1993, when UF was involved in initial studies to create synthetic tracheas to replace live animals when testing airway devices. The materials developed are now used in the industry to mimic simple veins and arteries.

Sakezles, the president, chief technology officer, and chairman of the Board of Directors for SynDaver, earned a master’s in Materials Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science from UF. He earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida.

Sakezles is expected to investigate live tissue replacement such as artificial hips or knees in the future. “We believe can play a role in the medical device and replacement arena,” King says.

For now, the company with strategic national and international flight access is working on new animals; a cat is coming out in the spring. They’re also working with a horse model. “We are driving toward rats and mice as well. They are being used so prevalently in testing,” he explains.

While the synthetic bodies are expected to replace real animals in surgeries like gastropexy, used to treat a life-threatening condition involving the stomach, they aren’t life-like enough to use in movies because they have no fur.

But Lifecast already has supplied human synthetic bodies for films like Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, for which it won an Academy Award.

There are no plans for SynDaver models to be paired with robotics to do mundane tasks like clean house or pick fruit. “It’s just not something that’s in our wheelhouse, nor is it in our short term roadmap,” King says.

If something like that becomes a reality, he says, “it won’t be our stuff.”


DOD courts local innovators for MD5 accelerator

Business accelerators and hackathons are all the rage these days. Even the federal government is getting in on the act: its MD5 is on the local tech scene to help innovators create new products.

“We reach out to innovators that typically would not be working with the DOD [Department of Defense],” explains William Kernick Ph.D., a principal in the MD5 national security technology accelerator, which is part of the DOD. “We want to make these communities of innovators aware of very interesting and challenging problems. ... Part of what we’re doing is building those connections.”

MD5 held its first event in the Tampa Bay area in December in partnership with the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, an organization formed to facilitate collaboration between innovators and the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM. Called Hacking the Human Element, the three-day hackathon brought together participants from across the United States to develop prototypes using wearable technology to boost productivity in austere environments.

Squad Dr. Bones McCoy claimed a prize worth up to $15,000 to work on a prototype that monitors vital signs through wearable technology, helping first responders to more easily assess the urgency of medical treatment.

 

“What we focused on was the telemedicine aspect,” says team spokesperson Tracy Ingram, CEO of Intention Technology based in Dade City, which is building non-invasive medical diagnostic tools.

In a combat situation, Squad Dr. Bones McCoy’s automated alert system would enable medics to identify stable patients from those whose conditions are rapidly deteriorating, or who are deceased. It relies on off-the-shelf technology that is commercially viable.

 

A member of Pasco Economic Development Council’s SMARTstart Incubator, Ingram recruited a seasoned team after showing up at the event's trade show. “We had this perfect mix of all these people that kind of came together to make this happen,” he says.

Members of the large team included David Hirschberg, Natalie Concors, Asia Hall, Alec Thurman, Brian Meredith, Steve McCalmont, Yves St Laurent and Terry Shaw.

The team expects to use the money to seek a Small Business Innovation Research grant for $200,000 to further the technology, with the goal of making it available to the military and commercial markets.


“Really what you are doing is extending telemedicine from the hospital room to potentially the home or wherever that patient would be,” says Ingram, co-Founder of the nonprofit Healthcamp Florida, which identifies innovative medical technologies.

The other teams receiving up to $15,000 were:

• Squad Smart Tourniquets, which showed how tourniquets embedded in undergarments could stop bleeding in extremities;

• Squad Blood Suckers, which demonstrated how an intravenous diagnostic probe can provide real-time and continuous blood analysis; and

• Squad Fabric Communications, which showed how fabric could be used to ensure communication in austere environments.


In addition to the money and mentoring, teams were recognized by Manufacturing USA at the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC 2017) in Tampa in December.

While MD5 is working to improve the national security, its efforts are not solely to assist warfighters. “When we work with entities on these ideas, we like to focus on something called dual use,” Kernick says, adding it should be aimed at national defense and commercial markets. “Just doing a national security application is not sufficient for a company to be successful. You also want them to make sure they’re looking at dual use.”

 

A good example of why this is important is GPS, which was military technology 40 years ago. Commercializing the product advanced the product and reduced its cost.

 

The prize money will be awarded to teams for follow through on product development, with installments given at designated milestones. “We give them the freedom to put their plan in place,” he says. “We’re very flexible about how they deploy the funds. They have to keep it going.”

MD5’s customized approach doesn’t include a physical cohort, application process, or set program. Instead, the hackathon is the “lead-in,” Kernick says.

“It’s more like they’re now in the fold, so we continue to work with them,” he explains.

Kernick says discussions are underway about another event with SOFWERX. “We want to keep going and figure out another way to do a collaboration,” he says.

Interested in learning more about SOFWERX? Check out this article in 83 Degrees Media.


Florida trade mission to Israel solidifies local economic development efforts

Dr. Vicki Rabenou was an OB-GYN juggling motherhood in the 1990s and her very demanding profession. One day she got a life-changing wakeup call: Her two young children were talking to her in the native language of their nanny, a Filipino.

“I felt so guilty,” she recalls. “I took one year leave of absence.”

That was the end of her career as a physician. Instead the Jerusalem native discovered her love of helping entrepreneurs. She migrated from Israel to the United States, and eventually landed in Tampa.

I really fell in love with Tampa. This is a great place,” she says. “Everybody is so welcoming and happy to work with you.”

Today Rabenou is co-Founder, President and CEO of StartUp Nation Ventures, an Orlando-based company with offices in Tampa and Tel Aviv. She is positioned to change attitudes when Israeli companies view Florida as a place for tourism and agriculture, not tech.

“I believe that our solution is a complete solution that really takes care of 360 degrees of the needs of companies that are looking to reach out to the U.S. market,” she says. “It’s for the long run.”

SUNV is partnering with the Israel Innovation Authority to spur the growth of Israeli companies that want to locate their U.S. headquarters in Florida. It will be investing up to $500,000 in select, innovative Israeli companies -- who are eligible for a 50 percent match from the Israeli government -- through the Israel-Florida Innovation Alliance, a cooperative initiative, says SUNV co-Founder A.J. Ripin.

The government money is a loan to be repaid when a company has sales.

“Startup nation is a nickname that Israel has been called in the business marketplace, because of the success that Israeli companies have had,” he explains.

“Memorializing” the SUNV agreement was part of a Florida trade mission to Israel earlier this month that included Florida Gov. Rick Scott and an entourage of nearly 70, he says.

This collaboration that I’ve signed with the Israeli Innovation Authority is all about going to market,” Rabenou explains. “Most times Israeli Innovation will only finance research and development that is done, and stays in, Israel.”

“The idea is that we will do it by [industrial] cluster. We will choose clusters that we have strength with here in Florida,” she adds.

Israeli companies are interested in economic opportunities abroad because of limited opportunities at home in the state about the size of New Jersey, Ripin points out.

“The Israeli companies are really advanced. They just don’t have the opportunities because of the small size of the state,” he explains. “Their natural place for that is the U.S. ... Once their product and solution work in the U.S. market, then they’re able to compete in the global market.”

The initiative gives Florida access to a pipeline of innovation for industry clusters throughout the state. It will focus on two to four areas in 2018; possible areas include cybersecurity, hotel technology, agriculture technology, automated vehicles, smart city, smart city innovation, and medical technology.

SUNV leaders point out Israeli innovation already is having a positive impact in the United States. A 2016 economic impact study shows Israeli innovation is a major driver of the Massachusetts economy. It indicates more 200 Israeli businesses made the greater Boston area home in 2015, bringing in more than $9 billion that year.

“This is the right time to reach out to these Israeli startups,” Rabenou asserts. “I believe we can duplicate what they have in Massachusetts. This is the first step.”

During the trade mission to strengthen its economic development/trading partnership with Israel, Gov. Scott also recognized the first class of graduates from the Tampa-based Florida-Israel Business Accelerator. In addition, FIBA attracted the attention of the Israeli media.

Rachel Marks Feinman, FIBA’s executive director, who made the trip, says the mission gave FIBA an opportunity to cultivate both relationships with Florida leaders as well as people in the Israeli startup community. “If we can have a critical mass of Israeli companies that call Florida their U.S. home, or even their international headquarters, that can really set Florida apart,” she says.

“I’m pleased that there is this effort to support Israeli companies,” she says of SUNV. “I think the FIBA program has its own way of achieving its goals.”

FIBA, a technology accelerator launched in 2016 by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, is preparing for another cohort of eight companies to begin arriving by mid-February. It will be choosing from a pool of at least 40 applicants.

“There’s a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” she says.


Tech Bytes: Tech-related events look at success, failure

Starting a new business can be challenging, but it’s a whole lot easier with help from a friend. That’s the idea behind this December’s Trep Talks, which is all about startups. Whatever you consider them to be.

“We want to celebrate our startups in Tampa and the progress they’ve made,” says Jennifer Whelihan, manager of Hillsborough County’s Development Department, the event’s organizer.

The event features a panel discussion on what is a startup, how panel members funded their businesses, and how they define startup success. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions as well.

“We want to always, of course, include tech because that’s important, but also be inclusive of other successful startups in our community that we can learn from as well,” she says.

On the panel are Todd Belveal, founder and CEO of Washlava; Marvin Scaff, co-founder of Adjoy; Jacqueline Darna, founder and CEO of NoMo Nausea; Brent Kraus, CEO of Ella Bing; and Tracy Povolny, co-founder of Fresco Foods. Carlton Fields is partnering in the program.

The free event is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center at 2101 E. Palm Ave. in Ybor City. Reservations, which are encouraged, can be made online. Free parking is across the street.

The quarterly Trep Talk meetings give people a chance to connect with key businessmen and businesswomen in a friendly environment. The meetings are usually held the third Tuesday of the month.

“Our economy is growing here,” she adds. “The startup growth is a big part of that.”

Read on for more tech-related events in Tampa Bay.

  • Latino/Hispanic tech business founders and co-founders are invited to co-work for free on the first Wednesday of the month with Tampa Bay WaVE, a tech incubator in downtown Tampa where tech businesses can build, launch and grow. The next opportunity is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (or later if you get in before the doors close) on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at FirstWaVE Venture Center, 500 E Kennedy, Suite 300. Check it out.
  • Failure can be part of your business’ success story. That’s the message of Chad Nuss, founder and chief revenue officer of InsideOut, a sales innovation lab, who is featured at the December Diary of an Entrepreneur program. Part of the Tech Talk series by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, the free program will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Microsoft Headquarter offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. Reservations are encouraged.
  • Code for Tampa Bay is holding Open Hack Saturday! from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at Tampa Bay WaVE, 500 E. Kennedy Blvd. #300, Tampa. Group meetings are open to people who are interested in making government services and information more user friendly. Get the lowdown here.
  • Code Katas, a monthly get-together to do code challenges, is scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Bank of the Ozarks' Innovation Lab, 100 5th St. S., St. Petersburg. Reserve a place.
  • If you run an innovative growth company, this may be your big chance. Florida Venture Forum is seeking applications for a $100,000 Accelerating Innovation Grand Prize Award to be given in late January. The application deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 20. Entrepreneurs will be applying to compete at the 2018 Florida Venture Capital Conference in Fort Lauderdale, where they will make presentations before equity investors. Eligible companies will be considered for the $100,000 cash prize given by Space Florida. Conference fees apply. Learn more.
  • It’s time to mark your calendars, Apple fans. Apple computer inventor Steve Wozniak is part of the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business Thought Leader series. He’ll be featured at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the USF Sun Dome Arena on the Tampa Campus. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Register here

Natural skin care company grows with help from black business development initiatives

Renee Edwards didn’t set out to start a business. She was a mom with a problem: Her daughter was suffering from acne -- and she wanted to help.

So Edwards, who works in clinical research at St. Petersburg’s Hill Top Research, began experimenting with essential oils and exfoliation.

“It worked for my daughter [Jakara Fitzpatrick],” she says. “I thought I could sell it.”

And sell it she has. Her Skin Kandii products are available in nine retail outlets in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, including the St. Pete Store and Visitor’s Center.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held last Thursday at the Second Avenue North store to mark the occasion.

“I think the real root of cleaning the skin, and relieving acne, is exfoliation,” she asserts. “I think the vitamins that are added to the scrub, and the essential oils ... aid in the healing.”

Edwards, Skin Kandii’s CEO, participated in two Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg-funded initiatives designed to help black businesses open and grow: Community Business Development Initiative and CATCH.

“It [the Community Business Development Initiative] has resulted in the creation of 27 new businesses,” says Sean Kennedy, Manager of The Greenhouse, which created the program. “Twenty existing businesses have seen revenue growth.”

The initiative was designed to encourage black-owned businesses, which are under-represented in the community, Kennedy says.

“The point of the program was to eliminate the barriers to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth,” he explains.

Skin Kandii became the first African American-manufactured product line sold in The St Pete Store, a retail showcase backed by the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fitzpatrick was about 13 when she was experiencing severe skin issues, Edwards recalls. “She wouldn’t wear shorts or skirt in her early middle school and high school years,” she continues.

It took three years of testing, but Edwards eventually discovered sugar and essential oils could be used to exfoliate two or three times a week -- and get that problem under control.

“Once you exfoliate your skin, you also need to use a sunscreen,” she adds. “The fresh skin was turning darker.”

Along the way, with feedback from family and friends, Edwards learned enough to develop eight different scrubs she’s priced at $12.99 each. She’s also developed a lotion bar, lip balms and bath balms.

She has a stress reliever, a skin replenisher, a relaxing anti-inflammatory scrub, and even an Island blend to boost energy. Edwards’ best-selling product is a dry skin formula that has become popular as a foot scrub. It also can help with eczema.

Skin Kandii got is name as Edwards developed the dry skin formula to help her nephew, Jeremieco Robinson, with eczema. She enticed him by saying the product was candy for his skin.

Edwards also offers create-your-own formulas made with the essential oils the user prefers and containers labeled with a distributor’s name. In addition to being available in stores, Skin Kandii is sold at house parties.

Edwards would like to have a TV commercial in six months and eventually sell on St. Pete’s Home Shopping Network.

While Skin Kandii currently is run by a staff of three, she hopes to expand to hire “a whole lot of people,” she says.

She’s working on soy candles, to go on sale in December, and all natural soaps, to sell in the summer of 2018.

The Greenhouse is looking at funding options to continue the initiative, which offered training and business financing. The program already has assisted 60 businesses, among them the affordable housing firm Sago House, the youth employment company I Support Youth, the educational consulting company Global Intelligences and Brea’s Coffee, which also held a ribbon-cutting in October.

Meanwhile Tahisia Scantling, a consultant working with the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, which now is backing the other program Edwards participated in, says the community development financial institution holds two cohorts of CATCH per year. It offers training and financing to help businesses.

Although a $100 application fee is charged, the fee is returned to the 10 businesses selected for the 15-week training program.

The CATCH acronym stands for coachable, action-oriented, timely, collaboration help. The program now is also being offered in Hillsborough County, with sponsorship by Wells Fargo.


A force for healing through the arts in Tampa

Those who have found creative passions know how uplifting and soul-nourishing the arts can be, even in rough times. For military veterans, simply returning to civilian life can be difficult and painful on many levels.
 
Enter: Creative Forces.

In a joint project between Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, the NEA, and Americans for the Arts, Creative Forces Summit will be honing in on Tampa for panel discussions revolving around military healing arts and community collaboration at the Straz Center on Oct. 23 & 24.
 
Panel discussions range from types of creative art therapies to building a more collaborative union between the arts and military communities, with performances and open mic sessions interspersed throughout the two-day event.
 
Art therapists who work closely with veterans see the progress of their work, albeit anecdotally. One of the highlights of this event will be talks by Andrea Assaf, artistic director of Art2Action -- which has been working closely with veterans since 2011. She will discuss her role in leading the program design for creating a clinical study to measure tangible success with military healing arts.
 
“We spent a year doing this study, which was designed by a collaborative process. In order to measure impact, we had to come up with a mixed-methods approach where the USF Psychology Department leads a quantitative process while the VA works on qualitative process,” Assaf says.
 
She has been running volunteer workshops at a branch of the VA, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, for over 4 years. While Assaf’s strengths rest in theatre, poetry and creative writing, she brings in guest artists to open up veterans to other artistic mediums.

The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is already a Creative Forces clinical site, with Tampa working on a Telehealth Pilot Program for veterans in rural areas. Being nearby, the MacDill Air Force Base doesn't hurt either. Their approach to art therapy is simple: Treat it as a need, just like any other treatment.

“I see the arts change and move people. Artistic expression is an important component in the healing and recovering process. What the government wants to see in terms of funding is data. The intention of this study is to document what we know intuitively into usable data to inspire further study and investment both from private and public funds in supporting this kind of work,” Assaf says.

For more information about arts programs and events in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region, visit The Arts Council website.

To suggest additional story ideas, email 83 Degrees.

To subscribe to our free weekly e-magazine, follow this link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homeowners form a committee that decides which installer to use.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Free computer class can launch your coding career

Have you ever wished you could write code for an app? This may be your chance! A national nonprofit organization, LaunchCode, is offering a free, 23-week computer training course in Tampa Bay.

“This is the first time we’re giving the class in Tampa,” says Matt Mawhinney, LaunchCode’s Florida Program Director.

The opportunity is made possible by the Florida Legislature, which earmarked some $400,000 in funds through the efforts of state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa.

The goal is to create a career path for people interested in tech-related jobs. “We don’t just say ‘take this class and good luck, get a job,’ ” he explains. “We form hiring relationships with employers.”

So for up to 120 who get into the class, there’s the chance of landing a $15-an-hour apprenticeship for up to six months -- and eventually a full-time job that might pay an average of $51,000 annually.

“We remove as many of the barriers as we can to acquiring the skills,” he continues. “We try to get you across the goal line into a good-paying career.”

The LC 101 Tampa Bay class focuses on computer science fundamentals and web development, which prepares students for careers in web and mobile software development. It attracts people with high school or GED diplomas or even advanced college degrees. Candidates must be at least 18.

It is being held at CareerSource’s Career Center on 9215 N. Florida Ave., Suite 101. Interested parties can apply here.  While no previous coding experience is required, applicants will need to complete the online application, aptitude test and beginning coding assignment. Applicants should allot 45 minutes for the process.

In the selection process, they look at test scores, the answers to questions, and prior interest in technology. They also consider race and sex in attempt to ensure classes are diversified.

Classes meet from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 17 through March 22. Information sessions on the class are scheduled at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 28, and Tuesday, October 3, at the center.  Interested parties are asked to reserve a place.

CareerSource Tampa Bay is working with LaunchCode as part of its effort to beef up tech talent in the community, designated as a TechHire community in December. TechHire communities throughout the nation are intended to build a pipeline of tech talent. 

It’s unclear when another class might be offered in Tampa. “We have long-term plans, but we want to be smart about how we do this,” he says.


October job fairs target unemployed, underemployed

Whether you’re unemployed or underemployed, an upcoming job fair might help you get back on track. There are several scheduled soon in the Tampa Bay Area.

“Underemployment is a big issue, and the people are looking,” says Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman of District 1.

Murman has organized a job fair Friday, October 13, in conjunction with CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Community College.

“There are people that are still not employed, that need employment, and we’re here to help,” she says.

The event is free to both employers and jobseekers. “The employers need to call us as soon as possible if they are interested in being at the job fair, and making their jobs available, because we do have limited space,” she says.

She’s expecting about 55 employers and possibly 800 to 900 job seekers. A wide range of positions will be available including fulltime, part-time and contract.

The job fair, slated from 8:30 a.m. to noon at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus at 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa, is Murman’s third in that Tampa location. She’s already held six in southern Hillsborough, which was hard hit in the 2008 recession as construction ebbed.

To find out the employers that will be in attendance, check out Murman’s website or call her office at 813-272-5470. Those who need help preparing can contact her office to be connected with those that can help.

Jobseekers, who may be hired on the spot, do not need to register.

Following the event, the fair will be virtual from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and can be accessed on personal computers or at the public libraries. Visit her website and look for the link, which will be live when it’s available.

Florida Joblink Career also has a couple of events scheduled in the Tampa Bay region, the first one from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 5, at Courtyard By Marriott University Parkway, 850 University Pkwy, Sarasota. The event focuses on Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton. It is free to jobseekers.

The second event is planned for the Tampa, Brandon, Lakeland and surrounding areas Wednesday, October 11. The company, which places an emphasis on diversity, is holding the event from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Drive, Tampa. Admission is free for jobseekers.


Some of the careers included in both events are sales, management, customer service, insurance, education, government, IT, human resources, engineering, blue collar and clerical.

Learn more about these events here.

Here are some other job fairs scheduled in Tampa:

  • Tampa Career Fair is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, October 17, at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa. Learn more about the event by National Career Fairs here.
  • The Job News Job Fair is slated October 24 at George M. Steinbrenner Field, One Steinbrenner Drive, Tampa. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn more at JobNewsUSA.
  • A Tampa Career Fair is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. October 25 at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport Tampa. The event by Best Hire Career Fairs is free. It caters to lots of different industries including accounting, banking, consulting, education, technology, public administration, tourism, video game and web services.

Tech Bytes: Small business symposium offers tech help

Owners of small businesses have an opportunity to learn how technology can benefit their businesses September 30 at a free symposium offering assistance with digital marketing, websites, social media and productivity.

“In 2017, you’re only limited by your imagination,” says Carrol Josephs-Marshall, President of Central Florida Community Planning & Development, the event’s organizer.

The symposium offers free help to startups, businesses in the growth mode and successful companies ready to ramp up. We offer technological assistance that is designed to help companies compete in a world that is becoming more and more digital,” she explains.

“We also take the digital discussion a step further by covering Business Intelligence and how it can make a small company an immediate competitor of a much larger corporation,” she says.

The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College; 1320 E. Palm Ave., Tampa.

The program features industry experts who want to share practices they use in their own businesses. “Each attendee will have an opportunity to interact with presenters and get contact information so they may be able to get a one-on-one meeting at a later time,” she adds.

This year’s itinerary includes Janette Blanco, a business consultant with Florida Small Business Development Center; Andrew Gold, Ph.D., with Hillsborough Community College, and Co-Founder of e2Venture and Operation Startup; Rita Sauri, with Hillsborough County Economic Development; Gregory Hart, Managing Director of Minority and Small Business for the City of Tampa; and Charles Young Jr., a CPA and Managing Partner with Young and Son, Inc.

Also on the program are Sean Josephs, of The Josephs Group, Inc.; Leighton Kyler, of Peak Performance Paradigm LLC; Dr. Veronica Walters, Founder, The Walters Academy for Entrepreneurship; Brandy Hastings, Regional Partnership Manager, Visit Florida; Fabian Yepez, VP,  Prosperausa West Coast; and Robert West Jr., Store Manager/AVP, TD Bank.

Check out more tech-related opportunities in Tampa Bay below.

• Tampa Bay is participating in the 1776 Challenge Cup September 19, joining more than 70 cities worldwide that are holding a pitch competition to single out their top startup. Winners will fly to New York City for the Challenge Cup Global Finals in November. If you’d like to come out and hear the pitches, the event is planned from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. You can learn more about the event by the nonprofit business accelerator Tampa Bay WaVE here.

• Are you up for a challenge? You can help Hillsborough County control mosquitoes -- and prepare for a Zika threat. The Hack Zika 2017 event is scheduled for multiple dates, including a group hack September 22 to 24, independent teamwork from September 25 to 29 and presentations and awards September 30. The event is scheduled at Tampa Bay WaVE, 500 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 300, Tampa. Designers, programmers, developers, game engine experts, UX/UI experts, graphic designers and others are being asked to write software to help Hillsborough County Public Works Mosquito Control District combat mosquitoes through education, data collection and analysis. Zika is a disease spread by the Zika virus.

• Need funding for an innovative startup? The University of South Florida Chapter of National Academy of Inventors is holding a workshop to help you with that. Workshop: Avenues to Fuel Your Startup is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. September 25 at 3720 Spectrum Blvd., Oakview Room - USF IDRB Building, Tampa. A panel will talk about SBIR/STTR, VC funding and other seed resources. The event is free, but interested persons are advised to RSVP by September 18 by email or phoning 813-974-6414.

• Learn how artificial intelligence can affect our future at the Artificial Intelligence Summit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. September 26 at Ramada Westshore Hotel, 1200 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. The effect of driverless Teslas, new search engine optimization rules on Google, and how wearable tech can help you save time are part of the program priced at $199. Members of Tampa Bay Business Owners pay $99 with a code. Learn more here.

• Learn how to get connected on the professional networking website, Linkedin, at Linkedin for Business Building, a program offered by Operation Startup. Operation Startup offers a wide range of business startup services to veterans. The program is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. September 29 at Hillsborough County's Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. Walk-ins are welcome.

• In an attempt to make football safer, the National Football League and Football Research, Inc. are partnering with Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute on HeadHealthTECH Challenges. The series of challenges are focused on head protection, materials science, head kinematics and more. If you’ve got an idea, you can submit it by September 29. There will be multiple awards totaling up to $1 million a year, including in-kind support.


BizConnect@Platt: Business owners learn, network at public library

Business people like networking, and often meet and greet at Tampa Bay Area hotel conference rooms. But now they have a new venue: the public library.

“We’re making an effort to reach out to kind of a non-traditional library population,” explains Business Librarian Chris Sturgeon, who founded BizConnect@Platt, a program attracting business owners to the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa. “They don’t think it’s a place to work on their business. ... We try to dispel that myth.”

He’s one of five business librarians in Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library system. Hired last year, Sturgeon’s job is to reach out to businesses and let them know the library is a free resource to them.

“The whole idea as to open up the doors,” he says. “There’s a demand here [for networking]. Let’s try it. Let’s just make it open to everyone.”

The library offers free digital access with a public library card to business owners’ databases like that offered by Reference USA, or to the training website Lynda.com. Readers also can access free digital subscriptions to magazines like Forbes.

Out-of-county residents can enjoy services by paying $100 annually for a library card.

“A lot of information is available online, but it’s not all quality information,” he explains. “That’s where we try to come in.”

Changes were precipitated by the digital revolution. “Our circulation numbers are still very high for books. The digital content is almost equally as popular,” he says, adding the Tampa-Hillsborough libraries have a “pretty sizable” ebook collection for businesses.

Part of the draw is the option of using the library as a temporary working space. “They can come in on a walk-in basis and reserve one of the private study rooms,” he continues. “There are plenty of places for them to plug in. ... They can’t book it in advance.”

Every first Friday at 8 a.m., about 25 business owners meet at the Jan Platt Library to hear a speaker and network. “We get a different crowd almost every time,” he says. “Our speakers have all been very generous with their time.”

At the September 1 meeting, Gary LoDuca, Founder of Thoughtful Wealth Management and Tax Advisors, a certified financial planner, will be providing tips on businesses taxes. In August Mike Harting, owner/operator of St. Petersburg’s 3 Daughters Brewing, told his business story.     

The events are free and open to the public. No registration is required. Check the calendar for upcoming events here.


AirSpew: Teams build prototypes, compete for cash

Good will missions usually take a pilot, a co-pilot and an assistant to toss pamphlets out of the plane about an impending drop of food, medicine and supplies. But thanks to the Tampa-based OpenWERX, the process might become cheaper and easier.

It's latest challenge, AirSpew, has attracted 30 teams creating prototypes that spew information. They're vying for a $10,000 grand prize.

“We’re just trying to think outside the box, what else would make it easier for war fighters to communicate to a crowd,” explains Jeff Young, one of OpenWERX’s creators.

The challenge is the latest in a series by OpenWERX, which was formed nearly a year ago to help the public help the military and others. “If purely based on participation, this will be our biggest one,” he says.

The contest is called AirSpew because teams are making prototype devices that literally spew out literature or a verbal message using a speaker or radio. Teams also are working on mounts to attach the prototypes to the popular Phantom 4 drones.

The devices would reduce flight time and personnel hours.
 In addition to helping with good will missions, the invention might be used for law enforcement, Young adds.

Prototypes were due August 21; judging and awards will be on September 7. The first place team receives $10,000, while second place winners claim $5,000 and the third prize winners take away $3,000.

OpenWERX initially held month-long competitions, but decided to switch to quarterly contests because the teams asked for more time to work. The change also allows OpenWERX to offer larger cash prizes.

Challenges appeal to what he describes as the “maker community,” folks that like to use their hands to make things on their off hours. They may be engineers by trade, but most teams have people with differing skill sets. Some are students.

“I’ve seen definitively an outstanding turnout from folks like the University of South Florida, their engineering students have definitely been involved," he adds.

Ideas are submitted by war fighters and screened to see which ones are most suited to the program. The topic for the next challenge has not yet been chosen, and will be announced at September’s event.

Interested parties can sign up for alerts here.

OpenWERX is part of the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, named for its connection to Special Operations Forces. SOFWERX is a place the public can go to share ideas for what might become tomorrow’s hot inventions.


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.


Tech Bytes: TechHire Boot Camp and more tech-related tidbits in Hillsborough County

Students were issued dog tags. They used an original, comic book-styled text. From their classroom in a previously vacant storefront at Tampa’s University Mall, they studied core concepts needed for technology jobs.

In the end, some 10 students graduated in mid-July from the first USF-TechHire Technology Boot Camp taught by Clinton Daniel, an instructor in Business Analytics and Information Systems at the University of South Florida’s College of Business.

“The second Boot Camp starts the week after Labor Day,” Daniel says, adding they are working with Metropolitan Ministries to supply a place. “We still don’t have a permanent home. That makes it tough.”

After a rigorous 30-day program, the first graduates are being recognized August 30 at a TechHire talk slated from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at USF CONNECT Galleria.

“We’re taking a different tack,” says Kelley Sims, a spokeswoman for the organizers, !p Potential Unleashed, a multi-jurisdictional district in north Tampa.

The talks are part of a series of business community meetings intended to build a pipeline of tech talent in the Tampa Bay region, as part of a TechHire initiative launched by then-President Barack Obama in 2015. The program is intended to create jobs and facilitate business growth.

Ninety percent of the Boot Camp is hands on, with the balance being discussion, Daniel says. “My philosophy was if these folks are going to try to get a job, the employer most likely wants to know ‘what can you do’?” explains Daniel, who designed the curriculum and text, called Core Technical Manual.

Daniel relied on his military background to develop the practical training, presented in a non-threatening way. Students could opt to write code for their projects – or not.

Boot Camp graduates, who also could opt into a paid internship, for the most part had attended or graduated from college. “We thought maybe it would be a bunch of students that never went to college,” he acknowledges.

“Surprisingly enough, there’s a lot of people who have gone to college, and they can’t find jobs,” Daniel adds. “There’s just more demand out there for tech.”

Some 348 have enrolled in the area’s TechHire program, according to Michelle Schultz, Programs Director for CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas. Some 142 already have completed training.

In other tech news Dreamit, a top-10 ranked global accelerator and venture capital firm in New York City, has set up offices at CoWorkTampa in the historic Garcia & Vega Cigar Factory. Dreamit is preparing to launch its first UrbanTech accelerator program with eight to 10 companies in September.

The workspace will be used by out-of-town startups when they are in Tampa for parts of the program, says Andrew Ackerman, Dreamit’s Managing Director.

Our aim is to put Tampa on the map for UrbanTech innovation and, more generally, establish it as the startup hub for the Southeast U.S,” he says.

Check out more tech-related news in Tampa Bay below.

• Nominations are open for the Technology Executive of the Year, the Technology Leader of the Year and the Emerging Technology Leader of the Year awards. The Tampa Bay Technology Forum is accepting nominations until 5 p.m. August 18 for these and other awards. You can even self-nominate. Get the scoop here.

•  A weekend-long hackathon for the hospitality industry, Hack Hospitality, is scheduled August 25-27 at Station House / The Iron Yard in St. Petersburg. Teams will be working to solve real-life industry challenges – and competing for a $3,000 first-place prize. The event is being held by Startup Tampa Bay.

Homebrew Hillsborough is touring the mobile cellphone business pioneer Syniverse at 8:30 a.m. August 25. Located at 8125 Highwoods Palm Way, Tampa, Syniverse has as customers more than 1,500 cellphone carriers, enterprises and ISPs from nearly 200 different countries.

• Kunal Jain, Founder and President of Practiceforces, is the featured speaker at USF Connect’s Innovation Frame of Healthcare Ventures program from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. August 31 at the Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. The talk, which is free to attend, will focus on six things that affect new healthcare ventures: structure, financing, public policy, technology, consumers and accountability.

Tampa Bay WaVE accepted 10 new companies in its latest cohort, for a total of 50 companies. The companies included Kaginger, Metasense Analytics, LLC, The SuperMom Box, Monikl, Script, MyCourtCase, Finly Tech, Farady Inc., Mahatma Technologies, and WhooshFly.

Tampa Bay Innovation Center has announced its fiscal year results: 59 clients with 207 employees, and client revenues of nearly $10.5 million. Five trademarks and three patents were filed. Of the clients, 33 were involved with the incubator; the remaining 26 were co-working clients.

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