Southeast Florida Business Briefs - Sept. 2004
Clearwater -- American Capital Strategies Ltd. of Bethesda, Md., has invested $33 million in CCS Medical, a provider of diabetes and medical supplies.
Fort Myers -- The NCAA Division II committee has granted Florida Gulf Coast University full Division II status, allowing the university's athletic teams to compete for national titles and awards. Also, FGCU announced it will develop a college of engineering through a $5-million donation from the Whitney Foundation and $7.5 million in state matching grants. The college is expected to start enrolling students in 2005.
Lakeland -- The National Retail Federation has ranked Publix 16th among the nation's top 100 retailers based on 2003 revenue. The chain rang up $16.8 billion in sales, up 5.8% from 2002.
Naples -- Cincinnati's Fifth Third Bancorp is buying Naples' First National Banchares of Florida for $1.6 billion in stock. First National, the largest bank headquartered on Florida's west coast, has $5.3 billion in assets and 77 branches. Fifth Third will now have 90 branches and $6 billion in assets here. First National President Kevin Hale will head up Fifth Third's Florida operations.
Pasco County -- Pasco County's development review committee has rejected plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in New Port Richey off Beacon Woods Drive, agreeing with county planners that the store's placement would make the road too dangerous. Wal-Mart is expected to appeal the decision.
Residential building continues to outpace last year's numbers for the first part of the year. Home builders pulled more than 3,690 permits for single-family homes from January to May, a 26% increase over the same time last year. The county's tax roll reflects the boom, doubling from $8 billion in 1997 to $16 billion this year.
Sarasota -- Global Signal (NYSE-GSL) of Sarasota acquired Tower Ventures III LLC for $52 million in cash plus fees. Tower Ventures owned 97 wireless communications towers in Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas. Global Signal, which owns and operates communications towers, has acquired 214 wireless towers in the last six months.
St. Petersburg -- After trying for more than a decade, city officials secured a full-service post office for the Midtown neighborhood, one of the city's poorest areas. The Postal Service refused to use its own money and agreed to expand the facility only after the city provided $250,000 in Federal Community Block Grant funds and marshaled support from U.S. Reps. C.W. Bill Young and Jim Davis, Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Jeb Bush. The post office is one piece in an overall redevelopment project that is bringing a grocery store, a health center, restaurants and a bank to the neighborhood.
Tampa -- WellCare Health Plans has completed an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, selling 8.43 million shares at an initial price of $17 a share. WellCare's stock symbol is WCG.
The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hosted the U.S./Panama Free Trade Negotiations in August. Local business leaders met with representatives from Panama companies over five days to discuss trade opportunities and possible business ventures.
Credit card company Capital One of McLean, Va., will shut down its Tampa call center, laying off 1,100 employees by next spring. About 350 finance collection employees will remain at the site.
Tampa Bay -- Tampa Bay area hotels, airports and attractions say this spring/summer has been the best vacation season in years. In Pinellas County, the number of overnight visitors in May increased 9% from a year earlier to 375,000. At Tampa International Airport, passenger traffic is up 7% through June from last year. St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport reports passenger traffic was up 53% this year through June. Hotel occupancy throughout the region rose 6% in May from a year earlier, according to a report by Smith Travel Research.
TAKING A GAMBLE
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Ocean Jewel cruise ship opened for business at the Port of St. Petersburg in August. The 450-foot, eight-story ship is the largest in the state to feature Las Vegas-style gambling and entertainment.