Talk & Predictions
Kids strolling the halls of Osceola County public schools will be urged to "Think Straight A's," and "Never Stop Learning." Noble messages, to be sure, but it's the medium that's raising eyebrows among some citizens of the central Florida county.
The exhortations are scheduled to appear on posters in the hallways, cafeterias and auditoriums of county schools. Each message will have a corporate sponsor, such as Hershey chocolate, Lego toys and Crayola crayons. What bothers critics is that the posters are glorified ads aimed at the most vulnerable of consumers.
By a narrow 3-2 vote, the School Board of Osceola County approved a one-year experiment for the ads. Four high schools, six middle schools and 14 elementary school have the option to participate. Committees of parents, teachers and administrators in each school have final say.
Corporate sponsors will pay $960 a year for a sign. "It's very inexpensive," says Kevin Kitto of Koala Outdoor Advertising in Dundee, which was hired to round up advertisers for the program.
Ad revenues would be split between participating schools and a college scholarship fund set up by the Foundation for Osceola Education, a not-for-profit group in Kissimmee. The foundation's president, Ken Smith, expects at least ten schools to permit up to 30 signs each.
Florida State University is marketing an innovative student ID card to colleges across the country through its recently opened Card Application Technology Center (CATC). Working with various banks and MCI, the center is helping retool ID cards for several of the State University of New York's (SUNY) 65 campuses. It's also working with campuses as far away as California. "FSU certainly is the leader in the country in card technology," says Tom Bell, executive director of campus auxiliary services for SUNY-Geneseo near Rochester, N.Y., one of the first SUNY schools to receive the FSU-style cards.
Key to the FSUCard concept is flexibility. With two magnetic stripes on the back, the FSUCard stores enough information to let students, faculty and administrators conduct banking (currently provided through Tallahassee State Bank); make debit-card purchases from almost 300 merchants around Tallahassee; and make stored-value purchases in campus vending machines. Students also can use the card to receive financial aid, obtain health care, enter locked buildings, check out library materials, make long-distance calls, receive campus voice mail messages and obtain schedules and transcripts.
The card makes money for the university. Personnel savings, plus revenue from the school's banking arrangement, will total at least $500,000 for 1995-96.
"Everyone who depends on money from the state is in trouble these days," explains FSU's Bill Norwood, executive director of the CATC. "We take an existing service business and turn it into a way to create revenue for the institution."
Come spring, designers take another technological step forward, replacing the FSUCard with a microchip-implanted "smart card" that promises more options and greater security.
-- John D. McKinnon
Greg Farmer Headed Home?
Greg Farmer, formerly the dynamic secretary of commerce under Gov. Chiles, became U.S. undersecretary of commerce in charge of travel and tourism.
But his hopes of turning the federal tourism office into a public-private partnership apparently have been dashed by Republican budget cutters, who want to scuttle it. "The fat lady hasn't sung yet," sighs Farmer, "but she's cleared her throat."
Farmer, 46, who previously expressed interest in running for statewide office, now says he plans to work in the travel and tourism industry in central or south Florida.
Will The Government Take Hooters To The Cleaners?
Of course the name Hooters is a double-entendre. Clearwater businessman Ed Droste, one of the co-founders of the Hooters restaurant chain, makes a clean breast of that. "Our original concept has not changed much," he says. "We are still a family restaurant based on fun, humor and tasteful sex appeal. Our intention was never to be offensive."
But the 172-restaurant chain known for its scantily clad waitresses -- or "Hooters Girls" as the company calls them -- has offended a member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ricky Silberman, who in 1991 accused the company of discriminating against male job applicants.
After a four-year investigation, the federal agency proposed that Hooters pay $22 million to an untold number of men denied employment based on gender and begin hiring waiters.
Hooters refused, and in November, the chain launched a public relations campaign that included a parade of about 100 Hooters Girls on the streets of Washington, D.C.
"We know that we're controversial from time to time, but even people not elated with our system have supported our position on this," says Droste. "The EEOC doesn't get it, but the American people do."
Fully clothed Hooters lawyers argue that being female is essential to being a Hooters Girl. Or, as a company press release puts it: "Hooters patrons come to the stores to watch and interact with the Hooters Girls. Hiring men to serve as Hooters Girls would destroy the essence of Hooters' business."
So would the $22 million fine. "The company can't pay it," says Richard Rabin, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Hooters. "The damages would be enormous to the point of devastating."
After the EEOC filed its complaint against Hooters, four Chicago men filed suit demanding back pay and compensatory damages because they weren't hired as Hooters waiters.
By early December, the EEOC itself hadn't decided whether to sue Hooters. "The ball is really in the EEOC's court," Rabin says.
-- Mike Clary
NASA Goes Commercial
With Congress poised to slash funding, NASA thinks it can justify its existence by creating a new, down-to-earth role for itself. The space agency has gotten into technology transfer by spurring commercial research and helping businesses develop new products. The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Brevard County is making new contacts and contributions in communities around the state.
In the past, KSC's elite scientists and engineers developed innovative technologies that, for the most part, remained in NASA's control. Now, through the NASA-KSC/State of Florida Technology Outreach Program, the space agency offers research and problem solving to Florida municipalities and businesses, free of charge.
When a business submits a problem, KSC assigns an engineer to work on a solution. Most take less than 40 hours. Dan Justin, a biomedical engineer with Matthews Orthopaedic Clinic in Orlando, was one of KSC's first customers.
To aid partial amputees, Justin had developed a bone-lengthening device. NASA helped him enhance the device with a feature that measures the rate of lengthening.
NASA has a three-year commitment to the KSC outreach program and hopes to work on 1,000 problems a year. Florida's state-funded Technological Research and Development Authority in Titusville administers the operation. By recent count, Florida businesses had submitted 170 problems and more than 50 had been resolved.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta promoted Jack Guynn, 52, to be president and CEO. He replaces Robert P. Forrestal, who is retiring. Guynn, a 31-year Fed veteran, helped open the Miami office in the 1970s.
Barnett Banks, Inc., named Rebecca S. "Becky" Allen, 53, as president and CEO of Barnett Trust Company and executive director of affluent financial services. She had been president and CEO of Barnett Bank of Southwest Florida.
Barry Diller ascended to the chairmanship of St. Petersburg's Home Shopping Network as part of a deal in which Silver King Communications acquired 80% of HSN's voting shares in a stock swap with Liberty Media Corp. He quickly tapped James G. Held, 42, once executive vice president under Diller at HSN rival QVC, to be CEO. Last August, Diller purchased controlling interest in Silver King, a former HSN subsidiary and the owner of 12 UHF television stations. Shortly before Diller's HSN appointment, Silver King announced it would move its headquarters to Los Angeles from St. Petersburg.
Gov. Lawton Chiles former communications director, Ron Sachs, opens his own public relations, government relations and communications firm in Tallahassee this month. Sachs, 45, a Miami print and broadcast journalist for most of his career, served on the governor's staff for three years in the job.
Orlando's high-profile booster, Rick Tesch, 50, will leave his job as president of the Economic Development Commission of Mid-Florida in February to become director of corporate and community affairs for Campus Crusade for Christ in Orlando. "The appeal is to represent a first-class organization that has ministries around the world and to help it have the proper role in central Florida and the state," says Tesch, adding, "It allows me to be more involved in Christian ministry." The EDC is conducting a nationwide search for Tesch's successor.
Tom Hunter, 38, was named president of Miami-based MTV Latino, MTV's 24-hour Spanish language cable television network serving Latin America and the U.S. He replaces Richard Arroyo, who left in November. Hunter joined MTV in 1987.
The Florida League of Cities tapped Michael Sittig, 42, as executive director. He replaces his father, Raymond C. Sittig, who led the group for 25 years. Michael Sittig was assistant executive director for 14 years.
American Bankers Insurance Group Inc. President Gerald N. Gaston, 63, adds the title of CEO this month, succeeding R. Kirk Landon, 66, who will remain as chairman of the Miami-based insurance company.
Burger King CEO Robert C. Lowes, 50, was promoted to chairman of the Miami-based fast-food restaurant chain. A six-year veteran of Grand Metropolitan PLC, Burger King's parent company, Lowes took Burger King's leadership reins last July. Four other Burger King executives also were named to new posts: Tom Mueller, 43, to be senior vice president for North American Operations; David Baney, 43, to the new position of vice president for business development; Craig Bushey, 40, managing director for Western Europe; and Colt Hothorn, 43, managing director for the rest of Europe and international development.
William C. Rustin, Jr., succeeds retiring W. "Bill" Kundrat, Jr., this month as president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. Rustin, 57, was president and CEO of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association for 15 years.
Joseph R. Coulter, Jr., president, CEO and co-founder of Miami's Coulter Corp., died on November 27. He was 71. A quiet, publicity-shy man, Coulter and his brother Wallace produced the first commercial blood-cell counter in 1952, revolutionizing blood cell analysis in medical laboratories. With the breakthrough came riches, putting the Coulter brothers on the Forbes 400, each with fortunes estimated at more than $450 million. Privately held Coulter continues to dominate the worldwide market in blood counters.