Photo: UF - IFASHolly Abeels, marine extension agent for Brevard/IFAS inspects oyster gardening habitats.
Central Florida Roundup
Making oyster beds
Brevard County residents are being recruited to help restore the Indian River Lagoon.
Efforts to re-establish oyster beds in the Indian River Lagoon received a $410,000 boost this year from the Legislature, which also set aside $20 million to dredge muck from the lagoon and the Eau Gallie River, which flows into the channel. It's all part of a long-term endeavor to restore the estuary, damaged by decades of pollution and algae blooms.
A single oyster can clean as many as 50 gallons of water a day, filtering out algae and nitrogen, a nutrient that feeds harmful algae blooms. Oysters also serve as food for wildlife and create habitat for fish and aquatic life. Brevard's goal is to reseed as many as a million healthy oysters, enough to clean as many as 50 million gallons of water a day.
Earlier this year, Brevard Zoo, working with the county's Natural Resources Management office, launched a community program designed to recruit waterfront residents to plant 1,000 "oyster gardens" along docks and shorelines using oyster shells with baby oysters clinging to the shells. People who live on the lagoon or adjacent canals learn how to create and care for their own oyster garden and collect data that can help researchers and program managers. Reports indicate the first batches of baby oysters are surviving and growing.
The technique of creating reefs with mats of donated oyster shells has been tested and found effective in the Mosquito Lagoon in Volusia County just north of Brevard. University of Central Florida biologist Linda Walters developed the technique, and in the past several years dozens of oyster-mat reefs have been created, bringing back an estimated 4 million oysters. The mats help stabilize the shoreline and give baby oyster "seeds" a better chance of survival.
The Indian River and the Mosquito River, which form the brackish lagoon, had healthy oyster populations as recently as the early 1980s. But overharvesting, a steady decline in water quality, the loss of seagrass and accumulation of muck caused the numbers to plummet. As the oysters disappeared, water clarity and quality declined.
U. S. Army Maj. Gen. Jon Maddux, former deputy commander of security transition in Afghanistan, was appointed program executive officer of the Orlandobased Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation. He succeeds James T. Blake, who retired in May after leading the Army's largest simulation training group for nine years.
Marketing professional Joseph Kilsheimer was elected mayor of Apopka, the secondlargest city in Orange County, in a runoff upset over 93-yearold John Land, who had served all but one term since 1949.
Profile: The Garage
Orlando-based information technology startup The Garage makes software applications for the health care industry. Founded in 2012 by Pranam Ben, an engineer and entrepreneur from India, the company’s name is a tip of the hat to startups launched in a garage. The Garage already has several apps to its credit that are making inroads in the health care market. One, called AiR, is a voice-activated way for surgeons to access information, calling up patient information, surgical checklists or other data. Another app, called Engage, allows health care providers and insurers to customize information for clients and patients who can access it at their convenience with mobile devices. The Garage has grown from scratch to more than 40 IT and other staff in Orlando and India.
BREVARD COUNTY - Northrop Grumman plans to hire hundreds of workers and expand its aircraft-design work in Melbourne. In return for up to $19 million in state and local tax breaks, the company plans to invest as much as $500 million and hire as many as 1,800 workers, many of them engineers with salaries of $100,000 or more.
COCOA BEACH - Central Florida timeshare developer David Siegel and longtime business partner Jim Gissy bought the aging Cocoa Beach Pier for an undisclosed amount and say they plan to remodel and update the iconic 800-foot pier. New restaurants and an arcade are planned.
DEBARY - The SunRail regional commuter train began service in May and impressed riders with its comfort and amenities. But the trains ran behind schedule during the first weeks of operation as more than 10,000 passengers a day tried it out, lured by free rides during that time. On the first day of paying service, a car that stalled on the tracks in Maitland was demolished, and the driver escaped with minor injuries. Questions about the reliability of crossing gates also marred the otherwise successful debut of SunRail's first phase, which runs 31 miles between DeBary in west Volusia to south Orlando with 12 stops.
LAKE MARY - Verizon recently opened its new $50-million finance center and is already boosting its hiring plans, pledging to add another 350 positions to the 750 jobs it originally projected for the 220,000-sq.-ft. building. Company executives say that more than 500 jobs have been filled and all of the estimated 1,100 positions should be filled by the end of 2015
MOUNT DORA - A $3-million second phase of streetscape, landscape and utility improvements got under way downtown, with completion expected in October. The first phase added $4 million worth of new sidewalks and other improvements.
ORANGE COUNTY - Megabus, the low-fare express bus operator, has added daily nonstop service to Miami, Tampa and Tallahassee from Orlando. Tickets purchased online well in advance of travel dates go for as low as $1.
ORLANDO - Universal Orlando raised its starting pay to $9 an hour, up $1 an hour, to help fill thousands of positions needed for its expanded Wizarding World of Harry Potter this summer. Central Florida YMCA and Orlando Health have expanded their 13-year partnership, with the hospital chain becoming the exclusive health and wellness provider at centers in west Orange and south Lake counties. Orlando Health is investing $1 million over three years in five YMCA centers to meet capital and operational needs. > Walt Disney Co. Presented a $3-million gift to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to help with a critical need at the hospital's Bert Martin's Champions for Children Emergency Department & Trauma Center, enabling the hospital to purchase and install an advanced MRI machine.
PORT CANAVERAL -The Carnival Sunshine cruise ship, based at Port Canaveral, has undergone a $155-million transformation with new restaurants, bars and other amenities, including a 334-foot water slide.
WINTER PARK - A merger of BankFIRST in Winter Park and Seacoast Bank in Stuart will create the sixth-largest bank based in Florida. BankFIRST has 12 locations in central Florida and $674 million in assets, and Seacoast has 34 offices, mainly in south Florida, and $2.3 billion in assets. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
Sumter County Agriculture
186,000 -- Acres in agricultural production
54% -- Percentage of county land that is agriculture $270 million Annual economic impact
13% -- Percentage of all goods and services in county that are ag-related
28% -- Percentage of Sumter goods and services sold outside the county that are ag-related