Southwest Florida & Tampa Bay Business Briefs - Dec. 2007
CHARLOTTE/LEE COUNTIES —
» A state audit of the Department of Environmental Protection’s land acquisitions concluded that the state’s purchase of 73,000 acres of Babcock Ranch property from developer Syd Kitson was based on an appraisal that appears to have been influenced by state officials’ desire to meet Kitson’s asking price of $350 million. The DEP says that the 43% increase in value between appraisals conducted in 2004 and updated appraisals in 2005 reflected the rapidly increasing land prices.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY —
» Skybus Airlines started service to Charlotte County Airport from Columbus, Ohio, and Portsmouth, N.H. The low-cost carrier is the first to occupy the airport’s new $5.5-million terminal.
» Market Street Mortgage will be sold off in pieces following the collapse of its parent company, NetBank, which was shut down by federal regulators in September. Fifty-three of 179 employees in Market Street’s Clearwater office will lose their jobs.
» Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp is spinning off HSN shopping network and three other units.
COLLIER COUNTY —
» Collier County collected a record $622,286 in tourist development taxes in August. The Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau reported 84,000 visitors — 8.4% over August 2006.
» Collier Enterprises announced plans to build Big Cypress, a 2,800-acre community in eastern Collier County.
COLLIER/LEE COUNTIES —
» A 30-mile stretch of I-75 from Golden Gate Parkway in Collier County to Colonial Boulevard in Lee County is being expanded to six lanes. The project will take three years.
FORT MYERS —
» Red Tide Relief, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of red tide, has established an endowed fund at Florida Gulf Coast University for student research projects on red tide. The group donated $30,000 to help create labs at the new FGCU Vester/Marine Science site in Bonita Springs.
» NeoMedia Technologies (OTCBB-NEOM.OB) is looking to move its headquarters out of state. The company is considering Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and other major cities that would offer “close contact to potential customers and easier access to international markets.” NeoMedia employs 134 and sells products and services for camera-initiated transactions for mobile
HIGHLANDS COUNTY —
» WilsonMiller has opened an office in Sebring. The Naples planning, design and engineering firm is working on its first Sebring-area project, the redevelopment of the Kennelworth Golf Club.
MANATEE COUNTY —
» Port Dolphin Energy has proposed building a $1-billion offshore natural gas terminal 28 miles southwest of Tampa that would connect to Port Manatee. If approved, the operation could be up and running by 2011.
» Vintage Props & Jets, a 16-year-old commuter airline based in New Smyrna Beach, has proposed adding flights between Naples Municipal Airport and Tampa, Tallahassee and the Florida Keys.
» Bank of Florida (Nasdaq-BOFL), a bank holding company based in Naples with $1.3 billion in assets, has named John S. Chaperon president and CEO. The company also changed the name of its Old Florida Bank, which it merged with last spring, to Bank of Florida.
» Nielsen Media Research, a TV ratings company, let go 240 of its 4,252 Tampa-area employees as part of a downsizing related to its acquisition by private investors last year.
PASCO COUNTY —
» The county approved the construction of a 172-acre commerce park in Connerton.
» CarBiz, a provider of software, training and consulting solutions for the automotive industry, has purchased the assets of Calcars for $18.6 million. The purchase gives the Sarasota company seven dealerships in the Midwest.
» Former U.S. Ambassador George Hubert Walker III has donated $10 million to Webster University’s School of Business Technology. It is the largest single gift in the school’s 92-year history.
ST. PETERSBURG —
» Passport Marine has launched a national franchise program.
» The Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit that runs Wikipedia and related free-content sites like Wiktionary, is relocating to San Francisco.
» SimDag/RoBEL recently told buyers it has secured a commitment for $200 million in financing to jump-start its stalled Trump Tower Tampa project. While a Hillsborough County Circuit Court judge recently ordered SimDag/RoBEL to refund the $566,000 deposit a buyer made on two condominium units, the developer says it is working on an incentive plan to compensate buyers for delays and is looking to have the judgment set aside.
» Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. (NYSE-NA), a Tampa steel producer, has acquired Georgia steel manufacturer Re-Bars for an undisclosed sum.
» Checkers Drive-In Restaurants plans to open 20 restaurants in Las Vegas.
» HealthEdge Investment Partners, a private equity fund in Tampa, has bought a majority stake in Advanced Bio-Technologies, the maker of Kelo-cote, a patented, transparent silicone gel that dries to form a silicone gel sheet for treating and preventing scars. ABT has relocated its offices from Washington to Clearwater.
» Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based energy transportation, distribution and storage company, is looking to build a nine-mile, $20-million jet fuel pipeline from the Port of Tampa to Tampa International Airport. The proposal has sparked concern from city council members who are worried about the safety of such a project.
» Richard Wickett, former chairman of PBS&J, pleaded guilty to charges he illegally funneled campaign contributions from the engineering firm’s employees to candidates he believed would help the company win contracts.