Northwest Florida Roundup
Eyeing a fix to prevent blindness
A Pensacola company targets the leading cause of preventable blindness.
Pensacola ophthalmologist Sunil Gupta and his team at Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems have invented an optic camera that they hope can put an end to preventable blindness. The camera can detect early stages of diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.
CEO Jason Crawford says IRIS technology quickly detects potential abnormalities on the retina and sends data via the web to a secure platform. Retinal physicians, either under contract with IRIS or pre-approved by a health care provider, analyze the images and forward results to a patient's attending physician.
The device, which costs about $20,000, requires minimal training to operate and is relatively affordable for hospitals, community clinics and physician offices, Crawford says.
Launched in 2011, IRIS has contracts with Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Northeast Florida Endocrine & Diabetes Association in Jacksonville and Sacred Heart Health Systems and Baptist Health Care in Pensacola. The privately held company has 12 employees and also is in talks with other health care providers throughout the U.S.
The company beat out 10 other statewide finalists last year to win first place and $100,000 in the Innovation Awards competition sponsored by the Innovation Coast, Space Florida and the Florida Small Business Development Center Network.
Crawford says the company is looking beyond diabetes: "We're currently building algorithms to detect cardiovascular risk and Alzheimer's disease. In the near future, we'll be able to take a picture of your retina and tell you if you're at risk for heart disease in five years."
Tim Thompson has been named publisher of the Panama City News Herald. Thompson was publisher of the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama.
Jeremy Stewart, owner of Jeremy Stewart Construction in Crestview, has been elected secretary of the Florida Home Builders Association. Stewart is the first person from northwest Florida elected to a leadership position in the association in 25 years. He is in line to become president in 2017.
Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee has named Mark A. Robinson CEO. Robinson most recently served as CEO of Lake City Medical Center.
Heather Mitchell, president and CEO of United Way of the Big Bend, is stepping down to become vice president for resource development at Tallahassee Community College. She will also be executive director of the TCC Foundation.
BAY COUNTY - Neal Wade, director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, is leaving to take a new position with the University of Alabama, where he will establish an economic development academy to train job creators.
JACKSON COUNTY - The Jackson County Tourist Development Council has hired a consultant to help write a master plan for a five-county "Historic Highway 90 Corridor" to attract tourists.
OKALOOSA/WALTON COUNTIES - From August 2013 to August 2014, the area's total construction job growth — including commercial, residential construction and related specialties — rose 23.7%, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
PACE - The community of Pace has added several subdivisions that could bring up to 400 homes to the Woodbine Road and Spencer Field areas.
PANAMA CITY - Berg Pipe has been awarded two contracts to manufacture approximately 625 miles of pipeline for new natural gas infrastructure that will serve the southeastern United States. > Boyd Bros., a commercial printer, has closed after more than 83 years in business, leaving more than 100 workers jobless. The Bay County Commission has approved a land-use plan that would allow Sugar Sands Partners to build a beachfront community of up to 195 homes on 165 acres in the fight path of Tyndall Air Force Base.
PENSACOLA - Emerald Coast Utilities Authority has approved the sale of 19 acres in downtown Pensacola to Quint and Rishy Studer for $5.2 million. The Studers, who own the Blue Wahoos minor league baseball team, plan athletic fields, concession areas and parking facilities. > More than 100 engineering, administrative and support jobs will be coming to the Port of Pensacola as Offshore Inland Marine & Oilfield Services relocates from Mobile, Ala. > Baptist Health Care and Sacred Heart Health Care System won the Florida Hospital Association's 2014 Community Benefit Achievement Award for helping recruit more than 100 businesses and organizations to implement workplace wellness programs. > Hardcourt Development broke ground on a $16-million senior living apartment complex with 89 units on the site of the Pensacola Racquet Club. John L. Hutchinson, Gulf Power's director of community and economic development, retired after 24 years with the Pensacolabased utility. Hutchinson worked closely with local economic development organizations across northwest Florida to help attract businesses and create jobs. > Tourist taxes topped $8.5 million on Pensacola Beach for the year ended Sept. 1.
TALLAHASSEE - A study conducted for the State University System's Board of Governors estimates the costs of disconnecting the FSU-FAMU College of Engineering and creating separate programs could reach $1 billion. The board may decide by March.
Gulf Unmanned Systems Center
Tucked away in Franklin County's tiny Carrabelle community is Gulf Unmanned Systems Center, which offers testing platforms for civilian and military drone builders.
Founded in 2014 by Navy veteran Bruce McCormack, GUSC offers a range of facilities and tactical training areas including riverine, coastal, jungle and open water environments.
The headquarters includes a 14,000-sq.-ft. facility with classrooms and a 64,800-sq.-ft. operations center.
GUSC has 10 full-time employees. McCormack expects that number to reach 25 by mid 2015.