Southwest Florida Roundup
How Southwest Florida businesses are coping during the coronavirus pandemic
- 3 Daughters Brewing CEO Mike Harting was an early voice in calling on the federal government to focus its stimulus efforts on saving small businesses during the pandemic. “We do not have lines of credit or reserves,” he says. “We need cash to prime the pump. Tax credits do not help. We will not make it that far. Loans will not help. That simply prolongs and defers our struggle.” Harting’s suggestion: Directing the U.S. Small Business Administration to disperse cash as quickly as possible to small businesses. For his part, Harting’s St. Petersburg-based 3 Daughters Brewing, which employs 57, repurposed some of its beer-brewing equipment to make hand sanitizer that it gave away: “We wanted to look for a way our large brewing capacity could help the community.”
- Fort Myers-based MY Shower Door/D3 Glass shifted some of its manufacturing capabilities to make protective glass health guards to help stop the spread of the virus around cash registers, food prep and serving areas.
- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens created the Selby Gardens COVID-19 Crisis Operating Fund to help the Sarasota attraction survive the loss of attendance and income. The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation promised to match gifts to the fund up to $50,000. Selby attracts more than 170,000 visitors a year.
- Berry grower Wish Farms of Plant City ramped up its work with Tampa Bay area food banks, donating more than 100,000 pounds of strawberries each week as the pandemic spread.
- Publix, which boosted its workforce by more than 1,000 to keep up with customer demand during the coronavirus crisis, offered rent relief to businesses in Publix-owned shopping centers that have had to close during the pandemic. The offer included waiving rent for two months and waiving payments for maintenance fees and taxes.
- Tampa Bay’s economy lost as much as $390 million as the virus led to the cancellation of multiple planned sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournament games at Amalie Arena, a WrestleMania event in Raymond James Stadium, the Valspar Golf Championship in Palm Harbor, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and several weeks of Grapefruit League spring training baseball games.
- A group called Save Our Y has raised $4.4 million to buy two Sarasota Family YMCA properties that which had been slated to close. The workout and recreation facilities will now be known as Our Y.
- The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) has spent more than $1 million to equip its fleet of more than 180 buses with tempered-glass safety shields made to protect bus drivers from attacks. The move follows the May 2019 murder of Thomas Dunn, a driver who, while navigating his bus down a Tampa street, was stabbed by a passenger. Later in 2019, another HART bus driver survived after being slashed numerous times by a man wielding a box cutter.
- Sarasota Green Group, which makes Earth’s Ally and Grower’s Ally organic pest and disease control products, hired Scott Allshouse to be CEO.
- A 1,675-acre citrus farm in Hendry County has sold for $14.1 million. The LaBellearea property was owned by First Citrus Grower before the sale. The property will likely be converted to industrial use.
- Largo-based Tech Data will appeal a French government agency’s decision to fine the company $83.7 million. The agency accused Tech Data of undermining competitors while selling Apple products in France from 2005-13.
- Plasma-Therm, a St. Petersburg firm that makes plasma-process equipment for the semiconductor industry, purchased JLS Designs, a United Kingdom plasma systems supplier.
- AmeriLife Group, a Medicare brokerage specialist based in Clearwater, purchased a majority stake in Jack Schroeder and Associates, an insurance marketing company based in Wisconsin.
- Neptune Flood, an online flood insurance company based in St. Petersburg, has started selling policies in Arkansas, Idaho and Illinois. The 3-year-old company now has policies in 42 states.
- The Florida Public Service Commission approved an additional area code, Florida’s 20th, for the Tampa/Hillsborough County area. The new code — 656 — will begin in 2022.
- Amgen, a biotechnology company based in California, announced a $10-million expansion at its 130,000-sq.-ft. Tampa office, where more than 300 employees handle the company’s finance, human resources and IT work. The expansion includes adding another 33,000 square feet of office space.
- Buffeted by slow ad sales, the Tampa Bay Times had instituted a temporary 10% pay cut for full-time staff when the economic effects of the coronavirus recession struck full force. Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash said businesses canceled more than $1 million in advertising in two weeks, forcing layoffs and furloughs. The paper, which had published a daily print edition for almost 100 years, will at least temporarily publish in print only on Wednesdays and Sundays, with readers using the paper’s digital edition on other days. In April, the company announced that it received an $8.5-million loan from the federal COVID-19 relief package, allowing it to rehire some furloughed workers and end the pay cut. Florida Trend, an affiliate of the Times, will receive a small portion of the federal money. In March, a 50-year-old, Gulfport-based weekly newspaper, the Gabber, closed, but may reopen with a new owner.
- Hooters Management, which operates 24 restaurants in Tampa Bay, New York City and Chicago, has promoted Bill Moore to COO. He had been vice president of operations for the company’s Florida region. The firm also owns Hoots, a fast-casual version of Hooters that will open its first two Florida locations this year in St. Petersburg and in Pasco County near Odessa.
William R. Hough
A successful investment banker who made an even bigger mark through his philanthropic efforts, William R. Hough died April 12 in St. Petersburg. Hough, who founded the William R. Hough & Co. investment firm in 1962, was 93. Along with his wife, Hazel, who died last year, Hough was a prolific giver who focused on arts and education, including the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg and the nearby Salvador Dali Museum. In 2007, he donated $30 million to the University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business, which, at the time, was UF’s biggest private gift. Subsequently, UF named Hough Hall in his honor. In a 2010 interview with FLORIDA TREND (Icon, October 2010), Hough offered this investment advice: “I’m a believer in starting off with a savings account, getting a little bit of a backlog of money and not living beyond your means. The biggest investing mistake people make? They take a short-term view.”
Read more in Florida Trend's June issue.
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