July 11, 2020
ATS Central June 2020
Todd Roberts invented the CleanBlock after seeing a patient cough on a pen at his doctor's office.
ATS Central June 2020
Tavistock is teaming up with Verizon to deploy the company's 5G wireless technology across Lake Nona to create a 17-square-mile "living lab" community.
ATS Central June 2020
Lockheed Martin landed about $5 billion of military work, including the F-35; aircraft and testing for the Navy's Joint Strike Fighter program.

Central Florida Roundup

Todd Roberts invents a pen sanitization device: the CleanBlock

Amy Keller | 5/27/2020

INNOVATION

Pen Pal

Todd Roberts, manager of Orlando Health’s biorepository, was at a doctor’s appointment in 2011 when the receptionist handed him a pen that a coughing patient had just used. Roberts opted to use his own pen instead — but it inspired him to invent the CleanBlock, a simple device that sanitizes pens. The clear, plastic goo-filled box — which he patented in 2013 — contains a 70% ethanol gel that kills germs, fungi and viruses on contact. To use it, one just slides the pen or pencil into one hole and pulls it out the other end. With backing from Orlando Health’s foundry program, which helps entrepreneurial employees commercialize their inventions, he began selling the CleanBlock for $21.99 earlier in January. The device, which is made in Florida, is good for about 1,400 uses — lasting about three to five weeks. Roberts says about 97% of his buyers are businesses, such as hospitals, doctors offices, nursing homes and resorts. He’s hoping to grow his customer base to include schools, courthouses and other local entities. “That would be my greatest satisfaction,” he says.

REAL ESTATE

  • The Red Lion hotel, owned by Illinois-based T2 Capital Management, is being converted into workforce housing called Maingate Village that will “largely cater to the Disney personnel and local service professionals,” according to the company’s website.
  • The Kohan Retail Investment Group, a New York-based mall investment company, purchased the Seminole Towne Center in Sanford for $52.4 million after the mall’s former owner, Washington Prime Group, defaulted on its mortgage.
  • Celebration Co., a subsidiary of Disney, bought 26.3 acres near the Magic Kingdom for $1.05 million in late March from Lake Reedy Development. The theme park giant has not announced plans for the property, which sits near 235 acres it acquired in December.

HEALTH CARE

  • The University of Central Florida’s board of trustees approved four future tenants for the UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center, which will open in 2021 in the former Sanford Burnham Prebys research facility at Medical City. The tenants are the Sarah Cannon Research Institute; Florida Cancer Specialists; the radiation oncology department of UCF Lake Nona Medical Center; and Clinical Education Shared Services. The leases will generate $1.87 million in annual rent — or about 94% of the facility’s annual mortgage payment, according to UCF.
  • Orlando Health’s venture capital fund for health care startups, Orlando Health Ventures, has raised $21.2 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The fund’s portfolio includes Emergo Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing drugs to treat influenza and flu-like illness; Gauss Surgical, which creates products that can better detect blood loss during surgery; and Phynd, a health care IT company.

EDUCATION

  • Elizabeth Dooley, the University of Central Florida’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, stepped down after being placed on administrative leave in January for undisclosed reasons. Dooley will transition to being a tenured faculty member in the College of Community Innovation and Education later this year.

TOURISM

  • Sergio Rivera stepped down as CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment after just five months because of “disagreements over the board’s involvement in decision-making,” according to an SEC filing. CFO and Treasurer Marc Swanson is interim CEO. Rivera’s departure marks the fourth leadership change in six years at the company.

OBITUARIES

  • Carol Davis, former copresident of the League of Women Voters of Orange County, died of cancer in March. Davis was a champion of online voter registration efforts in 2017 and helped lead efforts to collect signatures for a successful statewide amendment to restore the voting rights of felons who’ve completed their sentences. She was 73.
  • Don Jernigan, who was president and CEO of Altamonte Springs-based AdventHealth for a decade until his retirement in 2016, died on March 7 after a long illness. He was 75.

TRANSPORTATION

  • FDOT will pay I-4 Mobility Partners, the development team redoing I-4 in Orlando, an extra $125 million to cover “unforeseen impacts and financial compensation” related to the project. Five workers have been killed and more than 200 injured since the 21-mile project began.

COVID-19 UPDATE

  • Orange County received 20,000 applications for its rental assistance program, a stopgap measure to provide cash to residents until state and federal assistance becomes available. The $1.8-million crisis fund will provide a one-time payment of up to $1,200 per household that qualifies.
  • Daytona Beach city commissioners approved a $5-million financial relief package for residents and businesses impacted by COVID-19 that provides funds for utility bills, suspends building permit fees for 90 days and waives rent for commercial tenants of city-owned facilities.
  • Disney raised $6 billion through a debt offering in late March after it was forced to close its parks because of the pandemic. The theme park giant announced in early April it would furlough non-essential employees.
  • Amid the temporary closures of its parks, SeaWorld tapped into a $187.5-million line of credit but still had to lay off nearly all its employees at the end of March. The park has the added financial pressure of having to maintain its animals even when it’s closed.
  • A 75% plunge in occupancy led some Orlando-area hotels — including the Hyatt Regency on International Drive, the Four Seasons Resort at Disney World and the Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando Grande Lakes — to shut down for several weeks beginning in March. Marriott Vacations Worldwide, an Orlando-based timeshare operator, also closed its timeshare resorts and temporarily shuttered its North American sales centers. Some hotels have remained open, offering special rates to those affected by the crisis. The B Resort & Spa is providing $79 rooms to health care workers, first responders, military, airline crews, displaced residents and others affected by the COVID-19 crisis through June. The Rosen Hotels & Resorts is offering a special “distress rate” starting at $49.99.

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