Southwest Florida Roundup
Aircraft maker Regent plans to start testing battery-powered “seaglider” aircraft between Tampa and St. Petersburg this year
It’s a Boat; It’s a Plane ...
The world’s first commercial airline that operated on a fixed schedule opened for business in 1914, when pilot Tony Jannus started shuttling passengers between Tampa and St. Petersburg. Now, the bay is set to host another attempt at aviation innovation, this one a battery-powered aircraft that can function as both a boat and then an airplane, lifting off from the water and flying at 180 mph.
Regent, a Boston-based aircraft maker, plans to start testing its “seaglider” this year. By 2025, Regent plans to begin selling models that will seat up to 12 passengers. “Regent’s zero-emission, climate-friendly vehicle is the exact type of company we want to support in our ecosystem,” says Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. “We are excited not just to host the testing of the technology demonstrator, but also for our city to be one of the first coastal routes serviced by seagliders in 2025 and beyond.”
- Naples-based business services firm HSP Group plans to move its headquarters to Tampa. The company employs 50.
- Work is underway to create a deep-well injection system at the defunct Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County. The 3,000-foot well will store treated wastewater from the former phosphate facility. Last spring, more than 237 million gallons of untreated wastewater leaked from the plant’s phosphogypsum stack, with some polluted water flowing into nearby Tampa Bay.
- Researchers from the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, the University of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission teamed up to raise nearly 200 long-spined sea urchins and then release them off the Florida Keys. The scientists hope the urchins, by feeding on pollution-fed algae that can suffocate coral reefs, will reproduce and help protect Florida’s coral reef, which stretches from the Dry Tortugas to north of Palm Beach. The project is part of a larger effort to restock the onceabundant urchins, which died in large numbers during the 1980s due to disease.
- Pilot Bank, which has branches in Tampa and St. Petersburg, was purchased by Lake Michigan Credit Union. Roy Hellwege, Pilot Bank’s chairman and CEO, was appointed president of Lake Michigan Credit Union’s Central Florida region.
- California-based financial services company First Foundation has purchased Naples-based First Florida Integrity Bank. Gary L. Tice, previously chairman of the Naples bank, will become a First Foundation director. First Florida’s former president and CEO, Garrett Richter, will become a market president, overseeing First Foundation’s banking activities in Florida.
- Corey Neil is the new CEO of the Bank of Tampa. He replaced Bill West, the bank’s CEO since 2008.
- Manatee County set aside $900,000 for low-income property owners to help pay for building code-related repairs. The program provides 0% 30- year loans. In hopes of spurring the local economy as the COVID- 19 pandemic drags on, the Pinellas County town of Gulfport, population about 12,300, has created Gulfport Rebound, a program that gives residents vouchers worth $50 to spend at local businesses. More than 70 businesses are participating, from bars and restaurants to hair salons, but residents can also use the money to help pay utility bills and child-care costs.
- Tampa General Hospital has purchased the 50% of Tower Radiology it didn’t already own. The radiology practice has 21 imaging centers in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
- Construction is scheduled to begin this year on a Moxy Hotel by Marriott in St. Petersburg’s Edge District. The hotel, to be located near Tropicana Field, is expected to open by 2024.
- Tampa-based Caspers Co. bought the 180-room Current Hotel in Tampa for $85 million. Caspers owns 60 McDonald’s franchises, as well as the Oxford Exchange, a bookstore and restaurant in Tampa, and the Library, a restaurant in St. Petersburg.
- Two Brandon-area multifamily residential developments — the 160-unit Brandon Oaks and 125-unit Palms at Paradise — will be merged into a single community after being purchased for a combined $53.3 million by Tampa-based real estate firm ZMR Capital. The complexes will share amenities, including swimming pools, picnic areas, playgrounds and clubhouses.
- Rents in Tampa Bay rose 24% in 2021, the highest increase nationally among rental markets with 100,000 or more apartments, according to CoStar Group, a real estate analytics firm based in Washington D.C.