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Southwest Business Briefs - Aug. 2004

Clearwater -- Clearwater's economic development and housing director, Reginald Owens, has resigned to work for a real estate development company in Arizona. Owens had worked for the city for two years.

Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mike Meidel is the new director of Pinellas County Economic Development. Meidel replaces Richard "Buzz" David, who will become president of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. in Texas.

Pasco County -- The Porter family, which owns a 5,000-acre ranch in Pasco County, has agreed to sell the land for what will become the largest residential development in the Tampa Bay area. Pulte Homes is planning to eventually build more than 16,000 homes. Development plans also include more than 4.4 million square feet of office space. The project does not have a start date or a price tag yet.

Southwest Florida -- Radiology Regional Center, which has eight centers from Cape Coral to Naples, has paid $2.53 million to the federal government to settle allegations that it submitted false claims to Medicare. The group's supervisor of Medicare coding blew the whistle in December 2000, showing documentation that the group had billed for unnecessary procedures and for services not performed. The company has not admitted any wrongdoing.

Midwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways are expanding service in Tampa and Fort Myers. Midwest will offer non-stop service from Milwaukee to both Florida cities beginning in December. JetBlue will add daily service from Tampa to LaGuardia Airport in New York and add up to 10 flights daily from Fort Myers beginning in September. JetBlue previously flew only to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

St. Petersburg -- Goodwill Industries-Suncoast ranks first among 173 Goodwill agencies in North America in job placements, according to Goodwill Industries International. The non-profit organization found jobs for 12,852 people last year in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Tampa -- Two University of South Florida College of Medicine doctors have left the faculty just months after the dean of the school's anesthesiology residency program was told to resign for asking staff and colleagues to contribute to former Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd's U.S. Senate campaign. Dr. Robert Christensen, chairman of USF's pediatrics department, has left to work in Utah. Dr. Robert Clark, chairman of USF's radiology department, also resigned.

WellCare Group, which operates the largest Medicaid HMO in Florida, New York and Connecticut, raised $116 million in its IPO last month. The company, trading under the symbol WCG, plans to use the money to expand.

Hillsborough Community College officials have picked Mathews Construction to oversee construction of the $7.2-million, 47,000-sq.-ft. facility on its Plant City campus. The building will be used for meetings, special events and physical fitness activities when it's completed in fall 2005.

Tampa Bay -- The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area created more than 22,000 jobs in May from a year earlier, the most of any region, according to the Agency for Workforce Innovation. Most of the jobs were in the professional and business services sector.


SARASOTA -- Construction on four new buildings at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is set to begin soon. The additions include the Tibbals Learning Center, a visitors pavilion, galleries and an education/conservation complex. Florida State University, the guardian of the Ringling estate, has provided $42.9 million for the construction. The museum is trying to raise $50 million to support the buildings.