It’s been a strong year for hospitals in the Super Region, one marked by facility openings, geographic growth and, most recently, national recognition.
Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital ranked one and two, respectively, as the best hospitals in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report. Each also ranked among the nation’s best in several areas. TGH was listed among the nation’s Top 50 Hospitals in nine medical specialties: Cardiology & Heart Surgery (38th); Diabetes & Endocrinology (22nd); Ear, Nose & Throat (28th); Geriatrics (41st); Nephrology (14th); Neurology & Neurosurgery (47th); Orthopedics (14th); Pulmonology (43rd); and Urology (16th). Meanwhile, Florida Hospital was nationally recognized in seven specialties: Cardiology & Heart Surgery (23rd); Diabetes & Endocrinology (42th); Gastroenterology (16th); Gynecology (11th); Nephrology (25th); Pulmonology (29th); and Urology (43th).
This year’s Best Hospitals showcases more than 720 of the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals. Fewer than 150 are nationally ranked in at least one of 16 medical specialties. The hospital rankings, cited U.S. News Health Rankings Editor Avery Comarow, are like a “GPS-type aid to help steer patients to hospitals with strong skills in the procedures and medical conditions that present the biggest challenges.”
Like a big offensive lineman leading the way for a running back, the Central Florida’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) and EA SPORTS—one of the world’s leading sports entertainment brands—have partnered to create a “priority pathway” for FIEA graduates into the video game industry.
The new EA SPORTS Innovation Lab at the UCF Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando allows EA SPORTS to create additional internship opportunities each year at the facility, where FIEA students will work side by side with EA SPORTS game development professionals to create the latest products on the latest platforms, using the latest tools and technologies. The inaugural intern class at the EA SPORTS Innovation Lab begins in September.
Notably, FIEA was established in 2005 as a result of a partnership between the university, EA SPORTS and the city of Orlando. Nearly 250 students have graduated from FIEA since its creation and many of them have moved on to successful careers in the game industry, including careers at EA SPORTS’ studio in Orlando and other Electronic Arts labels and studios. From its local beginning in 2011, by virtue of a tax-credit incentive, through spring 2013 EA will have created more than 150 high-skill, high-wage jobs in Orlando.
Just east of Orlando International airport, Lake Nona is rising with the promise of a medical city. At the same time, the 7,000-acre master-planned community is becoming something of a showcase city, too, earning points for its high-speed technology infrastructure and sustainability.
Lake Nona is one of only a handful of communities nationwide that has successfully deployed gigabit networks, providing speeds of up to 100 times standard cable or DSL services, according to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. At a White House event, Lake Nona was lauded for its creation of a “no limits” network, complete with a redundant fiber ring, open to multiple providers, and with ubiquitous, reliable, high-speed service to its large users. Lake Nona was also recognized for its efforts to deliver gigabit-to-the-home technology and healthcare information technology.
In addition, the community will provide healthy living and sustainability products for residents and businesses through GE “ecomagination” and “healthymagination” solutions. Energy efficiency, sustainability and healthy living, for example, are top priorities at Lake Nona’s Laureate Park, a new 2,700-home neighborhood. With the help of GE, Lake Nona is integrating distinctive technologies and setting best-practice standards in the homebuilding. GE’s Homes Inspired by ecomagination program, coupled with the MascoEnvironments For Living Certified Green program, will provide reductions of at least 20 percent in energy, emissions and water usage in every Laureate Park home, according to Lake Nona officials.
File this under “Efforts Rewarded.”
Randy Berridge, president and CEO of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, received the 2012 Leadership Florida Distinguished Member Award, in recognition for his “invaluable” work in economic development, philanthropic work and education. The award is presented to a Leadership Florida member whose “leadership activities and exemplary character illustrate the highest standards of the organization.” Also, the award honors a member whose activities garner results and leave a lasting impact on the state.
For Berridge, such recognition is nothing new. For his work in regional economic development through the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Berridge was selected two years in a row as one of TechJournalSouth’s “25 Most Influential People in Southeast Tech.” He was appointed as a trustee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as to the board of directors for Workforce Florida. He also serves on the board of directors the Enterprise Florida Stakeholder Council, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the National Entrepreneur Center, the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the University of Central Florida Technology Incubator Network, the University of South Florida Technology Incubator, the Florida Photonics Cluster, the National Center for Simulation, Kids House of Seminole County, the Foundation for Florida’s Community Colleges and the regional board of the American Red Cross.
Here’s some not-so-good news for learning centers across the Super Region: As businesses reinstate some of the employee perks lost during the recession, continuing education is one perk that doesn’t appear to have made a comeback. But better news: Employee training apparently remains popular.
On the negative, 26 percent of chief financial officers interviewed for a Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey said their companies offer staff full or partial reimbursement for the education units required to maintain professional certifications. This is down significantly from six years ago, when nearly half (46 percent) of executives said they cover those costs.
CFOs were asked, “Does your company reimburse employees for the continuing education units needed to maintain their professional designations, such as the certified public accountant (CPA) or certified management accountant (CMA)?” Their responses: 5 percent said full reimbursement and 21 percent said partial reimbursement, compared to 29 percent and 17 percent in 2006, respectively. More telling, 73 percent indicated no reimbursement, compared to 50 percent six years ago. The independent research firm was based on interviews with more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.
On the positive, training isn’t losing its luster, at least according to officials at Clearwater-based Studio98. With Florida’s reputation as a good spot for companies to locate, and with new jobs seemingly on the upswing, the future appears bright for Studio98 and its Rethink Training, a web-based learning system that allows businesses to provide customized training solutions via its cloud-based service.
Rethink Training is emerging as a resource for companies, many of which are incorporating online training to improve efficiency and decrease costs, officials note. Since Rethink Training is a cloud-based service, there is no hardware to purchase or software to install. As a result, any company with access to the Internet can create, manage and/or study a course. Training materials can be published and easily accessed by employees or clients/customers. Users can even sell their coursework to the public, taking credit card payments through their preferred payment gateway.
Location Always Sells … Eventually
Question: What does a building sell for that been vacant since its completion in 2007? Answer: $1.825 million.
That’s what Central Florida-based O,R&L Facility Services paid for the 24,000-square-foot building, located in the I-4 Commerce Center in south Orlando. Approximately 7,600 square feet will serve as the company’s new Florida headquarters. The remainder of the facility will be leased to third-party tenants.
The top lure, even after all these years: location, of course—this is real estate—with Interstate 4 visibility and easy access to both downtown Orlando and the attractions area.
Not coincidentally, O,R&L Facility Services is a full-service commercial real estate firm, specializing in asset management, financial reporting and maintenance. The firm manages and/or maintains more than 20 million square feet of commercial real estate in Florida, New York and Connecticut.
Ambient Technologies Inc., located in St. Petersburg, was among 41 U.S. companies and organizations honored at the President Obama’s “E” Awards ceremony. Ambient received the “E” Award for Exports for demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over several years. Ambient Technologiesa part of a multidisciplinary group of companies that provides geophysical, drilling, surveying, utility locating, nondestructive testing, energy conservation and generation, and geo-construction support services. “E” Award recipients contribute to the President’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports to support American jobs.
The nutrition-packed brainchild of a trio of Altamonte Springs entrepreneurs is taking off. Drink Chia LLC is experiencing big growth in distribution of Drink Chia!, its all-natural omega-3 superfood drink. Over the past year, retail accounts have grown by 400 percent, and the company has expanded its distribution footprint throughout the state and into New England. The company has also doubled its staff during that time. Drink Chia! is a conveniently sized, low-calorie, energy-boosting drink infused with whole organic chia seeds. In recent months, the company has secured distribution throughout all Florida Fresh Markets stores, in addition to signing a deal with Blue Coast Beverages for placement in Boston and other Northeastern locales.
Global Organic Specialty Source Inc., a wholesale distributor of organic produce, has combined its Miami and Manatee County operations in a larger Sarasota County facility to accommodate growth. The expansion is expected to result in 62 new jobs over the next five years, including leadership positions, staff for the frozen food business, quality control, operations, marketing, sales and procurement.
Metro Orlando’s much-publicized battle with hunger and homelessness continued to receive vital support, as Heart of Florida United Way directed $5.6 million in available resources. Most recently, more than $3 million in grants has been approved by the United Way board of directors to 31 programs at 19 agencies across Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, which were selected through a process guided by HFUW’s Alleviating Hunger and Homelessness Cabinet, comprised of noted community leaders and issue experts. Alleviating Hunger and Homelessness is one of four United Way priority focus areas in the three counties under an umbrella strategy called Investing in Results. Other focus areas are Developing Healthy Children & Families, Improving Financial Stability and Building Safe Communities through Education.
Interconnect Cable Technologies Corp., a fixture at Hernando County Airport since 1988, has plans for expansion. With 76 full-time employees, the company is a leading producer of customized data and power cabling products. The plan is to purchase a 30,000-square-foot facility from Hernando County Airport and renovate it into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. ICTC will invest approximately $2.2 million in the site and $500,000 in capital equipment plus 40 new full-time positions over three years.
In an effort to help young people learn about money management and financial decision-making, Junior Achievement of Volusia County has established a partnership with five local community banks to launch a pilot program for JA Finance Park Virtual in county high schools this fall. JA Finance Park Virtual is an interactive online simulation that introduces high school students to personal finance and career exploration. The program offers fiscal scenarios that allow teens to role play in financial situations, teaching them to face the realities of developing a budget, maintaining a household and pursuing a career. The community bank consortium includes Floridian Bank, Gateway Bank of Florida, Intracoastal Bank, Main Street Community Bank of Florida and Reunion Bank of Florida. There are more than 3,000 high school students in Volusia.
NASA is offering visitors rare access to several key areas of Kennedy Space Center during its 50th anniversary year. A special Kennedy Space Center Up-Close Tour has been extended through the end of 2012 to provide visitors a look inside the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where the Apollo rockets and space shuttles were assembled. One of the largest buildings in the world, the VAB had been off limits to visitors for more than 30 years until the tour was added last November. The space agency is also working with Delaware North Cos., which operates Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, on final details of new tours featuring other operational areas that visitors have rarely had the opportunity to see. The intent is to enhance a destination that already features an array of authentic attractions showcasing the space program and opportunities for up-close viewing of ongoing rocket launches.
Marinetek N.A. Inc. has opened new division offices in downtown St. Petersburg to service North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Headquartered in Finland, Marinetek specializes in marine services/solutions and has expanded to more than 45 countries. With the development of its planned manufacturing site, the company will create 50 new jobs in sales, operations, engineering and planning, and packing operations. St. Petersburg was selected for its accessibility to port facilities, employment environment, available land, lifestyle and local access to materials necessary for the environmentally friendly floating dock systems.
Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute has been named one of the Best Places to Work in Academia 2012, according to The Scientist magazine. Moffitt, which has appeared on the international survey three of the past four years, ranks No. 23. Moffitt is the only Florida research institution and one of only two freestanding cancer centers in the Top 25. Research includes more than 160 faculty members who work in the laboratory, the clinic and the community. About 20 percent of Moffitt’s 4,000-member work force is involved in research, supported by $80 million in grants and contracts funding.
This is putting money where your community heart is: Rollins College has announced a new endowed directorship in its Office of Community Engagement, thanks to a $1 million gift from Rollins alumnus David Lord and his family. The dollars will fund the permanent endowed position, known as the Lord Family Director of Community Engagement. Lord and his family made an initial gift to help establish the Office of Community Engagement in 2001 and have championed its mission since then—helping thousands of students, faculty and staff to engage in service-based experiences. In 2005, they created the Rhoda Newberry Reed Endowment for Community Engagement and Leadership Education and Development.
The Orlando Science Center has been awarded LEED Gold status. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council is the foremost program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. The Science Center is the first nonprofit in Florida to declare LEED Gold status and the first LEED Gold building in Orlando under the Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance standard. Th effort has transformed the Science Center into a living exhibit that educates visitors about real world applications and benefits of renewable energy and energy conservation.
Sun Hydraulics Corp., which designs and manufactures high-performance screw-in hydraulic cartridge valves and manifolds, is constructing a $6 million, 78,000-square-foot manufacturing facility adjacent to its existing operations in Manatee County. The expansion, Sun’s third manufacturing facility in Tampa Bay, could add 361 new jobs over the next five years, potentially bringing Sun’s total employment in the region to more than 1,000. Sun Hydraulics has customers globally.
SteriPack has located its first U.S. high-tech manufacturing facility in Lakeland. A leading manufacturer of flexible medical packaging with plants in Ireland, Poland and Malaysia, SteriPack plans to hire 65 employees at more than 115 percent of Polk County’s average annual wage. The company will also provide contract services and engineering and laboratory support to medical device original equipment manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. The project’s total capital investment is $7 million.
Village Farms International Inc., the second-largest hydroponic grower in North America, is relocating its headquarters to Lake Mary. With a back office already located in Metro Orlando, Village Farms will move its headquarters from New Jersey, with plans to add up to 21 new positions over the next three years at wages that are 200 percent higher than the average wage for Seminole County. Village Farms received approval from the state of Florida and Seminole County for an incentive package worth approximately $147,000 ($29,400 from Seminole County; $117,600 from the state) from the Qualified Target Industry tax-refund program.