News, Notes & Commentary

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Orlando continues to win contracts for foreign arms. It has received more than $1 billion in such contracts during the past 18 months. Most recently, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s combat-helicopter venture with Northrop Grumman Corp. signed a deal worth $96 million to support the United Kingdom’s Longbow Apache chopper fleet. With U.S. government spending down, Lockheed Missiles projects its global revenue could reach nearly 40 percent in the next few years—helpful news for sustaining its local workforce. More good news: The company has been adding jobs in Orlando; it employs nearly 7,000 workers in Central Florida.

Something fishy going on in St. Petersburg? Mayor Rick Kriseman and city officials are mulling plans for the underutilized three-acre Port of St. Petersburg, located south of the city. The site has been a source of much discussion during recent years, and there seems to be growing support for an educational focus. The one-terminal port is located close to the largest marine-science complex in the Southeast, home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Florida Institute of Oceanography. Marine science companies and local universities would like to showcase St. Petersburg’s thriving marine-science industry along with the research being done by the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. According to media reports, its dean, Jacqueline Dixon, has stated that a marine science hub could bring an economic boost with 800 employees. And it’s estimated the hub could bring in $30 million to the city.

The National Center for Modeling and Simulation in Orlando inducted its inaugural Hall of Fame class—with a strong military presence. Among them: Rear Adm. Luis de Florez, who institutionalized synthetic training with the Navy during World War II; Richard C. Dehmel, a scientist who developed and implemented the first mathematical flight models for simulations; Ret. Gen. Paul Francis Gorman, who revolutionized Army training and the effective use of simulators; Ret. Gen. John P. Jumper, the 17th chief of staff for the Air Force who set distributed mission training policies for the Air Force; and Edwin Albert Link, the “father” of simulation technology and the inventor of the Link Trainer flight simulator. UCF also was well represented in the inaugural class: UCF President John C. Hitt, former U.S. Rep. Lou Frey, UCF alumni Albert Henry Marshall and Patricia Getchell, and scholarship donor Vince Amico.


From innovative research in Gainesville to NASDAQ. Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. has gone public, with all common stock being offered by the company under the symbol “AGTC.” A clinical-stage biotechnology company, AGTC uses its proprietary gene therapy platform to develop products designed to treat patients with severe inherited orphan diseases in ophthalmology. AGTC’s lead product candidates, which are each in the preclinical stage, focus on X-linked retinoschisis, achromatopsia and X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, rare diseases of the eye, caused by mutations in single genes.


A $10,000 bachelor’s degree. Gov. Rick Scott asked for it, and, most recently, Daytona State College has delivered. Beginning July 1, first-time-in-college students interested in pursuing one of Daytona State’s seven baccalaureate degree tracks in education will be able to do so at a cost of $10,000. The saving is about $3,000 and less than half what it would cost at a school in the state university system of Florida. The move is part of a challenge by the governor and Legislature for the 28-school Florida college system to offer bachelor’s degrees at reduced costs. Daytona State’s plan uses fee waivers authorized by state statute to reduce the cost of upper-division courses for in-state residents attending college for the first time. The waivers are applied while students complete their final 30 credit hours, making the senior year of the program almost tuition free.

Seven Dwarfs Mine TrainSeven Dwarfs Mine Train

OK, it’s the Hogwarts vs. the Seven Dwarfs. Not really because both train rides will help drive the region’s $50 billion tourism and hospitality industries. Yet, it’s a natural comparison as each debuts during the next few months. The Hogwarts Express train, connecting Universal Studios’ Diagon Alley to Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade Park, is part of an overall Diagon Alley expansion, including new stores, rides and other Harry Potter experiences. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train tells the famed tale from the perspective of the dwarfs, taking riders on an indoor-and-outdoor trip, with side-to-side swaying cars. Word is the coaster’s intensity will be somewhere between that of the Magic kingdom’s Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.


The University of Florida has opened a 1,500-square-foot facility in Haiti to help in the battle against tuberculosis. The laboratory—built for less than $150,000 and located near Port-au-Prince—will accommodate graduate students from outside Haiti to train Haitian technicians. Those techs will then work at the country’s national lab. Only three other TB labs exist in Haiti. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Haiti has the highest rate of TB in the hemisphere, and nearly 40 percent of the people with TB go undiagnosed.


Talk about a Tupperware party. Ground has been cleared to make way for Tupperware Brands Corp.’s 427,000-square-foot shopping center, The Crossroads. The $60 million project consumes 68 acres and sits near the future Osceola Parkway SunRail commuter rail station, with the project intended for transit-oriented development when the station is expected to be operating in 2016. Roughly 85 percent of the available space is committed by lease or letter of intent.


Label this as attention any school would want: In Hillsborough county, 98 schools are sharing $8.47 million in school recognition bonuses. The funds were awarded based on sustained high student academic performances and substantial improvements in reading, mathematics, science and writing since last year. Schools eligible for recognition awards included those receiving an “A” school grade, improving at least one letter grade from the previous year, or improving more than one letter grade and sustaining the improvement the following school year. Alternative schools were included in the program, funded by the Florida Lottery.


Populous was the popular choice. The sports venue designer from Kansas City, Mo., was named the lead architect for Orlando City Soccer’s $84 million, 18,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium downtown. Barton Malow Co., based in Southfield, Mich., is the construction manager, while stadium development specialist ICON Venue Group is the owner’s representative overseeing the project. The stadium is expected to break ground later this year with funding through a 50/50 public-private partnership. The club has agreed to cover any cost overruns associated with the project. The stadium will be operated by the City of Orlando.


Beth Gitlin, director for the Women’s Business Center at the Florida Institute of Technology, has been awarded the Small Business Administration State of Florida Small Business Advocate of the Year. The award is presented to one individual in Florida who “assists entrepreneurs through advocacy and other efforts that raise the profile, effectiveness, health, vitality, growth, and/or expansion of small businesses.” The Women’s Business Center accelerates growth for female entrepreneurs by providing customized coaching, business education, mentorship and networking programs.


Expect more Merlin wizardry in the future. With less than a year to grand opening, Merlin Entertainments PLC is gearing up to introduce three of its global brands to Central Florida with launches of The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE aquarium at I-Drive 360 on International Drive in Orlando. Merlin, the second largest visitor attraction operator in the world, already operates LEGOLAND® Florida. The Orlando Eye, for example, will be a little sister icon to London’s famous landmark, providing panoramic views in all directions within fully enclosed, air-conditioned glass capsules.


At UF, big plans were met with an equally big gift—the largest in school history. Responding to UF’s aspiration to be one of the nation’s top 10 public universities and its business college’s goal to be among the best of its kind, entrepreneur and alumnus Al Warrington IV and his wife, Judy, committed $75 million. The gift will make Warrington, for whom UF’s business college is named, the university’s first $100 million donor. Warrington, the first in his family to graduate from college, earned his degree there in 1958. Notably, Warrington started working at age 8, delivering newspapers in suburban Philadelphia, and worked his way through school with jobs that included cleaning fraternity houses. The Warringtons’ latest gift increases an endowment for business professors that supports curriculum development, research agendas and other activities that contribute to world-class research and teaching.


The City of Clermont a global leader in robotic microsurgery? Just maybe. While people might not necessarily think of Lake County as a destination for medical tourism, the PUR Clinic at South Lake Hospital is changing that perception. On a weekly basis, half a dozen patients from as far away as Australia and Cyprus visit the Clermont facility seeking the highly specialized urology treatments provided by Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt and Dr. Sijo Parekattil. The two doctors are global pioneers in the field of robotic assisted microsurgery and have performed more than 1,000 such procedures at the PUR Clinic—reportedly more than any other center in the world—since it opened in December 2013. The doctors use the system in their work with male infertility, robotic vasectomy reversal and chronic groin pain. With the assistance of the robotic machine, which was originally designed by the military, the doctors are able to perform less invasive, more precise operations.


File this under energy conservation and goodwill. Goodwill industries of Central Florida and NovaSol Energy unveiled a 153.7-kW solar panel system installed on the roof of the nonprofit’s Waterford Lakes store. As part of Goodwill’s Made in America initiative, the 580-panel system was manufactured by Suniva in the U.S. and provides a sustainable energy source that meets an estimated 76 percent of the store’s annual electricity needs. Goodwill received a grant from Duke Energy to cover a portion of the $352,000 project. Orlando-based NovaSol Energy was the project’s developer.

Tampa Convention Center copyTampa Convention Center copyTampa Bay Convention

In 2017, Tampa Bay will get a valuable opportunity—to host the Industrial Asset Management Council, a leading organization for corporate location site selectors. The Council has roughly 600 members, mostly in North America, and alternates its spring and fall forums to different cities annually. This would be the first time in 10 years that a Florida city has hosted the event; the most recent stop was in 2007 on Amelia Island. During its 2013 strategic planning, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. made attracting the forum a priority. EDC sponsorship fundraising is underway. Pinehurst, N.C., will host this year, followed by Palm Springs, Calif., and New Orleans.


Rising demand for pilots has prompted a partnership between Seminole State College and Aerosim Flight Academy to offer Federal Aviation Administration-certified graduates a seamless pathway toward a two-year Associate in Arts degree. Certified graduates from the academy are now eligible to earn 27 articulated credits toward an A.A. degree from Seminole State. Aside from pilot demand, the partnership was spurred by more international travel routes, new FAA mandates of 1,500 required flight hours and a strengthening global economy, according to officials. Originally established in 1989 and based at the Orlando Sanford International Airport, Aerosim is the only flight school originally owned and operated by airlines, Comair Airlines and Delta Air Lines.


Winter Springs-based Exam Plus FL, which administers drug and alcohol testing programs for employers, sports, governmental and law enforcement agencies, was selected for the 2013 Florida Excellence Award by the U.S. Institute for Excellence in Commerce. USIEC recognizes achieved demonstrable success in companies’ local business environment and industry categories. Exam Plus FL, a client company of the UCF Business Incubation Program, is a member of the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association and the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association.


Giving help to helpers. That pretty much sums up the story behind the launch of Professional Education Consultants LLC. Thanks to the Pasco Economic Development Council Inc.’s microloan program, the company—the 11th to be awarded a microloan—will open The Treehouse Village Early Learning Center in Hudson. PEC, an early education consulting group, assists daycares and preschools throughout Florida with accreditation, marketing, management team development, licensing, teacher training, profitability enhancement and remodeling of learning environments. Pasco’s microloan helps startups and small companies that may have never borrowed from a bank or haven’t been in business long enough to obtain traditional bank financing.


With unique discoveries emerging, this is an exciting time for the development of new immunotherapies to fight cancer—and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa remains at the forefront. Most recently, Moffitt initiated a phase-one clinical trial for a new immunotherapy drug (ID-G305). Immunotherapy is a treatment option that uses a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. It has several advantages over standard cancer therapies, including fewer side effects and an overall better tolerability.


Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has announced the creation of a Digital Main Street program, similar to others in the past that unite small businesses in an area. This time, the Digital program doesn’t represent an area; the goal is foster a community that is “attractive to tech companies and allows entrepreneurs to put their mark on this community.” Orlando has partnered with leaders of the local tech industry to create an Orlando Tech Association, which already has a board of directors and has raised thousands of sponsorship dollars. Orlando is home to a growing technology cluster.