Staff Reports - 7/43 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Personnel note: Audra Burch to NYT

The Miami Herald’s Audra Burch is departing the newspaper to join the New York Times as a Miami-based national enterprise reporter.

Burch, Audra
Burch

The Random Pixels blog last week shared a staff memo about Burch’s hire.

Burch, whom Herald editors called their “extraordinarily talented enterprise reporter,” collaborated with Carol Marbin Miller on 2014’s Innocents Lost.

The Herald’s series “painstakingly examined 477 deaths of children who perished despite being under the protective umbrella of the Florida Department of Children & Families,” the memo said. “The series led to an overhaul of DCF’s leadership, new legislation, and won a boatload of prestigious awards.”

Burch “came to the Herald in the mid-1990s after stints at the Sun-Sentinel and the Gary Post-Tribune,” according to the memo.

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Florida Power & Light brings 3 solar plants online, 4 more planned for 2017

For 2017, Florida Power & Light became the largest generator of solar power in the Sunshine State by bringing online three new universal solar energy plants.

FPL also announced plans to build four more solar plants this year, as well as install several innovative solar systems throughout local communities. The nation’s third-largest utility, a subsidiary of Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy, is now able to generate an unprecedented amount of clean energy for millions of FPL customers statewide.

On Dec. 31, FPL officially connected three 74.5-megawatt universal solar power plants to the electricity grid. With that, FPL currently operates more than 335 megawatts of solar generating capacity, enough to power approximately 60,000 homes.

“FPL has been leading the smart, cost-conscious expansion of solar in Florida since we built our first solar power plant back in 2009,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “By investing strategically in affordable, clean energy, we continue to improve the efficiency of our system, reduce fuel consumption, lower emissions and help keep costs down for our customers over the long term.”

FPL’s universal solar facilities, Silagy added, will provide customers affordable, clean solar energy.

“When the sun rises at one of our solar plants,” Silagy said, “thousands of homes and businesses are powered with cost-effective, zero-emissions energy. We believe in advancing solar affordably and responsibly for our customers and our state, and the coming years will be a game-changing time for solar in Florida.”

The three FPL solar plants — Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Citrus Solar Energy Center and Manatee Solar Energy Center — were each completed time, under budget and cost-effectively, without a net cost to customers after factoring in savings from fuel and other generation-related expenses.

A typical FPL 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30 percent lower than the national average, as well as being the lowest in Florida for the seventh year in a row.

Silagy announced that by the first quarter of 2017, construction will begin on four more 74.5-megawatt solar energy centers across the state, including sites that have received local approval in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties.

Also in development are additional large-scale solar facilities, which will be announced in the coming months.

“Clean energy helps drive economic growth in our state,” said Brian Bergen, vice president of economic development for the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. “FPL’s solar energy center will provide a boost to our local economy and the solar power it generates will be a draw for companies that value clean, affordable energy.”

FPL’s solar expansion offers energy production cleaner than the 2030 carbon emissions goals set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan for Florida, all while keeping the average residential customer bill among the lowest in the nation.

“Increasing clean energy production in Florida has been on the minds of many Floridians for years, and it’s great to see FPL continuing to invest in solar,” said Eric Draper, executive director for Audubon Florida. “Clean energy technology will help protect the environment, by reducing emissions and saving water, benefiting everyone who calls Florida home, as well as the millions of people who visit our state each year.”

Major FPL solar installations include:

— Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Brevard County

— DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County

— Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center (hybrid solar/natural gas), Martin County

— Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway, Volusia County

— Solar research installation at Florida International University, Miami-Dade County

— SolarNow array at the Broward Young At Art Museum & Library, Broward County

— SolarNow array at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, Palm Beach County

— SolarNow array at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preserve, Manatee County

— Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County

— Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County

— Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee County

FPL, which serves more than 4.8 million customers across nearly half of the state, has additionally installed small-scale solar arrays for more than 100 Florida schools and other educational facilities.

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Professional services firm announces HQ relocation to Tampa from North Carolina

BlueLine Associates, a professional services firm, is relocating its global headquarters from Cary, North Carolina to Tampa.

For the move., BlueLine expects to invest more than $2 million in the local economy, and create 150 new jobs, paying an average wage of $71,909. While the firm currently has offices in Tampa, the relocation of its headquarters will expand the company’s footprint to include its financial, legal and human resources groups.

Gov. Rick Scott hailed the move as “great news.”

“We were competing with North Carolina and Louisiana, but ultimately BlueLine Associates chose Florida for their new headquarters,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to BlueLine Associates continued success in our state.”

BlueLine provides consulting, managed services and staffing solutions to small, mid and large companies in a variety of industries. In 2015 and 2016, BlueLine was recognized on the “Best Places to Work” lists of both Consulting Magazine and the Triangle Business Journal.

“This move gives us access to Florida’s strong talent pool and allows us to continue the strategic expansion of our business,” said BlueLine President Rocky Silvestri. “Our company culture is at the core of our business success, our client’s satisfaction, and the happiness of our people.  We are excited to bring those guiding principles to Tampa.”

According to Scott’s office, the project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Several state and local leaders added their voices to applaud BlueLine’s decision.

Chris Hart IV, Enterprise Florida president and CEO, said: “Blueline Associates has chosen Florida because it is the best place to do business. The talent and the strong, business-friendly climate in Florida continue to attract growing businesses. Hard-working Floridians are getting jobs that could have gone to other states, but they ended up right here in Florida.”

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor added: “BlueLine Associates’ relocation to the Tampa area is yet another example of a business recognizing the unique opportunities for growth in Florida. Our state boasts a strong and talented workforce, a business-friendly, low tax environment and fewer regulations that enable companies to grow and succeed.”

“Hillsborough County offers BlueLine Associates a deep bench of information technology consulting, staffing and management consulting talent, as well as the amenities that will make it easy for them to recruit exceptional candidates to the area,” said Hillsborough County Commission Chair Stacy White.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pointed out that the move is further proof that Tampa’s star “continues to rise.”

“As millennial talent flocks here and our downtown undergoes a historic and exciting transformation,” Buckhorn said, “Tampa is gaining a national reputation as the place to be for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. We wish BlueLine Associates a prosperous future here.”

Candidates interested in a position with BlueLine Associates can visit blueline-associates.com, for more information on available positions.

 

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Will Gary Fineout leave reporting for academia?

…Well probably not, but he is going to guest lecture for former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Fineout, Gary
Fineout

Fineout, a Capitol Press Corps fixture, posted Monday on his Facebook page he was heading to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas later this week.

That’s where he’ll be “a guest speaker” at the university’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.

“I’m going to help with a segment on Crisis Management and Media Relations that is part of a course being taught (by Bush) on gubernatorial leadership,” he wrote.

“I am excited about the prospect of discussing how different governors have dealt with the press, especially how they have dealt with hard-hitting coverage, access and transparency.”

Fineout is “a veteran political and policy reporter who has worked at The Miami Herald, the N.Y. Times Regional Newspaper Group and other newspapers,” including the Tallahassee Democrat, his official bio says.

He’s covered four governors: Lawton Chiles, Bush, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott. Fineout now works for The Associated Press.

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Corey Givens enters race to succeed Karl Nurse on St. Pete’s City Council

On Monday, community activist Corey Givens filed to run for St. Petersburg City Council in District 6.

Currently represented by Councilman Karl Nurse, who is term limited, the district encompasses most of downtown St. Petersburg and southeast portions of the city.

Givens was joined by family and close friends at City Hall to file his paperwork.

“My friends, family, and members of my church have encouraged me to continue my service on City Council,” Givens said. “We face challenges as a city, but I know when we work together we’ll solve them together.  That’s what I’ve been doing in my community and that’s what I’ll continue to do on City Council.”

Givens is active in numerous community groups and organizations including the City Beautiful Commission, the Police Athletic League, Lakewood Elementary where he serves on the PTA and as a mentor, the St. Petersburg NAACP, the Citizens Advisory Council, the Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association, and his church.

“My family taught me about service to community and giving back,” Givens said of his community involvement. “Those values are reinforced every day by my faith and my church.”

This is Givens second run for office. In 2012, he ran for Pinellas County School board on a platform of preparing South St. Petersburg’s youth for the jobs of the future. That campaign was marred when it was revealed the Givens embellished his education.

“It was a stupid and misguided mistake and one I regret still,” Givens said of the incident. “But I learned from it and it drove me to get even more involved in my community. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you rebound from those mistakes that defines you as a leader. I apologized to those who put their faith in me and I’ve worked hard to successfully rebuild that trust with my supporters and the community.”

Givens is a St. Petersburg native. If elected, he would be the youngest Councilmember in St. Petersburg’s history.

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Vern Buchanan to chair key Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has been named chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, a key watchdog panel with investigative authority over all issues under the full committee’s jurisdiction, including health care, the IRS, welfare, Social Security and Medicare.

“I look forward to chairing this important watchdog panel that will monitor government’s largest federal agencies and programs,” Buchanan said. “I intend to make sure these programs are accountable and working for the people.”

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady was effusive in praising Buchanan.

“While serving on Ways and Means, Vern has proven to be an effective, hardworking, and thoughtful leader. As the newly-selected Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee, Vern will be at the center of the House’s efforts to hold the IRS accountable and ensure the faithful execution of our laws. I appreciate his hard work and am confident he’ll continue to deliver real results for Floridians and all Americans.”

Buchanan said he is in the process of developing his agenda for the 115th Congress, but said it will include fighting fraud in Medicare and Social Security, making the Internal Revenue Service more responsive to ordinary citizens, safeguarding Americans from identity theft and increasing transparency in government.

“I intend to be fair but relentless in exposing government malfeasance,” Buchanan said. “Fraud, waste and abuse will not be tolerated. Government exists to work for the people, not the other way around.”

Buchanan, who chaired the Human Resources Subcommittee in the last Congress, also sits on the Health Subcommittee and Social Security Subcommittee of Ways and Means.

The congressman has served on the Ways and Means Committee since January of 2011. His 2015 appointment as subcommittee chairman marked the first time a Floridian led a Ways & Means Subcommittee since U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw chaired the Trade Subcommittee for the 109th Congress (2005-2006).

Ways and Means is widely considered the most powerful committee in Congress because of its broad jurisdiction, including taxes, health care, Social Security, Medicare, welfare and international trade.

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Airbnb says its guests will make $1 million economic impact on Tampa during College Football Championship

College football could mean big business for Airbnb.

The online home-sharing giant announced Friday that Florida’s Airbnb community is expected to generate more than $1 million in economic activity during the college football championship game between Alabama and Clemson.

“Home sharing is allowing Tampa to substantially expand lodging capacity and take full advantage of this incredible economic opportunity,” said Tom Martinelli, Airbnb Florida policy director, in a statement. “Our host community is stepping up in a big way to serve as ambassadors for their City as the eyes of the sporting world turn to Tampa.”

The company expects that in the days leading up to the game — Jan. 7 through Jan. 9 — Tampa will welcome more than 1,700 arrivals through Airbnb. The host community is expected to earn about $529,000 in supplemental income during the period, and the company estimates Airbnb visitors will contribute $512,000 to the Tampa economy.

That sum, the company noted, does not take into account the potential for extra spending in connection to the game

This economic infusion comes as Tampa – with its total inventory of 21,600 hotel rooms reaching maximum occupancy – prepares to welcome over 100,000 travelers from across the world in anticipation of the game. The growth of home sharing in Tampa is allowing the City to utilize pre-existing resources – people’s homes – to expand lodging capacity and keep as many visitors as possible within its corporate limits. Most of Tampa’s Airbnb listings are located outside of the downtown hotel district, therefore routing college football travelers to neighborhoods that lack hotels and do not typically benefit from tourist economic activity.

The estimated 1,700 guests is one of the largest surges of travelers to Tampa over a typical weekend period. The host community has grown by 26 percent in the past month, according to data provided by Airbnb.

“As a destination, we are happy to that our local authorities and Airbnb were able to hammer out an agreement that benefits everyone involved,” said Santiago Corrada, the president & CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “The sharing economy is a growing, dynamic part of the travel industry, and we expect Airbnb to contribute to Tampa Bay’s international reputation as Florida’s most exciting, inviting destination for travelers.”

Last month, Airbnb announced an agreement with the Hillsborough County Tax Collector that will allow the company to collect and remit the area’s 5 percent tourist tax on behalf of the Hillsborough host community. That agreement begins in February.

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Bill would qualify Ruth Eckerd Hall for tourism tax dollars

Legislation filed in the Florida Senate would allow Ruth Eckert Hall and similar auditoriums to benefit from taxes raised to promote tourism.

SB 68 by Sen. Denise Grimsley would clarify that tourist development tax dollars may flow to facilities, like Clearwater’s Eckerd Hall, that are publicly owned but managed by nonprofit organizations.

Existing law allows tourism tax money to be spent only on convention centers, sports stadiums or arenas, or coliseums that are publicly owned and operated.

“This measure offers clarity for communities on the appropriate uses of their local tourist dollars,” Grimsley, a Lake Placid Republican, said via email.

Pinellas County collected around $49 million through the tax last year, but Eckerd Hall has not qualified for any proceeds.

In 2013, declining corporate, state and federal support forced Eckerd Hall to lay off 13 employees, nearly one-third of its workforce. During the past two years, however, the Hall reportedly has posted record ticket sales.

The venue ranks No. 3 in the world for venues with fewer than 2,500 seats, chosen by leading industry trade magazines.

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Report: Pam Bondi still being considered for job in Donald Trump administration

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi might be saying farewell to Tallahassee.

Jennifer Jacobs with Bloomberg Politics reported Thursday that Bondi will likely take a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s White House. According to the report, it was not immediately clear what her title would be, and she wasn’t among a list of White House appointments announced earlier in the week.

Bondi’s name has been floated as a possible appointee since Trump won the presidential election. She was an early supporter of the New York Republican, but found herself under a microscope because of a $25,000 donation Trump’s foundation made to a political committee associated with Bondi back in 2013.

Bondi later declined to pursue claims that Trump University defrauded Florida residents.

The Tampa Republican has been tight-lipped about her future. She has met with Trump, but in December said she wasn’t prepared to answer whether she would finish her term as Attorney General.

 On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported Bondi wouldn’t comment on whether she was being considered for a position, saying she would “never discuss anything confidential.”

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Personnel note: Alix Miller joins On3PR

Alix Miller, a former Florida Department of Education press secretary and speechwriter, has joined Tallahassee’s On 3 Public Relations as a Vice President of Accounts.

Firm president and founder Christina Johnson announced the hire Thursday.

Miller

“Alix’s extensive communications, marketing and arts background will provide the firm and our clients with a unique perspective in taking complex material and making it accessible and engaging to an audience,” she said in a statement.

Miller, who holds a doctoral degree in humanities from Florida State University, has more than 15 years’ experience working in education, non-profit organizations and corporations. She also worked in Legislative Affairs at the Department of Children and Families.

She has held leadership positions throughout the country, including West Coast Brand Manager for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a multichannel luxury brand; Director of Publicity and Marketing for Brooks & Company Dance in Atlanta; FJH Music; and Fort Wayne Ballet.

Miller also has an undergraduate degree in English from Tulane University and a graduate degree in Dance from FSU.

In another firm move, current Account Manager Anna Alexopoulos was promoted to a Vice President of Accounts after two years with the company.

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