The Florida Cleantech Acceleration Network (FL-CAN) has collaborated with several Florida Universities, and now NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, to provide access to an extended list of more than 450 intellectual properties and 60 laboratory facilities capable of supporting efforts in clean technology industries. Those lists and other FL-CAN services were established to bring entrepreneurs, innovators, companies and researchers together to form a network for cleantech advancements. Among others, the updated list now includes facilities equipped for creating weather forecasting algorithms, next-generation telecommunications and 3-D models. The FL-CAN program also offers such services as market assessment, Small Business Innovation Research proposal development and market research expertise. With the FL-CAN program, companies and entrepreneurs can pursue commercialization projects that are based on cleantech research coming out of NASA-KSC, as well as the Florida State University System.
The Citrus County Port Authority has selected Martin Associates to conduct a feasibility study for Port Citrus. Martin Associates was selected from six finalist firms by virtue of a calculated tally. Vickerman & Associates was ranked second. It's expected the study can be conducted within six months. Among other factors, the study will encompass port interconnectivity, the shifting of trade patterns and components that make up a successful port project. State legislators, with an eye on the expanding global shipping trade—highlighted by the continued widening of the Panama Canal—increased the amount of money available to upgrade the state’s seaports. Legislators upped the nondesignated port funding from $117 million in the current year to $135 million for the next fiscal year and created a $35 million port investment initiative.
As a part of an on-going partnership with the Hernando County Health Department, the Hernando County Government Broadcasting Department's production truck has received a new look. Originally serving as an ambulance, the unit was taken out of service by the Spring Hill Fire Department four years ago. Government Broadcasting acquired the truck for use in off-site video productions for the local government channel programming. Through a Florida Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Grant, the Health Department obtained $3,500 to apply a wrap to the truck, which promotes a positive message in line with its anti-tobacco campaign. Officials call it a win-win situation: The truck can no longer be mistaken for an ambulance, and it projects an important health message to the community, they cite.
The County Board of County Commissioners presented its 2012 Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government Award to University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft. During her 12-year tenure, USF has become the ninth-largest public research university in the nation, providing more than $3.7 billion in annual economic impact to Hillsborough. USF is one of the top employers in the Tampa Bay region, while Genshaft is a leading voice for economic development and has specifically championed partnerships in high-technology and bio-science. County commissioners created the Good Government Award in 1996 to honor an individual or group that has played a significant role in improving government through leadership and vision. Ellsworth G. Simmons was a respected government and civic leader who served seven years on the school board and 21 years on the County Commission.
With economic and job development taking center stage across the country, the Lake County Office of Economic Development and Tourism is touting county-sponsored business incentive programs. Among those programs are expedited plan reviews and inspections affecting facility construction; matching funds to new and expanding business to offset development costs; cash awards for the creation of jobs paying a minimum of 115 percent of the county’s average annual wage; and matching funds to new or relocating art businesses to offset building improvement costs. An example of program impact: First Green Bank, a traditional community bank based in Mount Dora with a focus on positive environmental and social responsibility, received a High Value Job Creation incentive from the county in 2009. Since then, the bank has created more than 40 jobs within the county.
In a potential cost-cutting move, the Manatee County Commission is considering the establishment of a regional authority that would allow it and Sarasota County to share some services. A regional agreement could encompass joint purchases, along with such services as traffic management; emergency medical services; 911 services; and cohabitation at Manatee's $55 million Emergency Operations Center in Bradenton. The two counties share strong geographical, cultural, political and business ties. And Sarasota officials contend they are willing to discuss collaboration and cost savings. Already, the two commissions had two recent joint sessions. In 2010, Manatee's population was 322,833, up 22.3 percent since 2000; Sarasota's population was 379,448, up 16.4 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Visitors to www.OrangeCountyFL.net will find a redesigned website that features a new look along with greater functionality. An improved, prominent search engine to browse all services comes with a tutorial that demonstrates the ease of navigation. The new design focuses on taking users “right where they want to go without having to navigate through various layers of content.” The website is part of the county's vision to offer residents, visitors and those looking to do business in Orange a “useful tool.” The website also includes a new Stay Connected area that offers access to Board of County Commissioners meeting agendas, ways to get involved through advisory boards and other volunteer opportunities, as well as how to contact the Office of Public Engagement and Citizen Advocacy.
County Commissioners have moved forward with steps to improve a section of the East U.S. Highway 192 corridor. They unanimously approved establishment of an East U.S. 192 Community Redevelopment Agency board for a 2.8-mile segment of the roadway, stretching from Kissimmee city limits to Partin Settlement Road. Commissioners will sit as the CRA board but have the option of creating an advisory board. Implementation of the East U.S. 192 CRA meets the following Strategic Plan goals: to grow and diversify the county's economy; to upgrade the county infrastructure and transportation network; and create great neighborhoods that are safe and livable. Next steps for the agency include creating a Community Redevelopment plan and initiating a funding mechanism. The plan will address the needs of the area and include the overall goals for redeveloping the area, as well as identifying specific projects designed to improve aesthetics and encourage private developers to invest in the CRA district. Possible programs could include improving the turnpike entrances with destination signage and landscaping, streetscape improvements, directional signage, decorative street lighting and infrastructure improvements.
Annette Doying was appointed the county's director of the office of emergency management. Hired in 2005 as an emergency management coordinator for homeland security for Pasco, she has significant experience in all hazards disaster responses, ranging from the March 1993 No Name Storm to Hurricane Katrina. She has served as a member of the Pasco County Performance Development Team for the past year. Doying holds a master’s degree in Applied Forensic Anthropology from the University of South Florida and serves on the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System and the Federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response teams.
Pinellas County earned the Sunny Award for the second consecutive year and an A+ transparency grade for the third year. Sunny Award winners are chosen by Sunshine Review, which evaluates state and local government websites nationwide for transparency, citizen engagement and accountability. The Sunshine Review gives the A+ grade to government websites that meet the stringent transparency checklist, measuring what content is available online against what content should be provided. The checklist includes 10 specific transparency criteria: budget, meetings, elected officials, administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records, and local taxes. Pinellas County government’s redesigned website (pinellascounty.org) was launched in May 2010. The county implemented a Web 2.0 initiative in 2011 to accelerate website enhancements. This year’s initiatives included LiveChat on the website, the development of a mobile site and the addition of SeeClickFix, a mobile app that allows residents to take a picture of a local problem and send it to the county for action.
New parking spaces could be heading to downtown Bartow, if the county receives and accepts grant money to build a multilevel parking and bus terminal. The county submitted a matching grant to the federal transportation administration for $35 million and expects a response by September. The terminal project would cost $59.9 million. If the grant money is received, county taxpayers would have to pay 20 percent of that total. The county originally applied for a more significant grant in 2009, but scaled down the scope this time to focus on delivering much-needed parking capacity. Construction could be completed within two years. At present, Bartow's peak-hour traffic congestion is on the rise, largely caused by out-of-town weekday traffic and a lack of available parking. Adding to the problem, Bartow is the crossroads of three major highways systems running the length of the county: U.S. Highway 17, State Road 60 and U.S. Highway 98.
Sarasota has been ranked as a leader among 67 Florida counties for healthy living. The county ranked third in the ratings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, up from fourth place in 2011. According to Chuck Henry, the county's health department administrator, the ranking reflects the county focus on healthy environments and healthy lifestyles, including parks and recreation facilities and access to quality health care. Examples of county health initiatives include “Safe Rx” for safe disposal sites for unused prescription medications and education for pharmacists and healthcare providers; pain management clinic regulation; prescription drug monitoring; and the Healthy Weight Collaborative to expand obesity prevention and treatment efforts.
The Seminole County Public Library System has received the annual Libraries Mean Business Award from the 1,047-member Florida Library Association. The Seminole County Public Library System supports the county's small businesses through the Business Services Program, which began in 2004 and offers free practical business solutions to the problems and questions inherent to entrepreneurship. The Business Services Program's popular startup and business plan seminars have been attended by more than 3,500 entrepreneurs and small business owners since 2005. A survey has shown that 57.5 percent of attendees have launched a small business.
Two of the county's Public Works employees have been recognized by the American Public Works Association as leaders in their professions. George Recktenwald, interim director of public protection and director of public works, received the Public Works Director of the Year award from APWA. Arden Fontaine, public works special projects coordinator, was named Professional Manager of the Year by APWA, in the administrative management category. The Public Works division is made up of Engineering and Construction, Development Engineering, Mosquito Control, Road and Bridge, Solid Waste and Recycling, Traffic Engineering, and Water Resources and Utilities. Organized within nine regions, APWA's 28,500 members comprise 63 chapters, serving virtually every community, state/province and region throughout North America. Chartered in 1937, APWA is among the largest and oldest organizations of its kind in the world.