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St. Petersburg insurer ends 2019 in the red

United Insurance Holdings Corp. boosted revenue 14 percent in 2019, to $825.1 million, but reported a net loss of $29.9 million, or 70 cents a share. During the fourth quarter of 2019, the company paid what CEO John Forney said were "unusually high claims." "2019 was a tough year for our company, and Q4 epitomized that," Forney said in a news release. "But we are starting 2020 in a very strong position with regard to our rate actions, reserve strength, capital adequacy and reinsurance placement. I'm excited for what lies ahead in 2020 and beyond." United Insurance (Nasdaq: UIHC), a property and casualty insurance holding company that does business as UPC Insurance, is among the largest companies based in St. Petersburg, with plans to build a new headquarters downtown.

St. Pete’s Cycle Brewing named to ‘best brewer’ list

Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg ranks No. 19 on a new list of "Best Brewers in the World."   RateBeer.com included Cycle Brewing, at 534 Central Ave., among the top 100 brewers worldwide. Also on the list are Cigar City Brewing in Tampa (No. 5) and Angry Chair Brewing in Tampa (No. 78). The full list is here.

TIA diversity report highlights 2019 accomplishments

Tampa International Airport did business with 192 women-owned and minority-owned companies in fiscal 2019. Those companies earned about $24.7 million in contracts tied to construction projects and $14.2 million on other goods and services, according to the airport's new diversity report. "We take seriously our role as an economic engine for the region – and this includes all businesses," Joe Lopano, CEO at TIA, wrote in the report. During fiscal 2019, TIA was named Airport of the Year by the Airport Minority Advisory Council. See the full report here.  

Tampa’s PikMyKid wins PlanetM mobility grant

PikMyKid, a Tampa company with a mobile app and platform that makes school transportation more efficient, is one of four companies awarded a total of $300,000 to address transportation challenges in Michigan. The $60,000 award for PikMyKid comes from PlanetM, the mobility initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. PikMyKid will work with several rural schools in mid-Michigan to drive innovation in student safety, Pat Bhava, CEO and founder, said in a news release. PikMyKid currently serves schools in more than 42 states and seven countries. 

Cheesecake Factory plans first Pinellas County restaurant

The Cheesecake Factory will open at Westfield Countryside this fall. The restaurant, known for its extensive menu and desserts, will be located between JC Penny and Macy's in the Clearwater shopping mall, a news release said. It's the restaurant's first Pinellas County site. The Cheesecake Factory (Nasdaq: CAKE) also has locations at International Plaza in Tampa and Westfield Brandon.   

KnowBe4 releases a sequel to its video cyberthriller

Clearwater cybersecurity training company KnowBe4 has released a second season for The Inside Man, a video series that brings the pitfalls in office IT security to life. "From social engineering, insider threats and passwords, to third-party apps and AI, The Inside Man teaches your users real-world application that makes learning how to make smarter security decisions fun and engaging," Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4, wrote in an email. The story details the transformation of an undercover hacker to a White Hat company defender. Season one was awarded a silver dolphin at the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards. A trailer for the new season is available here.

USF, SOCOM sign contract worth up to $85M

The University of South Florida Institute of Applied Engineering and U.S. Special Operations Command have entered into a five-year contract with a maximum value of $85 million. The contract calls for the USF Institute of Applied Engineering’s expertise in applied research and advanced technology development to be used to support SOCOM’s needs in a range of scientific and engineering disciplines, a news release said.  SOCOM may look to the institute to address issues in fields such as autonomous systems, human performance, transportation, cybersecurity, data analytics, and sensor technologies.  Students and faculty may also have opportunities to gain real-world experience through internships at MacDill Air Force Base.

St. Pete apartments sell for $17.6 million

CBRE has brokered the $17.6 million sale of The Madeira, a 138-unit multifamily property at 7533 38th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The seller was Axonic Properties and the buyer was  GPK Holdings, a New York-based real estate private equity and asset management company. “Since 2016, previous ownership of The Madeira invested heavily into improving the exterior of the building in addition to the interior value-add,” said Francesco Carriera of CBRE. “This was highly appealing to the buyer pool, and as both job and rent growth remain strong, we saw the strong demand for 1970s and 1980s value-add assets in Pinellas County.” Carriera and Michael Regan of CBRE brokered the sale on behalf of the seller, a news release said.

Outback parent company considers sale of Brazil business

Tampa-based restaurant company Bloomin’ Brands is talking to interested parties about selling its business in Brazil, David Deno, CEO, said in a conference call Tuesday morning. Bloomin’ (Nasdaq: BLMN), the parent company of Outback Steakhouse and other brands, said last year it was evaluating strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company. Nothing compelling has materialized in terms of any sale of the entire company, although the review continues, Deno said. Bloomin’ reported $130.6 million in net income, or $1.45 a share, on $4.14 billion in total revenue in 2019, a news release said. For 2020 and 2021, the company expects cost savings of $40 million. It also plans to double its annual dividend from 40 cents a share to 80 cents a share.

Clearwater healthcare company named ‘best place to work’

Fortune's new "Best Places to Work" list includes a Clearwater healthcare company and the largest grocery chain in the area. BayCare Health System, whose hospitals include St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg, ranks No. 37 on the new list, while Publix Super Markets is No. 39. BayCare employs about 25,000 people, who point to benefits such as professional and personal development and on-site services such as car cleaning and dry cleaning that boost the work/life balance of a medical professional, according to Fortune. The magazine also cited BayCare's focus on community mental health and substance abuse issues. Publix, based in Lakeland and with 206,285 employees, offers tuition reimbursement in certain circumstances, Fortune said. Several other companies headquartered out of the area and with a significant local workforce also are on the Fortune list, which is here.

Checkers & Rally’s names new CEO

Frances Allen was named chief executive officer of Checkers & Rally's, a Tampa-based quick-service restaurant chain  Allen succeeds Rick Silva, who decided to leave the company after 13 years as CEO and president, a news release said. Allen has an extensive resume in the restaurant industry, most recently serving as CEO of Boston Market. Before that, she was president of Jack-in-the-Box; chief brand officer and chief marketing officer at Denny's Corp.; and chief marketing officer of Dunkin' Donuts USA. Checkers & Rally's, with nearly 900 restaurants nationwide, was acquired by New York-based private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners in 2017.

Window film manufacturer opens HQ in Pinellas Park

Madico Inc. has opened a quarter million-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility in Pinellas Park. Madico, one of the largest manufacturers of window films and related products, bought the facility, the former Transitions Optical plant at  9251 Belcher Rd. and has invested more than $40 million into the site, with three state-of-the-art coating and laminating lines along with an advanced research center to support its growing product offering, a news release said. The manufacturing facility is significantly larger than the combined former locations in St. Petersburg and in Woburn, Massachusetts. Madico employs more than 200 people with 75 new employees hired in 2019 as part of its growth initiatives. 

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