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Lucky’s Market files layoff notice

Fifty workers will lose their jobs when Lucky's Market shuts down its St. Petersburg store. The layoffs could begin as soon as today, the grocery chain said in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The company also gave notice to the City of St. Petersburg government. The largest groups of workers losing their jobs are 13 front-end courtesy team members and 12 front-end cashiers. The layoffs will occur in phases until the store, at 6765 22nd Ave. N. in Tyrone Square, closes permanently, the WARN said. Operations will cease no sooner than March 24 and no later than April 7. "We regret the economic circumstances that have required us to make this painful decision. We will work with you, the employees and the appropriate government agencies to minimize the economic disruption," the WARN said. 

Tampa-St. Pete unemployment continues to drop

The unemployment rate in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area in December was 2.6 percent, down 0.6 percentage point from a year ago. The metro area added 30,700 new private-sector jobs in the last year, creating the second-highest number of jobs among all Florida metro areas, a news release from Gov. Ron DeSantis said. The professional and business services sector had the highest growth, with 7,500 new jobs. Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 3 percent in December, down 0.1 percentage point from November and down 0.3 percentage point from a year ago. It's the first time  since 1976 Florida recorded an unemployment rate below 3 percent.The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in December. 

Tampa tech firm builds a communications network for drones

Syniverse and AiRXOS are working together to protect the skies by providing a communications infrastructure that manages drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles operating at low altitudes. Critical data, notifications, photos and HD video will be transmitted over the network with protection from cyberattacks, a news release said. The Syniverse network runs completely separate from the public internet, so the information is invisible to hackers, said Mike O’Brien, group vice president at Syniverse, said. The Syniverse and AiRXOS partnership is also part of the Syniverse Innovation Lab, a  demonstration, development and testing center at Syniverse's Tampa headquarters.

Centene closes WellCare deal, commits to strong operations in Tampa

Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC) has finalized its $17.3 billion acquisition of WellCare Health Plans Inc., a Tampa-based managed healthcare company focused on government-sponsored healthcare programs. With the WellCare deal done, St. Louis-based Centene now serves more than 24 million members across all 50 states, or 1 in 15 individuals across the nation."Centene remains committed and expects to maintain strong operations in Tampa," a statement from the company said. "As of the close of our acquisition, our combined workforce will have 5,400 jobs in the Tampa area. Over the next few years, we will migrate select duplicative corporate roles to other sites. At this time, it is our plan to have Tampa as our headquarters for our Medicare and Pharmacy operations." 

Synapse Summit agenda finalized

Organizers of the Synapse Summit have released the hour-by-hour breakdown of talks, workshops and activities planned for the two-day event next month at Tampa’s Amalie Arena. Agenda highlights include lunchtime keynote presentations by USF President Steve Currall and entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman on Tuesday, Feb. 11; a lunchtime keynote by Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely on Wednesday, Feb. 12; and a late afternoon session on Wednesday that features an “intimate discussion” with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. The Pitch Madness contest will return. Companies in Tampa Bay Wave, Tampa Bay Innovation Center, USF Connect and the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator will make presentations over the course of the two days. The full agenda is here.

Embarc Collective company acquired

Yaro, a digital health company that is a member of downtown Tampa startup hub Embarc Collective, has been acquired by Virgin Pulse. Financial terms were not disclosed. Virgin Pulse provides enterprise Software-as-a-Service solutions that simplify health and wellbeing. The company is using technology acquired from Yaro for a new benefits navigation solution called Virgin Pulse Navigate. It will  help consumers better understand, find and pay for healthcare services according to their specific needs and preferences, a news release said. “Startup acquisitions are exciting no matter where they happen. It's a signal that the team has built a solution of tremendous value. In the case of Yaro, it only took 18 months for them to get from idea to exit, which demonstrates the strength of the team, the business and the execution,” according to a post on the Embarc Collective website.

TAO Connect adds services

TAO Connect has added training programs in alcohol literacy and sexual education to its online platform. The Alcohol Literacy Challenge and the Dimensions Learning sexual education program are both evidence-based and available to both new and existing TAO customers, a news release said. TAO Connect, based in St. Petersburg, is a digital platform designed to make behavioral therapy more accessible and effective.

Tampa Bay named talent hub

Lumina Foundation has recognized Tampa Bay as one of the first “talent bubs” in Florida for its efforts to attract, retain and cultivate talent. Being named a Talent Hub indicates that Tampa Bay has shown the capacity to work collaboratively toward a significant increase in the number of residents with college degrees, certificates and other credentials beyond a high school diploma, a news release said.The designation includes a $125,000 grant to the LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, awarded in partnership with The Kresge Foundation. Grant funds are earmarked for efforts to re-engage adult learners who started post-secondary education or training, but did not complete it. “This new designation demonstrates that national leaders in educational attainment believe in Tampa Bay’s ability to share resources and expertise for the greater good of our vibrant community," said Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College, one of 17 founding LEAP partners.

Power Design settles wage enforcement action

Power Design Inc., a St. Petersburg-based electrical contractor, agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit with the office of the attorney general for the District of Columbia. The settlement resolves a 2018 lawsuit against Power Design, alleging the company and two subcontractors misclassified more than 500 electrical workers as independent contractors instead of employees to cut labor costs. Power Design contested the allegations but agreed to a consent order to resolve the lawsuit and avoid further litigation, a news release said. Under the terms of the settlement, Power Design will be required to pay $879,056 in back wages to workers, pay $1.8 million to the District of Columbia, and pay $50,000 to support apprenticeships, job training, or workforce development programs, according to the release.

Radian sells Clayton Services

Clayton Services, a loan due diligence and credit risk management firm, has been acquired by Covius Holdings Inc. About 550 Clayton associates, primarily in the company's Tampa and Denver operations centers, will be joining Covius, a news release said. Financial terms were not disclosed. Clayton previously was owned by Radian Group Inc. (NYSE: RDN). Radian will retain some Clayton operations, including Five Bridges Advisors, Green River Capital, Red Bell Real Estate, Radian Title Insurance and Radian Settlement Services Inc. Covius, headquartered in Glendale, Colorado, provides services and technology to financial service firms.

WellCare, Centene set date to close their deal

WellCare Health Plans Inc. (NYSE: WCG), one of the largest companies in the Tampa-St. Pete area, won't be a stand-alone independent business for much longer. The managed healthcare company is being acquired by Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC) for $17.3 billion.  Centene and WellCare announced Wednesday morning that they have satisfied all regulatory requirements to complete the pending transaction, including review by the U.S. Department of Justice. The two companies expect to close the transaction on or about Jan. 23, a news release said. At the same time, WellCare is expected to complete divesting its Medicaid and Medicare Advantage plans in Missouri and its Medicaid plan in Nebraska, while Centene divests its Medicaid and Medicare Advantage plans in Illinois. The combined company will be based at Centene's St. Louis headquarters and will have about 22 million members across all 50 states.

KnowBe4 provides funds for cybersecurity law program at Stetson

Clearwater cybersecurity training company KnowBe4 said it would donate $250,000 to Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport. Funds will be used to create a scholarship fund, to establish and grow a cybersecurity law program, and to provide security awareness training to employees  The donation is an opportunity to contribute to the community and help fill the need to educate and train more cybersecurity talent, Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4 CEO, said in a news release.

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