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DeSantis names new Hillsborough judges

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Alissa Ellison of Tampa and Jared Smith of Lutz to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, which serves Hillsborough County. Ellison has served as a Hillsborough County judge since April 2018 and previously served as a shareholder at GrayRobinson. She fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Chet Tharpe. Smith has served as a Hillsborough County judge since March 2017. He previously served as a partner at Rumberger Kirk and Caldwell as well as a captain in the Air Force. He fills the vacancy created by the confirmation of Judge Tom Barber.

Pinellas commissioners extend Allegiant agreement

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners voted to extend an agreement allowing Allegiant Air to operate at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport through 2024. The new five-year deal will provide the airport, with the code name PIE, about $14.2 million in revenue, a nearly 50 percent increase over the prior five-year agreement which was valued at about $9.5 million. Allegiant, which has been serving the airport since November 2006, last year transported over 2.2 million passengers at PIE, and now serves 55 non-stop destinations. Allegiant is investing $4 million to construct a new airline support facility at PIE to accommodate its existing operational needs and meet future growth.

Outback gives away steaks in DoorDash partnership

Tampa-based restaurant operator Bloomin’ Brands (Nasdaq: BLMN) continues to grow its off-premise business, including a new partnership with DoorDash. The partnership makes Bloomin's steak concept, Outback Steakhouse, the largest steakhouse on the DoorDash menu, Bloomin' said in a news release. Outback kicked off the partnership with a free six-ounce Outback center-cut sirloin and a side give-away, with a minimum $20 purchase, September 25 through Sept. 29, when a customer orders through DoorDash and uses promo code STEAK. Outback will give away up to 10,000 steaks per day for five days. 

Congressman Charlie Crist joins call for formal impeachment proceedings

U.S. Representative Charlie Crist released a statement today calling for the House of Representatives to begin formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Crist joins a chorus of voices in the House, following Trump's admitted attempt to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son. The phone call between leaders, which took place on July 25, happened just days after President Trump withheld $400 million in aid from Ukraine.  Crist's statement reads: “Reports detailing the whistleblower complaint and the President’s subsequent admission make it clear that the President has endangered America’s national security for his own political gain. Pressuring a vulnerable, sovereign nation to dig up dirt on a political adversary while dangling Congressionally mandated military aid is not only blatantly unethical and unbecoming of the highest office in the land – it is a crime against the Constitution. “The President is acting like he believes he is above the rule of law. He is not. President Adams called our Republic, ‘a government of laws, not of men.’ The People’s House must deliver on that fundamental American value that no one – not even the President – is above the law. “Today, I join the People of Florida’s 13th Congressional District in calling for the House to launch formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump. I do not reach this conclusion lightly. The urgency of accountability is laid bare by the President’s ongoing willingness to abuse the immense power of the Office of the United States President. Someone who believes there is nothing wrong with soliciting foreign interference in American elections – again – can cause unthinkable harm to our national security, our country, and our Constitution during the remaining 15 months of his term in office. “The American people expect my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol to put partisanship and political expediency aside to do the right thing for the People and for our Constitution. It is time to act.”

Women-owned businesses flourishing in Florida

Florida is among the states with the largest growth in women-owned businesses in 2019, according to the annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express (NYSE: AXP). Only Michigan and Georgia had bigger gains, a news release said. Nationally,  women-owned businesses represent 42 percent  of all businesses, employ 9.4 million workers and generate revenue of $1.9 trillion. Over half of all women-owned businesses are concentrated in three industries: services such as hair and nail salons and pet care businesses; healthcare and social assistance, including child day care; and professional, scientific, and technical services, which takes in lawyers, bookkeepers, architects, public relations firms and consultants.

USF St. Pete opens food pantry

University of South Florida St. Petersburg has opened Support-A-Bull Market, a food pantry intended to fend off hunger for students living with food insecurity on and off campus. The campus community hopes the establishment of the pantry will provide benefits for students such as better nutrition and mental health as well as improved focus in class and higher GPAs, a news release said. Located at the Student Life Center, it has space to collect and distribute goods, from canned foods to pasta to toiletries, and it is open to all active USFSP students. A similar pantry, Feed-A-Bull at USF Tampa, has distributed more than 24,000 pounds of food to students in need.

Cogent Bank expands into Pinellas County

Cogent Bank has hired longtime local banking leader Jackie McIntosh to head its Pinellas County operation as market president. McIntosh will open executive and commercial lending offices in Pinellas County next month, followed by a retail banking center in Clearwater next spring, a news release said. McIntosh, who most recently was market president, Florida division, for Valley Bank,  is hiring experienced bankers with Pinellas roots to work at Cogent, an Orange City-based bank with $207 million in assets. Cogent also has expanded into Hillsborough County, with a retail office expected to open in Tampa's Westshore district this fall.

Greyhound service moves to PSTA Pinellas Park Transit Center

Greyhound has found a new home in Pinellas Park. The intercity bus transportation company will operate out of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's terminal at 3801 70th Ave. N. Greyhound transported nearly 20,000 passengers last year at its former St. Petersburg location on 9th Street North, but the pick up spot was not centrally located or well-marked. The new PSTA Greyhound terminal at the Shoppes at Park Place will be easier for passengers to spot. It also will generate new revenue for PSTA, as Greyhound leases the terminal, a news release said. Greyhound will operate seven days a week, departing from PSTA’s Pinellas Park center at 8:20 a.m., 3:15 p.m., 4:40 p.m., and 6:30 p.m., and will offer the first weekend service from St. Petersburg to Tampa.

WellCare study tracks social determinants of health

One in five people who called a free public phone line established by WellCare Health Plans Inc. to provide social service referrals asked for help with  family support services, including prenatal and parenting education, child care, and child welfare-related service. The next most common requests were for help with  food access and transportation (16 percent each), utilities assistance (11 percent), medication assistance (7 percent) and housing (6 percent), a news release from WellCare (NYSE: WCG) said. WellCare, a Tampa managed health care provider, reviewed more than 106,000 social service referrals made through the company's Community Connections program in the first half of 2019.  The data adds to a growing body of research around how social factors impact health risks and outcomes, WellCare said.

Jabil wins incentives in Albuquerque

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico approved $36 million in industrial revenue bonds and $250,000 in Local Economic Development Act funds for Jabil. The St. Petersburg-based electronics manufacturer plans a 3D printing center of excellence in Albuquerque and add 120 jobs at its plant in that city. New Mexico is expected to commit up to $750,000 in LEDA dollars, according to a report in commercial real estate journal Connect. Jabil (NYSE: JBL) intends to invest about $42 million in the new center of excellence.

Tampa-St. Pete jobless rate ticks up

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area jumped slightly in August to 3.5 percent, from 3.4 percent in July. Job demand continued to be strong however, with the area adding 21,300 new private-sector jobs in the last year, according to an announcement from Gov. Ron DeSantis. The industries with the highest growth over the year in the Tampa area were professional and business services with 6,000 new jobs and construction with 5,200 new jobs. There were  58,697 job openings in the Tampa area in August, including 18,471 openings in  high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations.

St. Pete-Clearwater airport gets federal funds for runway project

The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport was awarded a$19.75 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for its runway rehabilitation project. The project includes asphalt pavement rehabilitation and new edge lighting and is expected to be complete by spring 2021, the airport said in a news release. The airport received $900,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation for the project design and construction and the airport is committing $3.43 million to the project’s $24.1 million total cost. The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to accept the FAA grant at its Sept. 24 meeting.

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