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Rays welcome back pitcher Chris Archer on one-year deal

Former All-Star pitcher Chris Archer, who spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, is returning to the team on a one-year, $6.5 million contract. Archer, 32, was a free agent after missing most of the 2020 season with a neck injury. His signing brings the Rays’ 40-man roster to full capacity as the team gears up for spring training. During his highly successful first stint with the Rays, Archer was named to the American League All-Star team in 2015 and 2017, and he pitched for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He ranks highly among the franchise leaders in strikeouts, starts, innings pitched and wins.

St. Pete City Council approves expanded local produce sales

An ordinance to expand opportunities for the production and sale of locally grown produce won final approval in the St. Petersburg City Council Thursday. The measure is designed to address the issue of food insecurity in the city while providing economic benefits for residents interested in growing and selling their own food.  Council members gave a preliminary OK to the ordinance in December. St. Petersburg is one of the first cities to adopt this type of ordinance, said Council member Brandi Gabbard, just before the council voted. All council members present voted in favor.  

Toronto Raptors will finish season in Tampa

Tampa will be the home of the Toronto Raptors for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, the NBA team announced on Thursday. Because of Covid-19 travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, the Raptors relocated to Tampa in November and have been playing their “home” games at Amalie Arena. “Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri stated in a news release. “We’re living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here.”

Jesuit High gets $1 million gift

The CEO of an Ohio real estate firm is donating about $1.1 million to Jesuit High School in Tampa. Steve Wathen, CEO of Equity/ECS, earmarked proceeds from a corporate real estate transaction to Jesuit, a private, all-male Catholic high school. In a news release, Wathen cited Jesuit's commitment to students, including about $2.9 million in financial assistance this year to 40 percent of the student body. Equity/ECS, founded by Wathen in Columbus, Ohio in 1987, expanded to the Tampa Bay are more than 15 years ago, and has a significant presence in the region. 

Seedfunders launches podcast

Founder Dave Chitester is looking to grow Seedfunders presence on-line to keep with pace with the early-stage investment group's off-line expansion.  With new operations in Orlando and Miami, Chitester hopes the Seedfunders podcast will reach the influx of new potential angel investors that are relocating to Florida, and plug them into the growing startup ecosystem. Episode 1 of the weekly podcast is live on the Seedfunders website now. 

Tampa tech firm sells digital inventory marketing division

That's Us Technologies in Tampa has sold one of its divisions, LotVantage, to Digital Air Strike, a consumer engagement tech firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. Financial terms were not disclosed. LotVantage is a Software-as-a-Service company that enables auto, RV, marine and powersports dealerships to merchandise their inventory through advanced targeting and data analytics. The acquisition supports Digital Air Strike's strategy of leveraging technology to improve the online consumer retail experience while helping retailers gain efficiencies and greater return on investment, the company said in a news release. The sale will allow That's Us Technologies to focus on another subsidiary, ThumbStopper, which provides organic social media syndication for brands that sell through channel partners, a separate news release said.  

State senator files bill that would abolish regional transit agency

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill that, if passed, would abolish the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority. Established in 2007, TBARTA was formed to help plan, develop, fund, implement and operate a regional transit system in Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Its governing board is made up of mayors, county commissioners, gubernatorial appointees and representatives from municipal transit bodies such as the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Brandes’ bill, SB 1130, would see the agency shut down as of July 1 and its assets distributed among the region’s various local governments.

Dental assistant sues ex-employer, claims she was victim of hate crime

Shykia Nelson of Clearwater has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Tampa federal court against her former employer, Keep Smiling Dental, that alleges she was the victim of a violent hate crime. Nelson, 25, claims she was the only Black dental assistant employed at the Clearwater-based clinic and was routinely belittled and made to perform undesirable tasks. After voicing her objections to the alleged mistreatment, Nelson said clinic owner Dr. Laura Habner slapped her in the face. Nelson then claims she called the police to report a hate crime and was subsequently fired by Habner. In a phone call to the Catalyst, Habner's attorney, Jim Thompson of Thompson Legal Center in Tampa, said Nelson was not fired, but instead quit her job, and that he believes Habner's position that Nelson was not subjected to racial discrimination while employed at Keep Smiling Dental.

Digital advertising firm makes two acquisitions

Clearwater-based Digital Media Solutions Inc. (NYSE:DMS), a provider of digital performance advertising solutions that connect consumers to advertisers, has acquired sister companies Aimtell and PushPros. According to a news release, the Aimtell/PushPros technology is used by Fortune 100 brands to deliver notifications to users of apps and websites. The acquisitions, the release states, are expected to add $25-$30 million of revenue to DMS’s balance sheet. Jeff Usner, founder of PushPros and majority shareholder of Aimtell, has joined the DMS team as executive vice president of messaging strategy. Other terms of the deal were not disclosed in the release.

Police department commemorates anniversary of officers’ deaths

The St. Petersburg Police Department on Wednesday paid tribute to three officers who were killed in the line of duty 10 years ago. At the Heroes of the St. Petersburg Police Law Enforcement Memorial at Demens Landing Park, the department hailed the lives and service of Sgt. Thomas Baitinger, Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Officer David Crawford. Baitinger and Yaslowitz were shot and killed on Jan. 24, 2011, by a wanted fugitive. Less than a month later, on Feb. 21, Crawford was fatally shot by Nicholas Lindsey Jr., who was 16 at the time and is serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, for the killing.

‘Scott and Patti’ held over at freeFall Theatre

The freeFall Theater "drive-in" production of the two-person musical comedy Scott and Patti: Get a Real Job!, originally scheduled to end on Valentine's Day, has been extended through Feb. 21. Dates and tickets can be found here.

Pinellas County updates Covid vaccine appointment system

Pinellas County is changing the process for booking appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations. The move is designed to ease scheduling, officials said during Tuesday's Board of County Commissioners meeting. County residents 65 and older who have created accounts through the CDR Health Pro Patient Portal will be contacted directly to schedule their vaccination as new appointments become available in the coming weeks. For now, the first to register will be the first invited to make appointments. Residents can pre-register at the website or call 844-770-8548 to create an account or get help. To date, more than 94,000 people have received at least their first dose of the vaccine in Pinellas County, around 9.5 percent of the county’s population. About 10,000 people per week are being vaccinated at four public sites run by the Health Department and a fifth site with larger capacity has been identified and may come online as early as next week, officials said. Residents are registering for those vaccines at those sites using the patient portal, but many others are getting vaccinated through hospitals, health centers, long-term care facilities, and through pharmacies that recently began offering the vaccine.

The St. Pete Catalyst

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