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Hillsborough County adopts Safer at Home order

The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group unanimously approved a Safer at Home order, designed to control the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. The order, approved Thursday afternoon, will take effect at 10 p.m. Friday. The final measure has two key changes to one discussed on Wednesday — it was changed from a directive to an order, which law enforcement officials said would make it easier to enforce, and the word “curfew” was removed, so the order is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hillsborough residents are asked to stay home unless they need to go out for essentials. The Hillsborough County measure came a day after Pinellas County issued its own Safer at Home order.


New Jersey investor buys prime Clearwater office building

Melrose Solomon Enterprises, a New Jersey firm, has bought Coastal Palms, a Class A office building at 28100 U.S. Highway 19 N. in Clearwater. Melrose Solomon paid $12.6 million for the property in a deal that closed March 19, according to a deed filed in Pinellas County. The building, at U.S. 19 and Republic Drive, has several financial services tenants, including TD Bank, Wells Fargo and Ameriprise, and had undergone extensive upgrades. The seller was Clearwater-based Coastal Palms Holdings, a company owned 50 percent by a local trust and 50 percent by a local real estate investor, John Gerlach. Gerlach separately is executive managing director at  Colliers International, but Colliers was not involved in the deal. Little information was available about the buyer, Melrose Solomon, which is based in Tenafly, New Jersey but Gerlach said the buyer's intent is to hold the property for a long time and to continue to maintain the quality.

Tampa Bay Wave preps for TechDiversity Accelerator

Tampa Bay Wave is taking applications for its TechDiversity Accelerator. It's a 90-day program designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage, tech-enabled startups led by founders from under-represented groups in the tech industry. The Nielsen Foundation is supporting the program for the third year at Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit that supports local entrepreneurs. The TechDiversity program applications opened earlier this month and will close on April 12, with the program kickoff planned for early summer. Companies successfully completing the curriculum will participate in Tampa Bay Wave’s Demo Day in September. Click here to apply.

PSTA suspends Downtown Looper service

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will temporarily suspend the downtown St. Petersburg Looper service as well as the South Clearwater Beach Jolley Trolley route, beginning Monday, March 30. The suspensions are  due to a lack of ridership brought on by business and hotel closures and last until until further notice, PSTA said.  The Jolley Trolley North Clearwater Beach Route and North Coastal Route to Tarpon Springs will continue operating on a Saturday schedule that ends 10 p.m. All PSTA weekday services will begin to run on a Saturday schedule and all PSTA weekend service will be a Sunday schedule beginning on Sunday, March 29. The moves equates to a roughly 30 percent reduction in service and allow about 100 PSTA workers to stay home, the agency said.  

USF offers pass/fail option spring semester

University of South Florida is offering a pass/fail grading option for 2020 spring semester classes. The university cited the stress from disruptions caused by efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in a letter to students. All Florida state universities are using online teaching for the rest of the semester, which could present challenges for students, proponents of the pass/fail system said.The letter points out that the pass/fail option may not be the best choice for a student academically or financially. USF also extended the dates for class withdrawals and summer and fall class registrations. 

Tampa healthtech company KeriCure advances in awards competition

KeriCure, a Tampa biotech with skin and wound care products, has won the Phase III portion of the U.S. Army's xTechSearch competition for innovative new products from small businesses that solve Army modernization challenges. KeriCure is now one of ten finalists in the small business competition, which started with more than 300 companies. As part of this competition, KeriCure has now received a total of $145,000 in non-dilutive award money, a news release said. In Phase IV of the competition, KeriCure will conduct a proof-of-concept demonstration  to a panel of Army subject matter experts live at the Association of the United States Army 2020 annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in October.

Community Health Centers of Pinellas gets $115K in federal funds

Community Health Centers of Pinellas in St.Petersburg is one of 47 health centers in Florida that will receive $4.5 million in federal funds for coronavirus preparedness and response. Community Health Centers will receive $115,694. Pinellas County will receive $58,607 and Tampa Family Health Centers in Tampa will get $215,190. See the full list of centers and funding amounts here. “These federal funds will provide critical resources to Florida’s health centers, which are integral in caring for patients as the coronavirus continues to spread in our state,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in a statement.

Tech Data will appeal in French antitrust case

Clearwater-based IT distributor Tech Data said it will appeal the findings and legal reasoning of the French Competition Authority in a recent decision. The case concerns the FCA’s antitrust investigation regarding the distribution of Apple products (excluding the iPhone) in France between 2005 and 2013. Tech Data (Nasdaq: TECD) was fined about $85 million. Tech Data said in a news release Tuesday that it disagrees with the findings. "In addition, Tech Data wishes to clarify that the FCA’s decision concerns alleged anticompetitive vertical agreements between Apple and its wholesalers regarding volume allocations of Apple products – and not cartel practices, as the FCA’s original English press release of March 16 suggested. The English version of the press release has since then been corrected accordingly," Tech Data's news release said.

Tampa Bay Tech postpones poweredUP event

Tampa Bay Tech is postponing its poweredUP Tech Fest until Sept. 17. The event, which had ben scheduled for May 21, features keynote addresses and panel discussions with technology leaders. The organization said it will continue to announce programming as the new date gets closer. The event will still be held at the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg. "The health and well-being of this community means everything to us," Tampa Bay Tech wrote in an email, "We look so forward to a time when we can all be together, face-to-face soon!"

St. Pete suspends curbside recycling

The city of St. Petersburg is temporarily suspending curbside recycling collection starting Tuesday, March 24. The suspension of service is due to a mechanical issue at the vendor's recycling facility that processes curbside recycling and unrelated to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, the city said. Residents can still drop off recyclables at city brush sites and  other recycling drop off sites across St. Pete. ⁣A list of those sites is here.

Welbilt moves shareholder meeting online

Don't show up at Welbilt Inc.'s New Port Richey headquarters for its annual shareholders meeting on April 24. The commercial food equipment manufacturer is joining a growing number of companies moving their annual meetings online, due to the emerging public health impact of Covid-19 coronavirus. Stockholders will be admitted to the annual meeting through a special website, and must enter a control number found on their proxy card or voting instruction form, the company said in a news release. Welbilt (NYSE: WBT) last week said it was withdrawing its financial guidance for 2020, because there won’t be as much demand for the equipment that Welbilt makes at least through the end of June and possibly after that.

Tampa finance firm has a merger deal

LM Funding American Inc. has agreed to combine its business with the asset management businesses of Hanfor Limited, owned by BZ Industrial Limited. LM Funding (Nasdaq: LMFA) is a specialty finance company based in Tampa that provides funding to nonprofit community associations. Hanfor is a fund manager in China that manages multiple classes of alternative assets with a focus on private equity.  Hank Han, chairman of Hanfor, will lead the combined company following the closing, which is expected to take place in the second half of the year, a news release said. BZI agreed to pay LM Funding $1.25 million for about 520,833 shares of LM Funding common shares at $2.40 per share in a private placement. After the deal closes, LM Funding shareholders will own about 12 percent of the combined company’s outstanding shares.   

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