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City executes agreement to continue to support St. Pete Pride through 2026

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter to announce the City of St. Petersburg has executed an agreement to continue its relationship with St. Pete Pride through 2026. 

Bikefest brings motorcycles, live music to St. Pete this weekend

St. Pete Bikefest is roaring back into the area for a three-day festival beginning Thursday. Held at the Orange County Choppers Road House and Museum in Pinellas Park, Bikefest will feature vendors, special events and live music. This year’s headlining musical acts include Saliva, Lo Cash and Night Ranger. Paul Teutul Sr., who rose to fame with the American Choppers reality television series, will make a personal appearance on Saturday. For a full schedule of events or to purchase tickets, visit stpetebeachbikefest.com.

Despite pandemic, Pinellas County sees record tourism taxes

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the destination marketing organization for the local region, has hit record year-end numbers for fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. Pinellas County tourist development tax collections totaled $73.2 million, a 5.7% increase compared to the previous record-setting $62 million in 2019. The Average Daily Rate (ADR) averaged $158.07 — a 6.4% increase from $148.51 in 2019, according to STR, a hotel data tracking company. Vacation rental stays increased despite the ongoing pandemic, the restrictions on international travel and the red tide woes. “This past year’s steady performance speaks volumes to our destination’s resiliency, as well as how our community came together to support the No. 1 employer in Pinellas County, tourism,” Steve Hayes, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater president and chief executive, said in a prepared statement. “As international borders reopen following an 18-month hiatus, we’re eager to welcome back a market that makes up 10-15% of visitors and see what the coming year brings.”

USF leads state in international students

For the first time in the college's history, the University of South Florida leads the state in international student enrollment. An annual report released by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, known as the Open Doors 2021 Report on International Educational Exchange, showed that USF leads all state universities with 5,974 international students. The students represent over 140 countries worldwide. USF ranks 19th nationally among public universities and 28th for both public and private universities. The announcement comes as universities across the county celebrate International Education Week, which lasts from Nov. 15-19.

Rays’ Cash makes history with second straight Manager of the Year award

The off-season awards keep coming for the Tampa Bay Rays as Manager Kevin Cash was named the American League’s Manager of the Year Tuesday. Cash becomes the first AL manager to win the award in back-to-back seasons, and just the second to achieve the feat in the history of Major League Baseball. Legendary Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox took the National League honor in 2004-05. Cash’s award comes the day after Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena was named the AL’s top rookie. Fellow Ray Wander Franco finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, despite only playing 70 games. Cash received 19 of 30 first-place votes after guiding the young team with a small payroll and numerous injuries to the best record in the AL.

Plans for 39-acre development on Gandy Boulevard move forward

The planned development dubbed Snug Harbor, located on 39 acres at the southeast corner of Gandy Boulevard, has taken a step forward. On Monday, the St Pete Community Planning and Preservation Commission unanimously approved amendments for the development, which was first approved in 2009 and included retail. The new plans include multifamily units, a marina and restaurants. Miami-based Key International is listed as the applicant. The city council will hear a first reading of the amendments on Dec. 2. 

KnowBe4 completes $80M acquisition of Security Advisor

Clearwater-based KnowBe4 Inc. (NASDAQ: KNBE), a provider of the world's largest security awareness training, has completed the acquisition of California-based SecurityAdvisor for approximately $80 million.  The acquisition will create a new category for KnowBe4. The innovative SecurityAdvisor technology utilizes integrations with over 50 leading vendors in the cybersecurity ecosystem to identify and correlate human behavior-driven security alerts. The new category of security would be called Human Detection and Response, or HDR. "With the closing of the SecurityAdvisor acquisition, the first since KnowBe4 went public on the NASDAQ in April 2021, KnowBe4 looks to revolutionize the way Security Operations Centers monitor end-user behavior. The next several months will be spent integrating the product into the core KnowBe4 platform, building in automation capabilities and extending the ecosystem," KnowBe4's release read. 

Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena named American League’s top rookie

After bursting on the scene in last year’s MLB postseason, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena is this year’s American League Rookie of the Year. Arozarena, 26, received 124 points by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, including 22 first-place votes. Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros finished second with 63 points. In a positive sign for the Rays' prospects moving forward, Arozarena’s teammate Wander Franco finished third in the voting, despite only playing 70 games this season. Arozarena led all rookies with 4.1 Wins Above Replacement and became just the third rookie in the last decade to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season. Arozarena also only committed one defensive error in 119 games played in the outfield. The Rays phenom was favored to win the award after hitting 11 home runs during last year’s playoffs and was named that season’s ALCS MVP.

Construction kicks off for three-story food hall on Central Avenue

Construction has started for a new three-story food hall at 551 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Monday for the food hall at the site of the Woolworth building. The food hall, dubbed Central Park St. Pete Food Hall, is being developed by Hi Hospitality Group, which owns the Speaks Clam Bar and Kojo. The food hall is expected to open by the end of next year. It will also have a basement that will become a high-end speakeasy bar.

Zillow to lay off home estimators in Tampa

The Zillow Group, the real estate firm known for estimating house values, has notified the state it plans to lay off 17 employees in Tampa. "This action is due to the elimination of the Zillow Offers business," wrote People Operations Manager Emily Merritt. The notice follows the news of Zillow executives stating the firm would exit the business of buying and selling houses due to massive financial losses and that it would let go about nearly 25% of its employees. The layoffs of the 17 employees will start on Jan. 3 and will "wind down over the course of 2022." The 17 affected employees are renovation estimators and evaluators, according to the notice. 

Disruptive tech firm receives investment from Florida Funders in $1M seed round

Florida Funders, a Tampa-based top venture capital firm in the Southeast region, has invested in Gigantor Technologies, Inc., a company providing patented Neural Network acceleration technology. Florida Funders has invested in Gigantor’s $1 million seed round along with participation from the Florida Institute. Gigantor Technologies created GigaMACS, a patented AI technology designed to qualitatively accelerate convolutional and deep neural networks without changing the model. Gigantor’s Technology solution is positioned to disrupt the domain of the artificial intelligence movement in computer vision and other sensory input models with a massive acceleration of neural networks without data loss. 

Winter Celebration of Life set for Saturday in Clearwater

This Saturday, Nov. 20, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium will hold a Celebration of Life for Winter, the rescued and rehabilitated dolphin who died Nov. 11. There will be visual tributes to Winter and a special presentation schedule, to be announced. Original footage of Winter’s 2005 rescue, her life and legacy will screen all day in the Dolphin Tale theatre. Aquarium admission will be reduced to $16, in honor of Winter's 16 years. Details at cmaaquarium.org. It is planned as the first of several celebrations.

The St. Pete Catalyst

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