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Minor League Baseball picks media partner

Minor League Baseball has selected Octagon, an international sports marketing and media agency, to develop a long-term content, media and distribution strategy. As part of a three-phase partnership, St. Petersburg-based Minor League Baseball is working with Octagon to identify, secure and enhance new media distribution systems, a news release said. Minor League Baseball has a large network of teams, athletes and fans that offer immense storytelling potential, said Katie Davison, the organization's senior vice president of digital strategy and business development, adding that Octagon can help bring those stories to life for fans and new audiences.

Publix commits to $2B in food donations in next decade

Publix Super Markets is pledging  $2 billion in food donations over the next 10 years. The company has donated more than $2 billion in dairy, deli, meat, produce and fresh-baked goods to people in need since 2009. Each day, Publix associates gather foods that are no longer salable and donate them to more than 100 Feeding America member food banks and other nonprofit organizations, a news release said. One in 8 people in the United States, including 9 million people in the Southeast U.S., deal with food insecurity, said Todd Jones, Publix CEO.

WeWork Place, Westshore office buildings sell for $155M+

Commercial Florida Realty Partners has sold WeWork Place in downtown Tampa and several Westshore office buildings to an affiliate of Parkway Properties in partnership with global investment firm Partners Group. The properties involved in the transaction total 756,138 rentable square feet, with a total sales price of over $155 million, a news release said. WeWork Place at 501 E. Kennedy Blvd., named for the co-working company that took three floors earlier this year, has undergone a $5.3 million renovation and is 89 percent occupied, the news release said. Commercial Florida also spent $7.5 million to update its Westshore office portfolio, which includes Westshore Corporate Center, a 12-story Class A office tower at Westshore Boulevard and I-275, as well as Cypress Center I, Cypress Center II and Cypress Center III, and a 6.1-acre developable parcel of land with entitlements for a future six-story, 200,000-square-foot office building, to be called Cypress Center IV. 

Guilty pleas in Tampa real estate project

Two men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements to financial institutions in a case involving a real estate project in Tampa. Federal prosecutors say Mordechai Boaziz of Fort Lauderdale and Jonathan Marmol of Odessa conspired in a scheme to influence the credit decisions of financial institutions in connection with the sale of condominium units at The Preserve at Temple Terrace. The scheme cost the financial institutions about $5 million, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida said. Boaziz and Marmol each faces up to five years in federal prison. 

Rating agency says St. Pete insurer has strong balance sheet

A.M. Best has affirmed the ratings for Vault Reciprocal Exchange. Vault, a St. Petersburg insurance company that caters to the affluent, has a strong balance sheet to support growth plans over the near term, partially offset by a capital structure that leverages surplus notes significantly, according to a report from A.M. Best, a credit rating agency for the insurance industry. Vault has a financial strength rating of A- , which Best said indicates an excellent ability to meet ongoing insurance obligations, and a long-term issuer credit rating of “a-", indicating an excellent ability to meet ongoing senior financial obligations. The credit outlook is stable.

US DOT awards $6 million to Tampa International Airport

The U.S. Department of Transportation will award $32.9 million in airport infrastructure grants to several airports in Florida, including Tampa International Airport. Tampa International will receive $6 million to fund airport terminal building improvements, the transportation department said. The airport is in the midst of a master plan update that, when completed, will allow the facility to accommodate up to 34 million passengers each year. Work on phase 2 of the plan, which includes a curbside expansion and 35-acre commercial development around the rental car center, is currently underway.

Time highlights FIBA company ECOncrete

Time magazine named ECOncrete one of the best inventions of 2019. ECOncrete, which took part in the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator and has an office in St. Petersburg, develops environmentally-sensitive concrete solutions. "ECOncrete seeks to make the billions of humans living along the world’s coastlines a little less disruptive to marine ecosystems by replacing intrusive concrete infrastructure, from sea walls to seafloor mats, with products that blend in with their surroundings," Time wrote

Topgolf joins Carillon lawsuit

Topgolf Pete USA LLC has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a group of Carillon residents against the city of St. Petersburg.  The Carillon residents filed suit last month to stop the driving range and restaurant planned by Topgolf Entertainment Group. Topgolf Pete, along with FL St. Petersburg Carillon LLC, both represented by the law firm Mills Paskert Divers, asked to be added to the suit, and Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ramsberger agreed on Nov. 19. FL St. Petersburg Carillon LLC is one of two entities that owns the 12-acre site where Topgolf plans a 67,000-square-foot building with about 450 parking spaces. The Carillon residents are suing the city, and now Topgolf and the property owner, saying the city improperly approved the project and residents would be “irreparably harmed” by it.

Synapse Summit adds second keynote speaker

Jeff Hoffman, an entrepreneur who has been a part of Priceline.com. uBid.com, ColorJar, and more, will be the second keynote speaker at the Synapse Summit in February. Hoffman is a frequent keynote speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and business leadership. The Synapse Summit, a conference to highlight innovation in Florida and in the Tampa-St. Pete area, will be held Feb. 11-Feb. 12 at Amalie Arena. The summit earlier named its first keynote speaker, Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of Spanx.

Kahwa brews signature drink for Enchant Christmas

Enchant Christmas, the Tropicana Field event being billed as the world's largest Christmas light maze, now has a signature drink. Kahwa Coffee is introducing the Fa La La Latte, which will be be available inside the Christmas Market at Enchant and at all 15 Kahwa Coffee locations throughout Tampa Bay area. The drink is Kahwa’s signature espresso poured over creamy white chocolate, followed by a swirl of peppermint mocha which is topped off with pearlized gold sugar crystals. It will be available for a limited time, a news release said. Enchant Christmas will be at the Trop from Nov. 22 to Dec. 29.

Tampa nursing facility pays back wages

 Gandy SNF LLC, a nursing facility based in Tampa, paid $53,018 in back wages to 105 employees for violating the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor said. Investigators with the labor department's wage and hour division found Gandy SNF, operating as Gandy Crossing Care Center, automatically deducted time from employees’ hours for meal breaks regardless of whether workers actually took those breaks. This practice resulted in violations when employees worked through their breaks, and went unpaid for that time, the labor department said. “Other employers who automatically deduct time for meal breaks should use this investigation as an opportunity to evaluate their practices to make sure they are capturing all their employees’ hours and not committing the same violation that we found in this case,"  James Schmidt, wage and hour division district director in Tampa, said in a news release.

Bonum Health Hubs planned for Benzer pharmacies

Benzer Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy chain headquartered in Tampa, is partnering with Trxade Group to offer retail clincs in some Benzer sites.  Trxade's subsidiary, Bonum Health, will provide the technology and capabilities to provide care for patients that otherwise would not be able to afford primary or collaborative care, a news release said.  The Bonum Health Health Hubs will be in rural and urban areas where this type of care is hard to come by, Tampa-based Trxade (OTCQB: TRXD)said. "There are plans to have 100 Benzer Pharmacy locations providing collaborative care by end of 2020, with future plans for other independent pharmacies to join this endeavor”, said Suren Ajjarapu, Trxade CEO.

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