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Unemployment continues to drop in Tampa-St. Pete

The unemployment rate in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area in November was 2.7 percent, down from 2.9 percent in October and from 3.2 percent in November 2018. The number of unemployed people in the metro area dropped from 45,318 in October to 42,767 in November, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The metro area's civilian workforce in November stood at 1,562,597. Florida's unemployment rate in November also was 2.7 percent. Logan, Utah, and Ames, Iowa had the lowest unemployment rates, at 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, while El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona, had the highest unemployment rates, 20.6 percent and 15.4 percent, respectively.

Where Florida ranks on new national movers study

Florida ranked No. 7 among the 50 states in a new report on most popular moving destinations. More people moved to Florida for retirement (40.5 percent) and for lifestyle change (22.97 percent) in 2019 than any other state, according to United Van Lines' 43rd Annual National Movers Study. It's the first time Florida has been on the list of top 10 inbound states since 2015. The study, which tracks customers' state-to-state migration patterns over the past year, found that Idaho saw the highest percentage of inbound migration among states experiencing more than 250 moves with United Van Lines. The study also found more residents moved out of New Jersey than any other state last year.

Cott buys Dutch ecommerce business

Eden Springs, a subsidiary of Cott Corp., bought the Watercooler Gigant business of Leylines B.V. Financial terms were not disclosed by Cott (NYSE: COT), a Tampa-based water, coffee, tea, extracts and filtration service company. Watercooler Gigant is an ecommerce platform in the Netherlands and supplies bottled water coolers and filtration solutions to commercial and residential markets. The deal allows Eden Springs to enhance its position in the region through the addition of both a new ecommerce channel and approximately 1,800 customers, a news release said.

CEO steps down at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

David Yates, CEO at Clearwater Marine Aquarium for 14 years, has announced his resignation, effective March 15. He will be succeeded by Frank Dame, a former chairman of the board of directors who was hired as chief operating officer in 2008. Dame will usher in a new era for Clearwater Marine Aquarium in 2020 with the completion of an expanded facility that includes five new dolphin habitats, an elevated deck, and a new building for guest and educational space, a news release said. Yates was hired in 2006 at a time when the aquarium was experiencing financial and operational uncertainty, and he was able to bring international attention to the facility through the story of Winter the dolphin, including the Dolphin Tale movies. Yates said he plans to write a number of books, as well as do public speaking, nonprofit consulting, and television and movie production.

Fresh Kitchen raises $2.6 million

FK Growth Fund LLC, a limited liability company associated with Fresh Kitchen, has raised $2.6 million in a $4.125 million equity offering. The offering began Dec. 20 and drew three investors so far, a Dec. 31 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said. A request for additional comment from the company was pending return. Fresh Kitchen is a quick-service, build-your-own-bowl restaurant concept that is part of the Ciccio Restaurant Group in Tampa. In 2017, Fresh Kitchen said it had a joint venture partnership with Covelli Family Limited Partnership, a Panera franchisee, to open Fresh Kitchen locations across Florida. There are currently eight Fresh Kitchen locations statewide, including one on 4th Street in St. Petersburg and two in Tampa, according to the company’s website.

Tampa-St. Pete lags other metros in wage growth

Hourly wages in the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area were up 1.19 percent in December, compared to the previous year — the lowest increase among 20 large cities in the United States, according to the latest Paychex|IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch. Nationally, hourly earnings growth closed the year at 3.07 percent. Hourly earnings averaged $24.64 in Tampa-St. Pete in December, compared to $27.64 nationwide and $25.05 in Florida. See the full survey results here.

Tampa-St. Pete is one of Zillow’s hot housing markets

The Tampa-St. Petersburg housing market is expected to outperform the national average in 2020, according to the Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey.The survey, sponsored by Zillow and conducted quarterly by Pulsenomics LLC, asked more than 100 economists, investment strategists and real estate experts to rate their 2020 expectations for home value growth compared to the nation in 25 large markets.  On average, panelists said they expected U.S. home values to grow by 2.8 percent in 2020. In Tampa-St. Pete, 38 percent expected better performance than the national average, 53 percent expected the area to performa about the same, and 9 percent expect underperformance, for a total score of 29. Austin, Atlanta and Charlotte, scored highest among the panelists, with scores of 76, 59 and 51, respectively. See the full survey here.

Serial entrepreneur plans ‘next chapter’ after Tampa Bay Wave

Rich Heruska, accelerator director at Tampa Bay Wave, will transition out of his current role at Wave at the end of February. Heruska, a serial entrepreneur who joined Wave more than two years ago for what was supposed to be a 90-day consulting gig, is planning "the next chapter in his career," Linda Olson, Wave CEO, said in a Dec. 31 announcement. "I am extremely grateful for Rich’s leadership during an important period of transformation and growth for Tampa Bay Wave, and I am thrilled that Wave and the companies we serve will continue to benefit from his ongoing involvement beyond this transition," Olson wrote. Tampa Bay Wave, in downtown Tampa, is a nonprofit that houses and services technology startups. Heruska was the first guest on Startup Report; listen to that interview here.

Tech Data deal clears regulatory hurdle

Federal officials aren't raising any objections to the planned $6 billion sale of Tech Data Corp. (Nasdaq: TECD), a Clearwater-based IT distributor, to funds associated with Apollo Global Management. Both companies filed premerger notifications on Nov. 29 as required by the Hart-Scott-Rodino law, designed to alert regulators about planned mergers so they may perform a review of the action based on antitrust laws. The waiting period for a review expired late Dec. 26 satisfying one condition of the sale, Tech Data said in a Dec. 30 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Provided Tech Data stockholders OK the sale and it receives other required regulatory approvals, the deal is set to close in the first half of 2020, when Tech Data, currently the largest publicly held company in the Tampa-St. Pete area, will become a private comapny.

Newly elected St. Pete City Council members to be sworn in Jan. 2

The City of St. Petersburg will ring in the new year with a swearing-in ceremony held Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 at the St. Petersburg Police Department Auditorium. Newly-elected City Council members Robert Blackmon and Deborah Figgs-Sanders, representing Districts 1 and 5 respectively, will be sworn in for the first time. Re-elected Council members Ed Montanari and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman representing Districts 3 and 7 will be sworn in for their second terms. 
Swearing-In Ceremony
Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 at 11 a.m.
St. Petersburg Police Department Auditorium (1301 First Ave. N)

Rotary Club of St. Petersburg to celebrate 100 years with $100K donation

To celebrate its 100 year anniversary, Rotary Club of St. Petersburg will raise $100,000 during 2020 for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. The Rotary Club of St. Petersburg will support the Free Clinic’s Pack-A-Sack program, which provides meals for hundreds of food insecure children throughout St. Petersburg . 

As one of the first 200 clubs of Rotary International, the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg was founded by William Straub, the former editor of the St. Petersburg Times. in his honor, the club will also refurbish the Straub marker at Straub Park.

The Rotary Club will hold its 100th Anniversary gala event at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on Saturday, January 25th, where it will kick off the donation drive. All proceeds will benefit the Pack-A-Sack program. Tickets and sponsorships are available by contacting the Rotary office at 727-822-3277.

Tibetan monks to visit St. Pete, create mandala for third time

For the third time, eight Tibetan monks will visit St. Petersburg's Florida CraftART exhibition gallery to create a sand mandala.

The monks, hailing from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, will hold an opening ceremony Jan. 7 at 10:15am. Throughout the week, they will create a mandala by pouring colored sand from a the funnel-shaped tool called a chakpur, methodically tapped to release just a few grains at at time.

The exhibition will take place from Jan. 7 to 12. On the final day, the monks will hold a dissolution ceremony, in which they sweep up the mandala and hold a procession to the bay. There, the monks will perform a blessing and release the sand into the bay. 

Events of the week include:

Jan. 7 at 10:15am: Opening ceremony

Jan. 8 at 5:30 to 7:00pm: Reception with display of Tibetan culture (tickets from $20-30)

Jan. 11 at 10:30-2:00pm: Rock painting with Tibetan monks (tickets $15-25)

Jan. 11 at 5:00-7:00pm: Second Saturday ArtWalk meet and participate in a worldwide meditation

Admission to Florida CraftArt outside of event hours to see the monks create the mandala is free. The monks will chant daily at 10:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

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