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Tampa health tech company renames itself

Health Insurance Innovations Inc. has been renamed Benefytt Technologies Inc. The company's Nasdaq ticker symbol has been changed from HIIQ to BFYT. Benefytt is a Tampa-based health insurance technology company and the name change  is intended to highlight and emphasize the company's go-forward strategy to be a premier technology focused company that offers a range of Medicare related insurance plans, as well as other health and life insurance products that meet the demands and needs of consumers, Gavin Southwell, CEO, told analysts during a conference call. The company reported net income of $29.6 million, or $2.47 a share, on revenue of $381.8 million for 2019.

Three Pinellas residents fined for security violations

A federal judge in Tampa has entered final judgments against three Pinellas County residents in connection with securities fraud. The three are David Dreslin, a CPA who lives in Seminole; Michael Toups, a former broker who lives in Belleair; and his wife, Leslie Toups, a journalist and marketing professional. The Securities and Exchange Commission said they filed false and misleading statements about a public shell company they had created, a news release said. The court ordered Dreslin and Michael Toups each to pay a $160,000 civil penalty, and Leslie Toups to pay a civil penalty of $25,000. In addition, the court ordered Dreslin to pay disgorgement of $183,438 and prejudgment interest of $30,197.  Dreslin and Michael Toups also were permanently barred from participating in an offering of a penny stock and from serving as an officer or director of any public company, and barred Leslie Toups from the same conduct for a period of five years. The defendants neither admitted nor denied the SEC's allegations.

FIBA accelerator companies plan a stop in St. Petersburg

The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator is taking nine Israeli companies participating in the 2020 LAUNCH program to major Floridian cities outside of Tampa as part of the “Immersion” phase of their program. The statewide travel began March 3 and will continue through March 11, FIBA said in a news release.  They'll visit Palm Beach, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and St. Petersburg. On March 10, the companies will be in Tampa for FIBA’s Connection to Innovation event at Bryan Glazer Family JCC. Event details are here.

Clearwater shopping center sells for $20.8 million

Cushman & Wakefield arranged the $20.8 million sale of Gulf to Bay Main Shopping Center, a 102,850-square-foot retail property in Clearwater. Developed in 1979, the property at 2130 Gulf to Bay Blvd. was renovated extensively in 2019 and currently is 100 percent occupied, a news release said. Tenants include L.A. Fitness, Bealls, West Marine and Mattison Avenue. The buyer is listed in Pinellas County property records as 2350 Prospect Drive, a limited partnership associated with IRC International Realty Corp. in Naples, Florida. A Cushman & Wakefield team that included Jason Donald, Patrick Berman, Todd Tolbert, Mark Gilbert, Adam Feinstein and Mitchell Halpern represented the seller, LG GTB & Main LLC.

Clearwater nonprofit boosts workforce development efforts in a merger

 Eckerd Connects, a Clearwater nonprofit, is merging with Odle Management Group LLC, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based organization. The partnership of the two leading workforce development providers will expand services, increase impact and connect thousands of underserved youth and adults to local communities and employers, Eckerd Connects said in a news release. Under the terms of the merger, Odle will remain a separate organization and a wholly owned subsidiary of Eckerd Connects. They will have combined annual operating revenue of $329 million.

Grand Prix takes coronavirus precautions

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg doesn't expect any disruptions to the March 13-March 15 race activities, but organizers are taking extra precautions due to concerns about coronavirus. Organizers are asking everyone associated with the event to follow basic hygiene precautions as recommended by the CDC, such as frequent hand-washing, use of hand sanitizer and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately. Organizers said they have added additional hand sanitizer and hand soap washing units placed throughout the event site to assist with these hygiene precautions, and are implementing increased cleaning measures including disinfecting handrails and surfaces numerous times throughout the day. Race organizers also said they are actively monitoring health agency alerts and are working with the City of St. Petersburg. Mayor Rick Kriseman told the St. Pete Catalyst earlier this week that the city is doing everything it can to be prepared.    

Clearwater media firm cuts travel in response to coronavirus concerns

Digital Media Solutions has banned all non-critical travel throughout March as a proactive approach to limit the spread of coronavirus. The DMS non-critical travel ban is in effect through March 31, but it is planned to continue until the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control scale back their concerns related to travel and large gatherings, the company said in a news release. DMS, a digital marketing firm headquartered in Clearwater, is a "triple-bottom line" company which considers social, environmental and financial responsibilities in its business practices, and prioritizes people and the communities in which it works.  By restricting travel and gatherings, including attendance at industry conferences, DMS said it hopes to do its part to minimize the spread of coronavirus.

Coronavirus fears prompt TiECON Florida postponement

TiE Tampa Bay has postponed its upcoming TiECON Florida due to coronavirus concerns. TiECON Florida is the annual marquee event for the TiE Tampa Bay organization, featuring a full day of speakers, presenters, panels and a pitch contest. It was scheduled for March 27, but that date is now scratched. “We had a leadership conference call today, and as an organization that puts people first, we have decided to postpone TiECon due to the Coronavirus. TiE Global had also recommended this to our worldwide chapters who are also following this mandate,” Kamlesh Darji, executive director of TiE Tampa Bay, said in an email to the St. Pete Catalyst. A new date has not yet been scheduled.

New York man charged with threatening Tampa Bay Rays

A 23-year-old New York man faces federal charges of transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce, after he allegedly made numerous threats to carry out violence against professional athletes and/or their family members. Benjamin Tucker Patz, also known as “Parlay Patz," is accused in a federal criminal complaint of making numerous threats via Instagram messages, using anonymous accounts. Some of those threats were directed against players for the Tampa Bay Rays, after the team lost a home game to the Chicago White Sox on July 20, 2019, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida. Patz faces up to five years in federal prison.

Tech Data profit jumps 10 percent in FY 2020

Clearwater-based IT distributor Tech Data Corp. (Nasdaq: TECD) reported $374.5 million in net income, or $10.27 a share, on revenue of $37 billion for fiscal year 2020, ended Jan. 31. Net income was up 10 percent from the previous year while per-share earnings jumped 16 percent. Revenue was down 1 percent, with sales up in the Americas and in Asia but down in Europe, a news release said. The news release did not mention the potential impact of coronavirus, although the company posted a notice on its website that it is monitoring the outbreak and doing everything possible to mitigate service disruptions to channel partners, including working with vendors to ensure it has adequate supply to accommodate potential disruptions from China. The earnings report is likely to be one of the last from Tech Data, the largest public company headquartered in the Tampa Bay area. A pending $6 billion acquisition by Apollo Global Management is on track to close by the end of June, when Tech Data will become a privately owned company.

Superior CFO steps down

Michael Attinella, vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of Superior Group of Companies, has resigned from the company to pursue other opportunities. Andrew Demott Jr., chief operating officer, will take on the CFO and treasurer duties in addition to his own responsibilities, a news release said. Demott previously served in those roles from 1998 to 2018. Attinella, who joined the company in 2018,  is credited with the successful refinance of the company’s debt obligations as well as supporting many other operational initiatives. Superior Group of Companies (Nasdaq: SGC) is a Seminole-based firm with brand apparel, promotions and remote staffing operations.

Coworking space opens on Harbour Island

Office Evolution will cut the ribbon today on its new coworking space in Tampa. Office Evolution has a 13,000-square-foot waterfront facility at 601 S. Harbour Island, overlooking Tampa General Hospital, the Tampa Convention Center and downtown Tampa. It has 45 dedicated workspaces, two fully furnished day offices, and six conference rooms. Amenities include telephone answering services, virtual address memberships with private mailboxes, high speed WiFi and gourmet coffee and tea. Office Evolution, based in Colorado, says it is the largest coworking franchisor in the U.S. The local owners are John and Karen Przedpelski.

The St. Pete Catalyst

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