Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grow FL Applications Still Available

Some confusion came out of the local level recently when a helpful state program for businesses had $1 million cut thanks to a Gov. Rick Scott veto.

The program is called the Economic Gardening Class through GrowFL. The program, based out of the University of Central Florida, provides strategic research, CEO Roundtables and other help for existing businesses ready to take the next step on growth. Manatee County's own BioLife is a part of the class, participating since 2009, too. The company makes a bandage alternative in powder form that creates a scab to stop bleeding. The program helped the company get into more retail chains like Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond, CVS, Walgreens and Publix.

I was told by economic development officials from both Manatee and Sarasota counties that the program wouldn't be offered this year because of the veto, and as other stories became more pressing, it was a challenge to get in contact with the Grow FL folks to find out what was going to happen. Sarasota County's Economic Development office was the local facilitator for the GrowFL program and handled Manatee County's applications.

Better late than never, right? Well, it's not exactly late. Despite the push for applications to be turned it by May 24, applications are still accepted on a rolling basis, according to Fran Korosec, director of client services for GrowFL. The push was partly to align with the state's fiscal year, he explained.

Scott's veto did cause the program to scale back its offering statewide, and so the Economic Gardening program is still available in areas that have other funding. Manatee and Sarasota counties are two of those areas because they are funded through the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, which includes 23 counties, Korosec explained. The program is still capable to be done statewide if funding is available through other sources, he said.

If your business is interested, apply on the GrowFL website.

Here are the requirements, according to GrowFL:

To be eligible for assistance under this program, a business must:
  • Be a for-profit, privately held business, with principle place of business in Florida
  • Has a proven product or service (grown beyond the startup phase)
  • Has an interest in growing beyond 2nd stage
  • Have employed between 10 and 99 people at the end of the preceding fiscal year
  • Have generated revenues between $1M and $50M at the end of the preceding fiscal year
  • Generates revenue, or an ability to generate revenue, outside the regional or state geography

Planned Country Concert in Manatee Co Would Provide Some Southern Comfort

Country star Gretchen Wilson, seen here in a press photo, performed in Palmetto at the 2012 Desoto Music Fest. Southern Living magazine wants to bring a country star for a concert next year as part of a promotion, but exactly who remains a mystery.

I wasn't as surprised to learn that a country concert is planned for somewhere in Manatee County in 2014, as much as I was that Southern Living would be planning it.

Recently, I reported how the Visitors Bureau is partnering with the lifestyle magazine to do a restaurant week in the Bradenton area in 2014, and that a second component of this partnership could include a country concert. Now the mystery begins of who and where (and a little bit of when).

Bradenton isn't a stranger to up-and-coming country musicians stopping by Joyland like Tate Stevens, the recent 'X-Factor' recently did. Then you have the bigger productions like the DeSoto Seafood Fest, which hosted Uncle Kraker who's trying to mix in country with his rock of late. Plus another venture, the DeSoto Music Fest brought Gretchen Wilson and Love and Theft to the Manatee County Fairgrounds last year, too, in November.

Debbie Meihls, executive manager of the Visitors Bureau, doesn't know who will be coming in as Southern Living will be handling the production. The magazine has hosted a Biscuits and Jams segment online hosting acts like Zac Brown Band, so they aren't dealing with acts trying to be discovered. 

Everything is still up in the air, and there is no way in knowing who will be coming a year out. Tours take time to put together, and have to coincide with album releases and TV show appearances. 

It doesn't mean we can't have a little fun. Who do you want to see come and play a concert in Manatee County? And where would you stage it?

My two votes are Luke Bryan and Kasey Musgraves at either the renovated McKechnie Field or inside the new IMG  multi-purpose stadium that would be completed in time for the concert next year at IMG Academy.

Who would you boot scootin' boogie to?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bradenton Area Visitors Bureau Giving Away 1-Month Vacation

The next best thing to hitting the lottery is winning a dream vacation getaway.

The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is always looking for ways to bring people to Manatee County, and why not through a sweepstakes? 

So far eight sweepstakes are planned in 2014, and the CVB talked to area businesses Tuesday morning at an Ad Buy event to sign up as partners for the contests. Each of the sweepstakes is expected to include a five-day, four-night stay, lunch or dinner, attraction admission, spa or unique experience component.

The best one out of the bunch has to be the Radical Sabbatical,  a one-month vacation here in the area, said Debbie Meihls, executive manager of the CVB. Unlike Europeans, most of us in North America can't take a solid month off  from work, so the prize can be broken up throughout the year allowing the winner to come back, she said. The contest is expected to be launched in summer 2014 to push fall tourism.

The experience includes one week on Anna Maria Island, one week on Longboat Key, one week in Bradenton and one week in Lakewood Ranch.

They're working on providing attraction tickets, restaurant gift certificates, eco tours, Segway tours, kayak and paddle boarding adventures and spa packages. 

Here are the other top sweepstakes pegged for 2014:

Guys Spring Training/Gulf Coast Getaway |  Launch: Winter 2014 
Bring the Budweiser and the buddies for this contest. The contest will promote a spring training getaway at McKechnie Field, golf game, fishing, bars and cigars.

Dog Days of Summer | Launch: Spring 2014
One lucky dog will win a chance to win a vacation for the family. The contest designed to promote the pet-friendly travel in the area by featuring pet-friendly accommodations and restaurants, dog parks, beaches and more. Includes a four-night stay at a pet-friendly hotel, meals, tickets, tours and more.

Fitness and More magazines with Huffy Bikes | Launch: Summer 2014
These two magazines are working on a giveaway that will include 10 Huffy bikes as prizes when the winners arrive in Manatee County to use to explore the various nature and bike trails in scenic Manatee.

SPF 50 (Solar Powered Fun) | Launch: Winter 2014
SPF 50  will offer 50 great things to do for the best Florida vacation ever. One lucky winner will score their choice getaway from 50 featured activities including accommodations, dining and more. Contest is designed to keep visitors online to lean more about the area and to start making their plans.

Legally, these contests are usually open to U.S. residents 18, sometimes 21, and older. So while locals could enter in these sweepstakes, ideally someone new will win to discover the treasured beaches on Anna Maria Island or have a ball at McKechnie Field. 

Keep an eye out for these contests next year and encourage your friends and family to enter so they can win a nice trip and visit you. That way you can be the tour guide and host without taking care of the bills.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Your Top Mall at UTC Suggestions

An aerial photo of the construction site for the Mall at University Town Center, a centerpiece to the shopping, sports and restaurant mecca on the county line for Manatee and Sarasota. 

Credit: Troy Morgan and to the Herald

Read more here:

Thanks to everyone who responded to my column on Sunday asking what you want to see come to the Mall at University Town Center!

I sifted through all the comments posted on the blog, tweets, phone calls and emails, and I organized all of them so you can see better what had the most votes. If someone said they agreed with having a certain store, it counted as a vote. If they objected to an idea, I noted it.

We have more than 120 suggestions from people, which could easily fill the mall. Way to go, Bradenton Herald readers!

Here's an update from Karen MacDonald, spokeswoman for Taubman, the leasing company for the mall:

"A lot of great names!  I will be sharing this information with our leasing team.  Stay tuned...good things come to those who wait!  We appreciate the time your readers took to share their thoughts."

Here we go:


  • Cheesecake Factory 10 
  • Apple 6 
  • Nordstrom 4 
  • DSW 4 
  • Sephora 4 
  • Bar Louie 3 
  • Charming Charlies 3 
  • Container Store 3 
  • Crate & Barrel 3 
  • Hollister 3 
  • Banana Republic 2 
  • Barnes & Noble 2 
  • Bass Pro 2 
  • Christopher & Banks 2 
  • Gilly Hicks 2 
  • H&M 2 
  • IMAX movie theater 2 
  • Lucky Brand Jeans 2 
  • Lord & Taylor 2 
  • Mimi’s Café 2 
  • Pottery Barn 2 
  • Red Robin 2 
  • Water Theme Park (lazy river in the mall) 2 (two objections, too)
  • West Elm 2 
  • White House Black Market 2 
  • Williams-Sonoma 2


  1. Abercrombie & Fitch 
  2. Alternative Outfitters 
  3. American Apparel 
  4. American Eagle 
  5. Anthropologie 
  6. BCBG-Maxazria 
  7. The Body Shop 
  8. Bose 
  9. Brighton 
  10. Brooklyn Industries 
  11. Buddy’s Pizza 
  12. Burberry 
  13. California Pizza 2 
  14. Cabela’s 
  15. Capital Grille 
  16. Cheddars 
  17. Clarks 
  18. Coldwater Creek 
  19. CPK 
  20. Delia’s 
  21. Diesel 
  22. Extreme Play 
  23. Fossil
  24. Gap 
  25. Golden Corral
  26. Grand Lux 
  27. Houlihan’s 
  28. Ikea 
  29. Intelligentsia 
  30. I.O. Metro 
  31. J Crew 
  32. Johnny Rockets 
  33. Johnston & Murphy 
  34. Jos. A Bank 
  35. Kipling 
  36. Little Miss Matched 
  37. Louis Vuitton 
  38. Maggiano’s Little Italy 
  39. Men’s Warehouse 
  40. Mellow Mushroom 
  41. Michael Kors 
  42. Microsoft 
  43. Native Foods Cafe 
  44. Neiman Marcus 
  45. Nine West 
  46. Oakley 
  47. Origins 
  48. Panda Express 
  49. Pink Berry 
  50. PGA Tour Superstore 
  51. Peete’s Coffee 
  52. PF Chang 
  53. Portillo’s 
  54. Quicksilver 
  55. Swatch 
  56. Soft Surroundings 
  57. Sur La Table 
  58. Texas de Brazil 
  59. Tommy Bahama 
  60. Top Shop 
  61. True Religion Jeans 
  62. Uniqlo 
  63. Urban Outfitters 
  64. Veggie Grill 
  65. Vera Bradley  
  66. White Castle 
  67. Who.A.U (Stands for “Who Are You” 
  68. Wildfire Café 
  69. World Market 
  70. Yankee Candle 
  71. Zaxby’s 
  72. Z-Gallery

General Suggestions
  • Jewish-style Deli 
  • Neon bowling alley (i.e. Lucky Strike) 
  • Roller skating rink 
  • Nightlife area like Downtown Disney/CityWalk (One objection to a Downtown) 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tropicana should offer public tours in Bradenton

Time is ripe for Bradenton juice maker to open up doors

BRADENTON — Drive from Georgia into Florida on Interstate 95, and watch all the drivers at the first visitors' center dart to the free samples of orange juice and grapefruit juice, a signal they have arrived to the Sunshine State.

So you could imagine my surprise when I asked if Tropicana offered public factory tours in its hometown of Bradenton or had some sort of gift shop.

They don’t. It’s a head-scratcher considering that the Yuengling brewery in Temple Terrace offers tours, and the beer maker’s real home has been in Pottsville, Pa., since 1829.

I’m a fan of these types of tours with a treat at the end, even if it doesn’t mean I’m in the actual factory. It’s a fascination that lives in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where those lucky visitors were in a world of pure imagination. I can rattle off a few of my favorites where Golden Tickets weren’t necessary: Hershey’s Chocolate World, Sam Adams Brewery and World of Coca-Cola.

I can’t tell you how many times I completed Hershey’s Chocolate World tour, riding in the plastic Hershey’s Kiss, just to hear the same presentation for a good decade, only to get my hands on free candy at the end of the ride. I still have the Hershey’s Chocolate theme song stuck in my head from visiting all those times. (When I was young, full-size candy bars would be handed out by smiling employees. (Now, there might be some fun size Hershey bars in a bowl on your way out if you’re lucky.)

Tropicana officials guard their operations as closely as possible, given the Pepsi versus Coke wars at the higher level. You don’t have to worry about snoops like Charlie Bucket finding out trade secrets at these tours. Hershey and Coca-Cola’s visitor centers aren’t at chief production facilities.

At World of Coke in Atlanta, visitors learn about the drink’s history, see a 4-D movie and taste Coke products from around the world. Heck, there is even a large vault with all sorts of security measures around it that supposedly contains the handwritten secret formula for Coca-Cola.
It can be done here, too. Let’s call Bradenton’s version Tropicana Town.

A strong citrus scent can fill the hallways, as visitors learn about Tropicana history, juice their own orange, watch a movie on Anthony Rossi’s journey, buy up all the orange juice and T-shirts they can, and get inspired to visit nearby Mixon’s Fruit Farm for a different experience or The Citrus Place in Terra Ceia thanks to the exposure given to Florida citrus growers.

The tours also tell the story of the brand, and Tropicana’s story doesn’t get any closer to the American Dream. Anthony Rossi, an Italian immigrant came on a boat at age 15 to New York with $30 in his pocket. When he came to Florida, he bought a Palmetto fruit shipper, and as the company evolved he moved the company to Bradenton in 1949 and transitioned into the fruit juicing business that eventually became Tropicana. He died in 1993 and PepsiCo, bought the company five years later for $3.3 billion.
Tropicana can easily fill a building with nostalgic Tropicana products and ad campaigns, mixed in with education about orange groves. Heck, just look at the small collection of videos I found that would serve as a start.

“Anytime you can partner with a company like Tropicana and it’s a partnership that benefits both organizations, it’s exciting,” says Elliot Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s as simple as that.”

People like to go where the action is. Visit Cape Canaveral to see the space program in person. Go to Disney World to hug Mickey Mouse. Why not come to Tropicana to learn about OJ?

Debbie Meihls, executive manager of the CVB, shares some of my enthusiasm to rock these rinds for the betterment of Bradenton.

“You’re right,” Meihls said. “It seems like Florida is the little visitor center of the world, isn’t it? People come down here to do tours.”

Meihls says she trades ideas with PepsiCo and that the company was excited with some of the pitches she made to increase Tropicana’s community involvement and raise it’s profile. She plans to meet with PepsiCo and Tropicana officials in the late fall.

“We want to tie more into Tropicana, and that would be beneficial, actually” she says. “When we travel to Germany for the trade shows, and talk to the tour operators, they have such an affinity for the orange trees and the oranges. Of course, we have Tropicana in our backyard. They love that.”

Tropicana can develop up to 4 million square feet on its 283-acre campus, and could even buy more land. A new streamlined permitting process makes it easy for the juice maker to build structures as needed, as long as it fits in the guidelines agreed upon in the county-approved master plan on existing property. It shouldn’t be too hard to find space and spruce up the entrance to shout it out loud that you’ve reached Tropicana Town.

Plus it’s not like there aren’t workers nearby with experience in theme park-related attractions, creating video storytelling and managing these types of operations. This is Florida, after all.
Here comes the orange crush: Tropicana soured on the idea.

“We have no plans to create a public tour,” Steve Lezman, Tropicana’s director of governmental affairs, wrote in an email to the Herald.

Are you sure?

“While we do not have any plans at the present time for this type of facility and cannot speculate about the future, we are very proud to call Bradenton the home of Tropicana where it began more than 65 years ago,”
Lezman said.

The thing is, when you call someplace your home, you usually have a welcome mat for when neighbors to come over. We really need a front door to Tropicana for the community.

Well, I’ve squeezed all the juice I could out of this idea.  Let’s hope Tropicana will bottle it.

Would you go on a Tropicana tour? Should Tropicana find ways to reach out more to the community? Post your comments below.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Suggestions needed for Mall at University Town Center stores

Officials and developers break ground for the University Town Center Mall development in October 2012. The upscale mall will be located in Sarasota at the southwest corner of University Parkway and I-75. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald PVIDELA@BRADENTON.COM

Read more here:

UNIVERSITY PARK--Talking with folks in the community about the Mall at University Town Center, there’s always excitement, and a line that goes something like this:
“I can’t wait. I really wish they would bring [insert store or restaurant name here].”
Today is your lucky day because a Taubman Centers official says she is listening.
Part of Karen MacDonald’s job as director of communications at Taubman is to track what people are saying and writing online about what stores they want to see at the Mall, set to open Oct. 16, 2014 at University Parkway and Cattleman Road, near Interstate 75.
MacDonald told the Herald that leasing agents, development people and the research team visited the area to try to get a sense of what’s here already, what works, and most importantly, the restaurants people want and the shops where they want to spend their money. Mall builders, it seems, take to heart what people write online about stores they want to see where they live.
“Oh yeah, we look at that stuff,” MacDonald said.
The mall has plenty of space to fill with 115 tenants plus an additional anchor to be named, so suggestions are welcomed. So far, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Saks Fifth Avenue are the only confirmed tenants.
The suggestions don’t necessarily have to be national chains, either.
“We always try to have some local flavor to our shopping centers as well with a handful of local retailers and food specialty stores,” MacDonald said.
Some of that research involves nearby retailers that provide data about where shoppers travel from, she added.
Sarasota area residents were recently excited about reports that an Apple store would open at the Westfield Southgate Mall when the shopping center expanded in 2011, only to feel spurned when it didn’t happen. Is that something shoppers here still want? Maybe a Google store instead, or in addition?
This mall might have had a similar moment with Bass Pro Shops, after the store apparently printed in a catalog last year that it would be coming to Sarasota, leading many in the community to speculate the store would be coming to UTC. Bass Pro told WWSB, who first reported the printing mishap, that they had nothing to announce at that time.
The first round of tenants will be announced in October, about a year before the mall opens, MacDonald said.
Now is your chance to make an impact on your local mall.
Sign in and post your suggestions to this blog below. I’ll pass them along to MacDonald so she knows that Manatee County shoppers will put their money where their mouth is.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Welcome to Up In Your Business!

Hey Manatee County, welcome to the blog where I'm going to be all Up In Your Business.

This blog isn't meant to be an in-your-face take on business deals, but more of a place to be lighthearted, share tidbits and details that didn't make it into the paper edition of the Bradenton Herald's business pages or the online section.

The phrase "up in your business" is a take off from "all up in your business," a slang phrase that means to get involved in someone else's affairs. The take-off stops at the rest of the meaning, where getting involved means you want to defeat whatever that person is trying to succeed  at. By getting involved in your business, I want to know what's happening and share it with the world -- the good and the not so good  -- but mostly what's on the up-and-up.

I have a tendency to come up with ideas that I think would be cool as a tourist attraction or business in the area, and this space will be a place where I'll spitball and put it out there, and it's ok if everyone tells me how harebrained they really are. But if someone likes an idea or wants to build on it, I'd love to hear your comments.

I really can't be up in your business unless you tell me about your business. Do you have a unique story about how your business operates? Is your business new to Manatee County? Post a comment below or email with story ideas and tips.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Coming soon.

Coming soon.