Biz(941) once again asked readers and business leaders to nominate the individuals impacting Sarasota, Manatee and places far away with their ideas and energy. You responded with an avalanche of names from up-and-coming young professionals to experienced and already successful innovators from every arena. The impressive 20 individuals on these pages—from the maker of fuel from algae to the manager of our new megamall—rose to the top as our 2014 People to Watch.
WHEN TIMOTHY HEARON was managing a telecommunications and health care staffing firm in Sarasota, baby boomer clients kept telling him they were having trouble finding jobs, and didn’t know how to market themselves online. Then he heard about Boomerswork, an online service founded in Canada that matches boomer managers and executives with part-time or term-assignment jobs. Recognizing that this region’s large population of educated boomers is a perfect market for this service, he invested in the company and became its COO. Hearon, now 40, launched the U.S. headquarters in Sarasota late last year. He hopes to sign up 5,000 boomers and 500 companies in the next 18 months and triple those numbers in five years. “There are 300,000 boomers retiring each month in North America, 15 percent of them managerial stock,” he says. “We’re trying to educate the workforce to employ them, and to enable this massive demographic to market themselves.”
"I'm the greenest company on the planet. One hundred million gallons is just the beginning."
AS A GENETICS STUDENT in college in the 1980s, Paul Woods invented a way to turn algae into fuel. Now 52, Woods, who retired as a multimillionaire from a successful career in natural gas, has returned to his first passion and launched Algenol, a Lee County company that purchases carbon emissions from utility company stacks (ingeniously turning carbon into an asset for utilities) and pumps the CO2 into bags of special algae to produce ethanol. With $250 million in private capital, Woods is shopping for land east of Manatee-Sarasota to build a $1.3 billion facility that eventually could produce 100 million gallons of biofuel a year for 50 cents to 75 cents cheaper than customers now see at the pump. If EPA approval comes through, his fuel can go to market immediately. “I’m the greenest company on the planet,” Woods says. “This process creates more fresh water than fuel. Think of the possibilities for certain parts of the world. One hundred million gallons is just the beginning. Everything to date has been about taking carbon out of the ground, burning it and letting it go into the atmosphere. Our fuel is natural and recycled, the way Mother Earth has always done it.”
OCTAVIO “TAV” ORTIZ III
AS GENERAL MANAGER of The Mall at University Town Center, Octavio “Tav” Ortiz III, 48, is expected to deliver an unforgettable shopping experience when the mall opens on Oct. 16. The 880,000-square-foot, high-end mall marks a big shift in the region’s retail landscape, targeting shoppers from Fort Myers to St. Petersburg with many stores and restaurants that have not been here before. Ortiz, who works for major mall developer Taubman Centers, has been handling the marketing, security, staffing, landscaping and other operations since groundbreaking. He’s also been busy building relationships with the community, such as the grand opening bash Oct. 15 that gives the public a sneak peek at the mall while donating all proceeds to local charities. A startup shopping mall veteran, Ortiz has worked along Florida’s east coast, but this is his first west coast experience. “It’s been so overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “Everyone’s so excited.”
WHEN HIS 87-YEAR-OLD mother died from a treatable post-op ailment in 2003, Steve Rothman didn’t sue; he set out to fix the system. Rothman, 66, a former MIT think tank consultant, and his brother, also a data-analysis expert, observed and dissected loads of medical practice information. The Florence A. Rothman Index is a computer program (named for their mother) that integrates with electronic medical records and, using more than 50 health indicators, generates a line graph showing a patient’s relative health. Via Rothman’s company, PeraHealth, the Rothman Index is already in use in some top-ranked hospitals, including Yale-New Haven and Seattle Children’s. Rothman founded Alive Sciences to bring this technology to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and independent-living senior communities, so residents’ health could be surveyed well before the need for hospitalization. “We’re applying this tracking index across the continuum of care,” he explains, “not to extend life but to extend quality of life.”
"We learned valuable lessons during the downturn, and one of those is timing."
LIKE THE IMPACT-RESISTANT WINDOWS and doors it manufactures, PGT Industries braced itself for the economic storm that hit the housing market. With the oncoming recovery, PGT is now gearing up for growth, adding 600 staff members since 2013 and promoting executive vice president and CFO Jeff Jackson, 48, to president and COO in June. Jackson takes over operational control, succeeding Rod Hershberger, who remains CEO and chairman of PGT’s board of directors. “We learned valuable lessons during the downturn, and one of those is timing,” Jackson says. “The last time we were at the same sales run rate we had over 2,100 employees compared to our current 1,600.” Those streamlined operations put PGT in a good position, should another recession hit. “Thankfully, I do not see another downturn in the cards,” he says, as PGT keeps its eye on the 60,000 to 70,000 housing starts in Florida this year alone while acquiring another company for $111 million this summer.
HIGH-ENERGY BRADENTON ENTREPRENEUR Joy Randels runs three companies, speaks around the country, sits on multiple boards, and urges area entrepreneurs to get into the game. She figures she’s helped launch more than 75 companies, raised more than $300 million in venture capital and led 17 acquisitions. Randels is currently the founder and CEO of New Market Partners, a tech company “accelerator”; the co-founder and managing partner of Applied G2, a computer forensics company with Fortune 500 clients; and the co-founder of Nurturism Media Group, a holding company that helps established tech companies. The director of Startup Grind Tampa Bay, Randels is itching to harness the entrepreneurial spirit in the region and is launching Startup Weekend in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte. “What we’re missing here is the collaboration,” she says. “Let’s connect the [educational institutions] and the things that make this community unique.”
A 5,000-SEAT STADIUM, 850 new dormitory beds, a 40,000-square-foot field house—as of July, IMG Academy had the most open construction permits in Manatee County. At the heart of the sports mecca’s expansion is CFO Chip McCarthy. McCarthy, 58, at IMG since 1990, says the academy has been in growth mode since 2009, when it developed its 15-year plan, restructured management and, despite a down economy, “decided to double down and go after market share.” McCarthy also has overseen a 500 percent increase in marketing investment and the development of on-site partnerships with icons like the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and Under Armour, which provide equipment and services in exchange for valuable research. What’s next? An academic building, a 35,000-square-foot student union and a 63,000-square-foot performance structure start rising this fall. Conservative estimates already put IMG’s economic impact at about $700 million. “We’re becoming, on a very small scale, sort of a Silicon Valley of sports performance,” McCarthy says.
IN MARCH, Kirk Boylston became president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.’s LWR Commercial Realty, responsible for the development of all commercial, multifamily and apartment development in the 31,000-acre, master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch. Improvements are currently being made to include more than 6 million square feet of office, retail, hospitality and light industrial development, and Boylston is reaching out nationally to builders and investment funds. He’s also visiting companies in the Northeast and Canada to find tenants. “We’re trying to target more national tenants—offices and retailers that we haven’t had before, alternative-use types, such as biomedical or technical,” says Boylston, who has extensive contacts from his former position as regional director of EJM Development Co. in Las Vegas. “We want to increase the variety of jobs in Lakewood Ranch and attract a good pay scale range so the people who live here can also work here,” he says.
VIRGINIA HALEY & MICHAEL KLAUBER
"A once-in-a-generation opportunity."
VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY’S president Virginia Haley, 60, and board chair Michael Klauber, 59, believe the 45 Sarasota bayfront acres stretching from the vacant Sarasota Quay property north to 10th Street should be transformed into a world-class waterfront destination. The pair has been meeting quietly with civic leaders and activists, and exhorting city leaders to take a second look at the 2007 Cultural Park plan, gathering dust at City Hall since the Great Recession. Among its suggestions: build a parking garage so that the vast Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall parking lot can become a lush green public space for small outdoor concerts, with an expanded promenade for strolling and picnicking along the bay. Klauber calls the project “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” They’re even lobbying to include the 30 acres across North Tamiami Trail. It’s a long shot, Haley admits, but “the upfront investment in developing the common community vision is critical.”
BEN BAKKER, 38, moved to Bradenton as a toddler and has been committed to Manatee County ever since. Vice president of HJB Properties, a commercial leasing company, and a commercial realtor at Michael Saunders & Company, Bakker is president of the Manatee Young Professionals, which has seen record growth during his 1 ½-year term; a founding board member of Realize Bradenton; chair of Bradenton’s Downtown Redevelopment Committee; vice chair of Bradenton’s Planning Commission; on the board of the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce; and president of Leadership Manatee Alumni Association. Married and the father of two children, Bakker is also a musician, a band director at Bayside Community Church and still finds time to play hockey. He is determined to make Bradenton a standout city with expanding arts, culture, dining and sports. “We have all the pieces,” he says. “We’re just getting started.”
SUSAN BRENNAN BECAME A TOP PERFORMER at PNC Wealth Management after arriving in Sarasota from Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2007 as one of its startup executives. She’s at it again, establishing Florida’s first branch of New York Private Bank and Trust in downtown Sarasota. Brennan represents the increasing amount of wealth that is coming to the region. The billionaire New York City real estate investor and philanthropist family of Howard P. Milstein owns the bank (they also own Emigrant Bank), and they cater to extremely wealthy families, offering services that traditional banks usually don’t. “Creative financing is going to be our niche,” says Brennan, 56, the bank’s managing director. Need a loan against a fine art collection? That’s where they come in. Sarasota’s artsy culture is an ideal match. “We feel Sarasota has even better potential than Palm Beach or Naples,” she says.
"We're working toward a billion-dollar brand."
MARK PENTECOST, FOUNDER AND CEO of 14-year-old It Works! Global, believes in the direct-sales business model made famous by Amway and Mary Kay. Since moving from Michigan to Manatee County in 2011 (the better for entertaining the company’s 90,000-plus international independent distributors), It Works! has notched 1,047 percent revenue growth, making it one of Inc.’s 500 fastest-growing companies and Pentecost an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalist. The 57-year-old former high school teacher credits his direct-sales success partly to word-of-mouth enthusiasm for the company’s fast-acting health and beauty products. (Pentecost came up with the company name after hearing his customers say “It works!” when they tried his flagship product, the body-contouring Miracle Wrap.) Debt-free since 2009, It Works! weathered the down economy and this spring, with total revenues approaching $500 million, expanded into a renovated five-story, 50,000-square-foot headquarters on Palmetto’s riverfront. “We’re working toward a billion-dollar brand,” he says.
THIS SUMMER, Sherod Halliburton, 47, president of the Manatee Community Federal Credit Union, launched a first-of-its-kind loan program in the U.S. to help small businesses ineligible for traditional loans find financing. The credit union has worked with more than 20 government, financial and technical assistance providers over the last year. The result is a $5 million revolving loan fund, supported by the national Urban Entrepreneur Partnership, which will work with individual businesses. This project will serve as a bridge to traditional financing with credit building and loans available up to $50,000. Supporting entrepreneurs is a passion for Halliburton, who has held leadership positions with the Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency, the Central Economic Development Center, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative and Suncoast Community Capital. “Small businesses create the lion’s share of new jobs in our community,” he says. “My mission is to be on the forefront of creating the framework for success.”
"During Open Studio on Fridays you can just walk in and see what we’re working on."
KARIN MURPHY, 54, the director of the city of Sarasota’s year-old Urban Design Studio, has spent 20 years in the region’s private and public planning arena. She managed such complex infill projects as Whole Foods Market and The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Now she wants to help create walkable neighborhoods that will preserve Sarasota’s historic character, promote green building and attract investors. She’s won fans with the development community, which often complains about the city’s slow and resistant planning process, for her team’s efforts to bring developers and residents together to work on revising building codes. “Our studio [is set up as] a working laboratory so the community can have access during the planning and design process,” she says. “During Open Studio on Fridays you can just walk in and see what we’re working on, give us feedback, ask questions or discuss your
INSPIRED BY HIS MOTHER’S NEAR DEATH as the result of a misdiagnosis, Sarasota’s Tracy Ingram, 40, CEO of Intention Technology, has been working with a team to develop Bioscan, software that can help track and prevent medical problems. His efforts are part of the Qualcomm Tricoder XPRIZE, a 3 ½ -year global competition with a $10-million prize for developing a hand-held device that can diagnose 15 health conditions. Three hundred teams entered the competition; Ingram’s tiny startup is one of 21 that remain. Ingram represents the next generation of mobile health. “I wanted to go beyond diagnosing,” he says. “I wanted to predict.” If Ingram doesn’t reach the XPRIZE finals, he has no intention of stopping. “I’ve already received publicity on an international stage and an agreement with the FDA for fast tracking,” he says. “I can help doctors save lives; help people take care of their own lives.”
MARTY BLACK, 52, served for four years as city manager of Venice, but in 2008, tensions with the city council led to his retirement. After two years as the city administrator for Green River, Wyo., Black has returned to Florida as general manager of Mattamy Homes’ Thomas Ranch development in North Port. Mattamy Homes, Canada’s largest homebuilder, purchased 9,650 acres of the ranch for $86.25 million in May. The project, in partnership with Sarasota’s Vanguard Land, is approved for 11,000 homes and should begin development in 2016. Black understands the area’s planning history and the often shaky ties between the cities and county. He sees Thomas Ranch as an opportunity to generate a more collaborative spirit. “That takes a patient approach and understanding all the infrastructure that goes into it, but also making sure we match the needs of the market and don’t bring it too quick,” he says.
SHELLI FREELAND EDDIE
"Newtown is not separate from Sarasota."
SHELLI FREELAND EDDIE, 40, moved to Sarasota from Kentucky 11 years ago after finishing law school. In June, marking her growing commitment to the historically black Sarasota community of Newtown, she opened an office on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, making her the first professional to hang a shingle at the new mixed-used project Marketplace at Janie’s Gardens. Eddie specializes in family, civil, criminal, business and asset protection law, appears regularly on Black Almanac (WWSB-TV), is helping to inaugurate a curriculum at Booker High’s Law Academy, creating partnerships with local nonprofits like the Women’s Resource Center, and acting as vice chair of the Newtown Community Redevelopment Area. She plans to hold monthly workshops in Newtown on civil and business legal matters, inviting anyone who needs help. “Newtown is not separate from Sarasota,” she says. “I want to inspire more people to come in, to open space for more opportunities.”
FRITZ AND PING FAULHABER
"We have to find a way for young people to become more involved."
WHEN THE G.WIZ SCIENCE MUSEUM closed last year, among the casualties was its high-tech Fab Lab. Created with a $400,000 gift from Dr. Fritz and Ping Faulhaber, the lab had sophisticated machinery that enabled budding inventors to create models. The Faulhabers, both engineers who own a scientific manufacturing company in Germany, want to open a new Suncoast Science Center in Sarasota with that machinery. A temporary space at the Sarasota County Technical Institute opened in August and they’re seeking a permanent home. The couple also helped develop summer science programs at Girls, Inc. and the Newtown Boys & Girls Club. Ping Faulhaber cites government predictions for a 62 percent increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers by 2020, yet only 16 percent of high school seniors plan to pursue them. "The need is urgent," she says. "We have to find a way for young people to become involved in the experimental sciences."
Shellie Terry Benson, Susan Burns, Ilene Denton, Kim Hackett, Chelsey Lucas and Abby Weingarten contributed to this story.
Photography by Matt Holler.