Regional Roundup

By Beau Denton April 1, 2011

Manatee County

Tropicana Announces New Facility

Tropicana, assisted by rapid response permitting organized by the Manatee EDC, announced plans for a new packaging facility in Manatee County. The $4 million, 36,000-square-foot building will include state-of-the-art equipment for manufacturing Tropicana’s new line of clear, plastic bottles.

Bradenton’s Blake Hospital Buys Pinnacle Group

Effective last month, Blake Medical Center has acquired Bradenton-based Pinnacle Medical Group, which currently employs 150 people at five locations. Pinnacle specializes in neurology, neurosurgery, cardiology, rheumatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation. Blake, which acquired HealthCare America Medical Group and announced plans for a $2.5 million trauma center in 2010, is in the process of forming a large regional healthcare network.

Manatee EDC to Become Independent

The Manatee County Chamber of Commerce announced plans for Manatee’s Economic Development Council to achieve independence from the Chamber, eventually becoming an autonomous nonprofit. While the EDC will remain in the same offices and retain its ties to the Chamber, the new format will allow it to focus on recruiting and equipping businesses in Manatee County. The transition is expected to be completed in early 2012.

Sarasota County

Jackson Laboratory Selects Sarasota

After a much-publicized selection process between Sarasota and Hillsborough counties, Maine-based Jackson Laboratory picked Sarasota for the location of its Florida biomedical research campus. The move could create 2,200 jobs and generate $600 million by 2030, potentially attracting other research and medical companies to Sarasota. Jackson Lab is requesting $300 million in state, local and private funding for the project, including a new, 120,000-square-foot facility. At press time, the site had not been selected.

Three Hospitals Sue County

Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Venice Regional Medical Center and Englewood Community Hospital sued Sarasota in late February for nearly $100 million. The lawsuit is based on an obscure 1959 state law that says hospitals can bill the county for costs of indigent care. The county has refused to pay, saying the law was superseded by a 1968 rewrite of the state constitution.

Comcast Closes Sarasota Office

Comcast announced plans to close its Sarasota call center, resulting in 129 layoffs beginning this month. The cable provider, which recently acquired NBC Universal, will combine the Sarasota operations with a similar office in Fort Myers, hire 20 work-from-home customer service representatives in Florida and open a regional call center that will employ 93 workers and oversee Florida, South Carolina and eastern Georgia.

Robb & Stucky Files for Bankruptcy

Robb & Stucky, the Fort Myers-based furniture retailer with 20 stores in Florida (including one in Sarasota), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, also announcing plans to lay off 380 employees by this month. The bankruptcy notice cited more than $57 million in debt, including $1.6 million in owed wages and nearly $119,000 in late taxes.

Sarasota Insurance Company to Add 70 Jobs

Insurance provider Universal North America received an $84,000 Quick Response Training grant from the state for 70 new positions the company plans to add over the next two years. Universal, which consolidated its headquarters to Sarasota in 2010, is the first Sarasota County company to receive a QRT grant, designed to aid companies in rapid training for new positions. State College of Florida will administer the training, and the Sarasota County EDC helped apply for the grant.

Fruitville Road Construction Completed

Last month, Sarasota officials celebrated the completion of a $13 million project on Fruitville Road east of I-75. The project, which involved Wright Construction Group of Punta Gorda, Russell Engineering and Turner Tree and Landscape of Bradenton, was funded by a voter-approved sales tax and took just over a year to complete. The two-mile stretch of road now includes four vehicle lanes, 10-foot-wide sidewalks, four-foot-wide bicycle lanes, and improved medians, intersections and landscaping.

HCA Announces Public Stock Offering

HCA Holdings, the Tennessee-based parent company of Blake Medical Center, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and more than 160 other hospitals, has announced plans to go public by selling more than 124 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The initial offering is expected to generate $2.4 billion, which HCA will use to pay down portions of its $28 billion debt. This is the third time HCA has gone public in its 43-year company history.

Sarasota County Upgrades Traffic System

Tampa-based Highway Safety Devices signed a $3.7 million contract with Sarasota County to develop the Advanced Traffic Management System, a project intended to upgrade traffic signals and fiber-optic connections throughout Sarasota. The first phase of the project, funded by local taxes and a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, will focus on 123 intersections.

Real Estate

39638 LLC, a subsidiary of the Canada-based Hardman Group, has purchased 44 condominiums and two penthouses in The Palms at Riviera Dunes in Palmetto for $5.5 million. The Palms, at 501 Haben Blvd., is the third Riviera Dunes condo building to be purchased by a bulk condominium buyer. The Hardman Group has hired Keller Williams On The Water to sell the units, starting at $199,000.

Kohl’s Department Stores Inc. has purchased the site of a former Albertson’s, 3860 Central Sarasota Parkway, from BLDG Sarasota LLC and Bacael Sarasota LLC for $3.8 million. The 54,400-square-foot building was last sold for $14.71 million in May 2007.

Golden Coast of Sarasota LLC, an affiliate of Ontario-based Centre City Capital Ltd., has purchased the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre for $1.75 million. The theater company signed a lease for a minimum of five years immediately after selling the 12,700-square-foot building, located at 25 N. Pineapple Ave. in Sarasota. The property was last sold for $115,000 in November 1972.

Ali and LaRue Chokr, owners of the Diamond Vault, have purchased the former site of West Marine, 3979 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, from George C. Perreault LLC for $1 million. The Diamond Vault will relocate to the new 6,400-square-foot location, which was last sold for $1.1 million in September 1998, from its current leased space.

Bradenton Urgent Care has purchased its building at 4647 W. Manatee Ave. from Golf Club One LLC for $700,000. The medical clinic had leased the 4,000-square-foot building since 2008. The building was previously sold for $400,000 in June 2000.

S& K Durrett LLC of Venice has purchased a former bank building from K2M Jacaranda LLC for $600,000. The 3,200-square-foot property is located at 1191 Jacaranda Blvd. in Venice and was last sold for $1.9 million in June 2007. Provision Eye Center will move into the building by the fall.

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