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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 1, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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New high-tech firmCambridge, Mass.-based Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. will be establishing a BioMEMS R&D Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa and a Multi Chip Module Center in St. Petersburg.Smith files bankruptcySmith Family Homes, an upscale homebuilder along the Gulf Coast, has filed Chapter 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Under Chapter 7, a court-appointed official liquidates the company's assets to pay creditors.udge upholds gun lawA Federal judge in Florida upheld a law allowing employees to keep concealed weapons inside their locked vehicles in their employer-owned parking lot.More arena delaysThe foreclosure of a unfinished hockey arena in Lakewood Ranch has been delayed again. German company relocatesOrbeco-Hellige Inc., a Long Island, N.Y.-based manufacturing company that specializes in building instruments for testing water and wastewater treatments, has moved its business to Manatee County. Enterprise opens Aug. 1Fort Myers city officials plan to dedicate the new Southwest Florida Enterprise Center on Aug. 1.News-Press layoffsThe Fort Myers News-Press, a daily newspaper owned by Gannett, told its readers recently it plans to lay off 36 employees and will not fill another 10 job openings.

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

New high-tech firm

Cambridge, Mass.-based Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. will be establishing a BioMEMS R&D Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa and a Multi Chip Module Center in St. Petersburg.

Draper will create 165 new local jobs. MEMS stands for microelectromechanical systems such as microelectronics and microfabrication technologies.

Draper will be a research partner with the University of South Florida, SRI-St. Petersburg and other organizations such as Progress Energy, where it will work on energy production efficiency.

Draper develops technology solutions to meet challenges in health care, security and energy.

BioMEMs deals with the creation of smaller and more functional devices to improve medical diagnostics and therapies. Applications include surgical instruments, tissue repair, artificial organs and drug-delivery systems.

Smith files bankruptcy

Smith Family Homes, an upscale homebuilder along the Gulf Coast, has filed Chapter 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Under Chapter 7, a court-appointed official liquidates the company's assets to pay creditors.

Smith started in 1998 originally as Premier Homes of Southwest Florida. Its creditors include Wachovia and SunTrust banks.

Judge upholds gun law

A Federal judge in Florida upheld a law allowing employees to keep concealed weapons inside their locked vehicles in their employer-owned parking lot.

Before the new law went into effect July 1, the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed an injunction to halt it.

Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida denied the business groups' request. Hinkle did grant a preliminary injunction preventing visitors to bring firearms inside a business. Employees are permitted to if they have a permit.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

More arena delays

The foreclosure of a unfinished hockey arena in Lakewood Ranch has been delayed again.

The developer, DVA Arena LLC, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 25 in federal court in Tampa, only a few days before a Manatee County judge was scheduled to begin the foreclosure sale process. Salvador Diaz-Verson, the owner of DVA Arena - and the onetime president of AFLAC Insurance - said the bankruptcy, if approved, will allow his company to hold on to the property while he searches for new financing.

"The Chapter 11 filing gives DVA additional time to reorganize the company and raise the additional capital needed to complete the arena project," said Diaz-Verson in a statement. "We remain fully committed to bringing a top-notch sports and entertainment venue to Southwest Florida."

Officials for several entities that have mortgages and other interests in the property, including Lakewood Ranch developers Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, have said they would contest the bankruptcy petition. One point of contention would be whether DVA Arena is an actual operating business, not a holding company, as Chapter 11 bankruptcies are reserved for active businesses facing debts.

Work on the arena, a few miles east of the Route 70 exit of Interstate 75, stopped in 2005.

German company relocates

Orbeco-Hellige Inc., a Long Island, N.Y.-based manufacturing company that specializes in building instruments for testing water and wastewater treatments, has moved its business to Manatee County.

The company, a subsidiary of a German manufacturing firm, plans to hire at least eight employees later this fall when it moves into its 15,000-square-foot facility in a Bradenton industrial center. Brad Martell, Orbeco-Hellige's president, said the move will help the company reduce its tax bill and its expenses.

The Economic Development Council assisted the company with the relocation, utilizing its rapid response permitting program and a tax rebate based on capital investment. "Orbeco-Hellige is in a technology-based growth industry with a global market," EDC Executive Director Nancy Engel said in a statement. "We look forward to helping the business continue on its growth curve."

LEE/COLLIER

Enterprise opens Aug. 1

Fort Myers city officials plan to dedicate the new Southwest Florida Enterprise Center on Aug. 1.

The 40,000-square-foot facility will serve as a hub for the city's efforts to assist start-up businesses. It houses executive offices, a commercial and industrial center, a training center and government offices.

Offices are available for lease and there are expandable bays and offices for light-industrial uses. Several government offices will also be housed there, including the City of Fort Myers CDD real estate department and the Fort Myers Housing Authority.

The $4.3-million building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. was built by Matthews Construction and designed by Parker Mudgett Smith Architects.

News-Press layoffs

The Fort Myers News-Press, a daily newspaper owned by Gannett, told its readers recently it plans to lay off 36 employees and will not fill another 10 job openings.

The News-Press plans to stop publishing the Saturday business section, the Friday Lifestyles section and Gaceta Tropical, a Spanish-language weekly. Business and lifestyle news will be published in other sections of the daily newspaper and the Web version of Gaceta Tropical will continue to publish.

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