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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 15, 2019 3 days ago

Business community rallies around laid-off colleagues with job fair

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When Laser Spine Institute suddenly collapsed, one of its ex-employees went to bat for its displaced workers.

When Tampa-based Laser Spine Institute abruptly went out of business March 1, it left everyone — patients, employees, suppliers and other partners — wondering what went wrong.

CEO Jake Brace recently spoke out about the closure, saying in a statement that the firm’s banks “precipitously and surprisingly made the decision to freeze the company’s accounts and strip the cash out of these accounts.”

LSI’s lack of operating capital left it unable to make payroll, though Brace says the firm’s management had negotiated an agreement with its banks that would have provided funds for payroll and other critical payments if backing from a suitable investor could be secured.

“The company worked feverishly to secure financing,” Brace states, adding LSI was forced to wind down its operations when funding did not materialize in time. Some 500 people lost their jobs in the closure. (For more on the how the LSI closure impacts the Westshore commercial real estate market, see page 16.) 

From left: Adam Brown, 81 Bay owner Keelan Cottle, Brie Pusateri, Kelley Azcona, Carly Sullivan, Josh Hall, Kate Alford. Courtesy photo.

When he heard the news, former LSI employee Adam Brown, who left the company two months ago after seven years to start his own business, wasted no time. Calling on his vast personal and professional network, the Tampa native quickly organized a job fair, held March 7 at 81 Bay Brewing Co. in South Tampa, for displaced LSI workers. The event drew more than 70 companies and in excess of 300 job seekers. Former LSI employees Brie Pusateri, Carly Sullivan and Josh Hall also pitched in. 

“The Tampa community came out strong to support these highly talented people,” Brown says.

He says 30 confirmed job offers were extended within the job fair’s first hour, and he had to turn away more than two dozen companies that wanted to exhibit, due to lack of space. Firms and recruiters weren’t charged a fee to exhibit, which Brown says was by design.

“Someone asked me, ‘Do you know how much money you could have made off of this?’ But that wasn’t the point," he says. "The thought never crossed my mind. These people would have done the same thing for me, and we think we’re going to get most of them placed.”

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