Gulf Coast Week
Brandon bypass dumped
Activists trying to reform Hillsborough County's growth management policies recently succeeded, as officials voted unanimously to take the route that would sweep through southeastern Hillsborough off the Metropolitan Planning Organization's list of needed transportation improvements.
The organization's board vote included a caveat that the need for some sort of corridor to draw traffic from clogged interstates 75 and 4 should be professionally analyzed within the next year.
John Dingfelder, a Tampa city councilman on the planning organization, says a highway is needed to shuttle traffic from I-4 in Polk County to Manatee and Sarasota counties.
PODS buyout in the works
The Clearwater-based PODS could be bought soon by a Bahrain-based investment company, according to PODS officials.
PODS is negotiating a deal for an investment by Arcapita Inc., a company that has invested in a wide range of U.S. and international firms. PODS also has received procedural approval for such a deal from the Federal Trade Commission.
Founded in 1998 as Portable On Demand Storage, it has grown to have more than 128,000 white storage pods in service, a projected $340 million in revenue this year and more than 110 franchises around the world.
Home Depot lays off 750
Home Depot Inc. is laying off 750 people in the Tampa Bay area and will close its Brandon call center Jan. 28.
Stephen Holmes, Home Depot's senior public relations manager, says closing the call center will help the Atlanta-based home improvement chain save money. Once the call center closes, scheduling installation services will be handled through the individual stores.
The judges scorecard
Sarasota and Manatee county attorneys recently had a chance to judge judges, and the results are in.
Those results make up the 2007 Judicial Evaluation, a voluntary survey administered by the Sarasota County, Manatee County, and Venice-Englewood Bar Associations. The evaluation, of 31 circuit and county judges, as well as eight magistrates and hearing officers, was mailed to about 1,700 practicing attorneys in the 12th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.
Lawyers responding to the survey were required to have personal knowledge of the judge being evaluated. They then ranked the judges on a one-to-five scale on categories including legal ability/knowledge; impartiality/lack of bias; and decisiveness/timely decision making.
The bar associations received 305 survey responses - a good amount, Sarasota County bar President Morgan Bentley says, adding that more than half the lawyers in the circuit don't have trial practices, so they don't interact with the judges regularly.
The full results can be seen on line, at www.sarasotabar.com or www.manateebar.com.
Lee County toll study
Lee County commissioners approved a study that will help the Southwest Florida Expressway Authority determine how much to charge on any new toll lanes on Interstate 75.
The authority is considering tolling two new lanes now under construction in Lee and Collier counties to pay for the construction of six additional lanes (three in each direction.) It will issue bonds to do this and pay investors with the toll revenue.
Collier County commissioners have been more reluctant to allow tolling on I-75 and have not decided how to proceed.
Airport hotel proposed
An Albany, N.Y.-based developer is proposing to build a hotel on the road leading to Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. BBL, a privately held development and property management company, was the only group to respond to a request by the Lee County Port Authority for the development and operation of a full-service airport hotel.
The company is proposing to build a five-story, 175-room Sheraton or other similarly flagged hotel on 6.5 acres. New Hampshire-based Ocean Hospitalities will operate the hotel.
Hispanic Institute formed
Hodges University has enlisted the help of the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to create the Hispanic Institute.
Modeled after the Gaston Institute at the University of Massachusetts, the institute will provide a forum for public policy to discuss matters that impact the Hispanic community in Southwest Florida. The Hispanic population in Southwest Florida is growing rapidly. In Collier County, for example, 25% of the population is Hispanic.