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Coffee Talk

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  • | 6:00 p.m. September 21, 2007
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Coffee Talk

+ Marco bank

deal called off

Bad loans at Marco Community Bancorp scuttled a deal with the influential Barron Collier and Lutgert families in Collier County.

In May, the two families and other investors, including veteran bankers Kevin Hale and Michael Morris, agreed to buy a controlling interest in the bank holding company for $23.2 million. Under the terms of the deal, investors agreed to buy stock in the bank company and pay $6.50 per share to current Marco shareholders.

But regulators flagged bad loans at Marco Community Bank in July, which negatively impacted shareholders' equity. In a prepared statement, the new investors say that the agreement had to be revised in light of the bad loans but neither side could reach an agreement. They terminated their agreement on Sept. 13, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A spokeswoman for the investors says the group declined to comment on the deal. Marco Community Bancorp Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Storm Jr. also declined to comment.

+ Random acts

of freebies

Free giveaways at banks are usually relegated to the coffee and donut display in the lobby. Maybe you'll land a Frisbee and a key chain, or even a lollipop, if you're lucky.

Now comes Insignia Bank, a community startup in its second year of operation. The bank upped the ante in the freebee giveaway game Sept. 14 when it opened its new office in Lakewood Ranch: The bank, in what it called a random act of kindness, paid for the drink portion of customer's tabs at the First Watch restaurant across the parking lot from its new branch.

Customers dining at the First Watch in the Publix shopping center just east of the University exit of Interstate 75 discovered their free drinks in the form of a card presented with their check that stated "no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted," along with an invitation to visit the new branch. The new office represents the bank's first expansion.

Insignia chairman and chief executive officer Charlie Brown says the promotion was successful and he expects the bank will perform more random acts of kindness in the near future.

No word on if that will include a free lunch.

+ D'Alessandro's

body recovered

Commercial real estate brokers speculated for days about what happened to well-known Fort Myers broker Frank D'Alessandro.

D'Alessandro's body was found in the ocean off the New Jersey coast Monday where he had been visiting his ailing mother. He had been missing since the previous Wednesday, when his empty kayak was found floating nine miles off the coast.

The discovery of his body ended speculation about whether D'Alessandro had staged his own disappearance. Those rumors spread rapidly in Fort Myers in light of lawsuits that have been filed by investors against him recently.

Still, many questions remain unanswered. Why wasn't D'Alessandro wearing a life vest? What was he doing kayaking in the middle of the night? The investigation continues.

+ A treat for cookie

and cupcake eaters

The wholesale bakery operation behind some of the Gulf Coast's most talked about, and eaten, cookies, muffins and cupcakes is going retail.

The Wired Whisk Bakehouse, which has provided pastries to dozens of independent coffee houses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota for the past seven months, is opening its first retail store.

Wired Whisk's most popular cookies include the Tree Hugger, a vegan granola cookie made with bananas, cashews and coconut sold at Metro Coffee near downtown Sarasota and the Tropical Rainforest Cookie, a non-vegan cookie with almonds and raisins available at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

The retail shop fronts Wired Whisk's bakery, on 4141 S. Tamiami Trail, just south of Bee Ridge Road. Christine Nordstrom, Wired Whisk's owner and pastry chef, says the shop is a product of how quick the business has grown since she opened in March. "Things have been booming," Nordstrom says.

The wholesale operation has clients has far north as Tampa and as far south as Englewood. What's more, Nordstrom, who previously worked at Starbucks and Local Coffee & Tea on Siesta Key, says she's close to landing several new clients in Tampa.

Wired Whisk Bakehouse also operates a pastry gift operation called Cookie Blooms, a Sarasota-based business Nordstrom bought in March.

+ Have lights,

will sell franchises

St. Petersburg entrepreneur Nick Schriver, a 28-year-old landscape architect, started Decorating Elves three years ago as a sideline business that decorated homes for Christmas.

It has taken off so well, with inquiries coming from outside Tampa Bay, that Schriver is now selling franchises. Franchises for the company, formerly known as Holiday Lighting Solutions, go for $35K to $86K, depending on the market.

This is a pretty good outcome for a 28-year-old with a unique idea. The company did 130 homes and businesses last year.

+ Help us find

the top tech companies

Technology rules.

From Tampa to Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, entrepreneurs have developed amazing technologies that wowed us with their ingenuity. For five years, the Review has highlighted their successes with our annual Technology Innovation Award issue.

Going on its sixth year, the Review is again seeking nominations for the best innovations in technology from Tampa Bay to Naples.

We are looking for achievers who create or apply technology to a business or not-for-profit venture in a way that changes an industry, creates greater profits or efficiencies or improves quality of life in a meaningful way. It doesn't matter what industry. Past winners include technology to recycle auto tires, a manufacturer of tiny robots and a product that keeps sewage from backing up in restaurants.

Nominations should include the particulars of the company and the technology, along with contact information, including phone numbers and e-mail. Please send nominations to [email protected]. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 19.

Gulf Coast hiring survey gets mixed results

The job market appears favorable in Tampa-St. Petersburg, but dim in Fort Myers-Naples, according to a recent Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

For October to December, 32% of companies in Tampa-St. Petersburg plan to hire more employees while 16% plan to reduce their payrolls. Job prospects there appear best in construction, durable goods manufacturing, finance, insurance, real estate and services.

In Fort Myers-Naples, the picture isn't as rosy. In fact, it is flipped. From October to December, 33% of employers plan to reduce payrolls while 17% plan to hire more people. Employment increases appear best in education and services, Manpower says.

The following chart shows the percentage of employers in each Gulf Coast area who plan to change or maintain the size of their workforce in the fourth quarter:

Area Increase No change Decrease Don't know

Fort Myers-Naples 17% 50% 33% 0%

Sarasota 10% 80% 7% 3%

Tampa-St. Petersburg 32% 52% 16% 0%


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