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Gulf Coast Week

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  • | 6:00 p.m. June 19, 2008
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Gulf Coast Week


Ethanol plant changes

Litigation and water challenges in finding financing have led a company to abandon plans for an ethanol production plant at the Port of Tampa.

EnviroFuels of Port Sutton will instead talk to investors about building an ethanol storage facility on the 22-acre site.

Residents on Davis Islands and Harbor Island raised questions about possible odor from an ethanol plant. There were also concerns about the water needed to operate the plant to refine ethanol.

Original estimates were 350,000 gallons a day. But EnviroFuels said it would only use 200,000 by building an efficient plant.

Verizon changing command

Alan Ciamporcero, who led Verizon's operations on the Gulf Coast and throughout the Southeast the past five years, is retiring July 25.

Replacing Ciamporcero, 60, will be Michelle Robinson, 40, senior vice president of Verizon's Southern region, who will relocate to Tampa.

Ciamporcero helped Verizon secure franchises in Florida and expand its cable television business in the state. The position covers Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Broader going to Michaels

Shelley Broader, the former chief executive officer of Tampa-based Sweetbay Supermarkets Inc., is heading to Texas-based craft store chain Michaels, where she will be president and chief operating officer.

Broader, 44, served as CEO of Sweetbay, formerly Kash n' Karry Food Stores, for nearly three years. She begins her new post June 23.


Project holdups linger

Delays are once again plaguing a development in downtown Bradenton involving property once controlled by St. Petersburg developer and entrepreneur Frank Maggio. But this time it's the legal foreclosure process causing the holdups, not the sagging real estate market.

The lender on the property, Wells Fargo, filed foreclosure notice on Maggio and his company late last year as the project, once expected to be as many as 575 condos and 45,000 square feet of retail stores near the Manatee River and the Manatee County Courthouse, sat idle. Wells Fargo won a foreclosure judgment on the site earlier this year and planned to sell the 28-acre property late last month at a foreclosure sale.

But that sale has now been postponed, as a second company, Palmetto-based Riverside Development, has filed mortgage claims to a small portion of the property, totaling about five waterfront acres. Riverside is now asking a judge to exclude that parcel from the Wells Fargo foreclosure sale, which will require additional court hearings.

Maggio's First Dartmouth Homes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.

Buchanan honored by USF

The business education side of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus has been renamed the Vernon G. Buchanan College of Business Wing after the congressman, who gave the school $100,000 last year. It's the second public business building in the Sarasota-Manatee area to be named after Buchanan, R-Longboat Key; the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce also has a building named after Buchanan.

Buchanan's gift to USF Sarasota-Manatee totaled $200,000 after a state program matched the donation.

Sarasota County saves jobs

In an effort to avoid more layoffs and wage freezes, Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley recommended to Sarasota County commissioners that the county dip into it's so-called stabilization fund, made up of more than $35 million collected during the real estate boom.

Ley says the rainy-day fund, in combination with 200 job cuts already made over the past year, is enough to last the county three years. Ley, speaking at a commission meeting June 17 designed to look for ways to find more cuts, says the economy should be back by 2011 and the fund will be no longer needed. Other jobs, about 50, will be lost through attrition in the next three years, he says.

The commissioners were holding three meetings on the issue in mid-June. A final decision isn't expected to be made until later this summer. .


New Fort Myers hospital

Boca Raton-based Promise Healthcare Inc., a long-term acute care hospital company, plans to build a new hospital in Fort Myers.

The 56,000-square-foot hospital will have 60 beds. Construction is scheduled to start in December and be completed in about a year. The hospital site has not yet been identified.

The hospital will specialize in providing long-term care to help patients recover from complex medical conditions. Specialties include respiratory care, wound management, multi-system failure and post-surgery complications.

Promise Healthcare currently owns and manages 14 hospitals in six states. It recently announced plans to build a hospital in Sumter County.

Air Berlin adds flight

Air Berlin, the German airline that recently acquired rival LTU, plans to boost the number of flights from Germany to Southwest Florida International Airport this summer.

Air Berlin flies twice a week to Munich from Fort Myers and will add a third weekly nonstop flight to Düsseldorf on June 24. Air Berlin is Germany's second-largest airline with 127 aircraft flying to more than 100 destinations throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.

The additional flight is a welcome move for Southwest Florida International Airport as it seeks more international passenger traffic to offset a decline in domestic travel. International visitors tend to spend more time and money when they travel than domestic visitors.

Airport and tourism officials have been promoting the Gulf Coast region as an attractive destination for international visitors, particularly those from Europe who have a strong currency.

EDC chief takes buyout

Regina Smith, the executive director of the Lee County Economic Development Office, recently announced she plans to take a buyout offer from Lee County and step down.

The county recently offered buyouts to employees to save money in light of declining tax revenues. Smith cited family obligations and says a replacement has not yet been named.


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