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Talk of the bay

Tampa Bay Tech Forum's logo represents moving forward

By Times staff writers
Published January 30, 2006

Tampa Bay Tech Forum's logo represents moving forward

A mouse pointer stuck on the letter B just didn't say Tampa Bay Technology Forum anymore.

So the high-tech group will unveil a new logo and redesigned Web site today as part of an image make-over.

The new logo, in bright orange and yellow that represents the region's sunny climate, appears to be three triangles. But Michael Peters, president and creative director of Spark Branding House in Ybor City, which designed the logo, says it's more than that.

"It's about powerful people, those groups coming together and something moving in a direction from there," Peters said.

The 5-year-old forum has a lot of things coming together: about 350 companies representing about 30,000 employees in the bay area as the local tech community tries to build an identity.

Peters presented six choices to Susan Gear, the forum's marketing committee chairwoman and vice president of specialty retailing at Catalina Marketing.

"She gave us great direction," Peters said.

-- DAVE GUSSOW, Times staff writer

Helicopters are checking power lines, not spying on you

Memo to Hillsborough County residents wondering what the deal is with all those helicopters hovering around high-tension power lines: You are not under attack.

Rather, the choppers are part of Tampa Electric's regularaerial inspections of its transmission system, which include the transmission towers, poles and power lines that deliver electricity from power plants to substations.

The inspections, which are conducted annually, are expected to be completed in about a month. Some of the helicopters will fly as close as 10 feet from a power line or transmission structure, where onboard personnel will use infrared cameras to spot potential structural deficiencies.

Other aerial crew members will strap themselves onto platforms mounted to the bottom of the copters from which they can make minor repairs.

-- LOUIS HAU, Times staff writer

Looking for a little excitement on your next retreat? Try Africa

Looking for something different for your next corporate retreat? How about animal tracking and bush survival skills?

Rockledge software entrepreneur Suzie DeBusk is combining her talent for corporate training with her love for Africa in a new company, Leadership Safaris ( As the name implies, the product is small-group leadership training sessions a long way from home.

DeBusk takes groups on 10-1/2 day trips that include a week of training on the Sosian Ranch in northern Kenya. She promises the experience will test leadership instincts, inner strength, decisionmaking and team communication skills.

"You see that you may be a CEO or an executive, but you're not the top of the food chain in the world," said Lacey Glass, a new sales rep for the company in the Tampa Bay area. She said lots of people are interested in the concept, but the $11,000-per-person price takes it out of the impulse buying category. It's more likely to be woven into next year's budget.

DeBusk is president of DragonPoint Inc. and also conducts technology boot camps for companies.

--HELEN HUNTLEY, Times staff writer

As dress business expands, more good can be done

Maureen Quinlan of St. Petersburg has been selling handmade dresses for little girls at charity fashion shows in the Tampa Bay area since 1997. Now she hopes her company's new Web site, will take the business worldwide, generating income for her seamstresses in Nicaragua and 20 percent from each sale for customers' charity of choice.

With an MBA from Vanderbilt and a part-time executive job with Bank of America, Quinlan, 47, knows QRubini flies in the face of conventional business wisdom. The company has been a money drain, with a $70,000 investment returning $2,000 in sales in 2004 (the business was on hiatus last year).

But Quinlan remains convinced there are enough people willing to spend $90 on a child's dress knowing it represents much more.

Quinlan started selling handmade sun dresses to raise money for the National Marrow Foundation when her daughter, now a healthy 11-year-old, was fighting a rare form of cancer. Her sideline swelled into an operation that supports a soup kitchen, school and orphanage in Nicaragua, as well as charities stateside, including St. Jude's Hospital and several local Catholic schools. By reaching a wider audience through the Web, Quinlan hopes those dollars doing good will continue to multiply.

"I was trying to create an item of beauty that I could feel good about from start to finish," said Quinlan of her line of classic clothing. "Our products are made with loving hands."

- KRIS HUNDLEY, Times staff writer

Citrus industry, McDonald's score sweet success with orange juice ads

When McDonald's tells Americans to drink orange juice, they apparently listen. Big time. And it's music to the citrus industry's ears.

The Florida Department of Citrus recently ended a promotion with 210 McDonald's outlets in the Tampa Bay and Tallahassee area which was supported mostly by radio advertising. A typical radio spot had a cheery voice telling listeners, "I ... love Florida orange juice. It's a natural way to get many of the nutrients you need." The man then goes on to promote typical McDonald's breakfast fare, from Egg McMuffins to McGriddles.

But the story of OJ apparently wasn't lost on consumers. After five weeks of ads, McDonald's was boasting nearly a double-digit increase in OJ sales at those outlets. That fact was not lost on citrus executives who now want to continue the program in some form.

"For us, food service is something we're trying to concentrate on," said citrus department spokesman Andrew Meadows. "Away from home, eating is becoming more prevalent. Sitting at home and eating breakfast is not the American way now. This program was a significant success for us."

Asked if the program might be continued, Meadows said, "Of course, that would be a home run."

Stacy Howell, supervisor of McDonald's accounts for FKQ Advertising in Clearwater, said the department and McDonald's divided up the advertising cost, though neither she nor the citrus department could immediately say what the division was. "I'd say we're very pleased with the results," Howell said.

This was the first time McDonald's had partnered with the department, which had approached McDonald's about the idea last year.

-- WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times staff writer

Fold-up ladder (yours in four easy payments!) leads infomercial TV time

All you insomniacs and Saturday afternoon TV regulars only imagine that gadget-meister Ron Popeil has bought up all the infomercial time.

In fact, he's in fourth place, according to the most recent data compiled by Infomercial Monitoring Service. That's well behind the Little Giant Ladder, a $356 fold-up ladder, and the Magic Bullet, that little blender that chops produce by the handful.

Infomercial producers, who estimate only one of every six products turns a profit, don't disclose sales data. So the industry figures the hottest-selling products are those whose handlers buy the most TV time, which is their biggest expense.

Go figure.

* * *

-- MARK ALBRIGHT, Times staff writer

Chicago suitmaker's inspection tags gain personal touch

Turning a minor irritation into a marketing opportunity, the makers of Hart Shaffner Marx tailored clothing have quietly stopped sticking those little "Inspected by No. 16" tags in their suits and sportscoats .

"We wanted a more personal touch," said Traci Young, spokeswoman for the Chicago suitmaker that also saw a chance to reinforce an image of a quality product .

"It took 121 people a total of 233 hours to complete this garment," reads the revised inspector card. "We almost hate to let it go -- wait ... wait ... we said almost.' '

The card carries the name of an inspector named Rosa. Hartmarx's ad agency crafted the words for the message and seven other ones that inspectors use. But Rosa is a real inspector at the plant in Des Plaines, Ill .

- - MARK ALBRIGHT, Times staff writer

[Last modified January 30, 2006, 14:33:08]

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