Around the bay
Recaps of business news from around the region.
By enter a byline
Published October 16, 2006
PLANT CITY: Strawberry farmers will miss migrant help
In addition to worries about fickle weather and a fluctuating market, Hillsborough County farmers are concerned about labor shortages. Stricter border enforcement kept many Mexican workers out of California this year. Farmers there watched tons of pears ripen to a smelly mess. It also may mean headaches for Hillsborough farmers, who typically employ 8,000 to 9,000 migrant workers, most of whom are Mexican. “I would be surprised if we don’t have problems, too,” said Chip Hinton, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. It’s a concern for farmers when immigration issues and border security get wrapped in the same red tape. “What’s really driving this thing is homeland security,” said Gary Wishnatzki, a Plant City produce broker and strawberry farmer. “But I don’t think they are going to find too many terrorists out in the fields picking strawberries.”
SPRING HILL: Coffeehouse owner wants to add culture
Jo Alfonso, with short, stylish hair and edgy, rectangular-rimmed glasses, was a craps dealer in Las Vegas and now owns the S&C salon in the Coastal Way Plaza on State Road 50. She calls herself “a creative nut case.”
But her newest idea might be her craziest.
Coffeehouse Java Baby opened this month in the new Silverthorn Square strip center at Barclay Avenue and Powell Road.
“I want to bring a little culture to the area,” she said. “We need a true coffeehouse here.”
In Hernando County, where there’s no Pier 1 Imports or free-standing Starbucks, Java Baby has a bohemian-style logo, an artsy vibe and pieces of cake that cost five bucks. Alfonso is promising live music, open-mic nights and poetry readings. Its location puts it in the fastest-growing area in one of the state’s fastest-growing counties, and the opening is a notch in the ongoing growth that continues to change who lives here and what they can do without driving to Tampa.
“You’re definitely seeing a lot of these types of businesses showing up,” said Achilles Thomas, 24, who moved here four years ago from South Florida and now runs HernandoHotSpots.com , SpringHillSingles.com and HernandoProperty.com .
SPRING HILL: Hernando hungry for taste of Carrabba’s
Hernando County’s much-anticipated first Carrabba’s is scheduled to open Oct. 23 at Mariner Boulevard and State Road 50. Opening night figures to be a sight to be seen. Folks around there have been waiting a long time to be able to eat at the popular Tampa Italian chain without driving down to Port Richey.
“People have been calling us and e-mailing us for literally years,” joint venture partner Joe Pante said. “We’ve had people stopping by and asking us when it’s going to open. It’s been a lot more actually than I’ve seen in other places in the past.”
PINELLAS PARK: Wal-Mart envisions grocery in the lanes
Wal-Mart is eyeing a defunct bowling alley in Pinellas Park as a site for one of the chain’s standalone grocery stores.
Representatives for the retail giant have approached city officials about the possibility of building a standalone grocery store where Sunshine Bowl once stood at 6900 U.S. 19 N. The site is less than a mile from the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 8001 U.S. 19 N.
That supercenter, with its attached grocery, was once the largest in the discount chain. It’s unclear where it stands since a new supercenter opened in St. Petersburg.
SAFETY HARBOR: City employees say 'no’ to union
The city’s employees have spoken. There will be no union in Safety Harbor.
Of the 102 city employees eligible to vote, 75 cast ballots.
And of those, 27 voted for the representation by the Communications Workers of America, while 48 voted against.
“By their vote, it appears that the majority do not want to unionize,” interim Mayor Andy Steingold said.
“They have seen the quick action by the City Commission to address their salary concerns, which I think affected the way they voted.”
DADE CITY: You’ll have to wait for that supercenter
The planned groundbreaking of a celebrated 187,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter has been pushed back a year.
The groundbreaking on the store at the corner of Clinton Avenue and U.S. 301 had been scheduled for January.
City Attorney Karla Owens met with Wal-Mart’s attorney last week. She said the company assured her the store will be built and wanted to make sure its site plan approval would not expire.
“They’re just deferring breaking ground on it until January 2008 because they have too many stores nationwide under construction,” Owens said.
PORT RICHEY: Big plans for condos sputtering in little city
This little city is supposed to be bursting at the seams.
In the spring, officials expected five condominium and townhouse complexes with units priced around $200,000 to break ground by year’s end, doubling the city’s population of 3,200.
Another developer planned to replace the Port Richey Mobile Home Park with hotels and restaurants (there’s been talk of a Hilton or a steak house), trying to attract tourists to the city’s waterfront.
But one of the largest projects — the 170-unit Bay Point townhouses — has stalled. And two mobile home parks, ripe for redevelopment, remain on the market.
That’s because a slowing housing market and skyrocketing insurance costs have left the city struggling to get developments off the ground. City officials now estimate just 700 new residents by year’s end — a fraction of the roughly 3,000 predicted this year.
BELLEAIR: Terror expert to speak at economic summit
Is terrorism a threat to Tampa Bay? International terrorism authority Juval Aviv will address that question at a Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce economic forecasting summit starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Belleview Biltmore Resort, 25 Belleview Blvd. The cost is $25 for chamber members, $35 for nonmembers. Call Kenn Brown at (272) 461-0011, ext. 224.
[Last modified October 16, 2006, 06:30:20]
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