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Around the Bay: Business news from around Tampa Bay

Company puts its energy into saving it

By Times Staff
Published August 13, 2007


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St. Petersburg

Company puts its energy into saving it

After decades toiling in the obscure world of industrial surge protectors, Professional Technical Systems has reinvented itself as an energy company and is touting a handful of products that could be breakthrough devices.

"The company had been fairly small, but it had a beautiful foundation," said Ben Croxton, CEO of what is now World Energy Solutions. "In order to expand, we decided that energy conservation was the business to be in."

Since changing names and going public in 2004, World Energy has spent heavily on research and licensed an invention out of the University of Florida. The company is poised to launch devices to clean the air, heat water and improve your gas mileage.

"We're having a good time with it," said Bob Depalo, chief technology officer who joined the company three years ago and brought some of his designs with him, including power-saving controllers. "We're making a lot of headway. Any one of these new products can do wonders for us."

The most promising prospect, Croxton said, is something he calls Pure Air Technology, a device developed by Florida environmental engineering professor Dr. David Mazyck and others. The technology doesn't just filter air but sanitizes it, Croxton said, and saves money by requiring less circulation of air around a home or office.

Wesley Chapel

Three new Pasco malls carve out individual niches

Each one located at most five minutes' drive from each other, the Shops at Wiregrass, Cypress Creek Town Center and the Grove at Wesley Chapel together stake out enough central Pasco land to cover 44 football fields.

What's more: All the malls are marketed as "lifestyle centers," that retail industry label that evokes outdoor layouts and traditional streetscapes.

But with revelations of their potential tenant lineups trickling in, it's becoming clearer that each is carving out a different retail niche.

The experts say it's not strange to have three malls so close together, even at that kind of scale.

But it's the timing of their appearance, back-to-back by industry standards, that's raising some eyebrows and questions.

"They all clearly have enough growth to sell to retailers," said Judi Lapin, president of the Lapin Consulting Group, a California retail industry adviser.

"But they will have to struggle to get a foothold because of the timing."

To Stan Eichelbaum, an industry consultant in Fort Lauderdale, the Wiregrass mall sounds like it's cast more in the "traditional" mold of a lifestyle center, concentrating on specialty stores.

The Grove appears to him to be aiming for a "big box campus" and Cypress Creek Town Center a hybrid of the two.

Trinity

Plumbing with a softer side

Colleen Suojanen's vision: To create a "soft and fuzzy" plumbing company aimed at women.

Come into the Pampering Plumber when it opens at Trinity Village Center this month, and you'll see as many candles and organic soaps as faucets.

You'll see artsy door handles shaped like wrenches and a futuristic-looking dispatch center showing where the company's service vans are headed.

The new business is a spin-off of her family's company, Plumbers of Suojanen Enterprises. Her plumber husband, Erik, started that business 17 years ago.

But what really makes Pampering Plumber stand out, though, is its marketing. Plumbing, says Suojanen, 38, is an industry with an image problem.

People think plumber, she says, and they think dirty and grimy. They think about pants that need to be hitched up.

"We're going to change that," she said.

Her plumbers will wear monogrammed uniforms. And they will drive vans with side panels depicting a woman luxuriating in a bubble bath.

[Last modified August 10, 2007, 21:19:37]


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