WUFT News

Alachua County Looks to Duplicate Gainesville Business Center

By on April 17th, 2014 | Last updated: April 18, 2014 at 5:36 pm
Business owners from across Alachua County discuss the Economic Development Advisory Committee’s strategic plan.

Monica Kelly / WUFT News

Business owners from across Alachua County discuss the Economic Development Advisory Committee’s strategic plan.

A joint partnership between the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the county commission’s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) hopes to create a collaboration space similar to the Innovation Hub, which Gainesville created in 2010.

A task force met with local business owners on April 16 at a business and economic development workshop to begin work on promoting growth within the county.

Kamal Latham, vice president of public policy at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the workshop was a success.

At the meeting, businesses reviewed a 34-point plan to improve the EDAC’s strategy, which included getting new businesses excited to move to the county.

Marty Goodkind, owner of Sunbelt Moving and Delivery Inc., said keeping new businesses here long enough to then bring other companies in is important.

“How do we get the fish on the line?” Goodkind said. “How do we keep them on the line — reel the fish into the boat?”

Goodkind said he believes the combined effort of the chamber, the city and the University of Florida is what brought companies like Mindtree, a Fortune 500 information technology company, to Gainesville.

Most of the Innovation Gainesville initiative is concentrated in the downtown area of the city, a place seen as ideal for startup technology and health industries. But now the county wants to spur business in its rural areas.

“Diversity means opportunity,” Goodkind said. “Alachua has the leverage to become a global hub for both technological and agricultural innovation.”

The plan, made earlier this year, hasn’t started yet, EDAC member Dave Ferro said.

Goodkind said the county should make its own innovation hub because the rest of the county reaps little benefit from Gainesville’s growth.

For instance, if a building is located on Southwest 2nd Avenue, part of the money goes to the city, while only a small portion goes to the county.

Although it may compete with the city, Ferro said he believes making the county an innovation hub as well will benefit everyone.

“With good news at both the city and the county level, we are trying to improve the quality of life in the community,” Ferro said.

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April 16, 2014: Afternoon News In 90

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Emma Neagu and Vickie Mugica produced this update. 

 
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In The News: Man Arrested For Boston Marathon Scare, Missing Toddler Found in Arcade Machine, Teacher Accused of Ordering Student Attack, U.S. Representative Introduces ‘Max Tax’

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm
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Blueberry Industry Brings Blossoming Job Opportunities

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 4:15 pm
Brittany Gann works with a barrel of local blueberry wine in Bluefield Estate Winery Thursday.

Ashley Autumn/WUFT News

Brittany Gann works with a barrel of local blueberry wine in Bluefield Estate Winery Thursday.

A tiny blue fruit continues to adapt and thrive in Florida fields, and as a result new jobs are popping up around the state.

Steve Sargent works for the University of Florida specializing in post-harvest horticulture and said that he’s watched this happen.

“As blueberries grow here, so do people involved in the production, the sale, the sport, the suppliers, the bushes, the people, fertilizer, tracking, packing — all of those jobs are spin offs of the expanding industry,” he said.

Blueberries are not native to Florida. They are typically found in the Northern states like Michigan and New Jersey, but are also in places like Georgia.

Florida Blueberry Growers Association Secretary, Sheri Brothers has held her position as secretary for about 16 years and has watched science change the blueberry business in Florida.

“There’s a lot more varieties out there,” she said. “That means a lower price and more competitors, but people keep wanting more.”

Brothers also works in “growers relations” for Alpine Fresh, a Florida blueberry packing shipping and marketing company that moved to Florida two years ago.

“Alpine has grown fantastically,” she said. “There’s just so many growers now that need packing.”

Jeffery Williamson specializes in small fruit efficiency and production practices at UF and said the breeding program is responsible for varieties that have been able to adapt to Florida weather and produce high-paying berries in the earliest market window in the country.

“There now is a commercial blueberry industry valued at close to $70 million in Florida based almost solely on a product developed by the University of Florida that did not exist a couple of decades years ago,” he said.

According to an article published by the Tampa Bay Times, cultivation science at UF is largely responsible for the state’s blueberry harvesting roughly tripling in the past 10 years.

James Olmstead specializes in blueberry breeding and genetics at UF and said that the cultivation at the university does not deal with GMOs.

“We only do traditional hybridization as has been practiced for centuries,” he said.

Jennifer Ferguson started Bluefield Estate Winery in Gainesville with her husband Bradley about three years ago, but said blueberries have been in their family for over a decade.

She said her grandfather was one of the forefathers of bringing the fruit to Florida, and that her husband grew up farming Florida berries.

Ferguson said that the blueberry boom hasn’t greatly affected the workload on the farm since their berry sales come from their U-pick, but that she’s had to spend more time in the winery to keep up with wine production.

Brittany Gann has worked doing front-end managing for Bluefield for almost the entire time it has been open, and said the semi-sweet blueberry wine is the company’s top seller.

Ferguson said that they are looking to expand the acreage of their farm to keep up with demand and that sales from the U-pick alone has about doubled every year since they’ve opened.

Anthony Scaife knows a little bit about blueberries, too.

Anthony Scaife offers tastes of his fresh juices at the downtown farmers market.

Ashley Autumn/WUFT News

Anthony Scaife offers tastes of his fresh juices at the downtown farmers market.

Every Wednesday afternoon people circle Scaife to take his famous “juice tour.” Scaife is the owner of Chef Anthony’s Ambrosia, a local cold pressed fruit juice company.

He uses local blueberries in his popular Mr. Feel Good juice and said he’s found many ways to make a business from blueberries.

“I show farms how to utilize their calls — the blueberries that no one wants — and I cook them down, add some spices, and make phenomenal sauces,” Scaife said.

“I’ve been doing blueberry BBQ sauce for over 15 years,” he said. “And I’m from Chicago, so I know BBQ sauce.”

When he’s berry shopping, Scaife said he buys 150 pounds and always buys from the same two farms, so he has not noticed any big changes in pricing.

Gann said that while working for the industry, she has noticed more and more U-picks and blueberry wineries appear in North Florida, but that she’s not worried about the competition.

“With all of the trends surrounding health and antioxidants, blueberries are big,” she said. “But there’s plenty to go around.”

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Gainesville Localities Plan Impending Move; Fire Station Draws Plans

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 4:16 pm
Mike Myers

Sean Stewart-Muniz / WUFT News

Mike Myers works on art student Emily Bonani's project, screwing a board between two wooden structures to stabilize them.

Eight months after Gainesville’s City Commission purchased occupied land on South Main Street, the area’s three tenants remain unsure of where they’ll be moving.

The Repurpose Project, Church of Holy Colors and Everyman Sound Company occupy the 1.5 acres of land and have been given until December 2014 to move.

The land was purchased to build a new fire station, which will replace the current one built in 1962 at 427 S. Main St., Jeff Lane, fire rescue district Chief Jeff Lane said.

“It’s exceeded its lifetime,” Lane said. “The building itself has become susceptible to age, isn’t energy efficient and doesn’t fit our needs best.”

He said the city commission was looking at multiple properites with large, open mouth access to main roads and enough size to fit the station.

Potential land prospects that had development conflicts or tenants unwilling to sell were dismissed, and the 500 block of South Main Street became the most viable option.

Evan Galbicka, the 27-year-old co-founder of the Church of Holy Colors, isn’t a fan of what’s going to be done to the property.

“I’m a little pissed off just because they’re going to bulldoze this whole lot,” Galbicka, said. “It curtails the expansion of an art culture in this area.”

While the city begins planning its new fire station, Galbicka said the art gallery is looking into its own construction project – moving their entire building.

If the gallery can raise about $20,000, they can uproot their structure and put it back together on a new property, Galbicka said.

“We got a good thing going on this block,” he said. “Main Street Gainesville is the best part of town.”

Down the block from the gallery is the Repurpose Project, a non-profit that accepts items like loose wood, screws, lamps, furniture, kitchen sinks and other unwanted pieces to sell using a name-your-price system.

Mike Myers, the 67-year-old co-founder of the Repurpose Project, said his lease states he has until October to move to a new location. This includes everything in his 3,000-square-foot property, which is overflowing with recycled items that were once headed for a landfill.

Now, he’s looking for a new property of about 12,000 square feet to house the project, and that will only last him a few years before he needs to grow again.

“It’s still a struggle,” he said. “But what’s life without a little struggle?”

Chris Fillie, the founder of Vibrant Community Development Inc., subleased the current space to the Repurpose Project.

Fillie had a 5-year lease with the owner of the parcel that the art gallery and the Repurpose Project are situated on. But when the city offered the owner more than half a million dollars for the property two years later, the property owner gave Fillie an ultimatum.

If he could pay 20 percent of the $500,000 up front, the owner would allow Fillie to stay on the property.

If he failed to raise the cash, Fillie would have to either move the project or the owner wouldn’t renew the yearly lease for the property’s parking lot, which the gallery uses as well.

Without a parking lot, not only would the art gallery succumb to the limited parking space, but the Citizen’s Co-op and the Civic Media Center — one block up the street — would, too.

He couldn’t raise the money in time. Now, he’s helping the Church of Holy Colors look for a new home in Gainesville.

“I really think everybody did the best that they can,” Fillie said. “This is the most complicated thing I’ve ever dealt with.”

 

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In The News: $1.2 Billion FL Surplus, Appeals Court Filibuster Ruling, Tsarnaev Asks for Dropped Charges, Obama Administration Announces Job Grants

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 10:14 am
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Food Safety Guidelines Could Alter Sustainable Farm

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 12:43 pm
Swallowtail_one

Alexandrea DaCosta / WUFT News

 

Swallowtail Farm is working to cultivate a more sustainable farm through the use of fertilizer made from their own animals’ manure.

However, due to the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules by the FDA, the farm’s sustainability approach might be in jeopardy.

The farm, located at 17603 NW 276th Lane in Alachua, has been using this method since its founding in 2o09.

The fact sheets on the proposed FSMA rule explain domesticated and wild animals can possibly cause contamination of the soil, as pathogens may be introduced into fruit and vegetable production systems through animal feces.

The FDA hasn’t confirmed when Swallowtail would need to adhere to the FSMA guidelines, Eckhardt said.

Stewart Watson, a spokesman for the FDA, said the agency is “currently revising portions of the proposed produce safety bill.” He said revisions will be released for public comment later this summer.

Watson said under the new revisions, topics such as water quality standards, standards for using raw manure and compost and certain provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, like are being modified. Exemptions for small farms are also being revised.

Noah Shitama, the founder of Swallowtail, said most farms are specialized in either produce or livestock. He believes the key to farm success is to maintain both.

Jane Nesbit, a partner with the farm, said the farm’s mission of sustainability is important for the community’s existence.

“The animals eat and they leave a lot of manure, so they’re restoring and refurbishing the soil everywhere they’re moved,” she said. “I think they’re definitely helping with the sustainability of the farm.”

Watson said due to some conflicting responses from farmers regarding the original FSMA, the FDA wants to encourage people to be a part of the revision process and comment on the revised language of the proposed act when it is released this summer.

Shitama said for his farmers, it’s about trying to create a balance. To grow vegetables, a farm needs fertility, and fertility comes from the manure animals produce.

The more fertilizer a farm uses from outside resources, the less sustainable that farm is, he said.

“The more things that you can produce on a farm, the less you’re going to need from outside the farm to produce,” Shitama said. “I feel like animals are at the heart of that equation.”

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Dog Obedience Business in High Springs Expands to Four States

By on April 16th, 2014 | Last updated: April 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm
Jose “Pepe” Peruyero, owner and CEO of Pepedogs, enjoys training dogs in an agility course at J&K Canine Academy located in High Springs, Fla.

Emily Buchanan

Jose “Pepe” Peruyero, owner and CEO of Pepedogs, enjoys training dogs in an agility course at J&K Canine Academy located in High Springs, Fla.

It’s been 17 years since a local dog training business opened on a dirt road in High Springs, Fla. Now, they are expanding to four new states.

Jose “Pepe” Peruyero, the owner and CEO of Pepedogs, plans to open locations in California, Colorado and Ohio by September. Within the last year he as expanded to Connecticut, West Palm Beach and Gainesville. Two weeks ago he opened a branch in Vermont.

Peruyero also owns J&K Canine Academy and Scentworx.

“We’ve seen consistent and continuous growth in an industry that usually loses its zest after a few years,” Peruyero said. “I think it’s interesting that we’re training second and third generations of families, and now we’re expanding.”

He said he picked the new locations because they are similar to Gainesville’s community in population and dog owners, and are already familiar with Scentworx, a brach of Pepedogs that trains dogs to detect bugs and is used in more than 100 pest control companies

Since 1998, Scentworx has worked with the University of Florida to test their mission, perform research and collect data on the company’s dogs, Peruyero said.

Helen Cariotis, president of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, said businesses like Pepedogs are growing rapidly.

“It’s great that Pepe has been able to expand,” she said. “I think most folks don’t last more than five years in this business, so I always say, ‘Don’t quit your day job.’”

The NADOI is the first national association of its kind, and Cariotis noted that it holds some of the strictest standards to become a member.

Cariotis said the downside to this business is that it’s easy for someone to open a shop and claim they are qualified enough to run it. However, unless the business includes a specialization, the business is unlikely to be successful.

“It’s like the Wild West,” she said. “Anyone can run this business, but what it takes is trust and really wanting to treat dogs like family to be successful.”

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Afternoon News: Apr. 15, 2014

By on April 15th, 2014 | Last updated: April 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Nicole del Castillo produced this update. 

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In The News: Coast Guard Unloads $110M Cocaine Load, KFC Offering Chicken Corsages, Sink Will Not Run Against Jolly, Authorities Searching Chassahowitzka for Missing Local Pilot

By on April 15th, 2014 | Last updated: April 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm
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