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  • 04 Jan 2019 10:27 AM | Anonymous

    Construction workers, both salaried and skilled, are expected to be in strong demand in 2019. Florida contractors said they anticipate the acute shortage of construction workers in recent years to continue in 2019, even as they plan to add new projects and hire, according to a new survey and 2019 forecast released by Associated General Contractors of America. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

  • 04 Jan 2019 10:23 AM | Anonymous

    Judge throws out Aqua by the Bay lawsuit. Bradenton development cleared to begin

    More than a year after a contentious hearing and subsequent lawsuit over the planned Aqua by the Bay, a Manatee County judge has ruled that the massive housing project may move forward.

    Aqua by the Bay is a Medallion Home development that is slated to bring 2,384 multi-family and 510 single-family homes to the area along Sarasota Bay. There will also be 78,000 square feet of commercial space, according to the general development plan. Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the development on Oct. 3, 2017.

    Just one month after the board’s decision, environmentalist group Suncoast Waterkeeper Inc. and a host of other plaintiffs, including former county commissioner Joe McClash, filed a lawsuit against Manatee County, claiming that they were not afforded due process in the approval of the 529-acre development between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay.

    In a 21-page opinion, Circuit Judge Gilbert A. Smith Jr., however, said there is precedent that the public is not entitled to due process without being a party in the case.

    A Medallion Home spokesman could not be reached Wednesday to comment on how the ruling may affect the timing of the project’s construction.

    “Contrary to Petitioners’ assertions, courts have held that participants are not afforded the same due process protections as parties,” Smith wrote.

    The two parties in the quasi-judicial case were the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners and Long Bar Pointe, LLLP. Smith pointed out that members of the public did participate in public comment.

    The crux of the opponents’ argument was that the development, namely two concepts — a sea wall and an estuary enhancement area between the development and a shoreline of mangroves that would be 20 feet wide and 8 feet deep — that did not make it to final approval, would harm the environment.

    During the extended recess of the October 2017 hearing, developer Carlos Beruff agreed to strike those plans. Without those elements, the environmental impact of the project shrunk to 7.93 acres.

    Thirteen members of the public stuck around to provide public comment regarding the changes they had asked for, but the lawsuit claims they did not have the chance to have an expert review the adapted proposal. Smith said that’s not a right the public is entitled to, either.

    “Petitioners present no authority to support their contention that they are entitled to have experts review and present to testimony regarding updates to the [general development plan,]” Smith wrote.

    Beruff’s updates to the general development plan were enough to appease commissioners.

    “The applicant has done everything I have asked. I have no right to oppose this project based on who the applicant is,” former Commissioner Charles Smith said at the time.

    The lawsuit also alleged without evidence that county staff held backdoor conservations with the developers, acting “as a conduit of information from the developer directly to the Commissioner[,] influencing their decision outside the public hearing quasi-judicial proceedings.”

    According to court documents, Smith disagreed with their claim of “unfair, unbalanced communication.”

    “As members of the public, they are entitled to an opportunity to be heard by the Board, and they did speak at various public hearings. The record also indicates that they submitted written ex parte communication to the Board,” the judge said. “However, Petitioners have presented no authority establishing their entitlement to meet with County staff outside of the quasi-judicial hearing.”

    Suncoast Waterkeeper released a statement regarding Smith’s ruling on their Facebook page Wednesday morning.

    The Aqua by the Bay community spent more than 10 years working its way through Manatee County government before finally being approved. It was formerly known as Long Bar Pointe, which included plans for condos, hotels, a marina and a conference center.


  • 13 Dec 2018 10:43 AM | Anonymous

    Willis Smith Construction selected as the Construction Management Firm for the Master Plan for the Garden

    Willis Smith Construction was recently awarded the construction contract for Phase One of the Master Plan for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The infrastructure will span along the botanical gardens’ 15 acres of Bayfront property. The project will preserve and protect Selby Gardens’ world-class collections and create a future with 50 percent more green space for the Gardens. Once completed, Selby Gardens will possess the first Certified Net Positive Energy Complex at any botanical garden in the world. Further, the onsite restaurant will be the first Certified Net Positive Energy Restaurant in the world.

    “We are thrilled to have Willis Smith Construction lead the construction of this important project,” says Jennifer Rominecki, President & CEO of Selby Gardens. “Their history of building community landmarks in Sarasota is unparalleled. They understand the needs and desires of the community and will help Selby Gardens fulfill our vision as a leader in sustainability around the world.”

    Phase One of the Master Site Plan will consist of a multi-story visitor services facility, the Sky Garden, that will include retail space, 221,000 square foot of parking and a destination restaurant operated by Michael’s on East. Each exterior wall of the Sky Garden will become a living facade to facilitate the green building technology.

    The Certified Net Positive Energy designation will achieve PETAL certification as part of the Living Building Challenge. This advocates regenerative spaces that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and communities that produce more energy than they use. A solar power system will be atop the roof of the Sky Garden. The solar arrays will be capable of generating 840 kWh per year. Underground water storage will house cisterns for rainwater collection holding 250,000 gallons of water for non-potable water usage.

    Plans for the future Jean Goldstein Welcome Center and Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center have been envisioned. The 27,700 square foot welcome and research center will include a welcome gallery, horticulture and herbarium shop, theatre, administrative offices, library, and laboratory. Plans also include the implementation of the “living” green wall systems within the facility. The improved facility will further enable Selby Gardens’ scientific research specializing in the conservation, display and study of epiphytic plants; continuing education; additional exhibitions and increasing partnerships internationally. The Master Plan will encourage and galvanize recognition of the work performed by Selby Gardens, while enriching the experience of guests from around the world.

    Pending permit and zoning approvals, Phase One of the Master Plan could begin as early as fall 2019.

    The Project Team will include Willis Smith Construction, Overland Partners, Kimley-Horn, and OLIN.

    John LaCivita, Executive Vice President of Willis Smith Construction stated, “As long as I can remember, Selby Gardens’ has always been a Sarasota landmark and a true diamond in the rough for the region. Being a native of Sarasota, Selby has always been special. When the opportunity appeared to be part of the team that would completely transform Selby Gardens for the future, it became my full focus. After witnessing everything Jennifer Rominiecki, President & CEO has achieved since 2015, I knew Willis Smith Construction had to be part of her collaborative team. Ms. Rominiecki is a true leader and has amazing vision. Our company could not be more blessed and honored to be part of the future of Selby, and we are looking forward to helping Selby Gardens and Jennifer Rominiecki reach their end goal.”

    Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. is a construction management firm headquartered in Lakewood Ranch, primarily serving Southwest Florida since 1972. The company has a longstanding reputation for superior construction and offers its clients particular expertise in the areas of commercial, industrial, education, healthcare, museum specialty work and sustainable construction. Willis A. Smith Construction serves to promote excellence and integrity in the construction industry while contributing to the betterment of our clients and the communities we serve.

    If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Peggy Kronus at 941-366-3116 or email at

  • 07 Dec 2018 10:46 AM | Anonymous


    The Sarasota County Commission adopted the new Unified Development Code (UDC) on November 27, 2018 with an effective date of January 1, 2019. The UDC updated and combined the county's Land Development Regulations (former Chapter 74 of the County Code) and Zoning Regulations (former Appendix A of the County Code). Combining the Land Development and Zoning Regulations streamlines the ability to find significant regulatory information applicable to any given piece of property within unincorporated Sarasota County, and clarified the two regulatory codes as they were brought together. It also removed inconsistencies and addressed those provisions that were outdated, ineffective or obsolete.

    The County wishes to thank all of the participants that contributed to this effort. Your dedication to the community is greatly appreciated.Please stay involved and check back with the UDC web page for further refinements and additional tools that will be added to the site as the UDC is implemented.

    Sarasota County invites all interested individuals to access and review the UDC on the county web page at (Keywords: 'UDC').

    Sarasota County prohibits discrimination in all services, programs or activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, religion, or genetic information. Persons with disabilities who require assistance or alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.), or who wish to file a complaint, should contact Sarasota County ADA/Civil Rights Coordinator, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, Florida 34236, Phone: 941-861-5000; TTY 7-1-1 or 1-800-955-8771, E-mail:

  • 02 Nov 2018 8:57 AM | Anonymous

    Sales training methodologies developed by Sandler Training has been incorporated into Harvard Business School’s leadership curriculum.

    David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training, has worked closely with Frank V. Cespedes, faculty chair for the Aligning Strategy and Sales executive program at Harvard Business School (HBS) as well as Mark Roberge, senior lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at HBS, to incorporate Sandler sales training techniques into the school's curriculum.

    Mr. Cespedes and Mr. Roberge teach an MBA course on "Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing" (ESM), which examines customer acquisition and retention in ventures from seed stage to scaling. A case study incorporating Sandler techniques is now part of that course.

    "Entrepreneurs and business executives all over the world recognize that selling is ubiquitous and an essential skill that all students should learn before entering their careers,” said Jamie Kane, President of Sandler Training in Sarasota.

    Students receive a selling scenario case study and a series of videos of various sales interactions where the seller is not trained by Sandler. In class, they then view a second series of videos of the same interactions but where the seller is Sandler trained. After showing these videos, the instructors and Mr. Mattson will lead a discussion based on the differences between the two videos and highlight the importance of several factors taught by the Sandler selling methodology.

    Eventually, the case study and videos will be distributed by Harvard Business Review Publishing to other business schools and universities globally. As an added bonus, however, the Harvard MBA students will have access to Sandler Online, Sandler Training's vast digital sales and management library.

    Mr. Kane said, "In our firm, we find it interesting how often sales ability is looked upon as a trait some are born with while others are not. Frankly, that’s just not true. No one is born with the knowledge and ability to perform at a high level in professional sales any more than doctors, lawyers, engineers or CPA’s are born. We expect each of those professionals to have spent years learning and practicing their craft and not coincidentally, to have ongoing professional development training to continually sharpen their skills. Harvard Business School recognizes the importance of having this curriculum as an integral part of their MBA program.”

  • 02 Nov 2018 8:48 AM | Anonymous

    Jon F. Swift Construction was recently awarded the contract for the utility infrastructure portion of Quay Sarasota by GreenPointe Holdings, LLC. This phase of the project will include all underground utilities including water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and FPL. The project also includes all curbs, sidewalks and roadways for future development. Construction is planned for completion Summer of 2019.

    “We know this is a much-anticipated project by the Sarasota community and we are eager to get started,” said Development Manager of GreenPointe Holdings, LLC Brett Blank. “Jon F. Swift Construction has the experience and knowledge to complete the infrastructure portion of this project which will set the stage for the rest of the development.”

    “We are excited about the opportunity to provide the first phase of construction for the Quay, said President and Project Manager of Jon F. Swift Construction, Jason Swift. “The Quay has always been an icon in Sarasota and with the plans from GreenPointe Holdings, I know this will be a crown jewel of our community,” Swift added.

  • 25 Oct 2018 5:27 PM | Anonymous

    By John Hielscher

    Posted Oct 22, 2018 at 2:15 PM

    Florida led the nation in construction job growth over the past year, according to a new report.

    Contractors added 70,700 workers to their Florida payrolls, a 14.8 percent growth rate, in the 12 months ending in September, the Associated General Contractors of America reported.

    Florida topped the U.S. both in the number of new jobs and the annual percentage gain.

    But some of that growth rate could be skewed, analysts say, by the sharp drop in employment in Florida last September after Hurricane Irma.

    In the Sarasota-Manatee area, construction in the employment sector rose over the year by nearly 10 percent, or 2,200 jobs, the Florida Department of Employment Security said last week. A total of 24,700 were taking home paychecks from the industry.

    In Charlotte County, construction jobs increased by 300, or 8.3 percent, to a total of 3,900.

    Forty-five states added construction jobs over the year, the contractors’ group said.

    “Construction activity is expanding nearly everywhere, as only three states experienced a decline in construction employment over the past year,” said the group’s chief economist, Ken Simonson. “These results show that contractors remain upbeat about demand for projects going forward.

    “However, further employment gains may be difficult,” Simonson said, “given low unemployment in most states and an inadequate pipeline for training future construction workers.”

    A labor shortage continues to hamper construction in Southwest Florida, slowing some large-scale developments by months. Many of the subcontractors who perform most of the labor at constructions sites — from carpenters to plumbers to drywall installers — say they cannot find the staff to handle the surge of home, condominium, apartment, hotel and retail projects underway or planned.

    A recent survey by the contractors’ group found that nearly 80 percent of Florida construction firms were having a hard time filling some or all of their positions.

    The construction workforce in Sarasota-Manatee peaked at 31,800 in April 2006 but plunged to 14,900 in 2011 during the economic downturn, when building all but ceased and workers were forced to leave town or find other ways to earn a living.

    Florida ranked 22nd nationwide for over-the-month growth, adding 1,600 construction workers from August, a 0.3 percent increase, the contractors said. Construction employment declined in 17 states for the month.

    Last month, Florida’s unemployment rate reached its lowest mark since February 2007, falling from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported last week. Payrolls expanded by. 4.8 percent over the year, but analysts say yearly comparisons are difficult because of the decline in year-ago employment after Irma.

  • 11 Oct 2018 6:09 PM | Anonymous

    GATES Construction has been awarded a new project at Chris-Craft located in Sarasota. To accommodate the rise in demand for their watercraft sales and service, GATES will expand the Chris-Craft manufacturing facility with a pre-engineered metal building to increase production area. The building is to be constructed as part of a multi-phased expansion plan at this location. This project is slated for completion in the winter of 2019. Design services are provided by Gregory K. Wall AIA, P.A.

  • 13 Sep 2018 7:42 PM | Anonymous

    Karins Engineering Group (KEG), a structural engineering firm headquartered in Sarasota, has promoted executive engineer John Bonacci and hired Thomas Hagood and Jerome DiMercurio to expand on the firm’s stateof-the-art services and standards. As the Sarasota-Manatee region develops rapidly, the firm will focus on safety, durability and environmental integrity of new and restored structures in the community.

    “Our region is expanding quickly, and it is crucial to invest in high-quality development. These men provide the firm an unmatched expertise in structural engineering, as evidenced by a wealth of repeat clientele and diverse, complicated structures,” said David G. Karins, CEO/President. “They are among the best structural engineers in the industry.”

    A director at KEG since 2004, John Bonacci, PhD, PE, LEED AP has been promoted to Vice President of Engineering. As a LEED accredited professional, Bonacci will promote a higher standard of eco-friendly and sustainable standards to projects in the community through company-wide education and reinforcement.

    “Pride of achievement comes from striving for excellence, and our sustainable success stems from insisting on exceptionally high standards in our daily goals,” said Karins.

    Thomas A. Hagood, Jr., PE, SI joins KEG as Vice President of Design – Business Development and Jerome J. DiMercurio, PE, SI as the Sarasota Engineering Manager.

    Hagood and DiMercurio hold a combined 80 years of experience in structural engineering and design.

    About Karins Engineering Group - Karins Engineering Group, Inc. provides engineering design, building restoration and investigation and analysis services on projects of every size and level of complexity.

    Founded in 1999, Karins Engineering Group is headquartered in Sarasota, with offices in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Naples/Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Day

  • 13 Sep 2018 7:10 PM | Anonymous

    While unpacking old boxes from storage recently, I gained a rare glimpse back in time. I found a note that I wrote to my “future self,” penned originally while I was in high school. I wrote about a variety of things gave me a good laugh, but one thing in particular stuck out. I wrote that one day I aspired to be president of a large company.

    It was a lofty goal at the time, being from a very small “two-stoplight” kind of town in rural Georgia. Neither of my parents had graduated high school, and if accepted, I would be the first person in my family to attend college. But I was determined, so like many others, I paid my own way. It was tough, but there were moments along the way that I’ll never forget. One of those moments was the first scholarship I earned. It was like winning the lottery. The scholarship came from an accounting firm that saw something in me, and they sent me a check for $1,000. Recently on my drive in to work at PGT Innovations, I remembered what that check meant to me and my future. It was a step that helped me move in the right direction of fulfilling my “presidential” dream.

    Initiatives like that scholarship are just one way that a company can set itself apart in the eyes of a potential employee. In a tight labor market—like the one we’re experiencing now in our local area—employers need to think outside the box to attract and retain talent. Companies have to create something special that people want to be a part of.

    At PGT Innovations, we already had a top-notch health benefit package, which is the number one concern among most individuals. Earlier this year, our executive team fulfilled a long-term goal of alleviating the second biggest challenge for working families—child care—by opening a PGT Innovations-owned child care center. But the program our team put in place last year is the one that hit closest to home for me—the PGT Innovations Inspire the Future scholarship program that entitles every team member to $1,000 per child per year to send their kids to college or a trade school. To date, 57 team members have taken advantage of that program, and it’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s just one more way that in a time when companies are fighting to find the best people, PGT Innovations sought to create an environment of people helping people.

    Whether it’s giving every team member 10 shares of PGT Innovations stock so our entire company is made up of shareholders or establishing a group that encourages female leadership in our organization, we continue to look for the “next concern” of our team members so we can find a way to help.

    As I look back on that high school paper, which earned a ‘B-‘ by the way, I know now that being president of a company means so much more than just the title. It means being accountable for creating a culture that encourages inclusion, diversity and ownership with shared values of growing together. To that end, we hope you will join us at our upcoming career fair at PGT Innovations on Sept. 15 from 8 a.m. to noon at our location in North Venice to learn more about opportunities to become part of our innovative team. This event isn’t just about landing a job; it’s about securing a career.

    Jeff Jackson is CEO and president of PGT Innovations

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