Monthly Archives: November 2021

Main Street workshops offer advice and mentoring to small business owners

Main Street workshops offer advice and mentoring to small business owners

Better Business Program classes

Main Street Fort Pierce held six Better Business Program classes for downtown merchants that covered subjects such as introduction to internet marketing and social media.


If providing expert advice and coaching for entrepreneurs can help new businesses avoid potholes on the road to success using the Business Accelerator Program, perhaps the same approach could be of use to business owners in Main Street programs.

That was the idea behind a pilot Better Business Program first suggested by the state Main Street organization to the Florida Small Business Development Center state headquarters. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Main Street Florida was anxious for downtown merchants to have access to business advice and expertise.

The state Florida SBDC office agreed and contacted Tom Kindred at the Florida SBDC at Indian River State College. Kindred had formerly been Main Street Fort Pierce manager prior to 1991. He created the pilot program for five Main Street organizations on the Treasure Coast: Fort Pierce, Lincoln Park, Vero Beach, Okeechobee and Stuart.

The Main Street Partnering for Better Business program consists of at least five training workshops, mentoring from experienced business consultants provided by the Florida SBDC and other services.

Main Street Fort Pierce and Vero Beach completed their programs this summer. Okeechobee and Stuart have programs scheduled and Lincoln Park has ongoing sessions.

“A partnership between historic business districts and the Florida SBDC is a natural [fit] because they are textbook owner-operators dealing with the challenges of a small business [often without any other help], and we provide assistance for that sector,” Kindred said.

“Logistically, they’re all in one geographic place, so it’s easier for us [at SBDC] to provide service and advice [to individual merchants if needed]. It’s a natural partnership that just makes sense.”

Pamela Carithers,  Lincoln Park Main Street

Pamela Carithers,
Lincoln Park Main Street

Lincoln Park is an economically disadvantaged area of northwest Fort Pierce that has long been plagued by crime, poverty and a low rate of new business formation.

Pamela Carithers, Lincoln Park Main Street’s manager, said that Clifton Vaughn, a Florida SBDC business consultant, scheduled five free workshops for September and October.

The long-term intent behind the program, Carithers said, is to establish one-on-one mentoring relationships with experienced business development professionals in the region. It is hoped that this will enhance business and entrepreneurial skills, create jobs and assist in the expansion and growth of the Lincoln Park business community.

The free workshops ran from Sept. 7 through Oct. 5 and were held at the Blackburn Center on Avenue D. The sessions concentrated on polishing marketing skills, particularly in the digital and social media arenas. Other workshops on time management and examining the importance of maintaining better financial literacy [gaining access to capital, recordkeeping, etc.] were also covered.

In addition to the no-cost one-on-one consulting, the course also included three hours of website analysis and participating businesses received exposure via the SBDC’s Small Business Florida radio show.

As an added incentive, participating businesses were eligible for up to a $500 grant if they completed four of the five sessions. The money must be used for business enhancement services.

Carithers noted that new business formation and activity had enjoyed reasonable success pre-COVID, but there was a sense of complacency in some parts of the community. Post-COVID, she said, “people have had to reinvent themselves. The shutdown caused people to rethink where they are, and more people are launching new businesses. I hope that continues.”

Here are other Treasure Coast Main Street programs that have successfully completed the series of workshops.

Doris Tillman, Fort Pierce Main Street

Doris Tillman, Fort Pierce Main Street

One such group is the [downtown] Fort Pierce Main Street organization. Longtime manager Doris Tillman, who celebrated beginning her 31st year in the position in August, noted that “when COVID happened, it was a big shock to everybody. [Downtown] Fort Pierce was forced to shut down. We did all we could to support local businesses.

“After the state Main Street organization disseminated information about grant aid, we reached out to Tom Kindred [of the Florida SBDC at IRSC]. He came here to personally interview business owners about grants that could help them.

“The biggest problem we’ve encountered is that some of our business owners are a bit lax in keeping financial records and bookkeeping,” she said. “It’s tough for them to come up with the required paperwork.”

To publicize the training program, Tillman said she advertised on Facebook through the Downtown Business Association, targeting hospitality and retail clothing businesses. Main Street Fort Pierce offered six classes covering the areas of understanding sales and marketing, an introduction to internet marketing and social media. Time management and financial literacy were also covered.

Tillman noted there was a “very, very high level of enthusiasm among business owners. They got very excited learning new stuff.”

Susan Gromis, Vero Beach Main Street

Susan Gromis, Vero Beach Main Street

Main Street Vero Beach also volunteered to launch its own Better Business Program. Manager Susan Gromis reported that the workshops ended in September and that 11 businesses took part.

Unlike Fort Pierce Main Street’s concentration on downtown merchants, Vero Beach attendees are more spread across the city, including the executive director of a nonprofit agency, Gromis said.

Gromis said participants were “very interested in the knowledge” they are acquiring. “I’ve gotten very positive feedback and they really enjoy the lectures,” she said.

Gromis had hoped for more participants but said the short time frame in which they had to pull the program together and its timing in August, when some business owners were traveling or on vacation, may have contributed to the relatively low numbers. She had hoped for 35-40 people at the lectures. Perhaps adjusting the dates of future sessions would help, Gromis suggested.

Paulette Wise, executive director of the Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce, reached out to Kindred at the Florida SBDC to take part in the Better Business program in partnership with Main Street Okeechobee.

Wise said classes were scheduled to run throughout September and into early October.
“But I think it’s going to be great,” Wise said. “It’s early days [as far as assessing the number of businesses taking part], “but we will be sending out more details of the classes using social media and personal emails to all our 300 members. SBDC is beginning to come into our community and I’m looking forward to that happening.”

The Main Street Better Business Program looks to be a valuable and useful precursor to more advice and mentoring from SBDC subject experts. So far, all participants have shown great interest and enthusiasm in learning more about the basics of business. More in-depth classes are just over the horizon and should help strengthen this important sector of the local business community.

See the original article in the print publication

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Nov. 29, 2021|

Roads to recovery

Roads to recovery

Orange Blossom Business Center on Okeechobee Road

St. Lucie County’s government officials plan to use part of the federal funds to prevent flooding issues in Lakewood Park and at the Orange Blossom Business Center on Okeechobee Road. The business center was underwater in 2017 after Hurricane Irma hit the area causing drainage canals to overflow their banks.

County governments allocate rescue funds for infrastructure projects


Here comes the cavalry.

One year after the federal government provided CARES funding to help small businesses and individuals recover from the financial shock of COVID-19, help is arriving for local governments who lost revenue and expended huge sums on pandemic-related services.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Biden in March, is intended to continue the nation’s economic recovery process. In addition to compensating municipalities for lost revenue and personnel costs, ARPA looks to the future and seeks to help local governments harden their infrastructure. In the process, it is hoped such work will breed improved economic growth.

Under ARPA, Congress allocated $650 billion to be distributed by local governments to assist with public health costs, negative economic impacts, replacing public sector revenue losses, giving pay supplements to essential workers and investing in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure projects.

Local governments had until May to create plans for distributing this money; funds must be expended by the end of 2026.

The three county governments on the Treasure Coast have received the first half of their total allocations, which eventually will amount to around a collective $94 million. These funds are for use in unincorporated counties and the numbers do not include separate allocations to individual cities.

How they intend to spend this windfall varies from county to county.

St. Lucie County, as the largest Treasure Coast entity, has taken the long view and intends to use its $63 million allocation largely for infrastructure projects that until now have been cost-prohibitive.

Other counties are taking a wait-and-see approach to spending their funds. Martin intends to use more money than St. Lucie on smaller expenditures, but will use 75% of its allocation on infrastructure. Indian River County, roughly the same size and population
as Martin, is taking a different approach.

Chris Dzadovsky

Chris Dzadovsky, chairman of the St. Lucie County Commission

Through a series of informal meetings and budget workshops, the county commission reviewed more than 100 separate projects suggested by county staff.

In August, it set aside:

• $55.1 million to be invested in capital projects falling under the water, sewer or broadband infrastructure category;
• $6.1 million to support the public health response to COVID; and
• $2.4 million to address adverse economic impacts caused by the pandemic.

“These funds will go a long way in making up significant infrastructure improvements within our communities with a strong emphasis on water-quality projects and economic development,” Commission Chairman Chris Dzadovsky said.

He said county staff would, as always, leverage federal funds with matching grants to ensure residents get the largest return on the investment.

The St. Lucie infrastructure expenditures are intended to address long-standing inadequacies in several areas in the county:

• $34.1 million for water and sewer lines expansion in Lakewood Park and along Midway Road;
• $17.8 million on collecting/treating stormwater countywide, including vulnerable areas in White City, Indian River Estates, Sunland Gardens and Harmony Heights neighborhoods; and
• Additional work will be done in improving drainage and water-quality issues in Ten Mile Creek, Indrio Savannas and Hog Pen Slough, many of which directly impact the North Fork of the St. Lucie River and then the Indian River Lagoon.

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council has long played an advisory role in economic development throughout the region. Its COVID Recovery Task Force has been meeting for several months to coordinate and align members’ economic development efforts.

The task force surveyed regional needs and found a mixed bag. According to Thomas Lanahan, executive director, the council wants to share best practices and fine-tune individual projects, even though regional planners have no direct financial control of county budgets.

Lanahan noted there are many costly, long-neglected projects on the Treasure Coast that have foundered for primarily financial constraints. Lanahan said using ARPA funds might help bring some of these previously out-of-reach projects to fruition.

“[The COVID epidemic] has brought so much suffering,” Lanahan noted. “Wouldn’t it be great if something good could come out of it? Frittering away funds on a thousand small projects would be sad.

“For instance, the WPA [Works Progress Administration] after the Great Depression left us with a legacy of post offices, bridges and other public works projects that had a phenomenal effect [on people’s lives],” he said. “Wouldn’t it be good if our assets lasted long enough to benefit those who built them?”

Lanahan went on to note that with today’s interest rates at historical lows, this would be a great time to invest in costly infrastructure. While this approach met with an enthusiastic response from county officials on the task force, ultimately the spending decisions come down to local elected officials, who may have different priorities.

stormwater retention project in White City

Although the stormwater retention project in White City is funded with money from other sources, it is typical of the sort of project St. Lucie County is planning to use its rescue funds on.

George Stokus

George Stokus, Martin County assistant county administrator

George Stokus, Martin County’s assistant county administrator, is taking a cautious approach to allocating his county’s ARPA funds. Stokus had similar responsibilities with CARES funding and noted how federal rules kept changing over time. He expects the same thing to occur with ARPA funds, noting that the rules for the latter are more restrictive.

Rather than being caught flat-footed after spending big amounts of money, Stokus prefers to keep his powder dry and allocate smaller sums at a time.

In particular, Martin County is working on addressing the harm COVID inflicted on low- to moderately-low income residents. County officials have been mapping specific areas of need in the county – from emergency food supplies [through the Salvation Army and House of Hope] to expanding childcare services, which Stokus sees as a huge” need for many working parents who cannot afford to take time off work to look after their children.

The county is working on grant aid programs to ease the childcare dilemma for lower income parents.

Martin County does have some bigger spending priorities. Stokus noted that “ARPA pushes counties into capital projects. Seventy-five percent of our $31 million allocation will go to stormwater and septic-to-sewer and other capital projects. Yet people are still struggling. It’s a roughly 70-30 split between capital and ongoing spending priorities. It’s our job to put the pipes in the ground.”

So, along with allocating a $13 million capital sewer systems fund, the county is also setting aside $2.6 million for small business needs.

“There’s a strong need for raising capital to help small businesses,” Stokus explained. “That’s particularly pressing in the restaurant industry.”

Martin intends to allocate $3.5 million toward the REACH Center at the airport in Stuart, a project done in conjunction with Indian River State College to provide continuing education and career guidance services.

Martin County will also allocate $1 million toward enhancing broadband communications in specific areas such as Palm City Ranches. This is a relatively affluent neighborhood where many residents formerly drove to Palm Beach County for work. Many found working from home during the pandemic problematic because of poor internet connections.

“ARPA is an infusion of cash into the local economy,” Stokus said. “The feds have reset the work cycle. Our commissioners see value in long-term infrastructure and in creating [conditions] that are good for neighborhoods.”

Yet having $31 million in ARPA funding is only the beginning, Stokus believes.

“We need to turn that $30 million into $100 million with matching grants,” he said. “It’s all about capitalizing on the federal money. If the apple tree is there, you need to pick it!”

Thomas Lanahan

Thomas Lanahan, executive director of Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

Indian River County’s allocations approach runs somewhere between the extremes of St. Lucie and Martin counties.

While Indian River does propose spending $3 million of its $31 million total allocation on water/sewer and broadband infrastructure projects, commissioners voted to spend a combined $5.5 million on payments to essential workers [$1.4 million] and on responses to the public health emergency [$4.9 million]. These include the enhanced cleaning of public buildings, miscellaneous quarantine-like expenses such as providing Plexiglas screens and dividers. The county also wants to help small businesses recover.

One interesting project that may or may not qualify for ARPA funding is the creation of a satellite campus at the old Fellsmere Inn in partnership with Indian River State College. The site would include a commercial bed and breakfast operation that would provide jobs and continuing education opportunities for residents along with a new revenue stream for the county.

Kristen Daniels, director of the Indian River County office of management and budget, noted that despite the county’s healthy growth rate of 6.14%, there have been serious shortfalls in utilities, debt service and internal service revenue streams to the tune of $19.7 million. The county will use a portion of its ARPA funds to address some of that shortfall.

So, will the massive pot of federal money that ARPA brings be enough to redress imbalances caused by the pandemic? And will the virus’ continued mutation and virulence only bring bigger bills in the future?

ARPA provides desperately-needed assistance to beleaguered local government, after CARES funding helped small business owners and individuals through paycheck programs.

ARPA is a federal stimulus program that attempts to keep control of the purse strings in the hands of those at the local level. Perhaps one day we will no longer need such enormous financial help from the federal government. Until then ARPA recipients must leverage all the help they can get to spread the wealth as widely as possible and bring impetus to the nation’s economic recovery.

See the original article in the print publication

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Nov. 29, 2021|

Is Your Business Ready for Holiday Foot Traffic?

Is Your Business Ready for Holiday Foot Traffic?



With the holiday season upon us, and one that includes supply chain challenges and labor shortages, “rebound shopping” will occur as many felt they missed out on retail experiences over the past year. But the main tip we’ve taken from news stories over the past few weeks is that starting early is a must. According to a RetailMeNot survey, 83% of holiday shoppers indicate they’ll get started before Thanksgiving and 30% say they’re starting even earlier than they did last year.

Other holiday shopping trends of import this year include simplified methods for returning items and also free shipping. So how can businesses and organizations set themselves apart in this unique holiday season? With an effective visual communication strategy for all by keeping these three things in mind:

1. Signs for savings

While some may have some extra funds due to limited time getting out and about over the past year, most savvy shoppers are still looking for a great bargain. From hanging signs to window graphics and festive cutouts, retailers can entice customers by visually communicating any deals or shipping discounts. A-frames can also grab the attention of passersby in a retail space who might just stop in because of the savings a store is offering. Banners and banner stands can also assist with your communication strategy this holiday season.

2. Signs for holiday foot traffic

With very little time and a need to move quickly through a shopping space, retail establishments can set themselves apart by incorporating signs with their customers top-of-mind. Stanchions can assist with crowd control for checkout lines while well-marked areas for different services can help shoppers move throughout the space and complete their holiday needs in a timely manner. Signs can also help highlight and point the way to departments and gift sections that might be a little off the main traffic path. It just might help them find the perfect gift they were searching for!

3. Signs for seamless pickup options

If curbside pickup or options to order online and pickup instore aren’t in your business vocabulary, it’s time to re-shape your plan. Click and collect options hit their heyday in 2020, and their popularity means they’re here to stay. The National Retail Federation discovered that Buy Online Pickup In Store actually improved shoppers’ experience for 70% of those surveyed as it increased convenience. 90% of customers claimed they were more likely to choose a store based on experience. With experience as a large part of why someone might choose your store over a competitor, invest a few moments in a holiday audit by walking around your store to assess any areas that might require more signage for a positive shopping experience.

The holly jolly time is fast approaching. Are you ready for the early onset of holiday shoppers that have been advised not to postpone checking off their list this year?

Nov. 29, 2021|

VITAS IT Provides Quality Support

VITAS IT Provides Quality Support


Naresh Samlal, associate VP of IT support

Naresh Samlal, associate VP of IT support, says, the VITAS culture is “unparalleled in the sense that we are unified in providing the absolute best experience for our patient care staff.”



Hospice happens around the clock. The VITAS information technology support team stands ready 24/7, embracing a can-do attitude to ensure care never falters due to a downed router or system lockout.

This team of passionate professionals makes sure every technological tool used within the organization features a human touch and serves the people-focused mission of hospice.

At VITAS, a complex technological infrastructure enables everything from corporate operations to emergency communications to the interdisciplinary teams who provide hands-on care to patients.

The IT support team is constantly developing and maintaining tools and systems critical to everyday operations. “The tech our employees utilize is leading-edge; it’s not what you’d find in a typical healthcare system,” says Naresh Samlal, associate vice president of IT support at VITAS. “We’re very passionate about continuously supporting our business, which is evolving faster than ever before.”

Passion drives Naresh. He began his IT career right out of high school on a hunch that experience and certification would take him farther in his field than a college degree.

Despite taking a less-traveled career path, his commitment to self-improvement, adaptability, and responsiveness to the needs of others was rewarded with professional possibilities at VITAS.

Before joining VITAS, Naresh sharpened his engineering and management skills in a variety of industries. In 2014, he was the owner and operator of an IT consulting firm when a significant life event drew his attention to healthcare: His grandmother underwent triple bypass surgery.

“During that experience, I was exposed to healthcare in an intimate manner, and it made me really appreciate what healthcare professionals do,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of that in my own way, knowing that while I can’t do what they do, I can help by doing what I do better than anybody else.”

VITAS’ reputation as a leader in providing people-focused care—and as a respected employer of passionate, purpose-driven individuals—drew Naresh to the organization. He joined VITAS as an IT manager and rose to the position of director of mobility and process automation in just over a year.

Shortly after receiving a promotion to AVP of IT support, Naresh witnessed the meaning of hospice firsthand.

“My grandmother passed away on our service,” he says. “I had the good fortune of introducing hospice and VITAS to our entire family, and it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to us.”

Throughout Naresh’s tenure with VITAS, IT support has developed powerful tools and solutions to challenges. Virtual reality therapy, an award-winning VITAS app, a Dynamic 365 sales platform, a fully mobilized nursing force, and support for remote work all owe their successes to VITAS’ can-do IT experts.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of the VITAS technology team,” he says. “We are challenged with doing more than simply keeping the lights on, which is a common theme during this pandemic for most healthcare systems.”

Naresh is proud of the awards, national media coverage, and industry recognition his team has received for their work over the years.

“At VITAS, we get to play with and leverage next-level technology—not just in healthcare, but in the tech landscape as a whole,” he says. For example, VITAS is the only major healthcare provider in the US to use virtual reality technology in the treatment of patients rather than strictly as a training tool.

“We have a culture in IT unlike anywhere else I’ve been; it’s unparalleled in the sense that we are unified in providing the absolute best experience for our patient care staff,” says Naresh. “We truly believe in our mission.”

If you’re interested in joining a team defined by people-focused compassion and industry-leading expertise, explore VITAS openings near you.


Nov. 29, 2021|

SouthState Hires Veterans

SouthState Hires Veterans


Scott Ellsworth



Leaving behind a way of life and camaraderie of fellow soldiers can be daunting for some veterans reentering the civilian workforce after years away.

SouthState aims to ease this transition for veterans interested in the financial field through a partnership with SkillBridge.

Nearing the end of his military service, Scott Ellsworth traded in explosives for prepaid debit cards when he joined SouthState on Nov. 1. Ellsworth, a staff sergeant with more than seven years in the U.S. Air Force, began as an intern before accepting a full-time position as prepaid cards operations manager.

Ellsworth’s military service follows in the footsteps of the men in his family. His great-grandfather served in the U.S. Army prior to the existence of the Air Force, and his grandfather and uncle were both in the Air Force.

Working on large-scale weapons his predecessors couldn’t have imagined, Ellsworth served as a munitions technician. “It’s a fancy way of saying that I was responsible for building, storing, delivering, inspecting, and maintaining all explosives from bombs, missiles, 20-millimeter rounds, 30-millimeter rounds, to many more explosive military assets,” he explains. His job while deployed, often nicknamed “ammo,” was to build 500-pound and 2,000-pound bombs and deliver them to assigned aircraft.

Ellsworth considered a career change for a while, but naturally felt some apprehension about stepping away from a steady government paycheck. Learning about opportunities available through SkillBridge gave him the push he needed. “I knew that I wanted to pursue my passion more than living in fear,” he recalls. “When I learned of the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, I immediately knew that this would be the conduit for reaching my goals.”

Initial meetings with Director of Campus Recruiting and Career Development Lisa Blatter, Campus Strategy Manager Raquel Morales, and Director of Capital Markets Chris Nichols confirmed for Ellsworth that he made the right choice in SouthState. “Essentially, I felt like part of the team already just through our interactions … I loved the culture and decided that SouthState Bank would be my company of choice,” he says.

Ellsworth served as an intern with Correspondent Banking in summer 2021 and quickly made his mark with his research on the correlation between net interest margin and return on equity. “Chris Nichols publishing my work on the topic was the highlight of my internship,” he says.

As prepaid cards operations manager, Ellsworth will lead a team of three while researching current trends, working to streamline and improve efficiency, and preparing the department to bring in new technology. The skills and knowledge for building bombs and managing the prepaid cards division vary greatly on the surface, but Ellsworth brings much of his military experience over to banking.

“My entire military career trained me to remain flexible, adaptable and to learn quickly…. (through) on-the-job training as opposed to sitting in classrooms,” he says. “Although the military offered an abundance of challenges, these challenges were coupled with skills and lessons that will forever help me to be a better person.”

SouthState, a SkillBridge partner since 2019, is authorized through the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to work with veterans and provide training and internship opportunities in preparation for civilian careers. In fact, the bank is one of only a few financial institutions nationwide to participate.

Nov. 29, 2021|

Treasure Coast Unemployment is Down

Treasure Coast Unemployment is Down



Interview Image


The Great Resignation may be gaining steam across the nation, but you wouldn’t know it from the record employment levels on the Treasure Coast.

With an estimated 1,745 local residents with new jobs in October, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s latest monthly telephone survey, the region had an estimated 287,779 residents with jobs, exceeding the previous high of 286,594 set in July.

With the region’s available workforce growing by 1,470 people in October, 275 less than the number of people with new jobs, the three-county region’s combined unemployment rate slid to 4.1% in October from 4.3% in September. October's increase in jobs was slightly more than in September when about 1,500 Treasure Coast residents were hired. The unemployment rate dropped more sharply in September because the region’s available workforce decreased for a second consecutive month after six months of steady increases.

Florida has regained 89% of the jobs lost during the pandemic, and continues to see significant increases in its labor force. The state’s available workforce is up 195,000 since February 2020, while the number of employed has increased by 112,000.Data in October indicated there were many job opportunities available throughout Florida, with more than 518,000 jobs posted online.

Meanwhile, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday showed a record 4.4 million people — about 3% percent of the nation’s workforce — quit in September. It marked a third consecutive record month of resignations, coming off the 4.3 million recorded in August and 4 million in July. Those who quit and are not actively seeking new jobs are not counted as unemployed. Women — who are more likely to be in positions that require in-person work, heightening their risk for coronavirus infection — have borne the brunt of  job losses since the pandemic began, research from the Brookings Institution shows.

The hardest-hit industry sectors have been retail, warehouses, food service, health care and social-assistance jobs, the Labor Department data shows. In September, workers in arts, entertainment, health services and education left their jobs at higher rates, while quits remained high among those in leisure and hospitality; restaurants; and retail. Quits also are soaring among manufacturing and warehouse workers, who are straining under the pressures of surging demand and crunched supply chains.

A recent survey — “State of Work in America,” by the business consulting firm Grant Thornton — found that flexibility in when and where work is done now outweighs compensation as a concern for many employees, with half of the respondents saying they would give up a salary increase for more flexibility. Colliding with an existing labor shortage, the surge of quits puts employers under more pressure to retain employees. At the end of September, there were more than 10.4 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. workforce, according to Labor Department data. That has spurred some companies to raise wages and offer sign-on bonuses and other deal sweeteners. For the first time, the national average hourly pay for non-managers at restaurants and bars topped $15 in May.

Noting the infrastructure legislation President Joe Biden signed last week provides money for 2 million apprenticeships, Labor Department Secretary Marty Walsh told a webinar that many people leaving jobs they don’t want need help in finding better opportunities. Better ways must be found to tell people what jobs are available with a little bit of training and a little help, Walsh said in a forum of the Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation.

Walsh praised apprenticeships as pathways to learn how to do jobs. "Apprenticeships," he said, 'are the way of the future.”

Nov. 29, 2021|

Local Boys & Girls Club awarded $50,000

Local Boys & Girls Club awarded $50,000 to support tomorrow’s leaders






Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County (BGCSLC) has been named the Treasure Coast’s 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for its work to create economic and social progress in underserved communities.
BGCSLC is receiving $50,000 in grant support to expand its “Into the Future” program providing teens with soft skills training, job exploration tours, apprenticeships and other workforce readiness initiatives. This funding will help hire additional staff and contribute to the creation of the Club’s new Fort Pierce Workforce Readiness Resource Center, that is planned to be the epicenter of the organization’s year-round workforce readiness activities.
As Neighborhood Champion, BGCSLC will also participate in virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling. 
“As communities continue to recover and navigate a changing landscape, nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie are helping ensure all residents can move forward from the pandemic by creating economic opportunities vital to low-and-moderate income neighborhoods,” said Doug Sherman, president, Bank of America Treasure Coast. “Bank of America is investing in the region’s future by working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie to bridge important gaps for the next generation and charting a path toward racial equality and inclusion in the communities we serve. Programs like Neighborhood Champions helps these organizations grow sustainably and strategically for a greater positive impact in the Treasure Coast.”
The Club’s “Into the Future” initiative also strives to help resolve the recent labor shortages many businesses are experiencing as they quickly scale their operations back to pre-pandemic levels. The skills and experiences participants gain from the program will help them enter and succeed in jobs critical to many of the Treasure Cost’s key industries.
“We are very thankful for this generous donation from Bank of America. This will have an immediate impact on our teens as we prepare them with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in the next chapter in their lives,” said Will Armstead, CEO of BGCSLC.
Alongside the Treasure Coast, the bank will bring the program to over 42 additional communities across the U.S. this fall as part of its commitment to investing in the long-term health of communities. The Neighborhood Champions program is invitation-only for nonprofits who are poised to take their work to the next level. Leading members of the community participated in a collaborative selection process to identify this year’s awardee.
The Neighborhood Champions program is an extension of the bank’s signature philanthropic initiative, Neighborhood Builders®, the largest corporate philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership in the country. Since the program’s inception in 2019, Bank of America has invested $6.3 million in 126 organizations within 42 communities through the Neighborhood Champions program.
Bank of America
At Bank of America, we’re guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. We’re delivering on this through responsible growth with a focus on our environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership. ESG is embedded across our eight lines of business and reflects how we help fuel the global economy, build trust and credibility, and represent a company that people want to work for, invest in and do business with. It’s demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our clients, and the impact we make around the world in helping local economies thrive. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups, such as community, consumer and environmental organizations, to bring together our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. Learn more at, and connect with us on Twitter (@BofA_News).
For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom and register for news email alerts.
Nov. 22, 2021|

United Way Seeks Volunteers to Assist in Free Tax Preparation

United Way Seeks Volunteers to Assist in Free Tax Preparation



United Way



United Way of Indian River County seeks volunteers to prepare tax returns for individuals and families with low to moderate incomes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.


This year, VITA will have hybrid services, including in-person and drop-off opportunities at 5 locations across Indian River County: United Way Center and United Against Poverty in Vero Beach, North Indian River County Library in Sebastian, and Fellsmere at Literary Services and the Fellsmere Community Enrichment Program.


VITA volunteers do more than prepare people’s taxes. They play a critical role in ensuring that low-income workers have access to valuable tax credits without paying tax preparation fees.


The benefits of becoming a VITA volunteer include free IRS training and materials to help you develop a lifelong skill and build your resume; flexible dates and times convenient to your schedule; ongoing support; Continuing Education Credits for eligible volunteers; a Certificate of Recognition and Letter of Appreciation from the IRS at the end of the tax season; and the personal satisfaction you’ll gain from providing an essential service to your community.


Volunteers of all backgrounds are welcome. Available positions include tax preparers, clerical assistants, greeters, and interpreters. Retirees, students looking for work experience, and individuals with accounting and finance knowledge are highly encouraged to participate. The tax software guides you every step of the way, and volunteers are protected under the Volunteer Protection Act.


Volunteers have the option to complete IRS certification training online or attend an in-person two-day training offered on January 21st and 22nd. Certified volunteers must commit to at least 4 to 8 hours a week from mid-January through April 2021. All VITA volunteers must attend orientation in January. If you would like to volunteer or for more information, please fill out a volunteer application online at or contact Stacy Benezra at (772) 567-8900 ext. 120.


About United Way of Indian River County

United Way of Indian River County (UWIRC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every community member. United Way works

with local programs to provide resources to individuals and families in crisis today while working year-round to improve community conditions and create lasting solutions. We are effectively building a strong foundation and improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. For more information about your local United Way, please call (772) 567-8900 or visit our website,

Nov. 22, 2021|

Florida Solar Industry Leader Rebrands to Sailfish Solar

Florida Solar Industry Leader Rebrands to Sailfish Solar



Sailfish Solar



Martin County Solar and several of its regional affiliates have rebranded their corporate identity to Sailfish Solar. The move consolidates seven statewide offices under the same banner. As Florida’s solar industry enters a fifth year of exponential growth, Sailfish Solar is poised to remain a leader on the cutting edge of solar solutions that benefit the consumer and the grid alike.
“By expanding and combining forces, Sailfish Solar is excited to continue serving consumers and construction trades that are working to implement solar power solutions anywhere from the Florida Panhandle down to Miami,” said Mike Antheil, partner and founder of Sailfish Solar. “But we will always stay true to our Treasure Coast roots, along with our commitment to a neighborly customer experience and the importance of local operations.”
As electricity prices have increased, most Florida markets have achieved a notable tipping point referred to as “grid parity,” which occurs when the cost of generating solar power is equal to the cost of purchasing electricity from the utility. This paradigm shift depends on several factors, including historically increasing local electricity rates, state policies, various financing incentives, and technical performance of the solar installation. As in mature solar markets, this shift marks the beginning of a broadscale adoption of customer-owned solar power in Florida.
“With grid parity opening up the residential market, an average homeowner in Florida can achieve payback on a solar investment in seven years,” said Antheil. “Solar really does make financial sense at this point. As the market advances, consumers will have more and more options, and the industry leaders will be defined by knowledge, history, local expertise, and best customer experience.”
Sailfish Solar’s business operations feature teams of solar experts in key markets across the state, employing local labor, customer service, and service personnel, while still offering centralized distribution and supply management. This model allows for the lowest possible prices for the highest quality equipment.
“The growth of our company and the consolidation of our different brands has been in the works for a long time,” said Kevin Kelley, director of operations for Sailfish Solar. “We are taking a slow but deliberate approach to delivering the local, hometown expertise and service that our customers expect from us, while also delivering a streamlined cost basis that can only come from centralized supply and bulk purchasing power.”
Kelley also leads Sailfish Solar’s trades division, offering turnkey solar power development in partnership with roofers, architects, and contractors, with a specialty in new-build construction projects.
Sailfish Solar is committed to remaining a leader in Florida’s solar power market, functioning as a developer, project manager, and thought leader in the industry.
About Sailfish Solar
Sailfish Solar is a solar development and project management company serving the entire state of Florida. Sailfish Solar specializes in photovoltaic (PV) solar power for residential and commercial applications, and battery backup systems. For more information on solar power and grid parity, please view this video or visit
Nov. 22, 2021|

Michigan company purchases Vero Beach Magazine’s assets

Michigan company purchases Vero Beach Magazine’s assets



Best of the TC Graphic


Michigan-based Hour Media has purchased the assets of Vero Beach Magazine from Moulton Media, a company founded by Beth Moulton of Vero Beach 24 years ago.
The sale was announced Nov. 12. Hour Media purchased the assets through its subsidiary Palm Beach Media Group, publisher of Palm Beach Illustrated, Naples Illustrated, Fort Lauderdale Illustrated, Jupiter Magazine, Stuart Magazine, Aventura and Florida Design.
Hour Media, the largest publisher of city and regional magazines in the country,  and its related entities produce more than 150 magazines and custom titles throughout the United States.
The purchase leaves Indian River Magazine as one of the few locally owned competitors to Vero Beach Magazine. Indian River Magazine Inc. was founded in 2006 by Treasure Coast natives Gregory Enns and Allen Osteen and today, through its Indian River Media Group, produces nine titles in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Brevard counties. Besides Indian River Magazine, the titles include Space Coast Living, Port St. Lucie Magazine, Treasure Coast Business Magazine, Fort Pierce Magazine, Discover the Space Coast, the St. Lucie travel guide and programs for the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce and Emerson Center in Vero Beach.
Nov. 22, 2021|