September 29, 2023
Cyber threats: USF takes aim at cyber criminals
Sri Sridharan leads the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at the University of South Florida. With him are center employees.

Southwest Florida Roundup

Cyber threats: USF takes aim at cyber criminals

A new center at USF takes aim at cyber criminals.

Amy Martinez | 4/28/2015

In November 2013, Tech Data CEO Robert Dutkowsky wrote Gov. Rick Scott about one of the company’s “most urgent and important” needs: Cybersecurity.

A Clearwater-based distributor of computers, software and other technology products, Tech Data wanted to hire more Florida graduates with the skills to combat growing cyber threats. But the state’s education efforts were fragmented, he told Scott, leaving Florida with no “reliable pipeline of skilled cybersecurity professionals.”

“As a result, we’ve instead had to recruit employees and contract with companies from outside of Florida, which is expensive and time-consuming,” Dutkowsky wrote.

Last year, Scott and the Legislature appropriated $5 million to establish the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF’s Tampa campus. The center will continue to get $5 million a year from the state.

Center managing director Sri Sridharan, a longtime tech veteran, leads a statewide advisory council with representatives from every public university. The center’s staff also coordinates events and outreach efforts and administers a seedgrant program to support cybersecurity-related research throughout the State University System.

Proponents believe that USF’s proximity to the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base makes it a logical host site. Many military vets bring IT skills and security clearance when they return to civilian life, representing a large pool of potential cybersecurity professionals.

Tampa Bay also has a significant number of health care, technology and financial services firms. As prime targets for cyber criminals, they’re hiring more workers able to fight back. St. Petersburg- based Raymond James, for example, has about 100 employees dedicated to monitoring and preventing cyber attacks, up 30% from three years ago.

In February, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and other supporters gathered to celebrate the center’s launch. As the event got under way, Tampa-based Sunera, an IT and data-risk consulting firm, revealed plans to add 40 jobs in the next three years, including new positions in its cybersecurity practice.


Anne-Marie Russell is the new executive director for the Sarasota Museum of Art. She had been executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, Ariz.

San Antonio-based USAA appointed Yvette Segura as vice president and general manager of its Tampa operations. She replaces Robert Hoyland, who is retiring.

Tampa-based Laser Spine Institute promoted Lisa Melamed to corporate compliance officer. She previously served as vice president of legal affairs and general counsel. Chris Knopik, formerly chief trial counsel, moved up to chief legal officer and general counsel.

Noah Lagos is retiring after 11 years as director of St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.


Naples Winter Wine Festival

Fourteen years ago, the Naples Children & Education Foundation launched a three-day charity event to raise money for children in need in Collier County. Since then, the Naples Winter Wine Festival has supported charitable efforts for children to the tune of $135 million. Its live auction raised $12.3 million this year alone. For the first time, organizers introduced an online auction, which brought in an additional $231,000.

Business Briefs

BRANDON — West Florida Health, a new partnership between Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital, plans to begin a two-year project in June to build an outpatient center. The Brandon “healthplex” will include primary care, specialty care, a freestanding emergency room and ambulatory surgery center.

CLEARWATER — The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan completed a $1-billion purchase of moving and storage firm PODS. > A Kentucky group bought the 416- room Hilton Clearwater Beach for $134 million, a Pinellas County record. Private equity firm Kinderhook Industries bought Clearwater-based CSDVRS, which provides video relay services that enable deaf people to communicate with hearing people worldwide.

ESTERO — Hertz Global Holdings says accounting errors dating to 2011 have cost the company about $180 million. Hertz now plans $200 million in cost cuts, double its prior projection.

FORT MYERS — Suncoast Credit Union has joined with Florida Southwestern State College to build a 75,000-sq.-ft. facility that will host athletic events and concerts. Opening is scheduled for fall 2016. Sycamore Partners ended its pursuit of apparel retailer Chico’s.

MANATEE/SARASOTA COUNTIES — This year’s Modern Pentathlon World Cup 1 event in February drew about 200 athletes from more than 40 countries. Venues included Nathan Benderson Park and Selby Aquatic Center. The Bradenton-Sarasota area also will host the 2016 Modern Pentathlon World Cup Finals and the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

OLDSMAR — Lockheed Martin awarded a $5-million contract to Advanced Green Technologies of Fort Lauderdale to build a solar power system at its Oldsmar operation.

PLANT CITY — Sunshine Bancorp is paying about $31 million for Community Southern Bank, giving it about $451 million in assets. > Cody Talbert Distribution, a wholesale recreational vehicle parts and accessory supplier, is moving its headquarters to Plant City from Kissimmee.

SARASOTA — The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art will build a glass pavilion featuring art glass donated by longtime collectors Philip and Nancy Kotler and Warren and Margot Coville. Construction of the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion is expected to begin in early 2016.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Kolter Group plans a 174-room Hyatt hotel as part of a $200-million retail/condo project near downtown’s waterfront. Construction is expected to begin next spring and finish in fall 2017. > PSCU, a credit union service organization, began looking for a permanent successor to former CEO Michael Kelly. COO Tom Gandre is acting CEO. > Miami real estate firm Altis Cardinal bought 10.5 acres in the Kenwood area and plans an extension of Skyline Fifth, a 178-unit apartment building it owns next door.

TAMPA — Charter Communications plans to buy Bright House Networks for $10.4 billion. Bright House, a major player in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas, runs Bay News 9 and has naming rights to the Philadelphia Phillies spring training complex in Clearwater. The cable business has been consolidating from dozens of regional players to a handful of giants. > USF’s Muma College of Business named its accounting school in honor of retired Raymond James executive Lynn Pippenger after she donated $10 million. Tampa Tank and Florida Structural Steel plans to invest $18 million in an expansion and add 108 jobs, including 24 at its Ybor City headquarters and 84 at a refurbished facility in south Hillsborough County. Blue Pearl Veterinary CEO Darryl Shaw plans to convert an old Ybor City cigar factory to apartments. The project, separate from Shaw’s veterinary business, will get a $250,000 historic preservation grant from Hillsborough County. St. Louis-based Express Scripts announced more layoffs in Tampa, affecting 216 employees. The pharmacy benefits manager laid off 422 last June in Tampa. > Supply Chain Equity Partners, a private equity firm focused on the distribution industry, has moved to Tampa from Cleveland, occupying 4,800 square feet in the downtown Wells Fargo Center. Florida Hospital Carrollwood began a $71-million expansion and renovation that’s expected to end in 2017.

WESLEY CHAPEL — Construction is under way on a 150,000-sq.-ft. ice rink complex in partnership with Florida Hospital. Scheduled to open this fall, it’s billed as the largest ice rink complex in the Southeast.

Tags: Southwest

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