Photo: Alessandro Della Bella/ETH Zurich
Northwest Florida Roundup
Robot power at Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition
For the second time in as many years, the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition turned in a strong showing at an international robotics competition. IHMC’s latest success was a second-place showing in the “powered exoskeleton” division of the Cybathlon competition in Switzerland, in October. In 2015, Pensacola-based IHMC’s robotics team placed second and won $1 million in an international bi-pedal robot competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The Cybathlon was a competition for disabled athletes using wearable robotic exoskeletons that allowed them to perform physically demanding tasks. IHMC’s athlete was Mark Daniel (right), who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2007 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Daniel used a Mina v2 exoskeleton developed by IHMC to perform tasks such as sitting down and standing up from a sofa; walking through a slalom course without hitting a series of poles; climbing a ramp and opening a door; walking up and down stairs; and walking on a path while landing his feet on random flat stones.
GADSDEN COUNTY — Air ambulance service provider LifeFlight Tallahassee closed its Gadsden County base in October. The company’s Gadsden operation had 15 employees, who were being offered jobs in the company’s other northwest Florida locations.
LYNN HAVEN — Jensen USA, a supplier of equipment to the commercial laundry industry, is expanding in Lynn Haven. Jensen employs 200. It added 26 jobs in 2016 and has committed to creating 25 additional jobs over the next two years.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Two major hotels have begun construction. Hampton Inn & Suites is building a 182-room hotel on Front Beach Road, and SpringHill Suites by Marriott has a 200-room hotel under construction.
PENSACOLA — Pensacola city officials broke ground in late October on a $46-million VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering hangar facility at Pensacola International Airport. The project is expected to bring some 400 jobs paying between $30,000 and $58,000 annually. First Bancshares of Hattiesburg, Miss., is buying Gulf Coast Community Bank for $2.3 million in stock. Gulf Coast Community Bank has $133 million in assets.
TALLAHASSEE — Lucky’s Market, a Colorado-based organic supermarket chain, opened its fifth Florida location in November near College Square Shopping Center. Werner Hyundai opened its 54,000-sq.-ft. facility in Tallahassee in October.
Innovation Coast, a non-profit organization promoting startups in northwest Florida, appointed Tiffany A. Sullivan as executive director. Sullivan, an attorney with a 14-year background in civil litigation and community service, says her initial focus will be on building relationships with leaders of the region’s technology and knowledge-based communities.
“I’ve learned that community initiatives are only as effective as the quality of relationships that you build within the community,” says Sullivan.
She will manage day-to-day operations, recruitment and membership development and oversee the Innovation Awards, a statewide business plan competition that offers $250,000 to startup firms.
» Chris Hart was named president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. Hart, formerly president and CEO of Career- Source Florida, replaces Bill Johnson, who resigned.
» Kerri Post is the new director of Visit Tallahassee. Post previously was Florida’s deputy secretary of state, where she oversaw the state’s cultural, heritage, library and marketing programs.
» Al Latimer is the new CEO of the Office of Economic Vitality, the recently formed economic development hub for Tallahassee and Leon County. Prior to his appointment, Latimer spent 18 years as an executive with Enterprise Florida.
» Leadership Florida named Wendy Spencer president. She will replace Wendy Walker, who held the position for 27 years. Spencer was CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a presidentially appointed position.