December 2, 2023
ATS SW May 2023
Mudano's AmSkills offers the state's first registered robotics technician apprenticeship.

Photo: Mark Wemple

ATS SW May 2023
Rapid7 is teaming up with USF to create a cyber-threat lab.

Photo: USF

ATS SW May 2023
St. Petersburg's Sunken Gardens has a new $180, 000 sign patterned after the showy one that the gardens had in the 1960s, when it was best known as a Florida roadside attraction.

Photo: Dirk Shadd | Tampa Bay Times

Southwest Florida Roundup

Robot Training

AmSkills is hoping to become the go-to place for learning about automation.

Art Levy | 5/26/2023


Robot Training

Tom Mudano, president and CEO of Pasco County-based AmSkills, is aiming for his workforce-education non-profit “to become a destination point for robotics training in the state of Florida.”

To get there, AmSkills has joined with the Florida Department of Education to offer the state’s first registered robotics technician apprenticeship program. AmSkills has also been designated as an authorized training center for Denmark-based Universal Robots, which makes robots designed to work alongside humans. The designation means that anyone in the world who has a Universal Robots robot can visit AmSkills for five days and learn how to use it from a certified instructor.

AmSkills programs are open to high school students — the group has a training program in place at Anclote High School in Holiday —as well as adults wanting to work in manufacturing. It covers four counties — Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas. For $1.2 million, AmSkills has purchased 4.5 acres in Pasco County and a 14,000-sq.-ft. building on the site that’s being converted into a Mechatronics & Machining Training Center. It’s scheduled to open later this year.

The work is driven by the increasing demand for workers and technicians able to repair and maintain the sophisticated robots and other equipment being used in factories and logistics facilities. Target and Amazon are working on robotics-heavy fulfillment centers in Pasco.

“There’s going to be a huge need for technicians,” Mudano says.


  • The 1950s-era Carousel Beach Motel, which was damaged by 2022’s Hurricane Ian, is being replaced by the latest phase of the Gulfside Twelve condominium development on Estero Island.


  • Strive Sales, a Great Britain-based staffing agency that works with software startups, is establishing a U.S. headquarters in Tampa, where it plans to fill 11 jobs in accounting and sales roles.
  • Cybersecurity firm Ridgeline International of Virginia is opening an office in Tampa, where it plans to hire 30.


  • Collier County commissioners are considering a $24-million plan to build an emergency berm —more than 400,000 tons of sand —between Marco Island and Barefoot Beach to protect homes and businesses left vulnerable by Hurricane Ian-caused beach erosion.


  • BayCare Health System has opened its $246-million BayCare Hospital West Chapel in Pasco County. The six-story hospital has 86 beds.
  • Tampa General Hospital has renovated its 18-bed regional burn center, which includes a six-bed intensive care unit and a 12-bed wound care unit. The facility is one of five burn centers in the state.


  • Polk County is giving $400,000 in incentives each to two manufacturing companies with the expectation that the firms will expand and add jobs.
  • Keymark, which makes aluminum parts, will use the money to move to a larger space in Polk County and add up to 175 jobs.
  • Frinsa, a canned fish and seafood company, will open a factory in Lakeland, where it plans to hire 150.


  • Tradepoint Atlantic, a Baltimore-based logistics hub and industrial center operator, will lease 35 acres at Port Tampa Bay, where it will operate a warehouse. The 500,000-sq.-ft.-facility will transfer cargo between ocean containers, trucks and rail cars.
  • Dolphin Aviation, a tenant at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport since 1969, has been sold to New York-based Hawthorne Global Aviation Services. It had been owned by the family of Ron Ciaravella, who purchased Dolphin Aviation in 1979 and died in 2021.


  • The University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus is getting its first student center and residential housing complex. The 100,000-sq.-ft., $42-million complex is projected to open in fall 2024.
  • USF trustees have set aside as much as $22 million to pay for the planning and design of a 35,000-seat football stadium on the Tampa campus. The Bulls currently play home football games at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but want a new stadium by 2026.


Cyber Education

Boston-based Rapid7, a cybersecurity firm specializing in cloud risk management, has partnered with the University of South Florida to create a cyber-threat lab to support research by students and professors.

Called the Rapid7 Cyber Threat Intelligence Lab, the facility is being funded by a $1.5-million donation from Rapid7. The lab will be based out of USF’s College of Engineering and also will include endowed faculty positions in USF’s College of Arts and Sciences, College of Behavioral and Community Science, College of Engineering and the Muma College of Business.

The lab will also work with Cyber Florida, a statewide cybersecurity initiative based at USF. College of Engineering dean Robert Bishop says the partnership will provide USF “faculty and students with invaluable access to real-world data and challenges.”

Rapid7, which has an office in Tampa, has more than 10,000 customers worldwide.


“Maybe we're not going to save all these kids if we do this. Maybe it isn't the perfect solution. … But you've got a chance here today, ladies and gentlemen, to take some action, take a vote, and save a child's life. … You can talk about philosophy all day long. It's a child's life that's at stake here."

— Sam Bell in the 1982 Florida House floor speech fighting to save legislation requiring car seats for babies and young children. His impassioned address flipped dozens of votes against the measure and Florida became a leader in child safety. Bell, who served for 14 years in the Florida House of Representatives and is remembered for his contributions to health policy, died in March at age 83.

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