Central Florida Roundup
60 food trucks — oh, and there's a flea market and a small-business academy, too.
Looking for ways to drive more foot traffic to a Kissimmee flea market he purchased in 2015, Nadeem Battla met with Syd Levy, who once owned Flea World in Sanford. Levy told him that people went to Flea World for the food, and they stayed for the shopping, says Battla.
Battla took Levy’s counsel to heart and started leasing space on his property to two food trucks. Interest grew, and the number of vendors multiplied. Today, World Food Trucks — which sits adjacent to Visitors Flea Market — is the largest permanent food truck park in the country, with nearly 60 trucks serving 18 types of food to more than 2 million annual customers. The park’s waitlist is 550 trucks long, and Battla is scouting for sites in South Florida, West Florida and Texas to expand the concept.
Battla created a World Food Truck Academy that meets monthly to provide free advice on an array of small-business topics. He sees it as his own way of giving back. He says his father came to the United States from Pakistan in 1959, with just $5 and an admission to Columbia University in New York. Unable to afford to live in Manhattan, he transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso and worked as a dishwasher across the border in Juarez, Mexico, while earning his first of two engineering degrees. “I grew up understanding the value of education, understanding the value of hard work, living the American dream,” Battla says.
- Sandy Hostetter, who retired last year as Central Florida regional president for Truist bank, was named vice president of asset development for Lift Orlando, the non-profit group helping to revitalize the West Lakes neighborhood near downtown Orlando. Mark Shamley, who previously managed corporate responsibility and community development for the Orlando Magic and Tupperware Brand, was appointed vice president of community impact for Lift. Terry Prather, who was COO, is now a senior adviser to the group, and Adrienne Evans has shifted from chief administrative officer to vice president of shared services.
- The Melbourne Regional Chamber has named Monica Anderson director of business development. Anderson previously worked as a community health and engagement consultant.
- Tampa-based Suncoast Credit Union, the state’s largest credit union, is expanding into Central Florida with three branches, two in Orlando and one in Kissimmee.
- Abbott Communications Group, a Maitland print shop founded in 1977, was purchased by Sandy Alexander, a commercial graphic communications firm in New Jersey. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
- Shawn Milrad, an associate professor of meteorology at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and an expert in extreme heat events and their hazards, was named a Fulbright Scholar and will spend five months in Norway next year conducting research on how summer heat stress has changed across Europe since 1950.
- Florida Cardiology, a Central Florida cardiology practice, and 10 of its doctors agreed to pay $2 million to the federal government and the state to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting inflated claims to Medicare and Medicaid. According to the lawsuit and settlement agreement, Sandeep Bajaj and Karan Reddy caused the group to bill for more intravascular stents than were actually inserted into patients, and Bajaj caused the practice to bill for radiofrequency ablations that weren’t performed by him, and in some cases, weren’t performed by a qualifying provider.
- AdventHealth and the Loma Linda University School of Medicine are creating a regional campus of the medical school in Orlando. Up to 100 students will begin their education at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine campus in Southern California and complete their third and fourth year clinical rotations, known as clerkships, at AdventHealth Orlando.
- Kaman Precision Products, a Connecticut-based defense contractor that makes fuses for explosive devices, plans to cut 101 jobs by the end of 2024, when it closes its Orlando plant. The company says it will continue to operate a small testing facility in the region.
- The 26,000-sq.-ft. Isleworth mansion that belonged to former Orlando City soccer team owner Flavio Augusto da Silva has sold for $32 million — a record sale for the Orlando market. Sozo Real Estate in Miami is the new owner, according to Orange County property records.
- Titusville-based GenH2 is partnering with the Norwegian company HYDS to provide local hydrogen liquefaction and storage in Norway and other countries.
- Orlando-based Luminar Technologies, which makes laser sensors to enhance vehicle safety and autonomy, unveiled a new sensor product called Iris+ that enables collision avoidance with small objects at up to Autobahnlevel speeds. Mercedes-Benz plans to integrate the sensor into its next generation of vehicles.
“The paycheck is not the money. It’s leaving things sustainable and better than you found them.”
— Harvey Massey, founder and chairman of Massey Services, speaking in 2016, when he was recognized with the Horatio Alger Award. The Winter Park businessman and philanthropist died in January at age 81. His company is one of the largest pest control companies in the nation.
“Dreams of greatness are the stuff of the American experience. A university achieves true greatness through a combination of vision, planning, hard work, vital support and good luck.”
— John Hitt, former president of University of Central Florida, in his 1992 inaugural address. Hitt, who passed away in February at age 82, led the school until his retirement in 2018. UCF’s enrollment tripled from 21,000 to more than 66,000 students during his tenure.