April 13, 2024
Sustainable Boating
The R30 can accommodate up to 12 people, has a run time of up to eight hours and can reach a maximum speed of 45 mph.

Photo: Blue Innovations Group

Sustainable Boating
John Vo's Blue Innovations Group unveiled its first electric boat.

Photo: Blue Innovations Group

Sustainable Boating

The Sarasota Children's Museum filed for non-profit status in late 2023 and is beginning programming later this year. The museum is the brainchild of Asya Stuart, left, and Christina "CC: Fredricks, two local mothers who observed that there was no dedicated space for immersive children's education in Sarasota County after the Fulfcoast Wonder & Imagination Zone closed in 2012.

Photo: Sarasota Children’s Museum

Sustainable Boating
The Epicurean Hotel in Tampa recently reopened after completing $21 million in renovations. Expansions include 51 guest rooms, 91 additional parking spaces and meeting rooms. Apartments converted into large suites with dining areas will open in the spring.

Photo: Marriott

Southwest Florida Roundup

Sustainable Boating

Laura Lyon | 3/14/2024


Blue Innovations Group, an electric boat startup in Pinellas Park, has unveiled its first EV boat — the R30. The 30-foot vessel can accommodate up to 12 people, has a run time of up to eight hours on a 221-kWh battery pack and can reach a maximum speed of 45 mph. Amenities include a kitchenette, a bathroom with a bidet, an expandable solar canopy and air conditioning.

CEO John Vo says the electric cruiser was intended to stand out amongst watercrafts. “We threw out the playbook most boatbuilders follow because if you squint your eyes at a boat show, most boats look the same. The ‘R’ in R30 stands for revolution. We decided to offer something radically different, radically better.”

Vo, a former Tesla executive, moved to Florida from northern California in 2020 and launched Blue Innovations in 2022 after seeing how Floridians interact with the warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico versus the Pacific Ocean, which is often too cold and rough to enjoy.

In addition to being ecofriendly, the R30 is quiet and, at 10,000 pounds, weighs less than typical boats of that size because it’s not carrying fuel. The boats, estimated to cost about $345,000, are expected to be delivered in the third quarter.


  • Valpak, a Pinellas Park-based direct marketing and advertising company, was acquired by AmatoMartin, an investment holdings company headquartered in New York. Valpak, which had been owned by Los Angeles-based Platinum Equity, has more than 1,000 employees, the companies say, with 55 years of experience in the direct mail and marketing business. AmatoMartin recently acquired Clipper Magazine and by pairing the two companies says it will be able to reach 60 million households.
  • Environmental Science Associates acquired St. Petersburg-based Janicki Environmental, a six-person firm specializing in water quality and aquatic ecological health. The companies had been partners for two decades.


  • South Seas, a 75-year-old resort on Captiva Island, plans to make substantial upgrades across its 330 acres following damage from Hurricane Ian. Improvements include reengineered stormwater and drainage systems, the construction of two new hotels and an entertainment concept called Captiva Landing that will include a water slide, lazy river, restaurant and arcade.
  • St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch selected Safe Harbor Marinas as the contractor tasked with the redevelopment of the 640-slip St. Pete Municipal Marina. The $48 million in renovations will add capacity for 325 more boats, a two-story welcome center and a fitness facility.


  • Duke Energy Florida, Coastal Conservation Association Florida and Lee County Electric Cooperative teamed up to plant 500 mangroves across 4,400 square feet of Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park after the grounds suffered damage from Hurricane Ian. The mangroves were grown and donated by the Duke Energy Crystal River Mariculture Center.


  • Tania Castroverde Moskalenko assumed the role of CEO of the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation in February. She previously served as interim CEO of Oolite Arts in Miami Beach and executive director of the Miami City Ballet.
  • The Fort Myers-based Alliance for the Arts released the results of an economic study concluding that Lee County’s arts and culture industry generated more than $135 million in economic activity including: $61.6 million in spending by non-profit arts and culture organizations; $73.8 million in event spending by patrons; and $52 million in local, state and federal government revenue. According to the study, the nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $151.7 billion nationwide.


  • Gerald and Karen Kolschowsky gifted $25 million to Sarasota Memorial Health Care System through their family foundation. The donation contributed to the groundbreaking of a $75-million Research and Education Institute that will bear the couple’s name when it opens in 2025.
  • The Bay Park Conservancy, a non-profit responsible for developing and maintaining 53 acres of land along Sarasota Bay, received a $1-million match from the Patterson Foundation after raising $5 million from private sources. The Patterson Foundation pledged in 2021 to donate $1 million for every $5 million raised. As of now, $15 million in private funds have been raised to support BPC.


  • The Point Distillery in Pasco County is contracted to bottle the first-ever liquor backed by the Rolling Stones. In a nod to the first line of the hit song Jumping Jack Flash, the rock group named the spirit Crossfire Hurricane rum. The rum will be sourced from Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.


  • Lakeland Linder International Airport entered into a 15-year, non-exclusive agreement with Avelo Airlines, which will provide commercial passenger air service beginning in May. In preparation, the airport will undergo $1.6 million in upgrades.

Tags: Southwest, Technology/Innovation, Startups

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