NEWBERRY – Wendy Kinser is keeping busy writing grant proposals for the City of Newberry, and she has several in the works that dovetail with current community ventures.

“There’s a lot out there, and it’s about finding money that will help the commission,” Kinser said, referring to the Newberry City Commission.

The City of Newberry has applied for a variety of grants, one which deals with tourist product development to bring in visitors from out of town.

The grant program is an effort between the Alachua County Tourist Development Council and the Business Convention Bureau.

The county’s competitive grant program can increase tourism by drawing in a community-based or heritage-based attraction or organization to bring in new events or products.

The city is applying for a Capital Construction Fund grant under this program. If the city is successful, the money will be used to renovate or enhance a facility directly targeted for growing tourism in the county.

The city can apply for up for $25,000 and has requested to use the funds to assist Nations Park in its construction improvements to make renovations to the facility to make it more comfortable for spectators to enjoy the event, Kinser said.

Kinser has also set aim on an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which is offered through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The city would use the amount of some $8,000 for “Project Kid Print” in partnership with Newberry High School’s Academy of Criminal Justice.

The funding will enable the school to obtain electronic fingerprint scanner equipment so that youngsters can print out a card with their fingerprints and pictures for parents to keep at home.

If the city receives the grant, the funds will allow for hands on experience for criminal justice students in administering the fingerprinting process, and to enhance public education through developing brochures and dialogues between students and their parents about personal safety.

The city is also looking for funding through the Historic Preservation Grants Program, and has applied as a certified local government for the maximum amount of $50,000.

This level of funding would about be equal to the city’s preservation plan for the Triangle Park area, specifically the old electric plant and jail.

“There’s a lot of history to those buildings…but we need to renovate them so that they can stay part of Newberry’s history,” Kinser said.

The city is looking to preserve the original equipment still inside the historic power plant, which could at a future point transition into a museum.

The current Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) alternative transportation program that will install a new system of sidewalks across Newberry can be incorporated with the preservation plans as well. This could result in connecting the historic land with Triangle Park area by putting in a crosswalk to the plant and connecting sidewalks and bike paths.

“If we can get this money and do some planning for that area and look at it as a whole, those buildings can be kept in a state where they can be used,” Kinser said.

Kinser said that grant applications can require applicant matching funds in the amount of the grant applied for, but if the municipality does not have the funds there is an application process to waive the match requirement.

The match requirement waiver may allow the city to apply for a fourth grant of up to $700,000 through the State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The grant would provide funding for repairs and maintenance for water and sewer on the east side of State Road 45, between southwest 15th Ave. and southwest 30th Ave., just south of the Nations Park site.

“Three different businesses are planning to come in and provide jobs just between the construction,” Kinser said. “It’s just a matter of needing assistance to make that happen.”

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W - Sence - DSCF8136 copyJohn Spence reads over 100 business books each year to help him teach people how to be effective managers and employees in their companies.

ALACHUA – Even though he's done it countless times, he still gets nervous when he has to speak in front of a crowd.

John Spence, 49, from Newberry, has been called a motivational speaker, but he prefers the term informational speaker. From his office in the city of Alachua, he runs a business that takes him to speak in front of employees of multinational companies and local businesses alike, lecturing them on teamwork, leadership, embracing change and creating a "culture of winning." He speaks to groups of many sizes, from large crowds, to small teams and mentors individual business owners.

"I'm sort of an introvert," Spence said. "I don't really like crowds, but I do like helping people."

He still gets emails from clients he spoke to over six years ago, thanking him and his company, Flycaster & Company, for saving their business.

When he was in his early 30s, John Spence worked for a consulting company called Sales Force Systems International. He was set to be the CEO, but things didn't work out that way.

Sales Force Systems International gives sales training and consulting to businesses all over the world. In order to prepare himself as a CEO, Spence began traveling with the instructors to places like China, Germany and Japan, watching them give classes to a corporate audience. He mainly sat in the back, but eventually, the instructors asked him to help teach. He was so good at it, the current CEO decided to make him an instructor instead of a successor. Spence was unhappy with the decision at first.

"I fought it for a while," he said. "I had no desire to be a speaker."

Two things changed his mind, Spence said. The first instance was when a client in New Zealand sent him to lecture employees of giant corporations. "That is when I learned I have enough information that I could truly help these big businesses with multibillion dollar deals." The second was when he started helping the Florida Recreation and Park Association train people to direct parks and recreation departments across the state. "That's when I realized I was truly helping people."

Soon, he found a passion for the work, spending nearly three years at that company, before going independent in 1994. Fortune 500 companies and Alachua-based businesses such as Dragonfly Sushi in Gainesville and the biomedical company InterMed have called Spence in for advice on how to manage their businesses.

"What makes me good at doing this is that I'm good at seeing patterns," he said. He looks for the things that have worked for companies in the past, and finds ways to apply them, he said.

Spence is an avid reader, consuming anywhere from 100 to 120 business books per year. "I'm a voracious collector of information," he said. He credits his ability to take in massive amounts of information and learn lessons from what he reads as a driving factor in his success, which includes being named one of the 100 "Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior 2013" by Trust Across America, which started in 2008 to "help enhance trustworthy behavior in organizations," according to its website.

The most rewarding thing for Spence is speaking to a crowd, knowing that their company will apply his ideas to improve their business, though from time to time upper management can sometimes be stubborn and refuse to acknowledge a problem, he said. It's all worth it for him when he gets emails from grateful clients, he added.

"It's nice to get paid, but there's no amount of money in the world that's worth somebody saying 'you saved my business'."

John Spence chose to base himself in Alachua County because he wanted the best of both rural and urban living, being able to drive home from Alachua to Newberry and see cows and fields, while also being able to visit museums in Gainesville. Even though he spends a good amount of time in his Alachua office answering calls from Shanghai and India and writing books, he also gets to go to faraway places like New Zealand, where he took a week off between lectures to go fly-fishing with his wife.    

"It's a way for us to enjoy seeing the world and get paid to do it."

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W- Alachua - Babe Ruth World SeriesALACHUA – The city of Alachua is gearing up for a full week of softball frenzy. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 6, the Santa Fe Babe Ruth Softball organization will host the Babe Ruth Softball 12U World Series in Alachua. Hundreds of girls from around the country will be at the city’s Hal Brady Recreation Complex to compete for the title.

Regional winners, 12 years-old and under, are also coming from towns and cities in New England, the Middle Atlantic, Ohio Valley, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest Plains, Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest to join the host team, the host team’s state champions and about 10 World Series qualifiers.

Tournament players are from New Jersey, California, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Florida.

“This year we are projected to host 24 teams,” said Damon Messina, assistant recreation director for the City of Alachua.

The Babe Ruth World Series 2013 will kick off with an evening opening ceremony. The event will feature the parade of teams followed by an introduction of the teams and fireworks, said Doug Robinson, Florida softball commissioner for Babe Ruth.

All games will be played on the World Series field and three softball fields.

The championship game will be played Aug. 6.

Robinson said the World Series website lists the weeklong itinerary, the list of teams and game schedule.

“We are expecting about 1,000 to 2,000 people each day,” said Messina.

The funds needed for the tournament were donated by the City of Alachua, Gainesville Sports Commission and others, Robinson said.

Ticket prices for adults are $8 for one day and $32 for the tournament. Children 12-years-old and under tickets are $12 for one day and $24 for the tournament.

Parking is free.

General ballpark concession stands will open along with other vendors offering ice cream and snow cones.

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ALACHUA – For the third time this year, the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, located in Alachua, received top marks as an incubator. Sweden-based research group University Business Index (UBI) ranked the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator as the “World’s Best University Biotechnology Incubator” based on numerous criteria.

Conducted by UBI for the first time, the report was based on an extensive international study and analysis of 150 incubators across 22 countries.

“Being recognized as world’s top biotech incubator is especially gratifying because UBI’s rankings are data-driven,” said incubator director Patti Breedlove.

The assessment reviewed three general areas for each incubator including value for the “ecosystem” in which it operates, value for the client startups and attractiveness.

Within that framework, UBI assessed more than 50 performance indicators including economy enhancement, talent retention, access to funding, post-incubation relationships and internal environment.

“They asked for more information than I’ve ever been asked in a statistical ranking survey,” said Breedlove, noting how extensive the review was.

According to a University of Florida review of the full UBI assessment, the report found that European incubators perform substantially lower than U.S. programs, despite spending more on operations and client seed funding.

The report also reveals that European incubators provide their clients nine times as much seed funding but create 1.9 times fewer jobs and 2.8 times lower revenue per client per year.

Top incubators, like UF Sid Martin Biotech, create 2.8 times more jobs than the global average, according to the study.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the talented team at the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator. With their help, UF is producing an outstanding crop of bioscience companies,” said David L. Day, director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing.

Breedlove also credits her team saying, “The group we have here is the best we’ve ever had,” said Breedlove. “They take a lot of pride in watching the companies grow and succeed.”

The Texas-based Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship was named top global incubator overall. Other top incubators by sector were Ireland’s NDR Launchpad (information technology), and New York’s UB Technology (life sciences).

The Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was ranked by National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) as the 2013 Incubator of the Year. NBIA also ranked Sid Martin Biotech as the top technology incubator earlier this year.

In 2007, Sid Martin Biotech was first runner-up for NBIA’s Incubator of the Year award.

Built in 1995, UF Sid Martin Biotech is one of the U.S.’s first bio-business incubators. The 40,000-square-foot bioscience complex is located at Progress Corporate Park in Alachua. The incubator’s companies and graduates have attracted more than $1 billion in equity investment, contracts, grants, and merger and acquisition activity.

University of Florida News Desk Writer Nathalie McCrate contributed to this story.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs City Manager Ed Booth’s revised budget for the current 2012/2013 fiscal year was unanimously approved July 18 by the city commission. Ordinance 2013-04 amended the 2012/2013 budget, which was set during a tough financial year that saw a 9.6 percent decrease in employee and commission salaries. The matter received no comment from the public or commissioners before receiving unanimous commission approval.

The 2012/2013 budget was originally was set at $3,213,660. The revised budget at $3,409,915 represents an increase of $196,255 over the original budget.

Booth credits the upturn in the city’s financial situation to additional revenues from uncollected business license fees, which so far have amounted to $24,000, Clay Electric franchise fees estimated at $35,000 for the current year plus an additional $25,000 for the past year, and additional building construction and permitting application fees of $40,000.

Budget adjustments were also necessary due to the additional cost of refunding 6.9 percent of salaries for employees and commissioners, which had been taken from last year’s budget due to a deficit. Additional expenses also came from the increased hours of one employee to accommodate the extra work in the city’s building department.

Booth said the budget adjustment “brings the city back to where it was,” and referring to the upcoming fiscal year budget said, “The next budget is expected to move the city forward a little bit more.”

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NEWBERRY – The Easton Foundations Archery Center’s local youth archery program is drawer closer to earning its designation as a Community Olympic Development Program (CODP) from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Five department officials from the committee have already signed off. Just one more signature is needed, and Easton Newberry Sport Complex’s archery program will be part of a direct route for athletes to the archery Olympic training center just outside San Diego, said Doug Engh, national outreach director for Easton Foundations.

There are only about 10 archery CODP sites nationally, and to become one, the complex has undergone years of preparation and staff training following USOC guidelines and even earned an endorsement from archery’s national governing body, USA Archery.

The program’s preparation has been focused around becoming a funnel for the junior Olympics. Lesson plans are being worked under USA Archery standards, and there have been discussions regarding athletes’ transportation and understanding the USOC high performance system.

“We are ready to unveil the banners,” Engh said, who works with head coach Robert Turner to make the Olympian concept a reality at the complex.

The staff is currently looking at whether the certification will change the archery program’s class structure and curriculum, Turner said.

The weekly classes scale five skill levels from beginner to advanced.

“There has been a lot of success coming from our structure,” Turner said.

Just last Friday at the National Target Championships in Ohio, one of the program’s students came away with a gold medal.

The CODP certification may mean that the complex’s program could be changed to more resemble USA Archery’s national elite program, Junior Dream Team. Two local graduate archers are already in this traveling program.

The idea behind streamlining the archery program is not to weed out players who won’t reach Olympic caliber, but to have the option available for the community’s youth.

“That’s why the designation has come our way,” Turner said            

“We have already shown that we have a great series of classes and have produced champions.

This year, about 60 state champions came from the local archery program, and last year there were about 45.

“We are so proud of what our archers have done, and we look forward to being more formalized under the CODP,” Turner said.

There will be an unveiling and rebranding ceremony for the complex in August if all goes well, and invites will include committee members, national coaches and some gold medalists, Engh said.

“And the logo does include the Olympic rings,” Engh said.

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Hawthorne – The City of Hawthorne lost not only a former mayor and city commissioner, but also one of the most influential members of the community when Eleanor “Kit” Randall passed away last Wednesday.

Randall’s tenure with the city started in 2004 when she was first elected as a Hawthorne city commissioner. She later served as the mayor of Hawthorne from 2009-2011 and she remained on the city commission until the time of her death. Through her work with the commission and involvement in various other groups Randall had a far-reaching impact on her community.

“Commissioner Eleanor ‘Kit’ Randall was a genuinely kind and caring person dedicated to family, church and city,” said Ellen Vause, Hawthorne’s city manager.

Randall was sometimes a quiet leader, but no one questioned that selective silence for weakness. She garnered the utmost respect from those she worked with and demonstrated to her colleagues the poise a leader should possess.

“She was very special in that she always had a positive approach and was committed to improving the quality of life for her community,” said Scott Koons, executive director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council. “She was engaged with the community and the council and she was a true pleasure to work with.”

Hawthorne Mayor Matthew Surrency looks back on his time serving with Randall as an honor and an incredible opportunity as he initially learned from her how to lead.

“When I first became a commissioner she was the mayor, and to learn from her directly was remarkable,” Surrency said.

Eleanor Randall was a second-generation commissioner in Hawthorne, following her father, Joe Williams, who sat on the commission from 1984-1997. Randall was deeply rooted in Hawthorne; she also served as the city’s representative to the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council since 2007, where she looked for ways to make a difference for her home community.

“I was privileged enough to work with both ‘Kit’ and her father and it was just a great family,” said John Martin, former Hawthorne mayor and commissioner and a long-time friend. “I was impressed by her confidence, as well as her passion and commitment, but also that she still stayed humble and sought counsel often, which is truly rare.”

Vause said that Randall was also a huge influence on her as the presiding mayor when Vause first took the position as interim city manager.

“She cared deeply about the city and was a great help and mentor while we worked to improve the City of Hawthorne,” Vause said.

As mandated by the city charter, the city is required to fill her seat for the period of time until the next election, which is scheduled for June 2014. However, they are in no hurry to make that decision.

“The discussions will begin soon I’m sure, but there’s no rush,” said Surrnecy. “With the way the council is voting so similarly right now and working together very well we shouldn’t have any trouble.”

Randall’s legacy will surely remain through the impact she had on her community and the city she was so proud to call home.

“She was a joy to work with, and her spirit for community and making people feel genuinely good about being from Hawthorne are what will be missed the most,” Martin said.

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