W - Good groundbreaking photoGovernor Rick Scott answers questions from the press after the ground-breaking ceremony. The new facility is expected to be operational in early 2015.

ALACHUA – Riding in a limousine, the governor pulled up to the site in Alachua that promises to add new jobs to the city.

Governor Rick Scott spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 23, for the biotech company Nanotherapeutics’ new research and manufacturing facility, which the company expects to bring 150 jobs to the city of Alachua.

“That’s a big deal anywhere in the state,” Governor Scott said.

The 165,000 square-foot facility, located at 13200 NW Nano Court, is being constructed with money secured by a contract between Nanotherapeutics and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)that was awarded earlier this year.

The contract charges Nanotherapeutics with developing countermeasures to protect against biological terrorism and epidemics, particularly for the military.

Nanotherapetuics got $135 million, and could get up to $358 million over a span of 10 years from the DoD.

In late September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also committed to a contract with Nanotherapeutics to increase the national capacity to develop flu vaccines.

At the ceremony, Governor Scott presented James Dalton, CEO of Nanotherapeutics, with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.

The state of Florida’s economy has turned around since Scott took office, he said, with the help of companies such as Nanotherapeutics.  

“Florida is experiencing an incredible economic turnaround thanks to our job creators like Nanotherapeutics,” Governor Scott said.

The site of the new facility has historical significance for Alachua, said Mayor Gib Coerper.

It is where the Copeland Sausage plant used to be located. Copeland Sausage employed about 400 workers who lost their jobs when the plant closed down in 1978.

The groundbreaking ceremony is celebrated on the same site that taught Alachua a lesson about the importance of attracting diverse businesses, Coerper said.

Now, Alachua has a wide range of businesses in the bioscience fields, Coerper said, boasting the third highest concentration of bioscience companies in the state.

“We strive to make Alachua business-friendly,” he said. “Today is a great day for your company, and a proud day for the City of Alachua,” he told CEO Dalton.

Nanotherapeutics started in the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator, but quickly grew. It eyed several states as potential hosts for the new facility, including California, Michigan and North Carolina. In the end, it chose to remain in Alachua.

“We are grateful to Nanotherapeutics for wanting to stay,” said Mitch Glaeser, chairman of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.  

The Nanotherapeutics Advanced Development and Manufacturing Center should be operational by March 2015, said CEO James Dalton.

As the speeches finished up, Governor Scott, Mayor Coerper and Dalton thrust their shovels into the ground to complete the ceremony, marking the start of construction on the facility.

The plant will be a huge opportunity for Alachua, said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager, in an earlier interview.

“Nanotherapeutics is going to be a big part of Alachua’s future,” he said.

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W - PumpkinA child loads a pumpkin onto a wagon at the pumpkin patch in Alachua. Thirty percent of the profit from sales helps impoverished families.

ALACHUA - Dave Risi spent the better part of an afternoon walking through the pumpkin patch located right off U.S. Highway 441 in Alachua, just past Hitchcock's. With his wife, he watched his 13-month-old daughter go through the patch and admire the pumpkins.  

“She's having a good time,” he said. As much as she enjoyed the pumpkin patch, though, it has a purpose other than light-hearted fun.  

For several years, the First United Methodist Church of Alachua has organized the pumpkin patch, which features hayrides, games and a hay maze up until Halloween. It sells pumpkins and pumpkin-based treats to raise money to help rebuild homes in the Appalachian Mountains.

Some of the houses the church has helped rebuild in the past were without septic tanks or even floors, said Brett Bultemeier, whose wife is the youth director for the church.

“It's kind of shocking,” he said.

Bobbie Ellis went on one of the church trips to the Appalachians. When she went to deliver food to a family, she was upset by what she saw.

“They have nothing,” she said. “I have never seen somebody so poor.”

Seeing the conditions the family lived in caused her to cry, she said.

The pumpkins are grown by the Navajo people in New Mexico, Bultemeier said. The Navajo set the prices and take 70 percent of the profits, while the other 30 percent goes toward helping the less fortunate, said Anne Gay, a member of the church.

This is the 13th year for the pumpkin patch, but it still seems to be popular.

Over the span of an hour, Bultemeier said he had seen seven or eight whole families come to the patch, which is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. The busiest times are when school buses bring in children during the middle of the day, said one volunteer.

During a Monday evening a parent and her child loaded up pumpkins of all sizes onto a little wagon. The money from the pumpkins is desperately needed to help the less fortunate, Anne Gay said. There are many ways to help, and some are as simple as buying a pumpkin, she said.

"That's why we're here, to share with others," she said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – More than 400 families with upwards of 500 children in the High Springs area could go without food this holiday season without the help of the area residents. That is the concern of the director and volunteers at the Community Outreach Program, organized by St. Madeleine’s Church.

“The economic downturn has forced adult children, now with their own families to feed, to move back home,” said program director Bella Diefenderfer. “Due to economic need, combined family units might have as many as 15 people living together.” she said.

There has also been less charitable giving than in previous years, she said. Although the organization formally opened its doors on July 1 of this year, Diefenderfer worked for charities for more than eight years and said she knows how much the families need.

More than 150 families have asked for help to provide Thanksgiving dinners. Around 75 families have requested help with Christmas dinners.

“The need is great and our supplies are limited,” Diefenderfer said. She is worried the organization may not be able to feed everybody during the holidays.

Many of the people the organization serves do not have transportation to go to Gainesville or Lake City to shop, she said. Some volunteers have said even small gift cards to grocery stores could make a difference

“Whatever people wish to give in whatever way they give it is always very much appreciated,” she said.

In addition, the organization is attempting to provide Christmas gifts for upwards of 200 younger children.

“They need food and gifts,” Diefenderfer said.

A new or barely used outfit, a pair of shoes and a toy for a child, could make all the difference for a child, she said. The deadline to submit unwrapped children’s Christmas gifts is Friday, Dec. 13. Anyone wishing to adopt a family for the holidays can contact Diefenderfer directly to make arrangements.

“Without the community’s involvement, outreach will not be able to accomplish its mission, which is to help people less fortunate,” Diefenderfer said.

The fledgling organization feeds more than 400 families located in High Springs, Ft. White, Alachua, Hague and Newberry, plus some families who come in from Gilchrist and Union counties. Many of the families come every 30 days for food and clothing for themselves and their children.

Although the organization does not provide all the food each family needs, they do supplement whatever food supply the families may have to help stretch the food throughout the month, Diefenderfer said.

The Community Outreach Program is open every work-day to help less fortunate families, she said.

“But we can’t do it all without the support of area residents and business owners,” Diefenderfer said.

“These families are in desperate need of help from their communities.”

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W - HSPD RescueHIGH SPRINGS – In a hurricane or other serious emergency, the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) is now able to reach stranded travelers, ride over flooded streets, remove or run over fallen trees and reach people in difficult to access locations, with the help of a donation from the United States Department of Defense (DOD).

The police department spent about $2,000 to pick up a nearly 22-ton, $600,000 armored vehicle from Camp Shelby, Miss.

The DOD has about 20,000 armored vehicles coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Their only use in this country would be for police departments and emergency situations, said High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley.

The vehicle, known as the BAE Caiman, is semi-aquatic and can travel in water almost four feet deep. It was built in 2008 for military use and has only 7,000 miles on it, Holley said. With a diesel engine and transmission similar to an RV, he expects it to last many years into the future.

Previously, the city has not had a four-wheel drive vehicle.

The BAE Caiman is equipped with an infrared headlight system, a Halon fire suppression system to stop the spread of flames, self-inflating tires, a 75-gallon gas tank and has ballistic protection.

The purpose of this vehicle is to provide emergency services in emergency situations. In a rescue situation, the BAE Caiman will hold 12 to 15 people, which is important when several people may be stranded during a storm, Holley said.

Though the vehicle was built for war, its purpose in High Springs is peaceful, he said.

“It will not be used during routine patrol and has no weapons," he said.

In the coming months, HSPD will be coordinating with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, which also received one of the vehicles, and the Gainesville Police Department, which is expecting to receive one soon, to obtain appropriate training at Camp Blanding.

“Although it is not difficult to drive, we want to be well-versed in all of the capabilities of the vehicle so it can be fully utilized during major emergencies,” Holley said.

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ALACHUA - The Alachua Learning Center, located at 11100 State Road 235, kicked off its annual Literacy Night on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Parents and students from kindergarten to eighth grade were invited to join the Alachua Learning Center in games and stories.

Every year, the school hosts Literacy Night to encourage children to develop strong reading habits. The event also sells books for a discounted price so that children can afford to read more. The funds from the books sold are used to help teachers grow their in-class libraries.

Literacy Night was deemed to be a success, selling out several series of books. One of the most popular books was the novel “Spirit Animals,” a series about children that are guided to make morally right decisions by their spirit animals.

Alachua Learning Center teacher Goura Perey was the host of the event. It was her first year hosting, and she said that she loved seeing how excited the students were about getting new books and reading them.

“They want to experience the books,” she said. “They’re flipping through pages and also making recommendations to each other.”

In addition to Perey, parents and students volunteered to help the event run smoothly. Theresa Vaicys was one of two parents that helped out. Vaicys was in charge of handling money earned from the books sold.

Vaicys said she went to the event once and really enjoyed it. Since then, Vaicys has volunteered for Literacy Night three more times.

“I really appreciate all the planning that goes into it,” she said. “We rely so much on parent support and student volunteers as well. We had an outstanding group of students this year.”

Vaicys’ two children go to school at the Alachua Learning Center. Her oldest, a middle-school student, also volunteered this year.

“He volunteered to set up during the school preview, so he was there all day with me on that Monday,” she said. “He helped the kindergarten through second-graders. They need somebody to write down the books that they liked.”

After 14 years of hosting Literacy Night, the event has become a staple for the Alachua Learning Center students. And while the students are the biggest buyers for the event, it’s also open to the public.

“I look forward to being a part of this project again next year, and I think I’ll be looking for ways to get more community involvement,” Vaicys said.

While Literacy Night is finished for this year, students and parents can still go to the Scholastic website and purchase books that will help Alachua Learning Center teachers pay for more books and supplies in their classroom.

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ALACHUA – A major medical manufacturer is making a move to bring a more efficient office facility to Alachua.

NovaBone Products, a leading developer of orthopedic and dental biomaterials, has begun relocation into a 30,000 square-feet building in Alachua.

“This move will mainly be about building good communications within our operations,” said Rick Davis, director of quality assurance and regulatory affairs for NovaBone. “Furthermore, it will allow us to be speedy and nimble in manufacturing processes.”

The relocation provides significantly more manufacturing space to support the greater than 40 percent sales growth the company has experienced for each of the past four years, said Arthur Wotiz, CEO NovaBone Products.

Moreover, the relocation combines the company’s manufacturing with research and development operations under one roof, greatly improving the process of new product development and introduction, Davis said. The move to the new facility has started and will be completed by the end of the year.

The move to Alachua is something that has been in the works for several years now. The roots of the company have always been in Alachua, despite the headquarters being in Jacksonville, Davis said.

There is currently a 12,000 square-foot facility in Alachua already, Wotiz said. This improvement will be a huge step forward for the company making it possible to continue the growth they have always enjoyed in this area.

NovaBone Products was established in 2002 with a focus on developing bone graft substitutes based on advancements in biomedical engineering that would meet the specialized needs of orthopedic and dental surgeons.

The North Florida Regional Medical Center is just one of the agencies that will see a benefit from the relocation of resources, Wotiz said.

“In addition to meeting the needs of companies in this area, we will also see an impact in the way of jobs,” Wotiz said. “We currently employ around 25 people in Alachua, but that should increase with the larger facility.”

The move will also bring up to eight more scientists to Alachua, Davis said. The biggest impact this type of improvement creates is by joining the research and development aspect of operations with the marketing side of things, Davis said.

“This facility will be built for purpose,” Davis said. “It will give me access to more application and product knowledge now than ever before and that will go a long way to ensuring the quality of our products.”

There will be an open warehouse design that will accommodate the process used to create the bone graft material. “In our field, it is always better to change in a way that will meet the needs of a growing product, than it is to modify a product to accommodate existing desires of the company,” he said.

“In the end, I look forward to being capable of leveraging the expertise of the research and development department and their scientists, in order to understand the needs of our customer better,” he said.

Alachua will be the biggest facility now on a list of operations including Jacksonville, Shanghai and Bangalore. While the majority of the company’s operation will soon be run out of the Alachua building, the headquarters will remain in Jacksonville.

“The president and the financial offices will still be held in the Jacksonville site,” Davis said. “This is an improvement to the research our company can do and the efficiency with which it is done.”

“We have been in Alachua for some time now, so this is more of a consolidation of offices and an improvement of labs,” Wotiz said. “I am more than anything excited for the future and the pride I get from seeing NovaBone continue to grow.”

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W - White Cane DSC 1836ALACHUA – When the group of people was walking along the sidewalk by U.S. Highway 441 in Alachua, the noise of traffic could be noticed more easily by some than others. Without vision, the other senses they rely on had sharpened.

Saturday, Oct. 12 was the 14th annual White Cane Walk in Alachua, organized by the Alachua Lions Club. Members of the community gathered near the fire station and walked to the Alachua Boy Scout Hut to raise awareness for Florida’s White Cane laws and to educate people on the challenges the blind have to overcome in daily life.

Florida’s White Cane law requires drivers to come to a full stop when approaching an intersection where a person with a red-tipped white cane is walking.

Some of the participants wore blindfolds on the walk and had a guide help them reach the destination, simulating blindness.

At 9 a.m., the walk began.

“There’s a curb right here, angel,” said one father to his blindfolded daughter, navigating the path.

When the walk ended, activities were set up for children to learn more about how the visually impaired handle ordinary tasks.

Maxine Stallings, from the Alachua County Council of the Blind, said she hoped the White Cane Walk helped everybody realize the blind and visually impaired can be accomplished individuals like anybody else.

“We just do our daily routine a little differently,” she said.

Stallings showed the children how she pours water in a glass by putting her fingertip inside the edge and waiting until she can feel the water reach it.

Joan Miles printed out children’s names for them in braille. She has been going to the White Cane Walk in Alachua since it was started by Alachua Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari for his Eagle Scout project.

The walk shows people how much the blind have to rely on their other senses to get by, Miles said.

“They have to really tune in,” she said. “It shows them how scary it can be.”

Reginald Howard showed off an app for his iPhone that can quickly scan a dollar bill and let the visually impaired person know how much cash they are holding.

“Can you imagine someone handing you money and you didn’t know what it was?” he asked the children around him.

He put a Bluetooth headset in one of the blindfolded children’s ears, then handed him the iPhone. Howard instructed him on how to scan the money so the value could be told to him through the headset.

“It gives them an idea what it’s like,” Howard said, “but it doesn’t let them fully understand.”

Nico Marrone, 18, said the walk taught him to not take his eyesight for granted.

“We can take our blindfolds off, but they can’t,” he said.

For his work with the White Cane Walk, Adam Boukari was given the Millennium Award from the Council of the Blind.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “This has been close to my heart for the last 14 years.”

As the event ended, a young Cub Scout could be seen escorting Reginald Howard across the street to the post office. Crossing the street, he signaled for the incoming cars to stop, and they did.

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