Pensacola, Florida
Friday November 28th 2014

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The Buzz 12/15/11

WAHOOS WELCOME RIGGLEMAN When the Pensacola Blue Wahoos take to the field in April, it will be under the guidance of Jim Riggleman.
The former manager of the Washington Nationals has been tapped to manage the local Double- A baseball team. Riggleman visited Pensacola December 9 to try on a new Wahoos cap and toss out Yogi Berra-esque zen-bombs like: “Home runs are just kind of a by-product of good swings.”

AU REVOIR VEOLIA Local transit employees were granted an early Christmas wish, as the Escambia County Commission presented Veolia Transportation with lumps of coal and a bag of switches.

It pains me to make this vote today,” said Commissioner Grover Robinson. “At the end of the day, I believe this is where I am.”

During a lengthy December 8 meeting, county officials heard from a gallery packed with disgruntled Escambia County Area Transit employees and Veolia upper management. The French-based company that the county contracted with to manage the local transit system has been butting heads with union representatives for months in regards to pay issues and work environment.

“I’d probably close my business or get a whole new set of employees,” said Commission Chairman Wilson Robertson, who termed the relationship as “in-correctable.”

While the commissioners were not open to directly taking over the transit system—an option that transit employees pushed for—they also couldn’t see their way to extending a contract with Veolia.

“I’m just torn, honestly,” said Commissioner Gene Valentino, who attempted unsuccessfully to abstain from the final vote.

“Well, we’re all torn,” Wilson replied.

In the end, commissioners deemed the relationship too toxic. In a 3-2 split, with commissioners Valentino and Marie Young dissenting, the board decided to pursue a transit management contract with its second choice: First Transit, Inc., a company based in the United Kingdom.

“I have to be honest with you,” said Michael Ake, Veolia’s Regional Vice President. “I think they made a very poor choice.”

Outside the commission chamber, transit employees celebrated in the crisp December night. They had a different take.

“It’s a win because we heard the right things in there,” said Mike Lowery, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395.

UP FOR A CHALLENGE? Got a good idea for a business? You may want to speak with Quint and Rishy Studer.

The local couple has announced the Pensacola Business Challenge, in which contestants will compete for a start-up package valued at $50,000. The winner will find themselves opening a new business in June inside the Studers’ newly renovated property on the corner of Palafox Place and Main Street downtown.

Throughout the Challenge, contestants will present business plans and receive mentoring from consultants with the University of West Florida’s Small Business Center. The eventual winner will land three years of reduced-rate rent at the 800-square foot storefront, as well as $25,000 to put toward start-up costs.

Andrew Rothfeder, project coordinator, said that while the Studers could have simply rented out the space, they believed such a contest would be better.

“It ain’t about the money,” Rothfeder said. “The whole plan is teaching them to fish.”

Rishy Studer said she was inspired by a similar venture in Asheville, N.C., and television shows such as “The X Factor” and “The Shark Tank.”

“We were intrigued with how other cities had successfully created incubators for start-up businesses to build up their downtowns and wanted to try the theory in this community,” she said. “The more we talked about it, the more Quin and I got excited about the opportunity to help a young entrepreneur fulfill his or her dreams.”

There will be an informational meeting Thursday, December 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the Studer Properties office at 41 N. Jefferson St. for anyone interested in the Challenge. For more information, visit pensacolabusinesschallenge.com.