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Business Briefs 09.17.15
West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Jun. 18, 2015 6 years ago

Business Briefs 06.18.15

by: Michael Eng Editor and Publisher

+ Private tag agency opens in Orange County

Auto Tag Management Group opened a new office in Orlando to serve auto dealers in greater Orange County.

The office is located at 718 Garden Plaza, Orlando, and officials said it will bring back lost revenue to Orange County from dealers who are currently processing with agencies outside the county.

“Up until now, our auto dealerships were using agencies outside of the county for auto tag services,” said ScottRandolph, Orange County tax collector. “That was revenue that was essentially leaving our county. With First Orange Tag Agency opening up, that revenue will now stay in Orange County and be used to benefit the citizens of Orange County.”

Between revenue that will be generated by business in Orange County and new revenue coming in from other counties, it is estimated that the presence of First Orange Tag Agency will have a local economic impact of $750,000-plus annually.

“First Orange Tag Agency is the first of its kind in Central Florida and will provide the dealers an alternate option to process their tag and title work,” said First Orange Tag Agency President Jason Strochak. “Our dealer-centric approach has proven valuable to dealers throughout Florida, and we are excited to be in Orlando and bringing back lost revenue to Orange County.” 

+ Anti-aging company signs new lease

Florida Center for Hormones & Wellness has a new office in Dr. Phillips.

Hold-Thyssen, a real-estate services firm headquartered in Winter Park, recently negotiated the five-year lease agreement for 1,022 rentable square feet of professional office space at Phillips Place, 7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd. 

Florida Center for Hormones & Wellness leased the space because of its prime location for their service of administering anti-aging and pain-management treatments for several decades. The company has two other Central Florida locations. The tenant was represented by Bob Atkins with Atkins Commercial Real Estate.

 Darby Hold, transaction specialist for Hold-Thyssen Inc. negotiated the agreement representing the Cincinnati, Ohio-based landlord, Financial Way Realty Inc.  

Hold-Thyssen, Inc. is the leasing and management representative for the 56,000-square-foot Phillips Place Office Building, which is currently 86% leased.

+ M/I Homes names new-home consultant

M/I Homes has named Amy Redditt as a new-home consultant in the Winter Garden area.

David Byrnes, area president in the Orlando region, said Redditt is a UCF graduate and has been selling upscale residential properties for the past 10 years. She recently received a “Million Dollar Circle Award” for sales totaling $18 million in 2014. 

Redditt will be working out of M/I Homes’ Hickory Hammock community in Winter Garden.

+ Royal Oak Homes to host open house

Royal Oak Homes will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at Black Lake Preserve, its new gated community off Avalon Road south of State Road 50 in Winter Garden.

Matt Orosz, co-president, said Royal Oak Homes plans to build 91 new three- to six-bedroom single-family homes priced from the high-$300s.

Royal Oak is premiering two new models. The two-story William that boasts more than 5,200 square feet of living area, with two master suites, will start at $469,999. The Baldwin features more than 3,200 square feet in a “ranch” configuration with optional bonus room. 

Royal Oak-built homes at Black Lake Preserve come with the latest in technology, called Nest, that can be integrated with smartphones or other devices to remotely control thermostats, appliances and cameras.

Black Lake Preserve is adjacent to SunRidge Elementary School and convenient to major arterial highways and the attractions, Orosz said.

+ W.G. attorney receives accolade

Winter Garden attorney Ron Sikes received a certificate acknowledging the 20th anniversary of his recognition as an AV/Preeminent-rated attorney from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directories.

Martindale-Hubbell is the internationally recognized leader in peer-review based attorney ratings.  

The AV/Preeminent rating is the highest rating awarded and is based on both legal ability and the practice of the highest ethical standards.  

Sikes is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and Stetson University’s College of Law. He has been a member of the Florida Bar for 38 years and served as a senior attorney at Walt Disney World and vice president of legal and business affairs at Universal Orlando prior to returning to private practice. 

He currently practices business and family law in Winter Garden with Sikes Law Group, PLLC.

+ Funeral director earns recertification

Robert Holland Bittle, managing funeral director with Collison Carey Hand Funeral Home in Winter Garden, recently qualified for recertification of the designation of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.

A number of professions grant special recognition to members upon completion of specified academic and professional programs, and CFSP is funeral service’s national individual recognition.

This achievement is especially notable because Bittle has elected to participate in quality educational and service opportunities that far surpass what the funeral service licensing board in Florida requires. 

To initially receive this award, the practitioner must complete a 180-hour program of continuing education activities and events. In addition, the practitioner is required to accumulate 20 hours per year to re-certify. Credits are awarded by the academy for work leading to personal and/or professional growth in four areas: academic activities, professional activities, career review (for retroactive credit), and community and civic activities.

+ BuildZoom uploads remodeling history

Through BuildZoon, the complete remodeling history of Winter Garden is now available online.

Winter Garden residents now can access information on every remodeling and construction project that has happened in the last 10 years through BuildZoom’s Permit Mapping project.  

The map can be accessed at Residents can enter their address and instantly see the details of what’s happening to homes in their neighborhood. Additional features allow users to filter by project type (e.g. electrical, solar) and cost. Through the map, people also can learn about the contractors who have worked in their neighborhoods. 

The project is part of BuildZoom’s broader initiative, to improve the consumer experience in the remodeling and construction industry.

“Our mission is to collect the world’s information on remodeling and making it accessible and easily digestible for the public,” BuildZoom co-founder David Petersen said.

To learn more about the Permit Mapping project and see some of the ways people are using it already, visit

+ AHLEI honors Windermere resident

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute awarded Windermere resident Steven J. Belmonte with the designation of CHA Emeritus.

He received the award during the American Hotel & Lodging Association Legislative Action Summit at the AH&LA Stars of the Industry Awards Brunch April 14, in Washington, D.C. 

A CHA Emeritus has made significant contributions to the hospitality industry through leadership, education and professional involvement. The career of a CHA Emeritus is marked by distinguished accomplishments in all facets of our industry, signifying a commitment to the past, present and future of the hospitality community. The honor is presented only to select individuals after such a career of distinguished contributions.

Belmonte began his hospitality career at age 16 and, by 18, became the youngest general manager in the history of Holiday Inn. From 1984 to 1991, he was president and CEO of Equity Hotel Corporation, which grew to be one of the top 10 management companies of its time. Then in 1991, he served as president and CEO of the Ramada hotel chain and executive vice president of the Cendant Hotel Division. While with Ramada, he launched Personal Best Hospitality, which offered tuition reimbursement and other incentives to foster a career path in the hotel industry. Ramada grew from about 410 properties to more than 1,100 in the United States during his term.

In 2002, Belmonte launched Hospitality Solutions, which specializes in assisting hotel owners with franchise issues such as liquidated damage negotiations. In 2013, Belmonte transferred the company to his son, Michael, who is now the company’s president. And in 2011, he co-founded Vimana Franchise Systems, which is home of Centerstone Inns, Hotels & Plaza Hotels and Key West Inns, Hotels & Resorts, where he serves as CEO. 

Belmonte’s industry involvement includes terms as chairman of the American Hotel Foundation, vice chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation and chairman of the New Century Fund for the AH&LA, raising a record $9.2 million. Belmonte donated separate funds to the AH&LEF, which was used to establish the Steven J. Belmonte Scholarship Fund for Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Belmonte has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts through ChildReach and Plan International, as well as a multitude of other organizations. He served as the television spokesman for ChildReach from 1995 to 2002 and raised millions of dollars sponsoring thousands of children in third-world countries.

Belmonte made three trips to Africa to spearhead the construction of two medical facilities, a food-science laboratory and the New Belmonte Library for the Hotel and Tourism Institute in Zambia University. 

Belmonte was also at the forefront of a $100,000 donation to rebuild a school in the Dominican Republic destroyed by a hurricane. While there, Belmonte funded the construction of a playground. The American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat-al-Salam, a community of Jews and Arabs coexisting in peace in Israel, presented Belmonte with its first Ambassador of Peace Humanitarian award for his charitable endeavors.

“I was honored to be the recipient of the AHLEI CHA Emeritus Award,” Belmonte said. “It was very kind of the current leadership to recognize the efforts we put forth over the years. I have been very fortunate in my life as my work is my play and look forward to future projects whatever they may be.”

+ Stirling Sotheby’s names new specialists

Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty announced recently the additions of two new specialists to its West Orange teams.

The firm named Stephen Bounsanga as an international marketing specialist in the firm’s Orlando-Dr. Phillips Marketing Center.

Roger Soderstrom, founder and owner of Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty, said Bounsanga is an entrepreneur with close ties to southeast Asia, China and throughout North America.

Bounsanga and his wife started a wholesale distribution business that supplies cellular accessories to business and factory owners in Asia. 

Their firm became so successful that Bounsanga started a real-estate career and became skilled at marketing and selling luxury homes to international investors.

 Bousanga is a certified international property specialist and luxury property specialist. He is a member of the Asian Real Estate Association of America and The West Orange Chamber of Commerce.

Soderstrom said Bounsanga will focus on representing buyers and sellers in the Dr. Phillips/Windermere region of Central Florida. He also will represent international investors and clientele relocating to Central Florida. 

Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty also named India Mitchell as an international luxury homes specialist at its Dr. Phillips/Windermere Marketing Center.

Soderstrom said Mitchell has more than 15 years of experience providing management services for a diverse portfolio of multi-family properties in the Central Florida area. He said Mitchell’s versatile property management skills and proven track record are a perfect fit for her sales success in the highly productive environment at Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty.

Mitchell holds a bachelor’s degree in leadership and management studies from New York University and is a licensed community association manager. 

“India Mitchell will be working with local, national and international buyers of luxury residences and with developers and investors from around the world,” Soderstrom said.

+ M/I Homes names new-home consultant

M/I Homes has named Heather Schoenherr a new-home consultant.

David Byrnes, area president of M/I Homes in the Orlando region, said Schoenherr is a U.S. Navy veteran who holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Regents College and a master’s degree in school counseling from University of the Southwest.

Schoenherr was formerly a guidance counselor but has been selling homes since 2003. Schoenherr works at the M/I Homes community of Summerlake Groves in Winter Garden.

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