News Column

Tallevast communications company to add 350 employees

June 19, 2014

By Matt M. Johnson, The Bradenton Herald

June 19--TALLEVAST -- A voice-over-internet protocol telecommunications company that has been on a steady growth track since moving to Manatee County in 2006 will nearly triple its workforce in the next five years.

Star2Star Communications, a provider of internet cloud-based business telecommunications systems, announced Wednesday it will add 350 people to its workforce of more than 175, and expand its operations by 30,000 square feet.

Company officials say the jobs will pay a median wage of about $54,000. That wage, which is 50 percent higher than the county average of $35,795, qualifies the company for $700,000 in Manatee County performance-based incentives.

The company is already advertising positions. Over the next few years, Star2Star will hire for jobs including software development, quality assurance, sales, finance, accounting, marketing and product management. Salaries will range from $30,000 a year for entry-level positions to more than $100,000 a year for executive jobs.

Michelle Accardi-Peterson, Star2Star's chief marketing officer, said her company's expansion is a reaction to growth in Internet communications. Star2Star's cloud hardware and software is selling well in the company's target markets, including call centers, education, financial management, health care and local government.

"Certainly, this is based on our growth as a company," she said.

Work is already underway at Star2Star's 62,500-square-foot headquarters, a converted hangar building at 600 Tallevast Road. Star2Star is building out new manufacturing space, and new areas for offices and soft

ware developers.

Founded in Sarasota, Star2Star moved to Manatee County in 2008. In 2010, the county offered the company $80,000 in grants based on the creation of 80 jobs. Since that time, Star2Star has grown from 25 to more than 175 full-time employees. Its primary product, the StarBox Cloud Connection Manager, allows users to route communications activities through an Internet connection rather than through traditional phone service. The system supports business phone operations, instant messaging, video conferencing and fax. It can also monitor when business phone lines are in use, a function popular among call centers. Various versions of the StarBox support between 20 and 500 phone extensions and up to 100 simultaneous conversations, according to the company's website.

The company's local clients include the Center for Sight and Skybox Financial Group. Sheila Jordan, a spokeswoman with Star2Star, said the company's telecommunications systems are used by hundreds of thousands of people.

Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., said her agency has worked with Star2Star since its move into the county. She said the tech company, which has been named to the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 twice, brings welcome growth in its sector in Manatee County.

"Having a tech company like this located here is of interest to us," she said. "They've been in expansion mode since they moved here."

The office decor echoes the company's name. In the developers' area -- a huge, two-story space lit largely by desk lamps -- a photograph of a star field taken through a telescope is projected on the wall. Elsewhere, NASA artifacts collected by company CEO Norman Worthington decorate the walls, ceilings and hallways. One popular display holds a number of watches worn by astronauts.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.


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Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)

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