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STATE COMMITTEE OF VENDORS - ORLANDO, FLORIDA

May 11 and 12, 2007

Mr. Spiliotis called the meeting to order at 1:30 P.M. on Friday, May 11th and asked Mr. Klindtworth to call the roll.

  • Districts One, Three, Four and Ten were absent. In attendance were:
  • District Two - Valerie James
  • District Five - Phil Bluschke
  • District Six - Jim Anderson
  • District Seven - Paul Prescott
  • District Eight - Gyorke Alger
  • District Nine - Joel Rose
  • Chairperson - Tom Spiliotis
  • Vice-Chair - John Klindtworth
  • Agency staff - Mike Elliot, Kathy Murphey, Kathleen Crosson
  • Gallery - Mike and Michele Macomber, Charles Hackney, Jim Warth, Debbie Bluschke, Bonnie Prescott, Jesse James, David Kaplan, Raquel Falero, Vic Rosario

Mr. Rose moved to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. Mr. Bluschke seconded and the minutes were approved without change.

Mr. Spiliotis reported that the unusually high number of absentees resulted from health issues and the fire threats in many parts of the State.

Mr. Spiliotis asked for an update on Agency activities. Ms. Murphey responded at length, stating that she and Mr. Elliott are working in several areas to improve the operation of the BEP. Their main focus is on improving the training program. They have determined that changing the sequence of training elements is a necessary step and are implementing these changes. New trainees will spend up to six weeks in a facility on the work experience program being evaluated for their suitability to continue as vending trainees. This time will be used to weed out individuals who do not have the basic skills, aptitude, work ethic or motivation to become independent business owners. This is a change from the current six months work experience. Ms. Murphey also said that the Agency will have new recruits do their actual OJT before going to Daytona for the academic training. This will allow new recruits to learn the daily operational skills first and then study the management elements. Steve Moss, the training director at Daytona will submit all training records to Ms. Crosson for ongoing evaluation.

Ms. Murphey then spoke of the need to provide better tools to the twelve vendors who are assigned OJT trainers. This includes the visual aids they and trainees will need and firm guidelines that they will be able to enforce, including timeliness, appropriate attire etc. The Agency staff must work with the trainers to see that trainees get the best we have to offer. The Agency has recognized the need to train the trainers and is actively pursuing this endeavor.

Mr. Spiliotis stated that we need to be sure that managers who are asked to be trainers are actually good managers themselves and possess the right skill levels to become effective trainers. It was also mentioned that not every good manager can be a good trainer.

Mr. Rose spoke of the historic lack of follow-up once trainees are licensed and in their first facility. He also cautioned against the practice of allowing trainees to design their own training protocol.

Ms. Murphey assured the Committee that follow-up is a critical element and that she will see to it that the Consultants and other Agency staff make it happen.

The managers who conduct the first six-week evaluation will be compensated at the rate of $100 weekly, as are the formal OJT trainers.

Ms. Murphey announced that Ms. Kathleen Crosson is being trained as the BEP Training Coordinator and when she takes on that responsibility she will be the only person who assigns trainees to their OJT location.

Mr. Spiliotis said that Ms. Crosson should visit every training facility in the State and evaluate its suitability and that of the trainer.

Mr. Elliott has requested three new staff positions for BEP and hopes that one will be approved.

Recruiting new people to BEP was discussed. Mr. Elliott believes there are people in the client system who would be good vendors but who have no interest in the program. We need to find ways to make BEP an appealing career choice. Mr. Spiliotis said that the Consultants should be taking clients to local facilities and give the clients a good overview of the program.

Ms. James asked for information re the number of people being trained versus those under LOFA. Ms. Murphey replied that since 1994 there have been 104 licenses issued and that 30 or 40 of those individuals are currently under LOFA.

Ms. James then questioned the need to recruit new trainees with so few vacant facilities being advertised. The answer was that the dropout rate has historically been high and remains so, and the current vendor population is aging and many will retire in coming years. Another factor is the unrealistic expectation on the part of many new vendors that they will start at the top, preferably with a highway rest stop.

Mr. Spiliotis spoke of the need for the experienced vendors in the program to reach out to new licensees, to offer help, advice and coaching. We need to share our accumulated knowledge with the new vendors.

He also stated that we must stop assigning people to facilities for which they are unprepared and/or unqualified to manage.

Ms. Murphey was asked if it is still Agency policy that licensure means that the person is considered qualified for all BEP facilities. She replied that this is still the Agency position, but that they do postpone appointments until some conditions are met. These can include documentation of incorporation, sales tax and Federal ID numbers, background checks etc.

Mr. Elliott reported that the positions of DBS Director and Commissioner of Education are still in limbo. Mr. Kiser’s health has improved and he will remain Director until some time in June or July. Ms. Wilson, Deputy Director, is in charge on a daily basis. Ms. Blomberg is the interim Commissioner and has applied for the position. She has been assigned to appoint a task force to fill the position.

Ms. Murphey reported that the seasonal sales promotional menus are being well received by managers and customers and that this initiative is helping to improve sales. She also reported that the Agency is very pleased with Aramatic’s management performance, saying that they are quick to address any problems that are brought to their attention. Mr. Spiliotis reminded the assembly that vending machines can also be programmed to offer promotional items using the free vend WINNER mode.

Asked about the sales of the DBS identifying signage approved at the last meeting by the Committee and Agency, Ms. Hackney reported that only four of these signs have been purchased from the company she works for. It was agreed that the Agency needs to co-ordinate with operators to get this project underway.

Ms. Crosson reported on another initiative the Agency is pursuing with Cantaloupe Systems, a data and information company. At a cost of $200 per vending machine the company provides hardware for remote data retrieval from the machine and a wireless connection to the company. Each user is assigned a website from which all information in the machine can be read. This includes sales, individual product counts and mechanical problems. The manager can also receive the data by email or text messaging. If this system works as advertised it will substantially reduce travel time, fuel consumption and labor costs for managers of vending routes.

Mr. Spiliotis suggested that the Tampa vending route operated by Jim Warth would be the ideal test market for this product as it has many stops and would provide the best information for evaluation. Ms. Murphey stated that Kathy Graham has volunteered to test it at her vending location in Tallahassee.

Mr. Spiliotis also stated that by increasing the efficiency of vending route operations an increase in set aside revenues can be expected.

The company requires a minimum order of 25 units. Ms. Murphey stressed that the user must have good computer skills to use it properly.

Ms. Alger presented a brief update on plans for the Seminar. The new format will eliminate a trade show and concentrate on educational presentations. District Reps are asked to contact their constituents and encourage them to send in their registration to Susan Johnson. We will also include social events and will have a hospitality suite open on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mr. Spiliotis recessed the meeting at 5 P.M. and reconvened at 9 A.M. the following morning. Mr. Klindtworth called the roll and all present from the previous session were in attendance.

Mr. Spiliotis introduced Mr. Jose Formoso and his wife Stella. Mr. Formoso is a trainee in OJT who was a vendor in New Jersey for 14 years. He says he looks forward to becoming a Florida vendor and will do his best to be a credit to our program.

Mr. Spiliotis introduced the subject of a proposed clarification of the policy re filling highway vacancies until a permanent operator is assigned. He reminded the Committee that since the rest stops first came into existence the operator of the sister location has always been offered the right to manage them on a temporary basis when the current operator leaves. In a recent case this was apparently not done so he contacted Mr. Elliott who stated that he had never heard of this policy. It was then stated that it had been accepted as common practice for the last 20 years and the fact that it had not been incorporated into the Policy Manual was an oversight.

Mr. Elliott stated that he was opposed to including this policy statement. Ms. Alger suggested that it might be a good idea to present it first. Mr. Spiliotis asked her to read the proposed text to be added to the Policy Handbook and she did so.

The vacant rest stop would first be offered to the manager of the sister location, if that person declined it would then be offered to a vendor who is not currently working and if that option is not available the departing operator would be asked to manage it on a month to month basis.

Ms. Murphey stated that she believed the best person to take the limited LOFA is the departing operator, with the sister operator being the next best person and an unemployed vendor being third in line.

Ms. Murphey also stated that the practice of having the sister operator manage the location until a permanent operator is assigned has been in effect for 20 years and in 95 per cent of cases has worked well with no problems.

Mr. Spiliotis stated that a consistent policy will improve the vendors’ perception that the Agency is dealing fairly with all of us.

Ms. Murphey said that a policy will "tie the Agency’s hands", citing the possibility that the sister operator may not be doing a good job at his or her own location. Mr. Spiliotis opined that in that case the Agency should be taking steps to cancel that person’s LOFA.

Mr. Spiliotis further stated that without consistent and publicly stated policies we have "the Wild West." He then suggested a simplification of the draft presented, building in more flexibility and deleting the section specifically relating to unemployed managers.

Ms. Alger agreed that this was an easy fix and made the suggested corrections to the draft. She then read the amended proposal to the assembly.

Ms. James made the observation that the departing operator should be focused on the new position and that the sister operator is close and can do a better job.

After further discussion Mr. Bluschke moved to incorporate the proposal into the Policy Handbook. Mr. Rose seconded the motion.

The motion carried by unanimous roll call vote. Mr. Elliott said the Agency would take it under consideration. The proposal as passed is shown below..

Mr. Elliott asked that possible amendments to policy be shared with the Agency prior to the Committee meeting.

Ms. Alger gave a report for the Grievance Board. Two grievances were heard in February and in both cases the Board found unanimously that the Agency had acted correctly. A LOFa cancellation grievance is pending and will be heard in June.

Mr. Elliott stated that two license revocations are pending and that grievances are likely.

Mr. Spiliotis asked for a report on our financial status. Mr. Elliott replied that we are in very good shape. Some new equipment that is needed will be purchased before the beginning of the next fiscal year, a welcome change from previous years. Ms. Murphey concurred, saying that BEP receives all the funding it needs.

Mr. Elliott announced that DBS is the winner of this year’s Sterling Award for excellence in performance.

Ms. Alger said the Agency continues to do a superb job in getting repair reimbursements to vendors in a timely way, and all present signified their appreciation for this effort. Ms. Murphey said the credit belongs to Nell Sewell and the Committee asked her to be sure to convey our thanks for a job well done.

Ms. Murphey reported on a new facility under development at Blunt Island, a Marine shipyard base in Jacksonville. It is comprised of a snack bar and numerous vending machines. We were invited to operate this location and it is expected to open by the end of May. Our operator will pay a small commission on sales to the base. In accordance with policy, this new facility will be operated on a Type II LOFA for assessment, probably for six months.

A new deli facility is under development to serve three buildings across from the Capitol Circle in Tallahassee. We may lose three cafeterias as a result of building closures. The cafeterias in the Fletcher and Carlton buildings are being closed and converted to full vending. Ms. Murphey said that we are making a lot of progress in Tallahassee, and that many of the problem locations are turning around.

She said that the renovations at the Collins building need more work because the overall effect just doesn’t make a good visual impression. She also said that in all food service locations menu boards need to be better designed and placed so customers can read them quickly and easily.

Negotiations are in progress for a possible new facility in Mulberry near Polk City. This is a private manufacturing company with approximately 900 employees and a large amount of truck traffic. The company wants vending with debit card accessibility.

Mr. Spiliotis opened the floor to a round table discussion. Reporting for District Four (Jacksonville) he stated that the snack bar at Facility 102 in the Yates building has been closed and is now full vending. Mr. Kaisarian has asked Larry Miller to service the machines on a Type II LOFA along with those at Facility 398. The projected annual sales at Yates are $20 - 25,000. The other location does about $55,000 annually.

Mr. Bluschke reported that things are running smoothly in District Five. He informed the Committee that ICA is removing all newspaper stands that do not have valid DBS permits. Mr. Elliott said that he plans to ask the Legislature to increase the permit fees we receive from $10 per box to $250 per permit annually.

Mr. Prescott reported that the new vending facility at the Tampa Post Office is now open with Ed Sanders managing it on a six-month Type II LOFA to assess its sales potential. The facility has been given the new number 565. The eight machines already in the Post Office were previously attached to the Tampa Vending route and will remain part of that location.

The snack bar in the building across from the Hillsborough courthouse has been converted to full vending and will be reopened as a stand-alone operation.

Ms. James reported that the Carlton building cafeteria is closed and the facility is under conversion to full vending. Mark Turner is managing the Fort Knox facility and reports that sales have increased.

Mr. Rose said that some locations in District Nine are becoming less viable as a result of declining building populations. The West Regional Library facility was closed, but we are installing machines in other nearby buildings. The new VA building will open soon and Mr. Rose believes we should convert the LOFA at the old facility to a Type I so there will be a smooth transition. He was advised to work with the Consultant and Ms. Murphey on this.

Mr. Anderson reported that Ms. Falero has been working with officials at the Space Center and the facility managers to achieve some needed price increases in Randal Crosby’s location.

Ms. Alger reported that Tony DelaSalla has come out of retirement to manage the rest stop at Punta Gorda on a Type II LOFA and may apply for same. A vendor in district eight contacted her with a request to revive the vendor contact list we had several years ago. General agreement was voiced and Ms. Alger suggested that this should be a Committee project. If the Reps will get her the information for their districts she will set it up and distribute it.

Mr. Elliott thanked the Committee for working with him and his staff during the last two years and expressed his hope that we will continue this work together. He said that even though we don’t always agree on how things should be done, we remain friends.

Mr. Spiliotis echoed this sentiment, praising both the Committee and Agency for their efforts. He welcomed Ms. Crosson and expressed a special thanks to Ms. Murphey for all her hard work especially during a time when she was fighting a serious health issue. The Committee responded with a round of applause for our Agency partners.

There being no further business, Mr. Spiliotis adjourned the meeting at11:30 A.M.

Respectfully submitted,

Gyorke Alger

Secretary

Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

Providing Tools and Support for Legally Blind Vendors in the Food Service Industry