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Tech companies aid businesses whose RNC traffic solution is telecommuting

TAMPA — The flier reads like a warning:

"Be Prepared For the RNC."

It's supposed to push downtown businesses to other locations.

The company responsible for the glossy advertisement, Infinity Computer Solutions, is among a cadre of firms trying to get businesses out of downtown during the Republican National Convention by offering reduced-price telecommuting services.

Tech companies, after all, want their share of the convention, too.

The Downtown Tampa Partnership estimates 312 businesses at ground level and 50,000 employees in downtown Tampa, said Donna Chen, marketing and communications director for the association.

"Getting here and leaving could be problematic now that we have seen the traffic plan," said Michael English, an urban planner and manager at Tindale-Oliver & Associates.

The firm will stay away from its offices at the Times building on Ashley Drive and work remotely instead.

"We had to make a plan, and this seemed to be the most prudent one," English said.

Bill deMeza, a lawyer for Holland & Knight, is consulting with businesses in the area on how to manage through the flow of visitors. Whether employers decide to remain in their offices or work from another location, deMeza advises efficiency and safety.

But having a plan is fundamental.

"If they are going to telecommute," deMeza said, "now is the time to get the hardware in place."

Studies show telecommuting over time can reduce operating costs. But for the few days of the convention, the primary benefit may be avoiding the hordes.

ICS is offering a limited version of its services, starting at $99 during the convention. The package will allow 500 minutes of call time on its VOIP service, which stands for voice over Internet protocol, a way to make calls over the Internet instead of a phone line.

The firm can also provide remote computer connections, which allow users to access a company's desktop applications while away from the office.

Response to the ad has been good, said ICS owner Grant Baxley. With a staff of seven, Tampa-based ICS supports about 350 companies and is focused on small- and medium-sized businesses for the convention, especially those without sizable IT staffs.

Some see the city of Tampa's move to relocate the downtown courthouse and city government operations during the convention, Aug. 27-30, as a directive.

"We are scaling back our operations that week," said David Caveda, who runs a small law firm on Verne Street.

The Caveda firm already uses telecommuting services. It does not plan to work downtown.

For those planning to flee altogether, CallStar, a phone answering service company, will set up a prescreened voice message and email an employer a transcribed voicemail. A live operator also could answer calls for $1.80 per minute for any business within a 5-mile radius of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"It's going to be tough for businesses within that zone," said Tom Baur, owner of CallStar.

He is waiving setup costs for the service.

For those who wait, deMeza, the consultant, warns that some services may not be available right away.

"The RNC is going to suck up all those resources," deMeza said.

Michael Finch II can be reached at mfinch@tampabay.com and on Twitter at @mike_finch2.

Tech companies aid businesses whose RNC traffic solution is telecommuting 08/08/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 11:30pm]
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