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St. Pete Beach man purchases flight school at Pinellas airport

Robert Cooper of St. Pete Beach, in business as National Aviation Holdings of Clearwater, has purchased National Aviation Flight School and Aircraft Rentals based at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

The school, established in 1968, offers training in ratings from private pilot to air transport pilot.

"This is a tremendous opportunity," said Cooper, 47, "like taking over a brand name."

The school has six single-engine Cessnas. Cooper said he plans to add four planes to the fleet and expects to have two twin-engine planes. He has hired three instructors and will add three more, he said.

Tom Jamin is chief flight instructor and is in charge of the flight school, establishing policies and procedures and overseeing plane maintenance. David Cunningham is fleet coordinator with a history in customer service and fleet maintenance, as well as being a pilot.

"I'm just a business guy," said Cooper, who previously owned a health care business. "The heart and soul of the company are people like Tom and David."

Cooper said he has always had a fascination for flying. "I learned to fly here at this school and bought an airplane a couple years ago. Flying is the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he said.


Crown Bank has purchased a single-story building, formerly leased by First Union Bank, in downtown Dunedin at 2100 Main St. for $505,000.

"'We're refurbishing the building and plan to open Sept. 15," said Joannie Vincent, a senior vice president with the bank. The full-service bank will offer everything from safety deposit boxes to mortgages, she said.

The staff will include a manager and three customer service reps. Residential and commercial lending reps will come aboard soon after the opening, Vincent said.

Shari S. Green of Ross Realty Group in Clearwater handled the sale for the seller, Dr. Pete Lichtenberger, and Joe Corbett of Florida Concepts Realty in Clearwater represented the buyer.


Decker Ross Interiors, 936 C Cleveland St., Clearwater, has been hired for the renovation and design of the lobby, mail room and hallways of a condominium at 736 Island Way on Island Estates. Scheduled completion date is late October.


Prior marina at 4100 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin, has expanded into scuba diving lessons and equipment. Owner Harvey Prior, who has more than 25 years of local diving experience, said he remodeled a third of the 3,000-square-foot marina building for the new rental and sales store.

The business, in the Prior family for more than 50 years and for most of those years a builder of motor boats, is now named Prior Boat & Scuba. The new store features diving equipment and accessories for sale, as well as rentals.

Renovating the building and setting up the new business took an investment of $100,000, Prior said.

The dive shop is open seven days a week and will supply air and equipment to experienced scuba divers and skin divers. Instruction is available for beginners and more advanced divers. A beginner's course is $200 and includes five classroom sessions, five pool lessons and four open-water dives.

The bulk of the business, marine engine parts sales and supplies and the rental of boat slips, will continue as usual. "We're heavily into the engine parts business," Prior said. The marina, built in the early 1950s, has 56 covered slips for motor boats up to 40 feet.


Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance agents Robert J. Burnside and William H. Mathews were honored recently for their sales achievements during the year ending May 31. Burnside, whose office is in the NationsBank building at 600 Cleveland St., Clearwater, sold $15-million in insurance and Mathews, whose office is at 111 N Belcher Road, Clearwater, made sales of more than $11-million during that period. Northwestern, based in Milwaukee, has assets of more than $82-billion.

People notes

Jack M. Norton, executive director of Mease Manor in Dunedin, recently became chairman-elect of the Florida Association of Homes for the Aging. Following a two-year term, he will become the association's chief elected officer.

The mission of the association, with headquarters in Tallahassee, is to provide leadership, advocacy and education for retirement, assisted living and nursing home communities serving Florida retirees.

Norton is a grandson of Dr. John Mease, who founded Mease Hospital in Dunedin and Mease Manor, a 500-unit continuing care retirement community. He joined the manor's board of trustees in 1983 and in 1992 was appointed executive director and chief operating officer.

Trade show

Business at the Don, the annual trade show of the Gulf Beaches of Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, is planned for Sept. 1 at the Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa in St. Pete Beach. The event is open to chamber members and to the public. Admission will be $15.

For anyone interested in exhibiting at the show, the fee is $125 for chamber members and $175 for non-members.

The fee includes registration for two vendors per table. To request a vendor application and for information, call Vi Krainovich at (727) 360-6957.

_ News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at 445-4119 or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions and major new contracts. Photos can be sent, but not all will be used and they cannot be returned.