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NEW VENTURE CLOSES WIND DEDUCTIBLE GAP

Insurance industry veteran Kenneth Gregg has long been vexed by one of Florida's recurring problems with hurricane insurance: soaring deductibles.

Homeowners could find themselves scraping to find thousands of dollars to cover a storm damage deductible at the worst possible time. "When that event does happen, where are you going to come up with that kind of money?" he asked.

His solution, a product two years in the making, is a separate policy that property owners can buy to cover 100 percent of the windstorm deductible charged by their insurer. Gregg's start-up company, CITON Insurance (www.citoninsurance.com), has begun offering its wind deductible plan through much of Florida and plans to expand to other at-risk states next year.

Costs vary, but for about $1,000, property owners can get deductible coverage for a half-million-dollar home.

Gregg, a University of Central Florida graduate who hails from Melbourne, has spent 12 years in the insurance industry, working for USAllianz and CNA.

He acknowledged, however, that the timing for his company's launch may not be ideal.

With the slowing economy, the hurricane season winding down and the growing odds that the bay area has once again escaped a major swipe, it's a challenge to persuade property owners to buy extra coverage right now.

The rationale behind higher power bills

Progress Energy bills are slated to go up 25 percent to pay for fuel and the early costs of the utility's planned $17-billion nuclear project. On Tuesday, the Florida Public Service Commission approved an additional $11.42 per 1,000 kilowatt hours for the Levy County nuclear project. Residential customers will see that charge starting January. An additional $14 could be added to pay for rising fuel costs, if the commission approves the fuel charges next month.

Jeff Lyash, president and chief executive of Progress Energy Florida, said he knows the rising rates are hard on customers, but says the utility is making the right decisions in the long term. New nuclear power will ultimately reduce the state's dependence on fossil fuels, curbing fuel costs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is controversial. There's no doubt about it. I understand people feeling angry about it. We're sensitive to that. But let's look at the facts here," Lyash said. "Fuel prices are up and they are going to continue to rise. ... Where we are now with fuel costs is the result of decisions made 10 and 20 years ago."

Lyash continued: "The question for you is what do you want? Do you want to continue to suffer fuel-price volatility and carbon impacts that come along with fossil fuels? Or do you want to stabilize fuel prices and mitigate the effects of carbon emissions? Then you need to invest in these alternatives like nuclear. ... If you want to change the future, you need to take action today."

Businesswomen bringing home professional kudos

Area female business executives won plenty of recognition in a national competition called the Stevie Awards for Women in Business. The awards for women began in 2004. Finalists were disclosed last week and winners will be announced at an awards dinner in New York on Nov. 14. Among the finalists named in the Tampa Bay market:

- Tech and call center company Digital Hands, Tampa, run by Charlotte Baker, for "Best Overall Company of the Year - Service Businesses - Up to 100 Employees."

- Melissa Fisher, senior vice president of marketing and communications, Valpak Direct Marketing Services, Largo, for "Best Executive - Service Businesses - up to 2,500 Employees - All Other Industries."

- Debra Curtiss, vice president and general manager, Peak 10, Tampa, for "Best Executive - Service Businesses - up to 2,500 Employees - Computer Software & Services."

- Suzanne Kelley, executive vice president, Proggex Inc., Clearwater, for "Best Executive - Service Businesses - up to 100 Employees - All Other Industries."

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