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Profile verification service brings trust, familiarity to online interactions

Many personal interactions that start online are based simply on trust—buying and selling on Craigslist, picking up discarded items from Freecyle, attending a brand new Meetup or even going out on a date.

But what if you could find out a bit more about someone before going out on that first date? Or maybe you'd like to alleviate a buyer's concerns before selling them your old Xbox. A Cincinnati couple started an online profile verification service that allows users to verify and share their identities, photos and background checks with other users.

Co-founders Michael and BreeAnna Bergman are set to launch their service, REPP, in public beta in April. The idea came from the newlyweds' own life. BreeAnna unsuccessfully tried to do a little detective work on her soon-to-be husband before their first date.

They met speed dating, and before their first night out, she had wanted to learn more about Michael. BreeAnna says she couldn't be sure if she had found the right Michael Bergman on social media, and when she tried to run a background check (not uncommon nowadays) more than 100 Michael Bergman's popped up. "It was hopeless," she says.

Luckily, she didn't let her fruitless search deter her. A few months into their relationship, she told Michael about what she had done. He was a little shocked at first but understood. Then came the business idea.

"I found out that every girl does this," Michael says with a chuckle. "There are lots of situations where we meet up with total strangers, and we try to do our due diligence. REPP will give the end result right away."

REPP is a 2012 graduate of The Brandery. Michael has a background in marketing and law, and BreeAnna has a marketing background.

The REPP process starts by providing a name, birthdate and address. The user is asked questions relevant to his or her life that are based on information culled from databases to verify identity. REPP also runs a background check, and the user can provide notes on anything that comes up in it.

Through REPP, users can also connect social media accounts,which gives another level of identity verification. Once a profile is created, anyone can be invited to view it. Users control what they can and cannot view, as well and when they can view the profile. The profile will also have a public link, and viewers can request access. The profile's owner keeps control over who sees what.

Michael sees REPP as the next step in creating higher quality virtual connections.

"It can be used in dating, networking, the peer-to-peer area, or to get to know someone better in a professional capacity," he says. "It's a way to set yourself apart, and it's an easy way for people to get to know each other better."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Cincy super accelerator reaches goals during first year, aims high for future

UpTech’s first year has been a big one. The six-month super accelerator attracted 57 ideas, and eight of those ideas were selected to become companies in its inaugural class—all eight of those companies graduated. Three of those companies received $90,000 in grant money; to date, those companies have received $230,000 in follow-on funding.
By 2017, UpTech has promised to bring 50 startups to Northern Kentucky, says Amanda Greenwell, UpTech’s program manager. The business accelerator has also promised to create jobs and provide money and support services to area businesses and its companies.
“Our goal is to create a culture of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation in Northern Kentucky,” says Greenwell.
UpTech wants to continue building on its successes and contribute to a culture that understands startups. “We want to create an ecosystem in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati that creates a place for graduates of NKU's College of Informatics. We want to be a catalyst for that.”
UpTech is a new business informatics accelerator that was launched last year by several community investors, including Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, Northern Kentucky ezone, Northern Kentucky University and Vision 2015.
By Caitlin Koenig
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Cle-based Plotter app developers win SXSW accelerator competition

When Tom Nolan was at South by Southwest (SXSW) last year, he was moved by the startup companies on the stage during the business accelerator. “It was inspiring to see the companies go and pitch their hearts out with something they’ve been working on for months and years,” Nolan says. “I remember sitting in the audience and I had the idea for Plotter and I thought, ‘I’m going to go home and work on it.'"

Plotter is Nolan’s social mapping app -- just launched for iPhone on March 1. Plotter allows users to not only perform typical mapping functions, but also lets users interact and view friends’ maps or plot multiple destinations.
Nolan quit his job last September to develop Plotter and hasn’t stopped since. “We kind of hit the ground running in October and November,” he says. “We logged thousands of hours in a short amount of time.”
Nolan and his three partners, Chad Milburn, Tim Zeller and Chris Jungjohann, applied in November to compete in the SXSW accelerator in the social division. In December they got word that Plotter had beat out more than 500 companies for the chance to pitch their app at the conference last week.
The Plotter team made it through the first round, giving a two-minute pitch to judges and investors and made it into the final three in their category. They went on to give a five-minute pitch and a 10-minute Q & A before they were declared the winner.
The next step is to roll out Plotter for Android. Nolan also wants to target the auto industry. “We’re talking to car manufacturers to bring Plotter in dashboards of cars,” he says. “We want to become the first mapping app in cars. The in-dash systems are so outdated.”
Nolan says he plans to keep Plotter in Cleveland and expand the team as soon as possible. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” he says. “We need to figure out the next steps and what direction to go in.”

Source: Tom Nolan
Writer: Karin Connelly

College with Friends app brings social media into the college search process

Two years ago, Matt Benton and his partner Jeremy Amos had an idea for adding social media to the college search process. So they quit their jobs doing investment work at KeyBank to develop College with Friends, a free mobile app that allows users to build a list of schools and see where their friends are going.

“It’s a way of saying, 'Hey, I want to go to Ohio State; who else wants to go there?'" says Benton. "The main idea is seeing who your future classmates might be."

It also gives colleges an alternate way of contacting students who are interested in their schools, as opposed to blindly marketing through the mail.
“At Key, time and again we heard parents complaining about kids going to college,” recalls Benton. “In addition to financing, they were getting all this mail, and kids wanted to know where everyone else is going. We wanted to create a time and a place for the college search and solve a lot of these problems.”
The app contains all the academic information prospective students need about the schools, and shows what friends are looking at those schools. Benton and Amos launched the app in January after talking to schools about their marketing process.
“We spent a ton of time with colleges,” says Benton. “The number-one thing they do is mailings through buying zip code data. We create the ability for colleges to come in and connect directly with the kids interested in going to that college.” Benton and Amos also talked to high school students about what they’d like to see in College with Friends.
Benton and Amos plan to add a news feed to the app, in which students can share their campus visits.
Right now the two work with a development firm for the technical aspects of the app while they focus on the design side. Benton says they plan to move the technical side in-house, as well as hire a “pretty sizeable” sales force.

Source: Matt Benton
Writer: Karin Connelly

Portsmouth's Yost Engineering sensor offers solutions to movement and orientation challenges

Housed in an historic Portsmouth shoe factory dating back to 1890, Yost Engineering is doing cutting-edge work on sensors to provide a solution to movement and orientation challenges.
The company’s new YEI 3-Space Sensor took three years to complete. “It’s an inertial sensor,” explains Francesca Hartop, ceo. “This means it can be attached to a person or object to provide precise information on that person’s or object’s motion and acceleration, as well as any impact experienced.”

Hartop notes that, while some highly accurate sensors exist, they’re very expensive. And, she points out, affordable versions are not very accurate.  “We wanted to combine high accuracy with low cost to provide the benefits of inertial sensors to a broader range of products and industries. Usually, you have to balance cost versus quality. With our YEI 3-Space Sensor, however, there’s no longer that trade off.”

The sensor has several applications. “Because it measures the motion and acceleration of objects, it’s used to control the navigation of autonomous vehicles, robots or marine vehicles,” she explains. The device is also used in sports analysis to study how the movement of an athlete or equipment affects performance.

Yost is also working with partners in physical medicine and rehabilitation and related patient support services that would like to use the sensors for applications such as tremor analysis in Parkinson’s patients and monitoring joint angles in recovering knee-replacement patients.
In addition, the YEI 3-Space Sensor is currently being tested by the Department of Defense (DOD) in several situations in which navigation needs can’t be feasibly or consistently accomplished by GPS, Hartop explains. “This includes tracking people and objects, as well as aiding in automated mapping, a technique in which a person or robot quickly runs through an area and the sensor data provides a full map without anyone having to draw or measure it out.” It’s anticipated that the DOD testing will be completed this year.
The company, which has received Third Frontier funding, has 28 staff members.

Source:  Francesca Hartop, Yost Engineering
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

Casexpert software helps insurance companies resolve claims quickly, fairly

JumpStart recently invested $250,000 in Casentric, a Shaker Heights developer of a cloud-based software-as-a-service application to help insurance companies resolve property and injury claims quickly and fairly. CaseXpert streamlines the information needed to resolve a claim by integrating liability, injury and medical reports into one, making the adjuster’s job easier and un-biased.

“This tool helps insurance companies resolve their cases more accurately and faster,” explains Jim Kaiser, Casentric CEO. “CaseXpert helps adjusters evaluate claims in a balanced way that is fair to the customer, but represents the companies’ interests as well.”
Before CaseXpert, adjusters often were left to rely on their own experience to determine claims. “Claims were determined through their own expertise,” says Kaiser. “Adjusters had to grapple with claims.”
Casentric launched the first version of CaseXpert in September, and relied on user feedback before releasing its second version early this year. “We heard adjusters get bombarded with a lot of information, and it’s hard for them to get their arms around,” says Kaiser. “We made sure the information is easy to use. The users said, ‘It makes me more confident in figuring out what’s going on with the case.'”
Kaiser says Casentric plans to use the JumpStart investment to roll out additional components to CaseXpert and generate sales. The next component will be a negotiation tool. “Adjusters spend a good part of the day negotiating,” says Kaiser. “Our virtual dashboard tells users how it’s going, are we miles apart and does this look like it’s going the right way.”
Casentric currently outsources three positions. Kaiser says he hopes to hire some permanent staff members with the JumpStart investment.

Source: Jim Kaiser
Writer: Karin Connelly

Spotted Yeti Media in Cincinnati helps 'bring big ideas into focus'

What comes to mind when you see the name Spotted Yeti? Is it a purple polka dot Sasquatch?

While that’s not quite the direction Molly Berrens, CEO of Spotted Yeti Media, had in mind, you wouldn’t be alone in that misconception.

“It’s a play on words,” Berrens says. She says the idea came from a Mitch Hedberg joke that claims Bigfoot is naturally blurry, so it’s not the cameraman’s fault that the image isn't in focus. While Berrens didn’t immediately embrace the name, she came to appreciate its double meaning and is proud to work under the banner.

Spotted Yeti is a video production studio based in Newport. Their expertise lies in short-form videos that are intended mainly for the web and live events, with a client list based in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.

Their offered services include documentaries, company overviews, client testimonials, green screen productions, animations, video blogs (or "vlogs") and instructional/training videos—but they have the capacity to handle many projects beyond those already offered. To stay appealing for most web users, the videos are typically no longer than four minutes.

Most of Spotted Yeti's featured videos showcase its clients’ personalities, which makes the work it provides a great way to represent businesses and charities.

If you're interested in what Spotted Yeti does, it offers qualified students internships where they can hone their craft in a professional studio.

“Not many people have ‘spotted’ a yeti,” Berrens said. “Our company motto is ‘Show the world you exist’ so you can bring a big idea into focus.”

By Sean Peters

UC App Lab on MainStreet unveils mobile app suites on iTunes, Google Play

Students and faculty have launched their first mobile app suites out of the new UC App Lab on MainStreet.

The University of Cincinnati opened the App Lab, a campus mobile application development center, a little over a month ago. It's a physical space where students, faculty, staff and alumni can develop apps for smartphones and tablets. It's located with ResNet and MobileCats wireless store on MainStreet, and is the only space of its type in the region.

The first two app suites are geared toward the campus community. One is for current students, while the other is for alumni.

Through Blackboard Mobile Learn, current students can access a UC campus map, check grades, track shuttles, access university sports and campus news and events. The app is free for current UC students. The Alumni app accesses campus news and networking events. It allows alumni to donate to the college, volunteer at the college, and connect with other alumni via their social networks, among other features.

This is the just the start for the App Lab, which is working with local businesses and organizations to create new mobile apps.

"We are moving pretty fast," says Nelson Vincent, vice president of UC Information Technologies. "We're working on a second release of the alumni app, and working with some startup companies to see if they are a good fit."

The App Lab is a way to cultivate the region's mobile app development talent. It's a growing part of web commerce and everyday life for millions of smartphone users. In 2012, the average person used some form of mobile 127 minutes a day, Vincent says.

"It's a real generational shift," he says. "Who doesn't have a smartphone today with apps on it? And folks who do this work in Cincinnati are in very short supply."

As the app development program matures, UC is considering partnering with private businesses for mentorship and co-op opportunities.

"This is a really exciting time," says Vincent. "A community of people are coming together to make this happen, and we think this is going to take off."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Altius implantable medical device offers hope for chronic pain sufferers

Imagine waking up in pain every day.  According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, more than 110 million people in the U.S. endure chronic pain of various types, ranging from migraines and serious back and foot injuries to amputations.

There’s hope on the horizon, however.
Willoughby medical device company Neuros Medical recently completed development of Altius, an implantable generator featuring the company's patented Electrical Nerve Block technology. “Altius is an implantable device that generates a high-frequency electrical stimulation signal that blocks the nerve from transmitting pain signals,” explains Jon Snyder, President and CEO of the company. “As a result, it blocks the pain signal from traveling along the nerve to the brain."
The device is about one-third the size of an iPhone and requires an incision of one to two inches. It’s typically implanted by interventional pain physicians, vascular surgeons or neurosurgeons on an outpatient basis.
“Altius is implanted in various locations of the body, wherever is best for the patient,” Snyder says. “Allowing for the incision to heal and post-operative pain to subside, it can usually be activated two weeks after implantation. Patients use a small remote control to provide on-demand treatment for their pain. The device uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery to produce the signal, and depending on how often the patient uses it, the unit needs to be recharged every two to eight weeks,” he notes.
The initial target market for Altius is chronic amputation pain, Snyder states, with plans for other pain conditions to follow, including migraines, facial pain and chronic post-surgical pain.
“Upon FDA approval, pain physicians at about 10 to 15 clinical sites throughout the country will begin conducting safety and efficacy studies of Altius by the end of the year,” he explains. “Assuming positive results and FDA approval, we expect to have it on the market in early 2016.”
Snyder has a personal passion for helping those suffering with chronic pain. “It’s extremely gratifying to develop something that has the potential to significantly improve patients’ lives for many years to come,” he says.
Source:  Jon Snyder, Neuros Medical, Inc.
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

ONE fund grants $200,000 to bizdom, launchhouse for 20 new startups

Bizdom and the Shaker LaunchHouse Accelerator (LHX) program each received $200,000 from the Third Frontier Ohio’s New Entrepreneurs (ONE) Fund to invest in a total of 20 startups. The two are the only business accelerators in Ohio to receive the funding.

While Bizdom’s program focuses on software and web opportunities in healthcare, consumer finance, real estate, entertainment, sports, online marketing and gaming, the LHX program centers on technology, internet, mobile and hardware/robotics industries.
However, Bizdom leader Paul Allen says they welcome all types of businesses to apply for their accelerator. “Every company today uses technology in some way, so the definition of technology companies is evolving,” he says. “We do like software, web and apps companies because they are less capital intensive, but we want to see everything. We’ll look at any technology business.”

LaunchHouse will accept applications for the August 12-week accelerator program starting tomorrow. Bizdom's application deadline for the summer program is March 17 and July 7 for the fall program.
The two organizations are looking forward to running their fall programs simultaneously. “We’re looking to collaborate and build jobs and the best businesses in Northeast Ohio,” says LaunchHouse CEO Todd Goldstein.
Allen says the two programs will be of historical importance in the region. “As far as I know, we’ve never had 20 companies at the same time,” he says. “We collaborate whenever we can, wherever it makes sense. The goal is to create lots of successful new businesses, create jobs and replace jobs that have been lost.”
Since January 2012, Bizdom has launched 18 new tech businesses in Cleveland, nine of which received follow-on funding and are profitable. LaunchHouse, which was recently named one of the best incubators in the North and Midwest by Elite Daily, has launched 10 companies in its inaugural accelerator program last summer, and has invested in 40 companies and raised $9 million in follow-on funding since 2008.

Sources: Paul Allen, Todd Goldstein
Writer: Karin Connelly

Cle Clinic researchers develop screening protocol to identify and treat lynch syndrome

A team of Cleveland Clinic researchers have found that regular screening for Lynch Syndrome, the top genetic cause of adult colon cancer, can significantly reduce the occurrence of subsequent cancers. Researchers screened all colorectal cancers surgically removed at the Clinic for Lynch Syndrome and referred those who tested positive to genetic counselors.

Lynch Syndrome affects patients at an early age and often leads to multiple colorectal cancers. Women are additionally more susceptible to uterine and ovarian cancers. By identifying the disease early, people with Lynch and their families can work with their doctors and counselors to keep an eye on signs of early cancers.
The research was led by Charis Eng, Hardis Chair and founding director of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute’s Genomic Medicine Institute. The findings were published in the online Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“This paper shows successful implementation of a rapid, cost-effective system-wide screening to detect potential Lynch syndrome,” says Eng. “Because of this research, we know how to catch these things early and how to prevent them. If you are positive for Lynch, cancer can occur as young as age 25 and you should get a colon screening every year, and women should also get uterine screenings.”
Eng says patients with Lynch Syndrome can then weigh the surgical options when they are diagnosed with colon cancer. Patients may opt to have the entire colon removed, and women may opt to have the uterus and ovaries removed as well, to prevent future cancers.
“Instituting high risk surveillance early routinely saves lives,” Eng says. "It is an extreme challenge to bring genomics research to successful implementation in genomic medicine practices,” says Eng. “Here, we have achieved 100 percent successful implementation of universal Lynch syndrome screening.”

Source: Charis Eng
Writer: Karin Connelly

HCBC opens new CoWorks space for entrepreneurs, startups

The Hamilton County Business Center is Cincinnati's oldest incubator, and has evolved over the decades as the economy has changed.

Startups are leaner and meaner now than ever before, and HCBC is piloting the region's latest coworking space, where small businesses can get many of the benefits of being in an incubator without the higher overhead.

HCBC's CoWorks had a very quiet launch late last fall. With three businesses in the space, which is located in Norwood, Executive Director Pat Longo is now getting the word out about HCBC.

"This has grown out of our affiliate program," Longo says. "There were companies that weren't yet ready to apply for the incubator but they wanted to be around it."

HCBC has recently upgraded its conference room space, which has been attractive to small companies like SCORE, SBDC and Meetups that want to present themselves more professionally, says Longo.

HCBC has 45 companies that last year generated over $18 million in revenues, accessed over $8 million in capital and created nearly 50 jobs.

Renting CoWorks space on a month-to-month basis starts at $75 per month, and includes:
  • 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access
  • WiFi
  • Concierge and receptionist services
  • Free parking
  • Fax, scanner and copier services
  • Kitchen
  • Up to four hours per month of conference room use
  • A mailing address
"We talk about having an entrepreneurial ecosystem, but I like to think of (HCBC) as a coral reef," Longo says. "We have a lot of life, people can grow, there is lots of nourishment and places to go and hide if you need a quiet place to work."

CoWorkers will have access to the incubator entrepreneurial atmosphere, programming and resources. Some are free, while others have a fee attached.

"They'll get the benefits of being a client," Long says. "And we hope when they are ready, they'll move into the incubator."

Currently, there is space for about 12 companies, with potential room to grow. Interested businesses can find out more on the CoWorks website, where interpreters can fill out an application.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Cincinnati enters wearable tech market with Nugg-it recording band

Wearable tech is emerging as the "next big thing" in consumer technology. And a trio of Cincinnati entrepreneurs are developing Nugg-it, a wristband that will easily record snippets of everyday conversation, and investors are taking notice.

Nugg-it has raised a total of $250,000 raised from CincyTech and Design 2 Matter, a Silicon Valley-based industrial design firm. That's part of an ongoing $600,000 investment seed round. Design 2 Matter is also designing and building the device.

"[Design 2 Matter] has a very successful track record of bringing products from concept to shelf," says Nugg-it's co-founder and social media entrepreneur Matthew Dooley.

Nugg-it is meant to be worn 24 hours a day. It records live conversations on a 60-second loop, continuously saving them in one-minute "nuggets." To save a memorable part of a conversation, the user touches the device to save the last minute of buffered memory. That recording can be sent to a smartphone, and through an app can be edited, saved and shared.

"It's a smaller, lighter weight band," says Dooley. "Right now, we are trying to focus a lot of attention on design. It has to be something that is stylish and comfortable to wear. A lot of the functionality is off the shelf, but we're putting it together in a new way."

Dooley is working with former Procter & Gamble brand marketer and engineer Mike Sarow to develop the device. Plans are to deliver the final concept in March, and introduce it to the market by December, Dooley says.

"It occurred to us that there are a lot of circumstances in life where we want to remember and share something that was just said—a clever phrase in a meeting, something adorable from our 3-year-old, words of wisdom from a mentor—but we can't 'capture' it," Sarow says. "Now you can."

Nugg-it is CincyTech's first consumer electronics device investment.

"With the rise of the Nike FuelBand and smartwatches such as Pebble, wearable technology is projected to be a $7 billion market by 2017," says CincyTech's Executive-in-Residence Doug Groh. "We expect Nugg-it to help drive that growth and to do for short audio files what Twitter has done for 140-character content."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Markiplier's voice over stunts attract millions of YouTube gamer views

Mark Fischbach of Milford, Ohio, launched a successful career playing video games and yelling at his computer as a YouTube partner. His channel, Markiplier, features videos of Fischbach playing video games while providing—well, let's call it lively—commentary. The distinctive thing about Fischbach, though, is his strikingly deep and commanding voice.

His YouTube channel gains subscribers at a steady rate. With nearly 150,000 subscribers, Fischbach has garnered more than 23 million views on his hundreds of videos. "Random Horror Reaction Compilation #2," for example, which consists of a little more than four minutes of Fischbach commentating as his video game characters witness scary scenes from games like Death of the Dream 2, Fibrillation and Creepy Zone, has been watched more than a quarter of a million times.

This local gamer with “an ego the size of the moon” (according to his YouTube’s homepage) has also raised more than $21,000 for various charities that mainly focus on cancer research. He does this in memory of his father.

Though Fischbach started his YouTube venture less than a year ago, his girly screams and unexpected jokes attract a large demographic of video game enthusiasts with a sense of humor. In this day and age, nearly everyone can find at least one kind of video game they enjoy, which makes Fischbach’s territory an ever-expanding kingdom of nerdiness.

By Sean Peters

PublicSchoolWORKS offers software solution for meeting public school mandates

Public schooling is multi-faceted, and each state legislature has a particular way of governing its districts.

Public schools are a large part of state budgets and efforts, and most years, there are new regulations for administrators and teachers to comply with. Many new rules—implementing an anti-bullying program, for instance—comprise of educational and professional development and reporting and tracking.

Taken together, each mandate can take up a lot of time, which leaves teachers struggling to do what they to best: educate children.

One Cincinnati company is growing by making it easier for K-12 schools to manage those mandates. PublicSchoolWORKS offers schools a suite of web-based software and ongoing support in the areas of staff and student health, safety compliance and behavior programs.

Founded in 1999, the O'Bryonville-based company has two software suites: EmployeeSafe and StudentWatch. PublicSchoolWORKS has clients in the Cincinnati area, but it also serves schools across North America. Its resources include written plans, forms, training courses and other content that school districts need in order to succeed.

PublicSchoolWORKS was developed by a team of actively employed school administrators. It's CEO, Steve Temming, has more than 22 years of experience working in public schools, including administration.

"We create complete programs that address the needs of a district, not from a strategy standpoint but from an implementation standpoint," says PublicSchoolWORKS' Vice President Tom Strasburger.

The company is constantly monitoring state legislatures to assure its custom-content software continues to meet school districts' needs. PublicSchoolWORKS also offers ongoing service support to help districts get the most out of the software, Strasburger says.

"We provide a signature product that completely addresses school issues," Strasburger says. "By knowing legislation and meeting that legislation, the system is built to manage what is expected of the school. It's virtually hands off, so (teachers and administrators) can do their jobs."

It's because of the system's automation and completeness that the company rarely loses a customer. Public School Works is growing with its own sales, support and research groups, in addition to IT. Not only are its services growing, but PublicSchoolWORKS is also physically outgrowing its current office space, and could soon move into a new, larger facility.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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