9:58 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Internet Retailer Amazon to Start Collecting Sales Taxes

Floridians who rely on Internet giant will have to soon start paying taxes on their online purchases.

A spokesman for the Seattle-based company confirmed Wednesday that Amazon will collect the state's 6 percent sales tax on May 1.

The move follows the decision by Amazon to build two distribution centers in the Sunshine State.

Amazon will open "fulfillment centers" in Lakeland and Ruskin. Each will be more than 1 million square feet. Amazon officials say when both are open, more than 1,000 full-time jobs will be created.

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10:55 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Belleair Commissioners Approve Rezoning Measure

Lead in text: 
Belleair commissioners approved the RM-10 rezoning measure that affects the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
BELLEAIR - The Belleair Town Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday night to create a new zoning district a developer could apply for if he or she wanted to raze the historic Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa and build condos or townhomes in its place. Current zoning on the Biltmore site allows only for a hotel or single-family homes.
9:00 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Rays Owner: Tampa Ballpark "Attractive"

Credit Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Six years after saying they wanted to explore alternative sites to downtown St. Petersburg for a new ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays still are in search of a location.

“Tampa is obviously very, very attractive on the list, and we expect to at some point, hopefully sooner, look there as well as some other parts of the region,” Rays owner Stuart Stern­berg said Tuesday during a panel at the MLB Diversity Business Summit.

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4:59 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Tampa Bay Times Wins Pulitzer for Local Reporting

The Tampa Bay Times has won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation into the squalid conditions of Hillsborough County's homeless housing program.

The Times' award was among the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes announced at Columbia University on Monday.

The paper received a tip from a homeless man that the Tampa Port Authority chairman operated a squalid trailer park for the homeless.

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3:08 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Commissioners to Vote on Belleview Biltmore Hotel's Fate

The "White Queen of the Gulf" has been closed down for five years in need of serious repairs. Commissioners will decide whether to allow preservation for the wooden structure or allow demolition to build future condominiums.
Credit National Trust for Historic Preservation

The future of one of the largest wooden structures in the world will be decided Tuesday. Belleview Biltmore hotel near Clearwater is up for demolition if a rezoning measure is approved.

The Belleview Biltmore Hotel, built in 1897, hosted business giants, local socialites and even presidents back in the day. It closed in 2009 for renovations but with the housing market crash it never reopened.

Now, a rezoning measure would allow developers to bulldoze it and build condos in its place.

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2:32 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Fl. Legislators Divided Over Tax Holidays

Florida legislators are divided over what type of additional tax breaks to offer residents this year.

The Florida House has already passed a bill that calls for four sales tax holidays, including a three day back-to-school holiday. The House also wants a tax holiday on energy efficient appliances, gym memberships and hurricane preparation supplies.

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3:00 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Florida's Orange Production Continues to Decline

Fruit affected by citrus greening
Credit Wikimedia Commons

This year's Florida orange crop is approaching the fruit's lowest harvest in 24 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released its citrus production forecast.

The 2013-2014 orange forecast is 110.0 million boxes, down 4 percent from last month, and 18 percent less than last season's final production figure.

Orange harvesting ends in June, and if the crop doesn't decline further, it will barely exceed the 110.2 million orange boxes harvested in 1989-90 following the worst freeze in Florida citrus history.

The culprit is citrus greening.

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11:13 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Babcock Ranch Developers Planning a Solar City

Lead in text: 
The Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District filed a document last week with the Florida Public Service Commission, outlining plans for a new municipal utility in Charlotte County. Officials from the Palm Beach development firm behind Babcock Ranch said Thursday that the proposed utility would give them more control of the development, provide lower electric bills for customers and jibe ideally with the 75-megawatt solar farm slated to be the lifeblood of Babcock Ranch.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Developers of the proposed Babcock Ranch community east of Punta Gorda say a new electric utility to serve the area could help expedite their vision for a city powered by the sun. The Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District filed a document last week with the Florida Public Service Commission, outlining plans for a new municipal utility in Charlotte County.
12:24 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Report: U.S. Hispanic Entrepreneurial Growth Dramatic

Lead in text: 
The study, “Better Business: How Hispanic Entrepreneurs Are Beating Expectations and Bolstering the U.S. Economy,” released in Miami during a panel discussion and press conference, showed that between 2010-2012 the entrepreneurial rate declined overall in the U.S., but among Hispanics the rate shot up, said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the partnership, an organization of 500 government and business leaders who support immigration reform. “The thing we need more than anything else is young entrepreneurs. This is where the new energy and growth comes from,” he said.
A new report found that between 1990 and 2012, the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the U.S. more than tripled. The number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States has grown exponentially over the past two decades and Hispanic immigrants in particular have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than the U.S.
11:20 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Belleview Biltmore Suitor Returns with Funding Pledge

Lead in text: 
Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, led by restoration architect Richard Heisenbottle, wants to buy the declining hotel as well as the Town of Belleair-owned golf club. It has secured a funding commitment from a private equity source, Managing Member Gary Rosenberg told TBBJ on Monday. Rosenberg declined to disclose the name, but he said he has signed documents. The current estimate of the cost to buy and renovate the hotel is $190 million, Rosenberg said.
A Miami investor group that has expressed interest in buying and restoring the Belleview Biltmore hotel is back on the scene with the announcement of a funding commitment. Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, led by restoration architect Richard Heisenbottle, wants to buy the declining hotel as well as the Town of Belleair-owned golf club.
11:43 am
Fri March 28, 2014

State Jobless Rate Unchanged in February

Florida’s unemployment rate is no longer dropping like it once did.

The state’s jobless rate in February was 6.2 percent, which is the same rate it was the two previous months.

The unemployment rate held steady even though the state gained an estimated 33,400 jobs last month. Only California and Texas gained more jobs in February.

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12:19 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

WUSF Wins 7 AP Florida Broadcasters Awards

That's a lotta Lucite!

WUSF Public Broadcasting took home seven awards at the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters awards banquet Saturday night in Orlando. WUSF took home two first place awards, and five second place awards.

This is a reflection of the great work our staff has done during the past year. At WUSF, we strive to bring you balanced, informative reports every day. Please click on the links below to get a sample of some of these works. Congratulations to our reporters!

-Steve Newborn, Interim News Director.

FIRST PLACE: Sports Feature

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9:09 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Search For Missing Jet Focuses On Objects Seen Off Australia

This map adds in routes that investigators believe Malaysia Flight 370 might have taken.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 1:14 pm

This post is being updated.

Satellite images showing objects floating in the Indian Ocean have focused the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board to an area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

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10:59 am
Mon March 17, 2014

State Unemployment Rate Drops Again

The state's unemployment rates continues to drop - while job creation in the Tampa Bay area is lagging behind the rest of the state.

That's according to the numbers released today by state economists. The state's unemployment rate in January was 6.1 percent. That's the lowest the rate has been since June 2008.

There are an estimated 581,000 Floridians out of work. Florida's unemployment rate remains below the national average of 6.6 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott has contended the state's unemployment rate is dropping due to his policies.

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5:26 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Tampa International Wins $194 Million For Expansion

Governor Rick Scott announced $194 million in state funds will help cover the cost of the Tampa Gateway Center at the airport.
Yoselis Ramos WUSF

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that the state will give Tampa International Airport $194 million to help pay for the largest expansion since the facility's opening in 1971.

Scott was at the airport to make the announcement, along with dozens of local officials, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

"I couldn't think of any greater investment in our future," said Buckhorn.

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