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The Republican National Convention is inching closer with just 19 days left before it's finally here. The RNC Tampa Bay Host Committee is saying its main focus now is small business.

RNC Tampa Bay Host Committee President and CEO Ken Jones opened a teleconference with one idea in mind...

"The big focus for the host committee continues to be to taking advantage of small business opportunities- making sure we showcase our small business," he said.

On that note, Jones also admits there are still critics who are skeptical about how much local revenue the RNC will bring.

Florida Homes Have Fourth-Highest Closing Costs

Aug 7, 2012
ntwowe / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The average cost to close on a $200,000 mortgage is $3,754, according to Bankrate.com. But in Florida, homebuyers can expect to shell out a few hundred extra dollars.

According to Bankrate's latest survey, Florida is among the top five most expensive states to close on a home. In 2012, the average closing costs on a $200,000 mortgage were as follows:

Airplane maintenance and repair company PEMCO will layoff almost 500 employees in the next couple of weeks.  It is one of Florida's largest single layoffs this year.

PEMCO President Kevin Casey says the decision is due to losing a contract with United Airlines. He says the business is cyclical, so the layoffs may be temporary.

imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net

From June 2011 to June 2012, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate dropped from 11.2 percent to 9 percent, according to new Labor Department figures.

That decrease gives the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area the country's second-largest unemployment drop for that time period, tied with Detroit. Only Las Vegas saw more improvement; its jobless rate fell from 14.4 percent to 12.1 percent.

Bad job news out of Tampa International Airport.

TPA Has New Volunteer Ambassador Program

Aug 2, 2012
Tampa International Airport

Just in time for the Republican National Convention, people traveling through Tampa International Airport now have volunteers to greet them with a smile.

It's all part of the airport's new Volunteer Ambassador Program.

The program has 89 volunteers and four new visitor information centers in the airport's baggage claim areas.

The volunteers give information from shuttle bus schedules, to restrooms, to the best attractions in the area.

Associated Press

Much attention is paid to Florida's unemployment rate -- which, at last check, hovered slightly above the national average at 8.6 percent.

But there's another figure to consider: the underemployment rate. That's the percentage of Floridians with part-time jobs who wish they had full-time jobs, and the percentage of discouraged workers who've stopped looking for jobs altogether.

Hotels in St. Petersburg and Tampa did well in June.

Hotel occupancy rates in the Tampa- St. Petersburg area went up 5.8 percent from last year. The average daily rate rose 4.7 percent and the revenue per available room increased 10.8 percent. That's according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Jeffery Turner / Flickr Creative Commons

The foreclosure-tracking website RealtyTrac released its midyear report today, and Tampa Bay stood out nationwide as the metro area with the highest increase in foreclosures.

The Republican National Convention is putting the brakes on most downtown Tampa public transportation. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART, announced today, the majority of downtown routes will be detoured or closed from August 27th through the 31st.

Aside from a shuttle to Tampa General Hospital, all other downtown Tampa bus routes will temporarily change during the RNC. The detours will keep most of the bus traffic north of Kennedy Boulevard.

Outdated labor statistics, restrictions on training money and a lack of coordination are three hurdles in the way of creating new Florida jobs according to a policy report just released by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Hernando County Airport Seeks to Add "Tampa" to Name

Jul 23, 2012
Hernando County Airport

When Kim Poppke represents the Hernando County Airport at trade shows, the conversation inevitably takes the same turn.

"Anywhere that I talk to anybody outside of this area, they don't know where Hernando County is," said Poppke, the airport's marketing and property coordinator. "Naturally, the next thing out of my mouth is, 'Well we're 35 minutes north of the Tampa airport.'"

Job Growth in Florida Holds Steady

Jul 20, 2012

Job Growth in Florida holds steady, according to The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.   Today the Agency released its unemployment report for the month of June, and the numbers indicate positive growth.

The state added 9,000 jobs in June, according to today's unemployment report.  This is the 23rd consecutive month of job growth in the state.  DEO chief economist Rebecca Rust says most employees gained jobs in four major fields.

Bobbie O'Brien

Republican National Convention organizers have felt the sting of criticism that previous conventions didn’t benefit most small businesses when the big political party came to town.

The Tampa Bay Host Committee has been working to change that perception holding seminars and setting up an online Small Business Directory to help small businesses get their piece of the pie.

Sporting an impeccable coiffure and fashionable earrings, hair stylist Jessica Wilson signed up for the Host Committee’s workshop on how to build your customer base using Facebook.

HART

The school where Angela DeMarco works is about 5 miles from her house.

To get to there, DeMarco walks 15 minutes from her St. Petersburg home to a bus stop at Tyrone Square Mall. Then it's a 15-minute bus ride to the school in Pinellas Park -- not counting the time DeMarco waits for the bus to actually show up.

"Sometimes it's an hour wait. Sometimes it's 15 minutes," said DeMarco, a special education teacher. "It all depends on traffic."

Hillsborough County small businesses damaged by Tropical Storm Debby can get some help from the US Small Business Administration.

Small agriculture and aquaculture businesses, most private non-profit organizations, and landlords who lost revenue on their rental properties can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

These small interest loans can help with the recovery from financial and working capital losses for businesses whose insurance didn't cover it. 

Horia Varlan

A nationwide energy scam has cropped up in Florida. And just to be clear, for the ones who've fallen for it, President Barack Obama will not be picking up your energy tab.

Almost 2,000 Tampa Electric customers were duped into believing the President was going to pay their power bill. Customers say they heard of the deal by text, Facebook message and notices on their front doors.

TECO spokeswoman Sylvia Vega says no one seems to have profited from the prank.

Vega explains what happened:

Publix Super Markets

Grocery customers can now avoid the dreaded deli line by going online.

Publix Super Markets just announced the launch of an Internet-based deli ordering system.

Publix Deli Online Easy Ordering will debut at one Lakeland store on Aug. 3 and should be in 50 stores by the end of this year, including "a handful in the Tampa Bay area," said spokeswoman Shannon Patten.

The service will enable shoppers to order custom sub sandwiches and wraps, as well as sliced meats and cheeses, for in-store pickup.

Tampa Bay & Company

Calling it a "game-changer" for downtown development, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the city will receive an $11 million federal grant to finish the Riverwalk.

The walkway along the Hillsborough River has come a long way in recent years, with the addition of the Tampa Art Museum, Glazer Children's Museum and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

But the pathway was broken in two parts, with a big gap in the middle.

Tampa Number Five in Foreclosures

Jun 15, 2012

Foreclosures in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area shot up 111 percent in the past year.

According to RealtyTrac, that means one in every 304 Bay area housing units is in foreclosure.

The new numbers rank the Bay area number five in foreclosures for the top 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country.

Florida's unemployment rate dipped again last month, dropping from 8.7 percent to 8.6 per cent.

After an April slump, The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says the state added 5300 jobs in May.

For the year, 53,800 jobs have been created in Florida.

Florida still trails the national unemployment rate, which went up from 8.1 to 8.2 percent in May.  

But, Florida is making up some ground, with unemployment dropping two percentage points in the past year.

The Tampa Bay area jobless rate was unchanged in May at 8.6 per cent.

Hillsborough County's public bus system HART is proposing changes to its services and prices.

HART is holding eight meetings and a public hearing to inform the community of its changes; like modifying some routes, increasing prices, and changing their service schedules on holidays.

HART spokeswoman Marcia Mejia says the meetings aren't just for providing information to the public but also to get the public's feedback.

HART

We may not have light rail - but the Bay Area's first Rapid Bus Transit line took several steps closer to becoming reality today. Commuters in Tampa could see the line up and running by next spring.

Tampa-Based Company to Bring 600 New Jobs to Lakeland

May 31, 2012
Dreamstime.com

The Tampa-based Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes announced that a new customer service call center is going to bring 600 new jobs to Lakeland.

The company's call center will be located on Griffin Road at the former FedEx National LTL facility and Sykes said it would start operating in the third quarter.

Florida's unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent in April, but that was largely due to people leaving the labor force.
 
Federal officials earlier this month announced the national unemployment rate dropped from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent in April. But that was mainly because more people gave up looking for work.

That's also what happened in Florida, where the civilian labor force declined by 28,000 workers in April.

Florida's unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent last month...but the state has 2,700 fewer jobs. That's the mixed message from April's employment report. The answer: discouraged unemployed workers continue to drop out of the labor force. The state's labor pool continues to shrink. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent -- very close to the 8.1 percent national average. But like the state, the region lost jobs -- about 600. It also lost its status as the fastest job creating region to Miami.

Aimee Blodgett / USF News

Florida and the Tampa Bay area are well-positioned to work with businesses in developing countries around the world.

That's the opinion of Ian Solomon, the U.S. Executive Director of the World Bank, who's in town this week to meet with local business leaders.

Young Job Hunters Can Apply Through Virtual Job Fair

May 17, 2012
Photo Courtesy of WorkNet Pinellas

WorkNet Pinellas is hosting a virtual job fair. It's going on until May 26 and it's focusing on young people.

They're calling it 'Tampa Bay's Virtual Job Fair."  WorkNet Pinellas and its partners are giving employers an opportunity to post their job openings online for part-time, full-time, and summer internship positions for people ages 14 to 24.

It's free and since it's virtual that means applicants can stay in their pajamas while submitting their resumes.

Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Florida's official tourism company, Visit Florida says in the months of January-March tourism has grown 2.4 percent compared to the same time last year.

23.4 million visitors came through Florida in the first quarter of 2012. The largest percentage increase of visitors came from overseas tourists, that rate was 13 percent. Domestic visitors' percentage rate increased 1.2 percent and the percentage increase from Canadian visitors was 2.7 percent.

Photo by Steve Newborn

Jamie Dimon is still the head of the country's largest bank. Just days after he revealed JPMorgan Chase lost nearly$2.5 billion because of bad trades, shareholders today decided not to remove him as chairman of the board.

" Banks got bailed out, we got sold out..." wailed a handful of protesters, who greeted more than 300 shareholders outside JP Morgan Chase's regional office in Tampa.

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