Business news

Amy Green

It may take only a little sugar to make candy and cookies tasty treats, but sugar is big business.

This election cycle, sugar growers gave more to political campaigns than tobacco companies.

Big Sugar spends big to preserve a complex government program that benefits the industry by boosting the domestic price of the crop.

It costs consumers about $2-billion annually.

And in South Florida, nearly 700,000 acres are dedicated to growing sugar cane.

Full disclosure: I am very excited about this.

As a transplant from the Midwest, I'm always giddy when a business I enjoyed up North comes to Tampa Bay:

  • Kohl's in 2006
  • Ikea in 2009

And now Trader Joe's, the affordable hipster grocery chain that manages to sell items like gluten-free bagels and organic pomegranate juice at unpretentious prices. 

On Thursday, Tampa City Council will discuss pursuing a program that could attract wealthy, foreign investors to the area and in turn create new jobs for residents.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' EB-5 Investor Visa program has been around for more than two decades.

In Miami, the South Florida Investment Regional Center is using the EB-5 program to attract capital investments. The program is a simple quid pro quo.

vichie81 /

With Labor Day behind us, millions of Floridians are returning to work today--but taking home slimmer paychecks than in previous years, according to a new report.

Over the holiday weekend, Florida International University's Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy released its annual State of Working Florida report. The CliffsNotes version is this: Florida's typical worker earns about $1,000 less today than in 2010. 

If you've been to Tampa lately, you may have noticed the new landscaping on Bayshore Boulevard or the brightly lit bridges over the Hillsborough River.

You have the Republican National Convention to thank.

Much of the estimated $43 million improvements to the city are being paid for by the city and by a $50 million federal grant. Other private funders have chipped in as well.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly how much is being spent because many of the projects expedited by the RNC were already on the drawing board. 

Also, others pitched in to cover costs. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have each spent $800,000 to upgrade their phone infrastructure in the convention center. Tampa Electric and TECO People's Gas are the founding sponsors of the "Lighting of the Bridges" project.

Here is a list of projects to be completed before the RNC from the city of Tampa.

The economic impact of having the Tampa Bay region reported on by 15,000 journalists is one of the main reasons given for hosting the Republican National Convention. And local business leaders are not leaving to chance the kind of impression the bay area makes.

Preparations started in January to shape how out-of-town reporters write about the Tampa Bay area during the RNC.

Fifty-thousand people are expected to pour into Tampa for the Republican National Convention.

By day, they’re expected to attend meetings, patronize shops, and fill restaurants.

By night, high-end escorts hope some convention goers will be spending their time with them.

HART Bus ridership went up almost 6 percent last month compared to July last year and they had almost 61 thousand more bus trips this July than July 2011.

Its counterpart in Pinellas, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) , set a record. They had a 14 percent increase in ridership this past July and the highest ridership than the same month in any other year since the agency's existence.

HART spokeswoman Marcia Mejia said this increase in ridership has been going on for awhile.

HART is going to operate extra bus services for folks between Ybor City and Channelside during the Republican National Convention.

Route 8 (Downtown to Progress Village/ Brandon):

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 /

The average cost to close on a $200,000 mortgage is $3,754, according to 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 /

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.

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.