Business news

Legoland Florida Announces "Chima" Expansion

Mar 19, 2013

Today, Legoland Florida announced a major expansion for its Winter Haven location, the largest of its five Lego-based theme parks.

Legoland Florida's newest attraction will revolve around an interactive water ride called the Quest for Chi.  It's based on Lego's "The Legends of Chima," a show set to launch this summer on Cartoon Network.

Florida Unemployment Rate Better than National Average

Mar 18, 2013

It's the first time since 2008 that Florida's unemployment rate hasn't topped the national average. Florida's January unemployment rate is 7.8 percent.

The national average is 7.9 percent.

Fifth World Art / Flickr Creative Commons

Let's hope the luck of the Irish is with passengers aboard the Carnival Legend.  On Sunday -- St. Patrick's Day -- the cruise ship departed from the Port of Tampa for a weeklong excursion, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Last week, after its propulsion system malfunctioned, the Legend re-routed to Tampa’s Channel District. On Sunday morning, passengers disembarked as hundreds of others arrived for their afternoon voyage, which will travel at a reduced speed with as a propulsion specialist continues making repairs en route to Mexico -- not Belize, as originally planned.

Farmworkers March 200 Miles, Stop in Tampa

Mar 13, 2013

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been asking Publix Super Market Inc. to be a part of a Fair Food Program for the farmworkers who work the tomato fields. The CIW is on a 200 mile march from Ft. Myers to Lakeland and they stopped in Tampa today.

The CIW is in its fourth year trying to persuade Publix to sign its Fair Food Program agreement. It calls for better working conditions and a "penny-a-pound" bonus for its tomatoes.

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office

The Great Recession is over - at least when it comes to the value of homes in Hillsborough County.

The county's property appraiser released statistics today that shows property values are rebounded, after five straight years of dropping through the floor.

Here's the word from the property appraiser's office:

Gov. Rick Scott spent the day working at Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium Wednesday, raking the field and selling strawberry shortcake.  But he also made an announcement about state funding for baseball. 

This year's edition of the Daytona 500 posted its strongest TV ratings since 2008, thanks to a buildup of attention drawn by Danica Patrick's history-making pole position and a horrendous crash during a race at the track Saturday. Viewership peaked late in the race, when Patrick dropped from third position to finish eighth behind winner Jimmie Johnson.

The biggest percentage gains in viewership seem to have come in big cities.

Here's a headline that may sound familiar: Miami is in the middle of a condo boom.

Just seven years ago, Miami had a similar surge in condo construction. But it all came crashing down. There was an international banking crisis, and the Florida real estate bubble burst — taking down investors and many developers.

But new towers are once again reshaping the city's skyline.

Peter Zalewski, a real estate consultant with Condo Vultures, says 19 condo towers are now in the works in Miami, with 7,000 total units.

The Hillsborough County Commission approved a cost-sharing agreement for road improvements along Falkenburg Road in Brandon for a new Bass Pro Shop.

The deal is just more than $6 million. Backers of the project expect tax revenues to make up for the cost in 5 years after the shop opens in 2014.

The money won't be going to Bass Pro. Instead, the money goes to the developer - I-75/Palm River Road LLC. They'll be the ones doing the road adjustments.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe voted in favor and stands behind his vote.

Tampa Bay is feeling the heat--and we're not talking about Valentine's Day passion.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area was the third-most financially strapped part of the country in the last quarter of 2012. That's according to the latest Consumer Distress Index released by CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. 

In fact, three of top five most financially distressed metro areas were in the not-so-Sunshine State. Here's the breakdown:

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Wells Fargo Regional President Carl Miller stood by a podium set up at 109 W. Adalee St. - right in front of a home that needs rehabilitation.

The men presented six local nonprofit organizations with grants totaling $800,000 for their efforts in affordable housing construction, shelter and support services for the homeless, neighborhood beautification and improvement, workforce development programs, and small and micro-business assistance.

The Great Recession touched a vast majority of Americans personally, a new study from Rutgers' Heldrich Center finds.

The most stunning number in the study: "Some 73 percent [of Americans] either lost a job themselves, or had a member of their household, a close relative, or a friend lose a job at some point in the past four years."

The report is pretty depressing. A few more findings:

Seems like the name 1-800-Ask-Gary is everywhere: On TV commercials, on the radio, on the sides of buses...

But here's one place that no longer bears the moniker of the "doctor and lawyer referral service": The amphitheater at the Florida State Fairgrounds. 

Ask-Gary had a three-year naming rights deal with the outdoor concert venue off Interstate 4, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That contract expired Dec. 31.

The Crystal River nuclear power plant will be retired, the parent company of Progress Energy said today, affecting about 600 employees and ending months of uncertainly over the facility's future.

The reactor has been offline since late 2009, when its concrete containment building cracked during a maintenance and upgrade project.

Officials with North Carolina-based Duke Energy, which owns Progress Energy, had said fixing the plant could take nearly three years and cost billions of dollars.

TECO Seeks to Raise Residential Rates by 10%

Feb 4, 2013

Tampa Electric Company will ask for a 10 percent increase on residential rates. It could mean an average of $11 extra a month coming out of customers' pockets.

TECO  is blaming the slow recovery of the economy and costs to maintaining their infrastructures for the rate increase request.

"We know there's never a good time to raise rates and we empathize with our customers who like us are also feeling the effects of a difficult economy," says company spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs.

Where's the beef? The answer, at least for this week, is Tampa.

Tuesday through Saturday, the Tampa Convention Center will host the National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention. As many as 4,000 cattlemen will be in town for the event, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Florida was a poster child for all the familiar excesses of the housing bubble -- the bad loans, the overheated market, the frenzied development. Although the party ended in 2007, the hangover continues. Recent numbers show the state has the highest foreclosure rate in the country.

There's more good news about the housing market this morning.

Half of all tomatoes eaten in the U.S. come from Mexico, and tomato growers in Florida aren't happy about that. In fact, they're willing to risk a trade war to reverse the trend.

At JC Distributing In Nogales, Ariz., one misstep and you're likely to get knocked over by a pallet full of produce. Forklifts crisscross each other carrying peppers, squash and especially tomatoes from trucks backed into the warehouse loading dock.

"This is a Mexican truck being unloaded," says JC President Jaime Chamberlain. "He's just waiting for his paperwork to get back."

Florida No. 3 for Bank Branch Closings

Jan 23, 2013

Following a nationwide trend of bank closings, Florida had a net loss of 18 bank branches in last year's fourth quarter. That's according to new figures from SNL Financial. Only Indiana and Pennsylvania fared worse. Experts attribute the closings to low interest rates and expect the decline to continue. Bank of America had biggest net loss -- 47 branches nationwide. JPMorgan Chase & Co. added the most offices -- 16 -- and is focusing on expanding in Florida and California, the SNL report said.