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The disease is called citrus greening and is carried by a tiny, invasive bug called the Asian citrus psyllid. The disease attacks a citrus tree’s ability to take in nutrients and retain fruit. “It’s the biggest challenge we face as an industry right now,” said Andrew Meadows, director of communications of Florida Citrus Mutual, which markets and lobbies for the state’s $9 billion citrus industry.

Low-Wage Workers Protest in Temple Terrace

Sep 4, 2014
Lucielle Salomon / WUSF

 Across the country and in Florida, low-wage workers protested on Thursday at lunchtime for higher pay. One of the places they gathered was at a McDonald's in Temple Terrace.

They want to be paid at least $15 per hour, and they also want the right to form a union.

Mandy Spencer works at the fast food restaurant in Temple Terrace. She said was nervous to go outside  and protest, but said her manager gave her permission.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

First, it was the Ice Palace - a homage to its main tenant, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.

Then, the then-St. Petersburg Times shelled out $30 million in 2002 for a 12-year deal to rename the palace the St. Pete Times Forum. That name shifted to the Tampa Bay Times Forum when the newspaper rebranded itself.

Now, it's the Amalie Arena.

In 2011, after Lightning owner Jeff Vinik purchased the Lightning, the naming rights deal was extended to 2018. Vinik announced today the Times is becoming the "exclusive print sponsor" of the 19,204-seat arena.

Wikimedia Commons

Busch Gardens' Falcon's Fury is finally open. After testing that took months, the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America is now giving people the chance to fall face-down towards the ground at 60 miles per hour.

Falcon's Fury is the main attraction of Pantopia - the new area of the theme park that opened in April.

Labor Day was created to celebrate the country’s labor movement and its social and economic achievements, but a new study from FIU’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) may dampen some of this year’s celebration.

Duke Energy Called Before State Regulators to Explain Billing Change

Aug 25, 2014

Duke Energy Florida will have to explain to state regulators an ongoing change in its billing process that two lawmakers say is spiking costs.

Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham on Monday asked Duke Energy Florida President Alex Glenn to appear at a Sept. 4 meeting to address concerns raised by state Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, about billing-cycle adjustments and related increased customer payments.

Glenn will be at the meeting, a company spokesman said.

Lynne Sladky/AP

The tourists stream to Florida in their cars, intent on a week at Disney or a sugar-sand seashore or a nonstop party on South Beach. Road weary and thirsty, they pull over at one of the state’s five official welcome centers. They walk inside, and then they look up.

“The best start under the sun,” reads a big sign. “FLORIDA ORANGE JUICE.”

Behind a counter, a woman sits with a stack of paper cups. “Welcome to Florida,” she says with a big smile. “Orange or grapefruit?”

The juice is cold and sweet. It tastes like the Sunshine State.

Florida had a record number of visitors during this past spring.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that 24 million tourists visited the state during the second quarter of 2014.

That's a three percent jump over the same time period a year ago, and the largest second quarter ever for the state.

The Latest on Florida's Unemployment Numbers

Aug 15, 2014
wikipedia.org

July unemployment rates were released today. The unemployment rates in Florida from June to July were unchanged at 6.2 percent, but, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate rose from 6.3 percent to 6.8 percent, losing 7,000 jobs over the month.

The unemployment rate for the US in July is also at 6.2 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate has been less than or equal to the national rate for 14 of the last 15 months.

Since 2009, Florida has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors to the Sunshine State, and has had record tourism numbers. A new study by a non-partisan watchdog group shows Florida may now also be on track to meeting a big milestone: attracting 100 million visitors by 2015.

Will Seccombe is the head of Florida’s tourism agency, Visit Florida. He says there’s no question in his mind that the industry is on a steady upswing—as outlined in a report by Florida TaxWatch.

MOSI Gets $2 Million Grant from Florida Hospital

Jul 25, 2014
WUSF Public Media

Florida Hospital gave Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry $2 million on Friday. Long-time CEO Wit Ostrenko, who announced his retirement plans earlier this year, accepted the multimillion dollar check from Florida Hospital West Florida Region President/CEO Mike Schultz. Also in attendance were various board members of both institutions, along with State Sen. John Legg and Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

On the northern side of Ybor City sits the J. C. Newman Cigar Company factory, a family-owned business tucked inside a classic brick building nicknamed El Reloj, a nod to its clock tower. Both have defied the maw of modernity to outlive a century. But now J. C. Newman faces its biggest threat: the possibility that the Food and Drug Administration may introduce strict, expensive regulations on cigars that the Newman brothers, who operate the company, say could close the last working cigar factory in town.

Job Numbers Released; Florida Trending Upward

Jul 18, 2014
www.flickr.com

Florida is leading the nation in job growth, adding more than 37,000 jobs this month. The Tampa Bay area has added over 25,000 jobs in the last 12 months, third among metro areas in Florida, according to state officials..

A rise in jobs means a dip in the unemployment rate, the statewide unemployment rate for 2014 is 6.2 percent, down from 7.4 percent in June 2013. Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, says the job picture is trending upward.

Florida's unemployment rate is now higher than the national rate.

The state's jobless rate in June was 6.2 percent. That's a slight dip from the previous month when it was 6.3 percent.

But the national unemployment rate is 6.1 percent. This is the first time in more than a year that Florida's rate is higher than the national rate.

The good economic news is that the state led the nation in job growth according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Speaking shortly before the final All-Star Game he'll oversee as Major League Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig again said Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Rays need a new ballpark. TBO.com reports Selig said he'll leave any decisions on if and where a new stadium would be built up to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg.

Cigar Factory Pushes Back on Proposed Regulation

Jul 9, 2014
Lottie Watts / WUSF

Gov. Rick Scott's office is continuing to push back against cigar regulations proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Duke Energy Florida will host an open house on its proposed combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County Thursday.

It will be held between 3 and 7 p.m. in the Magnolia room at the Plantation on Crystal River, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River.

On May 13, Duke Energy Florida announced plans to construct a new combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County to supply 1,640 megawatts of generation to help serve Florida's approximately 1.7 million customers in 2018.

Port of Tampa

The Tampa Bay area has three options when it comes to the future of its cruise ship industry - and two of them would cost a lot of money.

That's the conclusion reached in a Florida Department of Transportation study released Tuesday.

For the second year in a row, Travel & Leisure magazine has ranked Tampa International Airport second on its "Best Domestic Airports" list.

Planet Money

On the heels of the chart showing how far your paycheck goes in over 350 U.S. cities (which was amazingly popular on our Facebook page), here's another great chart from the Planet Money folks.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

The old federal courthouse used to be one of the most imposing buildings in downtown Tampa. That was before federal officials decamped to a new skyscraper and left the old building to the harsh Florida elements. After being left empty for for decades, the courthouse is now the Le Meriden hotel. Today's grand opening has been a long time coming.

Look Out Spider-Man, Captain Citrus is Coming

Jun 13, 2014

Marvel Comics, the creative home of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men, might soon revamp the Florida Department of Citrus' own caped crusader.

The state agency, as it redirects marketing dollars to help juice the industry's sales, expects to finalize talks in the next few weeks with the Disney-owned company on a contract worth about $1 million to redesign Captain Citrus from a rotund creature from the Planet Orange into a male superhero.

Department spokesman David Steele said the goal is to transform the state program into a global brand.

Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) broke ground on its new shelter for victims of domestic violence Tuesday morning. With an increasing number of domestic abuse cases in Pinellas County, providing refuge for victims has become a challenge for CASA's current thirty-bed shelter.

CASA's director of advancement Nicole Worthington hopes that its new, 100-bed shelter will give more victims a safe place to call home.

Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) is holding a groundbreaking Tuesday to give abused women and children a place to live.

The shelter, located in St. Petersburg, is no longer adequate to serve the number of people who need help.

Has Florida Found the Secret to Saving the Economy?

May 29, 2014

Florida is surging because tourism leaders massively reinvested in their businesses throughout a recession that took statewide unemployment to 11.4%. When consumers had money again, Orlando and Miami had new stuff for tourists to do, from Harry Potter to Legoland, with new attractions opening every season. Those new products, created because tourism players large and small had the guts and vision to invest when Orlando’s hotel occupancy fell below 50%, drew new customers and ignited 600,000 new jobs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reporting that long-time owner Malcolm Glazer has died. Buccaneers.com says Glazer passed away Wednesday. Here's their report:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are saddened to announce the passing of Owner/President Malcolm Glazer earlier this morning at the age of 85.

Megabus Arrives, Bringing Bargain Fares

May 20, 2014
Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

It's now possible to get to Orlando or Miami from Tampa for less than it costs to drive with the arrival of a new  inter-city bus service called Megabus.  To celebrate its arrival in Tampa, the company has been offering $1 fares during the first two weeks. That drew a crowd to the Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa recently, and WUSF was there to see what the new bus service was like.

Funding Flows to Ports, Including Port Tampa Bay

May 19, 2014
Port Tampa Bay

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday celebrated the soon-to-open, $915 million PortMiami tunnel.

And when the new state budget arrives on his desk, Scott will get to decide on spending $139 million more over the next year to continue the rush to upgrade Florida's seaports.

The port funding --- tied to expanding global trade and attracting the larger cargo ships expected to traverse a widened Panama Canal --- has been packaged at more than $117 million for the fourth consecutive year.

$1 Bus Rides to Miami Take Off Today

May 15, 2014
Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Get to Miami or Orlando for just a buck? It's possible. Megabus, a new city-to-city bus service took off Thursday morning.

Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA,  has partnered up with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to bring its intercity bus service to Tampa. People can reserve their seats online for a promotional fare starting at a dollar and ride the double-decker bus to other metro cities.

82-year-old  Mary Ellen Ahrens is a Winter Haven resident who boarded the first departure Megabus to Miami.

Duke to Build Natural Gas Plant in Citrus County

May 13, 2014
Duke Engery

Continuing a series of major changes, Duke Energy Florida on Tuesday said it plans to build a $1.5 billion natural-gas power plant in Citrus County while also shutting down two old coal-fired generating units.

Duke, the state's second-largest electric utility, indicated last year that it was likely to move forward with such a plan. But the announcement comes after other high-profile changes that have included shuttering a damaged Crystal River nuclear plant and scrapping plans to build two nuclear reactors in Levy County.

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