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Phosphate mining was once an economic pillar for Polk County -- but that era is coming to a close. The last active mine in the county is nearly depleted and will close next year .

Mosaic says it will close its Hookers Prairie phosphate mine in Polk  by the fall of next year.

"That will be the last rock we extract from Polk County," says Karen Swager, Vice President of Mining Operations for Mosaic.

Public Hearing: Howard Frankland Bridge Construction

Oct 7, 2013
WUSF/Yoselis Ramos

The northbound Howard Frankland Bridge's life span is coming to an end after being in service for more than 50 years. The Department of Transportation has replacement plans it's going to share with the public starting Tuesday.

FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson says it is still looking for funding but expects to start construction in five years. The FDOT is also looking at some "premium" transit options.

While plans for the new Miami-Orlando trains are on target to begin service in late 2015, local officials worry a second phase of the project could bypass Tampa for an Orlando-Jacksonville route. If All Aboard Florida ultimately reaches Tampa, it would strengthen Interstate 4 corridor ties, but a competitive factor is involved as well. The new passenger railroad is providing a boost to Orlando International Airport, which will become the state's first airport with a train station and a direct rail connection, in an agreement signed Wednesday. The concern over falling behind with All Aboard Florida has created a sense of urgency among local invitees to a regional transportation summit scheduled Thursday in Tampa.

MyFloridaHouse.gov

The Pinellas County property appraiser says the county has more homes affected by the increases in the federal flood insurance program than any other county in the country.

There is a seminar scheduled for tonight, for those who want to learn more about the increase in premiums. It's being held at the St. Petersburg College - Seminole Campus Digitorium in the University Partnership Building, 9200 113th Street North in Seminole.

SumterCountyFL.gov

As rain pounds the Tampa Bay area, Florida realtors are worried that changes in the federal flood insurance rates - scheduled to kick in October 1st - will dry up home sales.

The flood insurance reforms, known as the Biggert-Waters Act, in part require all new home buyers pay full rate for flood policies ending any subsidy the previous home owner enjoyed.

Florida's attempt to pull out of the depths of the Great Recession continues to be uneven and bumpy.

The state released new unemployment rates on Friday that show that Florida's unemployment rate has dropped to 7 percent in August. It had been stalled at 7.1 percent for the previous three months.

Gov. Rick Scott touted the news at a morning press conference he held in Melbourne, but a closer look at the numbers shows that one reason the rate dropped was that the state's overall labor force shrank.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines, which is trying to get consumers' trust back after a series of mishaps, has announced a money-back guarantee.

USA Today reports the Miami-based company's "Great Vacation Guarantee" will let guests dissatisfied for any reason end their cruise early and receive a 110% refund plus free transportation home, along with a $100 shipboard credit for a future cruise.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

James Clad is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and currently is a consultant for international energy companies. He spoke earlier this week at the Tampa Committee on Foreign Relations and to a government class at the University of Tampa. His topic - how the natural gas boom is changing energy policies in the U.S.

WUSF's Steve Newborn asks Clad how this will affect Florida - which gets most of its electricity generated by natural gas.

Florida's I-4 Corridor is a High-Tech Hotbed

Sep 10, 2013

Nowhere is the transformation of Florida from an economy based on retirees and agriculture to innovation more evident than along what’s known as the Florida High-Tech Corridor. It's a 23-county area that runs from Tampa through Orlando to the Space Coast and bumps up to include Gainesville and Alachua County. From medical device manufacturers in Clearwater to simulation companies in Orlando to avionics suppliers on the Space Coast, the region’s diverse industry clusters encompass close to 20,000 businesses and more than a quarter of a million employees with an average salary of more than $77,000.

Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan has asked the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, Jeff Vinik, to consider a Rays stadium on land he partly owns across from the Forum in downtown Tampa. Vinik is a partner with a Colorado-based investment group in at least 14 acres across from the Forum, and he’s been planning a large-scale development project there. Hagan said he asked Vinik’s group not to make any plans until the Rays’ standoff with St. Petersburg is resolved. Hagan said he’s not committed to Vinik’s property, which sits on each side of Caesar Street and just north of Channelside Drive, but wants to have several potential stadium sites available in case the Rays come knocking

Tampa International Airport

Tampa International Airport Chief Executive Officer Joe Lopano has received a 5 percent merit raise, his second pay raise this year and third in the last 20 months.

Thanks to Thursday's vote by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, Lopano will have an annual salary of $330,750 starting October 1st. That's a bump of $80,750 in base salary since he was named CEO in January 2011.

South Florida-based Spirit Airlines is known for being cheap. It boasts "ultralow" base fares and then charges for items such as carry-on luggage or printing out your boarding pass at the airport.

That thrift carries over to Spirit's advertising. Even compared with other low-cost airlines, Spirit spends almost nothing on ads. And yet the company makes a surprising splash with its campaigns. A visit to Spirit headquarters reveals the secrets of its marketing.

When the federal government rules it's OK to head to Cuba by boat, Manatee County will be ready to pounce, said Carlos Buqueras, port executive director. "We want to be at the forefront of these opportunities to rebuild Cuba," Buqueras shared with an audience at a Manatee Chamber of Commerce breakfast. "Of course, we don't know when it's going to open, but we can't wait to get ready."

Miami-Orlando By Train For Under $100

Aug 23, 2013

It will be the first time a private company will offer intercity passenger rail service without public funds. It is to use 32 trains offering three-hour trips between Miami and Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The trains will run on tracks laid by Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway company and not used for passenger service since 1968. They'll call into Flagler's former Miami center, a nine-acre site.

Intown/Framework Group LLC

Tampa City Council approved a rezoning hearing this morning of Residences at the Riverwalk, a 360-unit apartment tower planned to be built next to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Council members approved the rezoning of land covering both Cass and Tyler streets.

They also gave approval to the city to vacate Cass and Tyler streets in the area of the tower site. Both votes were 5-1. Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin dissented, stating that City Council needs to dedicate more time to issues that involve public money.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

More than two dozen residents from Pinellas County's beach communities signed up for one-on-one meetings with Citizens Insurance staff Tuesday morning in St. Pete Beach.

The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes arranged the meetings.

“Just seeing the amount of people who are out here,” Brandes said, “We’re excited to see people get a chance to interact with their insurance company and I think we need to make Citizens much more customer friendly.”

USGS.gov

Florida’s state-run Citizens Property Insurance is coming to the Tampa Bay region for feedback on its announced rate increases.

Citizens’ policyholders have two opportunities Tuesday, August 20, 2013, to have their questions answered. The proposed rate hikes that range from two to 11 percent for hurricane coverage and increases up to 27 percent for sinkhole coverage.

Yoselis Ramos

Wheels of Success, a non-profit that keeps people employed by providing low cost cars to those in need is losing its home. They've lost their headquarters office on Florida Avenue in Tampa.

Sarasota County has a higher percentage of people over 65 than any other large county in the nation. And some business leaders now say that all those seniors - rather than a demographic drawback - could be a valuable asset.

They could actually help diversify the economy - even turn the county into what they're calling a "mecca" for those who want to learn what an aging population looks like.

Retailers Keeping Tabs on Consumers' Return Habits

Aug 12, 2013
Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's not just the government that might be keeping tabs on you. Many retailers are tracking you, too — or at least your merchandise returns.

The companies say it's all in the name of security and fighting fraud. They want to be able to identify chronic returners or gangs of thieves trying to make off with high-end products that are returned later for store credit.

Consumer advocates are raising transparency issues about the practice of having companies collect information on consumers and create "return profiles" of customers at big-name stores such as Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Victoria's Secret, Home Depot and Nike.

Enterprise Florida Board Approves CEO's Bonus

Aug 8, 2013
Enterprise Florida

Florida's top official in charge of bringing businesses to the state is getting a $70,000 bonus.

The board of Enterprise Florida - which includes Gov. Rick Scott - voted Thursday to grant the bonus to president and CEO Gray Swoope. The board also signed off on more than $630,000 in bonuses for other agency employees.  

Florida's Jobs Recruiter May Get Hefty Bonus for Work

Aug 7, 2013
Enterprise Florida

Florida's top official in charge of recruiting jobs to the state could be getting a $70,000 bonus.

Enterprise Florida, the organization set up to lure companies to the state, will consider the bonus for President and CEO Gray Swoope when its board meets Thursday. That board — which includes Gov. Rick Scott — will also consider more than $630,000 in bonuses for other agency employees.

Florida utility regulators are letting Duke Energy Florida, the nation's largest utility, raise rates to pay for a shuttered nuclear power plant in Crystal River.

University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research

Citing a preliminary report from the University of Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports the state's population grew slightly in the past year, up a bit from the pace seen during the recession.

State Rep. Mike Fasano knew that Duke Energy was going to withdraw plans to build a nuclear power plant in Levy County long before the general public did.

He says his feeling after hearing the news was for the customers - himself included - who have paid more than a billion dollars of fees - money that was to go toward a nuclear power plant that will never be built.  He says Duke Energy was not honest with state leaders, the Public Service Commission and most importantly not honest with its customers.

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Duke Energy will not be building a nuclear plant in Levy County after all.

MiraclePlace Gives Hope to Homeless

Jul 31, 2013
Yoselis Ramos

Metropolitan Ministries is renovating and expanding its MiraclePlace campus just north of downtown Tampa. It's home to homeless children and families until they can get back on their feet.

Families previously stayed in a 200-square-foot room with a couple of bunk beds against the walls and a small bathroom to the side. Mandy Cloninger of Metropolitan Ministries said the single light overhead was an example of how this small room wasn't enough.

A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA

Jul 29, 2013

With a precipitous decline in Florida’s harvest predicted within the decade because of citrus greening, the only chance left to save it, many people believe, is one the industry has long avoided for fear of consumer rejection. They would have to alter the orange’s DNA — with a gene from a different species. Oranges are not the only crop that might benefit from genetically engineered resistance to diseases for which standard treatments have proven elusive. And advocates of the technology say it could also help provide food for a fast-growing population on a warming planet by endowing crops with more nutrients, or the ability to thrive in drought, or to resist pests.

Miami-Orlando Train Plans Gain Steam

Jul 29, 2013

Managers of the project to operate a premium Miami-Orlando passenger train service say they are close to putting out bids to design the railroad corridor stretching from downtown Miami to the Orlando International Airport. The announcement marked yet another milestone in the highly-anticipated train service that aims to lure passengers with luxury service. Project managers hope to draw passengers with high-end offers on trains and in stations where brand name shops will be featured. The service will have four stations: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. The rail infrastructure is expected to cost more than $1.5 billion. Originally announced in March 2012, All Aboard Florida is expected to launch by the end of 2015, 16 daily trains would leave from each of the two terminus stations, at Orlando International Airport and downtown Miami, between early morning and the evening with intermediate stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Trains would take about three hours to complete each one-way trip.

Obama's Economic Tour Arrives in Jacksonville

Jul 25, 2013
whitehouse.gov

It's hard to find anyone who thinks President Barack Obama's series of heavily promoted economic speeches will be the flash point that unclogs the system in Washington — including the president.

A day after he kicked off the tour in Illinois and Missouri, Obama travels today to a seaport in Jacksonville, to yet again deride the wide gulf between his vision for a new American prosperity driven by a burgeoning middle class and the intense gridlock snarling up Congress.

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