Business news

Not Made in China - But Florida

Oct 29, 2013

As the manufacturing cost difference between the U.S. and China shrinks, it often makes better sense to bring production closer to market, says Dave Sievers, a principal at the Hackett Group, a Miami-based consulting firm that advises manufacturers on offshoring and reshoring. Sievers also says that companies that manufacture closer to home can be more responsive to customers who need finely tailored specifications or customized changes to the products they’ve ordered

Far from just a problem for rich people who live on the beach, steep flood insurance rate increases approved by Congress last year largely will hit middle- and working-class homeowners who can least afford the higher costs. The average single-family home facing a large flood premium increase in Manatee County is worth $122,019 and has 1,442 square feet of living area, while in Sarasota County the average is a home worth $169,700 with 1,567 square feet.

Yankees Minor League Affiliate Ocala Bound

Oct 28, 2013

The Tampa Yankees are moving north.

It was announced this morning that the Yankees minor league Single-A affiliate reached an agreement to move the team from Tampa to Ocala.

A presentation will be held in Ocala Tuesday, giving a total overview of the project that would move the team into a proposed $45 million stadium/entertainment complex

Jeannine Robbins, a spokesperson for the city of Ocala,  says the plan for the new stadium will be revealed then.

Tampa Port Authority

The Port of Tampa will soon say "guten tag" to its fifth cruise line.

German cruise line AIDA Cruises (note: website is mainly in German) will base its AIDAvita ship out of the port starting in December 2014.

In winter 2015, the AIDAmar will takes its place in sailing out of Tampa.

"AIDA Cruises' announcement to come to Tampa is a milestone for us, not only at the port, but for all of our tourism and economic development partners in the region," Tampa Port Authority president and CEO Paul Anderson said in a press release.

CF Industries

The Mosaic Co. has announced it's buying the Central Florida operations of CF Industries. The price - $1.2 billion.

Among the CF properties included in the deal is the South Pasture phosphate mine and beneficiation plant in Hardee County, which totals 22,000 acres; a Plant City phosphate mine and beneficiation plant; and facilities at the Port of Tampa, including an ammonia terminal and warehouse facilities., Inc. today confirmed plans to open another fulfillment center in Lakeland. It will be in addition to another center that Amazon earlier announced it will open in Ruskin. Each center will be more than than 1 million square feet. Amazon officials say when both are open, more than 1,000 full-time jobs will be created.

The heirs of a well-known figure in the Florida citrus industry are giving up control of a company that remains one of the state's largest private landowners.

Two New York-based agricultural companies are spending $137.8 million to purchase shares of Alico Inc. now held by the heirs of Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

Alico owns nearly 131,000 acres of land spread across five Florida counties — including Alachua, Collier, Lee and Polk — that are used for citrus groves, sugar cane and cattle ranching.

Gov. Scott said the Florida Department of Transportation's work program will include additional investments of $9.7 million for a container yard at Port Canaveral, $10.4 million for a container yard at the Port of Tampa and $14.7 million to support the "Turning Notch" project at Port Everglades. In announcing the new plans for Canaveral, Tampa and Port Everglades, the governor's office said $642 million has been allocated since Scott took office in 2011 for port projects, including expansions at the ports in Miami and Jacksonville. There also have been terminal and rail upgrades at Tampa.

Duke Energy Rate Hike Causes Controversy

Oct 16, 2013
STOP Duke Energy Rip Off Facebook Page

A protest was held Wednesday morning in front of the state Public Service Commission headquarters in Tallahassee to oppose a new Duke Energy rate hike.

The protesters want to stop a settlement that would require Duke Energy customers to pay $3.2 billion to close the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and stop plans to build another generator in Levy County.

Democratic State Representative Dwight Dudley of Pinellas County - who was at the protest - says Duke Energy picked the wrong time to build a power plant.

Duke announced Aug. 1 it was canceling a proposed new nuclear plant in Levy County. In February, it announced it would close its Crystal River nuclear plant after botched repairs in 2009 led to its shutdown. The Office of Public Counsel says the settlement, revised with the cancelation of the Levy County plant, will provide $388 million in refunds to customers while reducing or denying more than $1 billion in returns on costs for Duke investors.

Florida citrus researchers are preparing to launch a large-scale test of new disease-tolerant orange tree rootstock in what one likened to a leap of faith to save the $9 billion state industry from a deadly citrus greening "tsunami." Florida, second to Brazil in global orange juice production, has lost billions of dollars in revenues from the disease that is killing orange trees faster than they can be replaced. Citrus greening, which makes the fruit unpalatable and kills trees within a few years, has helped put state orange production on a downward trend.

A second language is spoken in about 20 percent of all households in the U.S.

However, in the Miami area alone, that number rises to about 70 percent.

The dominant second language there, of course, is Spanish, but a new language is becoming influential in Miami’s business community.

From the Here & Now’s Contributors Network, Karen Rundlet of WLRN explains the rise of Portuguese in Miami.

In his new book The Everything Store, Brad Stone chronicles how Amazon became an "innovative, disruptive, and often polarizing technology powerhouse." He writes that Amazon was among the first to realize the potential of the Internet and that the company "ended up forever changing the way we shop and read."

Before backers of the $1.5 billion private venture by the subsidiary of Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries expand to other east coast communities, and at more distant points across the state, they want to know they’ll have a chance to recoup their investment before adding stops. That didn’t prevent members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee this week from expressing a desire for the private venture to start making plans to expand the service west to Tampa and north to Daytona Beach and Jacksonville.

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.

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.

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.”