Central Business Briefs - Oct. 2004
Daytona Beach -- Raydon Corp. has delivered its first "virtual combat convoy trainers" to the Army. The simulators give soldiers the opportunity to train as drivers or gunners in Humvees acting as convoy escorts. The programs challenge them with various civilian and military obstacles depicted in various Iraqi landscapes. Each unit allows 20 soldiers in a convoy of four vehicles to practice their responses.
A federal judge in Orlando ruled construction of a performing arts center could proceed, despite a pending lawsuit involving the News-Journal Corp., the center's owner. Cox Enterprises of Atlanta, which owns 47.5% of the News-Journal Corp., had sued the company over its purchase of the naming rights. As a result of the controversy, the News-Journal has agreed to buy Cox's interest.
Lake Mary -- Priority Healthcare Corp. (Nasdaq-PHCC) accepted a $2-million incentives package from Seminole County to stay put and add 450 employees at its current location. The company had considered relocating in order to expand.
Maitland -- J.P. Morgan Chase Co. will close its mortgage processing division in Maitland and eliminate the 150 jobs there in a cost-cutting move. The company says the closing was a result of declines in mortgage refinancing and the company's July merger with Bank One. The Morgan Chase call center in Lake Mary is not affected.
Mount Dora -- The City Council approved a 571-unit residential subdivision off Highway 441. The Summerbrooke planned-unit development will include 381 patio homes, 144 townhouses and 46 estate lots.
Orange County -- Knoxville, Tenn.-based Phoenix Theaters plans to build MetroWest's first movie theater, a 20-screen complex to be built in the 1.6-million-sq.-ft. Veranda Park mixed-use development now under construction.
Orlando -- A Circuit Court judge has sided both with and against Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan's attempts to rein in agricultural exemptions claimed by property owners along International Drive. Judge Jay Cohen said Thomas Enterprises may have planted seedlings on its 1,166-acre tract simply to get the exemption, but that still made it agriculture. On the other hand, Cohen said, hotelier Harris Rosen's 250-acre tract does not qualify, a ruling Rosen is appealing.
Pointe Orlando says the former FAO Schwarz toy store, along with its signature giant teddy bear and spinning top, will be torn down and replaced with three restaurants as part of the shopping center's $10-million renovation. The FAO Schwarz store closed in early 2004.
CNL Hotels & Resorts postponed its initial public offering -- expected to raise about $700 million -- citing market conditions. However, a national hotel union says the delay validated its concerns over the company's plan to spend $300 million to buy an external advisory company owned by CNL founder James Seneff and other insiders. Meanwhile, CNL Hotels affiliate CNL Restaurant Properties announced plans to acquire U.S. Restaurant Properties of Dallas, the nation's second-largest restaurant real estate investment trust, for $1.3 billion.
Cecropia Inc. of Lexington, Mass., has opened an animation studio, hiring seven former Disney animation artists with plans to hire 20 more artists by the end of the year. The company is a startup firm developing a family-friendly interactive video game.
After two years, the state Attorney General's Office discontinued its probe into music impresario Lou Pearlman's model-scouting company. About 2,000 people complained about the company, which operated under the names eModels Inc., Options Talent Inc., Trans Continental Talent and Wilhelmina Scouting Network. The attorney general concluded that the company may have been guilty of poor customer service but could find no evidence of substantial illegal acts.
Al Burnett, a former auto dealer, and his wife, Nancy, donated $10 million to the University of Central Florida to build a biomedical college. The donation may be eligible for matching state funds, allowing UCF to build a 100,000-sq.-ft. building, equip it and endow a faculty.
Tavares -- The Lake County School Board backed a plan to triple school impact fees on new houses, making them the highest in Florida at $10,775.