What you need to know about Florida today
Santa delivered for many national and local retailers, after a lackluster early holiday season gave way to a post-Christmas surge. Twenty retailers reported that revenue at stores open at least a year — a figure that indicates a retailer's health — rose an average of 4.5 percent in December compared with a year ago. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
Everglades restoration projects, which have been in the planning stages for a decade and may cost well over $8 billion, are moving forward in 2013, and more than $2 billion of ecological projects are either under way or approved for this region. [Source: Fort Myers News-Press]
Gov. Rick Scott's administration announced Thursday the state has signed a contract with a Pennsylvania company, Wexford Health Sources, to outsource medical care to more than 15,000 inmates in several South Florida prisons. [Source: Times/Herald]
A private company that hopes to land paying customers on the moon has hired the builder of the first human landers to start designing a modern version. Boulder, Co.-based Golden Spike Co., headed by former NASA executives, will work with Northrop Grumman Corp. on the preliminary design for a commercially flown lunar lander. [Source: Florida Today]
Uncertainty is hovering over tourism businesses across Southwest Florida as prime season kicks off with a large red tide bloom lingering offshore from Tampa Bay to Naples. Scientists say there is no way to predict whether the toxic algae bloom will stick around for months and sour tourism or quickly vanish. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Six Pillars growing as a resource and a template for building strategy
In October, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance announced Broward County was an official "Six Pillars" region, an effort developed by the Florida Chamber Foundation to set goals and measure progress for a growth strategy for the next two decades.
› Python purge: Florida contest turns public loose in Everglades
The Sunshine State is hosting a month-long “Python Challenge" beginning Jan.12 with cash prizes of up to $1,500 for the biggest snakes caught. Wildlife officials urge caution, but beyond the online course and the fee, there are no other requirements to hunt down the Burmese pythons, which can reach nearly 18 feet in length and have devastated much of the southern Florida ecosystem.
› Police teach businesses to be alert for bomb-making plots
Anyone who wants to make a bomb can find instructions on the Internet. But local law enforcement says it's trying to prevent access to the components and chemicals a terrorist would need to inflict such mayhem.
› Orange County tourist-tax collections rise for November
Orange County said it has collected $14.9 million from its tourist-development tax for the month of November, an increase of 5.4 percent compared with the same month a year ago.
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