October 18, 2017

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What You Need to Know About Florida Today

Will Short Gorham | 7/25/2011

Florida Trend Exclusive
Florida's Best Companies To Work For 2011

To identify Florida's best employers, Florida Trend partnered with the Best Companies Group, which surveyed firms that chose to participate. Any firm with at least 15 employees in Florida, including firms based outside the state, could participate at no cost. The first part of the survey involved a questionnaire about company policies, practices and demographics. The second part went to a sample group of each firm's employees, who responded — anonymously — to 72 statements on a five-point agreement scale. The survey also included two open-ended questions and seven demographic questions. The questions focused on eight themes: Leadership and planning; corporate culture and communications; role satisfaction; work environment; relationship with supervisor; training and development; pay and benefits; and overall engagement. Firms were divided into three groups — large companies of 250 or more U.S. employees, midsized companies of 50 to 249 U.S. employees and small companies of fewer than 50 U.S. workers. See the lists:

Bouchard Insurance
Bouchard Insurance
Clearwater - No. 32 / Midsized Company - Insurance agency [Photo: Mark Wemple]

Florida Trend Exclusive
Domestic Partner Benefits are Catching on

More than half of the companies on the Best Companies to Work For list offer medical insurance and other benefits to employees' domestic partners. Those 54 companies are mostly small and midsized firms — only six have more than 250 employees. Although cohabitating unmarried opposite-sex couples can use domestic partner benefits, usually same-sex couples are the intended users. For that reason, offering such coverage was once a controversial move. Most companies report a positive response to the benefit, although some companies that offer the benefit say no employee has enrolled a domestic partner. Companies cited a variety of reasons for offering the benefits — from "it's just the right thing to do" to client requirements to the competitive advantage it gives them. Read more...

Laura M. Sapp
"We're thought of as a progressive employer," says Laura M. Sapp, director of human resources at Leesburg-based Restor Telecom. The company began offering the option in 2009, when its research showed how many employers were offering it. Restor had a number of employees in domestic partner relationships.
[Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

State fights $60M in public rebates

Floridians could miss out on an estimated $60 million in health-insurance rebates next year if state officials successfully block enforcement of spending rules in the year-old reform law. About 340,000 Floridians would likely qualify for the rebates, if they go through, based on data from last year. But Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation has sought a waiver of the rebates for companies operating in this state. After attempts at a total waiver went nowhere, OIR sent a revised request for a phase-in of the spending limits over four years for companies selling individual policies. Consumer groups are angry, accusing OIR of protecting insurers at the expense of the public. [Source: Health News Florida]

Back-to-school blahs

Back-to-school shopping messages have peppered apparel chain ads since the July 4 fireworks. Office Depot, Staples and Walgreens set up Back to School aisles two weeks ago. Already, Toys "R" Us staged a "Pack to School" sale offering deals on backpacks. Spooked by a marathon jobless recovery, high gas prices and slumping home prices, families with school-age children are promising to spend no more than in last year's lackluster back-to-school season. Surveys show more people don't plan to start shopping until a week or two before school resumes in late August. And Florida's popular school sales tax holiday this year has been pared to a weekend affair, Aug. 12 through 14. [Source: St. Petersburg Times]

In big hurricane, huge risk for some insurers

Records kept secret by Florida regulators show more than a dozen property insurers — carriers that cover almost one in three insured homes — risk financial ruin in the wake of a catastrophic hurricane. The endangered list includes Universal Property and Casualty, a former sports memorabilia vendor poised to surpass State Farm as Florida's largest property insurer. In June, the Fort Lauderdale company filed regulatory reports indicating it would fall $220 million short of the money needed to pay claims for a 100-year loss, the standard measurement of a property insurer's strength. Reports also show that State Farm's and Allstate's Florida carriers would not be able to cover losses caused by such an extreme hurricane and remain in business without bailouts by their national parents. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]


› When gasoline prices go up, so do scooter sales
Many motorists only notice scooters when they're stuck behind them as they putter along local streets and force them to keep to 35 mph speed limits. But for their owners, the inexpensive little vehicles are a great way to travel, providing them with everything they need for their commutes and other travels. And their operating cost is a small fraction of the gasoline and other expenses of a car or even a full-size motorcycle. Some models are rated for 100 miles per gallon or more.

› Red-light cameras aren't the bonanza cities expected
Twenty-six municipalities use red-light cameras across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In the future, the cameras' fate in these cities and towns will likely hinge on a question that has already proven easy to debate but might be hard to answer definitively: Are the safety benefits the cameras may deliver worth the cost to towns in money and resources? Last July, when a state law gave cities explicit authority to operate the cameras, fines from the cameras were projected to bring in millions to cities at a time when the tough economic climate was drying up other revenue sources. But cities aren't getting the windfall they anticipated.

› Even in tough times, top St. Petersburg administrators cling to car perk
As Mayor Bill Foster ponders cuts in these times of shrinking budgets, he describes his approach as one that chooses between "needs vs. wants." Yet Foster's decision to leave intact a perk for top administrators and managers has some City Council members doubting he's that frugal. The city spends $201,852 a year on car allowances to 141 of city's best-paid employees who are mostly administrators, directors and managers. It's a fringe benefit for upper- and middle-management that larger governments in Tampa Bay don't come close to offering.

› Marlins' new stadium brings jobs, new business opportunities
Construction of the Marlins' dazzling new palace has entered the late innings now, a smidgen over three-quarters complete. The 8,300-ton retractable roof is secured. Most of the seats, nearly all painted blue, are firmly in place. The 51-foot tall Jumbotron scoreboard towers over right field. When the project is done, the ballpark in Little Havana, on the site of the old Orange Bowl, will be more than just a playpen for our Major League Baseball team and an entertainment destination for fans. It will also a business hub, directly or indirectly creating more than 2,000 jobs and generating tens of millions in annual revenue for the team.

› Lakewood Ranch company building a future in disease detection
Operating below the radar, a Lakewood Ranch-based biotech company with two dozen employees has positioned itself to become a leader in the fast-growing field of instant disease diagnosis. During the next three to five years, Rapid Pathogen Screening Inc. expects to raise its payroll to 200 as it develops test kits aimed at spotting the flu and sexually transmitted diseases. In each case, the company is using its own proprietary technology to create simple boxed kits that provide results without waiting for lab work. In addition to those tests for well-recognized maladies, the company has a second iron in the fire. It is developing a kit that will test for exposure to four nerve agents, including Sarin and VX.

› Charters get $55 million for upkeep, other schools get zero
Traditional public schools in Florida will get no money from the state this year for additions or needed repairs to thousands of aging buildings, but charter schools will score big. All of the state cash budgeted for school construction and maintenance is going to the independent, tax-financed charters favored by the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott. School district officials across Florida are bemoaning the Legislature's decision to cut traditional public schools out of PECO — the Public Education Capital Outlay program. The state's 350 charter schools will share $55 million, while the approximately 3,000 traditional schools will go without.

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Paddleboarding with a chicken, yeah it's a Florida thing
Paddleboarding with a chicken, yeah it's a Florida thing

Anyone who has ever visited the southernmost Florida Key knows that chickens can be found just about anywhere, including riding on a paddleboard.

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