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What You Need to Know About Florida Today

Will Short Gorham | 12/9/2010
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Florida's Military HQ

By the end of this month, the 2,300 military, civilian and contractor employees who make up the U.S. Southern Command will move into the military's newest Florida installation, a $402-million headquarters campus in Doral. Previously scattered over several sites in northwest Miami-Dade, the new facility brings together all the components of the joint command that oversees U.S. military missions in the Southern Hemisphere and Caribbean. The new 55-acre site has a Conference Center of the Americas for hosting representatives from 31 countries in the hemisphere, a child care center, clinic, fitness center and an operations center. There, as many as 80 people with dual computer monitors sit in rows facing a giant wall of 24 screens to run military operations, drug interdiction, relief missions such as the Haiti earthquake response this year or perhaps handle a mass migration. Keep reading Military HQ.


Health Care Companies Work Together to Draw Job Seekers

Nurse Erin Bradley’s career got a quick boost Wednesday as she added her name to the work rosters of a handful of local home health care companies in just minutes.

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"This is so easy; it's just bam! bam! bam!," said Bradley, 30, a licensed practical nurse from Cape Coral. Ten home health companies put their competitive instincts aside to recruit nurses and caregivers at a career fair at the Southwest Florida Works office in Fort Myers. More than 100 health care workers attended looking for opportunities to work. The event was a first, but may be repeated as home health companies grapple with growing demand for services, said Jaimee Thompson, assistant administrator of Abby Services, who helped organize the event through the Southwest Florida home care managers group. "There is no reason for us not to work together like this," Thompson said. "It breaks my heart to have health care workers in the office looking for work and they don't know where to go." [Source: Fort Myers News-Press]


New Hotel Set for Darden Restaurants Property

Darden Restaurants' headquarters has a gym, wireless Internet access and a cafeteria with take-home meals. Soon, it will have another amenity: Its own hotel. The Legacy Cos. said Wednesday it's developing a 129-room Courtyard by Marriott at Darden's 64-acre campus in south Orange County. The hotel, along John Young Parkway near Taft Vineland Road, will provide lodging for Darden's employee-training programs, but will also be open to the public. "We think it's a good little market for us to be in," said Jay Berlinsky, chief executive officer of Orlando-based Legacy Hotel Advisors. "They have a history of bringing their people from around the country." Construction on the five-story project is expected to start next year, and developers hope to have the property open by mid-2012. Orlando's only Fortune 500 company, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and other brands, won't be involved in financing but has pledged to fill a minimum number of rooms each month. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]


Urban Meyer Steps Down as University of Florida Coach

For the second time in less than a year, Urban Meyer has shocked the Gator Nation with a stunning announcement that he is resigning.

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UF athletic director Jeremy Foley announced early Wednesday afternoon that Meyer is stepping down. Meyer said he is resigning to focus more on his family. It was not health-related this time, according to a Sun source. “I have been a Division I football coach for the last 25 years and, during that time, my primary focus has been making a difference in the lives of the young men I have been so fortunate to have coached and building championship programs,” Meyer said in a UF release. “At this time in my life, however, I fully grasp the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field." [Source: Gainesville Sun]

Related:
» Meyer Decision Has Immediate Effect on Recruiting


Juvenile Justice Sec. Peterman Accused of Misuse of State Funds

The state Commission on Ethics has found that juvenile justice secretary Frank Peterman Jr. may have "corruptly" misused his position or state resources to pay for frequent taxpayer-funded trips between the state capital and his home in St. Petersburg. The watchdog agency found probable cause that Peterman violated the code of ethics, which could subject him to a fine. With a new governor set to take office next month, Peterman has resigned his position as chief of the Department of Juvenile Justice and is likely to be replaced. Peterman, 48, is a former Democratic state representative from St. Petersburg and a minister who preaches at the Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church in his hometown. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed him to run DJJ in February of 2008. [Source: St. Petersburg Times]


ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Beware of Counterfeit Bills During the Holidays
Everyone loves to collect the "Benjamins." But are those $100 bills real? Sharpie, the maker of the popular markers, wants consumers to check the bills out for themselves. So the maker of Counterfeit Detector Markers that store clerks use to check your money has made the pens available for consumers to check the bills themselves. It seems timely, because during the holiday season counterfeiting typically rises. Counterfeit currency passed on the streets throughout the Tampa Bay area increases from an average $10,000 to $12,000 a week to as much as $17,000 a week at Christmas time, according to the U.S. Secret Service. And anyone who unknowingly accepts a counterfeit bill but does not check it before leaving a store (or a bank, though that is less likely), is stuck with it.

› SunRail Back on Track after Amtrak Stalemate Ends
The stalemate between Amtrak and the SunRail was broken Wednesday, clearing the way for the Central Florida commuter train to move ahead toward a 2013 start date. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, fresh from a meeting with federal, state and Amtrak officials in Washington, D.C., said by phone that Amtrak had dropped its opposition to the $1.2 billion project. "I'm pretty happy today," Dyer said. Calls into Amtrak for comment were not immediately returned. Amtrak had been holding up SunRail for nearly a year over insurance concerns, putting the start of operations at risk and possibly driving up costs.

› GreenPointe Holdings Ramping up Business Strategy
The past few years have seen so many housing developments announced, platted and permitted only to fall victim to a housing market where few are buying. A Jacksonville company is taking advantage by buying up some of those distressed communities, often from banks. Not only that, they're planning to buck the trend by jumping into building homes themselves. GreenPointe Holdings LLC formed in 2008 to be the umbrella to several development companies: GreenPointe Communities has been acquiring distressed communities; GreenPointe Pathways will focus on building infrastructure; and, now GreenPointe Homes, the third arm of the company, has launched is and planning to start building on some of that land.

› Florida Board to Pardon Jim Morrison
The Doors' Jim Morrison will get a posthumous pardon Thursday for an indecent exposure conviction in Florida that resulted when the late singer pulled what a bandmate called "a mind trip on the audience, and they totally fell for it." Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday got a commitment for the second of two votes needed from other members of the state's Board of Executive Clemency to approve the pardon. Morrison was appealing the conviction when he was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971. The meeting Thursday comes a day after the singer would have turned 67. Crist can't issue a pardon on his own. He and the three-member Cabinet serve as the Clemency Board. Approval is required by the governor and at least two other members.
Related:
» Clemency Board Hears Appeal to Clear Civil Rights Arrest Records

› New York-based Benihana of Tokyo Sues Benihana Inc. of Miami
Benihana of Tokyo, based in New York, has filed suit against Miami-based Benihana Inc., the Japanese steakhouse chain, accusing management of breaking a contract by registering restaurants outside of its allotted territory. Benihana of Tokyo gave Miami's Benihana Inc. the rights to the Benihana trademark to open restaurants in the United States, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Anywhere outside that area is reserved for Benihana of Tokyo, says the suit, which was filed in federal court in Delaware. But Benihana of Tokyo is saying that in April, Miami's Benihana applied to register locations in Iceland, Iran, Monaco, Singapore, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia -- and all the while "asserted to be acting on behalf of Benihana of Tokyo," the lawsuit reads. "The Miami guys are now busy registering it all over the place and claiming they're doing it from authorization," said Richard Feldman, a New York attorney who represents Benihana of Tokyo.

› St. Pete Man Steals Salvation Army Kettle
An already tough year for the Salvation Army's largest fundraising campaign in the city got a little worse Tuesday evening when someone made off with one of its iconic red kettles. Bart Bartie was arrested and charged with retail theft. "This is our biggest fundraising time of the year," said Tim Gilliam, the Salvation Army's area commander. "Every penny counts." Kettle thefts are rare. In the past 12 years, only three have been stolen locally, said Michael Rojas, the church's Red Kettle coordinator for the area. Clearwater Salvation Army Capt. Zach Bell said the theft is a sign of the times. "People tend to get desperate," he said.


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