ALACHUA COUNTY — A local jury awarded the largest civil verdict in county history, $17.5 million, to the widow of a smoker who sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco after her husband’s death from lung cancer. RJR is expected to appeal the verdict, which was won by trial lawyers Rod Smith, a former gubernatorial candidate, and Mark Avera.
GAINESVILLE — The City Commission has met some roadblocks in its effort to build a wood-fueled biomass plant, which would be the state’s largest. The Florida Public Service Commission was poised to deny the plant’s application but then granted the city’s request to delay the vote. PSC commissioners’ uncertainties revolved around the plant’s financial soundness. Meanwhile, the local NAACP charges the plant will drive up power bills, hitting poor African-Americans the hardest.
» Pharmaceutical giant GSK acquired local startup NovaMin Technology for $135 million. NovaMin has a specialty oral care ingredient for treating dental hypersensitivity.
» The Department of Defense awarded $1.6 million to biopharmaceutical company Nanotherapeutics for a program to help speed healing of bone fractures among U.S. troops.
JACKSONVILLE — About 50 civic leaders formed the Jacksonville Civic Council to address what they described as a “leadership vacuum” in the city. Chaired by Peter Rummell, the council plans to raise $400,000 to hire an executive director, research issues and advocate for change.
» NorthgateArinso, a British business services outsourcing provider, bought out the human resources arm of Convergys, a Cincinnati-based company with 2,000 HR employees, 700 of those in Jacksonville. NorthgateArinso paid $100 million and announced it would make Jacksonville its new U.S. headquarters.
» Edward Waters College is losing its president, Claudette Williams, after three years. Williams had helped the historically black college regain its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This month, she leaves to become vice president of SACS. The college’s board of trustees appointed former Sheriff Nat Glover, an Edwards grad and trustee, interim president.
LAKE CITY — Federal Bureau of Prisons budget cuts axed, for now, a privately owned prison being considered near Lake City’s new inland port. The prison would have brought $65 million in construction and 250 full-time jobs.
MARION COUNTY — Signature Brands accepted the county’s $200,000 incentive grant to move a Chicago subsidiary called Houston Harvest to the Meadowbrook Industrial Park, where Signature has its warehouse and distribution facility. Signature will build a 120,000-sq.-ft. plant and hire 82 production and supervisory employees.
VILANO BEACH — Developers and local merchants are back to work on the Vilano Beach Town Center project, which had been put off during the economic downturn for lack of financing.