Monday's Daily Pulse
What you need to know about Florida today.
Throughout Florida, companies that avoided government work in the past because of red tape or other concerns are seeking it in the downturn. Small Business Development Centers can help companies interested in federal, state and local contracting figure out if they're eligible for preferences. In addition to programs for women- and minority-owned businesses, there are those for service-disabled vets and for companies in certain economic-disadvantaged zones. Read about more resources region-by-region and statewide.
"Small firms in the northeast Florida region seeing the most success are those "that are very aggressively seeking new markets," especially international markets. "Traditionally, it was hard to get small businesses excited about exporting, but now they're seeing that they can do it."
— Janice Donaldson, regional director, Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville
While Gov. Rick Scott has made news by rejecting several grants funded by the federal health care reform act, a study by an independent nonprofit group finds that Florida organizations have quietly received $119.6 million in reform act funds over the past two years. Using federal data, the National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled a report that shows Florida state agencies, universities, hospitals, public clinics — even faith-based private groups such as Tallahassee-based Live the Life Ministries — received funds from the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and 2011 for everything from clinic expansion to abstinence lectures. [Source: Miami Herald]
One lawmaker calls it "dangerous." Another warns it will turn Florida's insurance landscape into the "Wild West." The state House has voted 66-48 to make it easier for less-regulated companies called "surplus-lines" carriers to take over policies from the state's insurer of last resort, Citizens. Now it's up to the Senate. The companies, which have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions in Florida, say they are ready to bring fresh choices to consumers and more competition to Citizens. [Source: Palm Beach Post]
Hispanic-owned businesses across Southwest Florida are garnering more attention, and many in the community are eager to gauge their impact on the local economy. After a year and a half of planning and research, the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Institute at Hodges University are rolling out a survey to collect data about local, Hispanic-owned businesses. [Source: Fort Myers News-Press]
While Florida's economy has shown signs of improvement in recent months, the prospects remain bleak for many of the state's most disadvantaged residents. And there is concern that things may only get worse.
The Republican-led Legislature passed a series of sweeping changes last year and is considering additional changes in 2012 that lawmakers say protect taxpayer dollars, wean residents off government assistance and position businesses to reignite Florida's dormant economy.
Critics like Dorene Barker, legislative director with Florida Legal Services, say the measures amount to an "unprecedented attack on the poor."
[Source: Tampa Bay Times]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› No heartbreak hotels in Orlando on Valentine's Day
It's a holiday practically made for hotels: a day to wine, dine and pamper your partner during a romantic rendezvous. So when it comes to Valentine's Day, it's no surprise that Orlando, one of the country's biggest hotel markets, has more than its share of over-the-top options for celebrating.
› Warm winter so far a boon to Beaches businesses
It’s not imaginary: This winter has turned out to be much warmer than usual, and that is translating into big bucks for coastal communities. “Business has definitely been on the increase,” said Patsy Bishop, owner of Shorelines Gift Shop in Neptune Beach and president of the Beaches Town Center Merchants Association. “Not only are the tourists out on unexpected trips, but the locals are out. ... They’ve been shopping and eating. It’s been a good winter for Beaches Town Center.”
› Florida lawmakers tread carefully with deregulation of professions
Rather than reignite a bitter debate over whether to remove from state oversight a series of professions including hair braiders and interior designers, lawmakers in 2012 are treading lightly in their quest to create jobs and spur the economy. But it doesn't mean everyone is liking it — especially Florida architects.
› Zumba on the move in the fitness world
Zumba classes, with the motto “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party,” were strictly a South Florida phenomenon 10 years ago. Today, Zumba Fitness has become the largest branded fitness program in the world, with about 12 million people taking Zumba classes weekly at 110,000 locations in at least 125 countries, according to company spokeswoman Allison Robins.
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