Florida’s tourism industry remains on track for another record-breaking year, according to data released by the state’s tourism promotions entity. Visit Florida said that the Sunshine State hosted nearly 22 million visitors during the third quarter, an increase of 3.5 percent when compared with the same three-month period in 2011. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Florida retailers can expect a holly jolly shopping season with a sales increase of 5.2 percent over last year, the Florida Retail Federation said Thursday. "Shoppers in Florida are in a buying mood, and that's good news for the whole economy,'' said federation president and CEO Rick McAllister. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
This year’s crop of new real estate agents in Southwest Florida is younger and savvier about new technology – and they’re more serious about their work. That’s according to the annual survey of students by Larson Educational Services, one of the largest real estate schools in the area. [Source: Fort Myers News-Press]
Echoing the talking points of Republican leaders in other states, incoming Senate President Don Gaetz and incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford sent a letter Thursday to the federal government saying that Florida will miss a Friday deadline to report whether the state will create its own health insurance exchange or allow the federal government to do it. More from the Times/Herald and the Palm Beach Post.
At a time when golf is waning in popularity and retiring baby boomers appear poised to take up other sports, builder Taylor Morrison plans to bet millions of dollars that a new golf course will draw home buyers to Manatee County. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Music promoter's dream to transform historic YMCA lives on [Tampa Bay Times]
An anonymous "white knight" has stepped up with a $20,000 loan to give a hopeful music promoter 30 days to work on his dream of renovating the 85-year-old YMCA in downtown St. Petersburg.
› Cost of living goes up only 0.3% in South Florida [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Thanks to a drop in food prices, the cost of living only rose 0.3 percent over two months in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers found energy prices was responsible for much of South Florida's increase in prices from August to October.
› Florida ready to let you vote on new license plate designs [Times/Herald]
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has designed four new license tags, with sleek, smooth surfaces, better readability, and seven characters instead of the traditional six. As for the plates' additional details, state officials want you to decide.
› Florida Legislative Leaders Call for Pension Reform [WCTV]
Florida's legislative leaders are calling for an overhaul of the state's pension system. State workers and retirees are now wondering what this will mean to their bottom line.
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› Facing heat from Feds, board agrees to dissolve Melbourne's TRDA [Florida Today]
Facing an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, and potentially millions of dollars in legal fees and penalties, the board of the Florida’s Technological Research and Development Authority late today agreed to dissolve the 25-year-old organization.
› Builders trade groups merge in South Florida [Miami Herald]
The 66-year-old Builders Association of South Florida merged with the Gold Coast Builders Association to create a regional lobbying arm as the building industry works to recover from downturn.
› Trump to buy the Ritz-Carlton in Jupiter [Palm Beach Post]
Billionaire Donald Trump signed a contract today to purchase the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa for an undisclosed price. Trump said the deal is scheduled to close in 30 days, at which time the club will be renamed Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter.
› BP agrees to pay $4.5B; 3 employees charged [AP]
A day of reckoning arrived for BP on Thursday as the oil giant agreed to plead guilty to a raft of criminal charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in a settlement with the government over the deadly 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Three BP employees were also charged, two of them with manslaughter.