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Monday's Daily Pulse

Small business lending on the rebound

For small businesses, a loan can be the critical key to growing a business, as well as the kindling to ignite an operation. Now, at last, banks are starting to open their pocketbooks again, experts say, though lending is still not on par with pre-recession levels. [Source: Miami Herald]

Building the Marco Rubio brand

Sen. Marco Rubio is on a breathless rise, a testament to his political skill and demographic appeal that last week saw him delivering the Republican State of the Union response and appearing on the cover of Time as "The Republican Savior." But behind the scenes is a relentless, methodical effort to build the Rubio brand, aided by a team of strategists and media handlers positioning the 41-year-old Floridian for an expected presidential run. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

No central agency oversees, inspects cruise ships

A byzantine maze of maritime rules and regulations, fragmented oversight and a patchwork quilt of nations that do business with cruise lines make it tough for consumers to assess the health and safety record of the ship they're about to board in what for many is the vacation of a lifetime. [Source: Gainesville Sun]

Is KSC ready for the future?

Since before the shuttle’s retirement, NASA has touted plans to transform Kennedy Space Center into a futuristic spaceport supporting launches of every kind of government or commercial mission. NASA established the “21st Century Space Launch Complex” program to help implement the vision, which promised to make Kennedy less dependent on a single government space program and attract jobs with more frequent launches. [Source: Florida Today]

Amid higher premiums, Citizens execs land big raises

While company execs enjoyed big salary hikes and generous perks, Citizens was pushing homeowners to pay higher insurance rates and slashing their coverage. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of other state employees have gone six years without a pay raise. This year, the governor has proposed $2,500 pay raises to public school teachers, a move top legislative leaders have yet to endorse. [Source: Times/Herald]


› Jacksonville barbecue sauce plant is cooking, but slowly
n the beginning, there was the sauce, a mustard-based concoction that Jerome Brown served at his Jacksonville barbecue restaurants and sold at a few Jacksonville area Sam’s Club stores. Stoked by that success, Brown’s family obtained $640,000 in city backing in 2011 for a venture that would build a manufacturing plant and sell the sauce nationwide.

› Loophole lets big companies avoid millions in Florida taxes
Recognized across much of the country by its bright-red logo, Circle K has hundreds of convenience stores in Florida, selling everything from coffee and engine oil to ice cream and potato chips. But for at least a decade, when Circle K's cash registers rang in Florida, a portion of the sales was passed on to a company subsidiary in Delaware — beyond the reach of Florida's corporate-income tax.

› Tampa's FirstWaVE Center opens soon to high start-up hopes
By the old start-a-business-in-a-garage standard, the FirstWaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa borders on swank. The center does not officially open until early March. But parts of it already are in use by startups, or being reserved by other entrepreneur support groups.

› Despite high cost and residency shortage, Florida sees interest rise in medical school
Young doctors not only must survive the academic rigors of medical school, today's realities include skyrocketing tuition and potentially greater competition for choice post-graduate residencies, industry officials say. Still, medical schools are seeing an uptick in applications and studies show a career in medicine still offers a good lifestyle.

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› NBA’s best player (LeBron James) isn’t best-paid
LeBron James sacrificed money for success when he joined the Miami Heat, but it begs the question: How much would he be worth if there was no salary cap?

› AuthenTec's future in Brevard murky
Apple purchased AuthenTec last summer, paying an estimated $356 million for the Melbourne company. AuthenTec was a Harris Corp. spinoff and though it had yet to post any meaningful profit, it was inking contracts with major customers who were using the company’s technology.

› Biomass plant nearly finished, but issues remain
After two years, an estimated 1.6 million hours and as many as 700 workers on site at the peak of construction, the Gainesville biomass plant is 85 percent complete.

› South Florida reflects trend: Hispanics a key group for next pope
If there is any indication of the future of Catholicism in the United States and especially in South Florida, it is the phone message at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, which gives callers the option of English, Spanish or Portuguese.