Florida had its second consecutive year of record-breaking tourism, according to preliminary data released Monday. There were 89.3 million visitors to Florida in 2012, an increase of 2.3 percent from 2011, which also was a record year. The number of jobs tied directly to tourism also hit a record 1,030,600, Visit Florida reported. More from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times.
RedCoach and Kissimmee- based Florida Express Bus launched their luxury bus services in 2010.
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The past five years have seen the re-emergence of bus transportation, with a number of companies providing intercity bus travel on comfortable coaches with competitive fares, more routes and a focus on speed and convenience. The trend has taken root in Florida as well. Full story.
Although the foreclosure crisis is easing, Florida remains a hotbed for distressed homes and investors have taken notice. Most of the bulk buyers are acquiring three- and four-bedroom homes in the $100,000 to $400,000 range with plans to fix them up and capitalize on a robust rental market. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and see our report: Landlord Inc.
There's a move afoot in the Florida Legislature to expand access to the state's virtual schooling options, similar to efforts that were tried and failed in several past years. Lawmakers' concerns have not been about expanding virtual schooling. Many of them fervently promote the concept and continue to talk about growing it. The issue, at least in past iterations of the Legislature, has centered on the unknowable amount of money that would be spent on this group of students that previously has not been in the system. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
Lobbyists that represent businesses and governments in Tallahassee before the Florida Legislature took in more than $120 million in fees in 2012. More than 50 entities, from small businesses to trade groups to county governments, spent at least $250,000 on lobbyists in 2012. More from the Business Observer and the News Service of Florida.
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Floridians value water resources, want to conserve [UF News]
Floridians are more concerned with water quality than quantity, the results of a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences water survey suggest.
› Immigrants find their niche in restaurant business [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
For the Vilariño family, “las vegas” was a term used in their native Cuba for tobacco plantations. “Una vega de tabaco,” Miriam Vilariño said in Spanish. “A tobacco field.” So when they bought their first restaurant in Hollywood nearly 30 years ago, they decided to keep the Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine name that had been used by the former owner, not realizing it was also the popular desert gambling city in the United States.
› Orlando training industry group snags $350,000 state grant [Orlando Sentinel]
An Orlando simulation training industry group has snagged $350,000 from the state to help it forge a campaign to fend off potential base closing threats and other fallout from U.S. military spending cutbacks, state and local officials said Monday.
› Florida Poly to ask for $25 million for construction [Bay News 9]
Officials at Florida Polytechnic are asking for millions of dollars in state funds, but one state legislator is not happy about it. The school has struggled for support since splitting from the University of South Florida to become Florida's 12th university. Now it needs millions of dollars to complete the first stages.
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› OfficeMax, Office Depot in talks to merge [Wall Street Journal]
OfficeMax Inc. and Office Depot Inc. are in advanced talks to merge, people familiar with the matter said, as the retailers of pens, paper and desks try to fight off tougher competition from rivals like Staples Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
› Life is brighter in Gainesville's Porters neighborhood [Gainesville Sun]
The neighborhood -- named for Canadian physician Watson Porter, who sold the land exclusively to black families over a century ago -- has experienced a number of milestones over the past year.
› Google to open its own retail stores this year, report says [Orlando Sentinel]
It started with Apple stores. Then came Microsoft stores. Are Google stores next? The Silicon Valley company hopes to open retail stores in time for this year's holiday shopping season, according to a report by 9to5Google.
› Everglades plan could siphon water from county wells [Miami Herald]
For years, Everglades restoration engineers and scientists have been working on ways to control the ripple effects when they finally start returning healthy water flows to the marsh.