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Friday's Daily Pulse

Florida economy is looking up

There's something unusual in the University of Central Florida's latest economic forecast released Thursday, something we haven't seen for a long time – a ray of sunshine. Yes, it comes wrapped in caveats, but the overall tone of the report is far more upbeat than those of recent years. Florida's economy, writes UCF economist and professor Sean Snaith, "may not be experiencing a full-blown Renaissance," but it is seeing movement in key areas. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Spirit Airlines
Sales executives for Davidoff of Geneva become sous chefs under the tutelage of chef John Harris.
» Full story: "Cuisine Classwork"

Florida Trend Exclusive
Florida dining: Cuisine classwork

Hotels have found they are especially well-suited for cooking classes, with abundant space, a ready clientele, and most important, talent: Brigades of sous chefs, pastry and garde manger specialists, many who have classical culinary training. Full story.

Bill seeks to apply sales tax to online purchases

Legislation aimed at forcing online retailers to start collecting sales taxes is making headway in the Florida Legislature. Its latest test came Thursday, when the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax advanced the bill on a 10-1 vote. The proposal (SB 316) aims to force online retailers such as Amazon.com to collect the state's 6 percent sales tax. [Source: AP]

Florida's $1 billion Hardest Hit fund faces federal investigation

Florida’s key foreclosure prevention program is facing a federal investigation after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) raised concerns about who is receiving the money and how little of the $1 billion award has reached homeowners. The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program confirmed in a letter Thursday that she shares Nelson’s “desire to bring more transparency to the program” and will initiate an audit. [Source: Palm Beach Post]

Should your business have a podcast?

Your business probably has a website, Twitter account and Facebook page, but does it need a podcast? Consumers enjoy podcasts because it gives them alternative and more convenient ways to consume content, says Deborah Shane, a Florida-based branding expert and podcast host. [Source: Entrepreneur]


› Symposium looks at future of higher ed
The future is here at the University of Florida, and the past is grudgingly making room for it. Educators at an all-day symposium at UF on Thursday discussed the sometimes awkward relationship between traditional education and technological innovations and what it all means for the future of UF, especially in an era of economic impacts on traditional funding sources.

› Hoarding case highlights financial threats faced by landlords
Stories abound about landlords who don’t keep their end of the bargain, Carlos Roubicek says. But the hoarder in his home highlights the financial threats faced by landlords who make a living leasing their properties.

› Drug company founded from Florida Atlantic University discoveries
A drug development company was created in Boca Raton based on discoveries at Florida Atlantic University. The company has licensed intellectual property from FAU as it seeks to develop drugs to treat febrile epilepsy, migraines and brain injury during stroke.

› Tampa Bay home sales climb to highest point in seven years
Stephanie Toland thought buying a home would be much like it was when she did it 10 years ago: low prices, easy pickings and no need to rush or compete. What she found was a chaotic market of rapid deals and bidding wars.

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› Raymond James Financial lays off 160, most of them in St. Petersburg
Raymond James Financial is laying off 160 employees, including 115 in its St. Petersburg headquarters, the company confirmed Thursday afternoon. Most of the cuts were in information technology as the financial services and brokerage firm trimmed away overlap from last year's acquisition of Morgan Keegan & Co.

› Software entrepreneur plans pub next to the HuB
Software entrepreneur Jesse Biter wanted a place downtown to have a beer after work with friends and co-workers, but the 36-year-old just couldn't seem to find the right hangout. So Biter decided to build his ideal place himself.

› Clearwater and Tampa aquariums declare a truce, talk about collaboration
The Great Aquarium War of 2013 has been called off. Aquarium leaders on both sides of Tampa Bay have declared a truce. They're singing Kumbaya and talking about working together.

› Feds: National pill-trafficking ring has roots in Central Florida
A sophisticated drug-trafficking ring that recruited people to obtain prescriptions for painkillers and then sold those pills on the streets has been operating in Central Florida for several years, federal authorities said Thursday.