Florida’s economy is growing, but at a slower rate than seen by most states, according to an index by the Federal Reserve Florida’s 1.9 percent growth puts it in the bottom tier of the other states and the District of Columbia, finishing 39th. The No. 1 slot went to Idaho, with a 4.4 percent growth rate. [Source: Miami Herald]
Retailers expect an even bigger year from savvy discount shoppers as some high-tech gear has been added to the state's upcoming three-day break from sales taxes on back-to-school items. The Florida Retail Federation expects additional hiring by some businesses and says electronics companies have already started lowering the prices on laptops and tablets to fit under the $750 benchmark to be sales-tax free. More from the Fort Myers News-Press and CBS Miami.
» Florida Back to School Tax Holiday 2013 List
While the industry hasn't returned to anywhere close to its peak of nearly a decade ago, signs of significant life abound. Companies like Yellowfin and Chris-Craft that survived the recession are going strong. Others, like Panga Marine, Hann Powerboats and Andros Boatworks, are smaller but no less active. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Florida's elementary and middle schools will be getting their A-to-F grades Friday when the Florida Department of Education releases its annual school report card. The release will come as the 15-year-old grading system faces increasing criticism, and many educators fear a sharp rise in the number of F-rated campuses this year. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
Changes could be on the way for one of the state’s largest employers and political donors. Florida Blue wants to restructure itself. However, the health insurance giant has its critics that warn the move could create a conflict between turning a profit and the obligation to provide low-cost insurance to four million policy holders. [Source: AP]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› UF Health to develop STEM learning disability program [Gainesville Business Report]
The University of Florida has received an $846,000 National Science Foundation grant and plans to develop a program to assist students with learning disabilities to excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM.
› St. Petersburg might change tax breaks for some businesses [TBO.com]
After years of seeing the waterfront and downtown core thrive with new business and wealthier residents, city leaders say it's time to move these incentives to other parts of town that need them more.
› Obama's Jacksonville stumping about business is good for business [Florida Times-Union]
There’s nothing like a presidential visit that’s virtually focused on economic themes to make a business community collectively grin.
› Travel agents still key in vacation planning [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Despite consumers' increasing use of the Internet as a go-to source for information, when it comes to planning and booking a vacation, travel agents remain a key part of the equation today, tourism officials say.
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› UCF tuition will increase 1.7 percent starting this fall [Orlando Sentinel]
UCF's undergraduate tuition will increase 1.7 percent for the 2013-14 school year. That rise adds $52.50 to the cost of going to college for a Florida student taking 30 credit hours during the academic year.
› Rayonier reports 26-percent net income increase [Florida Times-Union]
Rayonier on Thursday reported second quarter 2013 net income attributable to shareholders of $87 million, or 67 cents per share, compared to $69 million, or 54 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2012.
› UF study finds food price system in U.S. working ‘pretty well’ [UF News]
A new University of Florida study that examines 100 food commodities shows that price changes can take several months to be reflected at the consumer level. But overall, the study showed that price-change signals are accurate, and more important, are not arbitrary, said Ronald Ward, an emeritus professor in agricultural marketing with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
› Flea markets could come indoors in Polk [Lakeland Ledger]
The long tradition of exclusively outdoor and open-air flea markets in Polk County may be coming to an end. A Hialeah property manager is working with county planners to revise the county's development code to allow indoor flea markets, which may be the key to filling vacant units in at least one Winter Haven area shopping plaza.