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Friday's Afternoon Update

Florida offers $350M aid to underwater home borrowers

Florida homeowners who owe far more on mortgages than their houses are worth could get a break under a new $350 million state program. The Florida Housing Finance Corp. announced today that eligible people will be able to apply online for up to $50,000 to reduce mortgage principal. The program is restricted to homeowners who owe 125 percent more than their homes are worth. More from the AP.

The online application for the Florida Hardest-Hit Fund Principal Reduction program (HHF-PR) will open on Wednesday, September 25, at 9:00 a.m. Visit the official website for more information and to find out how to apply.

Florida jobs picture another mixed bag

Florida's unemployment rate fell slightly in August to 7 percent, from 7.1 percent the month before. The rate has fallen 1.6 percentage points from a year ago and is at it's lowest point since September 2008. Despite the drop in the unemployment rate, the state lost 4,700 jobs from July to August. There were 656,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 9.39 million. More from the Tampa Bay Times and the Orlando Sentinel.

Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'


» I was what was called a moonlight writer.That’s some guy who works all day and then writes at night. It’s a hard way to write. You give up a lot. You have to have the urge.

» If I could get out of this bed, I’d like to write a novel about the Indian River Lagoon. It’s a waterway that they say is dying. If it would actually die, it would affect not just the wildlife, not just the fish, but everyone.

» Read more

Darden profit falls, cost-cutting in store

Darden Restaurants Inc.'s quarterly earnings fell sharply as food and labor costs continued to rise and the company's biggest chain performed poorly. Following a comprehensive review, Darden said it plans to achieve about $50 million in annual savings through reductions to it workforce and program spending. In the current fiscal year. More from the Wall Street Journal, the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Today.

Coconut Creek firm taps into checkout charity

Solicitations for charities are a growing trend at check-out counters. Traditionally, cashiers have been tasked with asking for money. Now, thanks to companies like Coconut Creek's Greenwise Bankcard, the developer of the DonateWiseNow software platform, computers are playing an increasingly important role. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

» FRIDAY PREVIEW: Coming next week to FloridaTrend.com:

  • Sports Business: The 450-acre IMG Academy in Bradenton trains more than 12,000 athletes a year in golf, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer and football.
  • Florida Law: A 20-year legal battle over a water management district's condition for development is over — sort of.
  • Positive Signs in Commercial Real Estate: Justin Beck, president of the family-owned, 31-year-old Beck Property, a major Pensacola full-service commercial real estate company, talked to Florida Trend about the commercial market’s recent positive signs.

» You'll find all these stories first on the Daily and Afternoon Pulse e-mails.

Tourism Trends

atlantisNASA’s space shuttle program has ended, but Brevard County’s economy is getting a boost from the retired shuttle Atlantis, which has begun a new career as the centerpiece of a $100-million attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

» Read the full story here.