Ponzi schemes in Florida ripped off at least $5 billion from unsuspecting investors, according to a new analysis of the “Madoff Era.” The Sunshine State ranked second in the nation, with 54 schemes uncovered since 2008, and third in the combined value of those losses. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
The economy may be growing at a frustratingly slow pace, but one piece of it is booming: American homeowners' equity holdings — the market value of their houses minus their mortgage debts — soared by nearly $2.1 trillion last year to $10 trillion. [Source: LA Times]
The use of commercial drones, most of them small, is starting to spread to countries where authorities have decided the aircraft presents little threat if operators follow a few safety rules. The drone industry and some members of Congress are worried the United States will be one of the last countries, rather than one of the first, to gain the economic benefits of the technology. [Source: AP]
Burmese pythons. Cuban tree frogs. Nile monitor lizards. Giant African land snails. Just as humans from all corners of the globe flock to Florida, so, too, do creatures of every conceivable classification: mammals, fish, reptiles, mollusks, even microbes. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
The debate over short-term vacation rentals shows how economic development can collide with quality-of-life concerns, and how even lawmakers eager to boost the economy can find their rhetoric complicated by the real-life impact of pro-business proposals. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› South Florida beaches eroded by Hurricane Sandy replenished [NBC Miami]
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it has replenished 5.1 miles of beaches in South Florida eroded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Sandy didn't make landfall in Florida, but the storm contributed to ocean swells that sent water crashing over beaches into roadways.
› School choice bills spark debate, controversy in Florida [Tampa Bay Times]
Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate have ambitious plans to provide Florida's 2.7 million schoolchildren with more choices in education. But critics believe something else — this year's gubernatorial election — is driving the push.
› More Central Florida restaurants see the pasta-bilities [Orlando Sentinel]
You can keep your paleo diet. More restaurants are cooking up spaghetti and linguine to satisfy Central Florida's passion for pasta. Restaurants nationwide served about 2.2 billion pasta dishes in 2013, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, Research firm NPD Group says.
› From Silicon Valley to Gainesville [Gainesville Sun]
SumTotal Systems gradually has taken over all but one corner of the Madison Park building since relocating its headquarters from Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley in 2010, growing from 40 to 250 local employees, with plans to hire 60 to 100 more in 2014.
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› Reactor blowout sidelines Orlando's waste-to-energy hopes [Orlando Sentinel]
After Orlando invested $8.5 million and years of its workers' labor, an experimental energy reactor at a city sewage treatment plant suffered a massive, violent blowout. The incident, which mangled a steel pressure-relief apparatus and blew the vents out of the city building, has sidelined a plant that had drawn international attention because of its promise to convert sewage sludge into electricity.
› Gainesville tech firm Paracosm collaborated on Google's Project Tango [Gainesville Sun]
A budding Gainesville tech company was unveiled recently as one the collaborators working on Google's Project Tango, which seeks to bring 3D mapping capabilities to mobile phones.
› Planner likens economic effect of growth to 'sugar high' [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Sarasota County is hooked on the “sugar high,” according to Charles Marohn. That's what the planner, engineer and founder of the Minnesota nonprofit Strong Towns calls the economic boost communities see from new development.
› Column: Flatlining Pinellas badly in need of economic CPR [Tampa Bay Times]
In the tri-county core of Tampa Bay, the populations of Hillsborough and Pasco are expected to grow steadily for decades to come. But Pinellas County looks destined to flatline.