It's no surprise that Washington, D.C., Hawaii and New York continue to rank among the most expensive places to live. But Florida's once-ingrained reputation as a cheap state — comparatively speaking — is taking a hit. It costs less to live in 33 states other than in Florida based on the latest analysis from the U.S. Department of Commerce. More at the Tampa Bay Times, or read the report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
A rise in trade and travel is helping bridge a gulf that has divided Cubans from expats in Florida for more than half a century, experts said. Some experts say relations are better than at any time since the rupture in diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington in the early 1960's. [Source: AFP News]
Despite earning high marks for a progressive income tax, no personal income or estate tax and for being a right-to-work state, Florida ranks toward the bottom for its sales tax burden, tort litigation and judicial environment. [Source: Florida Watchdog]
Only two of the 36 states that relied on the federal insurance exchange this year -- Idaho and New Mexico -- plan to set up their own online marketplaces in time for the next open enrollment beginning Nov. 15. [Source: Kaiser Health News]
The market for female gun instructors is booming as more women want to learn to shoot -- both for self defense and for sport. The National Rifle Association, noting the burgeoning market opportunity, is trying to boost its ranks of 8,000 NRA-certified female instructors. [Source: WPTV]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› After FCAT glitch, Florida teachers' union calls for policy changes [Tampa Bay Times]
Days after a computer glitch forced more than two dozen school districts to suspend online testing, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford asked elected officials to slow down the transition to new accountability measures.
› Office Depot prepares plan for store closings [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Office Depot will disclose within months its plan for store closures as a result of merging with rival OfficeMax, new chief executive Roland Smith said Thursday. The nation's No. 2 office-supply retailer is working with consultants Bain & Co. and will announce its store consolidation plan before second-quarter earnings are announced in August, Smith said.
› As craft beer booms, Largo brewer plans major expansion [Tampa Bay Times]
Jay Dingman and Colleen Huffman have a really serious problem. You see, they just can't make enough beer. The married couple owns Barley Mow Brewing Co., a Largo brew pub. Smaller than a microbrewery, it's a "nanobrewery" that features an in-room brewery setup located mere feet from the bar.
› Brazilian firm buys Margaritaville restaurants [Orlando Sentinel]
Brazilian-based International Meal Co. has purchased a dozen Margaritaville restaurants and plans to grow the chain. Orlando-based Margaritaville Enterprises sold the restaurants this month for an undisclosed price.
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› Orlando in running for regional veterinary lab [Orlando Sentinel]
A California-based veterinary services company is considering Orlando as the site of an advanced laboratory hub for the Southeast, company and city officials confirmed Thursday.
› Pentathlon officials prepare for world cup [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
International officials with the governing body behind Modern Pentathlon are gearing up to host their first world cup final event in Southwest Florida this June.
› From Miami, taking stock of climate risks [Green Biz]
As communities across the United States continue to fall victim to drought, coastal flooding and other impacts of extreme weather and climate change, leaders at the local and federal levels are beginning to take action.
› Bollywood means business, forum told [Tampa Bay Times]
The International Indian Film Academy got down to business - the economic kind - on Thursday during a forum to promote ties between the United States and India.