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March 26, 2019

Friday's Daily Pulse

What you need to know about Florida today

| 3/8/2019

Florida Trend Exclusive
Nikki Fried: The new face of Florida agriculture

The state’s new agriculture commissioner brings a focus on weed, water and weapons. She and the state’s traditional ag community — farmers, packers and ranchers — are still getting to know each other.

On a mild afternoon in mid-January, Nikki Fried strode to the front of a banquet hall in Palm Beach County and looked out over the people who run the South Florida Fair. Someone turned down the country music that was playing over the loudspeakers and handed the most unlikely agriculture commissioner in Florida history a champagne flute filled with milk.

Fried, who turned 41 in December, is a Democrat from Miami best known for lobbying on behalf of the marijuana industry. Her audience — the fair’s trustees and directors — consisted mostly of white men with white hair, if they had any hair at all. Fried wore a heather blue jacket and matching pants; the fair boosters all had on tomato-red blazers. [Source: Florida Trend]

GTE Financial Increases Minimum Wage to $16 an Hour

GTE Financial recently increased its starting wage to $16 an hour effective February 11. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the current minimum wage in the state rose from $8.25 to $8.46 per hour as of January 1st. The cooperative has been offering a $15 minimum wage for over four years.

“With unemployment at historical lows in Tampa Bay, it is becoming more competitive than ever to secure top talent. Further increasing our starting salary allows GTE to be a leader in the career marketplace to attract and retain top talent – and more importantly ensure a competitive living wage for our employees,” said Jasiel Legon, SVP, and Chief Talent Officer at GTE Financial. “In 2015, we became a pioneer and leader in the country to increase the minimum entry wage to $15. We are proud to continue to raise the bar in salary and total rewards.” [Source: GTE Financial]

USDA provides funding to Florida to support projects that protect plant health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is allocating $7.2 million to Florida as part of its effort to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure for pest detection and surveillance, identification, and threat mitigation, and to safeguard the U.S. nursery production system. Overall, USDA is providing $66 million in funding this year to support 407 projects in 49 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. USDA provides this funding under the authority of the Plant Protection Act Section 7721. “Florida is a critical partner in protecting U.S. agriculture,” said USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach. “With this funding, Florida will be able to better protect its own resources, and, in doing so, contribute to USDA’s mission of keeping our nation’s agriculture economy healthy and strong.” [Source: Southeast AG NET]

Badia Spices donates $1 million to Florida International University

Badia Spices, Inc. has announced a $1 million gift to the Next Horizon campaign at Florida International University to create the Badia Spices Scholarship Endowment at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. The Badia Spices Scholarship Endowment will be used to recruit and retain students and enrich the student experience at the Chaplin School. It will do so primarily by providing scholarships for students, with a preference given to those who are first generation or demonstrate financial need. “I am proud to continue to strengthen the legacy of our family at FIU,” said Joseph Badia, CEO of Badia Spices, Inc. “The university is an excellent partner for Badia Spices, Inc., and I am thankful to have this opportunity to support hospitality students.” This gift is the largest in the history of Badia and FIU’s partnership, surpassing a $500,000 gift in May 2015 that named the Badia Spices Food Production Laboratory. [Source: CBS Miamil]

Florida scores high — again — on a national tax study

Florida, no surprise, really, excelled on the latest comprehensive tax study from the Tax Foundation.

Overall, Florida ranked No. 4 in the foundation’s annual state business tax climate index. While the Top 10 of the 2019 edition is mostly unchanged from 2018, it remains notable that Florida is an island among the Southeast, really the entire South, in the Top 10. Its peers in having a business-friendly tax structure, according to a statement, include Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Utah and Nevada. The closest state in geography to Florida is No. 10, Indiana. “The absence of a major tax is a common factor among many of the top 10,” states the report from the foundation, a nonprofit tax policy think tank. [Source: Business Observer]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› From Indiana cowgirl to Florida’s first pot czar — Meet Holly Bell
Manatee County will reimburse Sarasota County for a state accounting blunder that inadvertently paid sales tax revenue to the wrong jurisdiction. Manatee County is set to repay Sarasota County roughly $3.7 million the Department of Revenue accidentally gave it since 2014.

› Move the Florida capital to Orlando? One state senator wants to study the idea
Millions of tourists visit the Orlando area each year for Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. But should Central Florida also see a yearly flood of politicians and lobbyists?

› Florida could enact a 20-cent deposit on bottles and cans
If you grew up outside Florida, you might remember collecting a deposit for returning empty beer bottles and soda cans. The local grocer or convenience store would give you a nickel or dime for each one.

› Rare Florida earthquake shakes up the Panhandle
Northern Florida experienced a small — but rare — earthquake, measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale, late Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Florida Trend Video Pick

WWII Eau Gallie B-24 bomber crash that killed 10 airmen marks 75th anniversary
WWII Eau Gallie B-24 bomber crash that killed 10 airmen marks 75th anniversary

South Florida Historical Society Secretary James Cox has researched the story of a B-24 bomber that crashed in Eau Gallie in March 1944.

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