FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Around the State


The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's standard crime rate, which does not include drug offenses or fraud, decreased 6.4% in 1995 as the ratio of crimes per 100,000 residents dropped to 7,623.1. In total, approximately 1.42 million crimes were reported last year; and 726,240 arrests were made, a 1.6% increase. The 150,208 violent crimes represent a decrease of 4.8%, but domestic violence-related crimes saw a 9.4% increase to 131,152. Drug offenses grew 5% to 79,888.


Three franchise owners of PoFolks restaurants in Alabama, Arizona and Florida formed Panama City-based Folks Restaurant Ltd. and purchased PoFolks Inc., the 61-restaurant group operating under U.S. Bankruptcy Court protection since filing Chapter 11 in September 1995. Michael and Janice Thomas, operators of four PoFolks restaurants in Arizona, and Peter Sostheim of Panama City, operator of eight PoFolks in Florida and Alabama, bought the company for less than $1 million.

About 87 civilian workers in accounting, procurement and administration will lose their jobs when the Navy completes its automation of the exchange at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. "Exchanges" are general-purpose stores offering military personnel tax-free goods at discounted prices. Separately, the Navy plans to relocate up to 120 warehouse jobs in June 1997 from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station to Pensacola.


Jacksonville-based Barnett Banks is cutting 280 administrative and support jobs from its mortgage servicing unit. The company is shifting its mortgage servicing work to a new Jacksonville-based company, HomeSide Inc., owned by Barnett, Bank of Boston and two private investment firms.

Choice Behavioral Health, a joint venture between FHC Options of Norfolk, Va., and CMG Health of Owings Mills, Md., will hire about 100 workers to staff its new Jacksonville office. Choice Behavioral will manage mental health and substance abuse services for military beneficiaries in Florida and seven other states as part of a subcontracting agreement with Humana Military Healthcare Services, a subsidiary of Humana Inc. of Louisville, Ky.

Marineland of Florida, located south of St. Augustine, was purchased by Marineland Ocean Resort Inc. The new owner, led by Chairman of the Board Barry Loughrane, plans to renovate and enhance the marine attraction, including building six new bird exhibition areas. Terms of the sale were not released.

Box USA plans to open a 72,000-square-foot factory for converting corrugated cardboard into cardboard boxes in Jacksonville's Westside Industrial Park. Box USA, a subsidiary of Valhalla, N.Y.-based Four M Corp., plans to employ 40 at its new facility. Jobs will pay an average of about $7 per hour, excluding benefits.

Palm Coast-based ITT Community Development Corp., a division of conglomerate ITT Industries, sold $34 million of its Palm Coast properties, retail lots and retail land sales contracts to Palm Coast Holdings (PCH), an affiliate of Duluth, Minn.-based Minnesota Power & Light. PCH, which already owns Lehigh Corp. near Fort Myers and the Sugarmill Woods development north of Tampa, says the Palm Coast acquisition is consistent with its plans to add properties to its Florida real estate portfolio.

The Luhrs Marine Group of St. Augustine, one of the largest closely held boat manufacturers in the world, recently put in place an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) with the hope that it will increase productivity, among other things. The ESOP allows employee ownership of all of the group's companies, including Silverton Marine Corp., Hunter Marine Corp., Mainship Motor Yachts Corp. and Luhrs Corp. The company, which employs 1,100 people worldwide, says there will be no changes in the current management or direction of the companies.

A federal judge approved an estimated $2.6 million settlement, in cash and benefits, against Minnesota-based Cargill Inc., ending a legal battle that began in 1989. The cash will go to poultry growers who charged in a suit that the company intentionally underweighed live poultry raised for slaughter at its Jacksonville plant. Cargill admitted no liability.


USBI Co., a division of Pratt & Whitney's Space Propulsion Operations, will receive $690,000 in financial incentives from the state. That will help it to create about 175 space-related jobs at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. USBI will receive tax refunds for each new job it creates and reimbursement for job training through Brevard Community College under Florida's Qualified Targeted Industry and Quick Response Training programs.

Seagate Software Storage Management Group, part of California-based Seagate Technologies, is relocating its headquarters from Lake Mary to 100,821 square feet of office space in Heathrow and adding about 175 jobs there over the next three years.

The Nichols phosphate mine in Polk County was purchased from Mobil Corp. by Agrifos LLC. Based in New York City and a wholly owned subsidiary of Marfin Fertilizers LLC, Agrifos bought 10,000 acres, rock preparation facilities, equipment and other assets.

New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies, the former manufacturing arm of AT&T Corp., plans to eliminate 65 management positions and 59 union jobs in Maitland and Lake Mary. Some of the union positions will be transferred to Denver, and most of the management jobs will be contracted out.

Seminole County agreed to grant Phoenix International $190,000 if the company relocates its headquarters from Maitland to Lake Mary. The company, a banking software developer, has 93 employees and plans to create another 81 positions within the next five years.

Seffner-based Rooms To Go leased 150,000 square feet of warehouse space in the Lakeland Regional Industrial Park. The furniture retailer expects to hire about 20 new employees for the warehouse.

BellSouth eliminated 83 jobs in Central Florida as part of its continuing efforts to cut costs. Twenty-three jobs were cut in Orlando, 18 in Daytona Beach and 15 in Merritt Island. An additional 27 jobs were cut from the Atlanta-based telephone company's work management center in south Orlando.

EDS cut 27 jobs at its Orlando banking software unit. The Dallas-based information technology company eliminated the positions to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Tampa Bay

Federated Department Stores is relocating its Financial and Credit Services (FACS) division from Tampa. The company acquired two buildings on about 80 acres of land in St. Petersburg and expects to hire 600 new credit service employees there during the next year for a total work force of 1,200. Cincinnati-based Federated operates 550 department and specialty stores in 36 states including Burdines, Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Palm Harbor-based ABR Information Services, an employee benefits administrator, plans to build a new $30 million, 300,000-square-foot office complex on 72 acres in Tarpon Springs. The three-building, campus-style facility will house ABR's national headquarters, and eventually the company could add up to 1,000 new employees for a total of 1,500. The company expects construction to begin in about 16 months, with the entire project completed within five years.

Franklin Templeton Group (FTG) is relocating from downtown St. Petersburg to the Carillon office park on St. Petersburg's north side. The San Mateo, Calif.-based mutual fund company purchased 28 acres and expects to begin construction on a 180,000-square-foot building by the end of the year. Most of FTG's 750 employees will begin relocating to the new facility late in 1997. About 200 to 300 employees in computer operations will remain downtown. Greater options for future expansion was a deciding factor in the move from downtown St. Petersburg.

Fingerhut Companies has announced that it will open two customer service centers in the Tampa Bay area. In July, a new 45,000-square-foot building in Tampa will accommodate 450 jobs in telephone-order operations; starting in August, an account services facility in Brandon will employ 400. Fingerhut, based in Minnetonka, Minn., markets products and services directly to the customer through catalogs, television and other media. Explaining the move, company representatives cited a favorable business climate and the area's bilingual labor force that fits with its growing Spanish-speaking customer base.

Parts Source, the Clearwater-based company doing business as Ace Auto Parts, went public with an offering of 1.1 million shares priced at $8 each.


Sony Electronics plans to house its Customer Information Services division in a new 68,000-square-foot telecommunications center at Gateway in Fort Myers. The facility is expected to bring 450 jobs to the Lee County area by the end of 1996. It will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and serve customers nationwide.

Carnival Air Lines selected Cape Coral for the site of its new international reservations center. The company plans to start operations in July and hire more than 100 before the winter season begins. Eventually, 300 people could be employed. The annual economic benefit to the city and Lee County is projected at $7 million to $11 million. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Carnival is the largest scheduled passenger airline headquartered in Florida.

Treasure Coast

Florida Power & Light's nuclear division is eliminating 180 engineering and administrative jobs in Juno Beach by the end of this month. Thirty of the positions will be transferred to the St. Lucie nuclear facility and another 30 to the Turkey Point facility. The remaining 120 positions will be cut.

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman eliminated 31 positions at its Stuart plant. Eighteen employees in the procurement and material department and 13 employees who worked on the company's Fokker Aircraft contract were fired. The company said that declining work on its aircraft programs and the bankruptcy of Fokker Aircraft led to the dismissals.

MBNA America Bank, the second-largest issuer of credit cards in the U.S., has agreed to buy a 60,000-square-foot building on ten acres in Boca Raton's Arvida Park of Commerce. The Wilmington, Del.-based company expects within three years to employ about 1,000 at its new southeast regional headquarters in Boca. The positions are in marketing, telephone sales, product development and customer service.

Safeskin, a manufacturer of hypoallergenic, disposable latex gloves, is relocating its headquarters from Boca Raton to San Diego. Since its start-up in 1987, the company has kept its headquarters in Florida while its sales and marketing department was based in California; the move will consolidate these Safeskin operations.


ProSource Distribution Services, the nation's leading chain restaurant food service company, is consolidating all of its headquarters and corporate support activities currently being performed in Ohio and two Illinois offices into a new world headquarters in Miami. The company already employs 120 in its Coral Gables office. It will move those jobs to Miami and add another 150 jobs. ProSource received a $675,000 incentive from Florida's Qualified Targeted Industry tax refund program.

BankAtlantic of Fort Lauderdale agreed to acquire the Miami-based parent company of Bank of North America for about $54 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 1996, pending regulatory approvals. At the end of 1995, Bank of North America, a state-chartered commercial bank, had assets of $554 million and deposits of $494 million, and BankAtlantic had assets of $1.7 billion and deposits of $1.3 billion.