FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Thursday's Daily Pulse

Most swing state economies faring better than U.S.

With polls tight and the national recovery limping along, state economies could provide the difference in Mitt Romney’s bid to unseat President Obama. While the U.S. unemployment rate gets the most attention from commentators and candidates, it’s the state-level data that best reflect what voters face on a daily basis. Read full story and see an interactive map from the Miami Herald.

Florida universities under pressure to improve graduation rates

The University of Central Florida's four-year graduation rate is just 35 percent — yet UCF ranks fourth among Florida's 12 public universities for its graduation rates. Only 12 percent of freshmen at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee earned a degree in four years. Four other schools, including Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, had four-year graduation rates of 20 percent or lower — a performance that has drawn sharp criticism from state education leaders and others. Now they're under intense pressure to improve. Their funding will depend on it. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Companies spring up to manage online images, reputations

A South Florida doctor wanted to bury a bad online rating of his services. A Boca Raton, Fla., jeweler needed positive reviews about his business to rank higher on Internet searches. And a Miami Beach restaurant looked to downplay negative comments about the lack of decor before it was remodeled. All were clients of reputation managers who specialize in cleaning up “digital dirt” — or at least sweeping it under the rug to make it harder to find. [Source: McClatchy]

Florida Trend Exclusive
Palatka's change of plans

The city just completed a $1.1- million riverfront revitalization and streetscaping. It has announced a riverfront environmental education center in partnership with Georgia-Pacific. Next up: A water taxi service. Full story...

Citrus growers squeeze out fresh hopes

Citrus growers are are still worried about greening and prices, but are feeling optimistic as the 2012 Citrus Expo finishes up today. Congressman Thomas Rooney gave the keynote address and discussed renewing the farm bill that expires in September. The program, he said, provides a safety net for farmers, like crop insurance and research money for citrus diseases. “If we don’t come up with a solution for greening and cankers, we won’t be able to keep up with our competitors,” he said. [Source: Fort Myers News-Press]


› High-tech companies say interns not always up to snuff
As Central Florida's fast-paced technology industry continues to grow and evolve, some business leaders say the young talent needed for the industry isn't always up to speed. Though there is a steady flow of computer-science and technology interns seeking experience, owners of high-tech enterprises are finding many of them overwhelmed by rapidly changing technology as they venture outside the classroom.

› FPL announces rate deal with Fla. business groups
The state's consumer advocate says he'll oppose an agreement that Florida's largest utility has made with groups representing business and federal agency customers. The agreement would cut the utility's request for a base rate increase from $690.4 million a year to $378 million beginning in January if approved by the Florida Public Service Commission.

› Slowing Bay Area corporate earnings spark economic fears
Tampa Bay's 10 largest public companies saw a combined 8 percent drop in earnings in the latest quarter compared to a year ago. It's a troubling sign the corporate momentum spearheading the modest economic rebound may be in trouble.

› Handshake will keep Burn Notice
Producers of the hit "Burn Notice" TV series say they and the City of Miami have reached a handshake deal that will allow production to stay in its current 107,000-square-foot space for one more year, provided the show is renewed for its seventh season.

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› Orlando airport sets $446M budget
It likely will cost nearly $446 million to operate Orlando International Airport next year — everything from the runways to Starbucks. That was the tentative budget adopted Wednesday by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

› Company accuses Rays of misappropriating digital autograph-signing idea
When a company with close ties to the Tampa Bay Rays announced plans for an innovative autograph-signing business last month, local businessman Tom Waters couldn't believe it. The reason? He and a partner came up with the idea first, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

› Cities to be asked to finance commuter rail
Cities along the route of the proposed South Florida East Coast Corridor commuter rail line will be asked to contribute to help finance the venture, officials say. "This is a request to the cities, not the counties," said Steven Abrams, newly elected chairman of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. "There is a real economic benefit tied to the request."

› Former Navy commander lands key Jacksonville military business development post
Aaron Bowman is resigning this week from BAE Systems shipyards on Heckscher Drive where he is director of business operations. He will soon handle military issues and aerospace and manufacturing business development for the Jax Chamber and Jax USA partnership.