Economists upbeat for Florida in 2020
Florida passed its annual economic check-up with “flying colors,” says economist Sean Snaith, but it remains afflicted with a minor condition. Snaith, the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting, believes the state economy is about as healthy as it could be. But the state is experiencing what he calls an episode of economic Osgood-Schlatter disease, known as growing pains. Those figurative achy knees, he says, are in the forms of a housing shortage and a transportation network deficit. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Florida targets Space Force, inks new support services contract
Florida’s aerospace agency has launched a new front in its effort to make the Sunshine State more enticing as a potential player in the nation’s up-and-coming Space Force. The Space Florida Board of Directors approved $200,000 for Satellite Beach-based GTOPS, Inc., a veteran-owned business that provides facilities-support services, to further showcase how military bases and businesses in the state are capable of training and equipping the new military branch. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
Electric scooters thrive in Florida as they vanish from some other parts of U.S.
Electric scooter rentals are likely to stay in Florida — even though some companies have started pulling their business out of other parts of the country. The e-scooters, which grew popular on U.S. streets in 2018, have helped thousands of tourists, residents and even well-tailored businesspeople quickly get around the streets. But they’ve also drawn public safety concerns as the number of accidents kept mounting. And cities such as Fort Lauderdale, one of the first Florida cities to allow them, still are refining their rules for the two-wheeled devices, focused on safety. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
In Legislature, septic tank problems getting notice after heavy algae impacts prompt state review
With about 30 percent of Floridians using septic tanks, lawmakers are considering steps to help communities switch to sewer lines to avoid environmental problems like toxic algae blooms. With population growth amplifying concerns about preserving clean water, helping homeowners get off septic tanks has appeal for some lawmakers. [Source: Florida Times-Union]
SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test
SpaceX completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts in as little as two months, mimicking an emergency escape shortly after liftoff Sunday. No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Sanford mall struggles as Macy’s leaves, but downtown booms with restaurants, boutiques [Orlando Sentinel]
Sales signs are up at the soon-to-close Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters stores inside the Seminole Towne Center. The closings are just the latest blows for the major shopping center off Interstate 4 that has already lost its Sears department store. But about five miles away in downtown Sanford, it’s a different scene.
› Bill introduced to forbid animals in Florida restaurants, bars, businesses as soon as July [First Coast News]
An Orlando lawmaker introduced a bill in the Florida House last week that would prohibit all nonservice animals from entering a public food service establishment or place of business. The proposed legislation banning animals in places of business defines a business as a "retail establishment, restaurant, bar, lounge, or any other similar place of business where the public assemblies."
› SeaWorld is outsourcing carnival games to United Kingdom company [Orlando Sentinel]
SeaWorld is outsourcing employees who run carnival games at four theme parks —including Orlando, the company confirmed. United Kingdom-based HB Leisure will run the games starting Jan. 27 at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay followed by the SeaWorld parks in San Antonio and San Diego in the ongoing weeks, according to an employee memo.
› Miami Beach wants to label North Beach ‘blighted’ to invest $100 million in property taxes [Miami Herald]
A clash between North Beach residents and one of the neighborhood’s most prominent property owners forced Miami Beach commissioners to punt on a controversial vote requesting that the county designate North Beach as “blighted” for the purposes of establishing a community redevelopment agency there.
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› As Daytona-area luxury apartments increase, can income keep pace? [Daytona Beach News Journal]
A huge wave of luxury apartments is about to wash over Volusia County, with nearly 4,000 units currently under construction or about to break ground this year. Developers of these “class A” apartments tout a dizzying array of resort-style amenities: Clubhouses. Swimming pools. Fitness centers. Game rooms. Entertainment rooms. But luxury doesn’t come cheap.
› Two conservative groups slam Florida Republicans’ Amendment 4 bill [Tampa Bay Times]
Two conservative think tanks came out against Florida Republicans’ bill curbing Amendment 4, arguing that felons should not be stopped from voting just because they can’t afford to pay back court-ordered fees, fines and restitution.
› Mistake leads to huge water bills in Florida city [AP]
A mistake by Miami-Dade County utility officials has led to sky-high water bills this month for many property owners in the South Florida city of Opa-locka. The Miami Herald reports that some residents have had their water shut off because owners haven’t paid the bills. At one 112-unit apartment complex, monthly water bills went from around $2,000 combined in November and December to $135,000 between two buildings in January.
› JEA: CEO Aaron Zahn talked about hiring Mayor Curry adviser as consultant for utility sales talks [Florida Times-Union]
JEA CEO Aaron Zahn wanted to hire Tim Baker, one of Mayor Lenny Curry’s top political strategists, to help with the city-owned utility’s now-canceled efforts to sell itself to a private operator, according to a statement released Friday by a JEA administrator. That interest came about a year after Baker attended meetings between at least two City Council members and a Florida Power & Light lobbyist.