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Wednesday's Daily Pulse

Florida lawmakers may hand out last-minute tax breaks – again – to companies

If history is any guide, the Florida Legislature will give some lucky companies a break -- but not until the closing hours of the session. A year ago, for instance, lawmakers waited until the final week of their 60-day session to act on a tax break that records show had been submitted six weeks earlier by a lobbyist for the Walt Disney Co. And they waited until after 9 p.m. on the last night of session to act on a tax break that records show was sent in a month ahead of time by a lobbyist for Crown Castle International Corp., one of the country’s largest owners of cell towers. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

$2M for citrus marketing is going unspent — for now

In the face of pressure from some growers to spend more money on orange juice marketing, the Florida Citrus Commission is keeping $2 million of gunpowder dry until it has proof of a magic bullet, an effective OJ marketing message. “To underfund a (marketing) program while waiting for things to work out is a road to disaster,” Commissioner Marty McKenna, a Lake Wales-based citrus grower, told his colleagues last week. “Greening is not as much a threat to this industry as $1 per pound solids. That’s not a threat; it’s a reality.” [Source: News Chief]

Florida Retailers report ‘jolly’ holiday season

Florida stores tallied up strong sales numbers to close out the year, the Florida Retail Federation says. According to the trade association, holiday spending at retail was up 4.1% year-over-year. The improvement comes despite the adversity of a truncated shopping season and other factors. “Florida retailers experienced a strong holiday season despite the late Thanksgiving and concerns over tariffs,” FRF President and CEO Scott Shalley said. “With 2.7 million jobs supported by Florida retailers, this successful season paid off big for our state’s economy.” [Source: Florida Politics]

It’s so cold in Florida that some attractions are shut down and advisories are issued

South Florida will be a bit warmer than other parts of Florida, like Jacksonville, which will dip to a freezing 32 degrees Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, and feel a good 10 degrees colder. But even Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are under a wind chill advisory since the really cold air will have moved over the state and, combined with brisk winds, the lows of mid-40s on Wednesday will feel like the 30s. More from the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.

Lucky’s Market to close all Florida stores except one, plus its Orlando distribution center

Lucky’s Market is closing nearly all of its Florida stores, regional store director Jason Rief said Tuesday. The 20 stores will close as of Feb. 12. Only the company’s West Melbourne store will remain open. Lucky’s carved a niche by offering mid-priced meat, seafood, juices and prepared foods, plus a wide variety of health products and locally sourced packaged goods. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel.


› Orlando bank employees quit in mass exodus — and go work at a competitor the next day. A lawsuit ensues.
It was a “Christmas surprise,” and not a very merry one, according to court documents that depict a fight over employees between two Orlando banks. A mass exodus of Seacoast commercial banking employees took place after business hours on Dec. 26, with a dozen suddenly quitting without notice. One Seacoast executive was watching the new Star Wars movie on his holiday when he was notified of the resignations at 5 p.m. that day.

› 'Shark Tank' star Mark Cuban 'so proud' of Viera High grad's eco-friendly company Nohbo
He's still swimmin.' Four years after he appeared on "Shark Tank" as a 16-year-old Viera High student-slash-entrepreneur, Ben Stern returned to the show with an update on his company — and high praise from some well-known "Sharks." "I'm so proud of him," billionaire Mark Cuban said of Stern on Sunday night's episode. "This is just the beginning for him."

› Tampa’s Pirate Water Taxi expanding its fleet, stops and routes
Four years after it launched, the Pirate Water Taxi is adding vessels and expanding its routes both ahead of the Super Bowl as well as to support long-term growth. As part of the expansion, the taxi will double the number of boats it runs from three to six, with the goal of adding a seventh vessel toward the end of the year.

› Politics and a power shift shake up downtown Miami agency as acting director resigns
One week after former Miami Beach commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán agreed to become acting director of Miami’s tax-funded Downtown Development Authority, she submitted her resignation to the board Tuesday morning. She is stepping down amid a flurry of change to power structures at the highest levels of Miami’s city government, shifts that influenced her decision.

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› UCF Downtown Innovation District opens new business incubator space
The UCF Downtown Innovation District has added a new business incubator space in the heart of downtown Orlando to help the area's growing tech industry. The new space in the Church Street Exchange building is the eighth incubator in the UCF Business Incubation Program and the third connected to the new Innovation District strategy.

› A step closer to closing cold cases for good, Jacksonville nonprofit offers Year of Hope
Three organizations are teaming in their effort to bring peace to thousands of people who have lost loved ones to unsolved killings. Project: Cold Case is presenting its fifth annual fundraiser, The Year of Hope, from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Legacy Lodge Event Center.

› Miami’s million-dollar communities dipped in home values in 2019. Here’s why
The wealthiest neighborhoods in the Miami metro area remain on a list of U.S. cities with average home prices over $1 million while others elsewhere landed on the cutting floor. But with a dip in home values, could Miami be next on the chopping block?

› More disarray at Florida non-profit that paid former CEO $761,000
Former state Sen. Denise Grimsley has stepped down as the interim president and CEO of the state’s largest domestic violence nonprofit organization after just a two-month tenure. Through a personal spokeswoman, Grimsley confirmed Tuesday that on Monday, she left her position at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She did not provide a reason for her departure.