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Thursday's Daily Pulse

Florida ports, travel agencies and passengers await the return of cruises

Cruise enthusiasts are ready to set sail after a year of uncertainty as cruises return to the ports in Florida. Port officials and travel agents are also ready for the ports to reopen to cruise traffic. “Florida has long been the global headquarters for the cruise industry — not only for their actual corporate headquarters, but for cruise home ports and cruise transit ports,” Florida Ports Council President Michael Rubin said. “The return of this industry means millions of state and local revenues, and hundreds of thousands of jobs.” [Source: WUFT]

DeSantis dismisses calls for a red tide state of emergency

Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the Tampa Bay region by boat Wednesday and pledged continued support for ongoing efforts to combat a red tide algae bloom killing marine life and impacting the region’s economy. Although DeSantis said his administration is “committed to being in this fight,” environmental groups expressed disappointment that the governor has ignored calls for him to implement a state of emergency in the region. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, for example, said in a tweet on Wednesday “the politicization of the governor's response to red tide is truly sickening.” [Source: News Service of Florida]

What’s going on with gas prices? AAA’s Mark Jenkins explains

If you drive a car, chances are you have felt the same pain drivers across Florida  are experiencing: filling up costs a lot more these days. Gas prices dropped below $2 per gallon on average last year as the pandemic ramped up, then jumped up at the end of last year. This week, average pump prices around the state skirted $3 per gallon. Mark Jenkins, spokesperson for AAA, the Auto Club Group, explains what’s going on. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Florida business leaders lobby for Equality Act

More than 20 Florida businesses signed onto a letter calling for Congress to pass the Equality Act. Industry leaders, including a significant number in the tech and hospitality sector, say Florida’s economy stands to gain if the federal government puts nationwide job protections in place the Florida Legislature has so far failed to advance. “Passage of the Equality Act isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the smart thing to do economically,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. [Source: Florida Politics]

Ford, Argo AI to deploy self-driving vehicles on Lyft network; will debut in Miami

Ford Motor Co. and a self-driving vehicle company it partly owns will join with the Lyft ride-hailing service to offer autonomous rides on the Lyft network. The service using Ford vehicles and a driving system developed by Pittsburgh-based Argo AI will begin in Miami later this year and start in Austin, Texas, in 2022. It will start with human backup drivers and go fully autonomous at an unspecified date. Read more from the AP and the Miami Herald.

Outside general counsel: Deepening your legal bench

The pandemic threw some companies a legal curveball. Many discovered that legal departments were challenged to handle the matters faced pre-pandemic, atop the regulatory, compliance and employment matters that didn’t exist 18 months ago. Facing this dynamic and increasingly complex legal landscape, the question of whether to rely on an in-house legal department or retain skilled outside counsel has never been more vital to ongoing operations. Given the complexities, what should a company consider when deciding whether to build or maintain in-house counsel, versus hiring outside counsel? [Sponsored report]


› Brandon area mall lands eclectic list of new tenants  
Who said malls were dead? Not anyone who’s shopping at Westfield Brandon in the past couple of months. The suburban Tampa mall is in the process of adding 11 new tenants to its roster of stores and the names on the list range from typical mall fare to the unusual. The new tenant mix is an example of the steps malls nationwide are having to take to stay relevant and engage shoppers as buying habits change.

› Two Tampa Bay houses are finalists in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest
Two homes around Tampa Bay are finalists in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt, an annual contest that allows people to vote for their favorite listings in different categories by viewing photo galleries online. Anyone interested in voting for these homes or others in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest can do so through August 4 here. Winners in each category will be chosen based on the number of votes and an overall favorite will be picked for the listing that received the highest raw total.

› Task force probes Miami-Dade County cryptocurrency use
The Miami-Dade Cryptocurrency Task Force, created in April, now has seven of its planned members appointed after commissioners accepted a report detailing their credentials last week. They are now responsible for exploring the feasibility of receiving cryptocurrency and other digital monetary forms as an acceptable method of payment for county taxes, fees, and services.

› Travelers booking hotels again after pandemic lull. The latest is the new Cambria on the beach.
Few Fort Lauderdale residents can say they have their own neighborhood hotel — where visiting family and friends can stay just across the street, dine at a fine Italian restaurant and sip drinks atop a rooftop bar with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. But that’s now the case in the city’s north beach section just south of Oakland Park Boulevard at 2231 North Ocean Blvd., where the Cambria Hotel Fort Lauderdale Beach is attracting increasing numbers of once pandemic-bound summer visitors who are eager for a getaway.

Trend Mention

Mention ImageUF research spending at record $942.2 million in 2020 despite pandemic

UF Research spending reached a record $942.2 million in fiscal year 2020, despite a two-month pause in most operations due to the pandemic. According to a new report to the National Science Foundation, research expenditures supported by the federal government increased to $397.2 million, while state and local expenditures increased to $169.2 million. Learn about ongoing UF research in areas such as Alzheimer’s, early childhood learning and agriculture.

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› Churches manage to keep funding steady during pandemic
Local churches are now recovering from the pandemic as people slowly return to the sanctuary rather than watching from home. Although services were in an empty sanctuary, funds stayed steady and helped local poor. CrossBridge Church, with a campus in Pinecrest, Brickell, Key Biscayne, Miami Springs and Homestead, did not have a startling adjustment in online worship. “Our church was already positioned to go online. We were already live streaming. So the thing for us is how can we serve the city?” said Carter Brown, lead pastor at CrossBridge Church. Tithing stayed steady during the pandemic, and the church turned to give the money to the community.

› UF Study Gives Strawberry Growers a Ray of (UV) Light at the End of Their Pest Tunnel
Researchers with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are trying to reduce pests and diseases for Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry. Plant pathologist Natalia Pres has been using an ultraviolet light system for a few years now that prevents strawberry pathogens like powdery mildew, but fellow UF researchers are focused on whether that UVC radiation can also control plant pests like mites and thrips.

› Two ‘move to Miami’ tech titans just launched their first Magic City-based company
There’s an expression tech executives use to prove their ideas’ worth, according to former PayPal executive and new Miami resident Keith Rabois: At the end of the day, a founder must be able to “eat his own dog food” to show the world that it’s good. Which is why Rabois is now launching OpenStore, a platform that allows Shopify digital store owners to sell their companies, from Miami: To show the world — and, more pointedly, his fellow techies — that billion-dollar ideas can be executed from the Magic City.

› OneWater Marine to acquire Naples Boat Mart
OneWater Marine Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire the assets of Naples Boat Mart, which will expand the company’s presence on the West Coast of Florida and enhance new and pre-owned boat sales, storage, service and repair, and finance and insurance offerings. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.