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Friday's Daily Pulse

COVID-19 update: Florida reports 27,533 new cases and largest increase in deaths since Nov. 4

Florida reported 27,533 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and increased its death toll by 628, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows. The large number of newly reported deaths, which occurred over the past several days, pushed the 7-day average for deaths to its highest level since the end of October. Death reports lag behind cases by two weeks or more. The 7-day average for new cases fell below 30,000 for the first time since Christmas weekend, the CDC data shows. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

Florida Trend Exclusive

Trends in Florida health care: Activating cellular armies

After being diagnosed and treated for an aggressive form of melanoma in 2015, Toni English of Rockledge was in remission for nearly two years. In 2017, the cancer returned in her brain, lungs and kidney and stopped responding to treatments. English thought she’d “hit the end of the road” for treatment. She thought, “OK, now what do we do? I’ve exhausted all that was out there.” English consulted with Dr. Sajeve Thomas, an oncologist and hematologist at the Orlando Health Cancer Institute, who suggested she enroll in a clinical trial using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) therapy — an approach that essentially harnesses a person’s own immune cells to fight their cancer. [Source: Florida Trend]

Opinion: Florida's small businesses depend on Big Tech's support

Surviving the pandemic required both Paycheck Protection Program loans and digital technology for many small businesses – technology that created a digital safety net that was critically important when our economy nearly shut down. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Salesforce, GrubHub, Zoom and Shopify helped power these COVID lifelines. In addition small businesses that invested in digital tools before COVID-19 earned 50% more revenue – and hired twice as many workers – than less digitally savvy businesses did during the eventual shutdowns. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]

South Florida construction starts soared 43% in 2021

South Florida’s construction industry made a roaring recovery in 2021 with a 43% increase in starts, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. That is a big bounce back from the 25% decline in construction starts in the tri-county region in 2020 as the start of the Covid-19 pandemic caused some projects to grind to a halt or fail to get off the ground. [Source: South Florida Business Journal]

Legislation would help big firms win property tax auctions, potentially squeeze homeowners

A bill moving through the Florida Legislature would give financial heavyweights an edge in online government auctions at the expense of smaller investors. Tax collectors say the changes would reinstate a cartel for a little-known $1 billion market in Florida, letting a handful of large investors dominate the market and drive up costs for homeowners who fall behind on their taxes. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]


› Revenue records keep falling for Raymond James, MarineMax
Amid a turbulent week on Wall Street, two of Tampa Bay’s largest public companies have once again shattered quarterly revenue records. St. Petersburg wealth management firm Raymond James Financial announced quarterly revenues of nearly $2.8 billion for the three months ending Dec. 31, up 3 percent from the prior quarter and 23 percent year over year. It was the company’s sixth straight quarter posting record revenues.

› Universal Orlando says Epic Universe to open by summer 2025
Universal’s newest Orlando theme park, Epic Universe, is expected to open by summer 2025, executives for parent company Comcast said Thursday, as Universal Orlando reported record-setting earnings last quarter. Epic Universe’s construction is “full steam ahead,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shell said during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call.

› A Q&A with new Sarasota-area arts leaders about culture, community and the future
Part of what makes the Sarasota area so vibrant are the many exciting arts and culture opportunities it offers, and the organizations that present them try to maintain that excitement through bold creativity and by looking toward the future. We spoke to a number of arts leaders who are still relatively new in their jobs about what’s in store for the coming months.

› The Plan Z proposal finally became public, but Miami-Dade keeping toll hikes a secret
The Plan Z consortium’s unsolicited proposal to redevelop the Rickenbacker Causeway finally became a public document this week, but that doesn’t mean the secrecy has ended. Naked Politics obtained a copy of the Feb. 16, 2021 proposal from the group headed by local star architect Bernard Zyscovich, who allied with former Miami-Dade County Parks Director Jack Kardys and private-equity investors to pursue the $498 million project.

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› VyStar Credit Union waiting on approval of HSBI acquisition
Ten months after announcing an agreement to buy a Georgia bank, VyStar Credit Union still is waiting for regulatory approval to complete the deal. The wait comes as the banking industry is pushing back against credit union buyouts of commercial banks, saying credit unions have an unfair advantage in those deals. Jacksonville-based VyStar agreed in March to buy Heritage Southeast Bancorporation Inc., a Jonesboro, Georgia-based company that operates commercial banks in Georgia with 23 branches.

› Incentives bring new life to film industry in Miami-Dade
After a few starts and stops over the past two years, Miami-Dade’s film industry is coming back to life and reclaiming its reputation of being one of the most desirable shooting destinations in the world. Miami is on everybody’s radar, with winter conditions that are far more favorable here than shooting practically anywhere else in the US, said Bruce Orosz, CEO of ACT Productions and Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau chairman.

› Jesenik named chief operating officer at Orion180
Orion180 recently announced the promotion of Ryan Jesenik to chief operating officer. In his new role, he will oversee business operations of the organization, which is a homeowners' insurance provider leveraging advanced technology to serve independent insurance agents in the Southeastern United States.

› Sunset Music Festival announces lineup in Tampa
When the Sunset Music Festival returned in 2021, it was Tampa’s first major concert festival of the pandemic, drawing tens of thousands of attendees and generating $16 million in spending. The electronic dance music festival is back, happening Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29 at the front lot at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.