The Sunshine Economy

9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Mondays

The Sunshine Economy, takes a fresh look at the key industries transforming South Florida into a regional powerhouse. From investments in health care, storm preparedness, international trade, real estate and technology based start-ups, tune in to learn more about one of the worlds most vibrant and diverse economies.

Tom Hudson
Credit WLRN

Ways to Connect

AP

Teacher pay and fiscal discipline. 

Those are two of the top priorities from leading Republicans as state lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis prepare to spend more than $90 billion in the next fiscal year beginning in July. Over $30 billion of that is collected from state taxes and fees.

  "This coming legislative session really needs to be the year of the teacher," DeSantis told reporters in the Capitol late last month.

Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department

“I have become the water and sewer system,” said Kevin Lynskey. “Apparently, I am the water and sewer system.”

This isn’t a statement of ego exactly. Rather, it is how Lynskey feels about the job he’s held for almost two years — director of the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer System.

“At a certain point, as you take a new job, you become the human representative of everything that happened for 50 years,” he said.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The list of names reads like a busy rest stop on the Turnpike.

7-11. Circle K. Thortons. Sunshine Distributors. RaceTrac. Cumberland Farms. Wawa. 

Add Buc-ee's to the list of convenience store chains expanding in Florida.

When the Texas company broke ground on its first store in Florida last month, it was deemed an important enough addition to the Florida economy that Gov. Ron DeSantis was there with shovel in hand, hard hat on his head and the Buc-ee beaver mascot next to him.

Buc-ee's enters a competitive landscape.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Ask any consumer — good credit goes a long way.

It works the same for local governments. Increasingly investors in the bonds of local governments want to know more about the risks those cities and counties face from climate change, and how those risks could affect the governments’ ability to repay their debts.

Tom Hudson

A yellow line on the floor in one of Andres Ochoa's warehouses is the difference between struggling with higher costs and competing for new customers.

The line denotes a Foreign Trade Zone inside the warehouses of SAP USA Truck and Auto Parts in Miami. The zone has shielded SAP from the trade war between the U.S. and China.

"A free trade zone means that product has entered the country without having duties or tariffs paid, and it's being held in a bonded facility," Ochoa said. "There's that line that separates everything."

"If you're a full time student, about $2,400 a year."

"Roughly, $3,400 a semester."

"All in, it's about $50,000."

That’s just the range of tuition across three schools in South Florida — Broward College, Florida International University and the University of Miami — as described by their leaders.

 

AP Photo/Alan Diaz

Arnold Donald says he planned to be in federal court on June third in Miami. That was the date of a hearing in front of a judge overseeing the probation of the company he leads -- Carnival Corporation.

 

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Arnold Donald admits there were gaps in how the world's largest cruise ship operator followed environmental rules.

"Clearly there were some gaps in this system," Donald told WLRN's Sunshine Economy during a recent interview in his office at Carnival's headquarters in Doral. It was Donald's first public comment since agreeing to pay a $20 million fine and plead guilty to six violations of the company's probation in June.

Jose Iglesias / Miami Herald

Kim Rivers' dad was a Jacksonville Sheriff's deputy while she was growing up. For a time, he was working with an undercover narcotics unit.

Today, Rivers leads the largest seller of legal marijuana in Florida, as the CEO of Trulieve.

The company was the first to have medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and now has the most. Revenues grew 400 percent last year to more than $100 million and sales are expected to more than double this year. It has bought dispensaries in California and Massachusetts, and announced the purchase of a Connecticut dispensary this month.

Danny Rivero

Business from cannabis is growing fast in Florida; some of it regulated tightly, and some of it without rules. But all of it comes with cash that the banking industry is reluctant to touch. 

 

The first legal industrial hemp seeds in decades are growing now in South Florida soil.

CBD is showing up in ice cream, gummy bears and cocktails, but the state says the products are illegal.

And millions of dollars are being generated by the medical marijuana industry in Florida, but few banks want the money.

Timmy Gunz/C.M. Guerrero/Martin County Health Dept / Creative Commons/Flickr/Miami Herald

Florida lawmakers have finished their work for the year. The 60-day legislative session had to have a few extra hours on Saturday for them to okay a $91.1 billion state budget.

Mark Harrison

For several years, South Florida has been working on its technology credentials. Tech incubators, accelerators, pitch competitions and other efforts have worked to nurture and grow the technology industry, especially tech start-ups.

courtesy: AutoNation

Mike Jackson used to shovel horse manure for one dollar a stall. He wound up leading a company selling over half a million new and used cars and trucks a year.

In March, Jackson stepped aside from CEO of AutoNation, the position he held for 20 years. AutoNation is one of South Florida’s largest publicly traded companies -- worth almost $3.5 billion. And Florida is its most important market, with quarter of its revenues coming from auto dealers it owns here.

Tom Hudson

Republicans and Democrats in Tallahassee are in agreement on at least one thing as they forge a state budget that will total around $90 billion: Florida's economy is doing well. 

The state’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in February, and more than 25,000 jobs were added that month.

Still, the state forecast for money coming in from sales taxes is down a little bit from forecasting just a few months ago. While still growing, the incoming tax dollars are expected to grow slower in the years ahead.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

After two and a half years of work, a comprehensive report on how to better prepare Miami for all kinds of threats -- economic, health and especially climate risks -- is expected to be released by the end of May.

The effort aims to better understand the risks to resiliency. That is the popular word used as a catchall for everything from dealing with housing affordability to recovering after a hurricane to protecting against and adapting to rising seas.

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