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

Hurricane Irma at 8 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2017.
National Weather Service

In the six weeks since Hurricane Irma first made landfall in Florida, almost 750,000 property insurance claims have been filed. Almost one out of every three of those have been filed by property owners in South Florida. And most of those insurance claims remain open.

"So far, I am satisfied," said Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier about the process. "We do have ways to go, so that's a preliminary assessment."

Tom Hudson

Richard Sasso is a salesman. He punctuates a conversation about the cruise industry with a library of stories he has gathered over more than 40 years selling cruises. Hurricanes? He's experienced them. Business cycle changes? He's led companies through them.

 

Tom Hudson

Hurricane Irma dealt a blow to the agriculture industry in South Florida. Local damage estimates are still being calculated, but initial figures put it at around $250 million in Miami-Dade County alone. It’s too early to tell what the price of the storm will be for Palm Beach County farmers. The sugarcane harvest begins this month and crop loss will become more apparent.

Tom Hudson and Katie Lepri

Jerry Lieberman / Keys Energy Services

Even though the Lower Florida Keys took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, the storm did not disconnect the Keys power line to the mainland.

Much of Key West, at the end of the line, had power within days of the storm — much faster than many places on the mainland, which had much weaker winds from Irma.

Tom Hudson / WLRN

When Phil Waynick returned to his home on Little Torch Key after Hurricane Irma, he said it was "like a kid at Christmas." His home had survived some of the worst of Irma's wind, rain and storm surge. Many others were not as prepared or lucky.

Katie Lepri

Dr. Phillip Frost thinks it has become "heresy" to question the role of human factors in the changing climate.

"I don't question that [the climate] is changing. But what I also know for an absolute fact is that over centuries it has been changing all the time," said Frost during a wide-ranging interview with The Sunshine Economy in which he discussed business, his philanthropy and the science museum that now bears his and his wife's names.

courtsey: Kairos

Entrepreneurship in South Florida region is very healthy. But it also is struggling.

Tom Hudson

Driving around Molly Curry’s condominium complex in Ft. Lauderdale, it’s obvious she is proud of her neighborhood. She lives in the Bay Colony Club Condominiums, in a condo she owns since 2000, when she moved in with her two school-aged daughters. They are adults now and no longer live with Molly, but she’s stuck around and hopes to start a new career from her home.

 

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Henry Flagler’s railroad and Napoleon Broward’s pledge to drain the Everglades forged the beginnings of today’s modern South Florida. No two forces have been as influential on the economy as immigration and real estate. The two are intertwined with Flagler and Gov. Broward. Immigrants provided the labor, while the railroad and draining of the Everglades opened up real estate.

We asked for listener questions about the economy and several of them were focused on these two issues.

WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION? SUBMIT IT HERE.

AP Photo/Steve Cannon

By the time you read this, Florida lawmakers may have a proposed budget agreement. That's how fast multi-billion dollar decisions are made in the final hours of the Florida legislative session.

The state budget needs to land by late Tuesday in order for legislators to vote on it by Friday, the scheduled end of the regularly scheduled 2017 session. If there's a spending plan that passes the House and Senate and Gov. Rick Scott agrees to it, there won't be a need for a special session to come up with the budget before the beginning of the next fiscal year in July.

Claudia Muñoz/WLRN

Sometime before the end of this year, the state of Florida will have a new website with health care prices for patients. It's the result of a 2016 law and a five-year, $6.1 million  state contract that was finalized earlier this month.

 

The biggest health insurance providers in Florida are expected to contribute prices to the website: Florida Blue, Aetna, United Healthcare, AvMed and others. Under the law, these health insurers will have to share the prices they pay to Florida health care providers on behalf of their patients.

WUSF News

With three weeks left before the end of the regularly scheduled legislative session, the two chambers of the Florida Legislature are about $4 billion apart in their spending plans. While the gap is closing, the fundamental position of the top budget lawmaker in the House is to shrink state spending.

Tom Hudson

The South Florida economy is more than a $300 billion  engine with close to 3 million workers and 6 million people. Tourism, real estate, trade and agriculture are key industries driving the ups and downs.

 

Housing costs are high and pay is relatively low.

 

These were common themes to questions submitted to WLRN's new public-powered journalism project Palm Readers. We tried to answer some of these questions.

 

Tom Hudson

Brightline hasn't picked up a train passenger yet or even announced what fares will be when it does, but its former boss says the passenger train service won't lose money during its first full year in operation. 

 

Mike Reininger is executive director of Brightline's parent company Florida East Coast Industries. Until earlier this month he was the CEO of All Aboard Florida, which will operate Brightline.

 

"We expect that we will be break even or profitable in 2018," he told WLRN's Sunshine Economy.

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