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

Tom Hudson

Ian, Jay and Sal. That's them in the photo on the right. Each of them is an unemployment statistic with a story.

Tom Hudson

Jimmy Choo at Sawgrass Mills. Hermes in the Design District. Even Marky's Caviar in Miami Gardens. South Floridians are welcoming luxury retailers with open arms just like Britto's "Welcome" sculpture greets shoppers near Dadeland Station in the photo on the right.

Luxury retailing in South Florida is expanding beyond its traditional glitzy locations and stretching to include not just shoes and accessories, but also shoppers’ appetites.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Retail

Tom Hudson

One square foot is not a lot of space. You can fit a pair of shoes in one square foot. But, if you are a luxury retailer at Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, you sell $2,800 worth of merchandise per square every year. That's six times what the average shopping center generates in the same amount space.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Retail

In the 1970’s it was water beds. In the 1980’s, Keith Koenig sold dinette sets. Now it’s couches and entertainment centers.

Koenig and his brother began what would become City Furniture in 1971. He has seen plenty of cycles in the South Florida economy, as well as how consumer tastes impact his business. Housing booms and housing busts. A growing population. And wicker. Koenig has a unique perspective at the intersection of two industries: real estate and retail. His outlook?  Very positive.

Florida public school teachers will get about $250 dollars this year to spend on classrooms supplies.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Education

Teachers have gotten an annual stipend for more than a decade, helping make up for some of the money teachers spend out of their own pockets for student supplies.

WLRN's Sunshine Economy spoke with several teachers about what they spend and why.

A letter grade can be one of the clearest methods to communicate quality. The USDA uses it for meat. S&P uses letter grades for credit ratings. The state of Florida uses it for public schools.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Education

But the leaders of the two largest public school districts in the state have little or no confidence in the current letter grading system used by Florida.

Jon Hage may be one of the most important school leaders you probably have never heard of. No one elected him to a school board or hired him as a superintendent.

But his company, Charter Schools USA based in Fort Lauderdale, is one of the fastest growing charter school operators. It runs more than a dozen schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and has expanded to a half dozen more states.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Education

During the past several weeks, South Florida business executives from manufacturing, hospitality and other industries have told The Sunshine Economy how challenging it is for them to find qualified employees locally.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Education

A new school year is underway for hundreds of thousands of children in South Florida. A new year brings with it the potential of new learning, new skills... and new challenges.

Are our kids learning what they need to in order to compete in the global job market of the future?

South Florida schools welcome back students August 19 and WLRN's Sunshine Economy looks at the education industry with "Getting Schooled, Public Education in South Florida."

WLRN's State Impact Florida education reporter Sammy Mack co-hosts the program.

FPL

The demand for electricity is growing in South Florida, but Florida Power and Light has been tearing down power plants.

The power plants like the one in the slideshow above have been generating electricity for more than 50 years in many cases. Often, they burned oil to make power.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Energy

Wise Gas

How about a fill up for less than $20 a tank?

That's the promise of compressed natural gas at recent prices.But good luck finding a passenger car than runs on compressed natural gas today but more companies are converting their trucks or buying new ones that run on the fuel.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Energy 

Tom Hudson

The sound of turning over the pistons in an internal combustion engine are familiar to just about everyone. The almost soothing feeling of that low rumble of a well-tuned engine in idle.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Energy

Linda Gassenheimer doesn't have these sounds or feelings anymore. And she doesn't miss them.

That's Linda on the right, in the driver's seat of her all-electric car.

And it's like her; petite but with a certain pizzazz.

Tom Hudson

We are burning less gasoline. That may sound strange but Floridians have less of a thirst for gas.

Some of the drop can be blamed on the slower economy since the Great Recession, but also we are driving more fuel efficient cars and trucks. Except for a three-year period (2004-2006) the volume of gasoline Florida drivers are buying has fallen from its high in 2002.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Energy

A decade ago FPL burned more oil to make electricity than any other electric utility in the United States.

But this year it expects to burn 99 percent less crude oil.

RELATED: The Sunshine Economy: Energy

Much of the difference has been made up by natural gas, with some of the new power coming from nuclear energy.

Tom Hudson

Flip a light switch, turn the ignition key or hit the start button.  These are actions most of us do several times each day without thinking about where the power is coming from. Florida may have plenty of sunshine but it doesn't have any substantial supply of fossil fuels.  And fossil fuels still power much of our lives.

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