The Sunshine Economy

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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

Lightblb on Flickr

"Hmm?" answered Sean Spicer to whether a Republican presidential nominee has to win in Florida in order to win the White House.

Spicer is the chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National Committee. The RNC is not picking a favorite among the growing list of Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination. But the party, like its Democratic counterpart, knows Florida's growing importance to the 2016 presidential race.

Flickr Creative Commons

The debate that's been raging in Florida for five years: to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act or not?

Florida lawmakers have consistently decided "no." As other states with stiff opposition to Medicaid expansion, like Iowa and Indiana, have forged modified expansion plans that have been approved by the federal government, Florida has steadfastly rejected any change. 

Lawmakers return to the capital for a 20-day special legislative session today. They have to pass a budget by July 1 or risk a state government slowdown or shutdown.

Nancy Klingener

When Bill Lane visits Cuba, he looks at the roads. It's not that he's a veteran traveler to Cuba even though he's visited three times since 1998. Lane works for Caterpillar. His company sells paving machines, road graders, bulldozers and other heavy equipment used to build and repair roads.

Tom Hudson

In Florida, flight is the number one export. In 2014, almost $4.8 billion worth of aircraft, engines and aircraft parts made in Florida were shipped out of state, putting it in the top 10 for aviation.

Toya Henry wants to enter the family business, but she's not sold on staying in Miami. She's in the adult powerplant program at George T. Baker Aviation Technical College in Miami. The school is a Miami-Dade County Public School that has been training aviation workers since the early days of the industry.

Tom Hudson

This is a sign in a second floor avionics classroom at George T. Baker Aviation Technical College in Miami. It's a Miami-Dade County Public School with 550 high school students and 800 adult students taking FAA-certified classes on airframes, power plants and avionics. The sign serves as a clear reminder this is more than a classroom.

This is what it looks like when five insiders write letters to the South Florida technology industry of the future. 

For several years now the tech industry here has been a mix of promise and proclamations. Miami has been listed among the places to become the next Silicon Valley even while many in the industry here resist that kind of hype.

flguardian2 / Flickr Creative Commons

  Two big financial questions remain unanswered as the state Legislature enters its last days of the 2015 regular session – how will Florida's government spend money on health care and the environment?

Billions of dollars are on the line.

The dual debates over Medicaid and Amendment 1 are not linked except for the disagreement between Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, over how much money to spend on the health of Floridians and Florida's environment.

Miami Herald

More than three-quarters of a million Floridians live in a health care gap. The gap was created by the national Affordable Care Act and Florida's rejection of an expanded Medicaid program. In between the two policies is a gap in medical insurance coverage where 850,000 Floridians find themselves.

Summit of the Americas

It's easy and obvious to call the photo above historic. It was. It followed a series of milestones: Months of secret negotiations, a phone call between the two leaders, President Obama announcing efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, easing of travel restrictions by Americas, allowing U.S. credit cards to be used in Cuba, expanding the list of items that can be legally exported to the island from America and increasing remittances sent to Cuba from family in the U.S.

Tom Hudson

  Rob Valle used to fly fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. Now he flies charter flights for his company Air Key West. Since late March that has included a weekly scheduled flight from Key West International Airport to Havana. He fits nine passengers, including one in the co-pilot seat next to him. They pay $525 for the round-trip flight.

In our continuing series on female leadership, we look at the technology sector. Certainly it is a lucrative industry and it's been criticized for gender imbalance.

Women make up only a quarter of the tech industry workforce, even though more women now enroll in college than men.

And here's another interesting data point -- women in Western countries use the internet 17 percent more than men do. So how does this all compute in terms of female leadership?

Ines Ayra

This is the gender wage gap. It's based on the difference in median weekly pay for men and women in the United States. In 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it amounts to $152 per week or more than $7,900 a year. This is the wage gap and it hasn't changed much over the past several years.

The tourism business is booming in South Florida.

The Sunshine State could welcome close to 100 million visitors this year.  They come from all over: the Northeast, the Midwest, Latin America, Europe, Russia and, increasingly, Asia. These visitors directly support hundreds of thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into the regional economy. 

Not too long ago, good customer service meant a warm welcome and personal attention. Today, great customer service can mean leaving the customer alone to fend for themselves. That shift is thanks, in part, to technology.

It’s the smartphone that allows customers to be simultaneously social and anti-social in how they relate to and interact with service staff. Websites like TripAdvisor, OpenTable and Yelp have given customers a voice, and restaurants and hotels are listening -- and responding.

Tom Hudson

South Florida is known around the world for its sun, sand and surf. Those natural attributes are responsible for thousands of jobs, millions of visitors and billions of dollars. But what about service? South Florida may invite the world to come play on its beaches, stay in its hotels and eat in its restaurants, but what kind of hosts are its people?

Julie Grimes gives the overall customer service experience three out of five stars. She is the owner of two hotels in Miami: the Doubletree Hilton and the Hilton Bentley South Beach, where she also is the managing partner.

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