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

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.

Kahala / Flickr/Creative Commons

What do people who have bet their livelihood on good food remember as their favorite food?

Tom Hudson

A LITTLE HISTORY

Ian Schrager and Lloyd Mandell used to be neighbors. 

One is an iconoclast who made a fortune (and went to prison for tax evasion) as co-founder of the famed Studio 54 nightclub in New York, and the other a Miami Beach native whose dad owned a gas station where a Starbucks now stands on West Avenue.

The two men are in the same business now, technically. But they came to it in different ways.

Emma_L_M/flickr

More than 4 million voters approved Amendment 1 in the November 2014 election. The measure received an overwhelming 75 percent "yes" vote.

That vote unleashed hundred of millions of dollars this year and billions of dollars over the next 20 years that have to be spent on acquiring and improving Florida lands. The amendment uses fewer than 150 words to describe the types of projects the money has to be spent on. That section is highlighted in blue below.

    

Tom Hudson

Odalys Arevalo works out of a shopping mall but she doesn't sell clothes or electronics or jewelry. She sells health insurance. And when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, she and her team of 600 brokers sell a lot of it.

Arevalo is co-founder of Sunshine Life and Health Advisors. The idea for the company began in a coffee shop. Operations started with a single mall kiosk and now the firm has eight outlets, including a 24,000 square feet "store" at the Mall of the Americas in Miami-Dade County.

Mike Fernandez / Courtesy

  

By the looks of this photograph, one would think Mike Fernandez and Earvin "Magic" Johnson have known each other for years. When they greeted each other before their interview on the Sunshine Economy, they embraced in a bear hug, the 6-foot-9-inch former NBA point guard more than a head taller than the billionaire health care entrepreneur. Fernandez even gave Johnson a kiss on the cheek. This was not a boardroom greeting, but the two have known each other only since 2012.

Tom Hudson

After the big emotions of the wedding day come the economics of marriage: insurance, taxes, wills, bank accounts, property titles, credit card accounts, etcetera. 

Thousands of gay Floridians have gotten married since January 6, when their unions became legal in the state. Thousands more are now recognized as married if they wed in a place that allowed gay marriage prior to Florida's ban on same-sex marriages being overturned by a federal judge.

WLRN

Miami is not a top departure point for American goods headed to Cuba. So say the official U.S. government trade statistics. Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale is the second-largest American port from which goods are sent to Cuba.

Yes, despite the 53-year-old trade embargo, America still does a little business with Cuba. The U.S. sells fresh and frozen chicken, soybeans, corn and an assortment of other food and medical supplies. 

Tom Hudson

Alonzo Mourning likes to tell the story about a deflated basketball on the desk of his Georgetown coach John Thompson.

He calls that deflated basketball from his collegiate years a "powerful statement because many of us as young athletes think that basketball is it." 

Mourning told the story during his enshrinement in the NBA Hall of Fame in August of 2014. It is a story he uses to illustrate his desire to give back. 

Tom Hudson

    

There are plenty of ways to measure the meaning of art: aesthetic value, emotion resonance, ticket sales, auction price, jobs. South Florida's art economy is young but growing.

Communities have invested hundreds of millions of public dollars in performing arts centers and museums, cultural programs and outreach efforts. The arts are embedded in the promise of South Florida marketed to visitors.

And increasingly, South Florida artists are appearing on the world's stage. 

Miami Book Fair International / Courtesy

South Florida knows how to throw a party. And it better, considering how important hospitality is to the regional economy. From conferences and conventions to fairs and festivals, the event business picks up as temperatures up north drop. Some are for out-of-towners exclusively, others celebrate South Florida for South Floridians.

To get a sense of the economics and local emotions involved, The Sunshine Economy spoke with the driving forces behind four big events that dot the South Florida map.

Does this sound like a top health care CEO?

Or this?

Those are the comments of Baptist Health South Florida CEO Brian Keeley. Baptist Health is the largest faith-based non-profit health system in South Florida. It delivers $2 billion of health care to South Florida through seven hospitals, more than a dozen urgent care centers and various other specialty health centers. The Baptist business has more than 1,700 beds and serves more than 1 million patients per year. Keeley has been with Baptist for more than 30 years.

Tom Hudson

Lionel Lightbourne has been a social worker in Liberty City for four years. He says he is a "fish in water" with his chosen profession. He speaks with passion about empowering families and children in need.

If he were single, he says his income would put him just above the poverty line. "But together with my wife," he says, "we will actually be in the middle class."

The finger-pointing and mudslinging almost is over. There is an end to the negative ads. Floridians will choose their next governor and it's safe to say that man already has served as governor. And he has served as a Republican. 

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