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

Maria Murriel / WLRN

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This story originally ran on April 14, 2014.

Shelah Davis is a professional yoga teacher who spends her 9-to-5 at a fitness studio in Florida City. But since the fall of 2013, she's been hauling her mats to microbreweries from Homestead to Oakland Park.

She founded Om Brew Yoga -- so far the only yoga classes offered at South Florida breweries -- after learning of the practice in an established craft-beer state.

Charter Schools CEO Started As A Janitor

Apr 3, 2014
Courtesy of Jon Hage

Jon Hage heads the for-profit charter school management company, Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), based in Fort Lauderdale. The company operates 58 schools in seven states across the country, including Florida.

Hage grew up in middle-class Oakland Park near Fort Lauderdale. He served in the United States Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves as a commissioned officer in the Special Forces (Green Berets). After then doing policy work in Washington D.C. and Tallahassee, he founded CSUSA in 1997.   

Tom Hudson

Before making beer in Palm Beach, Mike Halker served on a bomb squad with the U.S. Army. That cool under pressure has served him well as the founder and head of Due South Brewery, a craft-beer company based in Boynton Beach. 

Karen Rundlet / Miami Herald


Florida’s southernmost winery is located in the heart of Miami Dade’s farm country, Redland. It’s called Schnebly Redland’s Winery and it’s been up and running over a decade. For me, the trip to Schnebly Redland’s Winery meant a couple of hours in the car, heading south on U.S. 1, with a view of Miami Dade slowing down.

Tom Hudson

South Florida may not have the valleys and vineyards of Napa Valley nor the hollows and oak barrels of Kentucky but the wine and liquor industry is here in its own unique way.  Think mango wine not chardonnay, rum not bourbon and you've got the idea.  

South Floridians can talk about rum the way oenophiles go on about wine. There are the aromas of the rum, the notes and the finish. There may be hints of chocolate, berries or citrus.  For many outside of South Florida rum means one company: Bacardi.  

Tom Hudson

Felecia Hatcher is co-founder and “chief popsicle” of Feverish Pops, a gourmet popsicle company based in Miami. Hatcher says she is “obsessed with desserts” and, as proof of that passion, she points out that she was married at a donut shop in Portland, Oregon.  

Hatcher began the popsicle company after getting fired from her marketing job with Nintendo.

Got Water?

Mar 10, 2014
Tom Hudson


The good news from last summer's rains is that South Florida's water supply is running above average. But that doesn't ease the concerns of those responsible for finding, protecting, cleaning and distributing freshwater to the more than six million people from Pam Beach County through Key West.

They tell us there is no "average" year for water supply. It's either too wet or too dry. And while it's technically the dry season, there's plenty of water.

Tom Hudson


How do you like your coffee? Cafe cubano? Latte? Black?  

American coffee consumption is growing again, including specialty, gourmet coffee.  Roasters in South Florida are going cup to cup with big national brands, which are working to bring cafe cubano blends to a national market.

Tom Hudson

Talking about sugar in South Florida is like talking about politics and religion in polite company. Few people are without strong opinions about the sugarcane farms stretching across the eastern Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee. The industry is a mix of government price policies, environmental regulations, trade practices and the demand for food.  

Courtesy of Don Peebles


When he was visiting South Florida in the winter of 1996, developer R. Donahue Peebles read an article in the Miami Herald about a rundown hotel on Miami Beach called the Shorecrest. Over the next several years, Peebles would combine that property with one next door and create the Royal Palm, the first convention-class hotel on Miami Beach owned by an African-American.