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.

Miami-Dade Mega-Mall Draws Criticism

Mar 20, 2015
Triple Five

The Miami-Dade County Commission recently voted to approve a land deal that will clear the way for the development of what would be America’s largest mall. (By the way, the Miami-Dade school board voted Wednesday to give up a lease on public land wanted for the project.)

Triple Five

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted Tuesday to approve a land deal for the development of what would be the nation's largest mall.

The proposed mega-mall, American Dream Miami, would cost approximately $4 billion to build and would occupy 200 acres of west Miami-Dade. The park would contain aquatic attractions such as an indoor ski slope, a water park and a submarine ride.

The land deal allows Triple Five -- the mall's developer -- to purchase the 82 acres of Miami-Dade property owned by the state.

Tom Hudson


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.

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.

Junette Reyes / WLRN


To get a sense of the economy, look at the the data showing falling unemployment rates over the past year and rising home prices.

Or, you can listen to the voices of some of those looking to begin their careers soon, posted below.

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.


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. GC

Florida tourism officials say America’s restrictive travel visa rules are costing the Sunshine State big bucks.

The Visa Waiver Program currently allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for tourism without having to obtain visas.

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. 

Maria Murriel / WLRN

Superstar chef Gastón Acurio is a trend-setter.

For the past four years, Astrid y Gastón, his flagship restaurant in Lima, Peru, has made the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

His fusion of traditional Peruvian foods and French cooking techniques has earned him fame on gastronomy’s global stage. And it’s helped put Peruvian cuisine on the map, especially in South Florida.

Jacob Katel / WLRN

Gourmet waffles, spiced Cuban coffee and Miami tech are free every Wednesday in Wynwood where free breakfast is served alongside startup pitches and presentations.

The event is hosted by Live Ninja, a locally based video chat company that has raised over $1 million in venture capital and secured sponsorship for this series of breakfasts from the Knight Foundation.

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.