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Thursday's Daily Pulse

Florida tourism officials set to compete more aggressively for U.S., foreign visitors

Visit Florida staff members have crafted a tourism-marketing plan intended to combat increased competition from states that in the past few years imposed tougher COVID-19 restrictions. With restrictions now lifted nationally and eased internationally, and tourism dollars up in Florida’s proposed budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, the state tourism agency’s Marketing Council rolled out plans Tuesday that, in part, would move up the start of winter and “families” advertising campaigns by a couple of months. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Alligators are the engineers of the wetlands

Alligators radically change the ecosystem around them to make the best of seasonal changes in water levels — and that’s a good thing for wetlands. A new study recently published in the Journal of Animal Ecology shows alligators do more than just care for themselves when they create alligator ponds. They create a habitat for other organisms and move nutrients around. The research, led by FIU alumnus Bradley Strickland, now a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, is the first to show alligators act as “engineers” in their ecosystem by altering nutrient cycling and keeping the ecosystem healthy. [Source: FIU News]

Battle of constitutions looms in Florida redistricting case

When Florida voters in 2010 passed a constitutional amendment setting rules for congressional redistricting, they barred drawing districts that would “diminish” the ability of minorities to “elect representatives of their choice.” Now, more than a decade later, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and the Legislature are trying to fend off a lawsuit by arguing the U.S. Constitution trumps that part of the state amendment. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Florida Trend Exclusive
Tech trends: Robot training

Tom Mudano, president and CEO of Pasco County-based AmSkills, is aiming for his workforce-education non-profit “to become a destination point for robotics training in the state of Florida.” To get there, AmSkills has joined with the Florida Department of Education to offer the state’s first registered robotics technician apprenticeship program. AmSkills has also been designated as an authorized training center for Denmark-based Universal Robots, which makes robots designed to work alongside humans. [Source: Florida Trend]

Study finds Florida home prices still overvalued

A new study from Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University found the Florida housing market is still significantly overvalued. According to the study, nine of the top 14 most overvalued U.S. markets were in Florida. In Tampa, buyers paid a premium of 43.98 percent, landing it at number three on the list. North Port-Bradenton came in at number four at 43.49 percent and Cape Coral-Fort Myers was number five at 43.35 percent. [Source: WPEC]


› SBA awards $50K to Florida High Tech Corridor to reach 'underserved' rural Florida businesses
The Florida High Tech Corridor this month won $50,000 from the Small Business Administration's 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition in the underserved communities category. The group will use the money to “engage rural assets and stakeholders in Central Florida communities and conduct needs assessments for the region’s rural businesses,” said a news press release.

› Paleontologists discover elephant graveyard in North Florida
About five and a half million years ago, several gomphotheres—extinct relatives of elephants—died in or near a river in North Florida. Although their deaths likely occurred hundreds of years apart, their bodies were all deposited in a single location, entombed alongside other animals that had met with a similar fate. Today, the river no longer exists, but the fossils it left behind have offered paleontologists a panoramic view of life in prehistoric Florida.

› Frost Science sifts candidates for CEO post
The search for the next Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science CEO continues to move forward with what is reported to be a high quality of applicants. The Frost Science Board of Trustees recognizes that finding the right CEO to lead Frost Science is of paramount importance, said Cesar L. Alvarez, Frost Science’s chairman. “The search for a new CEO is ongoing, and we’ve been pleased with the quality of applicants received to date,” he said.

› Tampa shop sells mood-altering mushroom products. Are they safe?
When a Tampa hemp dispensary started to stock edibles with certain mushroom extracts last year, state regulators quickly ordered it to stop selling the items. Products with the mushroom’s extracts have cropped up at stores and online retailers from Florida to Minnesota and Nebraska to Pennsylvania. Businesses advertise a milder high compared with psilocybin, the Schedule 1 psychedelic that remains illegal at the national level, to people hoping to ease anxiety, depression or joint pain.

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› Funky Buddha founders to buy back brewery, celebrate 10 years & upgrade with distillery
On the eve of their milestone 10th anniversary party, the founders of Oakland Park’s Funky Buddha Brewery have equally big news — and big future plans. Even as they’re preparing for 10 days of festivities ahead, brothers KC and Ryan Sentz have announced they’re officially buying back their brand from beer behemoth Constellation Brands.

› Year delay adds to cost of South Dade Transitway
Add $3.7 million to the cost of the South Dade Transitway, one of the six corridors of the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (Smart) Plan and the only corridor already under construction. A one-year delay to begin Transitway operation announced a year ago as supply chain issues choked off concrete, steel and fiber strands needed for the communications and technology systems along the 20-mile corridor has triggered additional cost for other work.

› UPS exec on automation, expansion and the supply chain in Jacksonville
When UPS President of Global Government Affairs Michael Kiely spoke to JAXUSA Partnership members in March, he said the parcel delivery and logistics company’s expansion in Jacksonville came down to workforce and “location, location, location.” “Florida is one of the fastest if not the fastest-growing state in the country. Jacksonville is one of the fastest-growing parts of the state. And that’s where our investment dollars are going to go,” Kiely told the audience at the JAXUSA meeting March 28.

› Meet the new director of St. Petersburg’s The James Museum
The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art has a new executive director: Cambridge art historian Robin Nicholson. He starts on June 1. Nicholson was selected to helm the museum after former director Laura Hine resigned to focus on education advancement full time. She announced her resignation in November but stayed on through the spring.