Is Levy nuclear plant a Go or No? 5 Florida business matters you need to know today
Wake up and good morning. Five curious matters in Florida this morning are worth a closer look. Onward:
5. I am admittedly confused with Duke Energy's profoundly mixed message on the future of the long-proposed, hyper-expensive Levy County nuclear power plant site. Just weeks after Duke Energy (remember, Duke owns Progress Energy now) CEO Jim Rogers told the Florida Public Service Commission that Duke was undecided on Levy's fate and was still studying it, here comes another Duke official suggesting Levy is a go. "We've made a decision to build Levy," Duke's nuclear executive, Jeff Lyash (photo, right, the former president of Progress Energy Florida) told the Florida PSC Monday. "I'm confident in the schedule" -- going online by 2014 -- "and the numbers" -- which means the plant is pegged at a whopping $24 billion and likely to rise given the track record of nuclear plant construction. Read more from staff writer Ivan Penn's story in the Tampa Bay Times. Oh yeah, Lyash was asked yesterday if he was even aware of what his boss, Rogers, had told the PSC last month about being undecided on Levy. Lyash's answer? "No." So Monday either marks a major tipping point for Duke re-committing to a ultra-pricey nuclear power plant (with plenty of it being charged in advance to Florida customers), or Duke officials may not be reading from the same playbook. We'll find out more soon. Photo: Cherie Diez, Tampa Bay Times.
4. Now that Tampa's Bloomin' Brands, the parent of restaurant chains Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and others, is now public (ticker symbol BLMN), Bloomin' CEO Liz Smith and the board are adding two notable directors. One is Mindy Grossman, CEO of St. Petersburg's HSN Inc. and recently named again to the latest annual Forbes list of the 100 most powerful women (read more here). Keep in mind that Smith and Grossman (photo, left) are the only two women chief executives in the Tampa Bay area running big, publicly traded corporations. They are corporate buddies and have noted they talk to each other, so there's a strong relationship that should prove useful with Grossman now on Bloomin's board. The other director to join is David Humphrey, a principal at Bain Capital -- yes, Mitt Romney's old firm which still owns a piece of Bloomin' Brands even after Bain and other private investors sold shares in the recent Bloomin' IPO. Humphrey replaces an exiting director, also from Bain: Philip Loughlin. So the net effect is to expand the Bloomin' board by one. Read my column from last week on Bloomin' Brands' ambitious growth plans.
3. Is this the start of a major muck-up in the use of state money? A movie effects company called Digital Domain has collapsed appears to now be the biggest flop of a state-supported business in the history of Florida job incentives. The company -- whose founders include Titanic director James Cameron -- filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early this morning, according to this Reuters story. Read more in this fine piece by Jeff Ostrowski at the Palm Beach Post. But there's an added twist. Digital Domain did not go through the normal vetting channels in search of state funds from Enterprise Florida (which rejected the company's request for funding of a digital animation studio). Instead, notes the Post, Digital Domain CEO John Textor got $20 million from the Florida Quick Action Closing Fund -- upfront money that did not require proof of creating new jobs in the state. And a key state legislator who helped make this happen when Enterprise Florida said No is former state Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa. Ambler (photo, right), by the way, was named to Digital Domain's board of directors after this term in office ended. As of June 30, Digital Domain had $6.6 million in cash. It owes $51 million on a loan taken out in May, according to the Post. I'm sensing some serious stench ahead as more comes to light on this questionable circumvention. Digital Domain disclosed to the state that 350 jobs will be lost, so far, in its operations in Port St. Lucie, north of Palm Beach.
2. Blue Toad. You'll start hearing plenty more soon about this Orlando business that is a registered app developer. The firm acknowledged that it (and not the FBI) was the source of a file hackers posted online last week that contained a million identification numbers of Apple mobile devices. Read more from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Earlier, the hackers claimed they had gotten those numbers from an FBI laptop. How did this happen? Because, say news reports, Blue Toad sent these identification numbers without encrypting them, raising a general alarm about slack security practices in the fast growing app economy.
1. In the race for growth between Orlando and Tampa Bay, look for Orlando to overtake this metro area in "gross metro product" by 2029. How is smaller Orlando overtaking Tampa Bay? Try location, location, location. Read more in my column in the today's Tampa Bay Times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times