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FLORIDA MOVIN' ON UP ON LIFE SCIENCE LIST

Maybe all the financial incentives we offered Moffitt and Merck were a master stroke. Thanks to the likes of Tampa's M2GEN, the cancer research deal between H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and drugmaker Merck & Co., Florida emerged as No. 7 among the top 10 spots for life science R&D. So say experts assembled by Site Selection magazine. Tampa didn't crack the upper ranks by itself. We needed the help of other Florida deals like Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in Port St. Lucie. Nevertheless, mixing with top-rated San Diego and No. 2 Boston isn't chopped liver. Site Selection noted that as big-named cities get saturated, firms look to "second- and third-tier communities." Hey, watch who you're calling third tier.

Allstate not ready to drop its prices

Mention insurance in Florida and people think property coverage, but don't forget about auto insurance. Allstate isn't. Allstate CEO Thomas J. Wilson noted during a conference call that competitors are snapping up business in some states. "It's clearly a very competitive market. Some of that is due to price decreases other people have taken, which we've chosen not to take," Wilson said. State Farm and Geico cut prices in some Florida markets. Wilson, calling Florida a "tough market," acknowledged Allstate business is off in the state.

Will others follow in Outback's steps?

Did the painful deal to take the Outback Steakhouse company private spark copycats? IHOP has announced plans to acquire Applebee's. And the Associated Press reported last week that other restaurant chains - including Orlando's Darden Restaurants, which runs Red Lobster and Olive Garden - could be buyout targets. Who knew investment firms were so hungry?

Who do we think of first? Coke

Coca-Cola, Sony, Toyota and Dell ranked tops in an annual nationwide Harris poll of best brands. U.S. adults were asked to volunteer the brands that came most to their minds. Two brands dropped out of this list this year, Hewlett Packard (No. 7) and General Electric (No. 8). And 10 years ago, Ford ranked No. 1. Here's the list:

- 1. Coca-Cola

- 2. Sony

- 3. Toyota

- 4. Dell

- 5. Ford

- 6. Kraft Foods

- 7. Pepsi

- 8. Microsoft

- 9. Apple

- 10. Honda

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