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Gov. Scott Awards Power Grid Engineering with Governor’s Business Ambassador Award

Gov. Scott Awards Power Grid Engineering with Governor’s Business Ambassador Award

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. — During today’s jobs announcement at Power Grid Engineering in Winter Springs, Governor Rick Scott recognized the company’s owners for their commitment to creating jobs in Florida. The Governor’s Business Ambassador Award is given to individuals for their efforts in creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families.

Governor Scott said, “These four individuals have demonstrated their commitment to creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families. We thank Power Grid Engineering for its continued growth and expansion here in Florida. Since December 2010, Florida has added more than 563,000 private sector jobs. Our goal is to create an opportunity economy in Florida where businesses can create jobs that will last for generations to come. Thanks to companies like Power Grid Engineering, we are making this goal a reality.”

Michael J. Wright, President, Power Grid Engineering said, “We were honored to host Governor Scott today and are proud that our company is among those in Florida that are growing and expanding. We look forward to continued growth and appreciate the Governor’s policies that support business.”

Andre Uribe, Vice President of Business Development, Power Grid Engineering said, “Governor Scott’s commitment to growing jobs in Florida has helped our economy continue to turnaround. Here at Power Grid we look forward to creating even more jobs over the next year, as our company has continued success.”

Florida Businesses Created 20,900 Jobs in March

Gov. Scott: Florida Businesses Created 20,900 Jobs in March

TALLAHASSEE—Governor Rick Scott today announced that Florida’s private sector created 20,900 jobs over the month in March 2014. Since December 2010, Florida has added 563,900 private sector jobs.

Florida’s over the year job growth rate in March 2014 of 3.0 percent represents the fastest job growth rate since June 2006, meaning that the annual rate of growth from March 2013 to March 2014 was greater than any other month’s annual job growth rate since the June 2005 to June 2006 rate.

Governor Rick Scott said, “March’s job creation number brings more good news for Florida families, this means that more than 20,000 more Floridians will be able to provide for their families. Businesses in the state are continuing to create jobs– a total of 563,900 jobs since December 2010. Our improving economy is evidence that our policies are working and we will continue to work until every Floridian that wants a job can get a job.”

The state’s unemployment rate for March 2014 was 6.3 percent, down 1.4 percentage points from the March 2013 rate of 7.7 percent. For the eighth consecutive month, Florida’s statewide unemployment rate remains below the national unemployment rate, which was 6.7 percent in March 2014.

In March 2014, Florida’s labor force again increased over the month and over the year. Labor force was 9,575,000 in March 2014 and is defined as the sum of employment plus unemployment (those without a job but actively seeking work). Furthermore, Florida’s labor force participation rate, which is labor force divided by the total civilian noninstitutional population, was 60.5 percent in March 2014, up 0.3 percentage point from the February 2014 participation rate of 60.2 percent. In other words, although the unemployment rate increased slightly, 41,000 more people gained employment in March, and 59,000 entered the labor force.

Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said, “Florida’s economic turnaround continued in March, with significant growth in private-sector jobs, high job demand, and an increasing employment reflecting renewed confidence among job seekers. These positive trends are the result of sound economic policy in Florida.”

February private sector job creation was revised up 34,400 jobs created, the largest one month gain since October 2010. In addition public sector jobs were revised down.

More Floridians Getting Back to Work

·         Florida’s private sector job growth month-to-month has been positive for 33 consecutive months.

·         Florida has created 563,900 new private sector jobs since December 2010.

·         Florida job postings compiled by the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board showed 260,000 openings in March 2014.

·         Florida’s unemployment rate has remained below the national unemployment rate for eight consecutive months.

Home Sales Robust

·         Home sales remain robust as the backlog of existing homes on the market is down by 31.3 percent from December 2011 (Florida Realtors).

·         Florida median home prices were up 10.0 percent over the year in February 2014.

Economic Growth Trends Up Across State

·         A recent U.S. Census Survey reported that Florida experienced an influx of people moving into the state. Florida also led the nation in migrations from Puerto Rico.

·         Florida is running a trade surplus of over $18 billion – with $90.4 billion in exports and $71.8 billion in imports in 2012, up from $86.8 billion in exports in 2011 and $62.4 billion in imports in 2011.

Workforce Boards Assisting in Employment

·         In March, Florida’s 24 Regional Workforce Boards reported more than 40,890 Floridians were placed in jobs, a 24 percent increase over the year. An individual who receives employment and training assistance through a CareerSource Center and finds a job within 180 days is deemed a placement and may be reported by a regional workforce board. Of these individuals, 8,617 previously received Reemployment Assistance.

·         In 2013, more than 479,000 Floridians were placed in jobs, with 135,384 former claimants finding employment.

To view the March2014 employment data visit

Charles Murphy News 4/18

News Cast for April 18th:

Okeechobee City Council is at odds with the Florida Department of Transportation for downtown improvements proposed with the main intersection widening project.

The city has escrowed 72 thousand dollars so decorative cross walks can be constructed at several intersections. However the bid came in at 118 thousand dollars. City councilman Dowling Watford says the costs of the crosswalks have gotten astronomical. At their last meeting the Council decided to wait and see if the Department of Transportation will change their minds before approving any more funds.

Okeechobee County joined the new Highlands Metropolitan planning association last week. The 6 county regions along with the cities of Avon Park and Sebring will have voting rights.
Highlands County Assistant County Administrator Chris Benson says this group will have a lot of impacts on transportation and this region will have a lot of highway projects. Other counties involved include Glades, Hendry, Hardee and Desoto. Okeechobee will have one vote on the panel.

Among arrests, 26 year old Ronald Palmer was charged with possession of met amphetamine and grand theft of a welder from a local business.

A small arson fire under investigation in a bathroom at the freshman campus this week.
Glades County has requested 2 million dollars from the Florida Department of Transportation to construct a pedestrian access bridge across Harney Pond Canal in Lakeport. The county has asked the state to waive the local match because they are an area of critical economic concern in the state.

Sports Cast for April 18th:

OHS swimming took a step forward this season as the most ever swimmers qualified for the regional meet, set three school records and were close to two other school records.

Coach Neafsey said he really is looking forward to the future of Okeechobee High school swimming. Brandon Ball and Aubrey Reister were named Most Valuable players from the swim team and Neafsey said they set great examples for their teammates..

Brahman Awards went to girls’ team captain Billie Leavitt and to Lucas Penido for the Boys squad. Coach Neafsey said the team lost just two seniors so they should return a strong corps of swimmers for next season. The main goal will be to find more boys to join the swim team next year.

Jensen Beach defeated South fork 1-0 to win District 13-6A softball crown last night.

Okeechobee club soccer will host games this Saturday.

Benefit for Frank Prescott

Benefit for Frank Prescott

A benefit for Frank Prescott, was held on April 4, 2014. Lunch was served in the park and dinner was at the Shrine Club. A raffle for an “Ole Henry 22 Magnum Rifle” was won by Gordon Morgan. There was also a silent auction that was very successful with lots of great items.

We would like to thank everyone that participated, all the wonderful businesses that so generously gave and all the volunteers that made this event such a success.

The benefit raised a total of $15,330.00

Thank you Okeechobee!

Michele Bell, PIO

FWC transitions to surveillance in Lake Mary neighborhood

FWC transitions to surveillance in Lake Mary neighborhood

Based on staff observations, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is transitioning efforts from trapping to monitoring in the Lake Mary neighborhood where a bear attacked a woman.

FWC biologists and law enforcement offers will remain in the neighborhood working with residents and local authorities.

The FWC had to take action against bears that demonstrated they were habituated to people and human food. In order to maintain public safety, these bears were put down.

There are several ways to reduce the chances of human/bear conflict. People should secure garbage until the morning of pickup, and not allow pet food, bird seed or other food items be left out overnight. Most importantly, residents should never intentionally feed bears.

“Not only is feeding bears illegal, it is dangerous for people as well as bears,” said FWC Bear Program coordinator Dave Telesco. “Feeding bears leads to their deaths, whether it’s because they are more likely to be hit by cars, poisoned or shot by frustrated neighbors or killed by the FWC to protect public safety.”

Citizens with any information regarding the intentional feeding of bears should contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). If you supply relevant information you may be eligible for a reward, and you can remain anonymous.

The FWC reminds residents in this area to be aware of their surroundings and always supervise pets and children while outdoors. The FWC relies on residents to report threatening bear behavior. Residents should contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline to report any threatening bear activity.

If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright and speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice. Back up slowly toward a secure area, and be sure you are leaving the bear a clear escape route. Stop and hold your ground if your movement away seems to irritate instead of calm the bear. Do not run or play dead. If a black bear attacks you, fight back aggressively.

House and Senate Budgets Show Big Differences

House and Senate Budgets Show Big Differences 

April 17, 2014                                    850.212.5052


TALLAHASSEE, FL - The Florida Legislature has a lot of work to do to pass a final budget before the end of the legislative session, according to a Report from Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog. The TaxWatch Budget Watch reveals many significant differences between the House and Senate spending plans, which will have to be ironed out in the last two weeks of session.

The report highlights differences in funding for education, water and member projects, as well as tax cuts, as being potential sticking points during budget negotiations.

When Legislators return from a recess next week they are expected to begin the budget conferencing process, wherein members from both chambers negotiate differences in funding levels. The report urges members to refrain from adding new projects during the conference process, and only to resolve funding discrepancies.

“Budget conferencing is a very important step in the budget process, but it is a time to review and compromise the differences in programs already approved by the state’s elected officials,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “TaxWatch encourages lawmakers not to add new projects that have not been and will not be vetted by the full Legislative body during conference proceedings.”

Both budgets increase spending above current year funding, but the House budget is slightly higher, spending a total of $75.3 billion, or an increase over current spending by nearly $1 billion. The slightly more conservative Senate budget totals $74.9 billion, or $600 above current spending.

Each plan varies in nearly every budget category. The House appropriates more funding to Education, Human Services and Environment and Transportation, but the Senate spends more on Criminal Justice, General Government and Courts.

The TaxWatch report commends the Legislature for once again retaining a healthy level of reserves that amount to close to $3 billion in both the Senate and House budgets. However, the report does reveal a number of trust fund sweeps in both budgets, a practice TaxWatch has called Legislators to more carefully review. This year, the House and Senate propose to sweep $325 million and $198 million respectively from the state’s trust funds.

“Sometimes sweeping trust funds into General Revenue is necessary; however, the process should include transparency and accountability measures that allow lawmakers to better evaluate the need for breaking the trust,” said Kurt Wenner, Vice President for Tax Research.

Lionfish invasion: FWC moves forward with management changes

Lionfish invasion: FWC moves forward with management changes

The lionfish is an invasive species that threatens Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. With that in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on April 16 moved forward with steps to combat the spread of invasive lionfish.

Changes proposed by FWC staff at today’s meeting near Tallahassee will be brought back before the Commission at its June meeting in Fort Myers for final approval. Changes include:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
  • Prohibiting the development of aquaculture of lionfish;
  • Allowing the harvest of lionfish when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time; and
  • Increasing opportunities that will allow participants in approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not allowed. This will be done through a permitting system.

Staff has been working with the Florida Legislature on a bill in support of the initiatives to prohibit the importation of live lionfish and the aquaculture of lionfish.

“By targeting the importation of lionfish to our state, we can limit the number of new lionfish that find their way into Florida waters and, at the same time, encourage further harvest to reduce the existing invasive population,” said State Rep. Holly Raschein, sponsor of the House bill. “These fish pose a significant threat to Florida’s ecosystem, and I am proud to stand in support of the proposed ban. Anything we can do to limit new lionfish introductions and further facilitate the development of a commercial market for this invasive species is a step in the right direction.”

Changes like these will make it easier for divers to remove lionfish from Florida waters and will help prevent additional introductions of lionfish into marine habitats.

Lionfish control efforts, from outreach and education to regulatory changes, have been a priority for FWC staff. In 2013, they hosted the first ever Lionfish Summit, which brought together various stakeholders from the public as well as management and research fields to discuss the issues and brainstorm solutions. The changes proposed at today’s meeting came from ideas that were discussed at the Lionfish Summit.

To learn more about these changes, visit and “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about lionfish, visit and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lionfish.”

FWC approves sea cucumber management changes

FWC approves sea cucumber management changes

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its April meeting near Tallahassee established a commercial daily trip and vessel limit of 200 sea cucumbers in both state and federal waters.

This change will go into effect June 1. The Commission chose this limit today after considering potential management options. The change was requested by the existing commercial fishery as a proactive conservation measure.

While there is currently a small commercial fishery for sea cucumbers in Florida, primarily for the live aquarium trade, sea cucumbers have been commonly targeted elsewhere in the world as a food product due to their high value in Asian markets. The rapid, unregulated development of sea cucumber export fisheries elsewhere in the world has led to fishery collapses and sea cucumber depletions.

Sea cucumbers are vulnerable to overfishing due to their sedentary nature, which makes them easy to locate and collect, and because of their life-history characteristics such as their late reproductive age, their need for a dense population in order to successfully reproduce and their long life span. They are also ecologically important, as they help cycle nutrients in nutrient-poor tropical reefs and oxygenate sediments.

This proactive change to the commercial fishing regulations will ensure Florida’s populations of these ecologically important species and the fisheries they support remain sustainable.

More information about the issue is available in the “Sea Cucumber Presentation” link in the Commission meeting agenda. Go to and click on “Commission Meetings” to pull up the agenda.

Congressman Tells Low-Income Worker: Higher Minimum Wage Is ‘Not Right’

Congressman Tells Low-Income Worker: Higher Minimum Wage Is ‘Not Right’

TAMPA, Florida — People like Shaneeka Rainer are often told that they shouldn’t try to get the minimum wage increased because it only really applies to teenagers working entry-level jobs. That indeed may have described Rainer 10 years ago, when he first entered the workforce. But a decade after he got his first job in fast food, Rainer still finds himself working at Arby’s for minimum wage.

In other words, Rainer has worked an entire decade receiving only one raise: when Congress increased the minimum wage in 2007.

And so he showed up at his congressman’s public forum on Tuesday to ask Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) to finally give him and millions of other low-income Americans a raise.

Ross, who is seeking a third term representing Tampa’s northwest suburbs, was unmoved by Rainer’s plea. “It’s not right,” the Florida Republican said. “If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it?”

An audience member declared that he’d gladly pay slightly more for a hamburger in order to increase the minimum wage, prompting applause from the crowd.

Rainer asked the congressman whether he would be willing to come work at Arby’s with him for one day so he can see how difficult minimum wage work is, but Ross demurred. Instead, he railed against the very notion of a minimum wage and even the concept of labor laws in general. “If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country,” Ross said.

RAINER: Would you support the Obama act of raising the federal minimum wage?

ROSS: No. [...] I think it would do more harm to our economy than anything. You work at Arby’s, the cost of products, the cost of services are going to go up. [...]

If we are going to make it a living wage, who’s going to pay for it? Who’s going to pay for it?

AUDIENCEMEMBER: I will. I’ll pay 20 cents extra for a hamburger. [Applause]

RAINER: He said he’ll pay. So if he’ll pay, I’m going to work every day busting my butt. I want to know, would you take a walk in my shoes? Lay your tie and your suit down, just for a day, 24 hours, and take a walk in my shoes. The people that I work with, we’re keeping the economy floating and going in the cycle. But the people that hire, they’re just paying money, just throwing money. But I’m actually working every day. So why wouldn’t you support it?

ROSS: Because it’s not right. Economically, it’s not right. It does more harm to our economy. [...] If the government’s going to tell me how much I can get paid and when I can work and when I can’t work, then we have a serious problem in this country.

Watch it:

“I felt like he blew off my question,” Rainer told ThinkProgress after the town hall. “He doesn’t understand what it’s like.”

Indeed, for millions of workers, a stagnant minimum wage is actually a falling real wage. That’s because the minimum wage isn’t indexed to inflation, so $7.25 is worth about 6 percent less in 2012 than it was in 2009, for instance.

Over the past few decades, the lower and middle classes haven’t just seen dwindling incomes, but also declining opportunities for advancement. Stories like Rainer’s of workers being stuck in minimum wage jobs for years are increasingly common.

Towards the end of our conversation, Rainer’s exasperation became apparent. “I bust my butt for these people everyday,” he said in disbelief that lawmakers like Ross don’t think he deserves a raise. “Come down to Arby’s for 24 hours. Take the broom, wipe down the bathroom. See what it’s like.”

Charles Murphy News 4/17

News Cast for April 17th:

Highlands County commissioners have no objection to Lake Placid and Avon Park hauling their trash to Okeechobee’s landfill. Commission Chairman Don Elwell said a rate study of their landfill might be needed.

Avon Park is reportedly working with Waste Management for a transfer station and could accept trash from Hardee County that eventually would be trucked to Okeechobee, bringing more revenue to the landfill.

In the courts, Hendry county prosecutors dropped a charge of sexual battery on a child under 12 against Glades County resident Jeffrey Raulerson. He had been charged last Christmas Eve with two attacks on a child, allegedly using a knife. He denied all involvement.

Sex offender, 83 year old William Clark of Okeechobee received two years in prison and lifetime probation in Brevard County for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 12 in Palm Bay. The incident occurred in December of 2011. Clark pled guilty to the charge.

Advertising entrepreneur James Whelan will peddle twice around Lake Okeechobee this Saturday to raise money to build homes in Haiti. He will start in Clewiston early Saturday and will ride roughly 225 miles in 24 hours.

Whelan has ridden his bike across the country before to Canada and Alaska to raise money for various charities. The Caring house project has been building villages in Haiti since 2003. You can help out by going to

Sports Cast for April 17th:

Kevin Coleman and Trenton Hickman had two run singles in a five run fifth inning as the Brahman baseball team defeated Lincoln Park Academy 8-1 at Tradition Field Wednesday.

Elijah Finney threw five strong innings to get the win for OHS.

He said he struggled a bit but was able to make pitches when he had to. Finney was picked up by some good defense by Paul Jackson and others during the game. He said he tries to encourage his fielders to play well. Kutter Crawford had three hits and Gabe Greseth added two hits for Okeechobee who finish the regular season at 12-10.

South fork scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to stun Okeechobee 7-6 in girls’ softball action last night at Districts ending the Lady Brahman season.

There are no sports events today involving Okeechobee High school teams.

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