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Business Observer Friday, May 30, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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New owners for Busch?: InBev NV, a Belgian brewing company, is considering a $46 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.USF to cut 450 jobs: University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft said the college will cut $50.4 million by laying off 70 employees and not filling 380 open jobsRays anger Pinellas: After waiting for months for a detailed financial plans on a new open-air baseball park from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pinellas County Commission got the news the team would be asking for $100 million from the county.No-smoking policy: Sarasota County is leading the way on the Gulf Coast with what is becoming a national trend: Refusing to hire people who smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products.More delayed projects: Add two more downtown Bradenton developments to the growing list of delayed projects up and down the Gulf Coast.County offers buyouts to 800: Lee County has offered about 800 higher-paid employees buyout offers to counter a projected drop in revenues this year.UPS adds jobs in Fort Myers: Package delivery giant UPS recently announced plans to expand its Fort Myers operations and hire another 20 employees.Alico closes Plant World: Alico, the agribusiness company headquartered in LaBelle in Hendry County, east of Fort Myers, has closed its Plant World operations and eliminated 30 jobs.

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

New owners for Busch?

InBev NV, a Belgian brewing company, is considering a $46 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., fueling speculation that Busch Entertainment, which operates Tampa's Busch Gardens and Adventure Island and nine other theme parks, would be spun off to another company.

The companies would not comment on any pending deal. The company's theme park division accounts for about 7% of Anheuser-Busch's $19 billion annual revenue.

USF to cut 450 jobs

University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft said the college will cut $50.4 million by laying off 70 employees and not filling 380 open jobs Class sizes are likely to increase. No subject majors or tenured professors will be eliminated

USF employs about 13,250 workers.

The cuts reflect a current deficit of nearly $36 million, a result of diminished state aid in a weakened economy. The remaining $15 million will be set aside in anticipation of another state cut in the middle of the school year.

At the university's Tampa campus - it is USF's largest with 38,000 students - academic operations, health sciences and other departments will be cut by $42.5 million. Officials will cut some of that by streamlining administration, but they plan to eliminate 170 open faculty positions.

The university froze all hiring in January to prepare for the cuts, though many faculty members have left since then.

Some smaller departments, however, will lose some of their support staff and will have to share resources with other programs.

Rays anger Pinellas

After waiting for months for a detailed financial plans on a new open-air baseball park from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pinellas County Commission got the news the team would be asking for $100 million from the county.

The commission wasn't happy.

Commissioners told Rays management they wanted to be consulted earlier on the Rays' proposed $450 million ballpark on St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront. One called the process "awkward."

Commissioners made it clear that the county would not change its timeline to accommodate the Rays or the St. Petersburg City Council, which is set to take an initial vote June 5 on whether to schedule a November referendum on a new downtown stadium.

Commissioners want to get a recommendation from the Pinellas Tourist Development Council before deciding whether to support the Rays' proposal. The next TDC meeting isn't until June 11.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

No-smoking policy

Sarasota County is leading the way on the Gulf Coast with what is becoming a national trend: Refusing to hire people who smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products.

County officials announced the new policy May 20, citing a well-known study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says a smoker costs an organization or business $3,400 a year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

The county becomes the first county government on the Gulf Coast to announce the policy. Sheriffs' offices in Hillsborough and Pasco County are among the local agencies that have already made similar changes to their hiring rules. The City of North Miami, which instituted the policy in the mid-1990s, is considered the first government entity in the state to make the move. The Florida Supreme Court later upheld the city's policy after prospective employees alleged it violated their rights.

Sarasota County currently has about 3,500 employees and those workers aren't subject to the policy. But new hires will be required to take a nicotine-detecting drug test, as well as sign a pledge stating they have not smoked tobacco products in the previous 12 months.

More delayed projects

Add two more downtown Bradenton developments to the growing list of delayed projects up and down the Gulf Coast. The twist with these delays is that only one of the slowdowns is completely tied to the residential market slump.

The project facing a housing market-induced delay is Metro Marque, a mixed-use development planned as 100-plus condos with an office/retail component. The developers, Sarasota-based Enterprise Associates, might have to ask the Bradenton City Council for a one-year zoning rights extension on the project, which includes a pair of 15-story condo towers. (Enterprise Associates owns the building in downtown Sarasota partially occupied by the Observer Group, parent of the Review).

The developer for Tarpon Pointe, a condo/marina project planned for a few blocks away, is facing potential governmental delays. Developers there are waiting for final approvals from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to build the marina component, planned at 212 slips.

LEE/COLLIER

County offers buyouts to 800

Lee County has offered about 800 higher-paid employees buyout offers to counter a projected drop in revenues this year.

Eligible employees are those who have worked for the county for at least five years and who are paid at the upper 35% of their pay range. Employees who replace them will make a maximum of 50% of the current pay range.

UPS adds jobs in Fort Myers

Package delivery giant UPS recently announced plans to expand its Fort Myers operations and hire another 20 employees.

In announcing UPS' expansion plans, the Lee County Economic Development Council said UPS had considered other locations in the state but settled on Fort Myers for expansion because of projected growth.

Alico closes Plant World

Alico, the agribusiness company headquartered in LaBelle in Hendry County, east of Fort Myers, has closed its Plant World operations and eliminated 30 jobs.

Plant World, which Alico acquired in 2004, produced vegetable transplants for sale to commercial farmers but the operation's financial results were disappointing.

"This decision is part of our ongoing effort to reduce corporate overhead in the current economic environment," said Alico Chairman and CEO John Alexander in a statement.

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