Issues of Interest

CITRUS INDUSTRY Florida Citrus Mutual Executive Vice President Michael Sparks says the industry, which employs about 50,000 people, is improving. He warns, however, that while Florida is producing more citrus, growers are competing against citrus being brought in by processors from Brazil and Mexico. These multi-year arrangements with other countries were drafted as a result of the devastating blow to the groves by 2017’s Hurricane Irma.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its citrus forecast for the 2019-2020 season, projecting Florida growers will produce enough oranges to fill 74 million boxes as compared to the 71.6 million boxes during the 2018-2019 season.

BRIGHTLINE EXPANSION Virgin Trains, who will be operating the Brightline high speed rail between Orlando and Miami, is speaking with regulators about extending the line from Orlando westward to Tampa. Disney also confirmed that they have been in discussions to create a stop on their property for the potential train.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TAX BREAKS Universal Orlando is seeking $348 million in state tax breaks under a twenty-year-old program that encourages large capital investment projects. If approved, it will receive an annual tax break equivalent to five percent of its total capital spending for a twenty-year period. The project is the recently disclosed Universal Creative headquarters.

In a related development, the Orange County Commission recently voted to approve $125 million in community redevelopment funds to extend Kirkman Boulevard, which would provide access to 750 acres owned by Universal. Universal will be contributing $160 million of the $315 million project.

RECORD AIR TRAVEL Orlando International Airport saw over 50 million passengers in 2019; it is the first time a Florida airport has had that many passengers travel through its facility in a 12-month period.