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Business briefs: Red tide recedes, toxic toys and more

Margie Manning



Most of the Pinellas County coastline is free of red tide, at least for now.

“This is the first time that our entire coastline hasn’t been covered in red,” said Kelli Levy, director of the public works environmental management division, while displaying a map for the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday.

There’s still some impact at Fort DeSoto, but most of the algae bloom associated with red tide has shifted south of Pinellas County, she said.

Commissioners approved measures increasing funding for red tide debris removal to $6.3 million, a $5 million increase from the original amount approved in September.

The county has disposed of about 1,820 tons of marine-related debris, Levy said.

Levy’s good news came with a warning: “This is prime time for red tide development, through the end of December, and the Gulf of Mexico is 72 degrees, which is perfect for red tide.”

The county will continue to keep an eye on potential development.

“Although we’re starting to see it go away for us, we’re not going to stop monitoring it very closely to make sure that if we were going to expect something in the spring that we’re prepared for it,” Levy said.

Raymond James adds jobs

Raymond James Financial Inc., the largest financial services company headquartered in Tampa Bay, grew its workforce by 9.4 percent in the past year.

As of Sept. 30, Raymond James (NYSE: RJF) had about 13,900 employees, according to its annual report filed Wednesday morning with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That’s up from 12,700 employees on the same day a year ago.

The company also has 4,650 affiliated independent contractors, a 6.6 percent increase from the 4,300 independent contractors it had a year earlier.

Raymond James didn’t say how many of those workers are in the Tampa Bay area. In addition to its 1.25 million square feet of office space in Carillon Office Park, the company owns or leases space in Detroit, Denver, Memphis and other cities.

Wage gains

The Tampa Bay area has had falling unemployment levels for several months. Now there’s new data showing that wages are going up, although at a slightly slower pace than the rest of the United States.

View Florida wages in a full screen map

The average weekly wage in Pinellas County in the second quarter of 2018 was $913, a 2.8 percent increase from the same period in 2017, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Wednesday morning.

In Hillsborough County, the average weekly wage in Q2 2018 was $1,002, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier.

Average weekly wages nationwide increased to $1,055 in Q2 2018, up 3.4 percent year-over-year.

Toy dangers

Consumer advocates have singled out slime as among the toys that are unsafe for children.

2018 Trouble in Toyland press conference with Bill Newton, Florida Consumer Action Network, and Petra Vybiralova, JHACH Safekids Supervisor. November 20, 2018, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Some slime products have a toxic amount of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, according to the Florida Public Interest Research Group.

Florida PIRG released its annual Trouble in Toyland report Tuesday at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

“No one should worry about whether or not the toy they’re buying is toxic or dangerous. But in 2018, we’re still finding hazards in some of the most popular toys,” said Bill Newton, deputy director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, which released the report in Florida. “Toy manufacturers must do better to ensure their products are safe before they end up in children’s hands and mouths.”

The report also warned about missing choking warnings for balloons, which are the leading cause of suffocation death for children, and it highlighted two smart toys — a robot toy and a tablet — that raised privacy concerns.

“Every year, the potential for smart toys to expose private data becomes a more significant concern,” the report said.

Read the full report here.

Holiday travel

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport expects to reach full capacity in its parking lots over the holidays.

The taxiway at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (Photo credit: James Borchuck)

Outbound passengers are strongly encouraged to arrange transportation to the airport, a media advisory said. “We cannot guarantee parking and do not want anyone to miss their flights,” the advisory said.

The airport is in the midst of a construction project and also is in its 6th year of double-digit passenger growth, so parking is limited. Parking information is available here.

Tampa International Airport also is gearing up for what it expects to be its busiest holiday travel season on record. Tampa International is projecting a 9.5 percent increase in traffic over last year’s Thanksgiving holiday period, and is urging drivers picking up passengers to use the cell phone waiting lot or the short-term garage, where there’s one hour of free parking.








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