Hurricane experts await emergence of El Nino

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – July 23, 2012 – El Nino can make the difference between a nasty hurricane season and an easier one. But timing is everything.

Although it’s looking more likely that El Nino will emerge this year, scientists still are unsure if it will develop in time to temper the meanest stretch of hurricane season, August through October.

“It could be strong enough to hamper storm formation, but it’s not a guarantee at this point,” said Phil Klotzbach, the Colorado State University climatologist who develops seasonal predictions.

Zillow says it’s official: Market hit bottom

SEATTLE – July 24, 2012 – Experts still question Zillow’s forecasts, but their latest one could convince skittish buyers to jump into the market: The company says its Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) rose on an annual basis for the first time since 2007 in the second quarter, increasing 0.2 percent year-over-year to $149,300. Zillow execs say a pattern of price increases indicates that the real estate market has hit bottom.

State Farm questioned on rate hike request

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – July 25, 2012 – State insurance officials and consumer advocates pressed State Farm Florida Insurance Co. today over a proposed 57.3 percent increase in rental property premiums when the company still isn’t writing new business.

Florida’s insurance consumer advocate also questioned the rationale behind State Farm’s request to have policyholders foot the bill for a $750 million loan made to the Florida subsidiary by its parent company, State Farm Mutual. That repayment will add an additional 8.5 percent to the parent company’s bottom line in addition to a 16-percent profit margin.

Housing market in Manatee, Sarasota continues to show strength

MANATEE — Existing home sales across Southwest Florida continued in June to flirt with paces not seen since the market’s historic balloon almost a decade ago.

Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street serves as venue for charities

On Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, visitors can enjoy shopping at various boutiques, eating at fine restaurants and watch the latest Hollywood movie at the cineplex.

And just by partaking in the venue’s monthly musical festival, visitors can contribute to many local charities that help those in need in Manatee County and surrounding communities.

Since January, $400,000 in donations have been raised for non-profits from events held on Main Street. The number includes money raised by organizations that have used the strip and the monthly ‘Music On Main’, a free concert on the first Friday of every month. Vendors at Music on Main give 10 percent of their earnings to a selected charity, which changes every month.

The shopping center has been involved with helping charities for the past six years.

A few of the organizations to hold events on Main Street include the American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Center for Autism Resources and Education and Take Stock in Children.

“It’s a great venue,” said Julia DeCastro, property manager for Main Street. “It’s the only one of its kind around here.”

DeCastro said the shopping center is rented to organizations at very minimal costs.

The Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch and Community Haven are just a few of the local charities the free concert has benefited.

“It’s helping the local community,” DeCastro said.

HOPE Family Services, a non-profit group that provides help to victims and survivors of domestic violence, will benefit from the Aug. 3 free concert.

County planning improvements to Fort Hamer Park and boat ramp

MANATEE — Manatee County officials are proposing improvements to Fort Hamer Park near Parrish and the park area surrounding a rowing facility completed in 2010, a county official said Friday.

Foreclosures actions show distressed-property pipeline full

SARASOTA – For the third straight month, distressed property filings in Southwest Florida in June were dominated by early stage foreclosures, suggesting that the pipeline of full-scale court proceedings by lenders will increase in the months ahead.