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crazy4wdw
03-08-2007, 06:50 AM
Resort tax feels the magic of Disney's hotels

Posted March 8, 2007 - Orlando Sentinel

Occupancy levels at Walt Disney World hotels are a well-guarded secret. But Disney recently gave a glimpse into the big role it plays in Central Florida's lodging industry with a revealing statistic: Last year, it contributed 33 percent of all resort-tax dollars collected in Orange County, and 22 percent of Osceola County's collections. Disney has more than 24,000 hotel rooms in 22 company-owned resorts. There are another 111,000 hotel rooms in the Orlando area, according the Smith Travel Research.

A slight delay

The Burnham Institute, eager to set up its Central Florida operation after receiving final approval this week for Orlando and Orange County tax incentives, won't be starting quite as soon as expected. Burnham had expected to open in remodeled space at Florida's Blood Centers in south Orlando in June. But remodeling hasn't begun and it won't be completed until late July. The research institute plans to reside at the Blood Centers while it builds permanent quarters near Lake Nona.

Replacement parts

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Orlando missiles unit snagged another huge military contract this week -- $311 million to produce navigation and weapons-firing systems for Army helicopters. A large chunk of that is for replacement parts used in the Iraq war. Defense experts say that the U.S. will have to spend billions more to replace military gear damaged or worn out during the four years of fighting. That means more big contracts for defense contractors -- and a growing price tag for taxpayers.

Gifts for Ruth's Chris

Fast-growing Ruth's Chris Steak House has received a hefty gift from its gift-card customers. The Lake Mary-based company said in its most recent earnings report that it booked nearly $4 million in income from "gift card breakage" -- corporate-speak for cards sold but never used. Ruth's predicts millions of dollars of company gift cards won't be redeemed, and based on that expectation, it is declaring the money collected for the cards as income. Companies typically don't declare gift-card proceeds as income until they are used.

Tower investors want out

Two investors who agreed to buy a condo unit in Trump Tower Tampa are suing to get their money back, claiming the riverfront project is not likely to be built by the December 2008 contract deadline. Mirabilis Ventures Inc., an Orlando-based private-equity company, is a defendant -- even though the Tampa lawyer representing the investors said he's not sure the outfit has closed on its acquisition, announced in November, of the proposed 52-story tower. "I can't confirm it until I get some depositions," said Thomas G. Long, representing two Walton County investors. Mirabilis spokesman Dan Cence said the Trump Tower project is "on the record and moving forward as planned." A motion to dismiss is pending. Mirabilis recently laid off a number of employees and closed some of its Orlando offices in an apparent consolidation, though the company has refused to elaborate.

Code name 'Daytona'

Word on the Web is that a new BlackBerry with the code name "Daytona" is in the works. Tech companies are infamous for giving nicknames to projects under development. For example, Intel has used a variety of rivers in the West as code names for computer chips in development. Microsoft once referred to an upcoming version of Windows as "Longhorn." The new BlackBerry has not been confirmed yet by Research in Motion, the Canadian company that created the widely used e-mail devices.



Christopher Boyd compiled this report with contributions from Chris Cobbs, Harry Wessel, Jerry W. Jackson, Richard Burnett and Mark Chediak. He can be reached at 407-420-5723 or cboyd@orlandosentinel.com.