Talk of the bay: Florida doesn't share nation's positive view

By Times Staff
Published May 30, 2007

Spiraling gas prices and a lousy real estate market have Floridians feeling blue about their finances. The Florida Consumer Confidence Index fell three points in May to 82, the lowest level in a year and a half. And don't expect things to get better any time soon, said Chris McCarty, who directs the survey for the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic Research. In fact, he said things could get worse if the stock market declines or out-of-state residents cut back on vacation trips to Florida. He said the impact of the decline in housing could be felt for another year or two. The national Consumer Confidence Index went in the opposite direction in May, surprising analysts by rising nearly two points to 108. National pundits attributed the jump to optimism about the job market.

Ruth's Chris' recipe for growth honored

A good dinner can be a good investment, too. Ruth's Chris Steak House, based in Heathrow, near Orlando, was just named to BusinessWeek magazine's list of "100 Best Small Companies to Watch." (By "small, " they mean public companies with annual revenues of $50-million to $1.5-billion.) Ruth's Chris ranked No. 32 and is the only restaurant company in the top 100. The magazine ranks companies by their three-year sales and earnings growth as well as return on capital. Energy companies dominated the list with 17 placements. Ruth's Chris owns or franchises about 100 locations worldwide.