Business briefs: Local company donates to MTI

January 25, 2014 

MANATEE COUNTY -- Air & Energy, a local air conditioning, plumbing and electrical company, donated 11 pieces of the newest technology equipment to Manatee Technical Institute's air conditioning technician career preparation program this week.

Stewart Moon Jr., Air & Energy vice president, a company salesman, and an installation manager, spoke to the class of nearly three dozen students about working in the industry. "It's exciting to work with students who really want to learn," said Moon, who likes to hire MTI grads. "I want to give them the tools to be the best caliber employee."

State trade contingent headed to Panama

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam, Florida growers and the director of Port Miami are heading to Panama City to receive a briefing on the widening of the Panama Canal and to promote Florida products to Panama retailers.

The trade development mission to Panama hopes to expand Florida growers' access to Panama, one of the fastest growing markets in Latin America, help Florida capitalize on the opportunities that come with the expansion of the Panama Canal, and evaluate the pilot program Florida launched to prevent invasive pests from entering Florida on shipments of fresh produce through the Panama Canal.

On Monday, the delegation will receive a briefing on the canal expansion from Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano. The briefing will be followed by a tour of the canal and expansion sites. The delegation will meet with U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Farrar and other officials at the U.S. Embassy in Panama.

Florida agriculture is a $100 billion industry that supports two million jobs for Floridians. Panama is Florida's fifth largest trading partner in terms of agricultural products. Florida is a major provider of fresh tomatoes, strawberries and sugar cane to Panama.

Walmart to layoff 2,300 Sam's employees

NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is eliminating 2,300 workers at its Sam's Club division as it reduces the ranks of middle managers in a bid to be more nimble.

The layoffs, which cut 2 percent of the membership club's employee count of about 116,000, mark the largest since 2010 when the Sam's Club unit laid off 10,000 workers as it moved to outsource food demonstrations at its stores.

Bill Durling, a spokesman at Sam's Club, says that a little less than half of the cuts were aimed at salaried assistant managers. It is also eliminating some hourly workers.

The cuts come as Sam's Club strives to compete with Costco Wholesale Corp. and online players like Amazon.com's Prime membership service.

Puerto Rico gov signs bills to manage debt load

SAN JUAN -- Puerto Ri

co's governor has signed into law two bills to help the U.S. territory manage its ability to repay a $70 billion public debt.

Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Friday that the new laws go into effect Feb. 1.

One bill establishes a corporation that will issue bonds to help pay and refinance some of the $590 million in debt held by the island's municipalities. The corporation would use revenues from sales and use tax to guarantee payment.

The other bill creates a new fund for those revenues that will be run by the Government Development Bank.

Herald staff and wire reports

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