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by Douglas Hanks

South Floridians have begun spending again, turning their back on a brutal recession that caused fundamental changes in the region’s economy, business executives said Tuesday.

Speaking at a Miami-Dade business forum, executives from the retail industry described the winter as a turning point for spending in one of the nation’s most hard-hit economies.

“Restaurants have not been making deals for three or four years,” said Julie Goldman, general manager of The Falls shopping center in South Miami-Dade. “Now they are calling us. They’re waking up.”

Goldman’s comments were upbeat yet sober as she described a slow climb out of a deep hole caused by a devastating recession and a ravaged real estate market. Other participants at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s first South Florida Economic Summit offered similar outlooks, though the forecasting was more bullish for the international sector.

“International business emerged as an even stronger driver of the South Florida economy,” said Manuel Mencia, senior vice president at Enterprise Florida, the state-funded economic development agency. “It’s an industry firmly out of recession.”

Gov. Rick Scott opened the session at Jungle Island with a speech touting his plan to reduce regulations and cut state spending. He pledged to track state laws for their effectiveness and eliminate the failures.

“Every law we pass in the state, there ought to be a measurement for that,” the Republican and former healthcare CEO said. “And if it doesn’t work, let’s stop doing it.”

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