Tag Archive for: economic development

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Anyone who has been shopping recently has noticed it — long expanses of empty shelves, websites with merchandise marked “out of stock.”

Sometimes it’s canned goods in short supply, sometimes paper plates. Earlier this year, popular brands of baby formula became hard to find, sending parents to Facebook groups to chase down supplies. Meanwhile, the price of new and used cars continues to climb, due to shortages of critical parts and computer chips — while builders complain that they can’t get the drywall and hardware they need to finish projects.

Americans have been accustomed to goods that magically appeared whenever they were required. With a pandemic hitting hard at manufacturing facilities and shipping lines, consumers are learning hard lessons about the details — and vulnerabilities — of the nation’s supply chain. But key Florida leaders also see opportunities to take this short-term crisis and translate it into long-term gain for the Sunshine State. If Florida does this right, the benefits could outlive COVID-based kinks in the flow of merchandise, providing a permanent boost in the quest to diversify the state’s economy.

Some of the measures will take time and lots of money — but talk is free, and we give Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state leaders credit for their aggressive promotion of Florida’s alternatives to the congestion at West Coast mega-ports. DeSantis, in particular, has been beating the drum for months, and it’s the right time to make the pitch. This week, shipping analysts celebrated the fact that only 76 ships were waiting at the massive Los Angeles/Long Beach ports, a three-month low — but transit times from the time container ships leave Asia to the point where the cargo is unloaded onto U.S. soil have more than doubled since the pre-COVID era, reports American Shipper magazine. Northern ports, including New York, are also reporting delays.

Some of that traffic is already diverting to Florida, with shippers calculating that the two-week detour from the west coast, through the Panama Canal and into one of Florida’s 15 deepwater ports makes more sense than lingering at sea for an extra month or two. Not all of Florida’s ports can handle the biggest container ships, but Port Tampa Bay, Port Everglades, Port Miami, Port Manatee and North Florida’s JAXPORT are already seeing increases in various types of cargo including bulk materials, automobiles along with the standard 20-foot containers used to bring consumer products from manufacturers in China, India and other foreign manufacturers. That’s a welcome change from 2020 when port activity dropped by a significant 16 percent, the Florida News Service reported.

That traffic augments Florida’s long-held position as cruise capital of the world. The cruise industry is still in recovery mode, but once the pandemic threat fades it should send traffic at the state’s ports (particularly Port Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral, the world’s three busiest cruise ports) surging once again.

There are reasons Florida ports haven’t been as attractive to importers. Along with the obvious geographical challenges, there’s a lack of infrastructure needed to support a more robust flow of cargo. And Florida leaders must recognize that ports are only one part of the picture. The state’s ground transportation network must be robust enough to handle the flow of inbound cargo — and while lawmakers don’t need to revive an ill-conceived and costly scheme to construct “roads to nowhere” that cut across largely vacant land, they should plan on improving the state’s most important arteries for truck traffic, along with augmenting the rail system to move cargo, vehicles and materials quickly and cleanly.

There’s one more clear priority: As Florida pushes to expand its ports, it must set the national standard for environmental stewardship. While shipping and distribution support an estimated 900,000 jobs in the state, that number is dwarfed by the 1.7 million jobs generated by Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry. Florida already has a lot of damage to repair, particularly in the sensitive Indian River Lagoon. The state shouldn’t risk more degradation when it could instead lead the way in responsible port expansion.

Still, Florida leaders are right to see the snarled shipping situation in the nation’s biggest ports as a golden opportunity. Lawmakers are ready to invest in port infrastructure, adding to hundreds of millions in federal funding Florida ports have already received. In his budget outline, DeSantis requested $117 million for port improvements, and the House and Senate appear ready to top that – their preliminary plans include nearly $136 million for ports. In a year where Florida has plenty of money to spend — including the one-time deluge of cash from Washington — these investments in the state’s economic future make sense.


Source: Orlando SunSentinel


South Florida cities rank among the top tech markets in North America, according to a recent CBRE study.

The commercial real estate services and investment firm used 13 metrics to create a score based on the competitive advantage of each market and their ability to attract and grow tech talent pools.

Miami and Fort Lauderdale are gaining tech jobs and are seeing increases in their millennial workforce, the report revealed.

While these markets pose vitality in the future, they are expensive to operate in for tech workers and employers. Among the top 10 most expensive office markets on the list, Miami was the only small tech market with an asking rate above $35 per square foot.

Click here for a SFBJ slideshow to find out where Miami and Fort Lauderdale rank nationally for tech talent.

Click here  for CBRE‘s full report.


Source: SFBJ

The Counselors of Real Estate, an international organization for commercial real estate professionals, ranked what its membership body recently voted on as the current and emerging issues it expects to have the most significant impact on real estate.

Topping the organization’s list in a detailed report just released was U.S. infrastructure, which it characterized as severely lacking, and lagging behind many other developed countries.

“Inadequate infrastructure creates a hard ceiling to economic development, and real estate values are tied to sustainable growth,” Julie Melander, the 2019 chair of The Counselors of Real Estate, said in a press release about the ranking.

The nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, airports, the power grid, water systems, and levees are all in need of improvement and have failed increasingly often, the organization said.

President Trump has pledged to address infrastructure woes, and the White House and Congressional leadership have discussed funding for infrastructure to the tune of as much as $2 trillion, but action commensurate with the scale of the problem has not materialized.

Housing in the U.S. was the second item on the list, and the organization put an emphasis on the impact of growing inequality and the rising tide of unaffordability in housing, particularly for the middle class.

“Housing affordability is threatening the stability of the middle class, which will hit other parts of the economy as well,” Melander said.

The recently-imposed limit on state and local income tax deductions, along with Baby Boomers having trouble selling their homes were additional housing-related challenges outlined by the organization. Challenges related to weather and climate were third on the list, while slow technological progress including outdated physical plant systems in many buildings, economic challenges and high levels of institutional and personal debt also made the list.


Source: Miami Agent Magazine


The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable, a weekly feature in the Miami Herald Business Monday, ask South Florida CEOs a question each week.

This week’s question is: Should the State of Florida and local governments be offering tax breaks and incentives to lure businesses?

Here are answers from some prominent South Florida CEOs:

  • Dr. Edward Abraham, executive vice president for Health Affairs of the University of Miami and CEO of UHealth – the UM Health System

Because these incentives are offered by other states and local governments, we will need to do so as well. It will be important, however, to ensure that the incentives offered are appropriate and that the true economic benefits of the business being located here are clear and compelling.

  • Jim Angleton, CEO for Aegis FinServ Corp.

Absolutely, and more: Tax Opportunity Zones, Empowerment Zones, CRA, and play up LatAm Hub. We need to focus upon technology, cyber, AI tax incentives, real community services and favorable talent pool.

  • Wael Barsoum, M.D., CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida

Florida is a relatively low tax state, but we tend to have higher local taxes. Tax incentives are one way to help level the playing field.

  • Agostinho Alfonso Macedo, president and CEO of Ocean Bank

Tax incentives to lure new business have become part and parcel of the arsenal that economic development agencies such as the Beacon Council use to attract new businesses. They are needed and should be maintained.

  • Bill Diggs, president, The Mourning Family Foundation

Of course we should. It is more a matter of what those incentives should include. One area that we must do a better job with is our film and motion picture industry opportunities. With the attraction of Florida and Miami weather, we should have a more robust film industry.

  • Brett Beveridge, CEO and founder of The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC)

I am a believer in offering reasonable incentives including tax breaks to attract new businesses and/or entice the expansion of current operations in South Florida for several reasons. First, although South Florida does have a thriving small business and start-up community, we don’t have many large corporations that employ thousands upon thousands of people. Second, and as a defensive measure, in order for us to keep the few large businesses we have and those that are growing rapidly and making decisions on where to locate, we need to be competitive. And third, we want to entice and encourage growth of our current businesses that might not have invested otherwise. All three of these constituencies will add employees that will live and work in South Florida. They will pay property and sales taxes, more jobs will be created, and we will be able to improve our long-term infrastructure. That said, we have to negotiate long-term and rock-solid agreements that guarantee those benefits will actually happen in exchange for the incentives that we provide.

  • Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts Tropical Florida

Yes, the state of Florida and local governments should be able to offer tax breaks and incentives to lure business when those benefits are thoughtfully and clearly measured. These types of incentives have become a standard recruitment and negotiation tool. If we do not use them, we are less competitive and will miss opportunities. However, tax breaks should be used among a mix of incentives — each with its own return on investment and parameters for use.

  • Dorcas L. Wilcox, CEO of Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services

As a state that is dependent on tourism, Florida should offer all it can to recruit legitimate, profitable businesses that will provide jobs and promote traditional family values.

  • Gregory Adam Haile, president of Broward College

A 2017 report from the Pew Charitable Trust estimates that state and local governments spend at least $45 billion a year on tax breaks and other incentives to lure or keep job-producing businesses and plants in their jurisdictions, but that this does not always yield the necessary returns. Careful evaluation and monitoring are needed to ensure that the incentives are achieving their intended goals. While incentives have their benefits, it takes more to attract businesses. The state must also invest in other necessary resources and services critical not only for business establishment but their competitiveness and profitability. These include ensuring it can offer an educated and diverse pool of labor, affordable housing, and services such as transportation access that will attract residents.

  • Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO, City National Bank

Yes. We need to drive investment that creates employment in sectors that will solidify our future.

  • Louis Hernandez Jr., CEO, of Black Dragon Capital

Tax breaks and incentives are instrumental for state and local economic developers to lure jobs to a region. The benefits will outweigh spending, but the burden should be on the governments to ensure costly incentives aren’t a waste of taxpayer dollars. Florida’s lack of a personal income tax and a relatively low corporate income tax rate help to create an exceptional business climate.

  • Paul Singerman, co-chair of Berger Singerman

I think that the state of Florida and local governments should be smart about tax breaks and incentives to lure business. To be sure, I do not think that Florida or local governments should adopt a per se rule against tax breaks and incentives to lure business. Florida and local governments should take these opportunities up whenever possible and evaluate each on its own merits. Relevant questions include: Is this business good for our citizens? Is this an industry that enhances our communities? Are there significant environmental issues that would be implicated by the business of a prospective new entrant to our markets? If tax breaks and incentives are offered, is there a sound return on investment thatthe state and local governments could enjoy?

  • James “Jimmy” Tate, co-owner and president of TKA-Evolution Apparel and of Tate Capital; co-founder of Tate Development Corp.

I do believe in incentive programs as long as they are properly monitored and the people responsible for making these determinations follow a strict formula which eliminates biases or the possibility of personal gain. There should be a cost/benefit analysis performed on all such proposals and if the analysis shows the transaction is accretive to the city, county or state, then you do the deal. If it is not accretive, then you walk.

  • Rashad D. Thomas, vice president of business connect and community outreach for the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee

In order to compete with the other leading cities in the nation, it is necessary. Miami-Dade currently offers several tax credits and business incentives to attract new businesses, such as the Urban Jobs Tax Credit. This program provides up to $1,000 tax credit per job for new businesses with a minimum of 20 new jobs and for existing businesses with a minimum of 10 new jobs, which are regular and full-time (36 hours or more per week). The State of Florida has lost several projects because of its inability to create a film tax break. It has been reported that the $296 million allocated in state tax incentives, intended to last until 2016, had been spent by 2014, with “Ballers” and “Bloodline.” They were the last two major projects that received state funds. Two years later, the program was shut down. Florida is now currently the only Southeastern state without a program to attract film and television productions. While neighboring states like Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama continue to benefit from the expanding industry.

  • Manny Angelo Varas, president and CEO of MV Construction Group

I believe the city should create tax incentives to lure businesses based on employment and taxable revenue generated.


Source: Miami Herald

South Florida made the list when Cushman & Wakefield released its Tech Cities 2.0 annual report that identifies existing and emerging tech centers increasingly driving the North American economy and details their impact on the commercial real estate sector.

A follow-up from last year’s inaugural Tech Cities 1.0 report, this year’s research reviewed all major North American markets, and groups the top cities into three categories based on how important the tech sector is to the local economy and real estate market. The categories are “tech is a critical component, tech is a key driver and tech is important.”

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach market falls into the third category meaning tech is an important, growing sector, but there are other important sectors as well.

“South Florida’s emerging tech scene has increasingly become more influential to the local commercial real market,” Chris Owen, Cushman & Wakefield’s Florida Director of Research, tells GlobeSt.com. “This is especially apparent in Miami-Dade, where technology companies accounted for more than 10% of all leasing activity since the beginning of 2017.”

Miami-Dade County Accounts for Largest Activity

In terms of tech-related leasing activity, Miami-Dade County led the way in South Florida. Between January 2017 and mid-year 2018, the tech and life sciences industry accounted for 10.8% of all leasing activity in Miami-Dade. That was followed by 5% in Broward and 4.4% in Palm Beach.

The region ranked 24th in the country for annual university spending on tech-related research and development.

The Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 Index of Startup Activity ranked the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area No. 1 in U.S. for new business creation.

“As tech companies continue to dominate headlines and grow, a key question is how this affects commercial real estate. Building upon our inaugural Tech Cities report from last year, Tech Cities 2.0 offers new data and a further in-depth analysis of the marketplace,” said Revathi Greenwood, Cushman & Wakefield’s Americas Head of Research.

“Tech is no longer limited to just traditional technology companies – media companies, retailers and even law firms are competing for the same spaces and talent as traditional tech companies. While the result can be seen in nationwide trends, we’ve identified key insights that impact companies across every industry,” Greenwood said.

Ken McCarthy, Cushman & Wakefield’s New York-based Principal Economist and Applied Research Lead for the U.S., said the new report demonstrates the profound impact the tech sector has had on commercial real estate in what appears to be one fell swoop but has been building since the financial crisis of 2008.

“Although we expect established markets like Silicon Valley to see continued investment, new tech hubs are emerging across North America, from Provo to Philadelphia, sustaining a period of tech-driven, economic growth unseen since the dot-com boom of the late 1990s,” McCarthy says.


Source: GlobeSt.

While unemployment continued to decline in April, job creation was a mixed bag in South Florida, according to data released by the state on Friday.

“Florida’s economy is in an expansion mode that is in its late phases,” said Sean Snaith, economist for the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “It’s hard to sustain high rates of job growth. Florida is still adding jobs more rapidly than the U.S. economy, but our lead is narrowing.”

Broward County’s jobless rate fell to 3.2 percent compared with 3.7 percent in April 2017, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Meanwhile, the county added 12,800 jobs, an increase of 1.5 percent over the year. That was the most jobs added in the tricounty region.

Construction led job growth in Broward, with the addition of 3,400 jobs, followed by 3,100 jobs in professional and business services; 2,100 in other services; 1,000 in trade, transportation and utilities; 800 in manufacturing; 800 in leisure and hospitality; 400 in government; 100 in information; and 100 in education and health services. Broward didn’t lose any jobs in April 2017.

Palm Beach County’s unemployment in April declined to 3.3 percent from 3.8 percent a year ago. The county added 500 jobs, an increase of only 0.1 percent. There were 2,800 new jobs in construction; 1,800 in financial activities; 1,700 in leisure and hospitality; 700 in manufacturing and 600 in government. However, Palm Beach County also lost jobs over the year: 3,600 in education and health services; 1,800 in trade, transportation and utilities; 900 in professional and business services; 500 in information; and 300 in other services.

Miami-Dade County’s jobless rate was 4.2 percent compared with 4.6 percent in April 2017. The county added 12,300 jobs, an increase of 1 percent over the year. The county added 6,200 jobs in manufacturing; 5,800 in construction and mining; 3,800 in education and health services; 1,000 in professional and business services; and 700 in trade, transportation and utilities. Miami-Dade also lost jobs over the year: 2,000 in financial activities; 1,500 in government; 1,000 in other services; 500 in information; and 300 in leisure and hospitality.

Florida’s unemployment rate was 3.9 percent seasonally adjusted, unchanged from March but a decline from 4.3 percent a year ago. The state added 178,400 jobs, an increase of 2.1 percent over April 2017.


Source: SunSentinel

fort lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale is booming with development.

It’s become a city of choice for savvy investors, both commercial and residential. Once known as the mecca for spring break and teenage beach movies — think Where The Boys Are with Connie Frances and Girl Happystarring Elvis Presley — Fort Lauderdale has grown up.

Historically, Fort Lauderdale had always been a secondary market to Miami. Then when prices kept rising in Miami, developers started looking for cheaper dirt and came here. We have a relaxed coastal environment, beautiful beachfront and a strong commerce center with 7.5 million of class A office space in our downtown, notes Jenni Morejon, Executive director, Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority (DDA)

We have significant luxury development both in residential and hospitality underway. The residential component has a high-level of amenities, service and finishes in beautiful ocean front locations. On the hospitality side, the Four Seasons is building a beautiful property and there was a $150 million renovation at the W Fort Lauderdale, Morejon adds.

To satisfy the increasing residential base, Morejon points to over 1,000 restaurant seats coming on line over the next several months on Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale’s dining, shopping and entertainment destination for tourists and residents alike.  Las Olos (Spanish for waves) Boulevard is our crown jewel connecting the beach and downtown core.

The privately-owned Brightline, an electric high-speed train, inaugurated service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in January. Morjon sees this as another game changer for Fort Lauderdale when the Brightline extends from Miami to West Palm Beach with a stop in Ft. Lauderdale.

Finding cheaper dirt in Fort Lauderdale is The Related Group, a major South Florida developer. The Related Group has developed luxury condominiums since 1979. Today the company is betting on Fort Lauderdale’s rapidly growing luxury branded residential condominium market.

The Related Group is developing  the two-tower Auberge Beach Residences & Spa, a luxury branded beachfront condominium part of the Auberge Resort Collection. Fronting the Atlantic, amenities include signature Auberge dining, World-Class Spa by Auberge, private elevators, wine room, cigar lounge and Fitness Center with views of the Atlantic. Currently Auberge’s North Tower is 90% sold and 75% of the South Tower sold. According to The Related Group, Auberge Beach Residences & Spa set a Fort Lauderdale’s sales record in 2017 for the highest condo sale at $9.5 million. Prices range from $1.5 million to $9.9 million.

This is a signature property and there is nothing like it right on the ocean sitting on five contiguous acres. Our sales show demand is there for the project and product. We didn’t know what to expect and went with a smaller tower first,  explains Patrick Campbell, Vice president at The Related Group.

The oceanfront W Residences Fort Lauderdale are also selling briskly. The 171 residences with prices starting in the $900,000’s is proving to be the right product for the market. With over 100 units sold to date, buyers are excited. Residents at the W will have access to all W Fort Lauderdale hotel amenities with resident signing privileges for convenience. In addition, they receive dining, room and spa discounts at W Fort Lauderdale. Owners also have the option to place their home in the W’s rental pool.

Who is buying in Fort Lauderdale? The Fort Lauderdale buyer is very different than Miami. About 75% of our buyers either have a tie to the area versus Miami where many buyers are investors or from South America, Campbell observes.  Eric Johnston of New Jersey chose the W Residences Fort Lauderdale for his fourth home, buying a two-bedroom two-bath unit in December. Miami did not have what I wanted. The location to the airport, the weather and the W product is what attracted me. I actually would have bought a larger unit if they had one.

Craig Studnicky, principal of International Sales Group, (ISG) has over 25 years of experience in the South Florida residential market. Fort Lauderdale has always been compared to Miami Beach, but now its value in terms of price per square foot is at an all-time high. From 1990 to 2010, the annual difference in price per square footage between these two destinations was roughly 25 percent. In May 2016, this difference jumped to 261 percent due to the slew of new inventory. This means that a buyer can get the same ocean views, amenities, finishes and services in Fort Lauderdale but at almost half the price.

Fort Lauderdale’s retail market is thriving with over 2.6 million square feet of commercial real estate either completed, under construction or approved since 2012.

According to Colliers International Fort Lauderdale Market Pulse Q1 2018|OverviewFort Lauderdale jumped to 6th place in the Top Ten U.S. Markets To Watch. This is the first time Fort Lauderdale even made into the Top Ten. Retail rents in downtown Fort Lauderdale have a 5-year growth prediction of 48% compared to 42% in Miami-Dade. Since 2013, Fort Lauderdale’s downtown retail rents have increased 51% to $35.75 per square foot compared to a 14% increase throughout Broward County (Fort Lauderdale is in Broward County.)

As a vacation destination and national cruise hub, total visitors through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport rose from 11.3% in 2016 to 32.5 million in 2017. In addition, JetBlue, Southwest and Emirates have launched new routes within the past year to and from Fort Lauderdale expanding the potential visitor market and as an added boost to area residents for business and leisure travel.

William Hardin, PhD, Professor of Finance and Real Estate and Director of the Hollo School of Real Estate at Florida International University in Miami explains market dynamics.  Fort Lauderdale offers relative value compared to Miami. There is good luxury product there now that appeals to the buyer wanting a different pace than Miami.


Source: Forbes

One lesson learned from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance‘s past two annual trips: a city’s brand matters.

About 80 members of the Fort Lauderdale business community returned from a four-day trip to Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday. The trip was led by Broward County‘s economic development partnership, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. The group met with city officials and leaders in the Nashville business community to discuss common challenges and best practices impacting the two areas.

The trip follows a similar trip to Austin, Texas last year to gain a better understanding of how other cities are attracting companies and fostering economic growth.

In an interview with the Business Journal, Bob Swindell said that one key insight he learned was how Nashville’s Music City brand has helped the city attract talent and create a camaraderie among residents.

“Their brand music is a brand that everyone can relate to,” said Swindell. “They own their brand.”

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance had a similar takeaway on the importance of branding when the group visited Austin last year, which has worked to create a reputation as a technology hub.

“We learned to recognize Greater Fort Lauderdale’s and South Florida’s many strengths, and that perhaps we need to take a page from the Texas playbook and brag a bit more,” Swindell said. “Another lesson learned from the Nashville trip was just how much the two cities have in common.”

In addition to both being named finalists for Amazon’s second headquarters, the two cities face similar major challenges pertaining to workforce housing, homelessness and transportation.

Swindell said transportation, in particular, has been a big focus of Nashville Mayor Megan Berry, who has been communicating the need for action with the city’s business community.

“She says that today will be your best transportation day,” said Swindell, meaning that the problem is getting worse everyday and the need for action is imperative.

Other highlights of the trip included discussions on:

  • How to better align educational programs with target industries with Nashville’s Labor Educational Alignment Committee
  • Innovations in health care at Nashville’s DNA bank
  • Research collaborations and how to take that tech to market with the Vanderbilt Innovation Center
  • How to attract and develop more high-tech companies with the Nashville Technology Council

The trip was funded through several sponsors including JetBlue, the Florida Panthers, the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport and Signature Grand.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance recently released its 2017 fiscal year results, which showed that the organization assisted more than 300 companies and surpassed its original goals for job creation and retention. For the 2017 fiscal year, the economic development partnership brought in 1,978 new jobs, exceeding initial expectations by 24 percent.


Source: SFBJ

Thousands of high-paying jobs came to Broward County during the last fiscal year, and the county’s economic development agency projects that the future looks bright for continued job growth.

That was the message at the recent Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Annual Dinner held at the Signature Grand in Davie.

More than 750 people attended the event, where the economic engine reported it assisted businesses in creating 1,978 new high-value jobs, retaining 1,967 jobs and securing a total of $256 million in new capital investment during the 2016-17 fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Like past years, the economic development agency offered insights into its gains and wins during the past fiscal year. One of the key accomplishments the Alliance touted in its annual report was the expansion of the Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex in Miramar, which created 150 new jobs and brought in a capital investment of $184 million.

Another one of its key impact projects was announced just this week. Sixt Rent A Car, a luxury car rental service with more than 2,000 locations in over 100 countries established its North American headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. As a result of the local expansion, the company will be creating 300 new jobs and making a capital investment of $10.4 million to the county.

During the annual meeting, the Alliance welcomed Jennifer O’Flannery Anderson, vice president for advancement and community relations at Nova Southeastern University, as its 2017-18 Chair. She takes over for exiting chair Bill White, co-founder and principal of Compass Office Solutions.

One of the highlights of the annual event is the Alliance‘s Ray Ferrero, Jr. Economic Development Leadership Award, which honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to Broward County.

AutoNation Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson presented the award to this year’s honoree Nova Southeastern University President George L. Hanbury, who he lauded for expanding the university’s programs and elevating its national profile.

“We want this to be a destination not just for service and minimum wage jobs but for middle and upper class jobs,” Hanbury said, during his acceptance of the award.

The event’s keynote speaker Vincent “Vinnie” Viola, owner of the Florida Panthers and chairman emeritus of Virtu Financial, said that he believes the future of South Florida and Broward County looks bright.

“I want to dearly tell you how optimistic I am about South Florida and Greater Fort Lauderdale,” Viola said. “We [the Panthers] expect to be here for a long time.”

Over the past 11 years, the Alliance helped businesses create or retain more than 28,000 direct jobs, 62,000 indirect jobs, resulting in $2.4 billion in annual personal income and $12.3 billion in annual economic impact, it said.


Source: SFBJ

It is one of Bob Swindell’s favorite questions: Where was the first smartphone created?

“The first smartphone wasn’t born out of a garage in Cupertino,” said Swindell, who is the CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward County’s economic development arm.

Silicon Valley can’t have it all.

It was actually created in IBM, BellSouth and Motorola’s Broward and Palm Beach labs in the early 1990s. The first IBM personal computer was also born in South Florida.

Broward County has not historically been associated with technological innovation, instead focusing most of its messaging on its tourism assets and bustling hospitality sector. But in recent years, Swindell has been working to change the narrative in an effort to diversify Broward County and make it the kind of destination that can continue to attract the visionaries who developed the smartphone — as well as tourists looking for a sunny beach vacation.

Since Swindell grew up in Oakland Park, the county’s job outlook has changed considerably, he said.

“When I came back from the University of Florida, a lot of my friends from high school didn’t come back,” Swindell said. “When they would get home for Christmas break or other holidays, we’d catch up and I’d ask, ‘Why aren’t you back here?’ The perception at the time was there were no opportunities here, it really is only hospitality.”

Swindell, a small business owner who was the president of industrial supply company Champion Manufacturing for 18 years, sold the company to his business partner and made it his mission to change Broward’s offerings when he became CEO at the Alliance in 2009. The Alliance is a public/private partnership focused on creating a more diverse economy in Broward and adding high skilled jobs.

In 2016 alone, the Alliance facilitated 20 company relocations and expansions, leading to 2,646 new jobs. During Swindell’s tenure, the Alliance has helped create or retain 25,000 direct jobs. The county is now home to virtual reality startup Magic Leap, e-commerce pet supply company Chewy.com and tech heavyweights Citrix and Microsoft Latin America.

In April, Fort Lauderdale ranked first (tied with Dallas) as the metropolitan region with the highest year-over-year job growth in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But Swindell still feels that Broward has fallen short when it comes to telling its story, the one of a diverse economy that once was a central part of the technological revolution. On the Alliance’s recent trip to Austin, Texas, to learn of its tech culture, Swindell realized just how much Broward fell short in communicating its message.

“One of the takeaways from the trip to Austin is Texans like to boast. They are very proud of their state and they’ll talk about anything, they’ll make 10 days of drought sound like a good thing,” Swindell said. “We don’t have that. Floridians are more reserved in that, they are not as forward in their talks about what’s good about our community and I think we need to change that.”

In an interview with the Herald, Swindell reflected on his years with the Alliance, the road ahead to grow the tech community and curb brain drain in South Florida, and, of course, telling Broward’s story.

Miami Herald: Compare Broward now from eight years ago when you took the helm. What have been your biggest accomplishments in terms of developing the business community?

Bob Swindell: When I became CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance in 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, our goal was to help pull the region out of the economic downturn by creating, expanding, attracting and retaining high-wage jobs and capital investment across 31 independent municipalities. This was a daunting task, as the region’s unemployment rate reached more than 10.2 percent with more than 100,000 residents out of work. By leading a focused, organized effort to grow and diversify Broward’s economy, our community was not only able to fully rebound from the recession, but thrive as a mature economic engine. Today, Broward County has one of the lowest employment rates in the state at 3.8 percent and year-over-year private sector job growth of 28,900.

Eight years ago, Fort Lauderdale was a far more seasonal town with an economy that was largely driven by construction and tourism. Visitors would come and go while few thought of the city as a year-round destination. One of my main goals when I signed on with the Alliance was to lead a focused effort to expand Broward’s economy beyond tourism and strengthen and tell the story of and promote a more sustainable ‘cluster economy’ comprised of key growth industries such as technology, aviation, life sciences, marine and, of course, corporate relocations (a major initiative for us). Over the past eight years alone, the Alliance and its partners have helped create or retain more than 25,000 direct jobs which have yielded $2.1 billion in annual personal income and almost $11 billion in yearly economic impact.

In 2009, longtime Alliance champion and then-Nova Southeastern University President Ray Ferrero Jr. rounded up his peers, the top business leaders in Broward County ranging from AutoNation’s Mike Jackson to Wayne Huizenga, to Rick Case to Jordan Zimmerman and others, to form the Alliance’s CEO Council. By working directly with our greatest business minds, we were able to strategize how to best market the county as a business destination to a national audience.

The success of the CEO Council showed us that the more opportunities our business community has to collaborate, the greater our ability to move our economy forward in a purposeful unified direction.

Miami Herald: What business connections does Broward still need to develop, and what are the region’s current economic drivers?

Bob Swindell: While Broward was once known for its lure among spring breakers and beach vacationers, it is today more likely to draw business moguls and startup entrepreneurs who are attracted to the region’s warm weather, zero income tax and relative affordability compared to northeastern states. Arguably one of the most dynamic industries taking shape in the region is technology driven by local innovation.

Similar to Miami, Broward has become a breeding ground for startups and entrepreneurship. For example, the e-commerce pet supply company, Chewy.com, was recently acquired by PetSmart for a reported $3 billion. Broward is also home to Magic Leap, the virtual reality startup valued at over $4.5 billion, and JetSmarter, the fast-growing private jet company, which recently secured more than $100 million in funding. But while these standouts are capturing funding, we need to create a more robust ecosystem of venture capital to support all of the big ideas coming out of this region. As our tech cluster continues to mature and grow, the hope is that a VC infrastructure will inevitably follow suit, but the Alliance’s goal is to help make this happen sooner rather than later.

Life sciences, specifically pharma and medical devices are also major economic drivers for the region, with more than 1,500 South Florida bioscience institutions employing more than 26,000 people and generating $4 billion in revenue each year. The marine sector is also growing, yielding $8.8 billion in yearly economic impact and supporting 110,000 jobs. Aviation and aerospace is a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to see growth.

Broward is a hub for both U.S. and Latin America corporate headquarters, with more than 200 headquarters based here, including AutoNation, JM Family Enterprises, Ecolab, Ultimate Software, Citrix, Wendy’s and Microsoft’s Latin America headquarters. This area is growing, but we still have work to do to expand our international market, which is a segment that we are actively working to grow and that Miami has done well to capture. We already have a robust travel and cargo infrastructure, as well as a centralized location and diverse workforce, all of which is an appealing draw for international and multinational companies.

Miami Herald: Broward is home to several major tech companies and Miami-Dade has also been working to develop its tech community. What has made Broward so attractive to companies like Microsoft and Citrix, and what suggestions do you have for Miami to do the same?

Bob Swindell: Broward County has a long and rich history in innovation. Fort Lauderdale has become a haven for tech companies ranging from established heavyweights like Citrix and Ultimate Software to startup sweethearts such as JetSmarter and Magic Leap. With over-saturation pushing many tech firms out of larger markets, we have seen an influx of tech companies and entrepreneurs relocating to Broward.

Miami has also been doing a great job in terms of leading the charge in introducing South Florida to a national tech audience. eMerge Americas especially is a major game changer for the region. What Miami and Broward should be doing now is leveraging each other’s strengths to raise awareness for the South Florida tech scene as a whole rather than operating within silos. By making tech recruitment a regional effort, all three counties will benefit, since as they say, a rising tide lifts all ships.

Miami Herald: How is Broward working to curb the brain drain — a major issue in Miami-Dade as well?

Bob Swindell: The best way to fight brain drain is to give people a reason to stay in the first place, and a way to make their mark in our community. That is why we have focused our efforts on creating a ‘brain trust’ among the region’s students, academic institutions, young professional groups and businesses.

For example, the Marine Research Hub, which is a partnership between the region’s four major universities, is inventorying hundreds of cutting-edge research projects from reef restoration and biomedicine, to fisheries and ecosystems. Technology companies such as Ultimate Software work closely with local universities to recruit interns and young, up-and-coming tech talent. Another renowned headquarters, JM Family Enterprises Inc. consistently recruits several interns each year.

Miami Herald: What do you see as the biggest challenges to economic development facing South Florida in recent years?

Bob Swindell: Arguably our biggest successes are also what form our biggest challenges, as the more our region continues to grow, the more we need to address the growing pains that come with it. This means improving our public transit infrastructure so that people can get around without relying on their cars. People in South Florida love their cars, but building more highways and roadways is simply not a sustainable solution. The introduction of Brightline this year is a major step forward, but we need to do more to improve accessibility and mobility throughout the tri-county area.

Affordability is also a major concern, since as our region becomes more popular, cost of living will naturally continue to rise. We need to attract and retain more high-paying jobs to keep pace with this inflation. Additionally, we are constrained by the realities of our geography. Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades, undeveloped land is scarce. Through infill development and redevelopment, we are overcoming this challenge, but we have to continue to be creative in how — and where — we build.



Source: Miami Herald

A boom in new hotels suggests happy days are here again for tourism.

About a dozen hotels will open in Broward this year — the biggest surge in the county in the past decade.

  • Home2 Suites by Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport-Cruise Port, Dania Beach — 130 rooms
  • Plunge Beach HotelLauderdale-by-the-Sea  — 163 rooms
  • Hyde Resort & Residences, Hollywood—407 rooms
  • Hampton Inn Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach—102-room hotel expected to open on May 26
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Fort Lauderdale 108-room hotel slated to open in December
  • Residence Inn Center Port Business Park, Pompano Beach—112-room hotel in will open in the June
  • Tryp by Wyndham Maritime Fort Lauderdale—150-rooms
  • Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort—290 rooms
  • Dania alone could welcome four new hotels, including Morrison 143-rooms; Comfort Suites Downtown Dania—104-rooms; Wyndham Garden—142-rooms; and a former Sheraton rebranding to Le Meridien.

It’s “super-exciting,” said Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor Bureau, the county’s official tourism marketer. “And it’s due largely to an influx of affluent travelers and greater recognition of the destination as an attractive and competitively priced place to do business and enjoy the benefits of our appealing lifestyle and surroundings.”

Preliminary visitation numbers released by the bureau show Broward welcomed 12.27 million domestic visitors in 2016, up 4 percent from 2015, according to preliminary numbers from the bureau. A million international travelers visited last year, excluding Canadians.

Hoteliers and industry analysts seem fairly confident the county can easily absorb the room surge. But some areas may fare better than others.

“Most of the new supply of rooms is not on the beach. The beach will fill up first, so Fort Lauderdale will be fine,” said Christian Charre, senior vice president of Miami-based CBRE Hotels. “For limited service hotels on the outskirts, the situation may be more competitive … still travel is up, and the expansion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is working so 1,800-plus more rooms is not major. I think it should be easily absorbed.”

So far this year, Broward’s tourist arrivals are about even with 2016, but room rates and occupancy in traditional hotels are down, Ritter noted.

Currency and economic woes in source markets like Canada and Brazil helped to keep some would-be visitors at home. And as non-traditional accommodation alternatives such as Airbnb and HomeAway become increasingly popular with travelers, traditional hotel occupancy has taken a hit.

“The hotels are coming on line as Broward becomes a more powerful and attractive market,” said Daniel Peek, senior managing director at commercial real estate firm HFF. “Miami has become more expensive, busy and crowded, while Fort Lauderdale offers a different experience. Fort Lauderdale has seen dramatic changes in 20 years in terms of investments on the beach, the cruise port and airport and in retail, all of which bodes well for future tourism demand. I anticipate that over the next 10 to 20 years, Fort Lauderdale will continue to be a very attractive market. It’s a pretty dynamic market, generally speaking.”

“South Florida is still doing great,” in terms of tourism. Patel pointed to expanded airline service, a strong cruise market and the soon-to-launch Brightline passenger express train service,” said Jay Patel, president and CEO of Luckey’s, which has eight hotels in Broward and recently broke ground on its ninth.

Other hoteliers like Doug Barrow, general manager at the newly opened Plunge Beach Hotel, also aren’t too worried about the influx of new rooms, having experienced rapid absorption of even more rooms in other top Florida tourism destinations such as Orlando.

“This area has such a strong demand from leisure travelers all over the world and so I think there’s still plenty of room for growth in hotels in these parts,” Barrow said.

Ritter is optimistic about the summer. “We’re going to be better than OK,” she said. “Americans will travel more domestically than in summers past. So I think summer looks good in terms of visitor numbers.”


Source: SunSentinel

In the late 1950s the Port of Palm Beach conducted more trade with Cuba than any other port in the world.

Starting in 1946, the West India Fruit and Steamship Co. transported everything from cars to fertilizer, household goods and food to Cuba from the Riviera Beach-based port, and Cuba sent commodities such as sugar, tomatoes, pineapple, and of course, rum, back on the ships.

The company began the Havana Car Ferry service in 1947. It offered a quick, reliable carload freight service between the port and Cuba, according to “Gateway,” a magazine the port used to publish. The trade ended in August 1961 when the U.S. imposed an embargo on all shipments to Cuba after Fidel Castro took control. Trade with Cuba made up half the port’s business, and when the trade ended, the port almost died. It had to borrow money to make payroll to pay its three employees.

On Friday morning, an important step toward once again ramping up trade with the island nation is scheduled to take place. A delegation from the National Port of Administration of Cuba and Port of Palm Beach officials will meet to sign a memorandum of understanding in the port’s boardroom.

The agreement outlines joint initiatives the two parties will undertake, stating that it is “within their mutual interest to establish an alliance of cooperation aimed at facilitating international trade and generating new business by promoting the all-water route between Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Gulf Coast of the United States through the Port of Palm Beach and the Ports of Cuba.”

Port of Palm Beach executive director Manuel “Manny” Almira, who was born in Cuba, said he has relentlessly pursued the project for the last six years. He has worked with the previous Cuban Ambassador Jorge Alberto Bolaños Suarez and now is working closely with Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez and Rubén Ramos Arrieta, minister counselor at the Economic & Trade Office, Cuban Embassy, who have requested that the Cuban government approve the agreement.

From what Almira has been told, only two other ports in Florida, Port Everglades in Broward County and Port of Tampa, have been selected to sign the agreement. Almira said he believes the accord is one of the many steps that would pave the way for a service or services to be established from the Port of Palm Beach to Cuba.

The Cuban delegation plans to make a presentation about the island nation’s Port Mariel special development zone, inland waterway, seaport capabilities and the foreign trade investment to local business people at the port and throughout Palm Beach County.

During its visit to Palm Beach County that starts on Thursday, the delegation will attend a Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, have lunch on the Grand Celebration cruise ship based at the port, make a presentation to the Palm Beach County Commission and attend at event at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. The group will depart for Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

Port Mariel, on Cuba’s northwest coast, is one of three container ports, along with the ones from Santiago and Havana, but Mariel’s is the largest. Mariel opened its container terminal in 2014, and two-thirds of the $900 million project was financed by Brazil.

Mariel is planning its transformation into a major transshipment hub, and becoming the first port of call for “neo-Panamax,” the newer, larger container ships going through the Panama Canal to the U.S. according to published reports.

Some of the joint initiatives planned include marketing, market studies, modernization and improvements and training. Many other things have to occur before trade can begin. Any and all shipping lines expecting to establish service to Cuba must first meet and obtain the license from the Office of Foreign Asset Control, Department of U.S. Treasury.

“Once that license is obtained, then the company will need a license to operate in Cuba. One of the benefits of having an agreement is so that the port can direct businesses to the appropriate transportation ministers in Cuba,” Almira said.