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Greater Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of a development boom.

With Virgin Trains opening up the South Florida corridor, high-profile celebrity projects underway and dozens of cranes dotting the region’s skyline, Greater Fort Lauderdale has captured the national spotlight.

The latest jobs data clearly showed the strength of the Broward County region with a 2.8% unemployment rate in April 2019. The jobless rate was 0.5 percentage points lower than the region’s year ago rate of 3.3%. Non-agricultural employment increased by 16,400 jobs (+1.9%) over the year, with an employment of 867,000 in the Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach MSA (Broward County).

The Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach Metro Division had the highest annual job growth compared to all the metro areas in the state in other services (+2,200 jobs) in April 2019.

The industries gaining in jobs over the year were: Professional and Business services (+5,400 jobs); Education and Health Services (+5,200 jobs); ; Financial Activities (+1,300 jobs); Construction (+1,200 jobs); Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (+800 jobs); Manufacturing (+600 jobs); and Leisure and Hospitality (+300 jobs). The industry that lost jobs over the year was Government (-600 jobs).  The information industry was unchanged over the year.

GlobeSt.com recently turned to Bob Swindell, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, to discuss the factors that have been driving job growth in the region and Broward County’s rapid transformation from beach town to boomtown.

GlobeSt.com: What does the launch of Brightline (now Virgin Trains) mean for Greater Fort Lauderdale and how has it impacted real estate development?

Swindell: There’s no question that Virgin Trains is a game-changer for our region. The high-speed real has unlocked Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach by connecting a combined population of more than 6 million, giving the 200+ Broward-based corporate headquarters access to a deeper talent pool than ever before.

Late last year, the Alliance conducted an analysis of the activity that has occurred along Brightline’s route since the train was announced and found that millions in corporate investment have already been made within a one-mile radius of the Fort Lauderdale station. Much more is on the way now that the Fort Lauderdale City Commission and the Broward County Commission recently voted to move forward with the development of a joint governmental campus, co-locating city and county Halls in one facility. The new government building will be located across the tracks from the train terminal on a site currently occupied by the Main Bus Terminal on Broward Boulevard.

The marquee project in the area is Traina and BH3’s FAT City (Flagler Arts and Technology) which is estimated to encompass 1.4 million square feet of mixed-use space that will foster Broward’s growing urban community of artists, technology businesses and young professionals.

This new level of mobility and the development it has spawned has been a major selling point in retaining and attracting the skilled, high-paying jobs that are propelling our economy forward.

GlobeSt.com: What other new projects are rising in the area?

Swindell: The bulk of new development in the region is taking shape in downtown Fort Lauderdale where the population has grown by 30% as new apartments and condos rise.  There’s PMG Group’s redevelopment of Las Olas Riverfront, a mixed-use project that will consist of “social living” rental communities that combine residences with coworking space as well as a public plaza featuring restaurants and nightlife. Also set for completion by end of 2019 is Skanska’s $49.3-million renovation and revitalization of Las Olas Boulevard. Once complete, Fort Lauderdale’s most popular thoroughfare will have a brand new 670-space parking lot, a beachfront park, a new canopy, public spaces and interactive water features that will enhance the pedestrian experience. Stiles Corporation’s The Main Las Olas, a 25-story office building and 27-story residential tower, will span an entire city block bordering East Las Olas Boulevard and Southeast Third Avenue.

More growth is on the way, with approximately 6.2 million square feet of multifamily, office, retail and hotel construction either under development or in the pipeline within Broward’s urban core.

GlobeSt.com: What does the exposure from globally recognized names like Richard Branson and David Beckham mean for the Broward brand?

Swindell: Richard Branson turned heads when he launched the first-ever adults-only cruise line from a Plantation-based headquarters in early 2018 and then doubled down on the region by investing heavily in Brightline, which is being rebranded to Virgin Trains. Soccer legend David Beckham put Broward back on the soccer map when he joined forces with the City of Fort Lauderdale to transform Lockhart Stadium into an 18,000 seat, state-of-art arena for his MLS team.

And let’s not forget about the wave of positive publicity generated from South Florida being shortlisted for Amazon’s HQ2. These are all indicators of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s status as a thriving business and lifestyle destination finally being recognized on the international stage.

GlobeSt.com: How are advancements in infrastructure driving new talent to Greater Fort Lauderdale and supporting job growth?

Swindell: As an economic development organization, we look at the big picture. Recent innovations and investment in infrastructure have been a major step forward in creating the type of walkable, mixed-use environments that put our region on a path for long-term growth and success.

This urbanization of Broward County is helping us attract the type of young, skilled talent that draws the attention of global brands and moves the needle where it matters most: jobs. The Greater Fort Lauderdale area added more than 14,000 jobs year-over year in 2018 and continues to be a leader in the state in terms of job creation. With Broward County projected to gain 900,00 new residents by 2030, the region isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

 

Source: GlobeSt.

New approaches from technology companies and co-working providers across North America and Europe are challenging occupiers’ and landlords’ office-space accommodation strategies, forcing players in more established sectors to adjust how they think about the size, physical form and operational function of their premises.

This transformation continues to encourage new development, which is racing to keep up with demand in some markets and being bolstered by a young, educated workforce gravitating to urban centres.

These are some of the key trends noted in Avison Young’s Mid-Year 2018 North America and Europe Office Market Report, that was just released.

The report covers the office markets in 67 metropolitan regions in Canada , the U.S., Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany and Romania: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Lethbridge, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Waterloo Region, Winnipeg, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, OH; Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fairfield County, Fort Lauderdale, Greenville, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Long Island, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Jersey, New York, Oakland, Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham, Reno, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego County, San Francisco, San Jose, Silicon Valley, San Mateo, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington, DC; West Palm Beach, Westchester County, Mexico City, Coventry, London, U.K.; Manchester, Berlin, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, and Bucharest.

“Against a backdrop of economic, geopolitical and financial volatility, the commercial property markets – for the most part – are functioning under relatively sound fundamentals,” comments Mark E. Rose, Chair and CEO of Avison Young. “Nowhere are we seeing more profound changes than in the office sector – especially in urban areas of major metropolitan markets across the six countries covered in our annual review. The impact can be seen on city skylines, which are changing rapidly as new construction picks up pace, driven by insatiable tenant demand from organizations adjusting their workplace strategies to a growing millennial workforce and their adaptability to innovative technologies.”

Rose continues: “At the same time, sectors that have historically accounted for a significant amount of demand for office space are now being both augmented and squeezed by ever-expanding technology and co-working industries. This phenomenon is being seen across national boundaries, particularly in markets with dense and growing urban populations.”

According to the report, of the 67 office markets tracked by Avison Young in North America and Europe, which comprise more than 6 billion square feet (bsf), market-wide vacancy rates declined in 38 markets, remained unchanged in seven, and increased in 22 markets as almost 74 million square feet (msf) was absorbed on an annualized basis.

The report goes on to say that construction cranes remained prominent fixtures across many skylines as nearly 74 msf of office space was completed during the 12-month period, while another 138 msf was under construction at mid-year 2018 – with 50% of the space preleased.

“It’s great to see so much confidence on the part of developers as they respond to the supply-demand imbalance in many markets,” says Rose. “As always in this industry, the inherent risk is that circumstances could change, resulting in an oversupply of product at the time of delivery. In many cases, this scenario is the result of external economic and geopolitical factors. This time around, however, the new influences of disruptive technologies and increasing co-working space availability are also affecting how and where people work, potentially impacting the office sector from within – and challenging conventional wisdom.”

Rose adds: “Generally sound office market fundamentals are being threatened on the North American front by ongoing NAFTA talks. In Europe, the looming Brexit deadline continues to dominate the headlines in the U.K., while in Germany, strong leasing activity continues to drive vacancy rates downward in all Avison Young markets. In Bucharest, Romania, development continues in response to demand.”

THE UNITED STATES

The U.S. office market has benefited from another strong 12-month period of positive economic indicators: Further business expansion and job growth, decades-low unemployment, and rising consumer and business spending. Business spending kept its momentum in the first half of 2018, boosted by corporate tax breaks even while the federal government moved toward greater isolationism and global trade uncertainty. As of June, U.S. unemployment averaged 4% and employment over the last 12 months grew by 2.4 million, supported by the office-occupying professional and business sector gaining 521,000 jobs.

The 5.2-bsf U.S. office market reported net absorption of 43 msf on the strength of gains in five markets each achieving more than 3 msf.

“In spite of this strong take-up, I’m not surprised that the overall vacancy rate remains elevated given the volume of construction underway and the continuing trend of more efficient space design,” says Earl Webb, Avison Young‘s President, U.S. Operations.

U.S. office market trends mirror those in Canada, registering an increasing impact from co-working firms. Occasionally, co-working companies have occupied large blocks of space in oversupplied markets, helping to keep vacancy in check, and the concept’s popularity with tenants has forced landlords to compete by adding conference rooms, tenant centers and social spaces.

Webb continues: “Flexible occupancy is key. We also see some national corporate tenants utilizing co-working space in order to control costs and create that flexibility. One co-working operator’s recent announcement that it is moving into brokerage operations could further disrupt the office market, and we’ll be watching that situation and other co-working developments as we head into 2019.”

The report goes on to discuss other recent and continuing trends, including the redevelopment of aging inventory and developers’ emphasis on offering transit-oriented mixed-use projects. Tenants continue to display a preference for amenity-laden buildings and geographies – an important recruiting strategy designed to appeal to the millennial workforce in the tight U.S. labor environment.

Notable Mid-Year 2018 U.S. Office Market Highlights:

  • Five U.S. markets each achieved more than 3 msf of net absorption. San Jose/Silicon Valley and San Francisco together represented 29% of the U.S. total with net absorption of 7.5 msf and 5 msf, respectively. As well, a handful of U.S. markets recorded negative net absorption. Of those, Houston lost the most ground with negative 2 msf during the last 12-month period.
  • Total vacancy in the U.S. was 12.1% as of June 30, 2018, a drop of 10 bps year-over-year. In spite of strong absorption, vacancy rates remained stubbornly high overall with the highest levels in Memphis(20.9%), Westchester County (19.5%) and Houston (18.3%). All but 13 of the 46 U.S. markets reported vacancy averaging more than 10%.
  • Improvement was centered in the downtown inventory (1.7 bsf) with average vacancy falling to 11.2% at mid-year 2018 compared with 11.4% one year earlier, while the bigger suburban market (3.5 bsf) recorded no change in vacancy year-over-year (12.6%).
  • Construction volume fell year-over-year although 96 msf remained under development across the U.S. In new projects overall, 53% of the space was preleased at mid-year 2018 compared with 49% one year earlier. The 379-msf Washington, DC region led the country with 11 msf underway. Demand for new product is high in Washington and preleasing in buildings under construction reached 69% by mid-year. This level was almost matched by New York, where 10.6 msf was under construction (47% preleased) at mid-year 2018.
  • Completions in the 12-month period ending at mid-year 2018 totaled 57.8 msf, increasing slightly from the prior year’s total (55.2 msf). Dallas and Northern California’sSan Jose/Silicon Valley led the country by delivering 7.5 msf each, followed by Washington’s 5.1 msf of completions.
  • Eleven U.S. markets reported asking rents that exceeded the downtown class A average of $48.04 psf full-service gross. Not surprisingly, tight leasing market conditions in Northern Californiaresulted in San Mateo ($84.96 psf), San Jose/Silicon Valley ($74.74psf), San Francisco ($76.54 psf) and Oakland ($57.56 psf) having some of the highest rents in the country. In the Northeast, Boston($66.91 psf), New York ($64.08 psf) and Fairfield County ($54.72psf) were the leaders.
  • Suburban class A rents tell a similar story with Northern Californiamarkets leading the country by far, while most U.S. markets hovered near the national average of $31.32 psf.

“As we forecasted at mid-year 2017, the flight to quality and tenant demand for efficient, amenity-rich options carried into 2018 – and showed no signs of abatement, while class A rents, downtown and suburban, edged higher,” concludes Webb. “High-quality development will continue to boost tenant occupancy and garner higher rents and institutional interest while outperforming the market at large through year-end.”

CANADA

Canada’s office property markets remained sound through the first half of 2018, supported by stable macroeconomic indicators, including healthy employment numbers, GDP growth and a rebounding Alberta economy. However, U.S. protectionist policies and escalating tariffs pose a risk to the Canadian economy and global trade flows, and may lead to moderating growth ahead.

“Intense competition for office space continues to bolster office market fundamentals across Canada – especially in downtown markets,” states Bill Argeropoulos, Principal and Practice Leader, Research (Canada) for Avison Young. “Demand from traditional sectors is being augmented by the proliferation of domestic and global technology and co-working firms, ongoing urbanization and a burgeoning millennial workforce – all part of Canada’s emerging innovation economy.”

The report shows declining vacancy rates in more than half of the Canadian office markets with suburban markets outpacing downtown markets in terms of absorption (led by Montreal and Vancouver) and new deliveries (led by TorontoVancouver and Montreal) during the past 12 months. However, the amount of downtown space under construction at mid-year (led by Toronto) outstripped the suburbs by a significant margin.

Argeropoulos concludes: “Urbanization – partly attributable to growth in the technology sector – has created a noticeable gulf between downtown and suburban vacancy rates in emerging tech hubs such as Vancouver, Toronto, Waterloo Region, Ottawa and Montreal. Given tight conditions and upward pressure on rents in some of the nation’s downtown markets, and with little or no near-term supply relief, suburban markets – particularly those offering transit connectivity and other urban amenities – may be the beneficiaries of overflowing tenant demand during the next couple of years.”

Notable Mid-Year 2018 Canadian Office Market Highlights:

  • Canada’s 530-msf office market recorded positive absorption of almost 6 msf in the 12 months ending at June 30, 2018, led by strong gains in TorontoVancouver and Montreal – offsetting losses in the struggling, but stabilizing, Calgary market.
  • Canada’s overall office vacancy retreated 60 basis points (bps) year-over-year to finish the first half of 2018 at 11.5%. Vacancy declined in six of 11 markets. Unchanged from one year ago, Calgary (23.5%) maintained the highest vacancy rate, Toronto (6.2%) now has the lowest, while Waterloo Region (up 360 bps to 17.1%), Edmonton(down 320 bps to 14.1%) and Ottawa (down 320 bps to 9.5%) recorded the biggest swings.
  • Most downtown markets posted positive results, combining for more than 2.2 msf of absorption in the 12 months ending at mid-year 2018 – led by TorontoVancouver and Edmonton. Consequently, Canada’sdowntown vacancy rate declined 80 bps year-over-year to reach 10.5% at mid-year 2018. Vacancy was lower in seven of 11 downtown markets; four remained in single digits and below the national downtown average, while Toronto (2.2%) registered the lowest downtown vacancy – not just in Canada, but North America.
  • Aside from Edmonton and Calgary, the nation’s suburban markets expanded by varying degrees with strong results in Montreal and Vancouver. Outpacing downtowns, suburban markets combined for positive 12-month absorption of nearly 3.4 msf – slightly behind the previous 12 months’ pace. Suburban vacancy fell 50 bps during the year to close first-half 2018 at 13.1%. Though double-digit vacancy prevailed in all but two suburban markets, six of 11 suburban markets recorded lower vacancy levels year-over-year – with Winnipeg being the tightest (5.5%).
  • New office completions slowed to 3.6 msf delivered in the 12 months ending at mid-year 2018, down from nearly 10 msf in the previous 12-month period – aggravating the shortage of available space, especially in Vancouver’s and Toronto’s downtown markets. In a change from the prior period, suburban completions (led by TorontoVancouverand Montreal) overtook downtown completions, while Torontorecorded the most deliveries overall.
  • Trying to keep pace with demand, developers had more than 15 msf under construction (52% preleased, 3% of existing inventory) at mid-year 2018 as downtown construction outstripped the suburbs by a four-to-one margin. Toronto had the most overall (8.5 msf) and downtown (7.2 msf) office space under construction in Canada and was in good company globally with cities such as LondonMexico CityWashington, DC and New York.
  • Weighed down primarily by Calgary and, to a lesser degree, Ottawa, average class A gross rents softened collectively year-over-year. The downtown average was down $1.97 per square foot (psf) to $38.83psf, and the suburban dipped $0.43 psf to $31.86 psf. Similar to one year prior, Vancouver boasted the highest downtown class A gross rent at $59 psf and Regina edged out Vancouver for the highest suburban class A gross rent at $40 psf.

 

Source: MarketsInsider

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

Following a year marked by a contentious presidential election and likely changes to come in U.S. policy prescriptions, law firm leaders in Florida are largely optimistic about their firms going into 2017 and expect to see growth in Miami, according to a recent survey of firm leaders and administrators in the region.

“We’re more optimistic today in light of the election,” said Holland & Knight managing partner Steven Sonberg, discussing his personal outlook on the year to come. “The economy was in pretty good shape, and it seems clear with Donald Trump as president, he intends to add fuel to the economy.”

Sonberg isn’t the only firm leader in Florida looking forward to the coming year, according to ALM Intelligence’s Law Firm Leaders survey, which collected responses from administrators and leaders from 56 law firms in the Miami region. The survey was completed in September and October, before Trump’s victory.

In the survey, 29 percent of respondents said they were very optimistic about their firm’s prospects in 2017, while another 64 percent said they were somewhat optimistic. Seven percent said they were uncertain about the coming year, while no firm leaders said they were pessimistic about 2017. The survey also showed that 69 percent of firm leaders in Florida expect deal flow in 2017 to increase moderately over 2016, with another 8 percent expecting a significant increase. While no firm leaders expected deal flow to decrease, 23 percent said that they anticipated flat growth.

The greatest percentage of respondents, 46 percent, said they would expect to see corporate work provide the most revenue growth next year, with litigation as the second most popular response, at 23 percent. Fifteen percent said that they expect to see the most growth in real estate, while 8 percent selected bankruptcy and intellectual property.

Meanwhile, 62 percent of respondents said that they expected bankruptcy and restructuring to be the most financially challenging practice area in 2017. Litigation was named as the most potentially challenging by 31 percent of firm leaders, and another 8 percent pointed to real estate as an expected challenge. A large majority, 80 percent, of respondents said they expected their firms’ billing rates to increase by 5 percent or less in 2017, with the other 20 percent saying they plan to keep their rates at 2016 levels.

Firm leaders were also generally bullish on their firms’ financial outlook for 2017 in terms of the amount of profits taken home by partners. While 20 percent of respondents said they would expect profits-per-partner to decrease, the remainder said they anticipated increases—50 percent said they expect partner profits to grow by 5 percent or less, while 30 percent expected growth of more than 5 percent.

National Comparison

For the most part, the outlook among firm leaders in the Miami regional market closely tracks those of firm leaders in a nationwide survey also conducted by ALM Intelligence. But there were some differences in few key areas—including firm leaders’ optimism about their own firm’s prospects, the likelihood of an increase in deal flow and revenue growth from corporate work in 2017.

Compared to a nationwide survey, which included responses from 103 law firm leaders, a higher percentage of firm leaders in Florida were very optimistic about their own firm’s prospects in the coming year, and a greater percentage of those in the Miami region were more likely to expect increased deal flow and revenue growth from corporate work.

Discussing the results of the nationwide survey with DBR affiliate The American Lawyer, legal consultant Kent Zimmermann of the Zeughauser Group suggested that a change in presidential administration may have some impact on the mix of practice areas providing the most revenue growth for firms. Both the nationwide and regional surveys were conducted in September and October, before the election.

As specific examples, Zimmermann noted that, depending on the policy choices of President-elect Donald Trump, law firms could see more international trade, regulatory and tax work.

“Generally, change in Washington has historically been good for law firms,” Zimmermann told The American Lawyer, “but this particular change will be a mixed bag for law firms, and there will be ups and downs.”

Nationwide, 32 percent of firm leaders said they expected to see the most revenue growth from corporate work, while 27 percent pointed to litigation as the most likely revenue growth driver in 2017. In the Miami region, by contrast, 46 percent of firm leaders selected corporate work as the area that would see the most revenue growth, while only 23 percent said they expected litigation to see the most growth in 2017.

Holland & Knight operations and finance partner Douglas Wright also described likely policy changes in a Trump administration as an opportunity for more legal work in certain areas—the president-elect has, for instance, promised to focus on infrastructure projects and has expressed an interest in overhauling the U.S. tax code.

“I think it’s likely that the tax code is overhauled,” said Wright. “And that really hasn’t happened since 1986, so I think those changes … will require businesses and individuals to reevaluate their structure and business planning.”

Firm Expansion

The nationwide and regional outlook on real estate practices also had some slight differences—10 percent of firm leaders in the national survey said they would expect to see the most growth in their real estate practices; in the Miami regional results, 15 percent of firm leaders said they expect real estate to be the practice with the most growth next year.

Sonberg expects his firm’s real estate work to continue at a high level. That’s especially true in Florida, he said, where real estate developers are remaking the landscape around Miami by eyeing potential projects in Broward and Palm Beach counties. He and his colleague, Wright, also noted an ambitious plan by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to develop an area in downtown Tampa.

GrayRobinson President Mayanne Downs had a similar take, saying that in light of increased real estate development, she’s seen a high demand for legal work in the realms of land use, permitting, planning and zoning. She also noted she’s starting to see an uptick in construction-related litigation that’s followed some of the real estate development in the state in the recent past.

“Real estate transactions are up,” Downs said, “and with that, all the stuff that goes with it.”

Law firms themselves have their own real estate and expansion plans. Downs noted GrayRobinson has a relatively new office location in Miami after relocating in 2015 to the downtown Wells Fargo Center. And Sonberg said Holland & Knight plans to add a sixth floor to its lease in the South Florida hub city.

Those developments appear to align with the survey results—83 percent of firm leaders in Florida said they expect to add lateral partners in Miami next year. The next most popular responses were New York, where 33 percent of firm leaders said they expect to hire laterals, and in Los Angeles and Chicago, where 17 percent said they expect to add to their partner ranks.

Overall, 72 percent of survey respondents said they would expect in 2017 to increase their firms’ total head count by 1 to 5 percent, while 14 percent anticipated more growth of 6 to10 percent. The remaining 14 percent of firm leaders said they expected to keep their lawyer head count the same in 2017 as it was in 2016.

Downs, for her part, said she’s focusing on hiring in Miami, but she also stressed that she’s engaged in a lot of recruiting throughout many of GrayRobinson‘s offices in Florida.

“Miami is buzzing. … It’s almost as if there’s an electric hum in the air,” she said. “So Miami for sure. But I really am seeing the excitement around the state.”

Source: DBR