Economic Yearbook 2005 - Southeast Florida
Construction is booming.
Southeast Florida's building boom continues to fuel the region's economy. In Miami-Dade, where unemployment has dropped to its lowest level since the dot-com craze of the late '90s, job growth in the construction sector grew 4.3% last year, nearly three times the county's overall rate, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. In Broward, construction led all other sectors in job creation, with a 6.6% gain -- more than double the statewide average for construction job growth. The sector grew 3.9% in Palm Beach County.
Residential construction remains strong despite a dwindling supply of land in the western fringes. Palm Beach County led the region in housing starts last year with 8,742 (a slight dip from 2003), according to market research firm Metrostudy. Miami-Dade trailed closely with 8,614 starts -- a 40% jump from a year earlier; Broward recorded a 27% gain, with 4,974 starts.
Condo construction is also skyrocketing, thanks to a weak dollar, low interest rates and planning codes that encourage high-rise infill. Analysts say the condo craze will grow as the land squeeze tightens. A year ago, Miami-based home builder Lennar announced plans for its first mid-rise tower.
"The housing market looks very, very strong," says Alan Levan, chairman of Fort Lauderdale-based Bank-Atlantic and home builder Levitt Corp. "I expect the sale of new homes to remain at record levels."
The condo market is less certain. While some analysts worry about speculators pushing condo sales, Levan says renters are occupying the investment purchases of other buyers, meaning housing demand remains strong.
In addition to the boost from housing, Miami-Dade will benefit from a $2.9-billion bond measure voters approved for parks and infrastructure.
NEW COMPANIESSingapore-based Tanker Pacific Management has established a base in Miami to oversee operations in North and South America, creating 30 jobs. The company specializes in oil tanker transportation services and offshore petroleum storage.
Kraft Foods has moved its Latin American headquarters from Rye, N.Y., to Miami, creating 107 jobs.
AgU Entertainment, a startup by a group of Hollywood veterans, is opening the East Coast's largest film and television production facility in Lauderdale Lakes.
Physician services provider Sterling Healthcare of Durham, N.C., has opened an executive office in Miami, with employment expected to hit 143.
Shipping company DHL has selected Plantation for its Americas headquarters, creating an estimated 600 jobs.
EXPANSIONSSoftware maker Citrix Systems is adding 130 employees to its Fort Lauderdale operation.
American Sales and Management, an aviation support services company headquartered near Miami International Airport, is expanding its 900-person workforce by 300.
Miami-based Quantum Storage Systems, a maker of plastic storage containers, has announced it will triple its existing workforce of 100.
After considering out-of-state locations, Dyadic International, a producer of biological products for commercial and industrial applications, has announced it will consolidate its operations at a new corporate headquarters in Jupiter.
Medical instruments maker Boston Scientific will expand its Miami operation, adding 120 in three years to its workforce of 800.
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is up for re-election with no serious opponents. Some supporters are pushing him to enter the race for governor in 2006. But from which party? The lifelong Democrat switched to Independent in 2000 following the seizure of Cuban Elian Gonzalez...
City and county leaders again will lobby the Legislature this spring for a tax rebate to help pay for a $420-million baseball stadium next to the Orange Bowl...
Negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas are at a standstill, but the battle to bring the headquarters, or secretariat, to Miami rages on. But when, local leaders ask, will President Bush support the bid?...
Hoping to provide a boost to the long-blighted Overtown neighborhood, the City Commission has approved a $200-million mixed-use development.
Notable Names: Miami banker and civic leader Adolfo Henriques has been tapped to head Florida East Coast Industries, one of the state's oldest companies and largest landowners....
City Commissioner Johnny Winton, a real estate executive in private life, remains the city's champion of urban infill, paving the way for an unprecedented building boom in Miami's central business district and the surrounding areas.
County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, a former Miami-Dade police chief, rode into office last fall on a promise to clean up county government. Now he's asking voters to strip procurement powers from the county commissioners. A showdown looms...
Three years ago, local leaders sighed in relief when Burger King backed off its threat to relocate its headquarters from Miami-Dade, where it employs about 500. But after its sale to Fort Worth-based Texas Pacific Group in 2002, the fast-food giant is rumored to be eyeing other cities to set up shop.
Rising housing costs have spurred a condo boom in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Twenty projects with more than 3,000 units are rising in the city's central core. Few will have prices starting under $200,000...
An aggressive domestic marketing campaign and a weak dollar overseas helped Broward set a record for visitors last year, topping the 9 million mark for the first time ever.
Notable Names: South Florida Sun-Sentinel circulation manager Howard Greenberg takes over as chairman of the Broward Alliance at a time when the county is experiencing many of the growing pains -- rising living costs, crowded roadways and corporate flight -- once thought limited to Miami-Dade...
The major U.S. airlines may be faltering, but Jacob Schorr, CEO of Broward-based Spirit Airlines, has the privately held discount carrier flying high. The airline is beefing up its fleet and has doubled revenue to $450 million in five years.
Broward is the undisputed leader of Florida's marine industry, generating 29% of all sales and 109,000 jobs. Last year's hurricane season helped boost those figures, as damage to marinas and docking facilities farther up the coast forced boaters to Broward, where damage was insignificant...
The county was once the affordable alternative to Miami-Dade. But a 22% jump in the median sales price of existing homes last year, to nearly $280,000, is making the county a little less affordable. Economic development officials worry the county may lose its appeal for corporate
expansions and relocations...
Broward's ambitious blueprint for generating sustainable growth, a massive tome released last fall known as the VisionBroward Report, concludes that Broward must seek regional solutions to economic development and land-use challenges.
WEST PALM BEACH
All eyes are on Scripps Research Institute. Plans call for building a massive facility on Mecca Farms in Palm Beach County, but environmentalists are fiercely opposed, concerned that the projects will lead to more sprawl and will hamper the Everglades restoration plan. If Scripps bolts, Broward and Miami-Dade officials say they'll roll out the welcome mat...
The Palm Beach Business Development Board, a public-private agency charged with promoting the county as a place to do business, has come under intense scrutiny amid allegations that some of its members used inside information to profit from the Scripps deal. Some county commissioners reportedly have threatened to withhold public funding for the board.
Notable Names: Tom McLain, chairman of Nabi Biopharmaceuticals, has taken over as chairman of West Palm-based BioFlorida, the state's non-profit biosciences business support and development group...
Robert "Budd" Kneip, founder of the human resources consulting firm The Oasis Group, was named Palm Beach County's Business Leader of the Year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's 2004 Excalibur Awards.
Boca is ground zero for the county's growing biotech industry, but some officials worry that there are not enough qualified workers to go around. To help, the Palm Beach Workforce Alliance has received a $2.3-million federal grant to provide training in biotech fields to workers who have already received their bachelor's degrees...
Buoyed by strong wage increases over the last five years, Boca Raton/West Palm Beach was ranked No. 4 in the nation in economic performance, according to a study by the Milken Institute.
Palm Beach County
Housing costs are skyrocketing in what is already the state's most expensive county. According to the Florida Association of Realtors, the median sales price of existing single-family homes in Palm Beach County last year increased 25%, topping $300,000 for the West Palm/Boca Raton area...
The county's citrus industry is taking a one-two punch: Massive hurricane damage last fall followed by an unexpected canker outbreak...
More than 12,000 workers countywide applied for hurricane-related disaster unemployment benefits.
A coalition of environmental groups is suing the state to block the widening of U.S. 1 at the gateway to the Florida Keys, claiming the project will threaten endangered species. Many Keys residents also oppose the project, fearing it will jam the roads with day-trippers...
The hotel-condo conversion craze has reached Key West. Some tourism officials worry that the island may experience a shortage of hotel rooms during peak season if too many units are sold. Last fall, the Key West City Commission passed a six-month moratorium on full-scale conversions.
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