October 30, 2014

Palm Beach County

There's an art and a science to creating a dynamic business environment, and in Palm Beach County the connection is clear. Business and community leaders are capitalizing on the region's economic strength and enviable quality of life to attract new companies and retain established players.

"The art of growing a good business climate lies in awareness of citizens' economic and cultural needs," says William P. Sklar, partner-in-charge for the law firm Foley & Lardner, in West Palm Beach. "By being attentive to both, we are increasing the economic opportunities, employment base and services available to our population.

The science is in the specifics of doing these things, and we pay attention to those, too."

Start-up and well-known high technology companies are joining Palm Beach County's core agriculture, marine and manufacturing industries, attracted by the area's new research facilities, wired-to-the-world telecommunications infrastructure and plentiful venture capital. At the same time, communities are attracting residents as well as visitors with world class arts, entertainment and leisure activities.

"In Palm Beach County, culture means business," says William E. Ray, president of the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. "Culture is education as well as entertainment. Quality local culture creates a better place to visit and spend money, and it creates a better place to live and work, too--important elements of any community's business profile."

Growth Garners Attention

"There's been a committed focus on the part of Palm Beach County, the business community and the educational community to position the area as a place new businesses will want to come," says Nancy Graham, president of the Palm Beach Division of Watermark Communities and former mayor of West Palm Beach. "Even though this is the largest county east of the Mississippi, with phenomenal growth, it still retains a hometown feel."

"Palm Beach County is centrally located in the world," adds Lynda J. Harris, shareholder at the Carlton Fields law firm. "This is a great place to live, work and play." Harris, a land use and real estate law specialist, sees development taking place throughout the county as a sign that prosperous times will last. "Major real estate development takes a lot of cash equity, and as more people move in, more and larger businesses will follow."

The good life does not necessarily come at a high price to businesses or their executives. "A Fortune 500 CEO who brings a business to Palm Beach County can expect savings across the board," says Bill Dougherty, vice president and broker for The Marrano Group. "This area is less expensive than most corporate headquarters cities. We have the facilities, a well-educated employee base--and people won't get sticker shock looking at a home here."

Businesses benefit from local government grant programs aimed at strengthening the economy.

Maude Ford Lee, who chairs the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners, explains: "In 1993, the Commissioners created one of the state's first and more successful economic development incentive programs. The Job Growth Incentive Grant Program provides grants to existing local businesses planning to expand or to companies considering relocating here. So far, 48 grants have been awarded for $8.5 million, creating 7,508 new jobs." Major companies are counted among the 48 grantees, including businesses in the six priority cluster industries targeted by the Business Development Board (BDB) of Palm Beach County: communications and information technology; aerospace and engineering; agribusiness; business and financial services; medical, pharmaceutical and healthcare; and tourism, recreation and entertainment.

The BDB is Palm Beach County's official economic development organization. Working through industry-specific cluster groups among area businesses, the BDB pools knowledge and fosters action plans for economic development within each cluster. The private, not-for-profit organization has been very successful in attracting and retaining businesses, says Larry Pelton, president. Since 1993, 155 company relocations and expansions assisted by the BDB resulted in the creation of more than 15,000 jobs and added an estimated $2 billion to the Palm Beach County economy.

"We surpassed our annual goal of 3,000 jobs within the first four months of this fiscal year," says Pelton. Among the companies adding jobs in Palm Beach County are Pratt & Whitney's Space Propulsion Systems, AutoNation, and Walgreen Co., which announced in April 2000 its plans for a new 650,000-square-foot distribution facility in the Palm Beach Park of Commerce near Palm Beach Gardens.

Five months of negotiations helped keep Pratt & Whitney jobs in West Palm Beach after the company announced headcount reductions in late 1999. A unit of United Technologies Corporation based in East Hartford, Conn., Pratt & Whitney designs and manufactures engines for commercial, military and general aviation aircraft, and space propulsion systems.

State representative Sharon Merchant was part of a team including Congressman Mark Foley, Commissioner Karen Marcus and the BDB's Larry Pelton who worked to retain Pratt & Whitney jobs. Merchant says, "It was imperative for us to work together to keep valuable high-tech, high-wage jobs in our community. The value of United Technologies and their subcontractors throughout Florida is enormous, and the value that their employees bring to our community is incalculable."

"The team's retention plan helped keep us in Florida," agrees Patrick Lowden, communications manager for Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion Operations. "And we can't forget that Governor Jeb Bush had a hand in it, too."

The InternetCoast Is Born

The Palm Beach BDB is a lead organization in the InternetCoast initiative, a private-sector-based effort to create a southeast Florida "brand" in the nation's high technology sector. (see sidebar below). Initiative territory extends from Palm Beach south to Miami, and its goals include increasing the number of knowledge-based workers in the area, attracting additional venture capital to the sector, and augmenting the region's available telecommunications bandwidth.

The region's low cost of living and attractive lifestyle, plus the existing availability of knowledge workers, application service providers (ASPs) and office space are key factors that bolster the initiative's case. National attention has helped, too: Boca Raton/West Palm Beach claimed the number one spot on a list of top 20 hot cities for entrepreneurs prepared by Dun & Bradstreet and Entrepreneur in 1999.

BDB's Pelton says the area's educational institutions are involved as well. "We're working closely with schools and universities to help them develop curriculum to meet the needs of technology employers and to help non-technical businesses learn more about electronic commerce," he explains.

The InternetCoast initiative already is having an impact on the region, according to Michael Corbit, Americas Marketing Manager for Citrix Systems and InternetCoast chair. "The InternetCoast is helping unite south Florida's business community, educational institutions and government to gain recognition as a worldwide hub for the Internet. The IT and communication industry is playing a larger role here than ever before, and the economic impact moving forward will continue to be positive."

Corbit credits initiative leaders with successfully recognizing their shared interests. "The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, the Broward Alliance and the Miami-Dade Beacon Council have been a tremendous resource for the InternetCoast initiative," he says. "These three economic development organizations have worked harmoniously to help drive this effort."

High Tech Hits Stride

At Boca Raton's Qtera Corporation, high technology activity has already shifted into overdrive. The company, which produces high-performance optical networking systems, was recently purchased by Nortel Networks of Brampton, Ontario. The deal is worth up to $3.25 billion in Nortel Networks common shares. Qtera will remain headquartered in Boca Raton.

BlueStar Communications Inc., a Nashville-based provider of broadband communications and Internet access to small and medium-sized businesses, began offering service in Palm Beach County in October 1999. The company offers high-speed, inexpensive Internet access, web hosting and e-mail services, primarily using DSL technology, to businesses throughout the county.

Other technology companies with global stature operating in Palm Beach County include Motorola Messaging Systems Products Group in Boynton Beach and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a United Technologies Corporation unit which designs and manufactures helicopters for commercial, industrial and military uses. Applied Digital Solutions, a $200-million-plus technology company based in Palm Beach, was ranked as the fifth fastest growing company in the U.S. by Deloitte & Touche's "Technology Fast 500" survey last year and is strategically acquiring companies to become a major player in the e-business arena.

Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson P.A., the largest Florida-only law firm, is on the front line of technology development, currently representing more than 10 Internet, dot-com, technology venture capital groups and technology companies in Palm Beach County alone. The firm represents more than 100 such companies statewide. Charles A. Schuette, the firm's chairman and CEO, says the firm is committed to developing its West Palm Beach office which was acquired five years ago.

Financing the Future

Vitality in the high tech industry is just one indicator of the expansion taking place in Palm Beach County, says Tom Kuntz, chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, South Florida. "While our region encompasses Palm Beach, Broward, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties, we've zeroed in on the significant opportunities Palm Beach County presents. It's a large geographic market, and it's growing both in number of businesses and the influx of personal wealth."

The bank's loans to small businesses in the first quarter of 2000 were 90% higher than the same period in 1999, says Kuntz. SunTrust has 27 offices in Palm Beach County and continues to add resources for larger companies and private banking.

Bank of America also sees Palm Beach County as a growth market, says Bill Helmly, market president for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. "Most of our activity here is from businesses with one to 10 million dollars in annual revenue--especially high-tech, start-up companies and agribusiness. A lot of wealth is being created here. We're seeing entrepreneurs cash out, and we're seeing baby boomers inherit their parents' wealth."

The bank's private banking services are thriving in the county as a result. The Private Bank of Bank of America is North America's largest, with $130.5 billion in assets under management. Overall, the company serves more than 30 million households and two million businesses across the country with about 23% of its revenue coming from Florida.

Douglas Regan, president, Palm Beach Region for Northern Trust Bank, sees opportunities in the intergenerational transfer of wealth. Northern Trust Bank, with $30 billion under management statewide, is the largest personal asset manager in Florida. "To be relevant to clients who are used to using ATMs and the Internet, we are working to make banking technology friendlier and more efficient," says Regan. "Palm Beach County has an educated, demanding and discerning client base, so to serve them we're both high-tech and high-touch."

In May 2000, Chicago-based Northern Trust Corporation acquired Carl Domino Associates LP, a registered investment adviser in West Palm Beach with more than $2 billion in assets under management. The group, renamed Northern Trust Value Investors, will retain its team of professionals, says Carl Domino, president and CEO. "While we will report to a separate board of directors in Chicago," he explains, "our proximity to local Northern Trust offices will benefit both firms." Regan explains that Carl Domino Associates, a value investment manager, will complement Northern Trust's growth investment style.

Domino points to his company as a model of the kind of business Palm Beach County seeks to attract. "We're Florida-based, with a national scope. In 13 years, we created 40 jobs--non-polluting, high-skilled, well-paying jobs."

Historically, the population of Palm Beach County swelled in the winter and tapered off in the summer months. As the county's economic base becomes more diverse, that swing is vanishing. "We experienced very little seasonality last year," says Rebekah M. Lowe, region executive for Wachovia Bank, NA. "This has become a year-round market for us, and our trajectory of growth is very steep."

The bank is adding five branches in Palm Beach County and recently expanded its corporate banking, commercial real estate and business banking teams. With regional headquarters in downtown West Palm Beach, the bank handles a full range of financial services, including private banking, trust, investment, consumer and small business services. The bank's holding company, Wachovia Corporation, has dual headquarters in Atlanta and Winston-Salem and total assets of $67.4 billion.

First Union's presence in the county includes private banking offices in Palm Beach, Boca Raton and North Palm Beach. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank is launching a new division that will develop an online e-commerce marketplace for small to mid-sized businesses. First Union, with $254 billion in assets, is a leading provider of financial services to 16 million retail and corporate customers throughout the nation.

Harris Trust/Bank of Montreal has an office in West Palm Beach and also serves as an agent for Palm Beach National Bank's trust department. "We're the only Canadian bank with a full service private bank in Florida," says John M. Stewart, chairman. "That has helped us grow, since a sizable number of Canadians spend time here. Our exceptional investment performance is drawing customers as well." The bank also has offices in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and Vero Beach.

FleetBoston Financial Corporation chose Boca Raton as the location for its first Quick & Reilly discount brokerage office outside of Wall Street in 1974. Quick & Reilly offices now operate in Palm Beach and North Palm Beach.

Fleet, the nation's sixth largest commercial lender, employs 100 in Palm Beach County in its retail banking, private clients group, small business services, retail and wholesale mortgage and Quick & Reilly offices.

The bank continues to experience growth in both retail and wholesale mortgages, says Jim Duffy, regional manager.

Capital Factors, part of the $30 billion Union Planters Bank group, specializes in factoring, the purchase of accounts receivable for immediate cash. Technology, international trade and the availability of new financial services products are providing growth opportunities, says Scott A. MacMillan, senior vice president. Headquartered in Boca Raton, the company also has a Fort Lauderdale office. Capital Factors is one of the top 10 factors nationwide.

People Serving People Find Success

"Three years ago, we created a separate region to serve our Palm Beach area members, because we saw business growth and population growth," says David Wells, assistant vice president of sales at AvMed, Florida's oldest and largest not-for-profit HMO. AvMed provides quality healthcare to nearly 330,000 members across the state through a provider network of nearly 7,500 physicians and 76 hospitals. "The Palm Beach region is very important to AvMed," Wells points out, adding that the company expects to grow statewide by 15% this year.

Professional services organizations are also adjusting business strategies to accommodate the region's growth. At Carlton Fields, Gary Brandenburg, West Palm Beach office managing shareholder for the law firm, says, "As the county has grown, the work we handle has become more technical in nature. The county has also become much more diverse economically and culturally." Carlton Fields has offices in West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, Tallahassee, Pensacola, St. Petersburg and Miami, with more than 175 lawyers.

Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Shuster & Russell P.A. is a full-service law firm with nine offices throughout the state. Steven R. Parson, administrative partner for the firm's West Palm Beach office, notes increased activity in the western part of the county, site of the new Wellington Green regional mall. With strong roots and expertise in zoning and land development law, the firm has seen its business expand along with development activity countywide.

Holland & Knight LLP is among the largest and fastest growing law firms in the world with more than 950 lawyers practicing in more than 100 areas of law. The firm has 17 lawyers in its West Palm Beach office and 10 other offices in Florida. An innovator in law firm technology, Holland & Knight provides a secure communications network to link its clients and lawyers with each other and with Internet, intranet and extranet sites. Holland & Knight has an international presence in Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv.

Foley & Lardner's West Palm Beach office is located in the heart of downtown redevelopment.

The office's 12 attorneys offer a broad range of legal services, including general corporate, real estate, litigation and estates and trusts. In the past year, the volume of work the firm does for e-commerce companies has more than doubled, says William P. Sklar, partner-in-charge. Among the company's clients are a credit card company that provides online banking internationally, a skincare products company and an interactive mediation service for business.

Kathy Adams, president and CEO of MediaReach Public Relations in West Palm Beach, has seen companies in the area become more sophisticated in their understanding of the value of public relations. "Corporate sponsorship of the arts and community non-profits is increasing, and because of our connections in the community and statewide, we can help companies become aware of sponsorship opportunities. Successful companies should give back, and they are doing that here. They benefit, and the community appreciates it."

TEC, an international association of CEOs, offers seminars, coaching and other resources to its members, and access to advice from 5,000 CEOs via its TEC network and website. "Business-to-business activity is extremely strong in Palm Beach County," says Scott Sherman, one of TEC's local chairmen. TEC's new Presidents' Forum program brings executives of smaller, entrepreneurial companies together to strategize.

Other programs help key executives and "gatekeepers" become more productive.

"Our corporate members are friends, equals and heroes," says States Hines, who also chairs TEC groups in Palm Beach County. "We help them come up with strategies, rather than tactics, for growing their companies." Hines compares the region's business climate to that of Los Angeles 25 years ago. "Then it was electronics. Today it's dot-coms. This is an exciting place to be."

Palm Beach business success stories continue to draw national attention. The Wackenhut Corporation, based in Palm Beach Gardens, was recently included in the Forbes "Platinum List--America's Best Big Companies." The growth-oriented firm, which specializes in security-related business services, reported revenues of $2.1 billion in 1999.

Luxury car sales are another good indicator of business vitality in the county, and at Mercedes-Benz of Palm Beach (formerly Gulf Stream Motors) that indicator topped $100 million last year. While the dealership's business is historically seasonal, the peaks and troughs are now occurring at higher levels, says Rick Bastin, president. "This past winter, business was extremely strong. We have added 7,000 square feet to our service and body shop areas, and we could expand even more to accommodate the business that's coming in."

Bull Market for Building

Redevelopment of downtown properties and new development projects are generating excitement countywide, with both commercial and residential sectors thriving.

"This market is demand-driven, and properties are filling up as fast as they're built," says Scott Brenner, president/broker, Coldwell Banker Commercial-Brenner Real Estate Group. "We're seeing activity in all sectors, including industrial, office development and apartments. I think we'll continue to see redevelopment as our population grows, most significantly on the east side of the county near the water. We're already seeing the trend as more technology companies are established, and people want to be close to where they work." CBC-BREG expects its business to grow by 50% this year.

The entire commercial real estate business is very strong in all segments, according to Bill Mitchell, who directs Arvida Realty Services' commercial division in Palm Beach County. "Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Delray, Boynton Beach and Lake Worth have all caught the vision. The flight away from downtown areas is reversing, and these downtowns are becoming true communities."

Nancy Graham, mayor of West Palm Beach from 1991 to 1999, says, "The biggest thing we did in West Palm Beach is give people a sense of community. The downtown area is your living room, and people judge you by what they see there. We wanted to create a downtown that looked like people cared about it." Graham is currently president of the Palm Beach division of Watermark Communities, a developer of waterfront and country club communities, headquartered in Bonita Springs.

The success of the revitalization effort can be measured by the rising downtown property values, says Graham--an increase of 27% in the last two years of her tenure. Joel T. Daves, present mayor of West Palm Beach, points out that "the dollar volume of building permits has increased five-fold over the last few years." He adds, "We are now in the midst of a building boom unparalleled in our history. By 2010, we expect to have 6,000 new downtown residences."

Downtown Is Development-Friendly

"City Hall shares our goals for revitalizing the downtown district," says Bill Fountain, executive director for the Downtown Development Authority of West Palm Beach (DDA). He applauds the city's development-friendly attitude and investment in capital improvements, services and special events in support of those goals.

"West Palm Beach is a great example of how public-private relationships can make redevelopment possible," says Lynda J. Harris, Carlton Fields shareholder and chair of the DDA.

CityPlace, a new $375 million residential, commercial and retail project under development by CityPlace Partners, is set to open in October 2000. A two-story, 110,000-square-foot Macy's department store, 10 restaurants, a 20-screen movie complex and grocery store are among its first tenants. The new $50 million Palm Beach County Convention Center and a convention hotel are on adjacent property. "With the opening of CityPlace, our downtown core will double in size," says Fountain.

CityPlace Partners COO Bruce Macleod adds, "CityPlace is important to the whole county's economic development. It will help to create a nucleus for culture, shopping and entertainment for the region."

Marriott, ITC^Deltacom and Bank of America are among the tenants of Navarro Lowrey properties Centrepark and Centrepark West in West Palm Beach. Company co-founder Frank Navarro says, "Bank of America chose the Centrepark location for a training center and moved into 20,000 square feet in January 2000. We were able to offer them the space they needed, all on one floor, with plenty of parking and proximity to I-95." Centrepark tenants will benefit from the presence of ITC-Deltacom's 26,000-square-foot switch facility on the premises. "The advanced telecommunications services offered by both ITC-Deltacom and BellSouth at the park will be especially attractive to high-tech companies," Navarro points out.

Clematis Street Draws Crowds

Law offices, start-up companies, and Internet and e-commerce firms are among the tenants of Galleria International Corporate Suites, a three-story historical landmark building on West Palm Beach's Clematis Street. The building's executive suites, private offices and first-floor retail space are fully leased, says Erin Koons, center manager. The building's "virtual office" services are especially popular. Downtown activities--for example, a Friday outdoor concert and brown-bag lunch event at Centennial Fountain--generate retail traffic for the building.

There are now more than 50 restaurants and 30 retail establishments in the downtown district in West Palm Beach. "Rather than abandon downtown areas, cities are recreating exciting environments for 24-hours-a-day, year-round living, working and playing," says Lynn Fitzpatrick, project manager at Renaissance Partners. The West Palm Beach real estate investment company was among the first private sector groups to participate in the transformation of the city's downtown Clematis Street Corridor and continues to purchase and rehabilitate commercial, retail, office and residential properties there.

David H. Talley, president of the Northern Palm Beaches Chamber of Commerce, credits Nancy Graham's leadership for West Palm Beach's thriving redevelopment. He says, "Nancy Graham has done miracles for West Palm Beach. Now that she's working for Watermark, we're hoping she will be a catalyst for bringing similar activity to North County."

New Building Takes Off in North Palm Beach and Jupiter

North Palm Beach, located along Lake Worth Lagoon, features numerous waterways linking private homes, condominiums and parks with the Intracoastal Waterway. Mayor Joseph A. Tringali calls the village "the heart of northern Palm Beach County."

The recent sale of 14,880 acres of land held by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the last large tracts of buildable land in the northern part of the county, has boosted new construction opportunities there. Watermark Communities purchased the largest share of the MacArthur parcel.

Watermark has two new residential communities in north county, Jupiter Yacht Club and Harbour Isles. Both communities feature direct Intracoastal Waterway access. Watermark's Graham says, "These developments are built with great gathering spots for the public. They demonstrate Watermark's ability to balance the protection of the environment with compatible development."

Catalfumo Construction and Development also purchased a portion of the MacArthur Foundation property--300 acres of prime commercial land surrounding the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens. Catalfumo's plans for the property include hotels, retail, industrial and office space, says president Dan Catalfumo, who points out that countywide "the areas of industrial, medical and retail construction are exceptionally strong."

Post Buckley Schuh & Jernigan is involved in north county building as well. "One of our most exciting projects right now is a new community center for the town of Jupiter," says Skip Harvey, program manager for the West Palm Beach office. Post Buckley is providing architectural and engineering services for the new $11 million, 60,000-square-foot structure next to the town's Municipal Complex. The 40-year-old firm, with 60 offices worldwide, is consistently ranked among the top U.S. engineering design firms by Engineering News-Record.

Abacoa, a 2,055-acre master-planned, mixed-use community in Jupiter, will be home to 6,073 residences, a public golf course and clubhouse and more than 3 million square feet of commercial space when complete. The Abacoa Development Company, headed by Nader Salour, is the master developer of the project. The first phase of Abacoa's pedestrian-friendly Town Center is open; a multiplex theater begins operation in November.

Also at Abacoa's doorstep are the campuses of the John D. MacArthur branch of Florida Atlantic University and the Honors College.

Delray Beach Blossoms

Led by Mayor David Schmidt, Delray Beach in south Palm Beach County has its own success story in the recent redevelopment of Atlantic Avenue.

Galleries, restaurants, entertainment and festivals have heightened the area's appeal as a destination for locals and visitors. In March 2000, a partnership between the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and several prominent real estate developers announced a project that will bring 200 upscale rental apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail space to East Atlantic Avenue. A new outdoor band shell at Old School Square Cultural Arts Center will join the center's Cornell Museum of Art & History and Crest Theatre. Delray Beach will blossom even more when the new world headquarters of the American Orchid Society opens in September 2000.

The Delray Beach Council of 100, part of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, works closely with the city, economic development organizations and developers on projects that expand the city's tax base and create new jobs.

Newcomers seeking an overview of the area's real estate offerings can turn to Illustrated Properties, an independent real estate brokerage firm that has specialized in preferred properties in the Palm Beaches for more than 20 years. Among its innovative services is a website with virtual tours of its listed properties.

Culture Sets the Stage

Both residents and visitors enjoy Palm Beach County's extensive cultural and recreational offerings. William E. Ray, president of Palm Beach County Cultural Council, sees substantial benefits to the county economy from the cultural organizations themselves.

"Nonprofit cultural organizations employ highly skilled people, often recruited from elsewhere, who purchase local goods and services, occupy hotel rooms and have a healthy multiplier effect within the local economy. Cultural organizations give businesses great brand identification for corporate sponsorships, and they give managers great connections, through board and committee service, with community and political leaders and with wealthy philanthropists."

The Palm Beach County Cultural Council develops, coordinates and promotes the arts and cultural activities throughout Palm Beach County with an annual budget of $3.6 million.

Since its opening in 1992, the 2,200-seat Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach has become world-renowned. The Clematis Street Theatre, the Meyer Amphitheatre, the North Museum and Armory Arts Center and the Dreyfoos School of Arts are among the community's cultural venues. Every Thursday night, West Palm Beach holds a celebration called Clematis by Night, with free live music in front of the public library. The event draws on average 10,000 people of all ages to the Clematis Street corridor, where they shop, dine, dance and enjoy the nighttime cityscape.

The Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach, the Florida Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton and the Lighthouse Center for the Arts in Tequesta host a variety of events including ballet, opera and concerts for every musical taste. Levenger, a catalog company marketing high-quality writing instruments, desks, filing systems and reading lamps to avid readers, hosted this year's BookFest, a major south Florida cultural event featuring celebrity authors, Florida writers and books about Florida. Levenger has its headquarters and retail store in Delray Beach.

The county's new Equestrian Commission, led by executive director Linda Wirtz, is working to raise the profile of the area's equestrian industry, which contributes an estimated $300 million to the economy annually. The two most significant events in the world polo community are held in Palm Beach County--the U.S. Open in Wellington and the U.S. Polo Association Gold Cup in Boca Raton. The Cosequin Winter Equestrian Festival, the largest horse show in the world, takes place from January through March at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington. Horse Park at Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee hosted the Olympic Dressage Selection Trials in May 2000.

The Art of Living Well

With plenty of five-star, five-diamond hotels and restaurants in addition to its ample cultural and leisure activities, Palm Beach County has a keen attraction for visitors. Mac McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau, reports the region is becoming more popular with visitors every year--the county saw a nine percent jump in its be

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