Fort Lauderdale/Broward County
» The tourism industry, buoyed in part by the addition of several luxury properties during the past few years, continued to grow, with both visitors and spending up nearly 9% since 2011. The average daily room rate grew 3.4%, with 72.7% average occupancy (up 3.2% from 2011). The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau is highlighting those luxury properties with a separate website and Lauderdale Luxe Collection moniker.
» But beach erosion, always a threat to Fort Lauderdale’s tourism industry and its ecosystem, is upsetting traffic and evacuation routes. October and November storms eroded a four-block section of beach along State Highway A1A so badly that the four-lane highway was narrowed to two lanes. Repair work could take three years to complete.
» The medical device industry says that a 2.3% excise tax that kicks in this year on sales of certain medical devices threatens growth in a sector that has seen both homegrown successes in Broward and significant facility development by companies from around the world. The tax is part of the Affordable Care Act, and uncertainty over the act’s implementation and Medicare in general, say many in the industry, may cause medical device makers to cut back their research and development efforts.
» Meanwhile, the county’s call center industry is continuing to shrink. Air France closed its Sunrise call center last year, and CVS Caremark made two separate layoffs of about 300 total employees in its Broward operations — many of them in call-center jobs. American Express, which employs about 3,000 at its Plantation call center, plans to cut about 5,400 jobs nationwide, although it’s not yet clear where the impact will be felt.
People to Watch
» Emilio Benitez: Benitez heads ChildNet, a non-profit that oversees Broward and Palm Beach counties’ child welfare systems for the Department of Children and Family. The two systems have consistently been ranked among the top Florida child welfare agencies.
» Lon Tabatchnick: The developer has until this month to work out final financing for the Margaritaville Resort he is supposed to build on city-owned land on Hollywood’s Broadwalk. Other developers are waiting for construction to finally begin on the 350-room, 17-story Jimmy Buffett-themed resort before moving forward on their own projects.
» Mike Jackson: The AutoNation chairman and CEO is leading the national auto dealership through yet another expansion, most recently purchasing six large dealerships in Texas in a single week. He is also navigating sensitive waters, dropping the Maroone brand in south Florida as the first step in dropping all of the chain’s regional names in favor of AutoNation.
» Asaf “Asi” Cymbal: Cymbal Development is seeking approval for a three-tower, 1,000-unit apartment complex in downtown Fort Lauderdale called Marina Lofts. The firm is also starting construction on a mixed-use luxury retail and office complex in Miami’s Design District.