May 22, 2015
Florida Tech's natural niche


The Vero Beach Marine Lab studies juvenile tarpon and snook.

Southeast Florida Roundup

Florida Tech's natural niche

Mike Vogel | 2/28/2014

For three decades, marine researchers from the Melbournebased Florida Institute of Technology have used a former U.S. Air Force radar tracking station on a four-acre site in Indian River Shores in Indian River County as a lab. "It's old," says one of the researchers, Jon Shenker, an associate professor and fish biologist who has studied the Indian River Lagoon for 23 years. "We still do fantastic stuff there, but we could do so much more."

To that end, Florida Tech wants to raise $10 million to build a world-class education, research and outreach center there dedicated to the lagoon. It would be the latest addition to a growing nature related niche in Indian River, best known for its citrus, tourism and real estate, including second homes for executives.

The county, from the Florida Tech site, already has a base in aquaculture with companies raising cobia, aquarium fish and shrimp. Privately held Florida Organic Aquaculture last year built in Fellsmere on a 120-acre facility to raise sushi-grade shrimp. Meanwhile, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' 225-acre National Elephant Center opened in 2013, also in Fellsmere, and brought in its first four elephants. Zoos collaborated to create the center as a model for elephant care to support the zoos in managing their elephants.

Back at the Vero Beach Marine Lab, whose director is Junda Lin, researchers continue their work. Shenker, for example, studies juvenile tarpon and snook in their mangrove nursery habitat while looking forward to the new facility.

"We're really jazzed about it," Shenker says.


Atlass Insurance Group

Second-generation yachtsman Frank Atlass founded his Atlass Insurance Group in 1981 after a career as a media executive, charter boat owner and captain and yacht broker. The company, which employs 28 at its Fort Lauderdale headquarters, 12 in a Cocoa Beach office and three in Rhode Island, had its best year in revenue ($7.5 million) and profit in 2013 following the recession. Atlass reports boat sales are improving with center console-boats being the best sellers. It insures 8,000 boats and yachts and another 4,000 marine facilities and businesses, other businesses, autos, homes and collections. Boats insured range up to $150 million.


Office Depot hired Players Hare Stephen E. Hare, formerly an executive at Wendy's and Wendy's/ Arby's Group, as executive vice president and CFO. Co-CFO Mike Newman retired. Interim co-CFO Deb O'Connor returned to senior vice president for finance and co-chief accounting officer. AutoNation CFO Mike Short resigned. Cheryl Scully, vice president and treasurer, is interim CFO.


BELLE GLADE — St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group canceled its plan to build wind turbines in western Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Post.

BOCA RATON — Office Depot chose Boca and its existing 625,000-sq.-ft. campus there for the site of its global headquarters following its merger with Naperville, Ill.-based OfficeMax. Global Tower Partners laid off 62. » A bankruptcy court judge approved the $154-million sale of risk information and analytics company TLO to TransUnion. TLO was founded by the late data pioneer Hank Asher. » Kolter Group has proposed building a 200- room Hyatt Place Hotel downtown. Florida Atlantic University trustees chose Clemson University vice president for economic development John Kelly as FAU's new president.

DEERFIELD BEACH — Konover South closed a buy-back of a $100-million, 883,926-sq.-ft. retail portfolio. The nine properties, developed or redeveloped by Konover, include Admirals Cove in Jupiter, Inverray Falls in Lauderhill and Plaza at Davie.

FORT LAUDERDALE — CFLB Partnership, represented by Steven Cronig and other attorneys from Hinshaw & Culbertson and by Sergio A. Pagliery, P.A., purchased the former Trump Hotel for $115 million and closed on a $120-million loan from Ladder Capital Finance. CFLB will renovate the property, which includes 290 condo units for sale, and operate it as a Conrad Hotel. » Keolis Transit Services laid off 155 after losing a contract at the airport. » Passenger rail company All Aboard Florida says it will build its downtown Fort Lauderdale station along the Florida East Coast Railway track between Broward Boulevard and NW 4th Street.

HOLLYWOOD — Akamai Technologies paid $370 million to acquire Hollywoodbased cybersecurity firm Prolexic Technologies. Prolexic then announced it would relocate its headquarters to downtown Fort Lauderdale's New River Center office building along with 120 existing jobs and will add 118 jobs at an average salary of $100,000. State and local incentives totaled $1.6 million.

MARGATE — About a year after moving into a renovated Margate shopping center with projections of creating 700 jobs in three years, deals company Saveology moved to its smaller, former headquarters in Tamarac and moved its call center work to Jamaica.

STUART — Martin County commissioners approved a 50% cut in taxes for Indiantown Enterprise Zone businesses. » Sunglass company PeakVision Sports Eyeware moved its headquarters and distribution center to Stuart from Overland Park, Kan., and announced a partnership with golf legend Jack Nicklaus and the Nicklaus Cos. To create a Nicklaus-branded sunglasses line benefiting the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.

VERO BEACH — Aluminum boat trailer manufacturer Float-On will add 45 employees in the next three years and a new product line in 2014 as it receives a local jobs grant of up to $137,000 from Indian River County.

WEST PALM BEACH — Hartford, Conn.- based Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors and Boca Raton-based Crocker Partners acquired the 20-story Esperante office tower from CBRE Global Investors for $71 million. » Dallasbased Monitronics International acquired West Palm Beach-based alarm company Security Networks, closed its headquarters and laid off 178.

WESTON — Pauline Braathen, a longtime Cleveland Clinic Florida patient and supporter, gave the organization $30 million, the largest gift in its history, to construct a fivestory, 143,000-sq.-ft. Egil and Pauline Braathen Facility to house the Pauline Braathen Neurological Center and Cleveland Clinic Florida's Cancer Center. Braathen, a London-born fashion model and later a fashion business owner, was married to Egil Braathen, a Norwegian property developer, who died in 2009 after having Alzheimer's. Pauline Braathen is a resident of The World, a private apartment ship.

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