April 21, 2015
Fort Lauderdale is in expansion mode

Photo: Kevin Lane

Las Olas Boulevard has attracted new bars, restaurants and retail outlets.

Florida's 2014 Economic Yearbook

Fort Lauderdale is in expansion mode

In Depth: Southeast Florida by the numbers

Fort Lauderdale / Broward County

The county's construction and real estate industries have recovered and are driving growth along with other industries, including tourism, which shows no signs of slowing down. Companies in the pharmaceutical industry and other health care-related sectors — from information technology to telehealth to hospitals — have relocated to the county, and existing firms are expanding as the industry grows.Meanwhile, international trade is getting a boost from an on-dock rail link connecting Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The port also is participating in a pilot program that allows fruit from South America to be imported into the U.S. through Florida ports (it previously was only allowed in through northern ports).

With downtown Fort Lauderdale office rents lower than during the boom, companies, especially law firms, are moving from the suburbs into downtown. On Las Olas Boulevard, several bars, restaurants and shops catering to young professionals have opened.Although limited parking may stunt some demand for retail space, interest in land and buildings in the area has surged in anticipation of the more than 3,000 residential units slated for downtown, says Steve Hyatt, senior vice president of Berger Commercial Realty. The third quarter of the year will see the opening of Flagler Village, a 382-unit apartment complex and retail development by Miami-based Related Group. In the rest of the county, the expansion of the airport, the dredging and widening of Port Everglades and the near completion of I-595 are driving demand for new warehouse and distribution space, says Lloyd Berger, president of Berger Commercial Realty.

Trade and retail jobs have led employment growth, with the retail industry growing 5.9% — adding 6,300 jobs during 2013 — and trade and transportation adding 6,800 jobs for 3.9% growth. Companies planning to expand in Broward this year include technology firm Citrix, which is adding 200 jobs; post-secondary education company Anthem Education, which expects to nearly double the size of its 85-person workforce; and Prolexic Technologies, which will add more than 110 jobs. The county is also gaining traction with multinational companies: Brussels-based mining and metals company Nyrstar will open a 25-person Americas headquarters and the German automotive and transportation technology company Bosch Group plans to open its first North American communication center in the county.

Florida East Coast Railway and Port Everglades: This summer, Florida East Coast Railway and Port Everglades will open a $73-million rail project that will allow cargo containers to be transferred directly from ships in the port onto trains. The project, a public-private partnership, makes it possible for as much as 25% of the cargo that comes into the port to be handled by rail, up from 8% today. It should immediately lower the number of trucks on the county's roads and could eventually lower cargo transportation costs.

Actavis: Ireland-based generic pharmaceutical maker Actavis is expanding its Davie warehouse and distribution location, adding 30,000 square feet and hiring some 220 employees (it already has more than 500 workers in Broward).The company, whose distribution headquarters is in Weston, fled recently for FDA approval on generic Restasis and NuvaRing, and launched a generic Lidoderm patch.

Heico: Sales at aviation parts maker Heico, already a $1-billion company after the end of 2013, should continue to rise this year as it uses a $1-billion revolving line of credit to acquire other aviation industry companies. It predicts net income will grow by an average of 20% per year during the next several years.

Rick Case Automotive: Rick Case Automotive Group boasts dealerships for some of the hottest car brands in America, including Hyundai, Honda and Fiat; Rick Case Fiat was No. 1 in U.S. sales of the tiny Italian brand for the entire year. Its newest outlet, Rick Case Volkswagen, was No. 1 in sales in the U.S. during the month it opened. The company will open an Alfa Romeo dealership in the spring and in 2015 plans to open the world's largest Kia dealership.

Fort Lauderdale / Broward County

Norwegian Air Shuttle: At the end of November, Scandinavian airline Norwegian Air Shuttle began direct fights between Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport and Norway, Denmark and Sweden — single-handedly turning that region into one of the county's largest sources of foreign tourists. This year, Norwegian plans to open a crew base in the area (its second U.S. crew base, after New York), and will begin direct fights from Fort Lauderdale to London's Gatwick Airport in July.

People's Trust Insurance: The insurer uses in-house repair experts, a managed-repairs model and investments in computer modeling to offer homeowners insurance. Although founder Mike Gold died in January, the company expects to expand as it moves into an $8-million headquarters at the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University in Deerfield Beach. The company could grow to 600 employees statewide during the next year.

Prolexic Technologies: The cybersecurity firm expects to add 118 jobs to the 120 or so it already has in Florida when it expands and relocates its global headquarters and security operations to Fort Lauderdale from Nearby Hollywood. The company, which plans to spend about $1.6 million on the new headquarters, also announced in December that Massachusetts based Akamai will acquire it; the acquisition doesn't change its plans to expand and relocate.

West Palm Beach / Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County is getting a lift from its aerospace and aviation sectors. Wellington-based B / E Aerospace is expanding into oil and gas services, and both Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne and Sikorsky are growing their operations within the county.

The county's pockets of wealth, low cost of living and office space with waterfront views are attracting companies looking to relocate their headquarters and from hedge funds, says Kelly Smallridge, president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, the county's public-private economic development partnership. Smallridge says she had to hire someone just to handle the volume of calls from hedge funds and other financial companies. A significant problem in sealing deals, Smallridge notes, is the limited supply of Class A office space with amenities. In addition, few properties in desirable locations are large enough for interested companies.In January, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio unveiled a new branding and marketing initiative for a Flagler Financial District downtown, looking to build a brand for the brokerages, banks and other financial companies that have offices there.

Looking ahead, if cargo volume Fort Lauderdale / Broward County grows at PortMiami, Port Everglades or the Port of Palm Beach, the county is likely to see more warehouse and distribution developments, since Miami- Dade and Broward counties have little land left for such development.

On the jobs front, employers added some 13,200 jobs last year, led by retail trade, which increased employment 7.3%. Despite rising housing values, construction lost 800 jobs during the year.

Developers are pursuing several large projects, including Avenir in Palm Beach Gardens, with some 7,000 homes, a children's pediatric center and the first residential campus of Keiser University.Kolter Co. Has a contract to buy 700 acres known as the Briger tract in Palm Beach Gardens.

Palm Beach County

Office Depot: After merging with OfficeMax in November, the Fortune 500 company kept its headquarters in Boca Raton.Under new CEO Roland Smith and a new executive team, the company's 1,700 Boca Raton employees (a figure that could grow with the merger) will likely spend the year dealing with post-merger issues.

Rybovich: Rybovich, one of the largest yacht repair and service facilities in the U.S., is expanding beyond its marinas, dry dock, boatyard, lifts, crew amenities center and other facilities in Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach. This year, its permit to dredge a deeper channel from the Intracoastal Waterway to its Riviera Beach facility will allow it to replace a floating dry dock at the Port of Palm Beach with a larger facility for mega-yachts. In February, West Palm Beach gave Rybovich owner Huizenga Holdings initial approval to build the 20-acre Rybovich Marina Village, which would include six condo towers, 100,000 acres of office space, retail, restaurants and a marina.

SBA Communications: The company, which builds cell phone towers and leases antenna space on the towers and other buildings to carriers, will expand as it moves into a new headquarters building.The company is active in emerging markets, where about 25% of its towers are located — including Brazil, where it will soon own or have usage rights to 5,000 towers.

Allied Capital & Development: The 360,000-sq.-ft. Harbourside Place marina, retail, restaurant, office and hotel complex in Jupiter should open this summer. In addition to its own equity and $30.9 million in local and state support, North Palm Beach-based Allied Capital is funding development through the EB-5 visa program. The program allows foreigners to invest in a U.S. business that meets job-creation and other criteria in exchange for visas and the opportunity to apply for residency. The Wyndham Grand Jupiter Beach will anchor Harbourside.

Sancilio and Co.: Fastgrowing demand for its biopharmaceutical products led the Riviera Beach pharmaceutical company to expand its manufacturing facility by 20,000 square feet at the end of 2013 and to start another 20,000-sq.- fit. Expansion this year.

Locus Traxx Worldwide: The company's small devices track produce, flowers and other perishables throughout the supply chain, reporting on their location, temperature and other data. The Jupiter-based Company recently partnered with supply chain firm FoodLink and began a joint venture with Vitrociset Belgium. This year, Locus will introduce a new monitor, small enough to ft in the palm of a hand, that can be quickly thrown into a shipment after pulling its battery tab to activate it.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America: In the biggest corporate relocation in the county in five years, Cancer Treatment Centers of America will move its headquarters from Schaumburg, Ill., to Boca Raton this year, creating more than 200 jobs and boosting the area's reputation as a health care company destination.The company has a network of hospitals across the U.S. (although not in Florida) that treat patients with complex or advanced-stage cancer.

TouchSuite: TouchSuite — which makes point-of-sale software for retailers, restaurants and beauty salons — last year made its software cloud-based.The company, which had $20 million in revenue in 2013 and was on the Inc. 500 last year, plans to add at least 50 employees this year to keep up with growing demand.

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