Photo: Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post/News.comProtesters attend a pubic meeting in Jupiter to discuss the proposed All Aboard Florida rail service.
Southeast Florida roundup
All not aboard with FECI's passenger rail
Counties along the passenger rail route voice concerns about FECI’s plans.
In 2012, Florida East Coast Industries surprised the nation with its plan to bring privately owned and operated intercity passenger rail back to America, with service connecting southeast Florida and Orlando in 2016. The idea was warmly welcomed; governments large and small have viewed passenger rail as an inherent good.
But local governments from Martin to Brevard counties have had two years to study the impact of All Aboard Florida and, judging by a flood of correspondence to their congressional representatives, federal rail authorities, the governor and even the U.S. Coast Guard, they’re worried. Unlike the commuter rail of which they dreamed, communities between Orlando and West Palm Beach will get the headaches rail brings — 32 trains a day at speeds up to 110 mph — without getting any station stops.
“This isn’t the kind of service they were looking for,” says Michael Busha, executive director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. “This is something different. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s different.”
Busha says the local governments are just voicing legitimate concerns. Their list is extensive: Noise, traffic congestion as trains pass, pedestrian safety, impacts on property, the ability of emergency vehicles to get around, and disruptions to the all-important Treasure Coast marine industry as bridges are raised and lowered. There’s also the cost to upgrade some 320 road crossings from Miami to Brevard that will need to be improved. Local governments, who bear the burden under law, don’t want to pay.
Some want the government to withhold approval and support, including a $1.5 billion federal loan All Aboard wants, unless All Aboard pays to upgrade crossings. Some want stations in Stuart, Fort Pierce and Vero Beach.
The response to the project farther south has been more favorable. Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties get stations and development around them. And since they already have commuter rail, they’re experienced with train issues.
All Aboard says it will keep working with communities along the route. Bridges will be optimized to make for efficient transit. Road crossings will be closed for only a minute to let the short passenger trains pass. Improvements to grade crossings will also include elements needed to make quiet zones so trains won’t have to sound horns, thus covering much of the cost of the road crossing upgrades, the company says.
Office Depot appointed Juliet Johansson executive vice president and chief strategy officer. She spent 10 years in strategic advisory with McKinsey & Co. And the Blackstone Group and five years at Ryder System before most recently working as a senior vice president for Biomet 3i.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation chose interim Executive Director Katha Kissman as its new president and CEO.
BELLE GLADE — Above average rainfall last summer and at harvest time impacted sugar growth and production for the 2013-14 season. The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and Florida Crystals saw sugar cane yield and raw sugar volume fall. Production was down 9%. Meanwhile, U.S. Sugar in Clewiston reported rainfall impacted its crop as well, cutting production down to 5.5 million tons from 5.8 million in 2012- 13. The industry says imports have knocked prices in half during the last two years.
BOCA RATON — Security system company ADT is paying $500 million to Reliance Comfort, a holding of private equity frm Alinda Capital Partners, for Reliance Protectron, adding 400,000 customers to ADT and doubling its presence in Canada. > Toll Bros. Began building a 223- home luxury development at Royal Palm Polo. Employment in 2013 at the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University increased 33% to 1,307. Average pay increased $10,000 a year to $78,813.
FORT LAUDERDALE — Chicago-based Entertainment Cruises brands acquired Fort Lauderdale-based private yacht charter company Windridge Yacht Charters, which owns a 170-foot yacht and a 131-foot yacht. Terms weren’t disclosed. > Intermedix acquired New Zealand-based Optima, a company that provides technology that supports emergency responders. Emergency management support company Intermedix also opened an office in Lithuania, its frst international office. > In an initiative with Holy Cross Physician Partners, Cigna launched its first collaborative care program in south Florida, which aims to lower costs and improve care in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The program involves 5,000 people covered by Cigna who get care from 300 Holy Cross primary care doctors and specialists.
INDIANTOWN — Fresh Del Monte Produce paid $16 million at auction to buy 2,620 agricultural acres in the area.
JUPITER — Former officers and directors of failed Integrity Bank and their insurer agreed to pay the FDIC $1.8 million to settle civil litigation FDIC brought against them. Integrity Bank failed in 2009 with $119 million in assets. Stonegate Bank acquired the assets of Integrity from the FDIC.
LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA — Dallas-based management company Prism Hotels & Resorts and Fort Lauderdale-based real estate developer IAG Florida will redevelop four beachfront properties into a boutique hotel. The 150-room Lauderdale Beachside Hotel and the adjoining Captains Quarters will be renovated, and the Tropic Ranch and Little Inn will be demolished.
PALM BEACH GARDENS — Biometric identity companies Cross Match Holdings and California-based DigitalPersona merged, and the resulting 300-employee company will be headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens. DigitalPersona CEO Rich Agostinelli becomes CEO of the combined company.
PLANTATION — Dentalplans.Com hired 20 professional-level people for its headquarters.
POMPANO BEACH — McLean, Va.-based Jefferson Apartment Group is building a 239-unit garden-style apartment development on U.S. 1.
SOUTH FLORIDA — Trader Joe’s selected sites in Wellington, Pembroke Pines, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Fort Lauderdale for new stores.
Protesters attend a public meeting in Jupiter to discuss the proposed All Aboard Florida rail service.
VERO BEACH — The U.S. Department of Agriculture decreased its Florida grapefruit crop estimate by 400,000 boxes to 15. 6 million boxes. The Agriculture Department decreased its overall forecast for the disease-impacted Florida citrus crop to 104.3 million boxes, making the season the smallest since the freeze season of 1984-85.
PAC Seating Systems
When heads of state, the very wealthy and corporations want to outfit their private jets with divans, bed frames, swivel seats and other custom and luxury seating, they turn to Palm Citybased PAC Seating Systems. The 86-employee company makes custom jet seating for VIPs. This year, it won the small- to midsize employee category in the South Florida Manufacturer of the Year competition. The company was founded in 2002 by veterans of the aircraft-seating industry.