2012 Economic Yearbook
Oxbridge Academy, which was started by billionaire Bill Koch, opened last year. [Photo: Damon Higgins/Palm Beach Post]
Max Plank Florida Institute will move into a new facility in Jupiter later this year. [Photo: Max Planck Institute]
» Manufacturing: The sector — high-tech manufacturing specifically — is on a surprising rebound. The county added some 500 jobs in that sector during 2011, including expansions at retailer Native Outfitters and testing device firm Clarity Diagnostics.
» Bioscience: The industry continues to grow slowly and will get a shot in the arm toward the end of the year, when the Max Planck Florida Institute moves into its 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in Jupiter.
» Golf: Standalone golf courses have seen less tourist and local traffic, and country clubs are suffering from declining membership as younger potential members lack the disposable income for memberships. Golf course-based communities are facing budget challenges as foreclosures and declining retirement funds leave vacant residences and unpaid membership dues. Several country clubs have already filed for bankruptcy.
Businesses to Watch
» GL Homes: The developer is pushing forward with sales, construction and land acquisition and has drawn solid crowds at open houses for luxury and active-adult communities in Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach (where it took over part of the Equus development and is also developing Canyon Trails) and Delray Beach.
» Duffy's Sports Grill: After an expansion tear last year that saw Duffy's sign leases on failed restaurant locations in several prime spots, the 24-restaurant south Florida chain is focused on its sports-related marketing, including locations in the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers stadiums.
» America's Natural Caffeine: The firm is spending $25 million to move from Brazil into a 40,000-sq.-ft. facility at the Port of Palm Beach, where it will use advanced manufacturing to squeeze America's favorite stimulant from imported coffee, tea leaves and guarana.
» Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches: The high school, launched by billionaire Bill Koch last year, has surpassed enrollment expectations. Local leaders hope the success of the school will allay executives' fears about local school options and help bring more businesses to the area.
» Digital Domain: Florida State University and digital effects and animation company Digital Domain will officially launch the Digital Domain Institute film animation school in West Palm Beach this fall.
People to Watch
» The Rooney family: The owners of the Palm Beach Kennel Club, including state Rep. Patrick Rooney Jr., the racing venue's president, are campaigning for slot machines at what is the county's only pari-mutuel facility.
E. Wayne Gent is Palm Beach County's new school superintendent.
» John Duffy: The CEO of cloud-based CRM software company 3Cinteractive is gaining national visibility as an advocate for and mentor to entrepreneurs throughout the state.
» E. Wayne Gent: Palm Beach County's new school superintendent will be under scrutiny after a long search to replace Art Johnson after the board of the country's 11th-largest school district removed him in early 2011.
Issues to Watch
» Government officials: The county is still pulling itself out from under political corruption scandals of the past few years. A new group of office holders, new ethics and lobbying rules and an Inspector General's office with fairly broad oversight powers have begun to restore trust in county government. But lobbyists and the businesses that hire them are still sorting out all the new rules, which some have said are too vague.
|Palm Beach Population: 1,378,072|
|Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 1.57%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $59,096|
|Palm Beach County Consumer Bankruptcies|
|Source: National Bankruptcy Research Center|
Issues to Watch
» Research growth: As Florida Atlantic University's College of Medicine ramps up, local officials expect even more activity from the Research Park at FAU, which already hosts some 22 technology and research and development companies — several of which helped design FAU's medical curriculum. Its Soft Landings Center will help international companies entering the U.S.