When Nova Southeastern University President Ray Ferrero Jr. agreed to become chairman-elect of the Broward Alliance, many expected he would make waves quickly. True to form, in April Ferrero and the Alliance trotted out an economic development campaign that has enlisted some of Broward’s biggest business stars.
The three-year campaign, called Excellerate Broward, aims to generate jobs and attract new employers. As part of the initiative, some 16 executives, operating as the CEO Council, have contributed $800,000 to start a headquarters-recruiting effort, which Ferrero will lead as chairman. Modeled after efforts in Orlando and Tampa, the CEO Council boasts a who’s who of Broward business leadership, including Wayne Huizenga, AutoNation’s Mike Jackson, Alan Levan of BankAtlantic, Sun-Sentinel publisher Howard Greenberg, and developer Terry Stiles.
“If I was going to go charging up the hill, I didn’t want to go it alone,” Ferrero says. “These people have an abiding commitment to the community. We now have a credible budget.”
Robin Ronne, a veteran economic development recruiter who conducted a similar campaign in Tampa, is managing director of the CEO Council.
Officials acknowledge that the uncertain economic times will make it tough to attract new headquarters to the county. Kathy Koch, Broward Alliance board chairwoman, sees the coming year as an opportunity to lay groundwork: Bring in prospects, sell Broward’s airport and the seaport, the weather and the lifestyle, and make connections.
Ferrero, who has led Nova through 10 years of heady growth, remained in the background during the recent announcement, but Alliance officials acknowledged his leadership in marshalling the area’s CEOs. James P. Tarlton, president and CEO of the Broward Alliance, says Ferrero has been “a significant part of the Broward Alliance for a long time. He’s well-known, highly regarded and well-respected.”