Economic Yearbook 2008
TREASURE COAST: Regional Mindset
Vero Beach / Indian River County
It’s been an unsettling time in this high-income county. After 60 years, the Dodgers are leaving Dodgertown for Arizona. Major employer Piper Aircraft kept the area hanging for more than a year on whether it would stay. Housing, especially in the more affordable west Vero area, tumbled.
» The co-owners of the nursery and landscape business Becker Cos. in Vero Beach forecast a “pretty substantial” decline in business. The company supplies Treasure Coast real estate developers. Tom Hurley, CEO and chairman, says the 225-employee operation, which has holdings from Martin to Indian River, is branching out to more stable markets, such as Orlando and the Bahamas, which benefit from the weak U.S. dollar by attracting European investment.
» At 70, Seacoast National Bank Senior Executive Vice President Bill Curtis retired in January. He remains chairman of Seacoast Indian River County, but that’s only part of his activity. Last year, he was instrumental in founding a community leaders summit, representing the arts, education, charities, government and business, that worked to retain Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach and branched out to improve communication between sometimes opposing interests in the county. He’s also active in the local chamber, Catholic Charities and with his wife, Nancy, in other philanthropic endeavors.
» Chuck Mechling, a partner with Steve Melchiori and Tom Jones in Vero Beach’s Pointe West, a 600-acre traditional neighborhood design project, is breaking ground this year on a medical building and a town center to support the 700 homes and golf and equestrian amenities already in place. Mechling projects 450 more homes will be built at the project, which is recognized for hosting community events and supporting non-profits.
Stuart / Martin County
With builders, the building
trades, real estate and auto sales
all taking hits, the search for economic growth falls back on the
industries that have built a niche
in this famously anti-growth county and on those with proven staying power.
» Land planners Michael Houston and Don Cuozzo, principals in Houston Cuozzo Group in Stuart, expect revenue will be down 30% this year compared to 2007 but on par with 2004 revenue. The downturn took the froth from the market, but developers of large projects are using the firm to secure the government approvals they’ll need in place when the market turns, says Houston, whose firm is active throughout the Treasure Coast. A return to realistic land valuations is helping the local Habitat for Humanity, on whose board Houston serves.