Economic Yearbook 2007
TREASURE COAST: Not Homebound
Biotech moves forward.
CHALLENGE: Relying on construction, retirees and the service businesses supporting them, the Vero Beach and Indian River economy looks for a flat year. Construction won't pick up until the market works through the excess inventory of investor-owned housing. ... Given the importance of construction and the impact of rising insurance bills and taxes, the local economy is holding up well. Unemployment is 4.5%. "It's not as gloomy as some have painted but not quite as rosy as we might want it to be," says Andy Beindorf, president and CEO of Indian River National Bank.
? Founded in 2003 by A.J. Koontz III, executive vice president for sales, and now under CEO Vinny Olmstead, 110-employee Broadband National allows online comparison shopping for DSL, cable, T1 connections and now VOIP and IPTV.
? Vero Beach awaits Piper Aircraft CEO James K. Bass' decision on whether the company will build its new jet locally. The 1,000-employee company hopes to make its first deliveries in 2010.
? High-end builder Toby Hill of The Hill Group in Vero Beach wins notice for his company's craftsmanship, philanthropy and for keeping a large number of skilled workers in specialties such as fine carpentry and masonry on staff.
Port St. Lucie / St. Lucie County
Innovator (Port St. Lucie)
Damien J. Jacquinet
? Damien J. Jacquinet is founder and president of Nida-Core, which makes high-strength, low-weight core, plastic honeycomb technology used in everything from megayacht hulls to housing to snowboards. Jacquinet, 44, employs 120 worldwide, including 40 in Port St. Lucie. The company, formerly in Martin County, moved to Port St. Lucie in 2001 after it decided it needed to expand. Nida-Core's composites traditionally have been used mostly in the marine business. The native of France moved to the U.S. in 1984. Photo: Jeffrey Camp
Well established among the ranks of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, jumping from 55,866 residents in 1990 to 131,692 in 2005, Port St. Lucie this year hopes to begin to see the payoff for another leap -- the state's and St. Lucie County's $90-million enticement of California-based Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies. ... Torrey Pines laid the cornerstone in March for its new headquarters on a 20-acre site in Port St. Lucie's Tradition donated by developer Core Communities. Until the building's 2008 completion, the institute will lodge at Florida Atlantic University facilities at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.
St. Lucie's aggressive business recruitment -- "We see what we need and go after it," says county economic development manager Larry Daum -- will please builders. ... The number of finished but vacant new homes grew in 2006 to a 9.1-month supply, says Metrostudy. The county's Tradition and Newport Isles were the only two Treasure Coast developments the research firm ranked in the top 10 in the Southeast for annual new-home starts with 1,043 and 337 respectively.