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Southeast Florida


Tourism and business expansions

Call center pullbacks and layoffs

Fort Lauderdale/Broward County

» The tourism industry, buoyed in part by the addition of several luxury properties during the past few years, continued to grow, with both visitors and spending up nearly 9% since 2011. The average daily room rate grew 3.4%, with 72.7% average occupancy (up 3.2% from 2011). The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau is highlighting those luxury properties with a separate website and Lauderdale Luxe Collection moniker.

» But beach erosion, always a threat to Fort Lauderdale’s tourism industry and its ecosystem, is upsetting traffic and evacuation routes. October and November storms eroded a four-block section of beach along State Highway A1A so badly that the four-lane highway was narrowed to two lanes. Repair work could take three years to complete.

» The medical device industry says that a 2.3% excise tax that kicks in this year on sales of certain medical devices threatens growth in a sector that has seen both homegrown successes in Broward and significant facility development by companies from around the world. The tax is part of the Affordable Care Act, and uncertainty over the act’s implementation and Medicare in general, say many in the industry, may cause medical device makers to cut back their research and development efforts.

» Meanwhile, the county’s call center industry is continuing to shrink. Air France closed its Sunrise call center last year, and CVS Caremark made two separate layoffs of about 300 total employees in its Broward operations — many of them in call-center jobs. American Express, which employs about 3,000 at its Plantation call center, plans to cut about 5,400 jobs nationwide, although it’s not yet clear where the impact will be felt.

People to Watch




» Emilio Benitez: Benitez heads ChildNet, a non-profit that oversees Broward and Palm Beach counties’ child welfare systems for the Department of Children and Family. The two systems have consistently been ranked among the top Florida child welfare agencies.

» Lon Tabatchnick: The developer has until this month to work out final financing for the Margaritaville Resort he is supposed to build on city-owned land on Hollywood’s Broadwalk. Other developers are waiting for construction to finally begin on the 350-room, 17-story Jimmy Buffett-themed resort before moving forward on their own projects.

» Mike Jackson: The AutoNation chairman and CEO is leading the national auto dealership through yet another expansion, most recently purchasing six large dealerships in Texas in a single week. He is also navigating sensitive waters, dropping the Maroone brand in south Florida as the first step in dropping all of the chain’s regional names in favor of AutoNation.

» Asaf “Asi” Cymbal: Cymbal Development is seeking approval for a three-tower, 1,000-unit apartment complex in downtown Fort Lauderdale called Marina Lofts. The firm is also starting construction on a mixed-use luxury retail and office complex in Miami’s Design District.

Businesses to Watch

» Motorola Mobility: The Google subsidiary laid off 170 workers at its Plantation location last year. In the four years before Google acquired the company, it had lost money in all but
two quarters.

» Bolton Medical Solutions: The stent maker launched U.S. distribution in January after the FDA approved a stent for the treatment of thoracic aorta aneurysms. Bolton added 30 positions last year, bringing its employment to 110, and reportedly expects to add another 20 to 30 jobs during the next two years, with help from $30,000 in city incentives and $90,000 in tax-refund incentives.

» Spirit Airlines: The Miramar-based airline is expanding flights to its hub at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, while at the same time adding routes in the central and western part of the U.S. During 2012, operating revenue grew 23% over 2011.

» AeroTurbine: The aircraft used-parts company will move to Miramar from Doral this year and expects to add 75 jobs and will receive nearly $1 million in state, county and city incentives.

» Industrial Developments International: The industrial real estate company is building out a two-phase, 704,780-sq.-ft. industrial park in Davie.

» CTS Engines: The Fort Lauderdale commercial jet engine maintenance company opened an engine overhaul facility last May and will open a test facility in Jupiter later this year.

» Citrix: The company whose products power mobile work styles and cloud services is reportedly considering the addition of 200 jobs and an investment of $7.5 million to upgrade its facilities.

» Broward Center for the Performing Arts: The center is in the midst of a $50-million, 18-month renovation and expansion, for which it has raised more than $42.5 million.

Broward Population: 1,833,666
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.42%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.88% 6.09% 26.27% 35.03% 14.73%
Per Capita Income: $44,786

MSA Dec. 2012 Dec. 2011 % Change Jobless Rate
Fort Lauderdale/Pompano/
Deerfield Beach
926,164 907,268 +2.1% 6.7%
West Palm/Boca Raton/Boynton Beach 567,697 562,707 +0.9% 8.0%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2013 Sales 1-Year Change 2013 Price 1-Year Change
Miami/Fort Lauderdale/ Pompano Beach 39,232 +9.4% 202,000 +10.4%
Source: Florida Realtors

West Palm Beach/Palm Beach County

» Four of the world’s largest security firms now have their international or U.S. headquarters in the county: Garda World Security’s U.S. headquarters for its Garda Cash Logistics; Geo Group; G4S security personnel firm; and ADT — newly public after Tyco International spun it off. ADT opened a research and development center and expects to hire 120 employees during the next couple of years at its Boca Raton headquarters.

»  After years of downsizing its workforce here, Pratt & Whitney is expanding, spending $63 million to renovate its current West Palm Beach facility and build an 80,000- to 100,000-sq.-ft. plant. It expects to add some 230 jobs supporting an anticipated ramp-up for development of its PurePower and F135 military engines.

» On a less positive note, outdoor furniture retailer Carls Patio declared bankruptcy in January, after closing five stores in California and four in Florida.

»  The Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts planned for downtown West Palm Beach has been scrapped. The city invested $2 million and three years of work to help FSU and industry partner Digital Domain Media Group set up the animation and digital arts degree program. But Digital Domain’s September bankruptcy left the school without a partner.

»  Wellington remains mired in a battle over development at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Wellington Equestrian Partners, which produces two of the world’s largest equestrian festivals at the center, wants to build a new equestrian show grounds, along with a hotel and retail development. Many area residents object to the non-equestrian parts of the project.
A lawsuit brought by Equestrian Partners is pending.

Inland Port

» For years, Palm Beach County has wanted to build an “inland port” near Lake Okeechobee, in the hopes that cargo companies would move their goods from the three south Florida seaports via train and truck into an inland logistics center. Last year, the county approved agricultural giant Florida Crystals’ 850-acre South Florida Intermodal Logistics Center for just that purpose. The company can build up to 10 million square feet of distribution and warehouse space, plus a rail yard. It has partnered with industrial real estate powerhouse IDI to develop the land. The next step: Secure tenants.

Businesses to Watch

» Landstar Group: In October, Coral Gables-based Landstar Development Group paid $20 million for the site of the Vavrus Ranch in Palm Beach Gardens. The property, adjacent to Mecca Farms, was envisioned as an important bedroom community for Scripps Research Institute before Scripps decided on a location in Jupiter. Landstar reportedly plans a mixed-used office, retail and single-family homes project on the land and will submit a proposal during the first half of this year.

» Office Depot: The nation’s No. 2 office retailer has announced a merger with No. 3 OfficeMax. Office Depot will be the buyer, using its stock. The companies have not yet determined where the combined company will be based, what it will be named or who will lead it.

» Oasis Outsourcing: During the past two years, Oasis Outsourcing, a PEO, has grown the base of employees it serves from 85,000 to 125,000, with more than $4.5 billion in annual revenue. Now, Oasis is expanding its headquarters by 20%.

» Related Cos.: The New York-based company has the final go-ahead to build a 400-room convention hotel and garage next to the Palm Beach County convention center. The company will get a $27-million public subsidy for construction of the hotel and must begin construction before mid-2014. The county will own the hotel, along with the land it sits on, which means the hotel won’t pay property taxes. Instead, Related agreed to pay the city $27.2 million over 33 years.

People to Watch

» James Robo: Robo became CEO of Florida Power & Light parent company NextEra Energy last July, taking over for Lewis Hay III after 11 years. Now in his first full year as CEO, and with Hay set to retire as NextEra’s executive chairman at the end of the year, Robo is fully in charge at the $14.3-billion Juno Beach-based company.

» Michael Massanoff: Massanoff needs just a few more approvals and he can start his $300-million Transit Village mixed-use development next to the city’s Tri-Rail station. He anticipates having 400,000 square feet of offices, 375 hotel rooms, 300 residences, retail, a parking garage and civic/educational space.

» David Fitzpatrick: Now that the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience has moved into its own space in Jupiter, CEO David Fitzpatrick can concentrate on attracting more scientists and pushing for the kinds of research and spinoffs that will justify the $188 million in state and local investment in the facility.

» Dennis P. Gallon: The Palm Beach State College president hopes to expand to a fifth campus, in Loxahatchee Groves. But he has to convince the town’s residents, many of whom worry it will destroy the rural life there

Palm Beach Population: 1,389,931
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.54%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.49% 5.79% 22.95% 32.55% 22.22%
Per Capita Income: $55,980

Boca Raton

» Tech companies are leading the recovery, evidenced by the expansion of incubator Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida in Research Park at Florida Atlantic University. The park is also home to growing companies such as 3-year-old Modernizing Medicine, which provides cloud-based specialty electronic medical records software. The company more than doubled its client base and workforce during 2012 and raised $12 million in investment. In October, it launched a version of its software for plastic surgeons. Like all of its software, it operates on iPads and computers (via a web application). Another mobile technology company at Research Park, MobileHelp, is also growing rapidly. The company makes a medical alert system that integrates cellular and landline wireless technology with GPS to alert not only emergency personnel but also a user’s family. In January, it introduced a pendant that automatically detects falls.

» Established technology companies are growing, too. Boca-based 3Cinteractive, which makes software to help corporations reach customers on their mobile phones, hit $28.7 million in revenue in 2012 and was named to Forbes’ list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” Boca-based data center and managed services provider Host.net added 19,000 square feet of space in the city in December, and in January a Canadian private equity firm took a majority stake in the company.