FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


Business - Florida Newsmakers of the Year

• MARK WILSON
President/CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce

Mark Wilson
[Photo:Ray Stanyard]
Wielding Political Clout

If there was any doubt going into the November election about what a political powerhouse the Florida Chamber of Commerce under Mark Wilson has become, the results eliminated it. Granted, there was the Republican wave. But the chamber's $5.5 million in spending and politicking helped build it. The Hometown Democracy proposal was crushed; 76 of the 80 candidates the chamber endorsed won. "We put our best effort into unifying the business community behind the right issues and the right candidates," says Wilson. "I think the unions and trial lawyers woke up this year and said, ‘Where did this come from?' "

Wilson says the endorsements are about helping Florida transition to a new economy by backing candidates who will support the chamber's views on education, business climate, quality of life, infrastructure and so on. Wilson integrates the chamber's "Six Pillars" initiative, mantra-like, into any chamber gathering.

"My third-grader is not growing up to compete with kids in Atlanta, New York or Dallas. My third-grader is growing up to compete with kids in India and China," Wilson says. "The state needs us to lead."

The chamber, which Fort Lauderdale billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga supported in 2010 with a $1-million gift, has 30 lobbyists and a robust research arm. "This isn't a job for me," Wilson says. "This is a mission. I'm ultra-focused like a laser beam on transitioning this economy."

Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• WILBUR ROSS JR.
Private equity investor - Palm Beach

Wilbur Ross Jr.
[Photo: Peter Yang/AUGUST]
Investing in Florida

Wilbur L. Ross Jr. made his name with turnarounds in steel, coal and auto parts. In 2010, he upped his stake in Florida. Ross in 2009 joined with John Kanas and other private equity investors to buy the parent of failed BankUnited, the largest Florida-based bank at the time, and put $900 million into it. Kanas became CEO. BankUnited is now set to go public. Last year, Ross became a minority owner of Ponte Vedra-based Capital Markets Cooperative, a secondary mortgage market player. He holds warrants that would enable him to become a majority holder. He participated in the Starwood syndicate that bought $4.7 billion in commercial mortgages from the FDIC, "mostly condo loans with a heavy concentration in Miami, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Jupiter," Ross says.


Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• LOLA GONZALEZ
Owner, Accurate Background Check - Ocala

Lola Gonzalez
[Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
Taking the fall for her employees

"Don't let your employee go and then give yourself a bonus," says Lola Gonzalez, owner of Accurate Background Check, an employee screening firm. In 2010, amid declining revenue, Gonzalez stopped taking a salary rather than fire one of her eight employees. Gonzalez, of course, retained ownership of the business and manages it while juggling two jobs to make ends meet: Community facilitator and "mitigation specialist" — researching the background of clients facing the death penalty to find circumstances that might cause a judge to be lenient. Her death penalty work is featured in a Yale University Press book. Her business, meanwhile, she says is "doing well."


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Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• JOHN TEXTOR
Chairman/CEO, Digital Domain Holidings - Port St. Lucie

John Textor
[Photo:Steven Martine]
Creating Digital Jobs

John Textor continued to push Florida into digital entertainment in 2010. After securing $20 million in state incentives in 2009 to expand Venice, Calif.-based entertainment company Digital Domain in Port St. Lucie, Textor last year secured a $10-million grant for a startup FSU digital animation college in West Palm Beach at a downtown site where Textor will build a $70-million education arm of Digital Domain. Digital Domain, which Textor's Wyndcrest acquired in 2006, has Titanic, the Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other films to its credit. The Port St. Lucie location is well ahead of the pace needed to create the 500 jobs, paying an average of $65,000, he's promised to create.


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Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• ROBERT CLEMENTS
Chairman/CEO, EverBank Financial - Jacksonville

Robert Clements
[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]
Industry Standout

Because the question about the future for too many Florida-based banks in the recession has been what size casket to order, a growth story stands out. EverBank Financial, under Robert Clements, saw its quarterly earnings increase 239% in the second quarter to $44 million. Assets grew to $11 billion. In 2010, it bought essentially all the assets of the failed Bank of Florida. It also acquired New Jersey-based commercial finance and leasing company Tygris Commercial Finance and the naming rights to the NFL Jaguars' home stadium. Clements, a Harvard MBA, had the company file for an IPO in October.


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Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• THOMAS GAFFNEY
Owner, Oldsmar Land Holding - St. Petersburg

Thomas Gaffney
[Photo: Dan Gaye]
Greater Good

Thomas Gaffney didn't revitalize the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg alone, but his 1920s Crislip Arcade proved the lynchpin. Oldsmar Land Holding, which Gaffney leads, purchased the building in 2008. The Crislip, designed by the city's first professional architect, had been headed for a high-rise, mixed-use project until the economy ended those plans. With tenants gone, the property seemed destined to sit empty and decay pending a turnaround. Instead, Gaffney, at the urging of City Councilwoman Leslie Curran, renovated the property and leased the space to artists or art-related businesses for less than half the going rental rate.


?

Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• HUGH GREENE
President/CEO, Baptist Health - Jacksonville

Hugh Greene
[Photo: Paul Figura]
Shaping Healthcare

Hugh Greene stopped counting how many speeches he made as healthcare reform was debated in 2010. Greene's presentations drew praise for their even-handedness amid what became a fiercely partisan fight — both Democrat and Republican groups invited him to speak. What does he think now that the law has passed? Overall, Greene says, the law does some things well (insures more people) and other things less effectively (reduces costs) and it's too soon to tell on others. He says it isn't a government takeover of the sector. Greene's been an innovator in his five-hospital system, cutting a deal with Solantic, the walk-in clinic company co-founded by new Gov. Rick Scott. Last year also saw construction start on an 11-story hospital tower downtown and the opening of the Hill Breast Center. The big project this year is integrating services and doctors to position the system for the future. "We continue to be gratified by the confidence the community has in us," he says.


Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• R.J. SCARINGE
Founder/CEO, Avera Motors - Rockledge

Avera Prototype
Rockledge-based Avera plans to unveil its prototype this year and sell it by 2013.
[Photo: Avera Motors]

R. J. Scaringe
Scaringe describes the car as a cross between a Lotus Elise and a Mini Cooper: A high-performance, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-door sports coupe that can carry four passengers.
Riding the Shuttle Talent Pool

Avera Motors and founder R.J. Scaringe had an eventful 2010. Scaringe, a self-described "complete car nut," says on the Avera website that he can build a car with "supercar-like handling, aggressive looks, an affordable price tag and Prius-beating efficiency." The Rockledge company announced its formation last year, formed a partnership with economic developer Space Florida and finished a prototype in September. It plans to hire some of the workers — it's hoping for 1,100 by 2015 — who will become available with the close of the shuttle program. Expect a new name for Avera to settle a trademark infringement beef with Hyundai, owner of the Azera trade name. "Key hiring, high-profile partnerships and vehicle sneak peeks — it's definitely been a fast-paced and exciting year for the new American automaker," says spokeswoman Caroline Kempf.


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Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Education
Frank Brogan
Maryellen Elia

Science/Innovation
Win Phillips & David Day
Ian MacDonald & William Hogarth

Environment
Extreme Temperatures

CRITTERS
Mystery Monkey

Sports
Tampa Bay Rays' Top Brass
Pat Riley

Volunteer/Non-Profit
Barth Green

Arts/Entertainment
New World Symphony
Pitbull
Pamela Tuscany

Dubious Achievers
Scott Rothstein
David Brooks

Jim Greer
Wayne McLeod
Lewis Freeman
Pawl Hawks
Lee Farkas

• FORECLOSURE FIGHTERS

Foreclosure Fighters
Lisa Epstein and blogger Michael Redman uncovered fraudulent practices by mortgage holders. [Photo: Steve Mitchell/Newscom]

For many, the bottom line in any mortgage dispute is whether the payments are being made. But Lisa Epstein, a West Palm Beach nurse turned foreclosure activist, focuses on fraudulent practices, backdated documents and robo-signers. Epstein and fellow Florida foreclosure-fighters — blogger Michael Redman in West Palm Beach, attorneys Lynn Szymoniak in Palm Beach Gardens, Matthew Weidner in St. Petersburg and Thomas Ice in Royal Palm Beach — lit the firestorm that pressured major mortgage holders to a brief, self-imposed moratorium on foreclosures until they say they sorted out their paperwork. Attorneys general launched investigations as did the federal government. Epstein, who says she was instructed by her mortgage servicer to stop paying her mortgage in 2008 so she could qualify for hardship assistance, wants a national moratorium, criminal investigations, lots of indictments, breaking up the big banks and more regulation and reform. Some argue slowing foreclosures only slows recovery. To Epstein, that's saying, "keep the criminals in charge and we'll have a recovery."

Lynn Szymoniak
Lynn Szymoniak
Matthew Weidner
Matthew Weidner
Thomas Ice
Thomas Ice

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Business
Mark Wilson
Wilbur Ross Jr.
Lola Gonzalez
John Textor
Robert Clements
Thomas Gaffney
Hugh Green
R.J. Scaringe
Foreclosure Fighters
Julian MacQueen

Politics
Mel Martinez & The Dominoes

Military
Florida's Fallen Soldiers

Florida Trend