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TREASURE COAST: Not Homebound

Multifaceted

Regional Trends

COLLEGE CONNECTION: Look at groundbreaking changes in the Treasure Coast and it doesn't seem to be long before you run across Indian River Community College President Edwin Massey or Florida Atlantic University President Frank Brogan. On Massey's campus: FSU's new medical campus and a high-tech training center. At Brogan's facilities: The temporary headquarters of a biotech relocation and a new lab school for elementary students. Brogan, the ex-lieutenant governor, is the relative newcomer. Massey has been IRCC's president since 1988.

HOMES: Home building is suffering while investors try to unload their bubble buys. "I think the theme of 2007 is going to be inventory correction," says Brad Hunter of research firm Metrostudy. Construction workers are switching to commercial building, says Gwenda L. Thompson, CEO of the Workforce Development Board of the Treasure
Coast.

CITRUS: In the citrus belt, after hurricane-devastated seasons, the elements have combined for a return to 19 million boxes and an extraordinarily tasty grapefruit even by Indian River standards. "A vintage crop," says Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League.

BIOTECH: Biotech steps forward this year when Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies occupies temporary facilities at FAU at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. ... St. Lucie leads the Treasure Coast in aggressively courting relocations. ... Martin commissioned a study on how to join the biotech wave, but commissioners rejected its conclusion that development restrictions need to be eased. Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Catrambone hopes Torrey Pines and Scripps in Jupiter will still help: "They'll live in Martin County. We have a mailbox economy here."

Vero Beach / Indian River County

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.

Innovators

? 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

GROWTH SPURT:
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.

HOME BUILDING:
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.

Innovators
? Of the four California institutions Florida bagged in its great biotech hunt -- Scripps Research, Burnham Institute for Medical Research, Torrey Pines and SRI International -- only Torrey's founder Richard Houghten is moving his headquarters to Florida.
? Russell Knowles built his Remetronix, Techmed Solutions and Med-Trans Logistics into a 125-employee concern specializing in transporting and installing medical equipment such as MRI machines.
? Pediatrician Randall Bertolette is the full-time regional dean overseeing the first students arriving in July at the new Fort Pierce campus of the Florida State University College of Medicine.
? Rancher Bud Adams, lawyer Ernie Cox and his Family Lands Remembered partners are facilitating development of St. Lucie's 5,000-acre Cloud Grove new town. Adams' ranch will be paid to put 12,000 of his 16,000 acres into a stewardship easement, keeping it ranch land. A joint venture between Lennar and Centex that acquired Cloud Grove from Family Lands receives the development credits Adams' easement generated. Cox is president of a second company that consults on conservation-minded planning.

Stuart / Martin County


Innovator (Stuart)
John Justak
? John Justak, founder and president of 10-employee Advanced Technologies Group in Stuart, works with NASA and the Defense Department on engine turbines, instrumentation and other highly technical work. Justak (pictured here with an L.E.D. array used to transfer power to electronics equipment for future use in the Joint Strike Fighter) wants more commercial work in 2007. Photo: Jeffrey Camp

SLOW GROWTH: Famous for its fear of joining the south Florida metropolis, Martin continues to look askance at major growth. That said, there's no shortage of pioneering ideas from existing businesses, such as Stuart's Advanced Technologies Group, a developer of novel engineering answers for problems defying conventional solutions. Founder and President John Justak's hunt for a place to put a new engine test lab typifies the Martin quandary. "I like living here because of all the restrictions, but trying to do business is different," Justak says. The exception in Martin is the more welcoming community of Indiantown, which will see 6,300 new homes in a few years.

Innovators
? With a location on the Okeechobee Waterway miles inland, a football field-sized building and clever dock design, Charles Industries head Joe Charles' River Forest Yachting Center solves a need for long-term storage and hurricane protection for ocean-going boats. The Jupiter resident plans a much larger facility on the Caloosahatchee.
? Judy Perkins and Brian Root,
partners in Stuart startup TC Modular Docks, believe their advance in dock construction technology yields price and design advantages. Perkins owns CSM Engineers, a Stuart engineering firm.
? Bob Post Jr., of the privately owned telecom, water utility and waste hauler Postco Inc. for Indiantown in western Martin, installed fiber-optic and other technology years before much larger cities. He plans a new water plant to service growth.

Okeechobee County

Business To Watch
? Royal Concrete Concepts, a West Palm Beach maker of concrete-steel-polystyrene modular buildings for use as classrooms, homes and government facilities, will finish by July a manufacturing plant that eventually will employ 1,300.

Regional Data