Around the State- Central- May 2000
Metro Savings in Orlando is being sold, leaving just one black-owned banking institution in the state.
By Mike Vogel
"We're a $10-million shop that's been a $10-million shop for years," says Vernon Braddock, president of Orlando's Metro Savings Bank, one of the last two African-American-owned thrifts and banks in Florida. Braddock is explaining why his bank agreed to be bought by BancoInternet.com, a Miami virtual bank startup aimed at the Hispanic market. [See "Trendsetters," Page 16.] When Metro changes hands, the only remaining African-American-owned bank or thrift in the state will be Peoples National Bank of Commerce in the Liberty City section of Miami.
What's hurting African-American-owned banks is their small size. The only banks surviving are either larger or boutique banks that serve upper-income customers. "A boutique bank serving a lower-income clientele ... that's a losing proposition," says Harold Black, a University of Tennessee finance professor who has studied minority-owned banks.
Founded in 1963 in Orlando's Washington Shores neighborhood, Metro has struggled for profitability. It couldn't afford to offer a wide array of savings, checking and loan options. Startups began inquiring about buying the bank's charter.
Enter BancoInternet, which is partly Hispanic-owned. Braddock says BI's offer turned board members' heads because it promised to keep Metro's only office open. The two companies still need to work out a definitive acquisition agreement, which will be subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. They won't disclose the purchase price.
Some observers suggest that for African-American banks to survive, they must target a broader clientele. This deal will do that for Metro. While BancoInternet wants the business of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking customers, Metro can continue serving African-Americans. "That to me is important," says Kenneth Thomas, a Miami banking analyst and consultant.
Black, the University of Tennessee professor, prefers to see struggling African-American-owned banks strike such deals. "If they go out of business, that does no one any good." Braddock backs him up: Most Metro customers are "glad to see us do something to propel us into the future," he says.
In the News
Melbourne -- ECC International Corp. (NYSE: ECC) has landed two contracts totaling $12.2 million to provide weapons-training simulators. The U.S. Army ordered a training system for small-arms weapons worth about $7.5 million, while Lockheed Martin ordered components worth $4.7 million for an Army combat-training system it is developing.
Exigent International Inc. (NASDAQ: XGNT) said it would cut nearly 10% of its work force and close offices in Arizona and Maryland. About half of the 30 cuts will be at the software company's Melbourne headquarters, and most involve support staff.
Orange County -- Hilton Hotels said it is moving ahead on a stalled 1,400-room convention hotel on International Drive. The planned $100-million hotel will be built on land now owned by Universal Studios next to the expansion of the Orange County Convention Center.
Orlando -- Home furnishings dealer PuertaBella.com says it will augment its online retail business by creating a program tailored to professional decorators. The company notes that the average consumer sale is for about $200, while the average designer sale is about $1,250. So far, about 160 interior designers and decorators have joined the program.
The governing board of Orlando International Airport has pulled the trigger on a commitment to build the first phase of a new terminal that will cost more than $580 million. Although it had been expected for some time -- site work began in late 1998 -- the commitment allows construction of the terminal to begin. Officials now set a December 2002 date for expected occupancy.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) expected to open a $100-million commercial flight-training center near Orlando International Airport in April. The 50,000-sq.-ft. facility will be Lockheed's first effort at the commercial flight-training market. The company expects to provide recurrent training to thousands of pilots a year in the full-motion simulators. The center will employ about 50 people within two years. Lockheed Martin also landed a test-equipment contract with the Navy worth as much as $287 million and a training deal with the Marines worth $300 million.
Hood Tents & Events Inc., an equipment and services rental company, has been sold to United Rentals Inc. of Greenwich, Conn. Hood Tents was partly owned by Charlie Hood, the husband of Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood.
Milcom has landed $16 million in venture capital to expand its efforts to launch high-tech companies. Milcom, which operates similar to a business incubator, identifies military technology with commercial potential, then launches new companies to take advantage of it. Milcom has raised more than $200 million for its offspring. With the new capital, it plans to double employment and open offices in Silicon Valley and the Northeast.
Central Florida Innovation Corp. has struck a deal with New South Ventures of Sarasota in which New South will provide early venture capital to CFIC's startup clients. New South is focusing on early investments of $250,000 to $1 million to promising new companies.
Ormond Beach -- Command Medical Products Inc. has signed a contract with Massachusetts-based HemaSure Inc. that will add 120 workers to Command's 150. Command makes components HemaSure uses in its blood-filtration systems.
Osceola County -- Walt Disney World unveiled its latest addition to Epcot. The company will invest $150 million to $200 million in its new Space Pavilion. The addition is being designed with NASA's input and will feature interactive exhibits and Mission Space -- a motion-simulator ride similar to what NASA uses to train astronauts.
Palm Bay -- Harris Corp. spin-off Intersil Holding Corp. has signed a five-year lease for more than 17,000 square feet of space in the Irvine Spectrum in southern California. Intersil, which resulted from the sell-off of Harris' semiconductor business in an IPO in February, will create a high-speed wireless design and applications center in Irvine with 30 to 40 employees. The company will still be based in Florida.
New at Nickelodeon
Move over, green slime geyser. Nickelodeon Studios Florida is planning one of its busiest production seasons ever now that it has landed two new sitcoms to add to its current roster of three game shows.
The two shows, "Noah Knows Best" and "Taina," will debut this fall with six other shows on Nickelodeon's top-rated kids' channel. The studio will produce 13 episodes of each for the inaugural season this fall.
Although the studio will be bulging at the seams accommodating the production demands of the two new series, don't look for additional sound stage construction any time soon.
The studio works with a core of employees, augmented by a roster of free-lancers that expands and contracts as production needs dictate.
Nickelodeon will make do with temporary office space, trailers and portable toilets. The studio will rent sound stage space from Universal Studios rather than expand its space for the foreseeable future. That's the word from Scott Fishman, vice president and general manager of the Orlando studio. -- Ken Ibold