June 4, 2020

Up Front - The Publisher's Column

A state of small businesses

Andrew P. Corty | 9/28/2017

Florida is a state of small businesses, many of which rely on community banks to help run their operations. Yet consolidation has left the state with fewer and fewer community banks — as our Economic Backbone feature points out.

Some of the blame goes to regulations enacted after the economic disaster a decade ago that made it harder to operate community banks. Most of us can agree that additional regulations were warranted after banks made irresponsible loans, but it seems like Congress went too far.

That’s why the founding of Winter Park National — the first de novo bank in Florida since 2009 — was such welcome news. These local banks are necessary for our many small businesses.

Yet for those of us who travel extensively, there’s also something comforting about a large bank such as Wells Fargo or Bank of America or the major regionals such as Regions, BB&T, TD Bank, Northern Trust or PNC. I like being able to walk to a branch (or ATM) in another city to handle a transaction.

Solar energy is hot (no pun intended) these days. And I’m pleased to report that Florida’s major utilities are stepping up to the plate.

Recently, I saw Eric Silagy, president of Florida Power & Light, which opened its first solar array in DeSoto County in 2009 and has been expanding its solar presence since. In 2016, FPL opened three solar plants with almost 225 megawatts. It will install 2.5 million photovoltaic panels with 600 megawatts of capacity in 2017 and early 2018.

These new plants can produce enough electricity to power 120,000 typical homes. Two plants are in Putnam County and one each in DeSoto, Indian River, Hendry, Brevard and St. Lucie — counties with plenty of open space for solar fields. Once built, the solar arrays require hardly any workers, only minor maintenance and incur no fuel costs.

Why all the interest in solar now? Certainly some credit goes to the environmental groups and individuals who pushed solar in Florida. Credit also goes to changing economics — less expensive, more efficient solar panels.

Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, Gulf Power and major municipals like the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) have made solar inroads, too.Duke has a plant at Disney, another in Taylor County and has announced it will build 500 megawatts of solar power in the next half-dozen years. Gulf Power has put panels at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa and is putting major arrays at the naval air stations in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Tampa Electric has covered the parking at Legoland and Tampa International Airport with solar panels, keeping cars cooler while generating electricity. It’s also installing 200,000 panels in Apollo Beach.

Palm Beach County takes center stage this month with a special section written by south Florida resident Jeff Zbar. I’ve been in Palm Beach a few times this year, most recently at The Breakers for a Leadership Florida conference. It’s fair to say this place is special.

Yet the county is much more than a home to billionaires who live along the ocean. Real business goes on every day, from exceptional schools to the Pratt & Whitney plant on the outskirts of town to lesser known corporations like SBA Communications, which owns cell towers across the country (and overseas). The county has beaches, culture, sports and quality jobs. What’s not to like?

— Andy Corty


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