2021 Economic Outlook
Southeast Florida's economic outlook for 2021
Regional business leaders talk about the outlook for the year ahead, plus demographics and statistics
FORECAST | Tourism
Stacy Ritter, President/CEO, Visit Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale
“It’s going to take two more years to stabilize at 2019 levels. It’ll probably be 2022 for average daily rate and ’23 for occupancy.We’re down about 27,000 hospitality jobs.
We’ve got eight hotels opening in the first quarter. That’s an additional 1,000 hotel rooms.
Without the traditional Canadian snowbirds that stay at small lodgings for extended periods of time, small lodgings are going to struggle significantly.
We had about two- to three-day or same-day booking windows. Now we’re seeing booking windows of four to seven weeks. That’s a very positive sign of people making plans.
We expect ‘21 to be a recovery year even though the travel industry in general won’t fully recover for a couple years.”
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance recently announced at its 2020 annual meeting that KeySource is locating a sales and logistics office in the Cypress Creek area of Fort Lauderdale. KeySource supplies end-user pharmacies across the United States with generic pharmaceuticals. The company will be adding 50 new jobs and occupying 8,000 square feet of office space, with capital expenditure numbers to be announced later. Over the past year, the Alliance has worked with more than 350 companies in the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County area.
FORECAST | Health Care
Ray Berry, CEO, Health Business Solutions, Cooper City
“We work mostly with hospitals and some physician practices to help them improve their process. Sixteen percent of all claims nationally from hospitals get denied for some reason. We analyze why they’re getting those accounts denied and fix it. We do everything from clinical reviews where we argue with the insurance company to technical things where the hospital simply makes a mistake in the bill. In Florida, I’ve worked with 32 hospitals since I started in 1999-2000. Currently, we have almost 200 people, half of them in Florida. We’re hiring another 200. That could go as high as 400. We just picked up a major contract with a major system.
The first three months of COVID we took a 25% cut from our clients. To call and actually help them was the right thing to do, and politically it wasn’t a stupid thing to do.”
FORECAST | Professions
Maziar Keshavarz, President, Keshavarz & Associates, West Palm Beach
Keshavarz founded his civil engineering firm 34 years ago. The 17-employee firm specializes in public water, wastewater and stormwater systems and private residential and commercial land development and institutional projects.
“I am the eternal optimist. I believe in American innovation and adaptability. With all that’s been thrown at me and my firm and the fact that we had to stay out of our offices for six weeks, to be flat this point year over year is pretty good.
What is suffering is not the bottom line; it’s the human spirit; it’s the face to face. It’s taking longer to negotiate proposals. It’s taking longer to negotiate contracts. We used to go sit and talk. Now we can’t. That’s not as easily doable over Zoom.
We are actively hiring 24/7 all year. We’re never short of work. We expect a 10% uptick for 2021 based on the secured contracts and what we’re pursuing.”
The 17.8% year-over-year increase in home values in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale/ West Palm Beach metro area is the 5th-highest increase of all metro areas in Florida, behind Fort Walton Beach in the Northwest and Fort Myers, Naples and Homosassa Springs in the Southwest.
FORECAST | Finance
Emily Clifford, Executive Director, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Palm Beach
“On Palm Beach, the winds have been in our favor because of taxes, but COVID really accelerated that trend. People are realizing it’s nice to live here and call it home.
Most of my clients are between the Northeast and here, calling Florida home. We are hiring.
If there’s one word that describes 2020, it’s uncertainty.
The offseason has become a much shorter offseason. You would be surprised how out walking the dog who you bump into who is still here and enjoying being here in May, June, July — young families everywhere. COVID elongated the season.
The sunshine is here and the taxes are not.”
FORECAST | Manufacturing
Mark Castlow, Owner, Dragonfly Boats, Vero Beach
“We build tenders for bigger boats. I wouldn’t want to be dealing with an entry-level market right now. We deal with a higher-end customer. Everything we build we build to order. When everything was going quarantine, we furloughed four people out of a crew of 16 for two weeks. Then I got a plan together. We have 16 now, and we brought on another person since this all happened.
Going into 2021, the biggest challenges we face are mainly the supply chain. Now you’re trying to focus on how much inventory do I need to handle to address the product. You’re trying to get a secondary vendor that can come in and put a patch over something you couldn’t get delivered. I’m looking at a $70,000 to $80,000 boat I’m holding up for a $300 item.”
FORECAST | Retail Real Estate
Joshua Ladle, CEO, 11th St. Capital/11th St. Research, Boca Raton
“I see it getting worse before it gets better. Palm Beach County went backward in the last six months in the pandemic. For centers that are over 20,000 square feet, occupancy went down 140 basis points to 88.6% — negative absorption of 600,000 square feet. Broward County only went down 50 basis points to 88.7%, about 200,000 square feet of negative absorption. In the last four years, Palm Beach has been in that 89% to 90% range. Broward County more in the 89% to 91%. These are lower but not crazy low.
Palm Beach is probably going to go backward another 200,000 to 300,000 square feet.
I believe that Broward County will probably see 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of negative absorption in the next six months.
Retail real estate in general is still a great industry. When you have good real estate, there will be a use for that space.”
- A major portion of the $1-billion Broward County Convention Center expansion, boosting exhibition space to 350,000 square feet from 200,000 square feet, will be completed in the fall.
- FPL will complete 74.5-megawatt solar plants in March in St. Lucie and in June in Okeechobee County and also in Indian River County. Each project employs 200 to 250 workers at peak construction.
- St. Louis-based developer Sansone Group in the third quarter expects to deliver the initial phase of its Legacy Park at Tradition, a 3.2 million-sq.-ft. industrial and warehouse center on 300 acres in the Tradition Center for Commerce in Port St. Lucie.
- The 182-condo unit, 155-hotel room Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences on Singer Island oceanfront is scheduled for completion in the spring. A 121- unit, Boca Raton condo tower, Alina Residences, a couple miles off the beach, will be completed early this year.
- The Related Group breaks ground this year on its 105-unit, 18-story luxury condo project Solemar, its first in Pompano Beach. New construction abounds in Pompano with the 282-rental unit Cavache building, a 150-room Home2 Suites by Hilton, the 213-unit Envy Pompano Beach luxury rental project, Coral Rock Development’s and Paragon Group’s 138-townhome Highland Oaks, Cornerstone’s 100-unit Marquis affordable housing and the final two buildings at Industrial Property Trust’s Pompano Crossing.
- A 64-unit condo tower, 2000 Ocean in Hallandale Beach, with prices starting at $2.7 million, will be completed this year.
- National Jets CEO Sam Robbin took over as chairman of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, succeeding FPL external affairs director Juliet Roulhac.
- Tamarac-based City Furniture, which employs 2,300, opened two new stores, including one in Altamonte Springs, its third Central Florida location, and a 1-million-sq.-ft. warehouse. Online sales are up 300% year over year, says CEO Andrew Koenig. It plans to expand to Tampa.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
- Vero Beach resident Wayne Gould, owner of a Tucson, Ariz., auto museum, says he will be working this year on his plan to create a local auto museum on the U.S. 1 site formerly occupied by the Vero Beach Press Journal. The city approved a rezoning last year to allow the museum.
- A long-shot plan to develop a 1-million-sq.-ft. distribution center for an unidentified e-commerce company advanced in the government approval process in development-adverse Martin County in October but faces significant hurdles — including a height restriction — as it attempts to move forward this year.
- Costco, in its third try to open in Martin County, has a plan for a store site south of Martin County High School in Stuart.
- Guatemala-founded precast concrete company Bautech will begin production at the Okeechobee Airport Industrial Park after signing a lease in 2020 for two buildings there. It will be able to produce 800 metric tons a day and will employ 20.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
- West Palm Beach-based mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial didn’t admit to wrongdoing but paid $11 million in cash and services to settle allegations of misconduct brought by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. The state alleged servicing failures. Some $2.1 million of an $8.6-million cash settlement will go to Florida consumers. The settlement is Ocwen’s second with the state in recent years. The previous settlement, at $2 billion, came with Moody’s predecessor, Pam Bondi, and other states.
- The city of Boca Raton took over the Boca Raton Country Club and its 130-acre golf course at the behest of the Boca Raton Resort & Club and its new owner, the investment affiliate of Michael Dell. The property will operate, via a leaseback, as a private club until Oct. 1, when the public will be able to play and the city takes over operation.
- JKM Developers continues to seek village approval for Lotis, a 64-acre mixed-use project with retail, restaurant, office, senior living and multi-family homes in Wellington.
- Sabastian Ahmed, CEO of Serenity Ranch Recovery network, a drug and alcohol rehab facility, was sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted of health care fraud and money laundering, among other charges. He also is required to make $4 million in restitution. Ahmed’s brother Ali, 38, received 10 years. Two clinical directors each were sentenced to nearly three years.
- Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties joined neighboring counties to the south in reporting falling public school enrollment. The declines, ranging from 1% to 2%, were blamed on parents holding back young children due to the coronavirus.
- Tri-county public rail transit operation Tri-Rail added more trains in October as it neared a return to its prepandemic schedule of 46 weekday trains and 28 weekend trains. After offering free transit, it resumed charging fares Oct. 1. As of mid-October, passenger traffic was still less than half its pre-pandemic level of 15,000 passengers a day.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
- Orlando engineer firm LandDesign should complete in May a master plan for an area around the north fork of the St. Lucie River that Port St. Lucie wants to see developed as an amenity.
- Wire and cable maker Accel International Holdings will finish its factory at the Tradition Center for Commerce, where it expects to employ 125.
Read more in Florida Trend's January issue.
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