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Following Scripps

With the Scripps Research Institute having settled on a location in Jupiter, the Treasure Coast is focused on workforce training issues as it prepares for a biotech growth surge. The Workforce Development Board of the Treasure Coast is offering to retrain workers and upgrade skills for the biotech industry by promoting the FAU Biotech Training Grant. It also has partnered with the state on a massive training initiative for job seekers interested in construction industry employment.

Treasure Coast home prices soared 28% last year, and new multimillion-dollar residential and retail projects are changing the landscape. "Folks are coming from down south, and Baby Boomers are coming down from the north," says Mark Seeberg, president of the Realtors Association of Indian River County. BankUnited and Colonial Bank, among others, are expanding into the area to meet the demand for new mortgages as the Treasure Coast continues its evolution from an agricultural base to one focused more on research.

But two seasons of heavy hurricane activity have blunted development, and transportation issues threaten to slow growth in some counties. Stuart continues its 25-year battle for a new bridge connecting Palm City and Stuart. "The county commission is afraid of what it calls 'Browardization,' " says Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Catrambone. Meanwhile, Indian River County reports a breakthrough in its seven-year fight for an I-95 interchange at Oslo Road to access industrial sites in the southern part of the county.

Key Newcomer

? Okeechobee County Airport and Industrial Park Manager Vernon Gray has launched multiple initiatives since coming aboard last June. Those changes -- implementing a security plan, commissioning an Automatic Weather Observation Station and completing a lighting project -- have persuaded Fort Lauderdale's Maritime Petroleum Associates to invest $8 million in the Okeechobee Jet Center. The 36,000-sq.-ft. facility would employ up to 150 and could woo corporate aviators to the region.

New Companies

? Rhode Island-based CVS will open a $60-million, 400,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and distribution center in Vero Beach, eventually employing 350.

? Coral Gables-based BankUnited is adding four branches as part of its aggressive South Florida growth plan.

? Carnival Cruise Lines opened a sales center in Fort Pierce early this year, creating 210 jobs.

? Fort Lauderdale-based Nova Southeastern University took up residence on the Treasure Coast with new nursing programs in partnership with Indian River Community College.

? Denver-based Policy Studies, which has a call center in Port St. Lucie that employs 260 and serves the state's Florida Healthy Kids program, opened a center in Fort Pierce in September 2005 that has 90 workers.

Robotics engineer Peter Chase makes an adjustment to Scripps Florida's ultra-high-throughput screening platform, which is capable of testing the biological or biochemical activity of more than 100,000 compounds a day.

Vero Beach/Indian River County

Nearly 9,000 new residents moved into the county from 2003 to 2004. "We are seeing people relocate from South Florida looking for a simpler life that still offers culture," says Helene Caseltine, economic development director of the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce. While some beachfront hotels haven't reopened in Hurricane Wilma's wake, Caseltine hopes to see more regional headquarters move into the county thanks to the new Enterprise Zone for the Vero Beach Airport and adjacent Gifford community.

Key Newcomer

? New Piper Aircraft CEO James Bass joined the company last September after leading a financial turnaround at Arizona-based Suntron Corp.

Port St. Lucie/St. Lucie County

Gov. Jeb Bush proposed $250 million to lure medical research firm Burnham Institute from LaJolla, Calif., to Florida, possibly to St. Lucie County. Economic developers are confident that research breakthroughs are in the county's future. "We haven't had a lot of recent economic development success because of the hurricanes, but we are trying to make an overall change to the region in terms of attracting research and development. The universities are showing up to support us," says Don Root, executive director of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County. ... Devcon Development is planning to build a 600-acre mixed-use development called The Provences at Midway Road and I-95 in Port St. Lucie.

Key Newcomer

? JazMaz Development Corp. CEO John Zalkin is leading a long-term strategic effort to rebuild Fort Pierce and preserve its historic core.

? Gerri McPherson, vice president of Florida Atlantic University's Treasure Coast campus, is leading several projects, including the $11-million Marine Science Partnership Building at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce.

Stuart/Martin County

Golf courses and a quiet lifestyle entice the well-off, including Tiger Woods, who purchased a $38-million oceanfront compound on Jupiter Island in January. The leisurely lifestyle and moderate growth are just the way Martin County likes it, says Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce President Joe Catrambone, but economic developers are hoping to shift from a service-oriented employment base to a high-wage, high-tech base as the Scripps Research Institute builds momentum. Catrambone sees a shift in Martin County demographics: "Almost 70% of the occupational licenses in November were purchased by Hispanics."

Key Newcomer

? Since taking the helm last September, Martin County Administrator Duncan Ballantyne has been shepherding an ordinance that would bring affordable housing to area teachers, police officers and firefighters.

Okeechobee County

? Founded by Ohio native Rob Cunningham, truck renovation startup Big Lake Trucks landed in the Okeechobee County Airport Industrial Park last year to leverage the region's logistics strengths.

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