Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Workforce availability, traffic and environmental concerns

Forecast | MARINE


Director of Sales, Heesen Yachts, Fort Lauderdale

“There are really not many people who build in our size and speed, sexy-looking, very stylish boats. We like to sell four to five boats a year. The economy is strong. We sold three boats to guys who live right here in Fort Lauderdale — a 55-meter, a 50-meter and a 47-meter — in the last year and a half. Florida’s really become the repair center for a lot of yachts. Look at what’s going on in Palm Beach at Rybovich. Look at the number of boat yards here in Fort Lauderdale and down in Miami. Lauderdale’s a great place. If you look at the development here in Fort Lauderdale, there’s just great growth. People like Lauderdale. It went from total beach bar debauchery to right now it’s a pretty sophisticated place. It’s calmer than Miami. It’s different than Palm Beach. It’s in the middle if you want to experience either place. It’s a very boat-oriented crowd. All the boat crew live here. All the captains have houses here.”

Forecast | SERVICES


Co-Owner, Electrical Connections, Stuart

“We do residential service and commercial service. Right at the moment, we average 14 to 20 employees. We are definitely hiring. We have plenty of work for people to do. That’s one of the issues that we face every day: Having qualified, motivated personnel is a big issue in the trade areas. I think (2019) is going to be great.”



President, WGI, West Palm Beach

“The economy continues to do well. I don’t think there’s a person in the industry today who doesn’t feel like we had a pretty good run clawing back from the dark days and the big drop. We continue to feel optimistic. The core demands for transportation and the core demand for housing continue to look positive. We continue to look at 15%-plus growth targets in our organization both in adding people and overall growth in the business. Our biggest challenge right now is just finding homes for the people. Our industry’s been under duress from a personnel perspective for a long time. We’re at about 425 (employees) currently nationally (366 in Florida). A really big issue is leaning in more on technology. The industry in general is behind in the use of tools to deliver more effectively and efficiently. Things like artificial intelligence for instance. I am 100% certain our business is going to continue to change in significant ways because of technology. We want to be at the forefront of that change.”



Vice President, Crocker Partners, Boca Raton

“With vacancies dwindling to historic lows in many submarkets and a lack of new office supply, we expect continued upward pressure on rental rates and waning landlord concessions. We find that tenants are willing to pay these higher rates but, in return, are demanding that landlords offer more flexible space options and amenities within their office buildings. As the state’s largest office landlord, Crocker Partners has begun transforming how office space is marketed and used by creating different offerings to tenants. We are reconfiguring our buildings to provide tenants with space that matches their needs by providing flex suites, which allow tenants to expand and contract within our buildings during the term of their leases, Crocker-managed co-working spaces and turnkey incubator suites. Our current transformation of the Boca Raton Innovation Campus exemplifies this. We acquired the 1.7 million-sq.-ft. office campus that was once home of IBM and the invention of the personal computer with the intention of bringing that historical foundation and innovation back to campus through amenities. In addition to implementing cosmetic renovations, we are adding an incubator space, wellness center, tenant lounges, food hall, presentation hall and STEAM (STEM plus art) lab.”

Forecast | TOURISM


Manager, Marsh Landing Restaurant
Commissioner, Indian River County
Chair, Tourist Development Council, Fellsmere

“We employ between 20 to 30 people. We are starting to see a lot more year-round business. Our seasonal business is definitely more robust than in years past. If I had to project, definitely 10% to 15% (growth). That would probably be safe to say. We’re seeing a lot of our seasonal residents become year-round residents. Hoteliers and restaurants, especially in our more tourism-specific areas, are seeing a lot of growth. We are seeing our local and small businesses expanding and adding employees. We’re seeing our manufacturing and business sectors doing a lot of onboarding of new employees. Of course, the construction trade industry is huge down here. Those industries are really ramping up. There’s a lack of employees for some of those industries just because there’s so much growth going on. That’s a good problem to have.”

Regional Issues ...

  • Workforce Availability: Training programs are ramping up to help employers find workers, as unemployment ranges from 2.8% in Broward to 3.9% in Indian River. In October, Indian River State College, for example, received a $1.53-million state grant to train up to 140 workers a year for jobs averaging $44,000 a year in the aviation and marine industries. At the time, the two industries had 300 unfilled high-wage jobs on the Treasure Coast. The Broward public school district found itself so short of substitute teachers — 18% of classrooms in need of a sub didn’t have one — it combined in November with Broward College to offer a one-day program to certify any Broward College student with at least 60 credit hours as a substitute teacher.
  • Traffic Congestion: Southeast Florida regularly ranks among the worst regions for traffic in the nation. A sign of how tired commuters have become: In November, Broward voters endorsed raising the sales tax a percentage point to 7% — $15.6 billion over 30 years — to pay for road improvements and light rail.
  • Environment: Between algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon and a rare red tide on the Atlantic Coast, water-quality issues have the attention of area political and business leaders. Even areas not impacted by the troubled waters still find they have to address perceptions from prospective tourists.
  • Developable Land: How scarce is land? A lake at I-595 and Florida’s Turnpike that was created in the 1960s and 1970s to provide fill for road and airport construction is now assessed at $10 million. The owner is filling in part of it to create an industrial site that’s under contract for $37.5 million, says Colliers broker Steven Wasserman. Farther south near Hallandale, a developer filled a 40-acre lake to house a 500,000-sq.-ft. industrial building. “You’re seeing it more and more because there’s less and less dry land,” Wasserman says.

County Business Briefs

  • INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The years-long saga of Vero Beach’s effort to sell its municipal electric utility to FPL closes following approval of the deal from state regulators. FPL pays $185 million to acquire the utility and its 35,000 customers in Indian River County. Locals have complained for years that they pay too much for power from their small governmentrun utility. Typical residential customers are expected to see their bills drop by roughly $25 a month.
  • MARTIN COUNTY — The new municipality of Indiantown marks its first year since it incorporated and opened itself for greater economic development. Meanwhile, the eastern part of the county sees its vital Kanner Highway being expanded from Stuart to I-95 with a future expansion on the west side of I-95 coming. An expansion of Florida’s Turnpike north into St. Lucie County is planned.
  • OKEECHOBEE COUNTY — Among 550 small economies nationally, Okeechobee County stands out for the wrong reasons. It’s eighth in food stamps per capita and ranks near the bottom in annual earnings. Population growth is sluggish, economic growth nil, home construction lacking and the anemic tax base strains government and schools. Every public school student qualifies for a free school meal. Many young people go elsewhere for opportunity. Those who stay have little beyond low-wage work. The county is trying to turn a new page. Government and private companies have funded creation of Okeechobee County Economic Development Corp. to help existing industry and attract new ones. A priority is hiring a full-time executive and developing a modern industrial park. “If nothing is done to reverse the downward economic slide, within 10 years the county will become one of the poorest in Florida,” economic development consultant Bill Fruth, of Policom in Palm City, told local leaders.
  • ST. LUCIE COUNTY — The strength of St. Lucie’s new-home development market was in evidence as the Tradition development reclaimed its spot atop the list of the region’s bestselling new single-family communities, besting runner-up Lennar’s AquaBella in Miami-Dade. Tradition’s pace of 352 annual housing starts represented a 31% increase from the second quarter while its 316 closings was up slightly from the earlier quarter, according to research firm Metrostudy. “With the land controlled by GL Homes and Mattamy, consisting of thousands of lots, the community is nowhere near built out,” says Metrostudy regional director David Cobb. Port St. Lucie, alone in the Treasure Coast, ranks in the top five cities in Florida with the best income equality, according to HomeArea.com.

Read more in our January issue.

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