Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Southeast Florida - Workforce, environment, infrastructure


The biggest development in Broward tourism is a closing: The county will shut the Broward Convention Center for 19 months to pull off a $1-billion renovation and expansion. Growth of the meeting business in Fort Lauderdale has been hampered by a lack of space and hotel rooms. The county made a run at a convention center project three times over the years without success, harming its credibility in the meeting market. The latest endeavor will see part of the center reopened in time for the 2021 Fort Lauderdale International Boat show. A new waterfront building should be complete in 2023 with construction of the 800-room hotel finished later that same year. The area Convention and Visitors Bureau says 2020 has a “healthy visitor forecast,” and there are plans to stimulate bookings and meetings for hotels during the center expansion. The expanded center will add 630,000 square feet of meeting space to bring the total to 1.2 million square feet, including a large contiguous hall, water taxi access and other pluses.


Julie Fisher Berry, Principal Marina Investment Group Senior Vice President, Stiles Realty, Fort Lauderdale

“I focus on the sales of marinas, boatyards and mega-yacht facilities. I receive numerous inquiries to purchase marine properties. If I had 20 small marinas, I could sell them immediately.

There’s more demand for larger slips and, as new boaters come in, there’s more demand for slips in general. I see it continuing and continuing.

It’s very important for us to protect the marine industry. The economic impact of the marine industry in South Florida is about $12 billion. The economic impact of the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show is greater than the Super Bowl.”


Simon Caldecott, President / CEO
Piper Aircraft, Vero Beach

“We’ve seen for the last three years year-over-year growth in double-digit numbers both in terms of sales and also in the percentage increase in our workforce. We have two distinct markets. We have bigger products, which are more for individuals. We have the trainer market for flight schools.

In 2009, we only delivered 90 aircraft. This year, we’ll probably be around 290 aircraft — 220 of the planes will be for flight schools. We’ll see somewhere around 10% growth this year.

Our head count is 1,060. When I came here in 2009, there were 560 employees. We’ve been adding a lot of people. It’s come with its challenges. We’ve got Embraer north of us and Pratt & Whitney south of us. We’ve partnered with Indian River State College on an apprentice program.”


Jennifer Bales Drake, Attorney
Becker, Fort Lauderdale

“There are still projects going on, and projects will continue through 2020. I see a bit of a slowdown in the purchasing and closing of the end units.

A lot of the young people still don’t have the money to buy houses.

I see Fort Lauderdale continuing to evolve and develop. Broward County has a lot to offer. We’re attracting new businesses every day. Downtown Fort Lauderdale is a vibrant city.

I have a positive outlook. As a real estate attorney, you’re always cautious. I just don’t think it’s going to be quite as busy in 2020. It’s an interesting underbelly. Everybody’s busy, but everybody’s just cautious.”

Forecast: TOURISM

Oneil Khosa, CEO
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, Deerfield Beach

“We’re the only cruise line operating out of Palm Beach. We have a niche doing short cruises to the Bahamas. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line did get impacted by Hurricane Dorian, probably more than any other cruise line. We are recovering from that.

It’s the north and east part of Grand Bahama that were decimated. A lot of people don’t realize the southern part that has the beaches and the main attractions, the hotels, the swimming with the dolphins, has remained intact. Tourists are coming over as the time passes. We are seeing an uptick.

We added a destination in Nassau as a result of the hurricane hitting Grand Bahama, which is turning out to be a great opportunity for us.”

Forecast: FINANCE

Kelley Brown-Murro, Market Executive
Regions, Fort Lauderdale / West Palm Beach

“Our customers are generally very optimistic about their businesses. I’m not seeing a slowdown.

People are being very mindful in making well-thought-out and strategic decisions. A lot of businesses in the area have been through the downturn before. People are very prepared. I think they’re being very smart and very wise and very efficient. How can we invest inside our business to increase our margins; how can we prepare for the volatility ahead? They’re really thinking ahead and giving it a lot of thought. How are they going to weather that storm wisely if it were to occur?

We continue to make strategic investments whether it be in headcount or branch expansion. Much like our customers — very strategic in doing it.”

Forecast: RETAIL

Sarah Kudisch, General Manager
Palm Beach Outlets, West Palm Beach

“2020 will have a similar look as 2019, where retailers are seeking slightly smaller footprints, looking to cut overhead and operating more efficiently. Overall, we don’t anticipate much change in measured growth.

We are projecting that in 2020 we will be at near or full occupancy as we were in 2019. Since late 2018, we have welcomed key fashion brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman and True Religion. We plan to continue bringing these sought-after retailers to the project.”

Southeast / Broward, Palm Beach, Indian River, Okeechobee, Martin, St. Lucie Counties

Issues ...

  • Workforce: Employers struggle to find workers. Workers struggle to find well-paying jobs. In the movie The Graduate, recent college grad Benjamin Braddock gets career advice in one word: Plastics. For the industry of the future in Southeast Florida — as for the state overall — it’s four words: Ambulatory health care services. With the flood of aging Boomers, the industry, which covers outpatient centers, doctor and dentist offices and home health care, will lead Florida in adding jobs through 2026, the state says. That’s true in all of Southeast Florida, except Broward, where ambulatory health care services ranks second. Of the five occupations projected to add the most jobs through 2026 in Southeast Florida, only registered nursing requires a college degree and pays more than $15 an hour. Other occupations adding the most jobs include landscapers, fast food and food prep, retail sales and waiters.
  • Infrastructure: In July, an FPL contractor broke a crucial Fort Lauderdale main that carries water from the wellfields to the city water plant, knocking out water service to 222,000 residents of the city and other cities it services. It shut down hotels, malls and restaurants and government offices. “I cannot believe how antiquated our systems are. We really need to engage our infrastructure program into fast forward,” Mayor Dean Trantalis texted during the crisis. Then, in October, a half-century-old water main on the bottom of the New River broke, forcing a boil-water order.
  • Regional Cooperation: The new, regionally focused South Florida Business Council, comprising representatives of the three major chambers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, says its chief issues are education, water management, affordable housing, mobility and tourism. The council hopes South Florida will enjoy the success other regions of Florida have had in wooing legislative funding by speaking with a single voice.
  • Environment: The Treasure Coast’s treasured waters have been fouled in recent years by algal blooms fed by excess nitrogen and phosphorous. The city of Port St. Lucie has gotten some funding from the Legislature and local water district for a $12.6-million water restoration and storage project at the city’s McCarty Ranch Preserve. It would convert 1,900 acres of fallow citrus grove and a 730-acre water impoundment into a water storage area to divert nearly 9 billion gallons of water a year from flowing into the St. Lucie River. Keeping the water and the phosphorous and nitrogen it carries out of the river will improve the water quality in the river. Long term, the city plans to build a treatment plant at the site to turn the canal water into drinking water. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year wants to study the effects of Lake Okeechobee blue-green algal blooms on biologists, fishing guides and airboat operators who are frequently on the lake.



  • Longtime Boca Raton developer and property owner Crocker Partners dropped plans to redevelop its mixeduse, live-work project in Midtown Boca but says it will continue its suit against the city over its thwarting of the project.
  • 1.3 million square feet of class A office space is planned or under development in downtown West Palm Beach.
  • The Main Las Olas, Stiles’ 1.4 million-sq.-ft. work-live project with 369,602 square feet of class A office in downtown Fort Lauderdale, is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter.
  • This year, CenterPoint Properties projects finishing Port Everglades International Logistics Center, a 296,207-sq.-ft. project at Broward’s seaport.
  • Disney sold 26 acres west of A1A and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort parking to GHO Homes, which plans single-family homes and attached housing starting at $1 million.


  • Indian River State College President Edwin R. Massey plans to retire in 2020. He has been with the Fort Piercebased college for 46 years, 31 of them as president. He leaves Aug. 31.


  • Okeechobee Health Care Facility, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Okeechobee, ranked first in Newsweek’s list of the best nursing homes in Florida. Others based in Southeast Florida that made the state top 20: MorseLife Health, West Palm Beach; Port St. Lucie Rehabilitation & Healthcare, Port St. Lucie; Solaris Healthcare Parkway, Stuart; John Knox Village, Pompano Beach; Margate Health and Rehabilitation Center, Margate; Manor Pines, Fort Lauderdale; and ManorCare Health Services-Boca Raton, Boca Raton.


  • The Florida Panthers will finance the restoration of Fort Lauderdale’s city-owned War Memorial Auditorium on the city’s east side as part of the NHL team’s $45-million project to build in the surrounding park two indoor ice rinks, one for Panthers practice and the other for community use, and a 3,000-seat concert venue.
  • Inter Miami, the Major League Soccer team backed by David Beckham, plans to complete its new complex in Fort Lauderdale early this year for its inaugural season beginning in March. The complex will house an 18,000-seat stadium and team headquarters and training facilities for its affiliate clubs and youth soccer. The team plans to play in Fort Lauderdale until it realizes its hopes of a Miami stadium.


  • Private passenger rail company Virgin Trains started construction on its $4-billion, 166-mile link from West Palm Beach to Orlando in 2019. Service will begin in 2022. Meanwhile, Virgin is working on adding stations in Boca Raton, Aventura and PortMiami, which the line says could double ridership, and is in talks about adding a station on the Treasure Coast.
  • Spirit Airlines, Broward’s homegrown airline, will move its 1,000-employee headquarters in 2022 from Miramar to a new campus near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, investing $250 million and adding 225 jobs. The new campus, up to 500,000 square feet, will be at Dania Pointe, Kimco Realty’s new restaurant, retail and residential project in Dania Beach. State and local incentives total $2.25 million. Spirit employs 4,000 in South Florida.


  • Late this year, Marriott will open its 174-room AC hotel at Sawgrass Mills, developed in association with Norwich Partners. Sawgrass, a 2.3 million-sq.-ft. shopping destination, is undergoing a renovation.

Statewide Perspective

What’s Ahead in Retail

Nick Banks, Gainesville-based leader of commercial real estate firm Avison Young’s retail affinity group for Florida and the nation, identified six trends for FLORIDA TREND driving retail real estate statewide:

  • The Store As Warehouse: The cost of delivery dwarfs the cost of rent. The answer: Take over retail space or strike a deal with retailers to turn excess space into online support. Kohl’s now handles Amazon returns. Amazon acquired Whole Foods in part to get more local distribution. It also converted two failed Midwest malls into distribution centers. “Delivery across all sectors is becoming increasingly important. Companies are looking to compress whatever costs are associated with delivery to the greatest extent possible. So they’re moving warehouses and distribution closer to the consumer.”
  • Adaptive Re-Use: Avison Young represented Sears in the sale of a 140,000-sq.-ft. shuttered Sears at Oaks Mall in Gainesville and its conversion into a UF Health clinical and surgery center.
  • Online Order Challenges: Food and beverage operators struggle to balance rapid growth in online orders with caring for in-store customers. “Some consumers feel the in-store experience has suffered. You walk into your favorite coffee shop and there are only one or two people in line, but it takes 20 minutes to get your drink. There are 50 online orders in front of you that you can’t see.” Response: Some operators are going to two lines, one to handle in-store customers and one out of view solely for online orders. Other new food and beverage concepts skip the in-store experience entirely in favor of online orders and delivery and pickup only.
  • More Mixed Use: Office and apartment developers want a retail component to their projects. “Some of it is market driven. Some of it is regulatory driven. I think a lot of municipalities are pushing for mixed use. Sometimes they push that envelope a little bit too far.”
  • Online Opening Brick-and-Mortar: Online-only retailers continue opening brick-and-mortar stores. The physical stores feed online sales, and the online operation feeds the physical stores. “It’s a brand exposure opportunity for them.”
  • Cancel the Retail Apocalypse: “I heard a great quote. ‘Retail is not dead. It is not overbuilt. It’s under demolished.’ Well-located high-quality retail is doing great. It’s doing better than it’s ever done. Food and beverage is doing great. Anything experience-related is doing great. There is a lot that has to be put to another use. There are certain sectors that are facing more challenges.”

Read more in Florida Trend's January issue.

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