Local leaders optimistic amid Charlotte’s latest jobs ranking

Local leaders optimistic amid Charlotte’s latest jobs ranking

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020   — The Queen City closed out the decade as one of the hottest markets in the nation, especially in the southeast. Millennials, Fortune 500 companies, and even a new soccer team want to be fully established in Charlotte and tap into its growth. And while the region offers a robust, tech- and financial services-savvy workforce, and is steadily diversifying its economy, a new report puts Charlotte in the middle of the pack for best cities for jobs in 2020. However, local market leaders across industries say job opportunities will remain sustainable for 2020, especially in the technology, law, and real estate sectors.

 

A new report by WalletHub puts Charlotte at No. 104 on its ranking of “2020’s Best Cities for Jobs.” The personal finance website compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 31 indicators of job-market strength, such as employment growth and monthly average starting salary. Scottsdale, Arizona, took the top spot, and Detroit, Michigan, came in last at No. 182. Other major North Carolina metros received mixed reviews, with Raleigh cracking the Top 50 at No. 48, and Fayetteville listed before Detroit at No. 181. Though the report listed Charlotte as middle of the pack for jobs compared to other cities, the technology, law and real estate sectors will continue to provide opportunities for the region’s workforce, local leaders say.  

 

Charlotte is quickly becoming a tech town, as evidenced by the different tech-based companies that relocated to the region in the latter half of the last decade. “In the Charlotte market, the technology talent pool is growing at a rapid pace, largely driven by companies like Red Ventures, LendingTree, and AvidXchange,” JLL Market Director Chase Monroe told Invest: Charlotte. “There has been a need for high-tech talent. Locally, there has been investment in the school system to drive technological education.” Charlotte’s banking legacy, coupled with the fintech that is coming out of the banking system, is also fueling the technology sector and driving talent to the Queen City, Monroe said. “Those factors have allowed Charlotte to be a top recruiter for multiple tech-based opportunities across industries. Recruiting and retention of talent has been a huge factor in the Charlotte Metro Area.” 

 

Similarly, the legal sector has evolved with the growth of the city and has a positive outlook heading into the new decade. “I don’t see anything but good things for the legal profession here,” Poyner Spruill Partner Tate Ogburn told Invest: Charlotte. “Charlotte has grown for the two decades that I have lived here, and I don’t see that dramatically changing.” The legal needs of companies evolve with the economic diversification and growth of the region, which creates opportunities for legal professionals, he said. “It is still a place where people want to be and there are more opportunities with new and more sophisticated companies coming in for the legal sector to continue growing. There are a lot of opportunities in terms of new clients and people, and different types of work as well,” Ogburn said. 

 

Real estate and development provide investor confidence and opportunities for the workforce as Charlotte continues to grow. “I’ve been at this for 40 years and the real estate market in Charlotte is the strongest, most robust I’ve ever seen,” Northwood CEO Ned Curran told Invest: Charlotte. He highlighted the growth of the residential, industrial and commercial sectors. “Residential leads the way. It has not slowed like in other cities. Distribution and manufacturing continue to grow, and we have a unique distribution hub of state highways and rail networks associated with the airport. The office sector has trailed a little, but in recent years it has been catching up, which is a reflection of job growth,” he said. Curran expects the growth to continue during an election year and beyond while expressing confidence in the region and its economic diversification, which will allow the region to be better prepared in the event of an economic downturn, he said. “We will continue to grow across all sectors. We continue to diversify our economy, which only gives us greater strength. When there is a downturn in the economy, not everybody suffers. Some have disadvantages, some have advantages, but we are all components of an economic system and with our great diversity, we will be able to weather it better.”

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: 

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-for-jobs/2173/#methodology

https://www.us.jll.com/en/locations/southeast/carolinas

https://www.poynerspruill.com/

https://www.northwoodoffice.com/

 

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read January 2020 — The Broward County Convention Center and Hotel is one of the largest projects underway in Broward County. A project of this magnitude requires the utmost care in regards to design and architecture, as well as the foresight to plan for future environmental challenges. Invest: spoke with Andrew Burnett, the senior principal for Stantec, which is working on the Convention Center project. Burnett addressed the company’s ongoing projects, how shifting demands have changed its focus and the National Flood Insurance Program. 

 

What are some of your most significant projects in development within Broward County? 

 

We have multiple projects throughout Broward County, including the Fort Lauderdale region, Pompano Beach, Sunrise and Miramar. For instance, we are the architect of record and landscape architect for the Broward County Convention Center and Hotel, which is around a $1 billion project. This is an extremely large and involved project requiring integrated services from Stantec that also has many resilient aspects being built into it that we hope to use as a model for future growth and development throughout the county. As we are expanding the convention center and building the new hotel, we have done a series of wave-height analyses. These are not just focused on the floodplain and how high we need to build the building to stay out of the floodplain, they also address storm surges and how to design the building to be more resilient in those situations. It has been great to have the county’s support on these matters. Our other projects in Broward County include the new AC Hotel by Marriott in Sawgrass Mills, Manor Miramar, Las Olas Walk and 1380 South Ocean Boulevard. 

 

How have you seen demand shift in the last couple of years and how are you adapting to this shift? 

 

Historically, we would see the demand for smaller residential units in the Downtown urban core because of the density of the population. As we moved away from the urban areas, the units were constructed bigger to attract more people, but now we are starting to see smaller units becoming attractive away from the urban centers. This indicates that people are looking for alternative solutions that are more affordable. It may also be partially due to having more flexibility and adaptability in the way that we live and the way that we engage the community as Broward becomes more connected and dense. We foresee more of these deals for smaller units outside of the main urban areas making sense for investors. 

 

We are seeing more residential projects that want to permit themselves as or like a hotel. There is some gray area with the rise of services like Airbnb and WhyHotel that can allow owners to operate as a short-term rental while they’re leasing up their building. Owners and investors are starting to take advantage of this. This is shifting how we design our projects. For instance, if we need to design for things like ADA bathrooms, which you would find in a hotel, we are starting to look at an earlier stage how we might design the spaces to be more flexible to do this.

 

How have you seen Opportunity Zone legislation affect your business? 

 

We have seen an increase in requests for test fits on properties that fall in Opportunity Zones. The market is starting to ask questions on sites and locations that they hadn’t previously. There are a lot of regulations that are being finalized and released in the near future that are going to help increase investor confidence to go forward in these Opportunity Zones, but it may be too early to see the fruit of the test fits in these sites. We are expecting to see more of this in 2020. 

 

How much of a focus do you place on possible future changes to the National Flood Insurance Program? 

 

We are looking more broadly at what is happening with the National Flood Insurance Program and what may happen in the future in terms of how we go about flood insurance regarding how much of it is subsidized by taxpayers. At some point, taxpayers are going to say that they do not want to be subsidizing flood insurance for landowners who may not be doing enough to protect their buildings. As risk starts to shift from insurance entities to owners, they are going to be asked what they are doing to make their building more resilient. What we are trying to do with our integrated team is to find solutions to this so we can go back to our clients and suggest to them what they need to do to mitigate this risk. 

 

For more on our interviewee visit:

 

https://www.stantec.com/en

Public-Private Partners Devise Future of Queen City

Public-Private Partners Devise Future of Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020In the last decade, Charlotte rose from the devastating effects of the Great Recession to become the 16th-most populous city in the United States. The Queen City has experienced continuous years of growth thanks to the diversification of its economy, its budding headquarters relocation culture, steady commercial and residential development, and its “cool” appeal favored by the young workforce moving to Charlotte and its surrounding region. As the city prepares for another decade of evolution, growth, and development, public and private partners have their eyes set on the year 2040. Several complementary plans are underway that will help guide the future of Center City, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County for the next 20 years.

Spearheaded by nonprofit Charlotte Center City Partners, in partnership with the city and county, the “ALL IN 2040” plan aims to establish a new blueprint for the growth and development of Center City, an area that encompasses Uptown and South End. Simultaneously, the city of Charlotte is working on its 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which will guide the growth of Charlotte overall, while Mecklenburg County rewrites its Park and Recreation master plan.

Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, said the Queen City has a strong legacy of careful planning for long-term development. “We’ve had four decades of deliberate planning and this decade has really defined Charlotte,” Smith told Invest: Charlotte. “Charlotte has launched a new, renewed Center City vision for 2040, called the ‘ALL IN’ plan. This is a great opportunity for Charlotte to carry on its legacy of planning. This is a 50-year tradition of creating these blueprints, each time looking several decades ahead, but renewing that vision every 10 years. This provides us with an opportunity to listen to our community, and to bring subject-matter experts in to help us understand some of the best practices around the world,” he said.

 

Much of the successful growth and development in Charlotte that occurred in the past decade was a result of strong public-private partnerships, which the “ALL IN 2040” plan will continue to develop and strengthen. “The plans and projects are co-created and co-owned with the private sector. In Charlotte over the last 50 years, we’ve had the public sector making transformative, shaping, stimulating investments in infrastructure, and the private sector responding in a collaborative way,” Smith said.

 

Infrastructure will be a strong focus of the “ALL IN 2040” plan, as well as the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan. “With the growth we have, we know we have to invest in transportation,” Smith said. Both plans account for major transit expansions to the city’s rapid bus transit and light rail systems. “All that infrastructure development is really needed as the city is booming with construction on the residential, office and hospitality fronts. Right now, there are almost 2.2 million square feet of office space under construction. Of that, there are about 700,000 square feet in South End, and more in Uptown. This is not speculative; there is a lot of pre-leased space in South End. As a matter of fact, about 90% of what’s under construction is pre-leased. It provides us with great confidence,” he said.

 

The “ALL IN 2040” plan and similar city and county efforts are meant to complement one another. Throughout 2020, residents are encouraged to attend public engagement sessions where they can give their input regarding the future of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. 

By the end of the process, a final draft will be created that will eventually head to the city council for approval and implementation.

 

To learn more, visit:

https://www.charlottecentercity.org 

https://www.allin2040.com/plan

Spotlight On: Sean Beuche, Regional Manager, Marcus & Millichap

Spotlight On: Sean Beuche, Regional Manager, Marcus & Millichap

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read December 2019 — 2019 was a steady year for Philadelphia’s commercial real estate. The market’s affordability, the city’s position as a logistics hub and its attractive environment for startups has driven strong demand. One of the areas seeing a high amount of activity is King of Prussia. Commercial real estate firm Marcus & Millichap recently relocated to the area, attracted by the growth in the region. Regional Manager Sean Beuche discussed with the Invest: team the neighborhoods seeing the most growth in commercial real estate and his outlook for the sector as we enter 2020. 

Marcus & Millichap relocated its Wynnewood location to King of Prussia. What makes that community attractive?

This relocation highlights our commitment to the area and our optimism about the local economy. The construction and new development activity going on in the King of Prussia market is very attractive. Numerous businesses and baby boomers are moving to the area, where there is more land available, beautiful housing stock, good school districts and less traffic congestion.  King of Prussia is a nexus of a variety of different interstates and that strategic location amid emerging growth and development is much more desirable for us. In addition, we are expanding in a nicer Class A office space that provides our clients and agents with a much brighter and enjoyable place to do business.

 

Which areas are the fastest-growing for commercial real estate in Philadelphia?

We’re seeing fast appreciation in the Point Breeze market, while Fishtown and Kensington have been hot for some time. We are also seeing numerous investments in areas further along the Main Line region. The Lehigh Valley and Central PA markets are both driving a lot of new investors into Pennsylvania. As the yields continue to deliver in some of these secondary and tertiary markets, investors want to move outside of areas where they’re getting squeezed by some popularity. There is a bit of a ripple effect being created by the economy being strong for a long time, and many of the investments that have been made or taken in these core markets are pushing investors further out. 

 

What is your outlook for Philadelphia’s real estate sector over the next 12-18 months?

 

The outlook is positive. There is uncertainty from a political standpoint, we are dealing with some of the trade wars and we are very interested in seeing where that shakes out. We focus on private and middle market clients and, in times of uncertainty, we provide them with market research about existing opportunities. From an income standpoint, rents in the Center City market and many of our urban infill markets are pushed up, and we would need to see some relevant margin changes in household income to afford a greater rent increase. Our clients are seeing strong fundamentals in the main groups that we focus on, which are multifamily, industrial, office and retail. As that financing loosens up and remains affordable, deals are very quickly moving off our shelves and into the hands of investors.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Marcus & Millichap: https://www.marcusmillichap.com/ 

 

Spotlight on: Nicholas Haines, CEO, Bromley Companies

Spotlight on: Nicholas Haines, CEO, Bromley Companies

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

The future of Tampa Bay is developing in front of our very eyes and there are a few select developers making this vision come to life. Real estate developer Bromley Companies broke ground in mid-2019 on its ambitious Midtown Tampa project. Company CEO Nicholas Haines discussed the importance of incorporating new tendencies, such as a pedestrian-focused design, and the challenges that both a proper mix of high-end and affordable housing present for the city.

 

What’s the status of the Midtown Tampa project?

We broke ground on the Midtown project in May 2019 and we are well under construction for the first phase. There are 11 buildings going up at the same time: three residential, two office buildings, and several retail, including a Whole Food Kitchen and True Food Kitchen, both of which are significant expansions in the market. There is also a 1,000-car parking garage that is already topped out, and we’re right on schedule. The goal is to finish it by the 2021 Super Bowl, which will be held here in Tampa Bay just a couple miles up the street. 

A lot of what we are doing now is spending a tremendous amount of time on the finishing touches of the common-space designs that create community. It is about creating an imaginative destination not just for the people working, living and shopping here, but for the neighborhood by adding public art and a feel for the place, all the things that make a space interesting and dynamic. We are building a city within a city — an entirely new district. 

What business trends are you keeping an eye on as you go ahead with this development?

Accessibility and pedestrian-friendliness. I just read about a development in Arizona, with 1,000 residential units and no parking. That is a bold thing for a non-superurban area. What we are trying to do is create one of the first, pedestrian-first mindset versus car-first developments in Tampa Bay and Florida. All the streets inside the development are private, which is a really interesting feature of Midtown Tampa. We are not constrained by the city’s rules regarding traffic and street design. For a big event like the Super Bowl, we can close the streets so that all the cars access Midtown from the periphery.

We have designed curbless sidewalks, for example, and dedicated ride-share drop-off areas. The city of Tampa is working on a number of mass transit initiatives and we are working to accommodate a mass transit stop on one of our main corridors. People are going to live, work and shop here because they want to wake up, go to a coffee shop, walk their dog at the dog park, go shopping at Whole Foods, have a drink at the hotel rooftop bar, and maybe work at one of the office buildings. They’ll also be able to ride a bike path that connects from Midtown Tampa to the Greenway Trail System, from Tampa to St. Petersburg, by crossing a 10-lane bridge at Dale Mabry.

Are there any other areas that you see as a hotspot or active as real estate developments for the moment? 

Yes, it’s really exploding. The Heights area is really interesting. St. Petersburg is incredibly exciting and a great example of a vibrant, urban place with the interplay between food and art. We are talking about a city that has transformed itself over 10 years in terms of the energy there. 

What is your outlook for the Tampa Bay region, and how do you see the region addressing its challenges? 

Regarding sustainability, it is really important to get the mix right between higher-end housing like we are building here and affordable housing. There’s a need to provide better incentives for the private sector to offer that kind of housing. You can only do so much as a city if everyone is building luxury apartments. It is an issue for all cities, but Tampa today does not have a cohesive development and zoning policy to encourage that. Tampa is still a very affordable place on a relative basis, but that affordability gap is narrowing. People who have been living here for a long time with a moderate income are being pushed further and further away from the urban core. 

Transportation is a huge thing too. In some ways, advances in mass transportation technology might help Tampa. The city might not have done it in the past, but in some ways that might not be the worst thing. Tampa might be able to take advantage of innovations in technology like self-driving buses to implement something that is very forward thinking, instead of having to put up the heavy infrastructure and the massive amounts of capital for a light rail system.

To learn more about our interviewee visit: 

https://www.bromco.com/

Spotlight on: Adam Mullen, Market Leader, Greater Philadelphia Region, CBRE

Spotlight on: Adam Mullen, Market Leader, Greater Philadelphia Region, CBRE

By: Yolanda Rivas

One of the main drivers of Philadelphia’s economy is the real estate industry, attractive for its affordable prices, advantageous location and the Pennsylvania I-78/I-81 Corridor. A recent report from commercial real estate firm CBRE showed the corridor saw a total of $132 million in capital investment during Q3 2019. In an interview with Invest:, Adam Mullen, CBRE’s market leader for the Greater Philadelphia region, discussed the areas seeing the most growth in Philly’s commercial real estate and what is spurring growth in the market.

 

What are the lines of business seeing the most growth or demand in Philadelphia today?

It is hard to understate the momentum we are witnessing in the industrial and logistics space. The shift to e-commerce and modernized supply chains have not only created one of the largest warehouse distribution markets in the world in our backyard, the Pennsylvania I-78/I-81 Corridor, but demand continues to be robust for Philadelphia’s industrial properties. A variety of users, including retailers and third-party logistics companies, are driving demand so they deliver goods to consumers more efficiently than ever before. 

At the same time, the local retail market is as vibrant as it has been in years. Philadelphia is at the top of everyone’s list as a major gateway market in the retail space. We have the largest mall on the East Coast, the King of Prussia Mall, which is a prime example of the consumption activity in our region. Also, the food and beverage sector is one of our leading sources of demand, not only in the suburbs and shopping centers, but also in Downtown Philadelphia. Due to the opportunity we see in the retail market, we have had an extreme focus on our retail business in Philadelphia, doubling down on our investments over the last few months. 

We can’t overlook the dynamism in Philadelphia’s office market. Our Downtown office market is larger, in terms of square footage, than Downtown Los Angeles or Downtown Houston, and we are seeing considerable demand from not only tenants but also investors, particularly from Asia and the Middle East. 

Finally, we continue to watch the rise of the multifamily market in the region. Due to low interest rates and a plentitude of available debt capital, the demand for multifamily assets in greater Philadelphia has exploded over the past few years. 

What are the major drivers of growth for Philadelphia’s real estate sector?

The local economy is very strong and is being driven notably by the “eds and meds” segment, which has a unique presence in the Philadelphia region. Not only do the local educational and health services institutions have a huge effect on the economy and are growing rapidly, but they also represent the largest share of our employment base. Consequently, this concentration of talent has created a boom in the local life sciences industry, which is experiencing rapid growth, notably in central Philadelphia where most of the region’s major academic and healthcare institutions are clustered and spurring innovation and new companies. Not incidentally, we are seeing the highest office rents we have ever seen in Center City, and also experiencing a significant uptick in office tenants relocating to Downtown Philadelphia.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

CBRE: http://www.cbre.us/people-and-offices/corporate-offices/philadelphia 

Spotlight on:Flint McNaughton, CEO & Founding Partner, SunCap Property Group

Spotlight on:Flint McNaughton, CEO & Founding Partner, SunCap Property Group

By: Felipe Rivas

The Charlotte Metro Area offers access to capital, a talented and growing workforce, and an affordable cost of living. As a result, many companies and new residents are flocking to the region. Developers, however, must navigate the area’s competitive climate and tackle rising construction costs to materialize their projects. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, SunCap Property Group CEO Flint McNaughton talks about the trend of companies relocating their headquarters to the area, the challenges for developers, and the outlook for the region amid continued growth.

What impact has the millennial workforce had on the region?

Companies continue to focus on recruitment and retention of millennials because they are a big and growing workforce. Many companies are adjusting their work schedules and environments to recruit and accommodate them. Many millennials are looking for lifestyle choices that provide flexibility. I think apartment life enhances that flexibility and is a major reason for the consistent positive absorption we have seen in the multifamily sector. In my opinion, there will continue to be growth in that area.

What are some challenges facing the commercial real estate development industry?

The biggest challenge today in the commercial real estate development industry is the rising cost of construction and land and how that affects underwriting. As costs rise, so must rents. When markets were trying to recover from the recession, contractors remained aggressive in their bidding and costs remained low. They were trying to keep the lights on. However, as the market recovered and their pipelines became full again, the aggressive bidding began to wane. Many contractors can pick and choose their projects now. In a hot Charlotte market, costs of labor and materials are up.  

What is driving the region’s headquarters relocation culture?

Labor is a big concern for companies coming to the region. South End has been a robust and interesting story for Charlotte. It’s where the millennials and younger crowds want to go. When companies compete for employees, particularly the millennial generation, many of the companies find a competitive advantage by co-locating where those folks live. If you can live, work and play in an environment like South End, it checks a lot of boxes, and gives companies a competitive advantage over those located in  smaller, less “amenitized” submarkets. 

The headquarters relocation trend happening in the Charlotte Metro Area is largely driven by a number of positive attributes. Probably the biggest driver is the cost of living in the area, which is significantly less expensive than the other major markets. The region has a large well-diversified workforce, land, access to capital through its banks, and it is a great place to raise a family. When you can attract and retain young talent, it is a boom across industries and sectors, and I don’t think that will change in the near future.  

What is the outlook for the region heading into 2020?

The different headquarter relocations to the Charlotte area serve as big milestones as to how the city is doing. From a macroeconomic perspective, the area has experienced tremendous, positive and sustained growth. The area has its challenges, but overall Charlotte is very healthy. 

I’m bullish on Charlotte and believe this wave of momentum will continue. One of our biggest challenges will be investing in infrastructure to keep pace with that growth. Our roads, hospitals and education systems in particular will have to keep pace with that growth. The private sector will also have to get involved in upward mobility initiatives and be actively involved in the community to help the less fortunate move forward. We have to be smart, disciplined and fair about how we grow.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.suncappg.com/

Decatur embraces “hipsturbia”

Decatur embraces “hipsturbia”

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read December 2019 — Downtowns throughout the nation are popular among millennials for their walkability and myriad retail, recreation and lifestyle choices. But as millennials settle down and begin to outgrow their trendy Downtown apartments, the need to find a suburban neighborhood that is affordable, yet vibrant and walkable, has solidified itself as a trend to watch out for in 2020. Aptly described as “hipsturbia,” millennials across the nation are trading their city lifestyle for the suburbs, without losing their affinity for walkability and access to cool, a-la mode restaurants, retail and recreation options. Developers are tapping into the hipsturbia trend as seen by the proliferation of affordable, multi-use suburban communities in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta. As a result, in October, The Urban Land Institute named “hipsturbia” one of the top emerging trends for 2020. 

In essence, “hipsturbia” suburbs are characterized by their vibrant downtowns that offer walkability, public transit and a variety of “hip” restaurants, retail and recreation. In the Atlanta Metro Area, Decatur, located In Dekalb County, is quickly embracing “hipsturbia.” Approximately one-third of Decatur residents could be considered millennials, according to the population figures on Decatur’s official website. This year, Niche.com, the neighborhood ranking and review site, rated Decatur as the No. 1 place, and suburb, to live in Georgia. Downtown Decatur offers a bevy of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, that add to its “cool” factor. The area has an urban-suburban feel that fits in with the “hipsturbia” trend. According to the Urban Land Institute, people living in communities like Decatur, are discovering that smaller communities can have the same appeal as big cities. The institute predicts that millennials will continue to move to communities that offer walkable spaces and “hip” amenities. 

Once touted as cash-strapped and debt-ridden, millennials are making an impact in the national housing market. According to the institute, “hipsturbia” is happening in major cities like San Francisco and Chicago, as well as smaller cities such as Charleston and Phoenix. As the lack of home affordability draws young families away from big cities and into the suburbs, it is possible that it will not take long for “hipsturbia” to transform from a trend into the preferred suburban development style of the future.

For more information, visit:

https://www.decaturga.com/

https://ulidigitalmarketing.blob.core.windows.net/emergingtrendspdfs/ET2020FallMeeting.pdf

Spotlight On: Lynn Stoner, Mayor, City of Plantation

Spotlight On: Lynn Stoner, Mayor, City of Plantation

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read December 2019 — To move a city forward both economically and community-wise, it takes a leadership with the forethought to develop for the future and individuals with their finger on the community’s pulse. The Mayor of the City of Plantation Lynn Stoner recently sat down with Invest: and discussed her first year as mayor, the key challenges her city faces, and how customer service has become the buzz phrase for her administration and how it deals with the community.

 

What has been a key focus of your first year as mayor of Plantation?

 

One of the many components that I chose to focus on is our transportation corridor. Plantation’s population is approximately 94,000 residents, 22 square miles and it’s right in the middle of the county, 10 minutes away from the Port Everglades and 15 minutes away from the airport. About 70% of the pass-through traffic on University Drive does not originate in Plantation, so one of my priorities was to be on the Board of Broward County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. As a result, we will have adaptive lighting installed on University Drive starting in 2020. The following year, we will start the project on Pine Island, and we are in conversation regarding the bridge from Midtown across the river to State Road 84. These are hugely important and beneficial initiatives. Another major city initiative stems from 2016 when our citizens approved a $60-million bond issue. We are working now to complete these projects in the areas of public works, public safety, and parks and recreation. These projects will provide tangible improvements for residents, visitors, and businesses. 

 

We have people arriving to Plantation every day, calling or visiting to explore areas and opportunities, which has us absolutely thrilled. Being a strong mayor, I am trying to retain our hometown feel. I’ve lived here since 1970. I went to high school here and my three children and granddaughter are still in town. I understand the family component of Plantation. And keeping with this hometown feel, our first Light Up City Hall event was held on Dec. 7 and we anticipate making this as an annual event. 

 

What makes Plantation attractive to new businesses?

 

There was a time when Plantation was the golden city of the county. Now, many of the people that were raised here, are coming back . They have fond memories of where they used to fish, ride their bikes and go to our parks. They want to come back to raise their children in a similar environment.

 

We are focusing on maintaining that hometown feeling amid the development. We are now putting the finishing touches on our Midtown district, which was created in 1980 to be high density. We are handling the traffic in a manner that you feel comfortable coming here, taking a walk, riding a bike or taking a shuttle. We are focused on finding the right balance for our residents, visitors and businesses.

 

How is Plantation focused on government as a customer service?

 

As a contractor, I understand when people talk about their project costs. I understand their financial constraints when trying to put a project together. The city has codes that must be complied with but there is a way to present that information in a more palatable manner. City staff needs to understand the business consequences of their comments and we as a city need to understand the impacts of our rules and regulations and take a balanced approach. We are also striving to streamline business processes with a goal of transitioning to online plan review and permitting over the next several years as part of our “Paperless Plantation” initiative. This particular initiative is part of an overall effort through strategic planning that will focus on providing greater customer service across all 16 city departments. The City of Plantation believes in continuous improvement and every day we look for ways to better serve our stakeholders.

 

What are the main challenges that the city is facing as it grows economically?

 

Coming from the private sector, I always want things done a little faster. Still, when I look back over the last year, we’ve come a long way. Traffic and transportation are the main challenges, as well as sustainability. Along with our partners, Broward County, FDOT and MPO, our transportation initiatives together with Midtown upgrades will continue to offer a welcoming hometown feel that everyone will enjoy.

 

For more on our interviewee, visit:

http://www.plantation.org/