Spotlight On: Steven McCraney, President & CEO, McCraney Property Company

Spotlight On: Steven McCraney, President & CEO, McCraney Property Company

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read April 2020 —  The strength of the commercial real estate sector relies on the major roadways that run in and around Orlando, Steven McCraney told Invest:. He also notes that the location of Orlando is a great anchor to position his business as it provides ease of access to everywhere the company needs to be, as well as how the primary growth of his company has clearly been the warehouse and distribution space. 

How connected is the strength of the commercial real estate market to the major roadways in Orlando? 

The strength of the commercial real estate sector relies on the major roadways that run in and around Orlando. The last 50 years in Florida were all about the I-95 corridor, from Jupiter to Coral Gables. If you were to drive that route today there is not an available parcel of land on the roadway. We believe the next 50 years for Florida are going to be primarily focused on the I-4 corridor, from Tampa Bay to Lakeland to Orlando and onto Daytona Beach. While Daytona has not started to pop yet, the thing that we know is that there are two major roadways in Daytona, I-4 and I-95, which leads us to believe that it will be a good market at some point in the near future.

 

Why is Orlando the most ideal location for your operations? 

The Orlando economy continues to thrive. It’s attracting new residents, it’s generating new jobs and the increased interest is driving industrial users into the market because of the ability to distribute out of the state of Florida from the region on a one-day basis. We relocated to Orlando because the area places us right in the middle of the state. We operate throughout the Southeast and Orlando, which anchors us in the middle of everywhere that we need to be. It also provides the ability to move easily throughout the Southeast because of the region’s dynamic airport.

 

In regard to your business operations, where have you seen the most growth?

We are industrial developers. That is our mainstay and focus. This is complemented by third-party property management. As of late, the growth has clearly been the warehouse and distribution space. The total industrial space in Orlando is 123 million square feet, which breaks down into roughly 100 million square feet of warehouse distribution, 13 million square feet of manufacturing and the remainder is made up of office, flex space and distribution product. Here’s what we know: warehouse is the new retail. If a person is ordering online, whether it’s products,  clothing or food, the merchandise is likely not coming from a store, it is almost certainly coming from a warehouse. This is attributed to e-commerce growth and third-party logistics. Over the next few years, we are going to see the markets continuing to change and expand. From an industry perspective, I believe we have a trajectory that is at least 15 years long. While the product may continue to change, that product is coming from somewhere and that somewhere is a warehouse. As social distancing is ever more important and various markets are now under a “shelter in place” order, it is clear that suppliers, like Amazon, are still delivering essentials through package products to each and every home.

 

What market trends have had an effect on your business? 

We are always looking for ways to leverage technology in our business. Whether it’s roofing systems, lighting or super-flat floors, we want a logistics facility to be plug and play for a customer. The biggest challenge in recent years is rising costs. This can be broken down into the rising labor cost and the cost of materials. For example, the cost to build out a 1,500-2,000-square-foot office space within a warehouse space today can easily run around $250,000. That number exceeds $100 per square foot. At the same time, we have seen strong rent growth and because of that we have been able to keep pace. As we presently enter an economic downturn due to this pandemic, one would expect the cost of goods – both labor and material – will correct. Most of us in the industry went through the last recession and we know how debilitating it was. Moving forward, we have to be cautiously optimistic as we enter this challenging economic cycle and be mindful of our leverage, occupancy, quality of tenancy and our construction exposure.  

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.mccraneyproperty.com/

Networking at Noon, webinars keep Burlington Regional Chamber members informed

Networking at Noon, webinars keep Burlington Regional Chamber members informed

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020 — The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships with patrons by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours.

 

In its “Staying Connected” series, Invest: is talking to leaders in various markets about their efforts to, well … stay connected.

South Jersey institutions like the Burlington Regional Chamber of Commerce are shifting to video meetings to stay connected and provide value to members and nonmembers alike in the current landscape. “We are providing as much digital content and opportunities as possible to both members and nonmembers. Our goal is to be a partner and resource for the business community at large,” President and CEO Kristi M. Howell told Invest: South Jersey. “We are offering several different options. Networking at Noon takes place every Monday and it is strictly a virtual business card exchange. We are providing webinars, both live and recorded, on issues and benefits around COVID-19. Most importantly, we are providing educational webinars to strengthen professional development. It’s important that we keep our eye on the future and continue to educate our members on essential business tools so that we all pull out of this stronger.”

For the chamber, it’s all about doing “what we do best for our members on a different platform. We have moved everything that we can online and it’s business as usual for most things, but remotely. We have modified communications and have suspended normal newsletters in favor of those that are pertinent to this ever changing situation. We are focusing on highlighting five to seven members a week in our Meet Our Members series and we continue to make introductions for those who are doing business or modifying their business model for today’s climate,” Howell said.  

The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises. 

Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a Paypal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly. 

For the time being, social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.  

To learn more visit: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/04/best-practices-for-hosting-a-digital-event/

https://www.bcrcc.com/

Staying connected: ‘Saturday Soiree’ in Palm Beach

Staying connected: ‘Saturday Soiree’ in Palm Beach

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020 — The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships with patrons by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours. 

In its “Staying Connected” series, Invest: is talking to leaders in various markets about their efforts to, well … stay connected.

In Palm Beach, a region known for its daily community outdoor events and weekend parties,  institutions have had to shift to online platforms to preserve the community feel and give people an escape from social distancing. The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority did just that by hosting a party with musicians online. “This past saturday, we hosted what was to have been an outdoor event called ‘the Saturday Soiree’ with musicians and we streamed it throughout social media and let each one of them have their set,” Executive Director Raphael Clemente told Invest: Palm Beach. “It was a big success and gave us ideas on how to keep Downtown top of mind,” he said. 

The authority is focusing on being a support system for residents and Downtown business leaders in this period of economic uncertainty. “We meet with a lot of stakeholders, and internally. I am loving Skype and Zoom. We have gone to these platforms as everyone else has. As a team, a big part of our conversation was how we can do our job of marketing and sharing information, but keeping top of mind the sensitivity of people right now to their business issues,” Clemente said. “It is not just what we are saying, but how we are saying it. Also, just picking up the phone, versus using only email, is an important thing to do.”

The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises. 

Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a PayPal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly. 

For the time being, social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.  

To learn more visit: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/04/best-practices-for-hosting-a-digital-event/

https://downtownwpb.com/

Spotlight On: Kevin Poet, Charlotte Vice President of Operations, Siemens

Spotlight On: Kevin Poet, Charlotte Vice President of Operations, Siemens

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read AprilCompanies across sectors are fervently working to reduce emissions, switch to renewable energies and use technology to create a cleaner, greener future for the next generations. The same is true for companies directly involved in the energy industry. This year, Siemens AG. announced it will create a new company, Siemens Energy, focusing on conventional power, oil and gas, power transmission and renewable energy to position itself for the future of the industry. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, Charlotte Vice President of Operations Kevin Poet talks about the decision to create the new power and gas company, some of the challenges and opportunities in the energy industry and the near-term outlook for the industry. 

 What will be the focus of Siemens Energy?

The operations in Charlotte and Winston-Salem will be part of the new company. The largest manufacturing site in North America is in Charlotte and gives us the opportunity to focus on growing the business in new areas and markets that we have not traditionally been in. Our legacy work at the Charlotte plant is primarily large-scale, fossil-power generating equipment, and that market and demand is going down, mainly due to renewables and energy efficiency, as well as the push for decentralization and new technologies. We believe this trend will continue, and for us to thrive in a new market we have to get into different businesses and expand our portfolio. In the short term, we are looking at smaller, industrial-sized units that companies use to decentralize their power needs. In the future, we will see these units move toward hydrogen-burning technology, and potentially into new businesses altogether in the mobility, or renewables and wind areas. As a manufacturing center, we have the installed capability necessary to manufacture any of the components, products, and systems along the whole value stream. Our growth initiative aims to reshape what the future looks like as far as engineering and manufacturing.

 

What will the future of clean energy look like?

One of the challenges is balance, as it relates to balancing the needs and the drive to go as fast as we can to clean energy, with the need to continue to supply the demand today with the technology available today. For Siemens, we are the only site in North America that can service the large, traditional generating units that are in power plants. It will be critical for our business going forward, and for our customers, to continue to supply components and provide service for those units until they are transitioned into a cleaner form of energy, or retired altogether. Investment in the energy business is a huge challenge because of the size and scope, the length of the investment and payback. Typically, investing in a power plant is a 20- to 30-year investment. The changing landscape around technology, and what the future of energy will look like, and the volatility when it comes to policy, has a lot of people nervous about making large investments. There is a tug of war between the need to invest and innovate and concern with what the future could look like.   

 

How can companies take advantage of the talent based in the Charlotte region?

The Charlotte region has a developed ecosystem around providing talent. The university system in the region is superb. There is an abundance of opportunities for university partnerships in research, development and workforce training. For example, we do our apprenticeship program through Central Piedmont Community College. They helped develop the curriculum and advised on the training courses, length of time and certifications. They really helped put together a good structured approach to the needs we were trying to fill, and this is happening with other universities across the region as well. For companies looking to relocate to the region, those kinds of available relationships are a selling point.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://new.siemens.com/us/en/company/siemens-in-the-usa/charlotte.html

 

 

Spotlight On: Thomas Jewsbury, Executive Director, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport

Spotlight On: Thomas Jewsbury, Executive Director, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic that is challenging all sectors of the local economy, the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport was coming off a record growth year in 2019. Executive Director Thomas Jewbury spoke to Invest: about looking at a slew of new projects to increase its capacity while also looking to attract more traffic via new airlines to the Tampa Bay region.

 

What construction projects are ongoing at the airport and what impact are they expected to have when completed?

 

In 2020, we’ll finish our parking renovation project. It will expand long-term parking to accommodate more passengers. We are also focusing attention on the airfield. We have a $20-million project to rehabilitate the pavement surface of our primary runway. We expect to finish that project by the end of the year. We are also doing improvements to the terminal’s apron, replacing some of the asphalt with concrete, and converting an old runway into a taxiway. Those are projects that are underway.

We are also set to complete our airport master plan this year, defining our capital improvement program for the next five, 10 and 20 years. A big focus of that master plan is the future development of the terminal building. The next phase of terminal development will look at ways to increase efficiencies by consolidating the TSA’s passenger screening checkpoints and possibly the ticketing area.

We have a 130-acre undeveloped site that used to be a golf course. We are looking to develop that site for both aeronautical and non-aeronautical use. Before we can break ground, we had to conduct an environmental assessment. We just received approval from the FAA and received a finding of no significant impact. That sets the stage for us to improve our infrastructure. To develop the aeronautical parcels, we need to build new taxiways, which is included in our capital plan.

Among finished projects, we did an upgrade to our security system, and built part of a $4.5 million maintenance facility for our own airport maintenance workers. The facility is located on the airfield, it gives workers direct access and makes our operation more efficient. 

In addition to what the airport is doing, Allegiant Air invested $4 million to build a new maintenance/operations facility. They lease their space from the airport.

 

What economic impact does the airport have on the region?

Over a year ago, we concluded an economic impact study. At that time, we were doing just over 2 million passengers a year. It showed an economic impact on the community of over $1 billion annually. We’ve had several recent meetings with various airlines to try to attract new service. In addition to that, we are working with Allegiant to expand to additional cities, add more capacity and also try to incorporate international service. That is always an ongoing effort.

 

How does the airport contribute to sustainability in the Clearwater and Tampa Bay Region?

Our master plan has a focus on sustainability. It was important to us that we also championed another master plan that’s on the way, called the Gateway Master Plan. It looks at this area of Pinellas County and how the future infrastructure will be developed, including how other transportation modes will interact with the airport. It also identifies potential areas of the airport that could be converted for other transportation modes. The Gateway Master Plan is being drafted by Forward Pinellas.

 

What challenges is the transportation industry facing in Florida?

Surface transportation is one of the biggest hurdles. The Florida Department of Transportation is constructing the Gateway Express that will result in an elevated toll road to connect to Interstate 275. It will run in front of our airport. This will provide greater connectivity. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.fly2pie.com/

Maintaining unity through webinars and industry-specific virtual talks

Maintaining unity through webinars and industry-specific virtual talks

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships with patrons by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours. 

 

In South Florida, a region known for its events and conferences, different institutions have embraced virtual meetings to build value and maintain close relationships with clients in the midst of social distancing. For the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, a chamber known for its networking events focused on covering top-of-mind issues for its members, virtual meetings and webinars have become the go-to instrument to stay connected to its members and coach them through this new business landscape. “At this point in time, in an era of social distancing, we are gearing our efforts toward creating webinars that give our membership and beyond a chance to find out what resources are available to them, how to maintain their business in this socially disconnected economy and coaching them on how to bounce back when that time comes,” Spokeswoman Morgan Mongelia told Invest: Miami. “All our regularly scheduled monthly programming had to be moved to a virtual platform and format,” she said. As part of its virtual offerings, the chamber has a full slate of virtual webinars, in addition to industry-specific teleconferences. “We are also using this time to support fellow community organizations and businesses via personal phone follow-ups to ensure the long-term success of the Coral Gables business community as a whole,” Mongelia said. 

The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises. 

Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a PayPal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly. 

Social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.  

To learn more visit: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/04/best-practices-for-hosting-a-digital-event/

https://www.facebook.com/CoralGablesChamber

https://site.coralgableschamber.org/events

https://coralgableschamber.org/

 

 

Maintaining unity and creating value through virtual meetings

Maintaining unity and creating value through virtual meetings

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours. 

 

In Philadelphia, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, an organization dedicated to accelerating global business growth for companies in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South New Jersey, has turned to virtual meetings to stay connected with its members. “We understand how important it is to remain connected with our members and client companies during this challenging time,” Spokeswoman Graziella DiNuzzo told Invest: Philadelphia. “Like many other organizations, we are using Zoom meetings.” The center has maintained rapport with its members as it made the transition to work remotely. “We are handling this transition quite smoothly. We are a staff of seven professionals and have always maintained close contact with our clients via phone and email and working remotely doesn’t slow us down,” DiNuzzo said. 

Bringing members together in this time of uncertainty is among the center’s main goals. “Our member-company meeting is our “Member Conversations,” which we started last year as a way to bring our members together, informally, in our conference room to meet each other, talk and share stories,” DiNuzzo said. “This will be the first time, obviously, that we will hold our Member Conversations virtually and we are looking forward to it. The bottom line is that we have to continue to communicate and support each other during this time. We are all eager to get back to business as usual and we don’t know what that will look like. We are hopeful that it will be a rebirth of ideas and opportunities.”

The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises. 

Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a PayPal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly. 

For the time being, social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.  

To learn more visit: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/04/best-practices-for-hosting-a-digital-event/

 https://www.wtcphila.org/covid-19-resources.html 

Spotlight On: Andrew Duffell, President, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University

Spotlight On: Andrew Duffell, President, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read March 2020 — Research Park at Florida Atlantic University is a public-private partnership that serves as a hub for translating new technologies into the marketplace. Over 32 companies are based there, working on discoveries and technology innovation for the medical and healthcare sectors among others, said President Andrew Duffell. Many of the companies at Research Park are growing past the startup stage, while at the same time the park places a keen focus on attracting established international, tech-based companies to the Palm Beach region, Duffell told Invest:. 

 

 

 

 

What were some major developments for Research Park at Florida Atlantic University in 2019?

In 2019, we had over 800 people working at the Research Park among the 32 companies that are based here. The really important metric that we saw emerge last year was the number of discoveries that were patented and the quality of collaborations that are happening between the various companies and FAU, which continues to improve year over year. A number of our companies are progressing through their life cycles from startups to second stage, benefiting from our economic gardening initiatives. We have seen an uptick in the budgets for research and development over the years that we expect to start yielding results this year and next.

 

What sectors are set to benefit from the discoveries made at Research Park?

The majority of the discoveries that were made are in the medical and healthcare space. We have companies working on mental health, medical devices, therapeutics and healthcare IT. We are excited to see a real concentration in the healthcare space, with an emphasis on the interface between healthcare technologies and how healthcare is delivered to patients, which synchronizes well with how we see Florida Atlantic University growing, particularly in the southern Palm Beach County and northern Broward County region. The healthcare industry as a whole is really ripe for innovation, and this is where we are starting to see commercial activity developing, which is very gratifying. While we are affiliated with the university, we are a separate organization: our focus is on economic development and the translation of new technologies into the marketplace. 

 

In what ways is the Palm Beach region advancing workforce development efforts?

In terms of workforce development, I think Florida is ahead of the pack. We have had a strong workforce development system for a number of years. Research Park at FAU companies and their employees can take advantage of continuing education courses at FAU that are flexible in terms of schedule and pricing: some are for credit, some are for certificates. These have been really valuable. Palm Beach State College also has some fantastic courses in degree and non-degree fields. I think we have held our own in that regard and the employers have seen the value in upgrading the skill set of their employees as a way to retain them. Many employers are investing more in their employees, using flexible work schedules, more work from home and more team-building activities.

 

What is the focus for Research Park heading into the future?

We’ve made a determination to follow FAU’s significant expertise in its strategic pillars. We want to work with technology companies that will complement those areas, which are the life sciences, sensors and embedded networks and A.I. We are looking for companies that are working in those spaces that will be able to add to work already being developed at FAU, or contribute new ideas to their research. We are seeing a lot of this activity and we think there is potential overseas as well, and would like to bring those companies to Palm Beach County and to scale up their business here. We are looking for companies that are in the second stage, beyond the startup phase, in their home countries and have their concepts developed, are seeing revenues and have investors. We want to find those really promising companies and bring them to Palm Beach County. That is what we are embarking on this year and we are seeing a lot of activity in the sensor and A.I. space in places like Brazil, Canada and Israel.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.research-park.org/

 

 

Face off: How Concord is planning for sustained growth

Face off: How Concord is planning for sustained growth

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read March 2020The city of Concord is setting its sights on securing high-quality life standards for its residents via a three-pronged approach: diversification, infrastructure and affordable housing. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, Concord Mayor William Dusch and City Manager Lloyd Payne talk about the city’s growth, infrastructure developments and its ambitious plans for the future.

William Dusch

How is housing and development growing?

William Dusch: We have had a tremendous amount of growth in the housing sector, especially with apartments. The challenge lies in working with the school system to ensure the population is evenly distributed in a growing community. We have a relatively small Downtown, but we are beginning to grow. The county is building a new courthouse, our main street, Union Street, is becoming a plaza, and sidewalks are being widened to provide a better outdoor dining and shopping experience. The 1926 Hotel Concord was completely refurbished to create 40 market-rate apartments. Loft 29 is just behind it, providing about 25 more apartments Downtown. Right next door, 166 apartments are in the planning process, with 10 percent being affordable housing. An old cotton mill is being converted into 144 affordable homes where we will take the profit and roll it back into development. We are working on tying neighborhoods together by building new parks and walkways. Our goal is to connect the city without residents having to get into a car.

Lloyd Payne: Through our housing authority, we have developed and either sold or leased entire neighborhoods for several years. We are determined to take it to another level. We want to ramp up our yearly house construction capacity. In 2019, we created a nonprofit entity under the guise of affordable housing to open the city to a wider array of funding options from the private sector. For 2020, I will request the city council to obligate from this point forward that a portion of our tax funds be set aside to build affordable housing, whether it be apartments, townhomes or single-family homes. We want to build additional neighborhoods throughout the city, not just in low to moderate income areas. The main goal is to provide workforce housing. It is designed to consider young men and women with a fresh four-year degree in hand who come back here with a modest income and are looking for an opportunity to start building equity and have something they can call their own. We want to provide housing that accommodates everyone’s needs. 

Lloyd Payne

What infrastructure developments are laying the groundwork for Concord’s future growth?

Dusch: There are over 1,600 acres of industrial land available that has an industrial water sewer and power coming in from Duke Energy and Concord Electric. It’s also bordered by two four-lane highways, so it’s a perfect location. There has been a lot of interest from high-quality operations looking to base a potential headquarters here. We also have Concord-Padgett Regional Airport, and in 2013 Allegiant airlines started flying out of there. Last year, they served six locations across Florida and New Orleans, making over 1,500 flights. The airport is planning on expanding again because they have been so pleased with all of the business they have received. Nascar also bases a lot of their planes there, so it is a viable and growing airport. Allegiant Air has just announced that a new operation base will be built in Concord. Concord Mills is the largest tourist attraction in North Carolina. It attracted over 12 million visitors last year, which was even more than the Smoky Mountains. Since there is such a high volume of traffic in Concord Mills, we have been working with the NCDOT to build a flyover to more easily reach the location off the interstate. They started the construction just after Christmas this year. Just down the road from Concord Mills is the Charlotte Motor Speedway, located in Concord, which is another large Nascar facility.

Payne: In North Carolina, all roads are either owned by the city or owned by the state, meaning counties have nothing to do with roads and cannot tackle congestion issues. The same applies to schools, with the difference that they fall under the control of the county. This does not prevent us from establishing functional coordination mechanisms with involved parties to improve our roads and schools. We have also consolidated a great working relationship with our business community, including the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. We also work with large landowners, especially those with undeveloped assets. We encourage and entertain public-private partnerships (PPPs), whether they are for infrastructure, development or speculative buildings. We are all about working with others, knowing that we do not operate in a vacuum ourselves. It takes others in the private, public and nonprofit spheres. 

What industries or companies are you targeting to introduce to the region?

Dusch: We are working hard to attract higher-tech, higher-paying jobs. We are incentivizing those kinds of operations to move here, and I have been closely talking with large companies as they begin to show more interest. Within the city of Concord, we have run over 100 miles of high-speed fiber, connecting all of our buildings over the past 15 years. To watch the city go from having 100 megabits to 100 gigabytes is really amazing. Other entities have been putting in their fiber infrastructure, especially with the introduction of 5G, which will be coming in a matter of time.

Payne: We work with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, the mainstay for the lion’s share of our workforce development. It specializes in tailored programs on a whim if need be, based on the needs of the corporate landscape. The state of North Carolina has been generous in providing funding to accommodate those training needs.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: https://www.concordnc.gov/