P20: Driving Change

Focus: Atlanta partners with the P20 Conference to help drive change in the payment industry

By staff writer
October 2018 – 2 min. read

Focus: Atlanta is proud to be a media partner for the P20 Conference, a two-day global payment initiative set to take place in the heart of Atlanta on October 9, 2018. P20 is a direct response to the great need for collaborative innovation, cybersecurity and, simply put, clarity in the payment industry. The initiative alternates annually between London, the world’s financial capital (where the inaugural conference was held in 2017), and Atlanta, which has recently come to be known as “Transaction Alley” for being the hub of the future of payment processing. Currently, 70 percent of all North American payments are processed in the Atlanta area.

The event cannot come at a more opportune moment, with the future of fintech and cybersecurity being of paramount importance among America’s financial institutions and the general public. The majority of financial transactions — from paychecks to groceries — now happen electronically, which means the slightest glitch in our tenuous payment-processing infrastructure could throw the entire country out of whack. As a nonprofit organization formed last year, P20 promotes the development of the global payment industry and fosters thought leadership in four key areas: cybersecurity, regulation, innovation and financial inclusion.


“Right now in Europe, there is one regulator. In the U.S., there are 19 regulators, and the penalties for violating the regulations are severe,” Allen Maines, managing partner at Holland & Knight, told Focus: when he sat down with our team earlier this year. “Holland & Knight is the leader in the electronic payments and transaction industry, both in regards to government relations and in trying to moderate the multiple, overlapping regulations that apply to the industry.”

Maines explained that the world follows the example set by the UK and the U.S., thus the reason for the coalition of P20. “We’re so passionate about this,” he said. “We try to help our clients innovate and engage in best practices for cybersecurity and best practices for inclusiveness.”

Atlanta has a long history of supporting startups and fintech startups in particular, going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“There is just a tremendous amount of talent around the financial services space here,” Bruce Lowthers, chief operating officer at FIS, told Focus:. “It’s a great place from the perspective of available talent, innovation and real estate and as a commercial hub through Hartsfield-Jackson. There are a lot of positives about the city.”

The P20 conference is about driving home the idea that the regulatory officials and business people all need to be in the same room, Lowthers explains. “We wanted people in the room who could make the decision to change and have an impact,” he said. “Until we did that last year, there was never an event in the payments world where this had been accomplished. Our initial thought when organizing the P20 was to get two countries that get along: the UK and America. We first tried this idea with DAVOS, but when you are dealing with regulatory issues with 100-plus countries, the differences were far too vast to make changes appropriately. However, the UK — and ultimately Atlanta because of the amount of transactions going through here — made the most sense. We wanted to demonstrate that it could work, and then the followers would come. We have seen a tremendous amount of attention and momentum since our first conference, which is exciting.”

Above all, the goal of P20 is to drive change, and everyone here at Focus: Atlanta is excited to see what the future holds for the payment-processing industry in Atlanta and beyond.

To register for the 2018 P20 Conference, click here.

To pre-order Focus: Atlanta 2019, click here.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Holland & Knight, https://www.hklaw.com/offices/atlanta/


Minority-Owned Businesses Are the Future

By staff writer
September 2018 – 2 min. read

Philadelphia is a majority-minority city, with a population that is about 41 percent white (not including mixed races), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Compare that to New York, which is roughly 43 percent white.) Philly also ranks in the top 10 for U.S. cities with the highest levels of poverty. Many believe there is a correlation between minority racial groups and high poverty rates. Janelle Jones from the Economic Policy Institute stated thataverage wealth for white families is seven times higher than that of black families, while median wealth for white families is 12 times higher than for black families.”

According to U.S. Census data released in September 2016, out of the country’s top 10 major metropolitan areas, Philadelphia ranked ninth for minority-owned businesses, with 15.7 percent. The City of Brotherly Love also ranked ninth for female-owned businesses, with 18.5 percent. Additionally, Philly lagged in the number of new businesses under two years old, with only 7.8 percent. However, despite these grim numbers, the city is making slow and steady progress in helping to bridge the gap between white- and minority-owned businesses.

Jennifer Rodriguez, President & CEO, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

On a national scale, minority-owned businesses have seen quite a bit of growth in the past decade, increasing the country’s small business sector by 38 percent. During the recession, Philadelphia’s minority-owned businesses thrived despite an overall decline in non-minority business growth. Like other major U.S. cities, Philadelphia’s minority-owned businesses are on the rise. According to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, while progress is slow, improvements are being made across the board.

There are many minority-owned business success stories in Philadelphia, such as TechLink Systems Inc., which brought in $26.2 million in 2017, and Arora Engineers Inc., which brought in $23.7 million. But for those businesses that have not enjoyed that kind of success, or for minority business owners looking to connect to a supportive network, organizations like the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are here to help.

Jennifer Rodriguez, the chamber’s president and CEO, sat down with Invest: Philadelphia earlier this year to discuss her organization’s role in helping Hispanic business owners reach their goals — like breaking the million-dollar sales barrier. The chamber creates a network for Latino and Latina business owners and allows them to gain valuable expertise through its master class, offered in partnership with Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

“One attempt to recognize and provide a value-packed opportunity for our entrepreneurs is our Small Business Roadshow,” Rodriguez told Invest: “We bring together 30 or 40 entrepreneurs in one room with an accountant, a lawyer, a marketing specialist, etc., and really talk about what it takes to run a successful business. The entrepreneurs walk away with an amazing rolodex of professionals they can call on when the time comes, and it really solidifies this small business community.”



The network available to minority-owned businesses does not just end at the city’s borders, however. The African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA/NJ/DE promotes trade and commerce with New Jersey and Delaware, as well.

Lack of representation poses an imminent problem for many minority and white business owners alike. Michael Banks, president and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce, discussed the importance of representation across the entire business community.

The region is getting better at bringing minority-owned business owners and representatives to the conversation sooner,” Banks told Invest:. “When government changes are being presented, historically speaking the leaders and politicians would look at the voters and individuals and ask what is best for them without necessarily consulting the business community — and more specifically the minority-owned business community — and asking how they will be impacted. We are being brought to the table more frequently now and are involved in a lot more conversations and having our suggestions solicited, which doesn’t just benefit us but also benefits commerce for the region as a whole. It is instrumental in what the region is looking to accomplish.”


Michael Banks, President & CEO, African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA/NJ/DE.

This communication between businesses and government not only fosters a good relationship but also facilitates a conversation about what is best for the city from each stakeholder’s point of view. The top 29 minority-owned businesses brought in roughly $183 million in 2017 alone. With minority-owned businesses growing rapidly in Philadelphia, these entrepreneurs are an integral part of the city’s economy.

There is a lot of energy around the discussion of problems and challenges but not the same amount of energy being put into discussions around solutions and opportunity,” Banks said. “People know the data, and they understand the problems, but the energy put into solving them isn’t equal. We know the poverty rate is 26 percent, but what are we doing differently? Innovation needs to be looked at as a verb not a noun. By fostering small businesses and encouraging discourse with minority-owned businesses, bringing these people into the conversation, we can help achieve the goals we have both socially and economically as a city.”   

Philadelphia might be known for its “Brotherly Love,” but strengthening the economy and bridging the poverty gap is incumbent upon creating a productive dialogue between all stakeholders of all backgrounds — citizens, government and business-owners alike.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: http://www.philahispanicchamber.org/
African American Chamber of Commerce PA/NJ/DE:

Capital Analytics Spotlights the “Tampa Bay Way”

Invest: Tampa Bay to highlight economic opportunities in the region

September 4, 2018

TAMPA, FL — Following the success of its South Florida annual business guides, Invest: Miami and Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County, Capital Analytics is setting its sights on Florida’s west coast to launch Invest: Tampa Bay in 2019. Innovation is a focal point for Tampa Bay’s inaugural report, the first of an annual series that will underline and assess key issues and opportunities in the Tampa Bay market.

Invest: Tampa Bay will feature insights gleaned from one-on-one, in-person discussions with over 200 C-level executives, tackling the high-impact stories unfolding in the Tampa Bay business community, including the area’s emergence as a tech hub, its strong housing market and its innovative waterfront redevelopment. The report will cover all of the main sectors of Tampa Bay’s economy, such as healthcare, life sciences, education, real estate, technology, banking and finance, tourism, manufacturing, trade and logistics, aviation, transportation and sports.

“Tampa is a natural extension for our Florida division,” said Abby Melone, president of Capital Analytics.  “The metro area is the second-largest economy in the state, making it an ideal location for us to point international investment. The continued growth of opportunities in the Tampa Bay market make it an ideal place for the company’s newest operation.”

The production of Invest: Tampa Bay is underway as the Capital Analytics team has already connected with many high-profile industry leaders in the area. It will be the region’s first and most comprehensive report on the city’s dynamic business climate. Currently in its fifth year of publishing the well-read and highly praised Invest: Miami, Capital Analytics has begun to expand into markets both in and outside of its home state of Florida.

“Tampa Bay is an exciting place to be right now. Investment is at an all-time high, the real estate market is booming and there’s so much commercial redevelopment going on, it’s hard to keep up. Invest: Tampa Bay will keep that momentum going by giving the city’s top executives in all of the major sectors a forum to let the world know why Tampa is such a great place to do business,” said Jaime Muehl, managing editor of Capital Analytics.

With the report expected to launch in the spring of 2019, a number of key players in Tampa Bay’s business community have already expressed their praise and excitement to be included.

The team will be led by Executive Director Alex Wilkinson and Editorial Manager Jordan Blumetti. Wilkinson brings with her an extensive background in business development, while Blumetti, a skilled writer and journalist, will oversee the composition of the guide on the ground. This powerhouse duo is excited to create a high-quality report that showcases the “Tampa Bay Way.”

For more information contact
Jaime Muehl
Managing Editor
TEL: 305-523-9708, ext. 230

Surprise Win in the Sunshine State Primaries

By staff writer
August 29, 2018  – 2 min. read

In the wake of last night’s primaries, Florida has quickly become the setting of one of 2018’s most important governor’s races. In the hotly contested Democratic primary, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum prevailed over former member of Congress Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessman Jeff Greene to advance as the Democratic candidate. In November, he will go up against Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis in a contest that election forecasters predict will be a toss-up.

Gillum’s win came as a surprise to many. Going into the primary, he led no independent polls and trailed the field in fundraising. However, with 94 percent of the votes counted, he had a 3 percentage point lead over Graham, his closest rival. In Miami-Dade and Broward, the state’s two largest Democratic counties, he overwhelmed Graham by a margin of two to one with record turnouts at the polls.

Gillum, who is both young (age 39) and ideologically progressive, would be the first black governor of Florida, and he has already made history as Florida’s first black nominee for governor. The foundation of his campaign centered on a message of social justice, raising the downtrodden and appealing to the state’s growing diversity. His agenda includes support for Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage and strong opposition to the Stand Your Ground self-defense law.

Looking ahead to November’s election, Gillum’s work is cut out for him. While Florida’s population is growing and the state’s demographics are changing rapidly, Florida has not elected a Democratic governor since 1994, and the state voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

Like Gillum, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis is young (also 39), and his opponent, Adam Putnam, outspent him two to one in the primary campaign. But that might be where their similarities end. An Iraq war veteran with a strong conservative record, DeSantis’s campaign largely rested on his Florida credentials (he was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 2012) and his vow to continue the economic progress he credits to outgoing Governor Rick Scott. He supports tighter restrictions on illegal immigration and staunchly supports the Second Amendment.

The stage is set for a clear ideological contest in November’s gubernatorial race in one of the country’s major presidential battleground states. 2018 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting midterm election year, and Invest: Miami, Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County and Invest: Tampa Bay will be keeping a close eye on the races in Florida.

Peach State Primaries

May 23, 2018 — With well-liked Governor Nathan Deal stepping down at the end of his two-term limit, the Georgia governor’s race has become the midterm election to watch. In last night’s primaries, Stacey Abrams edged out State Representative Stacey Evans to advance as the Democratic candidate. In November she will go up against either Lieutenant Governor Casey Cage or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, both of whom advanced to the Republican primary runoff to be held on July 24.

Abrams, who is a former minority leader of the Georgia House, would be both the first black governor of Georgia and the first black female governor of any U.S. state. She has already made history as Georgia’s first black nominee for governor. The foundation of her campaign is representing the “Georgia of tomorrow,” and her focus will be on mobilizing her core supporters, particularly young people, women, African-Americans and Hispanics.


While Atlanta is often called the “capital of black America” and the state’s demographics are changing rapidly, Georgia has elected Republican governors since 2003, and the state voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election (at just over 50 percent). Abrams’ work is certainly cut out for her, but she is another example of Democratic women finding success in this year’s primaries. Another woman celebrating today is former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who upset Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in the Democratic House primary in Kentucky.

Back in Georgia, voters will want to keep a close eye on the Sixth and Seventh Districts, both traditionally Republican strongholds in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, where incumbents will likely face strong Democratic challengers in November.

1979 was the last time a Democrat represented Georgia’s Sixth District, notorious for being the state’s most competitive congressional district. In last year’s special election, Karen Handel — another woman who made history by serving as Georgia’s first Republican secretary of state — was forced to put up a strong fight to beat Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Handel is up for reelection this year, and determined challengers Lucy McBath and Kevin Abel, both of whom advanced to the Democratic primary runoff, are hoping to unseat her.

In the Seventh District, Carolyn Bordeaux and David Kim advanced to the Democratic runoff. The winner of the runoff will face incumbent Rob Woodall in November in what could be the most competitive election of his career so far. While Woodall has never received less than 60 percent of votes in an election, his district is mostly based in Gwinnett County, which voted Democratic in the 2016 election for the first time since 1976.

2018 is shaping up to be an exciting midterm election year, and Focus: Atlanta will be keeping a close eye on the races in Georgia.


Who Run Philadelphia? Girls.

May 2018 — In the dawn of #TimesUp and #MeToo, women have been in the spotlight taking a stand for what they believe in: equality and other women. At Invest: Philadelphia, we spend months in our market speaking to upper-level executives of leading companies, and what we’ve noticed is that women in leadership roles are few and far between. However, that trend is changing rapidly, especially here in Philadelphia.

Take Lori Miller, for example. Miller became law firm Goldberg, Miller & Rubin’s first named female partner, and now she is the firm’s first female CEO — something that is not only empowering to her and the women at her firm but also to women in the legal sector across the city.

“I love to help other women, and I love to see other women succeed. I feel like other women my age feel the same way,” Miller told Invest:. “The city and the country are wide open with opportunities. Law schools are even seeing more female students entering their programs. It is really empowering.”


We have been lucky enough to sit down with quite a few women in leadership roles in the City of Brotherly Love. And while we can’t blame the Greeks for that catch phrase, we wish it were slightly more inclusive.

Philadelphia is filled with powerful female leaders. Chellie Cameron is CEO of the Division of Aviation for the city, meaning she oversees not only Philadelphia International Airport but the Northeast Philadelphia Airport as well. From daily operations to cargo expansion plans to ribbon-cuttings, Cameron does it all.

Lori Reiner, partner-in-charge of accounting firm EisnerAmper, is leading the way for women in Philadelphia’s financial sector. She has been honored by the Girl Scouts of America and is active in numerous women’s leadership organizations across the city.

Let these women, and all the other female leaders in Philadelphia, be proof that women truly can do anything.

For more Information about our interviewees and subjects, visit their websites:
Goldberg, Miller & Rubin: https://gmrlawfirm.com/
Philadelphia International Airport and the Northeast Philadelphia Airport: https://www.phl.org/
EisnerAmper: https://www.eisneramper.com/

Demystifying the Tax Overhaul

Invest: Miami partners up with local experts to make sense of the new tax legislation

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”–Albert Einstein


March 2018 — In December 2017, Congress passed the biggest tax reform legislation in more than three decades. The bill will affect most taxpayers, but the biggest question for many is: How? The Tax Cut and Jobs Act represents one of the largest reductions in corporate tax rates in U.S. history, dropping from 35 percent down to 21 percent. The bill also lowers individual tax rates for most Americans, as well as small business owners, but there’s a lot more than that going on in this major tax overhaul.

For that reason, Invest: Miami 2018 is dedicating an entire chapter to tax reform. With the help of our expert partners, we are deciphering the legislation and laying out for our readers what it means for South Florida residents, business owners and investors. Until the book is released, here is a bit of what you can expect from this year’s newest edition.

We recently spoke with J. Michael Custer, who leads the tax practice at CPA and advisory firm Kaufman Rossin. The firm just published a series of blog posts on how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect the specific industries most active in South Florida.

Here’s a sneak peek at what Mike had to say about the tax bill:


Mike Custer of Kaufman Rossin.

How have your clients reacted so far to the new tax legislation?
There was a certain amount of anxiety about the unknown after the new legislation was passed. Whenever the rules change, it takes time for people to figure out what’s going to happen moving forward. There are certain parts of the legislation where we know specifically how they’re going to change our clients’ behavior. On the other hand, there are a whole host of items presented in the bill that have no direction yet. Tax law is never black and white; it is still evolving. That’s why we’re here. We understand the policy and the policy issues, but we make a living by reading the rules, the guidance and even the lack of guidance. That’s where paid professionals really earn their value – interpreting these policies for particular industries and specific clients.

Will this legislation affect population growth in Miami and Florida in general?
Tax policy is a funny thing: it is designed to change human behavior. The fact that there is no individual income tax here in the state of Florida has always been a big draw. Is someone who was going to come into Florida before this tax change going to change her mind? I don’t think so. Are individuals going pick up the pace of moving into Florida? It’s a possibility. It comes back to travel times, housing supply and good schools.

Are businesses seeing the tax decreases they were expecting from the legislation?
Pass-through entities (like S corps and LLCs) got a 20 percent deduction. Many were thinking that since they paid 40 percent already, their rate would drop to 20 percent.  That’s not the case. It’s a 20 percent deduction. So if you make $1 million, you get a 20 percent deduction, bringing your taxable income down to $800,000, and then that’s subject to your top rate of 37 percent. So the effective rate went from 37 percent to around 30 percent, not from 40 percent down to 20 percent. A lot of people were not interpreting it that way initially.


For more from Mike Custer and other experts on how the tax legislation will affect you and your business, look for the tax chapter in this year’s edition of Invest: Miami.

For more information about Kaufman Rossin click here.
To pre-order your copy of Invest: Miami 2018 with the new tax chapter, click here.

Government That Works

February 2018 — On February 6, 2018, Governor Wolf delivered the 2018 Budget Address for the state of Pennsylvania. As tribute to the Eagles for making history at the Super Bowl, he opened his speech with the famous chant, “Fly, eagles, fly,” congratulating the team on their victory. Wolf compared the pride that Eagles fans have for their team to the pride that Pennsylvanians have for their state.

The governor touched on the victories he has accomplished, especially in education, since he was elected in 2015. As the focus of his administration, Wolf reversed the billion-dollar cuts that were made in the education budget prior to his term. The number of kids attending pre-kindergarten courses has increased by half, high school graduation rates have exceeded 86 percent and STEM education has moved up the ranks to second in the nation. “Rebuilding our schools is the beginning of rebuilding our economy but it’s just the beginning,” he said.


Another focus of his administration: job creation. Since Governor Wolf took office, Pennsylvania has gained approximately 180,000 jobs.

With Pennsylvania’s economy continuously growing, Wolf laid out a comprehensive budget plan to ensure that the commonwealth prospers. This plan includes a $2 billion proposal for infrastructure investment over the next decade, which will go towards rebuilding bridges, roads and highways.

Wolf outlined a $225 million budget to improve education, as well. This includes $100 million for basic education funding, $20 million for special education, $30 million for Pre-K Counts, $10 million for Head Start and $15 million for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Another $50 million will go towards technical education.

Additionally, the proposal includes the establishment of a state severance tax. Wolf points out that Pennsylvania is one of the only states with an abundance of natural gas resources but no state severance tax. He explains, “And let’s understand exactly what a severance tax is. It’s a tax paid by people mostly outside of Pennsylvania to use our natural resources.”

Governor Wolf’s commitment to jobs that pay, schools that teach and government that works is clearly addressed in his 2018 Budget Address. Invest: Philadelphia is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the Keystone State.

To read the full transcript of Governor Wolf’s speech, click here.


Georgia State of the State: Orchards of Opportunity

February 2018 — On Thursday, January 11, 2018, Governor Deal gave his final state of the state address. He started off the speech with an anecdote about planting a tree for the next generation of leadership in Georgia: “I am not planting this tree for me. I am planting it for those who come after me.”

Deal continued his nature symbolism by comparing Georgia’s accomplishments to orchards of opportunity. Each success under his administration represents a separate orchard. The successes include accomplishments in the film industry, the education sector, infrastructure, criminal justice reform and even mental health.

As expected, Governor Deal touched on the key points of his administration in his address. He noted the importance that the film industry has had in Atlanta in the past decade. Ten years ago, Atlanta’s film industry generated $241 million in economic impact. In 2017, it generated $9.5 billion and employed 92,000 workers with above-average salaries. The industry has grown so much that in 2016 the state of Georgia was ranked the number one filming location for most successful movies.

But the film industry is not the only sector that has made strides. In particular, Governor Deal noted that the Georgia government has increased K-12 education spending by $3.6 billion in the last seven years, making the total education expenditure $14 million during his administration. Deal emphasized the importance of educating the youth of today to prepare them to become the workforce of tomorrow.

In terms of higher education, Georgia is one of only three states to have more than one top-20 university. Also, since Deal took office, the HOPE scholarship and grant programs — which were on the verge of bankruptcy — have been reinstated and continue to provide higher education learning opportunities to many students. The HOPE Career Grant, which covers full tuition for Georgia students enrolled in technical schools that educate the workforce for high-demand fields, was also created.

Governor Deal touched on infrastructure improvements by mentioning the Transportation Funding Act enacted under his administration. The act provides a 10-year, $11 billion transportation investment plan that is unprecedented in the state of Georgia and will promote sustained growth in the region for decades to come.

The governor not only mentioned his past accomplishments but also laid the groundwork for his last year in office. He is proposing a $50 billion state spending plan that continues to prioritize the same sectors, especially education.

Governor Deal has been leading Georgia since 2011. His term as governor will end this November. To read his state of the state address in full and to get more details, click here.