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.

“Fly, Eagles, Fly!”

February 2018 — On Sunday night in bitter cold Minneapolis, the Philadelphia Eagles brought home their first championship win since 1960, beating the New England Patriots 41-33 in a hard-fought battle. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, Bud Light is keeping its promise. The beer company officially announced that it will be providing free beer (to those 21-plus in age, of course) at 25 bars along the parade route in Philadelphia on Thursday, February 8.

While the Eagles went into Justin Timberlake’s high-energy halftime show with a 10-point lead — thanks primarily to a surgically executed and gutsy trick play where Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles caught a pass from tight end Trey Burton on a fourth and goal — the Patriots came out of halftime like bulls out of the gate. But they couldn’t sustain the momentum, and despite Tom Brady’s history of pulling off the Hail Mary, it was the Birds who were flying high when the last second ticked off the game clock.

 

Nick Foles may have been the obvious star of the game, stepping up to play quarterback after the unexpected loss of Carson Wentz and proving that you don’t need to be a 5-time Super Bowl vet to dominate on the gridiron, but besting the Patriots was truly a team effort. As head coach Doug Pederson said, “An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle!”

For the Eagles, the win means the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy, Super Bowl rings, healthy postseason bonuses and the prestige of being national champions, but what does it mean for the city of Philadelphia?

Thousands of fans have flocked to Philly to partake in the post-win festivities. Monetarily speaking, this has been great news for the city’s hospitality industry, but it’s not so good news for out-of-town fans. People seeking hotels in Philadelphia were out of luck, with zero availability in the downtown area and seriously over-inflated prices on the outskirts of the city. The Marriott Courtyard Bloomington, for example, was offering rooms for $699 a night when the usual rate is about $89 to $161 a night.

There’s no question that this Super Bowl win will provide much more than just monetary gains for the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles not only won as historic underdogs but also beat a true football dynasty, providing a sense of community pride (and serious bragging rights) for the people of Philadelphia for a long time to come. They won against all odds and in the face of many obstacles. The boys in green have rewritten Philly sports history. And it’s not just a win for the Eagles; it’s a win for all the people of Philadelphia. Fly, Eagles, fly!

For more information about the Philadelphia Eagles, visit http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/

The state of play

How Florida is tackling unemployment by encouraging growth and education

Rick Scott Governor – State of Florida

 

Florida has seen the second biggest drop in unemployment in the U.S. What have you and your administration done to achieve these figures?

Unemployment is at 4.9 percent, and we’ve added some 1.26 million private-sector jobs, which is double the national rate. Four years before I was elected, Florida lost 832,000 jobs. To tackle this, we cut 4,600 regulations, cut taxes 55 times and recruited 900 companies either to come to Florida or expand into the state. We’ve gone on trade missions around the world, and we’ve made sure that our universities are focused on where the greatest job needs are. We’ve asked “how can we help businesses here to be more successful than they are anywhere else?” That is our attitude, and we are better than anyone else in the country. We have to keep cutting taxes and reducing regulations. U.S. News & World Report has said Florida is first for higher education, but we have to keep getting better. We have to make education more affordable and make sure the colleges and universities are very focused on where the jobs are. We now have 25 percent of universities’ budgets tied to three things: What does it cost to get a degree? What field can you get a job in? How much money do you make? We’ve got to make sure we are focused on getting people ready for careers and dealing with the system.

 

Technology, life sciences and healthcare are all growing sectors in the State of Florida. What is being done to encourage the growth of these sectors?

We’ve got to make these sectors more successful here than in any other place in the world. We have to build relationships, which is why one of the things we do as part of Enterprise Florida is consultations with businesses to help them do better. We make sure they have the right workforce, and we do that through a variety of programs through our state colleges and universities. We’ve got to keep reducing their taxes so they can reinvest in their businesses because when they reinvest in their businesses, we get more jobs.

 

What impact has a greater emphasis on developing education had on Florida? How will education develop in the future?

Tuition fee increases have been halted. They were increasing at 15 percent plus inflation every year when I came into office. We haven’t seen an increase in four years at our universities or state colleges. We reimburse the schools according to what’s important to students, lower tuition fees and getting a good-paying job when they finish. We have the highest graduation rates of the 10 most populous states. We’ve increased our funding for universities by almost 50 percent since I got elected. The most important thing is that every child has opportunity. It doesn’t matter where you live or how you grew up, I want every child to have the dream of this country

Fad or Future? Deciphering Cryptocurrency

January 2018 — A one-bedroom penthouse condo with bay views in Miami was listed on Redfin in early December. What makes this listing newsworthy is that the seller is only accepting Bitcoin as payment.

Most of us recognize Bitcoin as the first and most well-known cryptocurrency. Since its inception seven years ago, it has been making waves — tidal waves, some might say. Its value surged 1500 percent against the dollar in 2017 as it gained popularity among both Wall Street and real estate investors. Still, there are many skeptics who warn that Bitcoin is entirely speculative and that where there is a steep rise, there must also be a steep fall.

Whatever your feelings about this “money of the future,” 2017 was the year Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies joined the global financial system. It looks like they’re here to stay — and no longer just as the de facto currency of cybercrime.

As Miami gears up to host the North American Bitcoin Conference, hailed as the “most important blockchain conference of the year,” on January 18-19, 2018, Invest: Miami decided to take a closer look at what this buzzworthy yet nebulous concept of cryptocurrency is exactly.

In the simplest terms, cryptocurrency is “virtual” money created from code whose economy is monitored by blockchain technology — basically, entry into a public ledger through a process called mining — rather than by a central server. Think of a database whose entries are limited, must be verified and can’t be changed unless specific conditions are met.

Money, after all, is all about verified entry into some kind of database of accounts, balances and transactions. Just look at your bank account.

With a limited and controlled supply, cryptocurrencies are not changeable by governments, banks or any other centralized institution, so they’re secure from political influence. They’re not subject to inflation; rather, their value is preserved and often even increases over time. Proponents laud cryptocurrency for its security, stability and deflationary quality even as critics denounce it for these very same things.

While it is unlikely that cryptocurrencies will replace cash anytime soon (unless you’re looking to buy that Miami penthouse, of course), Bitcoin has been steadily gaining investor approval. Today, this “digital gold” has a total value of $9 billion, but it also has a precarious relationship with volatility. Only time will tell whether there is a cryptocurrency bubble — and whether that bubble will burst.

Latin lives

Governor Rick Scott talks about the Latin America Summit

Hosted by the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, the 2017 Latin American Summit on October 2 in Miami will bring together leaders from the region to discuss important issues such as human rights, democracy and ensuring economic prosperity. The summit focuses on Florida’s relationship with the region and will help to build and solidify partnerships between the two areas. Governor Scott spoke to Capital Analytics about the summit:

What is the main focus of the summit?

This summit seeks to address two key areas: trade and democracy. We will have a variety of people from both Latin America and the U.S. speaking to address how these two themes are ultimately intertwined. When we have strong democracy, we have strong trade partners.

If you look at Latin America and compare some of the more recent challenges we have seen, and how it has affected Florida’s economy, you get widely different stories. Take the difference between Venezuela and Argentina. Venezuela was once a huge trade partner of ours, but now, under Maduro, our trade had drastically decreased. Then you consider Argentina and President Macri’s transition to power. Florida is experiencing an increase in trade. Democracy in Latin America is a big deal for our country, but even more so to Florida as trade often comes here first.

But it is also about bringing businesses together to network and create more even business. Aside from the one-day conference’s agenda, we will be coordinating lunches and dinners for more intimate and targeted networking opportunities.

How will the Summit address regional challenges like the situations in both Venezuela and Cuba?

The summit will facilitate a dialogue and enable key leaders to talk about where we as a region are and where we need to go.

The Trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) unanimously approved my proposal to prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime. As Floridians and Americans, we are against the brutal treatment of the Venezuelan people. We must look to do anything we can to support freedom and democracy, and that is what this summit intends to support.

It was important for me that we address what is happening in Venezuela at the summit particularly because a lot of people in Florida are from Venezuela, and they have family that are in Venezuela still.  They’re struggling and not getting the materials or medicine they need. Additionally, it’s important to the world economy that we continue to promote democracy, and the summit seeks to do this.

What does hosting this type of conference in the State of Florida say about its position as a leader in the region?

We are a leader for Latin America and I hope will continue to be. We are one of the largest trade partner to many countries in the region, and many Latin Americans live, own property and work in Florida. From my position as governor, I have the opportunity to serve in one of the fastest growing states in the country. It has cut taxes while increasing revenue, has unparalleled job growth and has an education sector that is becoming increasingly competitive. All this enables us to be a strong model of democracy, business growth, prosperity and more for the region at large.

Some of the confirmed speakers include:

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida’s 27th Congressional District
Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida’s 21st Congressional District
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida’s 25th Congressional District
Congressman Francis Rooney, Florida’s 19th Congressional District
Donna Hrinak, President, Boeing Latin America
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Metropolitan of the Province of Miami
Emilio T. González, Ph.D., Director and Chief Executive Officer, Miami-Dade Aviation Department.
Paul F. Browning, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas (MHPS-AMER), Inc.
Romaine Seguin, President, UPS Americas Region
Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, CEO, Embraer S.A
Susan Segal, President and CEO, Americas Society/Council of the Americas
Marcelo Mindlin, Chairman and CEO, Pampa Energía S.A.
Juan M. Kuryla, Port Director and CEO, PortMiami

You can find out more information:

http://www.flgov.com/2017/07/24/governor-scott-to-host-2017-latin-american-summit/