South Florida CBD Industry Welcomes New Regulatory Clarity

South Florida CBD Industry Welcomes New Regulatory Clarity

By: Sara Warden

2 min read January 2020 — The value of the CBD (cannabidiol) market is expected to surpass $20 billion globally by 2024 and Florida is taking steps to ensure it is well-positioned to take advantage of the market. But opening up a new industry to commercialization comes with teething problems and Palm Beach legislators may struggle to keep up.



 “We’re witnessing CBD maturing from a cannabis sub-category into a full-blown industry of its own,” said Roy Bingham, Co-Founder and CEO of BDS Analytics in a press release. “Our growth forecast for the CBD market, across all distribution channels, predicts a compound annual growth rate of 49 percent by 2024. This is a great opportunity for all involved, but it means the road ahead will include decisions that need to be informed by the best possible data.”

After CBD edibles were legalized in Canada in October 2019, companies selling these products are struggling to keep ahead of demand. But in Florida, it is legislators who are feeling the strain of regulating this new industry. Amendment 2 legalized CBD use for medical purposes in the state and the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-based CBD products federally. But Florida state legislation previously did not differentiate between marijuana (which contains THC) and hemp (which contains mostly CBD), meaning CBD products are simultaneously legal and illegal in Florida.

But on July 1, 2019, a new law took effect that allowed authorities to regulate CBD and hemp use. “Prior to these rules being adopted and taking effect, we didn’t have regulatory authority,” cannabis director at Florida’s Department of Agriculture Holly Bell told The News Service. “Now we do, and we have that up and going so that we can make sure consumers are protected.”

As a result, Palm Beach’s CBD industry is picking up speed. As part of the regulation, companies selling CBD products must apply for a permit that costs $650 per year. There already are a number of companies in Palm Beach County, including Curaleaf, Earth Florida, Nutrition World and Trulieve.

Zach Bader, co-founder of the USA CBD Expo held the conference in Miami Beach in May last year and told the Miami Herald that the South Florida market is brimming with potential. “There is a really high concentration of retail stores here that are either selling the product or are very interested in learning more,” he said. “We are seeing this industry start to percolate. A year ago, it wasn’t where it is today.” 

Bader applauded the efforts of state authorities to regulate the industry. “Whether you’re in the CBD industry or manufacturing Cheerios, you can’t go out there and make health claims without clinical trials. That’s a standard,” he said.

The Department of Agriculture headed by Nikki Fried is providing workshops to try to eliminate the uncertainty and harness a promising industry for the state. “Having that opportunity and allowing entrepreneurs to do what they do and start the research aspects is my vision for the state of Florida,” she said at the first workshop in Broward County.


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Orlando’s convention center starting 2020 strong

Orlando’s convention center starting 2020 strong

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read December 2019 — The Orange County Convention Center, one of Orlando’s economic engines, is entering 2020 with a robust variety of events and conventions. As the end of 2019 has been a busy one for the OCCC, the beginning of 2020 is starting strong with the convention center looking to host thousands of visitors during its busiest season.  


The OCCC brings over 200 events to Orlando each year, with 1.4 million attendees. During the first four months of 2020, the OCCC is hosting some of their biggest events, including:

PGA Merchandise Show 2020 – Jan. 22 – Jan. 24, the event is looking to attract 43,000 attendees. The event gathers PGA and golf industry professionals to showcase the latest trends in golf equipment, technology, apparel and accessories, and more. 

AHR Expo Feb. 3 – 5, OCCC will host the world’s largest HVACR event, which is expected to attract 50,000 manufacturers and industry professionals to the region. The event showcases the latest technology, trends and applications on HVACR technology. 

HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition 2020 – From March 9 – 12, this even is expected to attract nearly 43,000 attendees to Orlando. The health information and technology event connects health information and technology professionals from around the world to discuss education, innovation and collaboration around health and wellness. 

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2020 Annual Meeting – From March 25 – 27, the meeting is expected to gather 30,000 orthopaedic and health professionals. The meeting provides educational opportunities, exhibits and tools and tips.

MegaCon Orlando – From April 16 – 20, the comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming event is looking to attract over 75,000 attendees. The event will feature professional comic artists sketch duels, “How To” workshops and over 400,000 square feet of shopping space.

To expand its capabilities and reach, the OCCC is undergoing a $605 million upgrade for two master plan projects that will bring the OCCC total exhibit space to 2.3 million square feet. The expansion project will add an additional 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, 60,000 square feet of meeting space and an 80,000-square-foot ballroom. The project is expected to be completed in 2023. As the second-largest convention facility in the nation, the OCCC provides approximately $3 billion in economic impact annually. 


To learn more, visit:

Orange County Convention Center:

PGA Merchandise Show 2020:

AHR Expo:

HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition 2020:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2020 Annual Meeting: 

MegaCon Orlando:

Philadelphia, South Jersey Prioritize Transit, Affordability, Sustainability in 2020

Philadelphia, South Jersey Prioritize Transit, Affordability, Sustainability in 2020

By: Sara Warden

2 min read December 2019 — Although under slightly different time frames, both South Jersey and Philadelphia’s local and state governments are prioritizing investment in three key axes for the coming years: transit, affordability and sustainability.


In 2011, Philadelphia’s City Planning Commission outlined Philadelphia2035, a comprehensive plan for managing growth and development in the city. Updated every year, the first phase includes a Citywide Vision, that encompasses broad planning goals, while the second phase will build upon these with specific policies related to 18 different planning districts. The program invites public and private investment for the development of the city over the medium term. The blueprint is based on three key themes: Thrive, Connect and Renew.

According to the 2035 planning document, the Thrive element will focus on promoting affordability in housing, strong neighborhood centers, economic development and land management. Connect will center around improving transportation and utilities, including transit, streets and highways, ports, airports and rail. Finally, with an eye on sustainability, Renew is all about creating more open spaces, effective use of water resources, air quality and historic preservation.

“Philadelphia 2035 envisions a city with an expanded transportation network that better connects home and workplace; ensures convenient access to sources of healthy food; supports the productive reuse of vacant land; and provides modern municipal facilities that serve as the anchors of strong neighborhoods,” said former City Mayor Michael Nutter when launching the plan in 2011.

The new year was already off to a good start for the City of Brotherly Love even before the calendar turned. National Geographic Traveler in November named Philadelphia one of the top 25 must-visit destinations in the world in 2020.

And across the Delaware, South Jersey faces many of same issues are at the top of Gov. Phil Murphy’s priority list. The four pillars of the 2020 budget signed in June 2019 include creation of over $1.1 billion in sustainable savings, stabilizing New Jersey’s credit-worthiness and ensuring tax fairness for the middle class. This foundation will support the final priority of investments in education, infrastructure – in particular NJ TRANSIT – and an innovation-driven economy.

“The budget enacted today is a victory for working families in New Jersey in many different ways—it supports middle-class priorities, invests in education, makes a record investment in NJ TRANSIT, provides property tax relief, and so much more,” said Murphy when he signed the budget into force.

But Murphy also has his eye on further priorities to strengthen the 2020 plan amid more effective tax revenues. “This is a budget that does not include tax fairness, does not ask opioid manufacturers to help fund addiction services, and does not raise gun fees that have been untouched since 1966,” he said. “These common-sense revenues would have allowed us to save for a rainy day and sustainably fund necessary investments for New Jersey’s nine million residents.”

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Spotlight on: James Michael Burkett, President, Florida Technical College

Spotlight on: James Michael Burkett, President, Florida Technical College

By: Yolanda Rivas

Since 1982, Florida Technical College (FTC) has been meeting the needs of students and the job marketplace. At times of low unemployment rates across the nation, educational institutions like FTC play a significant role in providing students the necessary skills businesses are looking for. In an interview with Invest: Orlando, FTC’s President James Michael Burkett discussed the most in-demand programs and how they support the local workforce.

What differentiates Florida Technical College from other educational institutions in the area?


We support people who want to acquire technical job skills that can get them into the job market more quickly. That is one of our main advantages. Our locations in Central Florida have seen unprecedented growth, particularly in our hospitality program because many of the positions in these fields require the technical skills we help students acquire, rather than a traditional four-year degree. Another big advantage for the school is our Spanish language vocational and technical programs. These programs have allowed us to assist the Spanish-speaking population that has migrated to Central Florida over the last few years.

What are some of your efforts to attract and retain talent in Orlando?

We partner with several chambers to make sure that employers in the area understand what we have to offer. That has been a great advantage to both students and employers. We are seeing unprecedentedly low unemployment rates and one of the main challenges employers are facing is finding qualified talent. We communicate with local businesses from different industries to ensure our students have the skills they need. 

Which Florida Technical College programs are seeing the most growth?

Electrical has been one of the fastest-growing programs at Florida Technical College. We have been able to scale that program quickly to meet demand and by the beginning of next year it will be available at most of our campuses. Construction trades and the Spanish language vocational programs also have been areas of growth for us and we expect that to continue in 2020. There is also a big need for culinary skills and we are expanding our capacity for that program as well. With numerous restaurants and hotels opening in the region, we are looking to provide the talent pipeline they need.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Florida Technical College:

Charlotte drops out of the Top 5 in US for tech jobs

Charlotte drops out of the Top 5 in US for tech jobs

By: Felipe Rivas

In 2019, the Queen City nurtured a culture of tech company headquarter relocations with giants such as LendingTree and Honeywell settling into the region. Despite recognized names establishing in the area, the Charlotte Metro Area slipped from the top spot for tech jobs, according to CompTIA’s annual report. The world’s leading tech association ranked Charlotte No. 6 on its “Tech Town Index” for 2019, dropping from last year’s No. 1 spot. Though Charlotte ranked out of the Top 5 cities for tech jobs in the nation, the report and local education leaders say there is an exciting energy in the region as it relates to technology that they will continue to develop and invest in.

CompTIA cites long-term job growth as “one of the reasons the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro just missed the Top 5.” According to the report, in 2018 “the area showed signs of an 11 percent job growth over the next five years” but as the end of 2019 nears, the growth projection sits at 9 percent. However, the report says that when it comes to the technology industry, Charlotte is “still putting its money where its mouth is.” 

In the past 12 months, more than 52,000 tech jobs were posted, the majority of those positions being for developers, software engineers, and data analysts, the report states. As such, local educational leaders say institutions need to capitalize on the energy, diversification, and growth of the local technology industry. “What is going on with fintech, healthcare, and energy is exciting here,” said Queens University of Charlotte President Daniel Lugo to Invest: Charlotte. “The most exciting part is the growth of the technology sector. We want to be at the forefront of working with those businesses.” As an institution focused on liberal arts, Queens University of Charlotte is meshing tech skills, such as coding and data analytics, with its liberal arts curriculum. “We are actually training students with hybrid skills,” Lugo said. “We want to be in a position to have retained that general education of the liberal arts, but to look at pedagogy and the curriculum to empower our folks to understand coding and data analytics, to look at this whole 21st century and technology in a more robust way.”

Similarly, Catawba College is also upgrading its curriculum to account for the growth of the region’s technology industry. “We’re launching a master’s in data analytics, as well as a minor in data analytics to accompany almost any other major,” said President Brien Lewis to Invest: Charlotte. “We’re trying to take advantage of what’s in our region.” Going forward, the Charlotte Metro Area has the opportunity to continue to distinguish itself as a tech town. “The opportunities are to be cutting-edge in specific areas, such as data analytics,” Lewis said. “It’s a matter of capitalizing and investing further in what’s already in Charlotte to create an environment where people know we’re a leader in that area.” 

For 2020, As the Queen City continues to grow and attract companies and new residents, factors such as access to banks and capital, a diverse and growing talent pool, access to a robust logistics and distribution infrastructure, and a cost of living that is lower than the national average will prove advantageous for the local economy and those wishing to tap into its technology sector. 

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Art Basel: Miami Art Week Brings the City to a Standstill

Art Basel: Miami Art Week Brings the City to a Standstill

By: Sara Warden

2 min read December 2019 — Art Basel is in to town. When Swiss art dealers Ernst Beyeler, Trudl Bruckner and Balz Hilt began the show in Basel, Switzerland, in 1970, it was a cult hit. As the art fair gained momentum over the years it added two additional venues – Hong Kong and Miami Beach. Now, Art Basel Miami Beach brings the city to a standstill.



Started in 2002, the Miami Beach show itself draws in 70,000 visitors per year, 4,000 artists and over 250 of the world’s leading galleries participate. For those galleries accepted to exhibit in the main Art Basel space at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the cost starts at $100,000. Miami Beach also attracts over 20 satellite fairs, and there is so much art buzz around town during the dates that the week is now known as Miami Art Week. Tickets are available at $65 a pop, but for many, that’s a steal to access so many world-class artists all in one place.

Art Basel has played a significant role in democratizing access to these works of art and providing exposure for up-and-coming artists. In the 1980s, for example, the global art world was but a tiny network. “We knew every collector in the world then. Ninety percent of them were in New York or Germany,” collector Don Rubell told The New York Times. But now, times have changed. “Miami is not just bikinis and muscles anymore.”

UBS and Art Basel research shows that the global art market hit $63.7 billion in sales in 2017, with the United States the largest market, accounting for 42 percent. Art Basel Miami is responsible for about 10 percent of domestic sales, Alexander Forbes, executive editor of the art news website Artsy, told Marketplace. “$2 billion to $3 billion worth of art is usually on view,” he said.

Rubell and his wife Mera were instrumental in convincing Art Basel to set up shop in Miami in the early 2000s and the family collection now occupies a whopping 100,000-square-foot campus in Allapattah, which they purchased for $4 million. At the same time the Rubells purchased the plot, they bought a neighboring piece of land for $8.6 million.

According to Esther Park, a regular on the Miami art scene, Miami has just the right features to make it a haven for an event like Art Basel. “Miami was always going to blow up eventually,” she told Miami New Times. “It’s just that Basel propelled it.”

Samuel Keller, Art Basel’s director, acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that Miami was a risky choice, but that it had all the ingredients for success. “Here there is a huge potential, economically but also culturally,” he said, calling the city “the gateway to Latin America, a melting pot of minorities from European to Jewish to gay.”

The four-day extravaganza attracts the most prestigious art buyers from all over the world, who enjoy splashing out. The trade fair has partnered with several major hotels in the area to offer preferential rates for attendees, but to stay in The W South Beach, The Standard Spa, Miami Beach or Nautilus by Arlo, prices still start at $422 per night and go right up to $1,650.

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Thanksgiving in the Queen City

Thanksgiving in the Queen City

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read November 2019— Gratitude, family, fellowship, outdoor activities, turkey, gravy, and shopping are some of the characteristics closely associated with Thanksgiving Day, and the Queen City offers no shortage of any of these during the fourth Thursday of November through the long weekend. The signature North Carolina cold weather allows for some outdoor, family fun while the feast cooks slowly in the kitchen. From famous parades, Black Friday shopping preparations, and ice skating, Thanksgiving Day in Charlotte offers plenty of activities for the entire family. 

While New York City has the Macy’s Parade, Novant Health, one of the region’s largest employers, has wowed Charlotteans with fancy parade floats, marching bands, live music, and recognizable cartoon characters for the past 72 years. Known as the “Mile of Smiles,” The Novant Health Thanksgiving Parade is a beloved tradition drawing families from across the southeast to Uptown to kick off the start of the holiday season. The parade starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and draws more than 110,000 attendees. The parade begins on 9th Street heading South on Tryon Street to Stonewall Street, where different ethnic organizations display their pride and colors, while marching bands from a variety of educational institutions keep the energy upbeat as they make their way through the Mile of Smiles. The party continues at the end of the route with performances from a bevy of local talent. For those who would rather snooze a bit longer on Thanksgiving morning, the parade will be broadcast online and on local TV stations. 


While Thanksgiving Day is a time for reflection, it also marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday has become a national tradition, and the area’s local shopping malls are gearing up for the influx of shoppers expected to get a leg up on the holiday shopping season. In the spirit of enjoying time with the family, many recognizable stores have chosen to close on Thanksgiving Day and open early during Black Friday. According to, a website that tracks Black Friday deals and news, stores such as Burlington Coat Factory, Costco, Lowe’s, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Petsmart and Sam’s Club, among others, will be closed on Thursday nationwide. Locals looking for deals can head to Concord Mills, SouthPark and Northlake shopping malls early Friday morning, as they have adjusted their schedules to accommodate shoppers. 


Families looking to avoid a turkey stupor can also head to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to stretch their legs and ice skate under the night sky. During this time of the year, the mecca for all things NASCAR turns into a magical winter wonderland, known as Holiday on Ice and featuring one of Charlotte’s best ice skating rinks. Families can enjoy selfies with a giant polar bear, or a large Christmas tree, or a walk through the Ceremonial Garden that features thousands of holiday lights. A trip to Holiday on Ice is the perfect way to finish Thanksgiving and embrace the upcoming holiday season. 


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Spotlight On: Liz Babson, Director, Charlotte Department of Transportation

Spotlight On: Liz Babson, Director, Charlotte Department of Transportation

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read November 2019 — As Charlotte continues to grow, the Department of Transportation is looking at ways to improve and innovate its transportation system. The department has been keen on leveraging capital investment with private development to build a safe transportation network for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Safety is a top priority for the department heading into 2020, said Liz Babson, director of the Department of Transportation, in an interview with Invest: Charlotte.    

How has Charlotte’s transportation system kept up with economic growth in the past decade?


“Charlotte, like other major cities, is experiencing economic growth and is seeing the effects of that in its transportation system. We have seen congestion increase throughout the community. The city must look at multiple ways to solve and manage its transportation system. We put a lot of investment in transit and other transportation improvements and continue to manage  congestion. In the last decade, we have seen a shift in the way we look at transportation investment throughout the city, not just on the transit side but making sure we are connecting our networks, such as our walkways and bikeways, and giving people a choice when they travel throughout the city. We are making a major shift from traditional roadway projects and single occupancy vehicles.”  


What is the state of the transportation system in Charlotte?


“In the last few years, the state legislature was changed to reprioritize transportation investment throughout North Carolina. As a result, there is a tremendous amount of investment at the state level that is coming to Charlotte. Some $3.2 billion in state transportation investment is earmarked for this city. Those are projects that will improve the freeway systems throughout North Carolina. As your capacity increases in those facilities, it gives people more travel options to use Charlotte’s surface streets for local, short trips. We then have more capacity at the surface street level to improve the transportation system for cyclists and pedestrians.”  


How is the Department of Transportation working with the private sector to speed up projects in Charlotte?


“We work to find ways to align our capital investment to where we know new development or redevelopment is happening. The Camp North End project north of Uptown and the River District are good examples where we anticipated the type of development and redevelopment we want to see happen and set aside capital investment dollars to partner up with investors and developers. It allows us to see projects developed quicker. The challenge is finding equitable and balanced ways to do that. We have always tried to be strategic with our partnerships; sometimes the private side is faster and more efficient.”    


How is the Department of Transportation working with the community as Charlotte continues to grow?


“We are developing our 2040 Comprehensive Plan. We are engaging the community, elected officials and private partners in a way that we have not done before to look at how we want to grow as a community and how we will do that. We are engaging the community as we have those conversations, so they can understand the challenges and how we can work together as we head into the future. We are having those tough conversations in a meaningful way. This is an important undertaking for the city. It will be transformational for the city from an organizational structure and how we do our work and engage the community.” 


How is the Department of Transportation using technology to improve transit operations?


“We have close to 850 traffic signals and close to 350 miles of fibers that communicate with 90% of those signals. From one central location, we can change signal timing for the entire city. That fiber infrastructure also manages our traffic camera system, which is comprised of around 450 cameras located throughout the city. It’s a shared system. We work very closely with the police and fire departments. Together we can make on the spot decisions that improve emergency response times and help get the roads cleared faster when there are bigger problems. We have the infrastructure in place to test and implement new smart traffic technologies. We are looking at the possibility of leveraging the connected traffic system with people’s smartphones to share information from the traffic signal operations with pedestrians who want to know when the bus is coming or commuters who want to know when the traffic lights will change. Those are the kinds of things we are starting to look at.”  


What are the Department of Transportation’s priorities heading into 2020?


“We are working to do road projects that are transformational, as well as small, safety improvements to expand our safe and efficient transportation system for our cyclists and pedestrians. We are a Vision Zero city and are working toward no deaths or serious injuries on our streets by 2030. The goal allows us to take a data-driven approach when it comes to capital investments. We are continuously looking for opportunities to leverage private development with capital investment to build a safe transportation network. There is a real intentional focus to improve the safety of our cyclists and pedestrians.”  


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Tyler Perry’s new 330-acre film compound is the largest in the nation

Tyler Perry’s new 330-acre film compound is the largest in the nation

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read November 2019 — Hollywood and the movie industry have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship since the days of Charlie Chalpin, Humphrey Bogart and Bela Lugosi. However, in the 21st century, multi-hyphenate film mogul, Tyler Perry, has been keen on proving that successful movie production outside of California is possible. In October, Perry unveiled his new 330-acre Tyler Perry Studios, built on the grounds of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, a former military base in Atlanta that Perry purchased in 2015. While the state of Georgia has consistently attracted new movie and TV productions to the region via tax incentives, the man behind Madea’s crazy family adventures has been busy on and off the camera promoting Georgia and the Atlanta Metro Area as a venue for productions of all sizes. Now, with his new studio in full swing, Perry has a new base to challenge Hollywood for the audience’s attention, praise and profit. 

Tyler Perry Studios is the largest film production studio in the nation. It also makes Perry the first African-American to have sole ownership of a major film production studio. “We are a major player in film and television, and now we have the facilities to rival Hollywood – so come, bring your productions,” Perry told Atlanta Business Chronicle in late September. Georgia’s current tax credit system, in which studios can earn up to 30% tax credits on total production costs, has led to a boom in movie business in the region. It estimated that Georgia’s film and television industry generated close to $2.7 billion in economic impact in 2018 with over 300 productions in the region.  


It is likely that you have seen a show or movie shot in Perry’s former studio, also in Atlanta. Several top productions have used his facilities to wow audiences, including Marvel’s “Black Panther,” AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and “Pitch Perfect 3,” aside from Perry’s bevy of brand-name shows and movies. The new studio features 12 state-of-the-art sound stages, 200 acres of picturesque green space, over 40 Victorian style homes and even a replica of the White House. Perry, who is an avid lover of architecture, still has 200 acres of space to continue to build elaborate stages suitable for any type of production. 


Perry’s most recent productions, “The Oval” and “Sistas,” have drawn over 3.3 million viewers at night on BET+, the network’s streaming platform. In October, along with the grand opening of his studio, Perry announced two more series are set to premiere in BET+ in 2020. Fans can add the new series “Bruh” and “Ruthless” to their watch list sometime in the new year. Aside from being a world-class movie production site, the new studio will also serve as host to global events, concentrating the world’s eyes on the Atlanta Metro Area. 


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