Spotlight On: Dan Lindblade, President & CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce

By Max Crampton-Thomas

July 2019

2 min read JULY 2019 — The City of Fort Lauderdale has been steadfast towards the goal of becoming the premier economic powerhouse in South Florida. The significant population and business growth in the area is a testament to the unwavering efforts of the local government, business owners, residents and community organizations. While this has been a collective community effort, one organization in particular has been at the forefront for the majority of the initiatives that have led to this growth and helped navigate the challenges associated with it. Since being established in 1910 The Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce has focused its efforts towards helping Fort Lauderdale achieve its ultimate potential. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale recently spoke with Dan Lindblade, the President and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce to discuss how the chamber is assisting with the issues currently facing the business community and how they are supporting significant development projects in the region.

How is the Chamber supporting the expansion of Port Everglades? 

We will be going to Washington in September to push for a New Starts designation for Port Everglades. The port is one of our chief economic drivers, supporting both the cargo and cruise industries. When the Chamber became involved with the Port about 9 years ago, it didn’t have the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ approval to start the expansion and that was the first thing on our radar. We had to push the Army Corp of Engineers to get approval to deepen and widen the harbor and when it was finally approved in 2015, we didn’t have any funding. For us to actually get funding for the expansion, we have to have the New Starts designation. When we get a New Starts designation, then we will be open to funding, so that is what we are pushing for between now and September. 

What trends have you observed regarding the labor shortage in the region? 

We really have not looked at any kind of importation of talent. Only when we have a certain type of individual we can’t find will we go out and recruit them from another area. The technology hub that we have here in South Florida is real and there is a lot of talent because of it, but not enough. It is expensive to live here in Fort Lauderdale, and people who are in the early stages of their careers are earning starting salaries that can be a challenge. We have been pushing employers to pay a living wage if they want talented people to stay here, otherwise they can go elsewhere. It is an interesting situation right now with such a low unemployment rate. Companies are constantly looking for new talent, and right now it is an employees’ market. If someone is not happy where they are working, they can easily go and find another job. 

What initiatives is the Chamber spearheading to help mitigate the effects of sea level rise? 

We are creating the International Resiliency Conference and Convention. It will be in December 2020 at the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel and Resort. This will be South Florida’s first convening of an international crowd to talk about sea level rise and entrepreneurial activity as it relates to engineering, science and transportation. In dealing with the issue of sea level rise we are going to make mistakes, but we have a trillion dollars’ worth of real estate between Palm Beach and Miami Dade that is at risk if we don’t act now. That’s what this conference is going to be all about. I told the directors, “Before my time is done here, I want to at least have the groundwork in place that creates the opportunities and the dialogue to navigate this issue.” There are all these other countries that live with water, so we should learn from them. Let’s figure out what they’ve done well, what they haven’t done well and use it to our advantage. 

Another component we need to address relates to property insurance. We are requesting a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program which provides for additional consumer protections and claims reform among other administrative items.

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

https://www.ftlchamber.com/

Hard Rock Hotel Ready to Play New “Guitar”

By staff writer

June 2019

2 min. read

The sky is truly the limit for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s $1.5 billion expansion, which is epitomized by the new 450-foot guitar-shaped hotel that residents of Broward County have seen rise from the ground over the past two years. The sprawling resort is set to open on Oct. 24, 2019.

The hotel will house three towers: the world’s first guitar-shaped building, with 638 luxury rooms; the Oasis Tower, which will consist of 168 luxury rooms overlooking a new “Bora Bora Experience” pool-lagoon area; and the classic Hard Rock Hotel that is a long-established staple in South Florida. This resort is shaping up to be unique in many aspects, including the size of the over 800 new rooms at 515 square feet, a significant upgrade from the average industry standard of 400 square feet.

The resort’s new amenities rival that of any luxury resort found in places like Las Vegas or Dubai. Guests will have access to the private “Bora Bora Experience” that is reminiscent of the region for which it is named, including private villas, personal butler service and a pool-lagoon landscape. The resort will also offer a new 42,000 square foot space that includes a 3,200 square foot fitness center, salon, barber shop, and countless spa services. The primary staple of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel is its casino, which is also undergoing some major renovations and upgrades with the addition of 200 table games, 3,100 slot machines and a newly constructed 45-table poker room. Finally, the new 6,500-seat Hard Rock Live venue is expected to draw tourists and musical acts alike to the South Florida region. The venue will be kick-started a day after the grand opening with an inaugural concert by Maroon 5.

The massive expansion is already having a positive economic impact on the South Florida region. The resort has been in the process of hiring over 1,200 new employees for full-time, part-time and on-call positions, while the expansion required over 2,000 construction employees. The almost completed guitar-shaped tower is already a landmark on the South Florida skyline and is attracting more attention to the city of Hollywood, where the resort is located.

Long a major economic driver in Broward County, the refurbished Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is ready for its debut and set to play a major role in all of South Florida.

For more information on Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino visit:

https://www.seminolehardrockhollywood.com/

 

A Light at the End of the Labor Shortage Tunnel

By Binta Dixon

March 2019

Many of today’s high school graduates feel obligated to enroll in college directly after high school, regardless of whether they have a clear career path in mind. However, many of these same students never graduate.

This is where educational ideals meet the reality of oversaturated job markets and low entry-level salaries.

Students are inundated with messages about what jobs hold prestige and how to get them. Becoming a lawyer, biologist or economist sounds great — but studies show that not all higher-education degrees are financially lucrative. And, as student loan debt accumulates, more and more are taking a hard left off the log-jammed highway of higher education and going to trade school.

It’s a trend the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce actually would like to encourage.

Unlike the four-year degree route, studying a trade such as mechanical work and construction allows students to begin learning and earning directly out of high school. This means that, in less time than it would take to earn a bachelor degree, a worker can get several years of solid working experience, qualifying them for better wages and more senior roles.  

Since 80 percent of contractors are finding it labor-intensive to find qualified trade workers, the pay and opportunities for those who are skilled are increasing. In the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, for example, wages for construction workers are on the rise. Currently, construction workers in and around Fort Lauderdale make an average of $20.40 per hour — slightly higher than wages for the same jobs in Orlando and Miami.

“Right now, we’re building a county-wide program to engage more young people to enter the trades,” Dan Lindblade, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, told Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale. “It’ll be a multifaceted partnership with Broward College, our technical colleges, CareerSource, the county government and the Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and his team.

Lindblade said the program offers mentoring programs, internships and externships, “but now we really need to build a viable structure that can convey a powerful message to families.”

Toward that end, the GFL Chamber is partnering with public school officials, local businesses and trade schools to help break the stigma around skilled labor and entice more students to invest in a future with less starting debt and better starting wages.

Building South Florida’s skilled labor force is imperative if Broward and surrounding counties are to keep pace with the demand for trade labor that accompanies development, supporters say. And of course, Broward County’s technical schools are as excited to welcome eager learners as local businesses are to find more qualified candidates.

If county officials and schools can spread the news about this option, perhaps many recent high school grads can avoid heavy debt loads while finding rewarding, well-paying jobs within a very hungry labor market.  

For more information about our interviewee, visit the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce website: https://www.ftlchamber.com/

A New Identity

By staff writer

February 2019

South Florida’s professional ice hockey team has its sights set on renovating and expanding the War Memorial Auditorium, owned by the City of Fort Lauderdale. The venue found itself in the spotlight last year as the longtime host of the controversial Florida Gun and Knife show, which the city decided not to renew in April following the Stoneman Douglas mass shooting. The lease for the 30-year show ran out in November 2018.

The War Memorial Auditorium opened in January 1950 in Holiday Park as a cultural center, bringing symphony and opera performances, as well as civic and sports functions, to the area. Money to build the venue, which serves as a memorial for veterans and fallen soldiers of World War II, was raised by the community. Tributes to Korean and Vietnam veterans were added later.

The Panthers recently presented the City of Fort Lauderdale with a hefty proposal, looking to spend up to $50 million on renovating the inside of the auditorium to create indoor soccer, lacrosse and other sporting facilities for the area’s youth, as well as adding two ice rinks in the rear. In return for the team bankrolling these renovations, the city would lease the Panthers the space for $1 a year for up to 50 years.

While helping to revamp the area around the auditorium and transforming it into a more family-friendly destination, the Panthers would also have the opportunity to promote the team, grow the sport of hockey and encourage children to participate in a wide variety of sporting activities. The city would benefit from the capital improvements without having to pay for them. It seems like a win-win for both parties.

For the Panthers, community is important to both players and staff. “It’s important whether you’re winning or losing to keep up a steady stream of community work,” Matthew Caldwell, president & CEO of the Florida Panthers, told Invest: when he sat down with our team last year. “We have a culture where our employees are really proud to do all this community and volunteer work. It’s part of our DNA now; we just think that it’s the right thing to do, but we’re also businessmen. We think that, long term, we will create a fan base because we’re building these kinds of relationships.”

Revitalizing the War Memorial Auditorium and bringing family-friendly sporting activities to the neighborhood aligns with this community spirit well. It also puts the Panthers’ name and the sport of hockey in the spotlight. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale will be keeping an eye on the Panthers’ proposal and the city’s response to it in 2019.

For more information on the Florida Panthers, visit https://www.nhl.com/panthers.

For more information on the City of Fort Lauderdale’s War Memorial Auditorium, visit: https://www.fortlauderdale.gov/departments/parks-recreation/war-memorial-auditorium

Bricks and Clicks

By staff writer

February 2019

According to a Statista report, in 2017 a total value of $2.3 trillion in sales were made on the global online marketplace. By 2021, those sales are projected to reach $4.5 trillion. Mobile commerce hit $700 billion in revenue in 2017, which was equivalent to more than 300 percent growth over the previous four years. There’s no question that e-commerce is rapidly growing its share of total U.S. retail sales; in fact, online sales currently represent nearly 10 percent of retail sales in the U.S., and that number is expected to increase by almost 15 percent each year.

However, even as this massive game-changer disrupts the retail industry, brick and mortar stores are innovating and adapting to make sure they stay in the game. Some companies are even finding that e-commerce is simply amplifying an already successful retail model. For the Las Olas Company, a leading commercial real estate and hospitality company in Fort Lauderdale that owns and manages the Riverside Hotel and leases office space and more than 50 locations of retail space on the bustling Las Olas Boulevard, e-commerce hasn’t had a negative impact.

“E-commerce is not really impacting the retail we’re trying to attract because some of the retail companies that we’re talking to are market leaders in that area,” Michael Weymouth, president of the Las Olas Company, told Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale when he sat down with our team in October. “People come to the stores to sample the goods — whether it’s clothing, high fashion or something else — and then they order it and have it shipped to their house the next day. I don’t know very many people who go into a store, buy a shirt and literally wear it out. To have it delivered the next day to your house is almost more convenient; that way, you don’t have to carry the bag around.”

In a world where instant access, round-the-clock accessibility and lightning-quick turnaround are not only desired but also expected, retailers are turning to e-commerce to deliver. Millennials make 54 percent of their purchases online, and for non-millennials that number is only slightly lower, at 49 percent. More than three-quarters of these online shoppers report they would like their products shipped the same day.

In addition to augmenting service, e-commerce allows retailers to set up their brick and mortar shops in smaller spaces and encourages them to provide a more personalized in-store experience. Physical retail is far from dead, and even as its share of the market drops, it is still expected to be well over 80 percent five years from now. In fact, online giant Amazon is today one of the biggest players in the brick and mortar game.

E-commerce is disruptive, but with the right flexibility and foresight retailers can capitalize on the benefits of both the clicks and bricks spaces. The Las Olas Company sees this as opportunity.

“Overall, we are well-positioned with our new product coming online to attract national brands, along with our existing product, which is mostly boutique,” Weymouth told Invest:. “E-commerce is a way for a lot of these companies to be able to service downtown residents without having to take a huge retail footprint. What’s going on in the retail industry is disruptive, there’s no question about that, but there’s a solution to it. And we happen to be in a good spot to offer that solution.”

To learn more about our interviewee, visit http://thelasolascompany.com/.

Port Everglades Sails into a Promising New Year

By staff writer

January 2019

Last year was, arguably, the most dynamic and prosperous year that Port Everglades has ever seen, and the port’s status as a catalyst for Broward’s economy is showing no signs of slowing down. Its growth and development is gaining international attention and generating thousands of jobs for the area.

“Today, Port Everglades is directly responsible for 13,185 jobs and produces over $1 billion in state and local taxes annually,” said Port Everglades Chief Executive and Port Director Steven Cernak in conversation with Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale. “For us, it’s all about economic impact. That’s the benefit we provide to the community: jobs and economic activity.”

The port attracted 3.87 million passengers in fiscal year 2018, according to its annual report, and this number is bound to increase moving forward.

In the 2019 winter season the port will welcome 10 new Holland America cruise ships, the first of which — Nieuw Statendam debuted at the port in December after sailing from Civitavecchia, Italy. With a capacity of 2,666 cruisers, the ship alone is expected to garner over 102,000 passengers and generate around $1.8 million in revenue.

The influx of Holland America ships to the port comes on the heels of the port’s recent addition of a Celebrity Cruises’ Terminal 25. The facility represents the largest investment ever made by the port, costing around $120 million to build, and will accommodate several Celebrity ships throughout the winter season.

In addition to driving tourism for the area, the port has also blossomed in terms of its cargo capacity, and it has implemented a five-year expansion plan that will entail nearly $1 billion in improvements to the port’s infrastructure to further increase its cargo volumes. This should prove to be a worthwhile investment, as the port experienced a 2 percent increase in bulk and breakbulk cargo tonnage in fiscal year 2018.

When Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale spoke with Craig Mygatt, CEO of Sealand, he highlighted the port’s advantages for transporting goods to and from Latin America, stating that the port’s strength “lies with the north-south routes, especially for perishable and agricultural goods, because the port is good at moving freight through the system quickly.”

As the number one port in Florida in terms of revenue, Port Everglades has successfully positioned itself as an international and economic hub for South Florida. Thanks to its strategic investments and expansions, 2019 is sure to be another banner year for the port.

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Port Everglades: http://www.porteverglades.net/

Sealand: https://www.sealandmaersk.com/