Spotlight On: Keith Koenig, CEO & Chairman, City Furniture/Broward Workshop

Spotlight On: Keith Koenig, CEO & Chairman, City Furniture/Broward Workshop

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read November 2019 — Acting as both the CEO of his company City Furniture and the Chairman of the Broward Workshop, Keith Koenig provides a unique perspective and insight on various facets of business and progress being made in Broward County. He not only discusses how the Workshop is working to address the  effects of climate change on the county, but also the progress it has made on the goals set forth last year. In regards to his business, Koenig reveals his key to longevity in the marketplace as well as what today’s consumers are looking for when choosing where to shop. 

 

How is the Broward Workshop addressing the issues related to climate change in Broward County?

Wherever anyone stands on the science of climate change, one issue is undeniable, and that’s the economics of resiliency. Smart people in the insurance world believe that our risks and insurance costs will go up in the years to come if we do not get ahead of resiliency. Broward Workshop members understand that issue and want to lead a public, private effort to improve the resiliency not only of South Florida, but to create opportunities for coastal communities around the world to partner and learn. We are still in the process of setting our priorities for our annual goals, but in all likelihood they will include supporting the Army Corps of Engineers’ $20-million research project. In addition, our members are supporting Broward County’s efforts to jump-start our resiliency efforts. We will also be supporting South Florida water management efforts to finish phase two of the C-59 reservoir, which is an important step forward in our resiliency efforts. 

What progress has been made on the goals set by the Broward Workshop last year?

When we look back over the last year, we have really moved all our goals forward. At the top of the list was addressing homelessness. A little over a year ago, we had a major encampment of close to 100 homeless in Downtown Fort Lauderdale and they were in an area right next to the library. Earlier this year, we worked to help place these homeless people into more permanent housing. The best way to end homelessness is to provide people with housing that is respectful and valuable. Our second goal revolved around education, particularly K-12 education in Broward County. When Superintendent Bob Runcie arrived in 2011, the Broward County school system was in disarray. Members of the school board had been accused of improprieties, morale was low and we were facing over $20 million in fines for not meeting state-mandated class size. Runcie has worked diligently to address those issues and to move our Broward County school system forward. The good news is that our school system has improved greatly with higher graduation rates and higher rated schools. Broward County Public School System nearly achieved an overall A rating in 2018 and they are working to continue to improve. We set a goal to support the Broward County public schools and our measure of success was to make sure Bob Runcie stayed as superintendent. I’m proud to say Bob Runcie is still our superintendent today.

The third big goal was the transportation sales tax initiative. Last year, county leaders put this sales tax increase on the ballot to fund transportation initiatives. It was a major initiative and members of Broward Workshop fell on both sides, but like any good organization we listened to the majority. We put our support behind it and the sales tax initiative passed. The last goal we set was around tourism. Tourism is Broward County’s biggest industry, and the biggest need we have is an expansion of our convention center and to build a convention center hotel. We were active both on the forefront and behind the scenes, and the expansion and the convention center hotel are going forward. 

How has City Furniture maintained its longevity in the market? 

The key to City Furniture’s longevity in the Broward County marketplace has been reinvesting back into our business. We operate financially conservative, meaning that we are careful and never try to bite off more than we can chew. That being said, growth has been a cornerstone of our business. If you do not have growth as a cornerstone strategy for your business, you can’t attract the talent you need or want. For instance, millennials all want to see opportunity to advance, grow and succeed, so they are attracted to companies that embody that vision. In our case, we just opened up big stores in Orlando, and we are planning to open in Tampa over the next few years. The other key to this business has been private ownership. We are able to invest for the long-term benefit of our associates, our customers and our community. 

How have you seen priorities shift in regards to consumers making a decision on where to shop?  

Retail needs to be more of an experience. What will drive you to a store as opposed to buying online is the experience. When the consumer is given a choice, they prefer to do business with local companies that genuinely support the local communities that they are in and companies that move in a direction of sustainability toward a carbon neutral footprint. Mostly, our shoppers and customers learn that City Furniture does these things after they come to our stores. It becomes a better value proposition for them to do business with us. All of these elements are aimed at tilting the customer experience factor a little more in our favor. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

 

https://www.cityfurniture.com/

 

https://www.browardworkshop.com/

Can Demand Meet Supply?

Can Demand Meet Supply?

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — 4,500. That is the number of new hotel rooms expected to come online between now and 2024. This additional inventory will be on top of the 34,000 existing rooms already available in Broward County. New hotel developments and renovations like the opening of the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, the $1.5 billion expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the upcoming addition of the Omni Hotel & Resorts as part of the massive expansion happening at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, are all contributing factors to this significant increase in hotel room supply. The question now is whether demand in Broward County will match this increase in supply?

 

To begin to answer this question, it is important to understand how the hospitality sector in Broward has evolved over the years. Invest: spoke with Heiko Dobrikow, the general manager for one of the oldest and most successful hotels in the county: the Riverside Hotel located on Las Olas Boulevard. He discussed how the transformation of the sector was the result of deliberate action from past leaders. “Going back to the 1980s, we were the spring break capital of the world. The leadership then, the mayor and the business community, got together to make the city a little bit more upscale. Suddenly, the mom-and-pop hotels that we had on the beach became the Ritz Carlton, the Marriott, the Atlantic, and now we have a Four Seasons coming. Those are monumental changes. It speaks much to the change in the business environment that has transpired in Fort Lauderdale,” said Dobrikow.

Year after year the tourism sector in Broward County has hit record highs, which is a direct reflection of the over $3 billion dollars spent in capital improvements to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in an effort to increase passenger traffic. All of this has had the biggest impact on investment and development within the hospitality sector. Dobrikow discussed the direct correlation between the growth of the airport and the hospitality industry. “We see growth mainly via the airport. In the last 12 months, the airport received 36.6 million customers, a growth of 5.6%. Of that traffic, 27.7 million were domestic customers. International passenger growth was almost 9%. It has been a tremendous driver for us. It gives investors looking to build hotels in Fort Lauderdale comfort knowing that there is more growth coming. We have a pipeline of about 45 new hotels in Broward County.”

The growing influx of tourists into the county, and the expected arrival of fans to world-renowned events like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the coming Super Bowl LIV, indicate that demand will in fact meet the new supply of hotels rooms. But increased supply also means increased competition for the already established hotels that could ultimately lead to a significant decrease in rates across the board. Although this bodes well for consumers, it does not for hotels in the county. A potential economic downturn is another cloud on the horizon. The key for hotels is having the ability to adapt to a changing landscape within hospitality. “In the next year, I think our occupancy levels will remain flat, and the hotels will be very competitive in terms of rates in Broward County. Some of the hurricanes affected us, but we have recovered. Demand growth could be about 8-8.5%. We see an economic slowdown in the near future, and I am convinced that 2021 will be a slower year for us, with a dip in occupancy. We are planning a room renovation for that year, knowing that it is going to be a slower time,” Dobrikow told Invest:. 

While all indicators point to enough demand in the current market for an increased supply of hotel rooms, it will be something to keep a close eye on as we enter 2020 and beyond. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.riversidehotel.com/

Spotlight On: Tansy Jefferies, Principal, International Tax Services, RSM US LLP

Spotlight On: Tansy Jefferies, Principal, International Tax Services, RSM US LLP

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — In today’s tight labor market, companies are feeling the pressure more than ever to stand out as leaders both in their industry and in their community. This includes efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Tansy Jefferies, principal for international tax services at RSM US LLP, spoke with Invest: about how RSM is leading the way in shattering the gender barriers in the accounting industry with 30 percent female ownership within the company, and the firm’s efforts to empower their employees with constant investment into enhancing the employee experience. 

 

How is RSM tackling gender challenges in the accounting industry?

 

We are proud to report that RSM in South Florida is leading the charge and breaking the proverbial glass ceiling with 30 percent female ownership in an industry where the average is approximately 16 percent. RSM places a high emphasis on coaching and mentoring our high-performing women to retain and accelerate them into leadership positions. We also want to increase diversity and inclusion more broadly throughout our organization. Culture, diversity and inclusion are strategic business drivers and have shown to be great catalysts for business growth. Our mission is to be the first choice adviser to middle market companies globally and to do that, we need a workforce that is as diverse as our clientele. This is the best way to truly deliver the power of being understood. 

 

How is RSM finding the talent it needs, given the county’s low unemployment rate?

 

We have found that our focus on culture, diversity and inclusion has also differentiated us from other firms when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. RSM places a great deal of emphasis on delivering the power of being understood, not only to our clients but to our people as well. Through the RSM talent experience, we empower each other to enhance our value and build successful careers. We build rich, enduring relationships based on a profound understanding of each other, our goals and our aspirations. Because when we feel truly understood, we are empowered to move forward with confidence, both personally and professionally. RSM is constantly enhancing the talent experience by investing in and implementing new training, tools and resources. Specifically related to recruiting, we align with the State’s top universities to bring students into our internship programs. We also drive recruitment through diverse professional organizations, such as the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), which aligns with our goals of building a diverse workforce for the future.

 

In what areas is RSM seeing the greatest demand for its services?

 

As a specialist in transfer pricing, I have seen an uptick in services that affect multinational, middle market organizations. From tax reform to changes across the broader global tax landscape, there has been a significant impact on international companies. We have also seen a rise in enquiries from investors on the tax programs related to Opportunity Zones. On the assurance side, there have been increased activities related to implementing the new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards for public, private and government entities. Our financial advisory services practice has also been growing, as the economic outlook makes it a favorable market for buying and selling businesses. As for RSM’s consulting services, our cybersecurity, blockchain, infrastructure, managed IT services, and risk consulting practices are all growing at a rapid pace.

 

What is enticing investors into the Broward market?

 

South Florida is an enticing climate for a multitude of reasons, including the federal tax changes and incentives that have fostered an interest from our clients determined to keep jobs and intellectual property in the United States. One of the usual challenges for inbound foreign investors is understanding the complexity of U.S. tax law, because of the different layers of taxation at the federal, state and local levels. Fortunately, for businesses seeking relocation into Broward County, those layers are not quite as complex as in other parts of the country, which makes Broward a favorable option. From an economic perspective, Broward has a high quality of life, strong economic growth, and is dedicated to investing in infrastructure and the community, all of which are great reasons for businesses to invest in our community. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://rsmus.com/

Spotlight On: David Druey, South Florida Regional President, Centennial Bank

Spotlight On: David Druey, South Florida Regional President, Centennial Bank

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Connectivity to the community is the key differentiator when it comes to the variety of banks in the region, David Druey, South Florida regional president for Centennial Bank, told Invest:. He also raised some significant points about determining the right talent fit for a role in his bank, and how millennials could benefit from understanding and appreciating the significant advantages that having a human relationship with their bank can bring. 

 

How does your bank differentiate itself in a crowded financial market? 

Whether it is a large, regional, super-regional or community bank, the key difference is the connectivity the bank has to the community. Typically, larger banks have a tendency not to focus on small business. They look for large corporations that take out massive loans. They underserve the communities that they have branches in and use their branches for deposit gathering rather than actually servicing the customer’s needs on both the loans and deposits sides. While we are a $15 billion organization, we have allowed each branch to go with what I call their bend, which is allowing them to do the kind of work that they will succeed in. For instance, if there is a need for construction lending in their market, then they should be doing construction lending. This allows our branches to be in the markets on a much more granular level, and not a large-scale or silo level like some of the other larger banks.

How do you determine the right talent to hire from a tight labor pool? 

Talent must have the finesse to understand financial statements, business models, clients, people and be good enough to get all the details correct in order to have loan documentation approved. There is a very small group of people who can do this job extremely well, and those who do it well are in high demand. The key is to court them to come work for you, and entice them to come over based on whatever it is that they are not getting at their current institution. When identifying these people, we also look at their reputation and overall if they are a high-quality individual. 

Have you observed any significant changes in demand for your services with the influx of millennials into South Florida?

Millennials have a tendency to do everything on their phone, which is fine and we appreciate that technology, but they are missing out on the human component of a banking relationship. Having a relationship with one’s bank is vitally important to their financial well-being. When that relationship solely exists on technology, there is no connection with the financial institution. Millennials are missing out on the connectivity and relationships with banking professionals that could ultimately help them with whatever they may need. The positive trend we are observing is that as these millennials age, they are starting to realize that to start a business or buy a home they need to have some connectivity and relationship with their bank. They are migrating more toward having relationships with financial advisers and banks because they need them as a service provider.

Due to the strict regulatory banking environment, have you seen a trend of people looking at more nontraditional lenders?

In South Florida, we are always competing against two things, cash and nontraditional financing. South Florida has quite a few nontraditional financing options, but these options typically charge for the nontraditional financing through fees and a higher interest rate. This idea is comparable to the convenience store versus a chain grocery-store mentality. A convenience store may be easier to access but you will pay $6 for a gallon of milk, while a chain grocery store may be a bit more effort to access but will result in a savings of $2 for the same product. The same idea applies for lending from a traditional source like a bank versus a nontraditional lender.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://www.my100bank.com/

Spotlight On: Lisa Scott-Founds, President & CEO, Winterfest Inc

Spotlight On: Lisa Scott-Founds, President & CEO, Winterfest Inc

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — The Broward County community is spoiled for choice when it comes to events in the area, as there is seemingly something happening every week, even in winter. The seventh-largest spectator event in Florida is the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, to be held this year on Dec. 12. Invest: spoke with President and CEO of Winterfest Inc Lisa Scott-Founds about the importance of innovation to the event, how they ensure safety and the role the Boat Parade plays in the tourism economy of Broward County. 

How important is consistent innovation to the success of the event?

We always want to integrate the newest technology into our event, like the use of holograms, which we hope is a real possibility for this year. As a nonprofit organization, we are always searching for unique additions to our event that are not cost-prohibitive. We are always asking people, “What is something that you’ve never seen us do before?” We take their suggestion, develop a budget to execute the idea and bring it to our board and possible sponsors to help with underwriting the “new wow-factor idea.” It’s amazing what can happen when you bring together creative minds and supporters in the business community. The entertainment value is the most important element for our success to ensure we continue to be the “Greatest Show on H2O” and the seventh-largest spectator event in the state of Florida.

How do you ensure safety at an event like Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade?

We work with all our law enforcement officials the United States Coast Guard, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Lauderdale Marine Patrol, Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Fire Department. When putting on an event of this caliber, safety is the No. 1 priority. Those who participate in the parade are educated on all our safety procedures. We send them messages on a daily basis to always be conscious of how important it is to keep safety first when you are on the water. As a parade on water, Winterfest needs to have proper procedures in place. Unlike a land parade; you can’t just hit a brake on a boat to stop. Spectators within our Grandstand viewing area see signs directed toward their safety as well.

What role does the Boat Parade play in the tourism market within Broward County?

There is nothing like the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade in the entire world. The beginning of December is a little slower for tourism, as opposed to other months when tourism in South Florida sees a boom, so we feel a responsibility to bring people into the region and put heads in beds. Our success is due to collaboration with organizations like our Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau and working with area hotels. Tourists should experience a Winterfest weekend, a show at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, eat at our restaurants and immerse themselves in our community. There is just so much to do in Fort Lauderdale, and in Broward County for that matter.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://winterfestparade.com/

A Show 60 Years in the Making

A Show 60 Years in the Making

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 2 min read October 2019 — Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 are probably the most important couple of days for the city of Fort Lauderdale and for Broward County. Over the course of these five days, the city opens its doors to over 110,000 boating enthusiasts from around the world representing over 50 countries, all here for the purpose of attending the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. While this event is always a highlight for the year, this year has special meaning: it’s the 60th anniversary for the Boat Show.

The success and longevity of the event comes as no surprise as Fort Lauderdale has been dubbed the “Yachting Capital of the World” with its economic roots deeply cemented in the marine industry. This event is not just a chance for visitors to see these boats up close and personal; it serves primarily as a platform for yacht brokers and various other exhibitors to showcase their marine products and services. 

The economic benefits to the region brought on by a boat transaction cannot be understated, and were highlighted by Paul Flannery, executive director for the International Yacht Brokers Association, when he spoke to Invest:. “A boat is an economic engine for the community. When a boat comes to a community, 10% of the value of that boat is injected into the local economy on a yearly basis. When there is a transaction involving a boat, an additional 13% of the value of that boat is injected into the local economy in the first year after the sale,” Flannery explained. He continued: “When a person wants to sell their boat, then we need to make sure they know that there is no better place to do business than South Florida, the yachting capital of the world. The impact of that boat sale happening in South Florida benefits the local economy through the yacht broker and marina owner, as well as all the people engaged in that transaction.”

The show this year will not only feature the debut of the show’s largest megayacht, Madsummer, it will also include the 2nd Annual Sunset Soiree and Yacht Chef Competition, a superyacht village and a mansion yacht. Perhaps most unique about this year’s event is the FLIBS 4 Bahamas initiative that will be in support of the Bahamas relief efforts in the Abacos and Grand Bahama, two of the islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian. The proceeds from both the raffle of a Pioneer Sportfish 180 and the Yacht Chef Competition will be going directly to charities working on hurricane relief for the islands.

With more than $4 billion worth of product on display at the Boat Show, the event has not only become a staple for the South Florida community, but the global marine community as well. The event is owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, whose CEO and President Phil Purcell perfectly summarized to Invest: just how important the Boat Show is to the region. “We are the refit and repair capital of the world, the yachting capital of the world. When you think of Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show’s impact on the state of Florida, it generates an $857 million economic impact, with 110,000 visitors from 52 countries around the globe. Keep in mind that $100 million a day changes hands in sales during the five days of the show. The marine industry has an economic value to Broward County of $8.9 billion.”

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.flibs.com/en/home.html

https://www.miasf.org/

https://iyba.yachts/

Spotlight On: Asi Cymbal, President & Owner, Cymbal Developmentf

Spotlight On: Asi Cymbal, President & Owner, Cymbal Developmentf

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Fort Lauderdale’s real estate development market is in its prime and if there was ever a time to capitalize on that, it’s now. The successful developers are those who truly understand the market, can create an innovative product and have the foresight to protect themselves if this hot market goes cold. Asi Cymbal is the president and owner of Cymbal Development, a development and construction company that is working on a new innovative development along the water called Marina Lofts. Cymbal discusses the key differences he has identified in Broward and Miami-Dade’s real estate development markets, market trends and how vital the financing market is to how real estate development performs. 

What can be expected for your development of Marina Lofts? 

We have a significant interest in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, and we own a six-acre site along the water where we are building The Marina Lofts. We brought in Bjarke Ingels, an amazing architect, to design the project. Marina Lofts will be a multi-use project with residential, marine and retail, and a possible hotel and condo component as well. We have waited for the market to come to us, and we believe this is happening now with all the activity that is happening south of the river. It is primarily a rental market on the river and we think there is an opportunity to create something spectacular and cost-efficient along the waterfront.

How do the markets in Miami-Dade and Broward County differ? 

Miami and Broward are quite different, although they are so close in proximity. Fort Lauderdale strives to be a city that seems closer in line to the bigger cities in the Midwest, while Miami strives to be a city that is more closely aligned with Eastern cities like New York. They have slightly different demographics as well, but both are attractive cities in different ways, which I believe adds to their appeal for various types of renters or buyers. An issue we are dealing with in both places is construction costs, and we are emphasizing efficiency in design more than ever. To be successful in these markets, we need to be a lot more cost-conscious than we have been in the past.

 

Where do you see development trends gravitating as we move into 2020? 

There will continue to be strong demand for multifamily units. I believe retail will take a hit even though there are some interesting innovations happening in that space. There is an opportunity for growth in office space and there is more of an emphasis on an environmentally friendly product. Our housing tenants expect to see more of this emphasis, so we do design with an eye toward energy conservation, green efficiency and things of that sort that appeal to this demographic. Overall, we are cautiously optimistic through 2020, and our company will remain in significant expansion mode.

 

How dependent is real estate development on the financing market? 

The financing market helps check the type of real estate product and the quantity of product being developed in South Florida. Regulation is a lot more strict today than it was right before the Great Recession. Having a stronger financial backing for projects is what keeps the region from over-building and there is a lot more hesitation and thought going into what is developed in South Florida. During the Great Recession, we saw opportunities to develop, but it was difficult to find financing. By the time we were mid-cycle everyone wanted to finance, but the opportunity was diminished. Now, we are toward the end of the cycle and there is financing, but you need to create your own opportunities.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

http://cymbaldevelopment.com/

Spotlight On: Kevin Rogers, Regional President, Seaside National Bank & Trust

Spotlight On: Kevin Rogers, Regional President, Seaside National Bank & Trust

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Seaside National Bank & Trust may be considered a newer entry into the market, having first opened its doors in 2006, but since then it has become a prominent force in the banking community. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale recently spoke with Kevin Rogers, the regional president of Seaside National Bank & Trust’s South Florida operations. During the discussion, he spoke on the importance of cybersecurity to a bank like Seaside, how Seaside handles the challenge of competition in South Florida and his approach to finding the right employee candidates. 

How are you protecting your clients in regards to cybersecurity? 

Cybersecurity is a huge topic, not only at our bank, but also across the financial services industry. We tell our people all the time that we’re a small bank, and if we took a $2 million to $3 million hit it would substantially hurt us. Our people are on guard every minute. We have an incredible onboarding process, and we not only know who we’re banking with, but we also know who are clients are dealing with as well. If you ask what keeps me up at night more so than hitting balance sheet goals, it’s cybersecurity and being hit with a loss.

The amount of money that the bank spends on cybersecurity is incredible, but you have to stay ahead of the game. We conduct a lot of training on the subject. I even do a communication call twice a month with our South Florida employees, and one of the main topics is cybersecurity. We want to make sure that everybody is on guard, that they know who their clients are and that they’re asking the right questions. You have to ask the tough questions to make sure you protect the bank.

 

What is the biggest challenge in the market for a small to midsize bank like Seaside, and how do you overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge is always going to be the competition. Banks of our size do not have the brand recognition that a Bank of America does, so the question is how do we sell Seaside Bank? We have to go out and talk to our clients about who we are and what we specialize in. We drive home the fact that we are able to provide the same products and services that the big banks do but in a community bank setting. We’ve taken a lot of clients away from these big banks. If you look at what’s going on in the big banks right now, it’s all about sales process management and managing their people to numbers that, a lot of the time, mean selling products and services that the clients really don’t need. We don’t subscribe to this notion and instead focus more on listening to our clients and making sure that they get what they want and need. We’re not for everybody; there will never be a time when you’ll see a Seaside branch on every street corner like you do Bank of America. If a customer is looking for that then we’re not the bank for them. If they’re looking for a single point of contact to deal with on a consistent basis then we are a perfect bank for them.

 

How difficult is it to find professional, hard-working talent in the Palm Beach County market? 

It is very hard, and I find that I’m always looking for people. I’m constantly asked the question when I’m out at a meeting or at a networking event, “Are you looking for bankers?” I always say, “I’m never looking, but I’m always looking” because I’m trying to find the right person who will fit into our culture. 

It’s also very hard to recruit a good banker who is working at a big bank because they already have an established book of business and a continuous flow of referrals. At a smaller bank like ours we don’t have that, and you have to be an aggressive calling officer and business developer to be able to be successful here. We have to be careful about whom we hire because we don’t want to set anybody up to fail. Some of the best people I’ve recruited are from big banks and who want to try something else because they’re at a  time in their lives when they want to scale down. A smaller bank like ours is attractive to these people because of our incentive plan and how we operate.

To learn more about our interviewee visit: 

https://www.seasidebank.com/

How Broward is Solving its Transportation Troubles

How Broward is Solving its Transportation Troubles

By Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 —  For over a century, the car has been America’s top transportation choice when getting from point A to point B. As the population in the United States has grown exponentially year over year, so has the dependency on these vehicles, which has led to worsening transportation issues like congested roads, air pollution, traffic accidents and in some cases fatalities. Throughout South Florida, in this case Broward County, the negative effects of the population’s dependency on single-occupancy vehicles are rampant throughout the region. While these issues pose a major challenge to Broward, there is hope as the younger generations are looking to avoid the stress of car ownership, and many community leaders and organizations are making a push toward better mass transit and alternative transportation options.

While these are not all new ideas, in the last couple of years the emphasis for Broward has become truly exploring and executing these ideas. This starts with the  30-year Penny For Transportation Surtax that was passed last November and is set to generate billions of dollars toward improving transportation and mass transit options throughout the county. Invest: recently spoke with Monica Cepero, deputy county administrator for Broward County, who discussed what the community could expect from the revenues generated by the tax. “This sales tax is set to generate about $16 billion over the next 30 years, and will be used in the more immediate future to improve and modernize public transit services. Our long-term plan for those funds is focused on creating connectivity, extending roadway capacities, multimodal improvements and improving transportation facilities and service.”

Invest: also spoke with Gregory Stuart, executive director of Broward MPO, about the near-term changes that could be expected from the revenues collected from the tax. “Realistically, the immediate changes aren’t going to result in construction; we are focusing on enhancing the traffic signalization program. This includes a coordination between the traffic lights, people’s vehicles and installing smart communication equipment. Another immediate change that has happened already but which we’re not going to notice for about another year, is the county transit agency’s purchase of another 130 buses. Considering they are operating a fleet of about 300 buses right now, this is a one-third expansion and a significant increase in the bus system,” he told Invest:

While the tax is going to be a huge benefit for transportation in the region, a change in mindset is another factor impacting how people get around. One option is the Tri-Rail, which is celebrating its 30th year servicing the South Florida community. Tri-Rail Executive Director Steven Abrams spoke about how it is benefiting from the changing mindset toward mass transit in the area. “South Florida is a tourist and service-related economy, and these individuals, like waiters or construction workers, cannot work from their homes. We have people coming from all over the world who are used to rail transportation in their countries, and they are feeding into our system. Our roads are also just becoming so congested. It used to be that our ridership would principally, and almost exclusively, fluctuate with gas prices, but now that  gas prices are stable and dropping, we still have people riding our system because ultimately it is the overabundance of cars on the road that is urging them to seek alternative transportation.”

Abrams also spoke to how Tri-Rail has improved and updated its operations over the years to encourage use by a larger population. “Over those 30 years, we have improved our service, added more trains, added weekend and holiday service and added connections to the three airports. We are a transportation system that has become popular over time and we have really embedded ourselves in the tri-county area.” 

The other popular train in South Florida is also the newest mass transit option for the region, Virgin Trains USA. Running through the three counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, the train is looking toward the future by connecting the three counties with Orlando and an eventual Tampa Bay stop as well. 

Patrick Goddard, president for Virgin Trains USA, discussed with Invest: how it wants to be a catalyst for transit change in South Florida. “We are reinventing train travel in America, so there are always going to be challenges, but none that we have not been able to overcome so far. The advent of this project has awakened a desire and a curiosity within the municipalities to recognize the full potential for mass transit in South Florida. We are solving the challenge in Florida of medium-haul travel. Airlines take care of long trips, while rideshare, motorized scooters and buses take care of short ones. There has always been this gap with the 200- to 300-mile distances that are too short to fly and too long to drive. By introducing an option like this, it encourages people to leave their cars at home and start using a more environmentally sustainable means of transit.” 

A key factor in remaining economically sustainable is having good transportation and mass transit options. As Broward County continues to develop into an economic powerhouse so to must its transportation, and with changing mindsets and push from community leaders the future looks bright. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.tri-rail.com/

http://www.browardmpo.org/

https://www.gobrightline.com/

https://www.broward.org/