Spotlight On: Beat Kahli, President and CEO, Avalon Park Group

Spotlight On: Beat Kahli, President and CEO, Avalon Park Group

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — The Sunshine State has been a beacon of light for companies and families wishing to live, learn, work and play under the sun. Much of the population growth happening in Florida is concentrated in Central and South Florida. Compared to South Florida, the Orlando market still has land to develop and has done a great job in diversifying its economy, Avalon Park Group CEO Beat Kahli told Invest: Orlando. The group is developing four projects spanning from Tampa to Daytona Beach and focusing on mixed-use communities where residents can live, learn, work and play.  

How would you describe the strength of the real estate market in Orlando today?

Orlando has a high level of infrastructure, with the Orlando International Airport, the Orange County Convention Center, University of Central Florida and a broad job base. The level of infrastructure compared to the pricing on real estate is one of the biggest advantages in the area. If you compare Orlando to other markets like South Florida and New York, Orlando still has land. While we still have a lot of land available, Orlando has done a great job in diversifying its economy. The I-4 corridor is key to the region’s growth and I see Orlando and Tampa growing together. 


What are your most significant projects in Central Florida?

We have four large projects in the I-4 corridor between North Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Tavares. We have over 20,000 residential units and those projects are all at different stages. Our Avalon Park Orlando project is 99% completed. For this project, we focused first on young families. We have 10,000 students stationed in our school district and thousands of homes already built. The community is a great place to live, learn, work and play with a variety of apartments, single homes, town houses, schools and about 150 businesses.  


What are some trends in Orlando’s real estate market?

People are interested in mixed-use development communities where you can live, learn, work and play. Building smaller homes is another trend, especially due to their affordability. People are getting smaller homes with higher upgrades in design and finishes. The most important change is toward live, learn, work, play communities and the quality of life these present. Co-working spaces are also a trend and we have already started to include these types of spaces in our communities. 


What is your outlook for Orlando’s real estate sector in the next year?

We have done a much better job after the Great Recession. When I look back on the last decade of recovery, I’m very positive about Central Florida for the next 20 years. However, we expect the real estate sector to stabilize within the next two years. Central Florida has attractive prices, and its diversified economy provides great opportunities for real estate investments.  


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Tourists, Flight Availability Underpin MCO’s Record Growth

Tourists, Flight Availability Underpin MCO’s Record Growth

By: Sara Warden

2 min read February 2020 — Orlando’s tourism industry is going from strength to strength, generating $75.2 billion from 75 million people in 2018. The industry’s success at drawing in new customers benefits almost every other industry in the region, not least aviation. In 2019, Orlando International Airport experienced a record-breaking year, welcoming 50.6 million passengers – a 6.1% increase on the previous year.

“Orlando lnternational’s growth in 2019 is due to a combination of factors,” said Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) in a press release. “A strong Central Florida economy, continued innovative attractions being unveiled by the local theme parks, increased air service to new markets around the world and more seats coming into the area all equal record traffic at MCO.”

Currently, 38 airlines operate flights out of Orlando International, and in 2019 seat capacity was increased by 5.9% — around another 3.25 million seats. Most of this growth was generated by Spirit and Frontier, two budget airlines that continue to expand in Orlando. Spirit Airlines announced this month that it would expand the frequency of 16 routes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Orlando International Airport in 2020.

“Florida is very important to Spirit Airlines, and we are going to keep growing in the state we call home,” said John Kirby, Vice President of Network Planning for Spirit, in a statement. “As the only major airline headquartered in the Sunshine State, Spirit Airlines continues to add new destinations and more nonstop service to meet the needs of Florida’s growing economy.”

And 2020 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year. According to GOAA, there will be 39 new destinations launched from airlines including Air Canada, Westjet, JetBlue, Emirates, Delta and Virgin Atlantic over the course of the year.

The first half of 2020 is full of exciting new attractions such as Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Cirque du Soleil is also stopping by to perform Drawn to Life, which is sure to make 2020 a year to compete with its predecessor.

And Universal Orlando Resort is planning a new theme park resort, plunging billions of dollars into 700 acres on Universal Boulevard for its Epic Universe. The park is set to integrate the traditional theme parks and rides, as well as hotels, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. “Our vision for Epic Universe will build on everything we have done and become the most immersive and innovative theme park we have ever created. It is an investment in our business, industry, team members and our community,” said Universal Parks & Resorts Chairman and CEO Tom Williams at the unveiling of the project last August.

Orlando International is growing to accommodate this influx of tourists, with $4 billion in construction projects in the pipeline. The new $2.1 billion South Terminal is now 45% complete, will add 19 gates and is scheduled to open by 2021.


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Spotlight On: Patrick Mahoney, Principal, President & CEO, NAI Realvest

Spotlight On: Patrick Mahoney, Principal, President & CEO, NAI Realvest

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — Orlando’s real-estate scene has witnessed major changes as people look more for destination experiences and after Amazon changed the rules of retail. While some regions within Orlando are running out of development land, Patrick Mahoney, principal, president and CEO of NAI Realvest, is convinced there is still room for growth.

How has real estate demand evolved in Orlando?

The changes in retail are the talk of the town. We work with Planet Fitness among several other retailers that are marketed as destinations. You still see the national value tendency with examples like HomeGoods and T.J.Maxx. Similar businesses are still coming in and leasing space. Forever 21’s bankruptcy filing had more to do with overleverage. It was more about debt rather than retail. There are certain malls, such as Fashion Square Mall, where a complete redo is scheduled. In these cases, the anchor tenants are likely not going to stay, to the benefit of a more multifamily, mixed-used project. The other extreme is the strip malls: small clothiers that focus primarily on making sure they are in the right location. Park Avenue and Winter Garden are good examples of that. An increasing number of these small boutique clothiers are going to have a small store presence but will start selling online.


What advice would you give small retailers to thrive in this market?

It boils down to a two-pronged approach. First, demographics. Remain aware of changes within the demographics around their location and adapt to those changes. Second, plan the required resources ahead of time to weather such changes and make the best use of the available land and redevelop the property. 


What primary challenges is your business facing?

The first thing that comes to mind is competition. There is virtually no barrier to entry when it comes to obtaining a real estate license. The spectrum goes from a residential broker dipping its pen in commercial while working from home with no overhead, to groups like us with lots of overhead and a fully-staffed office, and finally the multibillion-dollar competitors that we compete with, such as CBRE. To maintain a sharp edge, we engage in a continuous improvement process, embracing new technology. We invest in the latest software and research tools. As members of NAI Global, we can compete with multibillion-dollar real estate companies on either a national or global stage. Because we are locally owned, we have greater local knowledge and flexibility in the marketplace than our large competitors do. We have the best of both worlds: being able to compete with either the big and small real estate firms. 


Financing also remains an issue. Coming out of the last recession we learned who to approach, depending on the property type and what we are trying to accomplish. Increasingly, we are turning to private rather than bank debt. Banks usually are on the fence over lending on land. 


Manpower is another challenge. I would consider Orlando a zero percent unemployment market. Whether it is salespeople, administrative help or maintenance engineers and property management, finding talent is difficult. 


What is your outlook on commercial real estate in Orlando?

We remain quite bullish about the market, particularly Florida and Central Florida. We are positive that 2020 will be another solid year as there are no variables telling us otherwise. Recruiting is at the top of our list. Our operational focus will remain centered on delivering excellence for our clients, our brokers and property owners through continual improvements. We do not skimp on our resources and invest in the best software available to manage our properties, such as Yardi. We are implementing the tip of the iceberg. We will also continue to guarantee we are as financially secure as possible through solvent debt levels. 


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

NAI Realvest:

Spotlight On: Julie Kleffel, EVP, Community Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

Spotlight On: Julie Kleffel, EVP, Community Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — Mergers and acquisitions are a trend in the banking industry. A little over a year after Seacoast Bank expanded its presence in the Central Florida area, through the acquisition of First Green Bank, Julie Kleffel, executive vice president and community banking executive at Seacoast Bank, spoke with Invest: about the impact of the merger.

What were some highlights for Seacoast Bank in Orlando over the last 12 to 18 months?

The most exciting highlight we had in the Orlando market was the acquisition of First Green Bank, which added significant customers and team members to our Orlando group, as well as the company at large. But the primary focus was in the Orlando metropolitan statistical area (MSA). As a result of that acquisition, as well as our organic growth strategy, Seacoast is now the No. 1 Florida-based company in the Orlando MSA by way of deposits. 

Highlight No. 2 is that this is the fastest-growing market among all the MSAs that Seacoast serves across the diverse state of Florida. The dynamic growth and diversification of the Orlando economy has been beneficial to the bank’s overall growth, which has also improved our ability to invest in our community. Seacoast also was recently named by Forbes 100 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the world as measured by growth in revenues, profits, and stock return. We are very proud of that because it is not just about growth but about profitable growth that we’re returning to shareholders.


How do you plan to incorporate First Green’s environmental initiatives into Seacoast? 

Seacoast has been very focused on its promise to invest in you and your community, and this initiative aligns with that purpose. Probably, the biggest pillar is offering financing to consumers and businesses to instal solar panels to provide sustainable energy. Because we’re a bigger institution now, we were able to extend the solar panel loan program and make it easier for customers. We were able to give them access to capital faster by using some of our technology platforms. As well, First Green offered charging stations for hybrid and electric vehicles at their branch locations. We have expanded this program and are working now with some local partners to continue expanding it. The response has been very positive, and we look forward to doing the same across the state. We have also started recycling at our Orlando branches by partnering with local municipalities.



To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Seacoast Bank: 

Face Off: Osceola County Cities Sharpening Economic Growth Plans

Face Off: Osceola County Cities Sharpening Economic Growth Plans

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — Amid the growth in Orlando’s economy and population, local cities are emphasizing the unique characteristics of their respective business communities. The city of Kissimmee is taking advantage of its aviation industry, while the city of St. Cloud is looking to expand its experiential and entertainment retail offer. The Invest: team spoke with Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard, economic development director at the city of Kissimmee, and Antranette Forbes, St. Cloud’s economic development manager, about their efforts to grow their economies while taking care of their existing businesses. 

What are the key industries for the city’s economy?

Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard: Aviation is a growing industry in Kissimmee, as the city owns a general aviation airport, Kissimmee Gateway Airport. This airport is predominately the airport of choice for corporate jets or private plane owners arriving to go to the Orange County Convention Center or a Central Florida theme park. Kissimmee Gateway Airport is also a relief airport for Orlando International (OIA), providing services for noncompatible OIA uses.  Additionally, understanding the value of high-wage aviation jobs, the city launched its Aerospace Advancement Initiative to attract companies to our airport. A recent Florida Department of Transportation study showed our airport yields a direct annual economic impact of $190 million. In the last seven years, the airport has grown by over 300 jobs.

Another growing field in Kissimmee is the medical sector. The city of Kissimmee is home to two strong, growing hospitals, AdventHeath-Kissimmee and Osceola Regional Medical Center. Combined, these hospitals have invested over $300 million in campus expansions or are growing their service lines. To capitalize on that growth, the city launched its Kissimmee Medical Arts District, providing economic development incentives specifically to attract more physicians and medical companies to the area. When new medical companies enter the market, they provide new job opportunities, but it also results in more medical services available to residents. It’s a win-win.   

Antranette Forbes: Retail and professional services are our key industries. In fact, 35% of our business is service-oriented. In the medical industry, St. Cloud Regional Medical Center is our largest nongovernmental employer. They have over 500 employees and the majority are in medical or medical-related professions. We also have a large population of dentists. From a business recruitment standpoint, that is a great opportunity for medical device providers, assisted living facilities and other related companies.

We are focusing on diversifying our retail footprint. We are looking to attract experiential and entertainment retail. We have places to shop and eat, and now we are focusing on providing options to play. We also need more diversity in our industrial sector. While we may not have a high amount of space to do industrial, we do have talent who can perform in the sector.

How do you support the interests of residents, while focusing on expanding the city’s business community?

Ortiz Kirkegard: Meeting the needs of our residents is always at the forefront of economic development. Programs are designed to attract companies that provide high-value, high-wage jobs to the community. As our economic development program has evolved, so have the job opportunities, and that helps advance our household income levels. Additionally, the evolution of the program has worked toward diversifying our economy by no longer being solely tourism centric with jobs circling retail and hospitality. Although tourism will always be at the heart of Central Florida, diversifying industries increases our economic resilience.  

Forbes: We are implementing numerous strategies to diversify our economy. We have over 1,300 registered businesses in St. Cloud. Over 35 percent of those are home-based businesses. These types of businesses are an important contributor to our economy. These “mom and pop” types of companies are a major focus for us. We are looking to move them out of their homes and into office or storefront space. By helping them to reach that next level, these are the businesses that will be hiring more employees and supporting our growth.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

City of Kissimmee: 

City of St. Cloud: 

Spotlight On: Daryl Tol, President & CEO, AdventHealth — Central Florida Division

Spotlight On: Daryl Tol, President & CEO, AdventHealth — Central Florida Division

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — The increase in free-standing healthcare locations across the nation continues to be a great part of many healthcare institutions’ renovation efforts. Faith-based, nonprofit organization AdventHealth has been expanding its free-standing locations in response to this trend. AdventHealth is also re-designing its system to adjust to the diverse population moving to Florida. President and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division Daryl Tol spoke with Invest: about the network’s efforts to respond to national and local trends. 

What are the fastest-growing areas of service and care in Orlando?


There are several. One is the free-standing emergency room. We have added quite a number of free-standing locations with doctors and emergency services in areas of need, instead of having to build a whole hospital. We are growing our academic work around community cancer research. The cardiovascular institute is seeing high demand as well. We are also redefining our primary care model to include virtual care, which will allow patients to connect via video or text messages with their doctor.

What has been the impact of the healthcare industry as a dominant growth driver in the region?


If you look at Florida, and Central Florida in particular, growth is happening here in a significant way. We are managing a considerable line of growth in the senior and multicultural population. People from all kinds of backgrounds are moving into the state. We are responding to that in the way we design our system. We provide care for seniors and for people from all kinds of different backgrounds to communicate more clearly, enhance translation services and build locations in new communities, including communities of need that haven’t had healthcare historically. We believe our network should be accessible to everybody.


What are some of Advent Health’s strategies for innovation in providing quality care and patient experience?


The Center for Genomic Health is an important effort. It will focus on personalization around the patient’s personal profile. It will help us understand which medications and types of treatments work better for each person and identify risk factors. We can start really investing in each patient’s particular needs. A second effort is putting technology in the hands of consumers through our mobile app, which will launch its 2.0 version this year. It will alert people about care that is needed, help them in the scheduling of certain services and create price transparency. We have also launched a command center — the largest of its kind in the nation, both in size and scope of operations — where artificial intelligence will be used to provide the best care in how people get to our locations.


We’re a significant leader in robotic surgery. For a long time, our Nicholson Center has been a training center for robotic surgery. We have a number of robots there that surgeons use to perform surgery. In 2018, we were the first to purchase and perform a procedure with a new robot. We see robot technology improving, and we’re on the leading edge of that work as well.


To learn more about our interviewee, visit:


Spotlight On: Scott Lyons, Business Unit Leader, SE Region DPR Construction

Spotlight On: Scott Lyons, Business Unit Leader, SE Region DPR Construction

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020— DPR Construction is leading the charge in delivering large construction projects faster and with better quality by employing prefabrication solutions and utilizing their own self-perform crews to put the work in place. Central Florida Business Unit Leader Scott Lyons discusses the prospects for the construction industry in Central Florida.

What has been the impact of DPR moving into Downtown Orlando and what opportunities are you finding there that promoted the move?


We moved Downtown in October 2018, which helped us combine two existing DPR Orlando offices into one. There is a great vibe Downtown, and many of our business partners and clients are now our next-door neighbors. This has been a path to strengthening our connections to the local business community with close proximity for lunch meetings or spending time with people in-person. Our new space was designed to host large groups, with a large training room and 10 conference rooms.


Our Orlando office is one of the largest for DPR, in terms of square footage, which provides us with the unique ability to host meetings for our national and regional teammates. Providing our visitors with walking-distance access to some of the city’s best restaurants and venues means they get the very best of what Orlando has to offer and DPR gets to contribute to the economic success of our Downtown district. We just fell in love with the Downtown vibe, it is where the energy is.


What are the most relevant projects DPR is working on in the region? 


We are finishing the KPMG Learning & Innovation facility, which will be completed by the end of 2019. It is the largest project being built by DPR in the Southeast this year. KPMG performed a lot of due diligence in choosing Orlando and the Lake Nona area and it has been one of the more rewarding, incredibly designed and fastest projects for us in a long time. Mega projects are historically tough to execute on time and on budget in the Central Florida area since finding enough skilled craftsmen to build these projects can be a challenge. However, our collaborative approach with the client and the design team plus integrating a lot of prefabricated components into the design has allowed the project to be built at a very good pace. This was truly a collaborative effort and success on behalf of our entire team, including the designer and our owner. KPMG is a huge regional project and a huge win for the city.


What are the clearest trends in construction in the Orlando area in recent years? 


At DPR, we are very passionate about driving forward the concept of prefabrication in our construction projects. There are multiple reasons for this. There is a shortage of skilled construction workers, so prefabrication decreases the demand for workers onsite and when you prefabricate components they are usually of a higher quality and safer generally, resulting in a better product for the client. For the KPMG project, we prefabricated 800-bathroom pods. We built them in a factory here in Orlando, called SurePods, and the quality was beyond anything we could get building them in place. It changed the dynamic of how the project was executed, resulting in a faster speed-to-market with fewer people needed on the project. Prefabrication is the way of the future for construction and DPR is well-positioned to lead this trend.


What other advanced technologies are you employing in your work? 


We are believers in technology where we can find a great use for it, and where it adds immediate value. We beta test a lot of ideas and technology, apps and software, and generally settle quickly on things that help the client or our people. One is laser scanning. We use it before rebuilding a client’s existing space, like a corporate office, to create a digital model that captures the exact reality of the designed space.


We are also working in partnership with Reigl to utilize LiDAR technology and bring some of their technology into the vertical construction market. It is a drone-borne scanning technology that flies over an existing site, scans it and provides the contours of the land, so you can see elevation changes and other useful data. A civil engineer can take that data to minimize how much dirt is moved around, for example. This type of real-world use of technology on our projects keeps us nimble. We are innovating in ways that not only change the landscape for the construction industry, they are helping our client successfully expand their products into new markets. 


What kinds of projects are in greatest demand in the Orlando area? 


The attractions companies have very robust plans for the next few years and we also see healthcare companies continuing to invest in their existing and new facilities. We also believe that advanced manufacturing will play an increased role in the Orlando economy as well, so we’re also keeping close tabs on those upcoming projects.



To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

DPR Construction: 

Orlando top city for behavioral health technicians

Orlando top city for behavioral health technicians

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — The rapid advancements in technology and innovation are significantly disrupting the work environment across all industries, making many health and life sciences-related professions some of the fastest-growing across the globe. A recent report on 2020 emerging jobs places behavioral health technician as one of the fastest-growing positions around the world, and Orlando is one of top the cities for this career. 


LinkedIn’s third annual U.S. emerging jobs report identified the top 15 up and coming jobs during the last five years. Artificial intelligence and data science continue to show rapid growth and heavy influence in many sectors. However, according to the report, the rise in insurance coverage for mental health is increasing the demand for behavioral health professionals. 

Orlando ranked as one of the cities where the jobs are for behavioral health technicians, which is the only job on the list that generally doesn’t require a four-year degree. The report estimates the hiring rate for these professionals has grown an average of 31% year over year since 2015. 

The average annual salary for a behavioral health technician in Orlando is $27,817, as of Jan. 2, 2020, according to online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter. The national average salary is $30,080 a year. ZipRecruiter’s recent job postings show an active marketplace for behavioral health technician jobs in Orlando and its surrounding area. 

Behavioral health technicians work along doctors, primary counselors, therapeutic staff and other healthcare professionals to assist in the treatment of adults or children with substance use, developmental disorders or mental health conditions. 

The report suggests that increased health insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment are likely the reasons for the increased demand for these professionals. The State of Mental Health in America 2018 report states that 61.7% of adults with any mental illness (AMI) in Florida did not receive treatment. The national average is 55.8%. 

The top industries hiring behavioral health professionals are: mental healthcare, hospital and healthcare, individual and family services, education management, health and wellness and fitness, the 2020 emerging jobs report shows.  


To learn more, visit:

LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report: 

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: