Spotlight On: Rick Gonzalez, AIA, President, REG Architects, Inc.

Spotlight On: Rick Gonzalez, AIA, President, REG Architects, Inc.

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — Development of commercial and residential facilities is reliant upon well-thought-out and deliberate architecture and design. In a region like Palm Beach County, where there is a flurry of development and redevelopment happening, architectural and design firms like REG Architects, Inc. are in increasingly higher demand. REG Architects specializes in architecture, historic preservation, interior design and community planning, and Invest: Palm Beach had the opportunity to speak with company President Rick Gonzalez. He spoke to Invest: about the firm’s growth, its approach to design work, services that are in the highest demand and emerging trends due to the influx of young professionals into Palm Beach County.

What were some highlights for REG Architects in the past year?

 

One of the highlights was the celebration of our 30th anniversary last spring. We have been awarded some nice projects, like the campus for the Seacoast Utility Authority in Palm Beach Gardens, and we have also been doing new residential work. Last year was probably the best year in a decade, when we had the big recession, and 2019 has started very well.

What are some unique qualities that set REG Architects apart from other firms in the area?

 

Besides our longevity, our approach to design work sets us apart. We do a lot of historic preservation in our office; we like to use historic context when designing to be inspired by a historical place. For example, we worked on Mar-a-Lago for President Trump. We used the design of the place as inspiration. We try to use that in all of our projects, whether it is commercial, residential, equestrian, historic or mixed use. Most companies today tend to focus on cutting-edge or modern architecture, and I think there’s a good place for modern architecture, but we like to have a tie to the community.

 

Which of the firm’s services are seeing the most demand today?

 

We have a healthy balance between commercial, residential and governmental projects. In terms of design services, we do all our work now in Revit, which is a robust architectural design and documentation software application with a 3D modeling system. Animation is now important for clients and it is seeing high demand. We are also known for our design preservation work, and we get a lot of requests in those areas as well. 

 

Have you seen any emerging trends with more young professionals moving to the area?

 

People are picking the place first, and then they’re looking for the job. They want to come to exciting, invigorating places like downtown West Palm Beach or downtown Boca Raton — cities that are unique and well-positioned, where they can live, work, play and study in the same area. People also want to work in interconnected, open office spaces, and they want to live in smaller units with diverse community features, such as outdoor areas, swimming pools, decks, restaurants, shops and easy ways to get around town.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

http://www.regarchitects.com/

Spotlight On: Roxana Scaffidi, CEO and Owner, Florida Accounting & Advisers

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — There are multiple factors that attract people to Florida, including wonderful weather, a growing economy, an ecosystem that is conducive to successful businesses and perhaps most attractive, the tax climate. After the passage of the sweeping tax reform known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the tax climate in Florida only became more attractive to both people and businesses looking to relocate. Now, almost a year and a half since the reform has been in effect, there is a greater need for proficient accountants and financial professionals to help navigate this legislation. Invest: Palm Beach spoke with Roxana Scaffidi, CEO and owner of Florida Accounting & Advisers about how the new tax code is affecting people’s lives, the key to success within the accounting and financial world, and how she created a successful business in Palm Beach County. 

How have you seen the tax reform affect people’s lifestyle? 

The new tax code has really changed people’s lives, and we are now seeing certain individuals immigrating to Florida because of the business opportunities that the state offers and its quality of life. High income tax states include New York, California and Massachusetts, and those are the people coming here. To qualify for Florida’s tax benefits you must be a legal resident here, which means six months and one day of residency. Under the new tax laws, individuals are capped at $10,000 as a deduction for their state income taxes, personal property taxes and their sales tax. In addition, if they have a large mortgage on their house, the new tax code only allows them to deduct interest up to $750,000.

 

What is the key to success in this industry? 

The key in this industry is to be proactive rather than reactive. We observe what’s going on in the world today with the national and world economies. Everything is changing and as it changes you start to see more vacancies in areas where there used to be none. This is demonstrated with how Amazon has essentially killed a lot of the big-chain retail stores. To succeed in today’s market you need to stay on top of emerging trends and you can’t be afraid to point out these things.

 

To what do you credit the success of your business in Palm Beach County? 

When I started this company I knew that to run a successful business I needed to not only have a great product but also to always remain community-minded. As the 2018 Small Business of the Year recipients, I realized quickly that Boca Raton is very business and community-minded, so it was the perfect place to set up my business. I set out to build this business based on my values, knowing that those same values would translate to trust among our clients. In this business there is nothing more important than having your clients’ full support and trust.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.fl-accounting.com 

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner, Crocker Partners

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — There are a multitude of reasons why people choose to relocate to Florida including a beneficial tax climate, ideal weather, and a bevy of real estate opportunities. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in Palm Beach County, and developers of commercial real estate in the region are reaping the benefits. Invest: Palm Beach recently spoke with Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner for one of the premier owner-operator and developers of commercial real estate in the region, Crocker Partners, who also happen to be the largest office landlord in Florida. Mr Bianco discussed with Invest: the impact Crocker Partners has in Palm Beach County, benefits of practicing commercial real estate in the county and what is on the horizon for investment within commercial real estate.

What impact does Crocker Partners have in Palm Beach County and South Florida? 

In the state of Florida, we are currently the largest office landlord. In Boca Raton, we are the largest office owner. We own thirty percent of all the office space in Boca Raton. We usually buy assets that have something wrong; for example, they are often poorly occupied and haven’t been operated the way that we would at Crocker Partners. We will perform renovations, reposition the assets and find new tenants. Then we either sell or re-capitalize the project to someone who wants to own more stable, secure assets. 

 

What are some of the benefits of practicing commercial real estate in Palm Beach County?

The best part of real estate in Palm Beach County is that people want to be here. Every year, more people move here. Because of our tax policies, Florida is an attractive place for the wealthy, and they tend to gravitate towards certain areas such as Palm Beach County. It’s fantastic because whenever you’re in a place where a lot of people aspire to be, they require office buildings and homes, so in turn there’s demand for new construction. Then the economy expands; people need to have rentals, apartments, storage and stores. It’s a great place to invest because, from one peak of the market cycle to the next, there’s always growth here. 

 

What trends are on the horizon for commercial real estate investment and growth in Palm Beach County?

Office development should be muted in the coming year. The reason is that a good majority of those moving here are wealthier people; they don’t drive a lot of demand in office space as most of them have hedge funds or family offices that do not require a lot of space; plus it costs so much to build new office buildings. You will have some projects, but it’s not going to be like it was in the past when there would be a tremendous number of cranes in the sky. But when it comes to multi-family development, we will continue to see growth. There will be a lot more rentals than we have had in the past. The United States by large is turning into more of a rental market than it has been, which doesn’t mean that single family homes are gone; it just means that people are much more comfortable renting.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://crockerpartners.com/

Spotlight On: Brett Forman, President & CEO, Trez Forman Capital

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read July 2019 — The demand for residential and commercial real estate development in Palm Beach County is at a high, and developers are jumping at the opportunity to capitalize. This spike in demand has not only been beneficial to developers but also to those who are helping fund this development. Invest: Palm Beach recently sat down with Brett Forman, President and CEO of Florida-based, commercial bridge lender Trez Forman Capital. He discussed how Palm Beach County is uniquely positioned for real estate development, and how his company is benefiting from the boom in the market.

Where are you seeing the highest demand for your services? 

We experience the highest demand from developers of condominiums or multifamily rental apartments. There are a variety of financial firms pursuing these type of deals, but we offer something slightly different. We’re competing with banks every day, and we’re competing with more traditional mezzanine players and preferred equity investors. As a result, we have to be creative and offer a unique one-stop shop, including higher proceeds than the banks and non-recourse options. 

How is Palm Beach County a unique market for real estate development? 

Palm Beach County is home to some of the most expensive residential real estate in the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also home to some of the poorest areas. So when you talk about Palm Beach real estate, you’re talking about a very diverse asset mix.

Trez Forman is more or less asset-agnostic; we lend against residential real estate, whether it’s apartment communities for rent, single-family houses for rent or condominiums for sale. We don’t necessarily construct homes, but we finance the lot on which developers do the horizontal development. 

What differentiates Trez Forman Capital from a traditional bank? 

It’s very easy to understand what differentiates us from the banks, since the banks are highly regulated. They have to do things according to what the regulatory agencies prescribe, and their leverage is usually much lower and typically requires recourse. What we’re offering is a much higher loan-to-cost solution. Trez Forman basically can take what the bank and the preferred equity investor offers and combine it to provide our clients with a one-stop solution that has surety of execution. We like to under-promise and over-deliver. We can fund a deal in 30 to 45 days, unlike a bank that may not be able to lend in that timeframe.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit its website:

https://www.trezforman.com/

Spotlight On: Dr. Winnifred McPherson, Director & CEO, Virtue Medical Staffing Services, LLC

By Max Crampton-Thomas

July 2019

2 min read  — The staffing industry is a multi-billion dollar market that quite often flies under the radar, but its impact and contribution to the overall economy should not be understated. With almost 17 million temporary and contract employees being hired by American staffing companies, this industry is vital to not only a sustainable economy but also to the country’s growing workforce. Staffing companies service a variety of markets including I.T., advertising, and perhaps most important healthcare. 

Although they are a relatively new staffing agency in the market, Broward County based Virtue Medical Staffing Services LLC has big plans to quickly expand their footprint within South Florida’s healthcare industry. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale spoke with Dr. Winnifred McPherson, CEO of Virtue Medical Staffing Services LLC and discussed the keys to success and plans to expand within the staffing industry.  

What is the key to success in the staffing industry? 

“In this type of business you have to have employees who meet the demands of your clients, and because the unemployment rate is so low in South Florida for medical professionals, we have to find these quality candidates wherever we can. We cannot be confined to only looking for those who have years of experience, and we must look to our recently graduated or graduating students in the area. As a staffing agency, we do not ever like to say that we do not have anybody for a position. We try our best to be proactive in making sure there is always a candidate ready to go.”

How do you plan to grow your business into the future? 

“We hold two licenses that let us service a larger audience. The first is a nurse registry license that allows our employees to work in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both in medical facilities as well as homes. Then we have a Health Care Services Pool license that allows us to work anywhere in the state of Florida but only in a facility. Our plan is to keep expanding further north, and the Health Care Services Pool license will allow us to do that. To be successful in staffing, we have to be both flexible and have the ability to work anywhere that has demand.”

Where are you currently finding the most demand for your services? 

“Right now, the majority of our demand is in elderly care. We have corporate hospice clients, so a large portion of our business and workforce is in hospice care. We are striving to attract both corporate and private clients. Private clients will normally require full-time care because they may be living alone or with a family member who cannot be home all the time to take care of them. We also target senior living communities, and we will speak with these homeowners associations to let them know that we are an asset they can depend on.” 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

http://www.virtuemedicalstaffing.com/

‘Sleepy’ West Palm is Waking Up!

By staff writer

June 2019

2 min. read

West Palm Beach, once considered a sleepy little town, is in the midst of becoming the premier destination in Palm Beach County for residents and visitors alike. The primary reason for its renaissance can be attributed to the commitment from the public and private sectors to the development of the downtown area. “There certainly are people who would prefer that we were still the sleepy little town we were in 1950, but they’re the minority,” former Mayor Jeri Muoio told Invest:. “We believe in preserving the scale of our development, and we are very focused on making sure the public life part is not overshadowed by development. We’re the first city in the country to have an Office of Public Life, whose job is to make sure that as we move forward, we continue to build a city for people.”

In the 20 years since its conception, mixed-use retail and entertainment center CityPlace has become one of the main attractors for residents and visitors to the downtown West Palm Beach area. When it was first opened to the public, CityPlace was an innovative and novel concept that kept people coming back thanks to its plethora of options. Now, the company that developed CityPlace, Related Companies, is investing $550 million into a rebrand of the area that will be known as Rosemary Square. This five-year development plan will turn the area into a new and diverse community and destination with a wide range of choices, including class-A commercial office spaces, a new hotel, and food and entertainment offerings.

Invest: Palm Beach spoke with Gopal Rajegowda, senior vice president for Related Companies, who expounded on all this new development in downtown West Palm. “Related Companies is going to further invest in Palm Beach County because we believe in the market and we see the opportunity. These new residential and hospitality offerings, together with Rosemary Square’s shopping, dining and cultural experiences, will support and enhance the entire West Palm Beach community,” Gopal said. “Over the next five years, Related Companies will shape the development of Rosemary Square to include a 21-story LEED Gold mixed-use tower with state-of-the-art luxury residences and commercial space, as well as a second hotel adjacent to the Hilton West Palm Beach.”

CityPlace isn’t the only area receiving a makeover. The Kravis Center, the hub of arts and culture in the downtown area, is also making progress toward finishing an expansion that will ultimately benefit the region. In a conversation with Invest:, Judith Mitchell, CEO of the Kravis Center, shared the same excitement as Gopal about the development of downtown. “We are in the midst of a $50 million expansion that includes making our center more accessible and visible to the community and visitors alike. The project includes a new pedestrian friendly urban park and a brand-new valet parking garage, in addition to other changes that we are certain will attract even more guests to our theaters. The cultural landscape in the area is continually changing and growing. Our neighbors, including downtown West Palm and Rosemary Square (formerly CityPlace), are evolving and expanding, as well. The area is truly buzzing with activity and growth.”

The development throughout the downtown area of West Palm Beach is a testament to the strong economy, population growth and most importantly, great quality of life throughout the Palm Beach County region. “Quality of life is a high priority here, and that is part of what is drawing the investment,” Raphael Clemente, Executive Director for the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, told Invest:. “It is a great place to live and have a high quality of life at a reasonable price.”

For more information on our interviewees, visit:

http://www.cityplace.com/

https://www.kravis.org/

https://downtownwpb.com/

 

Florida Bill Aims to Put Construction on a Fast Track

By staff writer

April 2019

The Commercial Real Estate Development Association’s (NAIOP) South Florida chapter is making the Fast Act a legislative priority for 2019 — and its efforts are gaining steam in Tallahassee, according to supporters. The Fast Act, or Florida House Bill 1139, aims to provide relief to commercial real estate owners and developers who face long delays in getting the construction permits they need to start construction.

Industry leaders fired off another wave of letters supporting the Fast Act, which successfully passed its first senate committee on April 9. The legislation drafted by NAIOP’s lobbying team has already cleared two house committees.

Supporters of the Fast Act and HB 1139 argue the solidification of permitting timelines in the bill as well as the creation of a separate, expedited process would greatly assist in construction by incentivizing local municipalities to meet pertinent deadlines.

NAIOP South Florida president Darcie Lunsford said the delays in permitting are “deal killers and a major drag on local businesses and our economy.” She indicated the onerous process is so bad sometimes that “it can take longer to get the permit than to build out a new office space.”

Current Florida law mandates decisions over construction permits in 120 days. However, there are no consequences if a local jurisdiction does not adhere to that timeline. As a result, the permitting process can become exceedingly lengthy, sometimes taking more than a year. Owners and developers who require inspections often also have a difficult time scheduling the right personnel.

If passed, the Fast Act would institute certain rules to speed up the permitting process. Local governments would be required to establish an expedited processing system that would carry a charge of no more than double the current rate. In addition, local governments that do not meet a hard permit deadline would see the permit fee reduced by 10 percent per ten business days of delay. If the delay is long enough to where the fee gets reduced by more than 50 percent before the permit is approved, the local government must refund all fees to the applicant.

Supporters of the Fast Act argue local governments could boost their revenues by utilizing an expedited permitting process that would give exposure to more owners and developers. As HB 1139 has made its way through Florida’s legislative process, leaders across NAIOP’s South Florida chapter have corresponded closely with local lawmakers to urge their support and passage of the legislation.

Lunsford hopes the bill “continues to gain momentum” so that it can soon provide needed relief to owners, developers and tenants “who need to get into spaces in a more timely fashion.”

To learn more, please visit:

https://www.naiopsfl.org/

https://www.naiop.org/

Palm Beach’s Boat Show Boosts Tourism, Growth

By staff writer

April 2019

This weekend, Palm Beach County residents and tourists were treated to the 34th annual Palm Beach International Boat Show, billed as one of the nation’s top 5 boat shows in the country. This year’s show featured more than $1.2 billion worth of yachts and accessories, including hundreds of boats, ranging from 10-foot inflatables to super yachts hundreds of feet long.

“Fifty-one percent of the people who visit Palm Beach County come to West Palm Beach,” West Palm Beach Mayor Geraldine Muoio told Invest: Palm Beach. “And this event’s just another great reason for individuals to check out everything the city has to offer.”

The public was also treated to four days of luxury watercrafts, exhibitions and seminars, as well as the enticing fare of of more than 100 food vendors. And for those with a little extra to spend, a luxurious VIP experience included access to a premium open bar and exclusive access to events throughout the weekend.

Those events included seminars taught by the world-class International Game Fish Association School of Sportfishing and an “AquaZone” sponsored by Nautical Ventures which showcased products ranging from kayaks to a self-propelled, stand-up paddleboards. For younger anglers, there were fishing clinics presented by Hook the Future, providing hands-on fishing instruction to kids of all ages.

Maybe the biggest attraction of the show, though, was once more its beautiful setting in a world-famous, luxurious location. In places such as Palm Beach, where tourism is the major driver of the economy, events such as this one help boost that tourism further, while attracting many others to town, too.

As Palm Beach’s tourism industry grows, events such as the Palm Beach International Boat Show will continue to play a vital role in that growth.

For more information on our interviewee and the event, visit:

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

https://wpb.org/

 

Votes Matter in Palm Beach County!

By staff writer

March 2019

Credit: Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post

Residents of Palm Beach County turned out by the thousands to recent municipal elections, which resulted in re-elections, new faces, and even a couple runoffs for the mayors of Palm Beach County.

It was quite the day for the mayoral incumbents of Palm Beach County, as three of them were reelected. Boynton Beach’s mayor Steven B. Grant won quite convincingly, garnering more than 62% of the vote within his city. “My vision for Boynton Beach is a family-friendly farming and fishing city. When Henry Flagler built the train station back in the 1920s, that’s what this city was. We’re trying to adopt a version of that designed for the 21st century,” Mayor Grant told Invest: Palm Beach when he sat down with us late last year to discuss his vision for Boynton. Now he has a second term to see it fulfilled.

Another landslide victory belonged to Pahokee’s returning mayor, Keith W. Babb, Jr., who managed to grab more than 50% of his city’s vote. Mayor Babb, Jr., will be serving his second term as the city’s mayor, and he has been in loyal service to the city of Pahokee for almost 30 years, serving in myriad government positions.

Not all of the mayoral incumbents won by large margins, however. The race for Jupiter’s mayor came down a mere 400 votes that swung in the favor of incumbent mayor Todd Wodraska. “With some of the land that we set aside for bioscience, we’re ready to have a large employer locate its headquarters here or else establish a second headquarters,” Mayor Wodraska explained to Invest: Palm Beach earlier this year.

While there are quite a few returning faces, West Palm Beach will be swearing in their new mayor, Keith A. James, on April 4. Mr. James is a Harvard graduate who was recently the president of West Palm Beach’s City Commission. The new mayor will be hoping to use all of his experience to keep guiding West Palm Beach in the right economic direction.

Perhaps the most intriguing outcome from the election is the upcoming runoff for the mayoral position in Riviera Beach. Neither the five-time incumbent Thomas Masters nor the newcomer Ronnie Felder were able to attract more than 50% of the vote, and thus a runoff will held on March 26th. Invest: Palm Beach will be keeping a close watch on this race, as it’s sure to be a big topic of conversation throughout Palm Beach County in coming weeks.

For more information on our interviewees and mayoral candidates, visit:

https://www.wpbf.com/article/runoff-in-race-for-riviera-beach-mayor/26804592

https://www.keithjamesformayor.com/about-keith/

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190312/final-results-in-palm-beach-countys-march-12-elections

https://stevenbgrant.com/

http://www.cityofpahokee.com/Pages/PahokeeFL_Commission/mayor

https://www.jupiter.fl.us/directory.aspx?EID=91