Enter Phase 2: Palm Beach County ready for further opening of economy

Enter Phase 2: Palm Beach County ready for further opening of economy

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read September 2020After reflecting on the social and economic achievements of American workers, Palm Beach County is ready to allow more workers to get back to work. For the first time since March, the majority of Palm Beach County industries will be allowed to reopen Tuesday after Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed to the easing of coronavirus-related business restrictions.The county now sits in Phase 2 of its multistep reopening plan, which will allow movie theaters, bowling alleys, playhouses and other entertainment venues to reopen following Labor Day weekend. 

Businesses will still limit the number of customers served at one time and will continue to enforce social distancing guidelines. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said that 95% of businesses will be operational in some fashion, according to the Patch. 

Unemployment rates remained under 4% in the county for all of 2019 and the start of 2020, consistently dipping to under 3% in that time span, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. From March to April, unemployment shot up from 4% to almost 15% as shelter-in-place measures were implemented locally and throughout the state and nation. Since April, unemployment rates have dipped, hitting about 10% in July as the economy began to carefully open up. The rate is currently at 11.6%.    

“We remain focused on preserving a healthy community and a vibrant way of life for our hometown,” Kerner told Invest: Palm Beach. “Our outlook is ensuring we remind this community every day that it takes a village to get through this. It is not going to happen without continued cooperation, passion and civic duty on behalf of our constituents, our neighbors and our friends. If we achieve that, the outlook will be excellent,” he said. 

As the county enters Phase 2, lessons learned from the pandemic may help drive future economic development in the region. “We all want to safely get back to doing the everyday tasks but this will take a slow and steady approach,” Boca Raton Economic Development Manager Jessica Del Vecchio told Invest: Palm Beach, echoing the mayor’s sentiments. “Today, with technology, we’ve learned we can work from anywhere. This will allow us to continue to attract new companies from out of state, especially now that we’ve been forced to test the work from home concept for many months,” she said.

Continuing to observe health and social distancing guidelines will be key as the economy continues to open up. “It’s important that we make sure we are ready and comfortable for the upcoming reopening of businesses, schools and local community events,” Del Vecchio said. “We should bear in mind that everyone has different boundaries and comfort levels, so the recovery could vary drastically from one person or location to another. Over the next six months, it will be interesting to see what changes occur as we start getting back to everyday happenings. I hope the simpler joys that we rediscovered during the shelter in place order will remain.”

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Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read August 2020 — The coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of health, wellness, the essentiality of work, and the innovation that is possible in the midst of a constantly changing landscape. The global pandemic also shed light on the need for businesses and companies to ramp up their sustainability efforts, reduce their carbon footprints, support green initiatives and leave the world a better, cleaner place for future generations. In Palm Beach County, from the air to the ocean, local entrepreneurs are working hard to innovate in an effort to preserve the health of the planet in South Florida and beyond. 

For the past two years, local Palm Beach County resident and entrepreneur Tim Sperry has toiled to transform the ubiquity of paint into an air purifying instrument. His company, Smog Armor, is a solutions provider keenly focused on ending air pollution. With its slogan, “We innovate, you improve,” Smog Armor is committed to helping business owners and residents improve the air quality around them in an effort to eradicate air pollution. 

More than an eco-friendly paint, Smog Armor produces a water-based paint that is nontoxic, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and infused with enhanced zeolite minerals for maximum absorption of air pollutants. Sperry’s patented process is optimal for reducing air pollution for up to five years depending on the condition of the environment it is painted in. Multiple independent testing has shown Smog Armor paint to reduce 95.1% of indoor air pollution in one hour, while its Green Wise certification ensures it has zero VOCs. 

With a background in real estate and business, and a consuming passion for entrepreneurship and preservation of nature and environment, Sperry transitioned from a life as a restauranteur to a biotech entrepreneur. “I needed to come up with something that I was passionate about, fulfilled by. With my love for nature, I wanted to find a way to help nature and do something that I really enjoyed doing,” Sperry told Invest: Palm Beach. As someone with a sensitive respiratory system, he knew helping reduce air pollution would be the main path in his journey to innovation and preserving the environment. 

His journey began by attempting to reduce vehicle carbon emissions because at that time “that’s what I saw,” he said. He spent months on end researching the dense, esoteric, chemistry-related literature revolving around air pollution and efforts to reduce it. “I essentially became a self-taught chemist,” he said. “I had two computers open. One with the research, and another to decipher those readings.” Time and time again he read about zeolite, a negatively charged mineral that is extremely effective at trapping carbon emissions and airborne pollutants. He designed a series of exhaust tips infused with zeolite aimed at directly reducing CO₂ emissions from cars, conducting and measuring air quality with and without the specialty exhaust tip. His exhaust tips proved to reduce car emissions by as much as 80 to 90 percent, he said. But after driving around for a while with the specialty exhaust tip, he realized that the system was impractical for the average consumer because the tips would constantly fall off and would become saturated after a few months of use. After going back to the drawing board, his light bulb moment came when he considered replicating this process with paint rather than the exhaust tips.

“At that point, I had to try something new,” he said. “Everyone uses paint, so I am not teaching people new habits.” After months of researching the proper paint manufacturers, honing the formula and testing the air purification efficacy of the paint, Smog Armor was ready to cover the walls of commercial and residential buildings and beyond. Local hotels have already used Smog Armor paint to improve consumer confidence in the coronavirus landscape, Sperry said. On the community outreach end of the spectrum, the company has tapped into the power of the arts, collaborating with nonprofit organizations to create impactful murals that purify the air of their local surroundings. To put it in perspective, three gallons of Smog Armor paint will remove as much CO₂ as one adult tree does in an entire year, Sperry said. For Sperry, giving back to the community via the art installations, for example, while advocating for a more sustainable future is the ultimate goal. “We have seen a spike in what we are doing because of all that is going on. We’ve got some amazing collaborations, working with amazing artists and companies, that are interested in showing that they are improving customer experience while building customer confidence and showing that they care about the environment in a public way,” he said. 

Similar to Sperry, two Florida Atlantic University alumni and entrepreneurs are on a mission to end plastic pollution in the ocean. Docked at Florida Atlantic University’s Research Park, 4ocean is a public benefit corporation founded by Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. 4ocean’s mission is to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis through global cleanup operations and a variety of methods that help stop plastic pollution at its source. In March, the company relocated it’s corporate headquarters to FAU’s Research Park. 

Through it’s “One Pound, One Promise,” 4oceans supports its efforts from the sale of bracelets, apparel and other products made from recycling recovered materials. Each product purchased removes one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines. To date, the company has recovered more than 10 million pounds of ocean plastic and trash, according to the company’s tracker, found on its website.

“Partnerships like this are extremely important in advancing our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis,” said Director of Operations Desmond Reese in a press release related to its move to FAU. The Research Park at FAU was the ideal location for future growth and innovation because it offers an opportunity to collaborate with FAU’s faculty and students on research and development, Reese said. 

FAU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science will work with 4ocean on several projects, such as developing enhanced methodologies to track ocean cleanup volumes in real time, diving deeper to understand the impact of cleaning waste from specific coastal and river outflow locations, developing additional cleanup operation tools and increasing its efficiency at interruption, capture and prevention of ocean inflow waste in remote regions while also developing datasets and tracking models.

“The arrival of 4ocean is very exciting,” Research Park President Andrew Duffell said in a press release. “It offers real-world research opportunities for both the faculty and students at FAU who can see how two of their fellow alumni are making a positive impact on our environment through entrepreneurship.”

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Delray Beach: a city in transition

Delray Beach: a city in transition

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read August  2020 Months into the coronavirus landscape, the pandemic continues to accelerate change across the world. In Palm Beach County, the city of Delray Beach already had its eyes set on the future even before Covid-19 began changing the local environment. And though the city has not been immune to the squeezing and contracting of the economy resulting from the pandemic, key construction projects and infrastructure improvements, as well as recent vulnerability studies, have Delray Beach ready to come out of this crisis better than before. 

“2019 was a transition year for the city. We moved from one city manager to an interim manager and finally, we hired a second one.” Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia told Invest: Palm Beach. “We remained in good hands though and we are in good shape,” she said. 

Through its leadership transition, the city concluded a couple of city studies, a vulnerability study and a sea wall study, that will be “instrumental for us going forward,” Petrolia said. 

“Tides are rising around us and water is becoming a real issue. We also undertook several infrastructure studies to get a sense of the state of our pipes, our seawalls and the stormwater drainage system throughout the city. These critical works shed light over where our vulnerabilities lie, which we are addressing.” The city is looking at a $400-million investment to address the vulnerabilities highlighted by these studies. “The water issue we are dealing with is not expected to come as a tidal wave. Rather, it is a slow but progressive issue. It is rising and invading our well systems, pushing further west underground in the aquifers. The more we know, the more we can deal with the issues over time,” she said. 

Known for its tourism, hospitality, and service industries, the local economy has taken major blows due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, construction projects are ongoing, highlighting consumer and developer confidence in the city. “We have been blessed to have so much building going on, with people interested in coming into our city and developing,” Petrolia said. “We are under construction in several areas of our city. One of the largest areas currently under construction is the Atlantic Crossing building. The building industry is keeping a lot of people afloat and in business at a time when most people are unable to continue doing business. We are in tremendously good shape, and primed to come out of the post-COVID-19 starting blocks in a great way.”

Along with city leadership, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has led efforts to beautify and redevelop parts of the city while providing support to the local business community and residents. A focus of the CRA is the Northwest-Southwest neighborhood, which lies in a federally-designated Opportunity Zone.”We have the land and are open to working with a third party to develop it,” Executive Director Renee A. Jadusingh told Invest: Palm Beach.

“In this area, we want to have a continuation of Downtown from I-95 all the way to the beachfront. That is a shared goal between the Chamber of Commerce, the city commissioners and the CRA. We provide resources to help small businesses grow, including funding, help with business plans, research, investment guidance and grant and federal funding applications,” she said.

To help local businesses during the pandemic, especially those in the service industry, the city has allowed more spaces to be geared specifically toward food pick-up, loosened strict signage standards, and waived parking meter charges. Similarly, the CRA set up its COVID-19 Resource Programs page that details help for both businesses and residents, including access to different loan programs, rent support and food and nutrition services.

For the rest of the year, the priority for the city is to get through COVID-19 and “see how much retention rate we can hold onto,” Petrolia said. “It is critical to look at the businesses that we have and figure out how we can help them survive. It is also important to continue to attract businesses looking to relocate to Delray Beach. As we move further down the road, we will surely see new businesses springing up, and new ways of doing business too.” 

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Why Palm Beach’s legal sector could emerge from pandemic a winner

Why Palm Beach’s legal sector could emerge from pandemic a winner

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Individuals and companies alike need reliable legal counsel during a time of need, and much like the people and businesses they serve, legal professionals quickly adjusted their operations as a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the coronavirus may linger and continue accelerating change throughout different industries, Palm Beach legal professionals believe the county is suited to withstand the uncertainty and will continue to adapt to future changes. 

Florida’s favorable tax landscape, talented legal workforce, and diversifying economy are among the factors driving the population growth in the Sunshine State, which in turn drives the legal needs of businesses and residents. “The biggest factor is need, with South Florida growing in terms of population and as a regional business powerhouse,” West Palm Beach injury lawyer Gary Lesser told Invest: Palm Beach. “This means more lawyers have been needed to meet the legal needs caused by that growth.” Lesser, managing partner for Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith PLLC, one of the state’s oldest law firms, said Florida law schools’ emphasis on business, community involvement, and technical knowledge produce well-rounded graduates. “We are producing law graduates who are much more adept than they were years ago. Many lawyers are now graduating from law school and joining firms or setting up their own practices in South Florida,” Lesser said. 


“Florida has terrific law schools,” Fox Rothschild West Palm Beach Office Managing Partner Robert Sacco told Invest: Palm Beach. “They prepare students to be good theoretical lawyers and also provide critical insights on the practical aspects of being a lawyer. The clinical programs the law schools offer are particularly important in this regard as they give students a real sense of what it is like to practice in the real world,” he said. 


While Florida’s legal sector can count on well-rounded talent, COVID-19-related change was inevitable for legal professionals. “COVID-19 has really accelerated trends in the legal and business worlds. One example is the movement toward paperless systems, which is now much more common. The technology was always there but we have now developed greater efficiencies, which clients appreciate,” Lesser said. Video conferences have made client meetings, hearings and mediations possible during the pandemic and help meet the demand for legal services. “I think a lot of these changes will stay with us going forward, making law firms and businesses in general more efficient for clients and customers. I think there will be sectors of the economy that will scale down, but the legal and business worlds will continue to stay very busy,” Lesser said. 

While technology undoubtedly is helping the legal industry meet client demand, it can also increase opportunities for legal professionals. “Technology is a growth area for Palm Beach County,” Sacco said. “Technology companies are finding that South Florida offers business expansion opportunities that increasingly are becoming similar to those of Silicon Valley. West Palm Beach in particular is a developing hotspot for the tech industry – a sizable economic shift from the early 2000s when the area was more focused on tourists and retirement communities.” 

Although the future remains uncertain, Palm Beach County’s business and legal environment is likely to remain resilient in the midst of the coronavirus-related challenges. “Florida is too vibrant to be held down regardless of the outcomes. I think some job creation is needed since we lost so many jobs, but I think the prognosis for Palm Beach County is very good. I have seen some activity picking up in the last few weeks and the businesses that are adept and flexible will see the rewards going forward,” Lesser said. 

Sacco echoes Lesser’s sentiments when thinking about the medium- to long-term future of the region’s economy. “Going into the second half of 2020, the many business growth decisions that were delayed will be unleashed. I believe we will likely see a surge in economic activity as we go forward into 2021,” he said. “While it will take some time to reinvigorate some economic pipelines, I believe the outlook for 2021 is positive and we will ultimately see a strong economic rebound in 2021.” 

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Palm Beach education leaders assess 2020-21 academic year

Palm Beach education leaders assess 2020-21 academic year

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July  2020Forced to switch from in person learning to remote instruction seemingly overnight, Palm Beach education leaders are now planning the reopening of county campuses as the 2020-21 academic year nears its August start date. The reopening of public schools has been a contentious topic among parents, policymakers and educators, all of whom have different visions for the reopening process. 

The Palm Beach County School Board convened on Wednesday to discuss what the reopening of county public schools could look like under the coronavirus landscape. The Palm Beach County School Board is likely to approve its reopening plans, which will feature a mixture of distance education and a phased reopening process, according to the Sun Sentinel. With this approach, the youngest of each grade category will be among the first students to return to the classroom, along with those students with special needs. This would include students in pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade and ninth grade, the paper reported.     

Further complicating the difficult reopening process, many teachers and parents fear that opening campuses would not be safe given the recent spikes in cases and Florida’s standing as the epicenter of coronavirus cases worldwide. Florida has reported 301,810 cases of the virus and 4,521 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard. 

Not everyone is on board with strictly online classes, either. Some Palm Beach County parents gathered in front of the Palm Beach County School District’s headquarters on Monday to protest school officials’ decision to bar students from campuses and deliver only online classes at the start of the new school year. Among the parents’ chief concerns are the needs of students with disabilities, or those struggling with the online learning environment, and the needs of parents who have to choose between working or taking care of their children, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

According to the Palm Beach County School Board’s agenda, Palm Beach County Public School Superintendent Donald Fennoy is recommending “starting the school year with distance learning for all students and allowing for a phased return to brick and mortar in-person instruction when county health conditions permit.”

At the university level, institutions like Florida Atlantic University are also likely to begin the school year with an emphasis on remote learning while enforcing mask measures and strict social distancing rules for students and staff present on campus. Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly announced in late June that the university’s fall 2020 reopening plans were approved by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors. The school’s 25-page plan features the requirement of face coverings, with most classes remaining online, including classes with more than 50 students and all graduate-level courses, according to the university. Classrooms are to remain at 25 percent capacity and faculty, staff, and students will be required to observe social distancing measures while in the classroom.

Each of the state’s 12 public universities was required to file such a plan. School leaders still have to submit their reopening plans to the Florida Department of Education for final approval by July 31, 2020.

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Palm Beach County shows patriotic spirit this Fourth of July

Palm Beach County shows patriotic spirit this Fourth of July

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July  2020 — Is COVID-19 casting a dark shadow on your Fourth of July weekend plans? Every year Floridians eagerly look forward to Independence Day for peak summer fun, beach and outdoors activities, and family cookouts. However, the rising number of coronavirus cases have prompted Palm Beach County officials to again place the beaches on lockdown in an effort to curb further spikes in infections at a time when many residents were expecting to enjoy time by the water. Along with beach closures, many fan favorites and fireworks displays also erred on the side of caution to prevent more cases of COVID-19. 

Though celebrating the nation’s birthday looks entirely different this year, there are a slew of in-person and virtual events for the entire family to enjoy. Here is a list of activities we are looking forward to in Palm Beach County during the Independence Day weekend. 

Catch some waves at Rapids Water Park

 Bummed that you can’t catch some waves at the beach this Fourth of July weekend? Then spending a lazy day at Rapids Water Park’s lazy river is a great alternative. The Riviera Beach water park, known for its colorful, thrilling slides and family/friendly water attractions, will be open for business this summer following all guidelines and cleaning standards, of course. “I thank you for your patience as we work through the many new challenges this pandemic has presented. We are excited to reopen and provide an entertaining break from the day-to-day world,“ General Manager Bryan Megrath wrote on the park’s website. Tickets must be purchased in advance and the park will feature extended hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, vist: https://www.rapidswaterpark.com/covid-19-safety/

West Palm Beach’s surprise fireworks show

Those wishing to see traditional fireworks shows will have to hang out in the city of West Palm Beach and look very closely skyward once night settles. The city’s traditional fireworks show will not launch near Flagler Drive as usual, but instead from two undisclosed locations north and south of the city, wowing families socially distancing at home. “While some will be able to see the fireworks from their home, all residents will be able to view them by tuning into WPBF 25’s Project CommUNITY: Fireworks From Home at 9:00 p.m. on July 4,” the City of West Palm Beach wrote on its website.

For more information, vist :https://www.wpb.org/government/community-events/community-events/4th-on-flagler

Gardens 2 Go Drive-Thru Market

Feeling lethargic after a good Fourth of July family cookout? Head over to Palm Beach Gardens to access fresh produce, meats, dairy and more while helping local vendors in the process. Every Sunday, local Palm Beach Gardens residents can get ahead on their grocery shopping from the comfort of their own cars by visiting Gardens 2 Go Drive-Thru Market. “Gardens 2 Go will provide residents and visitors with a safe and socially-distanced way to access quality produce, bread, coffee, eggs, meat, seafood, dairy and cheese from local vendors,” the city wrote on its website. 


For more information, visit: https://www.pbgfl.com/1067/Gardens-2-Go?fbclid=IwAR2eTUe4tcd4u90VfvyRBjniUdqqFwWsduqX9lewWMbLDDmAEegeK5K2YlU

Virtual trivia 

Want to flex your knowledge of American history as you celebrate the nation’s birthday? Delray Beach has you covered. The city of Delray Beach will host two trivia games set to challenge even the smartest of history buffs. “Your knowledge of Delray Beach and America will be tested. Each game will consist of two rounds of questions (one round on Delray Beach and one round on America) with 20 questions in each round. You earn more points the faster you answer correctly,” the city of Delray Beach wrote on its website. Games are free to enter and family-friendly. Players are playing for bragging rights and a gift card. Game 1 and 2 begin at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, on July 4. 

For more information, visit: https://www.delraybeachfl.gov/our-city/things-to-do/4th-of-july

The Post-Pandemic City

The Post-Pandemic City

By: Abby Melone, President & CEO, Capital Analytics

It’s a truism in today’s hyper-connected world that people go where the jobs are, more so now than ever before. But what happens when your job suddenly can be done from anywhere?


The 19th century ushered in the first and second Industrial Revolutions that saw more and more people move to urban environments, precisely because that’s where the jobs were. In the United States, the rise of manufacturing opened a new world of employment possibilities, pushing people from the farm to the factory. It’s a push that in one way or another continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is seen today in the population densities that cram big cities from coast to coast, border to border.

According to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report and the website Our World in Data, the world crossed over in 2007. That’s the fist year the number of people living in urban areas rose above the number living in rural areas (3.35 billion versus 3.33 billion). In the United States, around 82.3% of the population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank. Growth trajectories project a steady increase in urbanization as far out as 2050. 

Today, the millennial generation is changing the character of urbanization by spearheading the live-work-play ethos. This generation prefers to skirt the traffic jams and live and play near where they work. The goal to have it all close by has given rise to the mixed-use building concept that puts everything – your living options, your entertainment choices and your shopping – all in one convenient location, which preferably, is near your workplace. 

It also means we are all living closer to each other in smaller and smaller spaces. That seemed to suit a lot of people just fine. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all of sudden, none of that seemed fine at all.

The pandemic resulted in shelter-in-place orders that forced people to live 24 hours a day in their homes while also working from their home offices, if they had one, or their kitchen tables if they didn’t. The very idea of needing to go somewhere else to do your job turned out to be not so much of a necessity after all. In just a few months, priorities appear to have shifted. Now, many of us seem to crave space, the great outdoors, and we seem to be split 50-50 on whether we want to continue working from home, wherever we choose that to be, or prefer an official office setting, mostly for the socializing.

There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Most experts are puzzling on whether that change will last and just what our cities will look like as a result. The fact is, though, that change was already in play before COVID-19 hit.

My company focuses on nine major U.S. markets like Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We talk to industry and political leaders to understand the issues their communities face to gauge the direction in which they are moving. Today, everyone is talking about the pandemic’s impact on the retail sector, for example. Yet, e-commerce was already a thing before COVID-19. In 2019, a record 9,800 stores were shuttered, according to a Bloomberg report, with 25,000 closures expected in 2020 due to the coronavirus impact, the report said, citing Coresight Research. Yes, that’s a devastating impact, but the pandemic really has only accelerated the pace of implementation. It pushed more people online immediately, but those people were likely headed there anyway.

Many of the leaders we have spoken with during the pandemic agree that retail and commercial real estate was already undergoing a slowdown as industrial space to accommodate last-mile delivery for the Amazons of the world was booming. Many expect this trend will continue.

More importantly, what the pandemic has done has caused a rethink of priorities among individuals and it is this impact that will likely shape the post-pandemic city. Living in lockdown awakened people to the “smallness” of their space, forced on them by a combination of convenience and higher and higher housing prices in big cities. The median listing price for a home in Miami-Dade, for example, was $465,050 in May compared to the average U.S. listing price of $329,950, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Interestingly, population growth in Miami-Dade was already slowing as more people moved out, with escalating living costs among the factors. With the pandemic highlighting the risks of living so close together, will more people decide that farther away is not only cheaper, but safer?

Big city living will change in the post-pandemic world as social distancing forces “people places” like gyms and restaurants to accommodate lingering fears from the virus. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already closed down for good, clearly altering the very unique characteristics of cities that attracted people in the first place.

The biggest impact, however, will be on how – and where – jobs are done. Remote working is hear to stay in some form or another. Like the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, people will always go where the jobs are. For many, those jobs will now be done from home, which means that home can be virtually anywhere. It creates choice like never before, and this will dramatically alter the character, although not likely the course, of urbanization. That’s an important difference. 

Big cities have seen the ebbs and flows of population growth before and will likely see them again. Through it all, they have more often thrived than not. The post-pandemic city may look and feel a bit different – the way condo units are built, for example, may change to accommodate working from home, while adding elements like air filters to battle any future virus outbreak – and there may even be a greater push to the suburbs in the short term. Overall, however, continued urbanization likely will remain on the cards. If we’re lucky, there may just be a little more distance between all of us.


Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020—Creative Choice Group is a U.S.-based investment and development company involved in the business of private real estate investment and development. President and CEO Dilip Barot, the company’s founder, spoke with Invest: Palm Beach about the county’s place in the company’s strategy, the impact from a changing demographic and the outlook for the sector.


How have your projects evolved in the last year and how is Palm Beach important for your strategy?

We have focused on strengthening our company, both nationally and internationally. In Palm Beach County in particular, our goal is to create 1,000 jobs in the near future. We want the community at large to benefit from the wellness programs we are providing so we are looking at ways to bring wellness programs to the community beyond what Amrit will be bringing. Palm Beach County’s profile continues to grow and we are part of that ecosystem. Of course, in 2019, construction costs increased and that impacted us. But there is always some impact from construction prices and this needs to be offset by creative thinking and collaboration between business owners and community leaders. 

How are the changing demographics impacting your business and how is the county encouraging more young people and families to settle here?

The people coming to Palm Beach County want to learn more and assimilate into the community. Parents with school-aged children will make a decision based on the choice of schools and the younger generation tends to focus on the live-work-play lifestyle. We try to assist them as much as possible to make the right choices when settling in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County has a reputation of being home to a lot of wealthy older people. But we have to be diverse because that is what creates the growth and injects the vitality into the county. We therefore need to create an attractive environment for this generation. One way we can do this is by providing a means to have a social lifestyle, providing entertainment, physical activities and most importantly, affordable housing. At a younger age, earning power is typically lower than for older generations. We should appreciate the services and future the young generation bring. New industries will bring new jobs.

How are the Palm Beach authorities providing the auxiliary infrastructure that is needed for population growth?

The county has a good road system but the interconnectivity, particularly from east to west, can be improved greatly. We may need to implement cycle paths and introduce infrastructure, such as bike stands. Lessons should be learned from other communities that have faced the issue before us so that we do not make the same mistakes. The one-person, one-car model is outdated, and people are now learning through this pandemic that open spaces and a healthier, more active lifestyle are far superior.

More and more people are now realizing the importance of a more balanced life, particularly between materialistic needs and good mental health. I believe people in general are constantly striving for improvement and this goal is really coming to the forefront now. In the last 100 years, materialistic growth has been significant, but the inner journey has not kept up with that momentum. We are now seeing that much more in the younger generation, who do not need a lot of money or possessions but instead value experiences and opportunities. I think that is the correct path. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business and what innovation do you see coming from the crisis?

We were able to keep our construction site operating despite the pandemic by ensuring we were practicing the guidelines of the WHO and CDC. We did allow our office employees to work from home.   We are only now reopening through a structured approach. Within days of the outbreak here, we created a virtual online sales center where customers could interact in real time with our sales professionals and have access to all the marketing collateral, including virtual tours. In doing so, we had to consider minute details such as data protection, but we still were able to do this within weeks. We had our best month on record in April in terms of condo and residential sales. We have now implemented a virtual open house system and any in-person showings now have increased hygiene measures in place. We feel our employees are now more engaged at home and productivity is off the chart. We think going forward we will allow a portion of our workforce to work from home, which also builds an automatic contingency into the business model. We have learned a lot from this experience.

How will space and touchless technology be incorporated into everyday life moving forward?

There are already technologies that exist, although perhaps in a more niche space. In our ongoing development, we already have touchless toilets that we see on a widespread basis, but there are also things such as touchless showers that we can incorporate. We see a greater desire for more space going forward. We are learning as we go and welcome feedback from customers at every step of the way. Early next year, we will complete construction on the residences at Singer Island and the resort side will be open early in 2021.

What does your pipeline look like for the next year and a half?

We have a very promising pipeline. There are four sites that could be great wellness and real estate developments for us. We are also looking to develop some of the technology related to wellness. People are spending more money on wellness and developments like those we provide can offer them the opportunity to live their lives in a development with these features already incorporated.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: www.creativechoicegroup.com



Florida’s phase 2 reopening and what it means for South Florida

Florida’s phase 2 reopening and what it means for South Florida

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020 On June 3, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plans to transition the majority of the state into the second phase of its recovery plan. However, the three southeast counties hit hardest by COVID-19 — Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach — will not be included in the reopening. 


 “We’ll work with the three southeast Florida counties to see how they’re developing and whether they want to move into phase 2,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Orlando on June 3. “They’re on a little bit of a different schedule.”


Gov. DeSantis will allow the three southeast counties to enter phase 2 under certain circumstances. The county mayors or county administrators will have to seek approval to enter phase 2 with a written request. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and County Administrator Verdenia Baker wasted no time sending their request letter to DeSantis. 


“Palm Beach County is ready to go into ‘phase 2,” said Kerner at a news conference on Friday afternoon. “But we want to do it with some particular carve-outs that are necessary for the unique nature of Palm Beach County.” The county’s public officials are waiting for approval from Gov. DeSantis. 


As for Miami-Dade, their previous reopening date was pushed back by protests against police brutality. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez lifted the countywide curfew on June 8, and approved the reopening of gyms and fitness centers under Amendment 2 to Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 23-20. Although the city isn’t officially included in the initial phase 2 reopening date, Gimenez says he is working with the state on reopening locations very soon. 


Upon approval, restaurants may allow bar-top seating with appropriate social distancing. Bars will be able to operate at a 50 percent capacity inside and full capacity outside. Retail stores are going to be allowed to operate at full capacity and entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys will be able to welcome back guests at a 50 percent capacity. Residents who do decide to venture out will still have to follow CDC guidelines like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequently washing their hands.


Although the north and south regions of Florida are on different opening schedules. State universities will have to submit their blueprints by Friday. The State University System of  Board of Governors recommends things like social distancing, disinfecting, face masks and student’s desks being as far away from one another as possible. School districts on the other hand, will be given the final say on their own social distancing protocols. It is expected that students will have a much different learning experience upon returning to the classroom. 


“We have a great opportunity to get back on good footing,” DeSantis said. “I know our kids have been in difficult circumstances. … Getting back to the school year is going to be really, really important to the well-being of our kids.”


Broward County school districts are in the process of surveying parents to gauge what they would like their child’s school to look like this coming fall. “We will have schools open. We will have teachers in schools. We will have students in schools … including hybrid models that some parents are rightfully demanding,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public School, at Wednesday’s school board committee meeting. 


Within the past four months, there have been 70,971 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,877 related deaths in Florida, according to the Florida Health. 


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