Spotlight On: Sal Saldana, General Manager, Town Center at Boca Raton

Spotlight On: Sal Saldana, General Manager, Town Center at Boca Raton

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read October 2019The world is changing rapidly thanks to technology. For certain segments of business this means changing with the times or risk falling into obscurity. The traditional mall has become one of these segments, and with the rising popularity of e-commerce, the need for innovation is at an all-time high. One of the malls that recognized this early on was Town Center at Boca Raton, whose General Manager Sal Saldana spoke to Invest: about the mall’s successful longevity in the market, how it is handling the challenge of evolving customer demands and how it is innovating its business model to become much more than just a shopping center. 

How is Town Center at Boca Raton a staple for Palm Beach County? 

This mall is a regional shopping center that is owned by Simon Property Group. It has been in the Palm Beach County area for a number of decades, and over that period of time there has always been an emphasis on making sure it always meets the quality and brand recognition of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County. The mall is an extension of Boca Raton, which is known for its beauty, quality of life and wealth. It also has an international flavor because it houses some of the most widely recognized and regarded retail shops. Overall, the mall is an important asset to the community, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. 

What has been the key to Town Center’s longevity and success in the wake of an e-commerce-centric world? 

Simon Property Group is an amazing company and has a phenomenal group of shopping centers nationwide. We have been able to really cater to the community and meet its needs and demands from a domestic and international standpoint. We also have the resources to continue improving our operations and attractions. What we do is make sure that we are meeting and surpassing the expectations of a traditional mall. We maintain a very high standard of what we are because we are not only a shopping center, we are also an entertainment destination. 

What challenges is Town Center facing, and how are you mitigating those challenges? 

We are always looking to see how we can improve customer experience, and in this business there is the challenge of keeping up with the times while making sure that we meet customers’ demands. Our competition now comes in many forms, whether that is the internet or a direct competitor in the region. We always want to be projecting new and improved, and this isn’t always necessarily a challenge, but more of an opportunity. To be successful, we have to have a team that is always thinking of what we can do next to make sure that we are staying ahead of the curve. For instance, we are adding a 1,600-square-foot recreational space called PLAY that will feature a combination of seating and interactive play elements inspired by local waterways and waterfronts. Everybody that we work with has to be on the same team and have a philosophy of approaching this shopping center as a five-star resort.


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Spotlight On: Brian Katz, CEO & Founder, Katz Capital

Spotlight On: Brian Katz, CEO & Founder, Katz Capital

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 —There has never been a more perfect time to invest in Tampa Bay then the present. With seemingly all sectors of the economy in expansion mode, it is not a surprise that both foreign and domestic investment has been streaming into the Bay area at a rapid rate. Invest: Tampa Bay spoke with Brian Katz, the CEO and founder of Katz Capital whose business is headquartered in Tampa Bay  and focused on investing in the real estate and financial services sectors. Katz covered the advantages of being headquartered in the region, keeping his company’s growth sustainable and what makes Tampa Bay resilient in the face of real estate market changes.  

What makes Tampa Bay a conducive environment for your business? 

From a pricing standpoint, although nationally we are in a low interest rate environment, Tampa relative to Orlando, South Florida or places like Atlanta is still an affordable market. My personal feeling is that we are soon going to have negative interest rates. Six months ago, the collective mindset was that we would be in a rising rate environment, but that is simply not the case. A good analogy for what Tampa Bay is in terms of the scope of the market is that the region is a value stock. As a real estate and financial services private equity firm, this is a really great time for us to be in this market.

How does a business like Katz Capital sustain its growth in Tampa Bay’s business environment? 

Our various businesses employ different investment strategies for us to be able to remain sustainable. When I think of being an investor, I view the business world in terms of hunting and farming, so psychologically I am more of a farmer and all of these businesses are my crops that I can reap the benefits of on a regular basis. The problem with a hunter mentality is you can get the big kill, but it can be a long time before getting another kill, which is risky. To remain sustainable in this business environment, it’s better to diversify your business so that you’re not reliant on one source of income.

How susceptible is Tampa Bay to fluctuations in the real estate market? 

The fact that real estate pricing in Tampa is still relatively attractive versus other markets, I believe insulates Tampa Bay to a degree from real estate sector cycles and general market cycles. This is the opposite of South Florida, where there tends to be more dependency on these market cycles. When the South Florida market is hot, there is tons of money pouring in and prices push up. Although it’s increasingly on investors’ radar, Tampa Bay still has a lower modulation in these cycle waves. The big concern is that asset values keep rising. If we look at real estate development in the region, land values are up, labor costs are up and material prices are up. That means to achieve the same return for the amount of risk an investor is taking, you have to raise the exit price. This is going to be one constraint that Tampa Bay is going to face, and will have to figure out how to navigate that. 


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Spotlight On: Tim Pulte, Senior Executive Vice President, Colliers International

Spotlight On: Tim Pulte, Senior Executive Vice President, Colliers International

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — Collier’s Philadelphia delivers a full range of services to commercial real estate occupants, owners and investors throughout the tri-state region. Senior Executive Vice President Tim Pulte joined Colliers’ senior leadership team in 2017, bringing more than 31 years of experience in corporate operations, corporate real estate, transaction management and facility management. The Invest: Philadelphia team recently spoke with Pulte about the company’s plans for growth and how it serves local and foreign investors. 

2 min read OCTOBER 2019 — Collier’s Philadelphia delivers a full range of services to commercial real estate occupants, owners and investors throughout the tri-state region. Senior Executive Vice President Tim Pulte joined Colliers’ senior leadership team in 2017, bringing more than 31 years of experience in corporate operations, corporate real estate, transaction management and facility management. The Invest: Philadelphia team recently spoke with Pulte about the company’s plans for growth and how it serves local and foreign investors. 


What are the benefits of being located in Philadelphia?

As a global company, we have offices all over North America and abroad. Because of this, we’re able to service our clients no matter where their requirements are, both inbound and outbound. For example, if a company is coming in from Mexico, we can help them. Conversely, we can send a deal to Mexico and know it’s going to be taken care of. Philadelphia’s a great location for us. We’re close to other large markets and have access to our international markets as well. We have a very strong industrial base in our clientele. We have long-standing relationships with multiple manufacturing companies throughout the Colliers network. For example, we’ve worked with Philadelphia-based company Cardone to secure locations throughout the United States. We also helped NFI secure locations in Canada and the UK. 


What type of investment is the Philadelphia market seeing?

We’ve started seeing an increase in foreign investment come into the Greater Philadelphia market. It has mostly been asset-driven as opposed to geographically-driven, so it’s really dependent on what investors are looking for. We’ve seen a lot of investment in the industrial space recently; markets such as Philadelphia have become more appealing to investors, both foreign and domestic, because of the higher rate of return. For this reason, we’re seeing a lot of buyers from New York. We’ve also seen a lot of international investors buying companies here in the Philadelphia market. We’ve represented quite a few in the industrial space. 


How does Colliers International plan to grow in the Philadelphia region?

We have six offices in the region: Harrisburg; Allentown; Conshohocken; Center City,  Philadelphia; Mount Laurel, New Jersey; and Wilmington, Delaware. In all our offices we handle office, industrial, retail, property management and landlord representation. We’re trying to grow those areas across all our offices in the region. We’re looking to capitalize on established relationships while building new ones, especially in strategic areas where we can grow — and from an international standpoint as well. The new federal Opportunity Zones will be interesting, and we hope to see some growth in the market from those. There are some very strategic areas in Philadelphia, like the corridor leading up Broad Street toward Temple. It’ll be exciting to see what happens in those areas. 


To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:


Colliers International: 


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

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

By Max Crampton-Thomas

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

How are you protecting your clients in regards to cybersecurity? 

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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Spotlight On: John Crossman, CEO, Crossman & Company

Spotlight On: John Crossman, CEO, Crossman & Company

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — The retail sector has remained steady in Orlando over the last few years. Far from affecting physical stores, e-commerce has contributed to the growth of many businesses and the retail market. Crossman & Company is a commercial real estate firm focused on serving retail landlords exclusively throughout the Southeast. CEO John Crossman spoke recently with the Invest: team about the performance of the Orlando and Central Florida retail sector and its latest trends. 


What are some trends and advantages of Orlando’s retail sector?


Retail is interesting in that it follows growth from other market sectors. When you look at the real estate industry, typically jobs lead, then housing and then retail. When you look at a market, there are two specific factors to consider in terms of retail performance: the number of people moving and vacationing in the area. If those two numbers are up, then there will probably be an up retail market. In Orlando, those numbers keep going up and the retail market is doing very well. In central Florida, we have healthy demographic growth and a big tourism industry that is making the retail sector substantially bigger. Orlando has one of the highest timeshare markets in the world and the exponential factor of tourist retail is amazing. 


There is also what we call “the halo effect,” which happens when an online retailer opens physical stores and, most times, their online sales go up. Similarly, when an online retailer closes physical stores, their online sales go down. When customers buy something online and return it to a physical store, they typically end up spending more money in the store. In the Orlando area, we’re not seeing people radically closing stores. We are seeing a combination between their physical and online presence. 


What areas of Orlando are seeing the most demand in retail real estate?


The areas that are closest to the I-4 corridor have typically done well. As more beltways have been added over the years, that has spurred additional growth. Submarkets like Oviedo, Lake Mary, Clermont and Kissimmee have done well, too, due to their proximity to the corridor’s beltways. I don’t think you can talk about Orlando’s retail without talking about Lake Nona. There’s no doubt that that area has a major significance. Retail activity starts with jobs, then residential and retail, and there are numerous jobs and growth in Lake Nona. In the tourism area, some significant deals were closed recently, specifically on International Drive and Disney. Disney Springs and Park Avenue Winter Park are some of the best retail experiences in Orlando. 


What are some challenges facing the retail real estate industry in Orlando?


The retail industry overall is doing well. Yet, it’s very dynamic and it can become overwhelming. The industry has significantly changed so much and now is more similar to that old school, post-1950s retail, where retail surrounded a property that was growing up in a certain area. We used to talk about mixed-use developments, but now we have the mixing of uses in developments. Now, you can have a retailer, medical providers, educational institutions, religious organizations and a different mix of tenants in the same place. That makes for healthier retail, but it also can be complicated due to the many dynamics in the same place. Another challenge is technology, augmented reality, and the rapid pace of innovation. We need to get together as an industry to explore the future impact of new technologies in the retail sector.   


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Crossman & Company:

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Executive Vice President & Commercial Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Executive Vice President & Commercial Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read October 2019 – With over 30 years in the banking industry, Chuck Cross has witnessed seismic changes in the way the banking sector conducts business. Currently serving as the executive vice president and commercial banking executive for Seacoast Bank, Cross has a unique perspective on the prominent growth of the banking sector in the past couple of years. He recently sat with Invest: Palm Beach to discuss how Seacoast has sustained continuous growth, why the business ecosystem in Palm Beach County is a benefit for banks and some of the reasons he attributes to the overall growth of Palm Beach County. 

How has Seacoast Bank sustained continuous growth? 

Seacoast Bank has been growing organically by hiring people and building relationships with customers since the recession, but we augment that organic growth with strategic M&A activity as well. We acquired Palm Beach Community Bank in November 2017, expanding our branch locations in the county from three to five and getting access to new customers. We also have  two commercial offices in the market, which is another catalyst for growth.


Why is Palm Beach County a conducive business environment for the banking sector? 

From a macro perspective, when you have a half million people relocating to Florida and a good amount of that coming to Palm Beach County, it drives the kind of growth we hope to see for the next couple of years. From a financial services perspective, Palm Beach is a great place to be operating and providing service.

Palm Beach County has really grown over the past decade. Dense population provides great opportunities for banks. Palm Beach is growing like the whole state of Florida is growing. Everyone wants to move to Florida either for the weather or for some of the changes in the tax reform, and people have always wanted to retire here. Palm Beach also has great infrastructure in terms of education. In addition, there’s a lot of oceanfront property that attracts high-net-worth individuals, which in turn attracts retail, recreation and service jobs.


To what do you attribute the growth of the local economy in Palm Beach County?

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County has done a great job of attracting a lot of wealth management and private equity firms where the owners can live on the island and operate their companies from there. In the northern part of the county, there are also some aerospace companies, and there are healthcare technology companies like Max Planck and Scripps that are providing higher-level jobs as well. Hopefully this will help attract other types of high-level businesses.


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Spotlight On: Randy Avent, President, Florida Polytechnic University

Spotlight On: Randy Avent, President, Florida Polytechnic University

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read September 2019 — The Tampa Bay region is home to a slew of world-class and innovative higher education universities, the newest being Florida Polytechnic University located in Lakeland, Florida. This innovative university has quickly become a training ground for the future technical workforce in Florida. Invest: Tampa Bay recently sat with Randy Avent, the founding president for Florida Polytechnic University who expressed his excitement about the possibilities for the university. During the course of his interview, he spoke about how Florida Polytechnic is playing a major role in the economic development of Polk County, the greatest challenge facing the school and what the near-future will look like for the university.

How is Florida Polytechnic University a key to economic growth in Polk County? 

Technical research universities have a tremendous influence on growing the economies in the areas that surround them, and that is what we plan to do for Polk County and the entire state of Florida. Economic growth begins by creating high-skilled, high-wage, high-tech jobs and you do that through excellence in education. Each of these jobs is accompanied by several midwage positions that support it, which ultimately leads to a stronger overall economy. Companies want to be located near universities known for producing graduates in high-demand fields with low supply. They feed from this pipeline of high-technology talent that is ready to lead in industry and to create the next innovations that will disrupt the status quo. 


What is the biggest challenge facing the university? 

As a new university, there are always challenges. The day we opened the university we had a full student body and were doing $30 million dollars worth of business. The university is still a startup because we are only six years into this and most universities have been around for more than 50 years. It will take time for the dust to settle and one challenge will be to continue attracting students who can be successful in a curriculum like this. We want to retain high-quality students in Florida by offering them a curriculum that is different from the institutions they’re looking at out of state. We are also an attractive option because only 11% of our students are graduating with debt and the average debt is only $7,000. 


What is on the horizon for the university? 

We will continue growing and developing our curriculum. We are very fortunate that we were able to hire the provost from Colorado School of Mines, which USA Today ranked as the No. 1 engineering school three years in a row. He has led an effort to rebuild and grow the curriculum, and that includes making sure that it meets national standards. We are also hoping to break ground on the new Applied Research Center where we will continue to grow our research efforts. In the past, we grew the student body extraordinarily fast as part of our startup, and we have been trying to catch up on growing the faculty body. We are focusing less on growing the class now and more on shaping it and that has allowed us to catch up with faculty hiring. We also want to continue building our graduate program because a graduate program is the lifeblood of a research university, so that is an area that we will be focusing on as well. 


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Spotlight On: HBK CPAs & Consultants, James Bartolomei, Principal

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read SEPTEMBER 2019 — Technology is disrupting every industry in the world. From healthcare to banking and finance, numerous companies are reinventing themselves to be at the forefront of technology and innovation. In the accounting and finance segments, these innovative tools are rapidly transforming customer experience and data management. The Invest: Philadelphia team recently sat down with HBK CPAs & Consultants Principal James Bartolomei to get his insights about the performance of Philadelphia’s financial sector.

In what ways is technology disrupting the accounting and finance industry?

Technology is disrupting every industry. Innovation and technology allow companies to get creative and find ways to improve processes and, more importantly, customer experience. The biggest challenge faced by the financial industry is to improve customer experience while protecting sensitive data. To assist our clients in this area we recently developed a cybersecurity offering, which has been well-received. 

With the rapid and dynamic change in technology, businesses can be eliminated and displaced very quickly today. This represents a big challenge as the value one thought was built up in their business could vanish. This is why it is vitally important for business owners to build wealth both inside and outside their businesses. Our firm combines tax and accounting services with our wealth management services to help deliver on this objective and minimize risk for our clients.

What are the services and industries where you’re seeing the most demand?

We have seen increased demand from clients looking for our advice about the effects of the federal tax reform, especially because of the substantial changes in the privately-held business area. Clients are concerned that their accountants and tax advisers fully understand the new tax law and how it impacts them. There are significant changes to the way small businesses are taxed under this new law.

Philadelphia’s real estate and biotech sectors are growing. We have numerous clients in the real estate sector and we have seen a substantial uptick in activity and development, especially in rental properties. In the biotech sector, we have seen a high amount of activity in the medical technology segment.

What is your outlook for Philadelphia’s accounting and finance sectors?

We are continuing to see growth in the Philadelphia market. We are relatively new to the market and we are expanding our client base and attracting good, young talent. We have hired a number of recent college grads over the last two years with great results. Philly is one of the strongest and youngest markets in the United States and the outlook is great for HBK and the local financial services sector. 



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HBK CPAs & Consultants:

Spotlight On: Ronnie Felder, Mayor, City of Riviera Beach

Spotlight On: Ronnie Felder, Mayor, City of Riviera Beach

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read September 2019 — When Ronnie Felder won the runoff race for mayor in March, he had campaigned on the idea of revitalizing the city of Riviera Beach. Invest: Palm Beach sat down the mayor to discuss how he is encouraging economic revitalization and development in the city by rebuilding relationships with the local business community, specific industries he is targeting as part of his economic development plan and what the next few years will look like for Riviera Beach.

How are you working to strengthen the city’s relationship with local businesses? 

One of our goals is to meet with every business in this city to become more familiar with the organizations that are out there and their needs. We are learning through these relationships that a lot of these companies want to hire individuals from Riviera Beach but there is a lack of experienced workforce. We want Riviera residents to know that these job opportunities exist, and as the mayor, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure that happens. In past years, Riviera Beach did not have this established dialogue with the business community. For us to progress as a city and to have the trust of the business community, we must continue to build and strengthen this dialogue.


What are some industries you are targeting to help grow the city’s economy? 

We need more hotels and restaurants, which is a significant way for us to begin to push this city into the future. We do not have enough hotels to accommodate a large influx of tourism, which is impeding our growth. We have to be aggressive in our development efforts. I want to see cranes throughout Riviera Beach because when you see cranes in the city, that means economic growth, it means we are tapping into our potential and other businesses will see this and also want to be part of our city.


What are your short-term goals for the city’s economic development? 

We want to see exponential growth in the next two years. We will be working with businesses to encourage them to hire our young people when they graduate so we can retain some of that local talent. We have to begin to address the long-neglected infrastructure improvements and redevelopment of our public facilities like city hall, the police station and our schools. Everyone from the private and the public sectors should start seeing the benefits from our efforts to grow the local economy.


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