Spotlight On: Matt Crum, Executive Vice President, FrankCrum

Spotlight On: Matt Crum, Executive Vice President, FrankCrum

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — Achieving longevity in any marketplace is difficult. That level of difficulty increases significantly when an area is growing and competition is introduced on a frequent basis. The solution to continuing to remain a leader is the flexibility to evolve with a customer’s needs, as well as having the ability to quickly switch gears in terms of focus for the business. Matt Crum, the executive vice president for Clearwater-based FrankCrum, understands these concepts, an understanding that has contributed to 38 years of success for his family’s business. 


 To what do you attribute the company’s longevity in this market? 


Change is inevitable in any business and I believe part of the reason we have been successful over the years is our acceptance and embrace of change. The company started as a staffing firm in 1981, opened what is the professional employer organization (PEO) a few years later, and we now have an insurance carrier, insurance agency and a managing general agency all under the FrankCrum flag. We understand that to remain relevant, we must continue to evolve with our customer’s needs. Something that has remained the same since we’ve been in business is our value system. Our three brand pillars are integrity, prosperity and affinity and those ideals are extended to all of the stakeholders in our business.

What benefits have been afforded to FrankCrum remaining a privately held business all these years? 

Tampa Bay, and specifically Clearwater, is more of a regional business hub as compared to some of the other, large markets in the Southeast. While there is a national company presence in the region, there are not a lot of big companies headquartered here. Being a privately held business allows us the autonomy to make decisions on a different time horizon than publicly traded or private equity-owned businesses. We can make an evaluation without having to consider what our shareholders are going to say or how the quarterly results are going to be affected. It lends itself to longer term thinking, clearly focusing on what is important and executing.

How has the location of Clearwater been beneficial to the success of FrankCrum? 

Being in the Clearwater/Tampa Bay region has been a huge benefit to our business. It is a fantastic market as the cost of living is pretty low, there is easy access to the No. 1 beach in the country, there are major market sports teams and the region really has everything that any other major market in the country has. The friendly tax environment for individuals and companies makes it easier to compete on a national level, especially when we are competing against the companies based in more expensive, higher tax environments. This location also helps in recruiting people who live in those environments. The idea of paying less in taxes and living in a great area is attractive to them. 

What lessons did you learn from the last financial crisis and how do they apply now? 

As a professional employer organization (PEO), we offer payroll processing, HR services and consulting, tax and benefits administration, and workers’ compensation and risk management to our customers.  Prior to the financial crisis, we were more specialized, focusing on specific industry segments. This was good while it lasted but hit us pretty hard during the recession. It forced us to look closely at our processes and our service offering. We realized we needed to invest pretty heavily in technology and personnel to expand our potential customer base and prepare for growth as the economy turned around. It turned out to be a successful strategy because we’ve experienced very solid growth over the last eight to nine years.  Our business benefits from the strength in the labor market and rising wages. As competition increases for talent, businesses need to improve their benefit offering so they often turn to a PEO. As they grow, especially into other states, we help them stay in compliance with state and local laws. 


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Face Off: Two Legal Leaders on Growth, Talent and Tech

Face Off: Two Legal Leaders on Growth, Talent and Tech

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read November 2019 Seemingly every industry in the Tampa Bay region is firing on all cylinders as the area continues to exceed expectations in terms of economic growth. In concurrency with this growth is increased demand from businesses and individuals for legal services and counsel. Law firms in the region have taken notice and are acting swiftly to establish or reestablish themselves as prominent figures in this space. Invest: spoke with Michael Lundy, the managing and founding partner of Older, Lundy & Alvarez, and Kevin Johnson, a shareholder of Johnson Jackson, about the role of Tampa Bay in their businesses, navigating the lingering challenge of labor and the importance of technological advancements in the legal sector. 



How is the setting of Tampa Bay conducive to your business and legal practice?

Michael Lundy: The Tampa Metro Area is growing rapidly in about every sector. I think that the local political climate is conducive to this growth. We are seeing development driven by businesses that want to operate in Tampa, as well as an influx of outside capital investment from sophisticated sources that see the area as ripe for growth. It seems as though all the pistons are firing at the same time.

My personal practice is marital and family law, but Older, Lundy & Alvarez handles real estate transactions and litigation, commercial litigation, tax work and corporate counsel. With so much local development and population growth, we have benefited greatly because there is a higher demand for the many services that we provide. It is our goal to provide legal services for every aspect of one’s life, or what we call “the ultimate representation.”

Kevin Johnson: For our business, Tampa is a great location for a multitude of reasons. One is that it is extremely easy to reach the entire state from this region. We are only a couple hours from Naples, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. We also have a terrific airport. Most significant would be the strong business climate in the region. Tampa has done a lot of things well over the last 20 years in regards to establishing a conducive environment for businesses in the region. We have been lucky because this city has had a string of progressive and insightful mayors who have gone to great lengths to really improve the business environment. 

Has your firm been challenged in navigating the tight labor pool for legal professionals in the region? 

Lundy: Recruiting talent has not been a challenge. We have been able to recruit incredible lawyers. Tampa has a large pool of amazing legal talent. Tampa is a great place to live. It is an area that has had undervalued real estate, especially in the Downtown area, and that has attracted a lot of development. There has been a steadily growing young population. It has become a city where we talk about technology all the time. Local leadership has had a great positive impact in the area as well. The county commissioners and past and present mayors have had their eyes on the future and have worked very hard to develop a true vision for Tampa. Also, we do not have an income tax in the state of Florida, which is an attractive factor on top of all the amenities Tampa has to offer.

Johnson: The labor pool for legal staff is tight, but we are happy with the people we have on our team. We have found that there are good people out there who you can hire, but there is obviously a lot of competition for them. As a smaller firm, we have to work harder to find those right people, and it really depends on finding the right recruiter to help with that process. It is also very much about the type of work environment we can offer potential candidates. Culture is truly the big driver behind this. We made a commitment to create the kind of culture where people would enjoy working for us. Not only do we offer competitive pay and good benefits, but they also have a lot of freedom in terms of being flexible with their work time to meet family obligations. We also offer legal staff the opportunities to learn and grow so that they can adapt to new skills and new positions. It is all about creating an environment where people really enjoy coming to work and where work doesn’t feel like a job.

How important is new technology to the future success of the legal sector in Florida? 

Lundy: We have embraced technology. We are completely electronic, especially in our research and court filing. We are also all mobile and can work remotely when needed. We embraced technological improvements faster than other law firms and will continue to do so. It will be interesting to see how artificial intelligence will change law practices. Historically, the manner in which legal services were delivered has been very old school, but that is changing.

Johnson: The Florida Bar has been quite progressive when it comes to technology. The Florida Bar is really taking a leadership role and we are seen as the national leader in introducing lawyers to new technology and helping them deal with the effects as technology takes over their practices. We are fortunate to have such a progressive Bar in that respect. Our Supreme Court also has done a good job of trying to figure out where our rules should be so that it is easier for us to deal with the challenges that we face as lawyers. These elements combined make Florida a pretty good environment to practice in.

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Spotlight On: Frank Dame, EVP & COO , Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Spotlight On: Frank Dame, EVP & COO , Clearwater Marine Aquarium

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — The city of Clearwater has a lot of enticing offerings within its borders, ranging from the No. 1 beach in the United States to a multitude of arts and cultural options. One of the most widely recognizable features of the city is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As a staple of marine conservation and education as well as the filming location for both Dolphin Tale feature length films, the aquarium has adapted its business model to remain strong after all these years. Invest: spoke with Executive Vice President and COO for the aquarium Frank Dame, about adapting its business practices to stay competitive, the renovations being made to the aquarium, the challenges from last year’s red tide and maintaining Clearwater’s No. 1 beach status. 


 How have you adapted your business to stay competitive?

Before the movie Dolphin Tale came out, we implemented a new philosophy and strategy. Although we are a nonprofit, we decided we would run the aquarium like a for-profit company and develop a business model that could fund the operations of Clearwater Marine Aquarium with minimal donations. We would then use donations to expand the business and for our various initiatives. We set this business model in place, and then expanded the gift shop, improved the guest experience and enhanced our food service. This started to drive revenue, and between 2006 and 2010, we grew attendance from 75,000 a year to about 220,000 just before the movie was released. The year after the movie was released in 2012, our attendance went from 220,000 to over 740,000. 

What can be expected for Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s new facilities? 

We are under construction. This is an $80-million project that is being supported by the city, county and the state. We were awarded $26 million from Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, while the city of Clearwater gave us $5 million, plus the land where we are located. The state of Florida also donated another $3 million in a grant, and we have an ongoing capital campaign to raise another $15 million. Overall, we have had a tremendous amount of support from the community. When we open the doors to our new facility, sometime next year, we are going to have almost four times the guest space we have now. We are also building five new dolphin pools. Currently, between all our facilities we have about 985,000 gallons of water, and these five new dolphin pools will add another million and a half gallons. We are really ramping up our ability to rescue more animals and provide a better living environment for our dolphins, as well as drastically improve the guest experience.

How much of an adverse effect did last year’s red tide have on the region? 

A year or so ago when the red tide came through the region, it had an extremely adverse effect on the local economy. We should commend Pinellas County because they tried to get in front of this issue by hiring boats to collect the dead fish and debris offshore before it ever hit the beaches. Our city was out there at 4:30 in the morning raking the beaches to make sure that tourism was not too badly impacted by it. While we were impacted somewhat, it could have been a lot worse. That red tide probably resulted from the runoff from storm water and other waste that goes into our waterways. This is damaging not only to the water environment itself, but to the tourism sector and the local economy, so human impact should always be something that we are conscious of. 

How can Clearwater Beach maintain its title as No. 1 beach in the nation? 

We need to focus on maintaining our recognition as the No. 1 beach in the nation, and we can’t accomplish this by just promoting ourselves as No. 1. The mission now is to make us the No. 1 beach because we are ocean friendly. We can do this by eliminating trash and doing things like stopping the use of single-use plastics. At the aquarium, we have gotten rid of all plastic bottles. Our water bottles now are all biodegradable and our spoons are all made of bamboo as opposed to plastic. We are trying to be an example of an environmentally responsible organization, and teaching people the right way to live in a model of environmental sustainability. 


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Top 5 Haunted Happenings in Tampa Bay

Top 5 Haunted Happenings in Tampa Bay

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 The month of October is known for seasonal change, pumpkin-spiced everything and the nationally celebrated horror day, Halloween. While the actual day is regarded as a time for candy, treats and Halloween scares, the weeks leading up to it have been appropriately dubbed “spooky season.” This is an exciting time for thrill seekers and Halloween enthusiasts in the Tampa Bay area as there are a variety of haunted happenings and spooky activities to experience. The following are five of the best and scariest events and places to make this Halloween a memorable one. 



Tampa Theatre

Regarded as Tampa’s most historic and most haunted movie palace, the Tampa Theatre has embraced its haunted lore for this year’s spooky season. The theater is known for haunted happenings involving former employees whose spirits seem to have never left the theater, like the theater’s old projectionist Foster “Fink” Finley whose footsteps are thought to still be heard from time to time. Not only has the theater showcased 14 nights of frightening films from Oct. 18th until Oct. 31, it is also featuring ghost tours and a special Halloween-themed happy hour event called PAUSE-O-WEEN on Oct. 31. 

For more on Tampa Theatre visit:



Carrying the title as Tampa Bay’s No.1 haunted attraction, Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has been a staple of the community for 20 years. Not only does the event offer horror-heads the opportunity to walk through terrifying “scare zones,” it also features multiple haunted houses, access to many other twisted terrors and some of Busch Gardens most iconic rides. This weekend event runs from Sept. 20 to Nov, 2, and promises to “twist daydreams into nightmares.” 

To read more about Howl-O-Scream visit:

Undead in the Water

Undead in the Water is an annual haunted house with a twist. It is the only authentic nautical haunted attraction in the region and takes place on the historically famous 1945 WWII vessel the American Victory Ship. Thrill seekers will rejoice in the challenge of venturing through the multiple decks of this historic vessel as they avoid consumption by an infected zombie hoard onboard the ship. Undead in the Water is infamous for being one of the scariest annual attractions that the region has to offer. This event runs every weekend from the beginning of October until Nov. 2. 

For more on Undead in the Water visit:

Ybor City Ghost Tour

While it is known for being a National Historical Landmark District in Tampa Bay and one of the preeminent spots for tourists and residents to frequent, Ybor City is also known as one of the top destinations for hauntings. With a deep rooted history in the development and emergence of the Tampa Bay region, Ybor City has seen its fair share of diverse demographics settling in the region and calling it home. According to urban legend some of these souls just decided to never leave, which is why Ybor City is home to the critically acclaimed Ybor City Ghost Tour. Rated as the No. 1 haunted tour in the United States by US City Traveler and rated in USA Today’s 10 best lists, this tour promises an informative and scary walk through the ghostly history of Ybor City. 

For more information on the Ybor City Ghost Tour visit:

Cuban Club

Located in Ybor City, the historic Cuban Club has a history that spans over a century and includes shows by world-renowned entertainers, weddings, parties and the occasional haunting. The club itself is a wonderful multipurpose rental facility with amenities like a grand ballroom, theater and courtyard. With numerous reports of ghostly sightings and paranormal activity, it is not a surprise that this location was named by The Travel Channel as one of its Top 10 most haunted places. The Club leaves it up to guests to decide whether they believe it to be haunted or not as stated in the FAQ on its website: “We are reputed to be haunted, but we will let you make up your own mind on this subject…”

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Spotlight On: Courtney Orr, Ybor Development Manager, Ybor City Development Corporation

Spotlight On: Courtney Orr, Ybor Development Manager, Ybor City Development Corporation

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Founded in the late 1800s, Ybor City is not only a staple in the Tampa Bay region but in the entire state of Florida. While it is not geographically large, Tampa Bay’s National Historic Landmark District has quite a large economic impact on the region. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with Courtney Orr, the Ybor development manager for Ybor City Development Corporation, who discussed the impact of changing demographics on the district, respecting Ybor City’s history in light of ongoing development and the vital role young professionals play in the future of Ybor. 


How have the changing demographics of the region impacted Ybor City? 

The dynamics of Ybor City are shifting as we see an increase in the residential population, office users and one-of-a-kind restaurants and retailers. What’s most notable though is the influx of residents wanting to call Tampa’s National Historic Landmark home. Ybor has long been known strictly as an entertainment district and that mindset is changing with the current progressive shift underway. 

How are you working to improve Ybor City for the future while still respecting its history? 

Safeguarding Ybor’s historic features and history, especially the cigar industry from which Ybor City was built, is fundamental to the neighborhood’s success. The city of Tampa’s Barrio Latino Commission provides oversight to historic preservation by reviewing all development projects to ensure Ybor’s charm stays intact. We participate by offering a commercial facade grant to inspire historic preservation. This grant, along with other separate ones we offer, has made a tremendous difference throughout the historic neighborhood. Altogether, it helps breed additional private investment that enhances the district and ultimately will forever maintain Ybor’s charm.

Fortunately, Ybor draws very unique restaurant concepts here. Copper Shaker is one example of a successful restaurant opening its second location on 7th Avenue by the end of the year. New establishments like it preserve Ybor’s distinct vibe and with all the new residential development online, retailers are sure to follow.

What role do young professionals play in the development of Ybor City? 

Young professionals play a big role in the overall Ybor scene. They love the area’s walkability and many are willing to forgo their cars. They tend to favor smaller living quarters, if it guarantees them a certain quality of life in a stimulating neighborhood. As more young professionals move in so will office users to gain access to that creative talent, not to mention to enjoy all that Ybor has to offer too.


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Spotlight On: Daniels Ikajevs, Chairman, The Ring Workspaces

Spotlight On: Daniels Ikajevs, Chairman, The Ring Workspaces

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — As the need for office space continues unabated, innovative solutions like coworking spaces are rising to fill the gap. One such coworking space is The Ring, which is a state-of-the-art co-working space with an emphasis on health and wellness. It is based in Downtown Clearwater. The Ring held its grand opening on April 26 and is home to over 70 companies across the Tampa Bay area, with about 110 people coming to the space on a daily basis. Invest: spoke with Daniels Ikajevs, chairman of The Ring Workspaces, about his innovative approach to office space, its collaboration with Harvard University and why Clearwater is the perfect location for The Ring Workspaces. 

Why was it important to construct The Ring to WELL standards? 

WELL standards are still fairly new, but they are becoming more commonplace. There is some similarity with LEED building standards, but WELL is more human-centric, and it looks at what is important for people inside the physical space, such as quality of the air, nutrition inside the space, access to daylight, biophilia and other health and wellness-related aspects. It also focuses on everything that LEED emphasizes, like quality of the materials, energy efficiency, and so forth. There is only one WELL-certified co-working space in the world and that is in Boston. We are in the process of getting our certification, and unlike in Boston where they have silver-level certification, we are going for the platinum level. 

What are some ways The Ring is working to help promote and foster the startup and tech ecosystem in the region? 

One of the ways we are doing this is through a collaboration The Ring entered with Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health to pilot their innovation and sustainable technology program in Tampa Bay. This will be the first U.S.-based location for this program. It will happen over the course of two years, and will consist of a first and second round in which the university professors will teach young startups how to bring their ideas into reality. They will provide a blueprint on what investors are looking for when they go out and try to raise money. At the end of the program, people who are successful in funding their ideas will receive a certificate of completion from Harvard University T.H Chan School of Public Health. 

How is Clearwater the perfect match for a coworking space like The Ring?

When we were looking at locations for The Ring, we looked at what makes Clearwater a more attractive market for startups. Clearwater offers lower real estate costs in comparison to similar Tampa and St. Petersburg markets. We are geared more toward the startup culture, and because the cost of doing business in Clearwater is less than anywhere else in Tampa Bay, we thought we could use this environment to attract more startups. As a startup you try to save money every step of the way until you reach the maturity stage of the business, so real estate is one of the biggest values that Clearwater can offer. The overall business environment in Clearwater is also in line with the four principles of The Ring, which are health, innovation, sustainability and productivity.

What does the future of coworking spaces look like? 

Coworking spaces will continue on an upward trend, especially as more startups emerge all around the Tampa Bay region. In this fast-moving business environment it is very difficult for these startups to predict the amount of space they will need in the near future, so coworking spaces like The Ring that offer flexible memberships where these businesses can upgrade or downgrade with ease are a huge benefit. Flexibility is key for startups, which is why big players in the coworking space, like Spaces, are expanding quickly to address the growing demand. It will also be interesting to see how the coworking concept works in a down market, as this has not been properly tested yet. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a down market in real estate in the near future, so we will pay special attention to see how this market adjusts and operates when this happens. 


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Top 5 Family-Friendly Destinations in the Tampa Bay Region

Top 5 Family-Friendly Destinations in the Tampa Bay Region

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 With almost 1,000 people moving into Florida every day, the appeal of the state is quite apparent. From our favorable tax climate to ideal weather and everything in between, Florida is the hotspot in the southeast. The Tampa Bay region has been a beneficiary of this population boom, as represented in the more than 51,000 people that moved into the region last year. One of the major appeals for Florida, and more specifically the Tampa Bay MSA, is the welcoming, family-friendly environment that has been cultivated throughout the state. Supporting this are the multitude of family-friendly activities and destinations available throughout the region. With so much choice, Invest: thought it would be fun to narrow it down. Here are five of the best family-friendly destinations in the Tampa Bay region.

Florida State Fairgrounds

Known for their title event, the Florida State Fair, the Fairgrounds are also a destination for festivals, trade shows, conventions and outdoor shows. The 12-day Florida State Fair is the premier family-oriented event in the Tampa Bay region. The emphasis on family fun is cultivated in the Fair’s various offerings like rides, animal interactions, fair food, and activities and shows for children. Cheryl Flood, executive director for the Florida State Fair, spoke to Invest: about just how significant this family-friendly event is to the region. “We are known for our 12 days of family fun during the annual state fair festivities, when families from across the state gather to celebrate agriculture, education and community. Annually, we boast 500,000 visitors who generate over $152 million dollars in sales throughout the state of Florida. The Florida State Fair is the first state fair of the year throughout the entire country. As a result, we set the trends of what the fair industry and fairgoers can expect nationally. We think of ourselves as a catalyst for innovation within this niche industry.”

For more information on the next Florida State Fair & the Fairgrounds visit:

Museum of Science and Industry

Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is not the typical museum destination that some may be accustomed to. Instead of taking a more traditional approach to teaching principles of STEM and STEAM, this museum prides itself on being a scientific playground that offers more than 100 different hands-on activities for parents and children alike. The museum was not always known for its innovative approach, but after a restructuring and renovation in November 2017, they have been working to change that narrative. Julian Mackenzie, president and CEO of MOSI, elaborated on this deliberate effort, “In our second year of ‘new MOSI,’ after the completion of our restructuring and renovation in November of 2017, our reputation in the community was re-established. Prior to our reopening, the venue had a reputation for outdated exhibits that in some cases just simply didn’t work as they should. Our main focus for MOSI since then has been to re-engage the community with expanded participation in popular public events. In this fashion, it put our No. 1 asset in full view, that being our staff and the passion they have for making science real for all ages and demographics. Also, it has been about the exhibit path experience. Guests can now count on a dynamic experience at MOSI with hands-on activities and exhibits that not only function as they should, they also entertain, educate and inspire.”

To see all of MOSI’s offerings visit:

Glazer Children’s Museum 

The Glazer Children’s Museum is a prime example of a family-friendly destination that is using innovation and inclusivity to rise above the variety of options in the region. The museum, which saw its third-busiest year on record in 2018, understands the importance of being a viable option for all different types of families and children. Sarah Cole, the president and CEO of Glazer Children’s Museum, expounded upon this to Invest:. “At the Glazer Children’s Museum, we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to play with purpose. We strive to provide accessible and inclusive programs, events, and exhibits to serve the diverse needs of our guests. For families with special needs, we offer programs like our monthly Sensory-Friendly Sunshine Sundays and Autism-Friendly Camps. When families visit the museum, they have access tools, from an experience book to plan their visit to sound-blocking headphones, sensory kits, accessibility chairs, and more. We are proud to be designated an Autism-Friendly business for eight years running through the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and we were recently named Employer of the Year by the Mayor’s Alliance for People With Disabilities.”

For more on Glazer Children’s Museum visit:

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

In the case of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, being a family-fun destination is only part of who they are. The Aquarium, which was the backdrop for the films Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, serves as both a family-friendly destination to observe marine life in an interactive and educational manner as well as a marine research and rehabilitation sanctuary. They are currently under major construction as they work to not only improve their facilities for guests but also for their marine rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Frank Dame, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Clearwater Marine Aquarium, spoke to Invest: about what could be expected from the new facilities, “When we open the doors to our new facility, sometime next year, we are going to have almost four times the guest space we have now. We are also building five new dolphin pools. Currently, between all our facilities we have about 985,000 gallons of water, and these five new dolphin pools will add another million and a half gallons. We are really ramping up our ability to rescue more animals and provide a better living environment for our dolphins, as well as drastically improve the guest experience.”

To read more about Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s aquatic initiatives visit:

Clearwater Beach

To be named the No. 1 beach in the country is no small accomplishment, so the significance of Clearwater Beach being dubbed this title two years in a row by TripAdvisor cannot be understated. From in-water activities to fun festivals to simply sunbathing on the white sands, this family-friendly destination has something for everyone to enjoy. Sights are now set on retaining this title for the foreseeable future, and Frank Dame of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium weighed in on how to best accomplish this. “We need to focus on maintaining our recognition as the No. 1 beach in the nation, and we can’t accomplish this by just promoting ourselves as No. 1. The mission now is to make us the No. 1 beach because we are ocean-friendly. We can do this by eliminating trash and doing things like stopping the use of single-use plastics,” he told Invest:. 

For more on the #1 Beach in the nation visit:

Rays’ Sights Set on Game 5

Rays’ Sights Set on Game 5

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 Tampa Bay can be called a lot of things: a tech hub, a thriving economic ecosystem, an arts and culture destination. After last night’s 4-1 win over the Houston Astros, let’s add the true epicenter of baseball in the state of Florida. Now only one win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays are looking to capitalize on the momentum of this successful season. 

Before the 2019 season began, expectations were tempered. The Rays entered the season with the second-worst fan attendance in Major League Baseball, the lowest player payroll at about $60 million and having not reached the postseason since 2013 when they lost to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. These factors coupled with the ongoing trouble of finding the right location in the Tampa Bay region for their new stadium, left most fans wondering what this season might hold in store. 

It was not all bad though, as there were quite a few positives entering the season, including having three Rays players listed among Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 MLB players of 2019. These players were Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tommy Pham, who had the first home run of the game against the Astros last night. Even with the uncertainty swirling around their future home in the region, there was a shared desire expressed by the team to keep Tampa Bay their base for the long term. Brian Auld, the club’s president, expressed this desire to Invest: when he spoke with us earlier in the season. “We’ve been forthright with the community that we want to be here in Tampa Bay for generations to come. That’s the most important thing to us at this moment. It’s also what keeps me up at night because in order to make that happen we will need a new facility,” Auld told Invest:. He continued: “Tropicana Field is among the oldest facilities in all of Major League Baseball, especially without major renovations. We have to figure out where we can put a new ballpark and how we’re going to fund it in such a way that our attendance increases and we become more of a sustainable enterprise.”

Fast forward to the end of the regular season, and the Rays would finish with a record 96 wins against 66 losses. This would be enough to propel them into the Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics at the A’s home field. The game itself scored record-setting attendance for a wild card game with over 54,000 people. The Rays would ultimately parlay their success from the regular season into a dominant 6-1 win over the A’s. 

After last night, the series against the Astros, who are only two years removed from winning the 2017 World Series, is tied 2-2. While this series started with the Rays giving up the first two games to the Astros, they have swung the momentum and are coming off back-to-back wins to even the series. Sights are now set on a winner take all Game 5 to be played on Oct. 10. The winner of this series will face the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. 

No matter the outcome, this is a season that the Tampa Bay Rays can look back on with pride. They have not only exceeded expectations and provided a glimpse into what promises to be a great future, but have also brought excitement back to baseball in Florida. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

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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