Invest:Insights
Fort Lauderdale

It has been a busy cycle for tax professionals. For Taxfyle, the pandemic led to an uptick of business. This was due to a mixture of technological advances, companies restructuring, and younger people wanting to do their taxes in a digital environment rather than the traditional accountancy environment, CEO & Co-Founder Richard Lavina told Invest:Insights. Though the last year has been tough for businesses, the pandemic has also pushed entrepreneurs in startups forward, he said.

Executive coaching, training and corporate development programs are best suited as in-person endeavors. For GCI Worldwide Corporation, an executive and coaching and training firm, the adaptation from live events to the digital environment was not without its challenge, but proved successful throughout the pandemic landscape. Human ingenuity will step up in unique ways to solve problems, President and CEO Giselle Cheminand told Invest:Insights. Despite the challenges of connections in a virtual world, GCI Worldwidewas able to add value for clients by creatively shifting conferences and programs to the remote setting. Increased representation of women in corporate roles is an area that needs continuing improvement, Cheminand pointed out.  More women on corporate boards and leadership positions will be a litmus test for true change in the corporate world, she said.

The cruise industry came to a complete standstill as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the industry is positioned for a bounce back thanks to significant pent up demand, buoyed by the ongoing vaccination efforts. Global Marine Travel, a leading maritime travel management company, saw an increase in activity among private yachts and offshore oil, Founder & Managing Director Tim Davey told Invest:Insights. He characterizes what it was like for the maritime industry in the wake of the pandemic.

Mass transit will continue to change and develop as both a mode of transportation and a means of guiding development. The Broward MPO’s 2045 Plan projects into the future to anticipate what the future of local transportation will look like in the county. At the onset of the pandemic, road capacity decreased as a result of shelter in place measures and the pivot to remote work and instruction, Executive Director Gregory Stuart told Invest:Insights. The uptick in road capacity has increased as residents begin to return to work and school which may impact road capacity moving forward. The Camino Real is one of the most dynamic projects in South Florida and will help facilitate people living outside of major metro areas by allowing them to commute easily, Stuart said. 

The City of Oakland Park anticipated and prepared for a decline in revenue at the onset of the health crisis and planned accordingly. Flexibility for future budgets will be key moving forward, Mayor Jane Bolin told Invest:Insights. The city is placing a keen emphasis on their Downtown CRA to help the Downtown be a vibrant place in a post-COVID future. Entrepreneurialism and small businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy and incubators need to be supported, the mayor said. CARES act information needs to continue to be distributed to entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the city while Broward County continues to offer loan funds to the local entrepreneurs.

There is a lot of interest brewing in Fort Lauderdale and its Downtown Development Authority is ready for it. The last year has a higher pace of projects with an emphasis on tactical actions, President & CEO Jenni Morejon told Invest:Insights. Resonating this message to a national audience while making local neighborhood improvements has guided the authority’s focus.

Fort Lauderdale is a model of how the private and public sector can work together to transform and adapt in a difficult situation, Morejon said.

The city of Fort Lauderdale made very conservative projections at the beginning of COVID yet finished 2020 better than anticipated. Infrastructure projects kept going and the city was quite aggressive about completing them, Mayor Dean Trantalis told Invest:Insights. As they reopen, the city’s complacency is his biggest worry. Until mass vaccinations have been completed citizens must still uphold safety measures, the mayor said.

Experts believe Florida is poised for a strong recovery by the end of 2021, especially as industries like the service sector begin to recuperate. In the meantime, the passing of another stimulus package is essential to the recovery process, PNC Financial Services Group Florida Economist Abbey Omodunbi told Invest:Insights. The first stimulus packages last year enabled the Florida business ecosystem to weather the storm better yet further assistance is needed in the recovery process. The housing market is a bright spot throughout the state and is predicted to remain strong in 2021. Overall markets like Tampa, Miami and Orlando have performed very well despite the tumultuous landscape, Omodunbi said.

COVID-19 accelerated trends and business decisions as it forced industries and companies to reinvent themselves in the face of constant change. Location became top of mind regarding commercial real estate decisions. For Grupo Eco, because their developments are located in a suburban area, this has allowed them to weather the pandemic challenges well.  As a result, they have tenants coming to them that before the pandemic wouldn’t have considered locating themselves in suburban parts of Broward County, Grupo Eco Real Estate Advisor Daniel Chaberman told Invest: Insights. 

SBA loans have been key in helping businesses maintain operations throughout the pandemic. These loans are essential and can really propel businesses forward at this moment in time, Florida Business Development Corporation’s President and CEO Bill Habermeyer told Invest: Insights. The SBA 504 loan program is vital in helping small businesses and clearing up any kind of misconceptions around fees is important, he said. 

 

The initial pandemic shock to the construction industry was filled with uncertainty and unanswered questions about the future of projects. In markets where construction was deemed essential the activity moved forward despite the pandemic related challenges. For ANF Group, business grew around 40 percent year-over-year and hiring continued, President Al Fernandez told Invest: Insights. He believes this experience demonstrated the industry’s resilience and ability to bring more talent to the labor pool.

For the engineering sector, soft skills and communication, as well as job fundamentals, remain important for new hires entering the profession, LANGAN Vice President & Principal Vincent Yarina told Invest:Insights. Tackling aging infrastructure and forever chemicals are two separate factors but equally important to address in the light of environmental concerns, he said.

Connecting with young legal talent has proved to be a challenge in the remote working environment. National firm Fox Rothschild, for example, ramped up virtual team training and created new virtual team building opportunities as a result of the pandemic disruption. The remote work environment has also increased cost savings while making legal work more convenient, Partner Robert Sacco told Invest: Insights. While law firms have adopted well to the remote working environment, ultimately many intangible aspects are lost in the virtual world, Sacco said.

Construction activity in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area has picked up since the initial COVID-induced jolt to the sector. Rising demand for industrial space has created an uptick in redevelopment of older buildings to help facilitate last mile distribution needs, Miller Construction Company President Brian Sudduth said in an interview with Invest: Insights. Uncertainty still looms for the office sector and the timeline for a return back to the office, yet the desire to return back to the office remains high based on feedback from leaders in the sector,Sudduth said.

After four consecutive years as being ranked as one of Florida Trend’s ‘Best Companies to Work For’ Gunster has maintained their emphasis on company culture even whilst in growth mode and mitigating challenges brought upon by the pandemic. H. William ‘Bill’ Perry, Managing Shareholder and CEO of Gunster, spoke on their continued success and how their solid company culture allowed them an easier transition in working remotely yet staying well connected through the crisis. He also touched upon opportunities that are and will be presenting themselves in the near term future for the legal sector and how their firm is prepared to handle these.

The health and safety of guests continues to be the top priority for Heiko Dobrikow, Executive Vice President & General Manager for The Las Olas Company & Riverside Hotel. He has been impressed with how the hotel and clientele have embraced technologies like QR codes and virtual events. Dobrikow believes new innovations will help position the hospitality industry to have a more secure footing moving forward. In terms of resilience, the Riverside Hotel has chosen to sit at the table rather than be on the menu.

Spirit Airlines broke ground in January for its new $250 million headquarters in Dania Beach and, despite challenges caused by COVID-19, the project is still moving forward. Another major major project for the region is the Dania Beach Clean Energy Center. Ana Garcia, City Manager of Dania Beach, told Invest: Insights that the center will bring millions of dollars in tax revenue and that it has already written its first $23,000 check to the city. The money will be used to improve programs and city initiatives. During this period of resilience, Garcia believes that flexibility and adaptation will be the keys to serving the needs of her community.

The 2020 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is ready to set sail. It is important to host the event while also taking the proper health measures, Marine Industries Association of South Florida President & CEO, Philip Purcell, told Invest: Insights. The association looked at Disney and Universal as successful examples of doing events in the coronavirus landscape. Given the economic impact of the show, it is imperative to host it this year, Purcell said. Resilience taught Purcell to let go of what worked in the past and adapt to the changes of the now.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for ports as no federal funding was available to offset the heavy blow to the cruising industry. Port Everglades will have to remain self-sustainable at a time where it lost $60 million in cruise industry revenue. The port had to present a new budget adjusted to account for the effects of the pandemic, Port Director Jonathan Daniels told Invest: Insights. The port’s masterplan has been able to move forward especially as it relates to construction projects. Bringing people back to the cruises will be key in the recovery efforts, so the port is spending its time and resources to ensure a safe environment for staff and travelers.

The second half of this year has been particularly difficult for the aviation industry, however, Mark Gale, CEO & Director of Aviation for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, has been utilizing funds and grants to continue improvements to the airport in anticipation of a pent-up demand for travel once the economy recovers. Gale and his team continue to work tirelessly in efforts to make the airport safer and more tech-savvy to give consumers confidence in flying once again.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement that the state of Florida was ready to move into Phase 3 caused a lot of confusion in Broward County. Per the announcement, each county and municipality is handling the phased reopening process according to their cases and Broward County has not yet entered Phase 3, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance President & CEO Bob Swindell told Invest: Insights. Allowing hotels to safely open in the appropriate occupancy levels is important and the messaging was challenging. Allowing the Greater Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is a major win for the county as it is a major economic engine for the region, and allows Broward County to position itself as a model for cities as they reopen and host events safely.

The strength of the U.S. economy is dependent upon a strong business community and the entrepreneurs behind these successful businesses. Andrew Duffell, the President of Research Park at Florida Atlantic University, wholly supports this notion and expressed to Abby Melone that it is essential for there to be continuous investment in education and research to support these entrepreneurs. He also noted that, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of adaptability and collaboration happening within the business community, as demonstrated by those businesses in the Research Park.

Today is a big day for Broward County as many businesses around the county are able to reopen their doors for the first time in months as part of Florida’s Phase one of the reopening process. Mayor of Broward County Dale V.C. Holness expressed the shared excitement among the business community in his region, and the generally positive feedback he has been receiving. He spoke on his view that the state has been handling the situation well and has the right measures in place to ensure a safe reopening.

While no one could have been prepared for the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the United States, there are organizations that specialize in helping guide through the community through disasters like this. One such organization is Witt O’Brien’s, who are currently playing the role of communicating the needs of the business community to the various governments that they work with and vice versa. Brad Gair, Senior Managing Director of Witt O’Briens, told Abby Melone about the organization’s efforts to supply as much information as possible so that people can understand what is accessible to them and what will be helpful in helping them pull through this pandemic.

A company’s ability to be able to quickly adapt and shift their operations in accordance with the current time of social distancing is an accomplishment within itself. Broward County based beauty company Kira Labs not only was able to quickly adapt their operations, but they took it a step further and quickly pivoted their normal focus from producing beauty products to producing hand sanitizer and cleansing products to help fulfill the national demand in this time of crisis. David Rosen, the CEO and Founder of Kira Labs, spoke to Abby Melone about his company’s quick transition as well as what it means from a manufacturing, logistics and retail side of the business.

Preparedness is a term that has been used at length in the conversation surrounding COVID-19 and some feel that preparedness was not emphasized enough at the start of this pandemic. Dan Lindblade, President & CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, expressed this to Abby Melone in regards to the region’s preparedness in the wake of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all sectors of the economy, and the real estate market may see more long-term effects than most. Ryan Kratz, President of Colliers International’s Southeast Region | US Brokerage, discussed with Abby Melone that prior to the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sufficient amount of supply in regards to available real estate in Miami-Dade so post COVID-19 there should not be a risk of oversupply or undersupply on the market. He also expressed that real estate professionals should be using this time to educate themselves in preparation for the market reopening.

COVID-19 has presented many challenges for higher education, and for those newer institutions this has been the ultimate test of adaptability and resilience. In the case of Florida Polytechnic University, their President Randy Avent detailed to Abby Melone the struggles of quickly building an online platform and curriculum in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed that the most difficult transition has been figuring out how to conduct labs via online education.

While the state and federal grant and loan bridge programs to support local businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic have been a plus, they are, for the most part, tapped out. This has left many businesses searching elsewhere for funds including on the local level which Dennis Grady, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, spoke on during his conversation with Abby Melone. He also discussed the repercussions that public agencies in Florida will face from the lack of state sales tax currently being collected and what that could mean for their budgets in the future.

While all demographics of people have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on the African American population has been disproportionate to the rest of the population. This was one of the main topics Oliver Gilbert, Mayor of Miami Gardens, discussed with Abby Melone as well as how the city is working to assist in this matter.

For some universities the transition to an all online curriculum has been handled with relative ease, and has left many educators excited to be on the frontline of how higher education will be permanently changed post COVID-19. Robert Bishop, Dean of the University of South Florida College of Engineering, relayed these same sentiments with Abby Melone, as well as diving into the challenges that this disruption has caused for the graduate programs offered by the university.

As COVID-19 began to rapidly spread throughout the country, the severity of the economic impact it would have was quickly realized by the Federal Government. This ultimately lead to the $2 trillion economic stimulus package known as the CARES Act. In speaking with Abby Melone, Michael Finney, the President and CEO of The Beacon Council, implores that small businesses in the Miami-Dade region should explore and go after the additional funds the stimulus package is offering.

As all activity in the Miami-Dade region has seemingly come to a sudden halt due to COVID-19, the local leaders are working tirelessly in the background to respond to the pandemic. Abby Melone, CEO of Capital Analytics, sat down with Juan Carlos Bermudez, Mayor for the City of Doral.