An influx of affordable housing is coming to Orlando

An influx of affordable housing is coming to Orlando

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read September 2020  — Affordable housing has been a major cause for concern in Florida for decades. Homes in the sunshine state are overpriced by almost 20%, the highest level in eight years, according to a study done by Florida Atlantic University. The pandemic has served as a reminder of just how fragile the line between having a place to live and experiencing homelessness is for families. This past year, Central Florida added seven affordable rental options for low-income households, which has raised the total count to 20, in an effort to subdue this crisis.  

On Dec. 17, 2019, Orange County commissioners signed off on a 10-year plan to create new affordable housing projects, injecting $160 million into a fund with a goal to build 30,300 units by 2029. Among other grants and strategies, developers and nonprofits can seek financial help to build or upgrade low-income properties. “In the end, all those things are going to help, but they are going to have to have dedicated resources,” Shannon Nazworth, CEO of Jacksonville-based Ability Housing, previously told Orlando Business Journal. “There have been communities like Los Angeles that have gotten permission from their populous to do a bond issue to develop affordable housing and meet the need, and if Orange County were to do that, I think the return on investment would be demonstrative.”

Residential Communities LLC and New South Residential LLC are the most recent developments to undertake an affordable apartment complex. Construction on the 77,473-square-foot senior housing facility is set to begin in early September at 5800 S. Rio Grande Ave, according to Orlando Business Journal. This project is one of the many that are needed to help bring more affordable housing options to the region. Families are struggling, perhaps now more than ever, to simply pay rent. To put things into perspective, a minimum-wage worker in Florida makes around $445 per month while the average one bedroom apartment costs around $1,027 per month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Rent at that price point is simply out of reach even for median-waged workers like nursing assistants, janitors and cashiers. 

While paying rent is difficult, for some people owning a home may seem unfathomable. However, renting a single-family home provides the experience of owning without the costly fees and obligations associated with purchasing a property. As a result, the single-family rental sector is booming in Orlando. “If you can find single-family housing that you can rent that’s within close proximity of multifamily housing, the single-family housing is going to beat it out every time,”  Brad Hunter, managing director of real estate consulting firm RCLCO, told Orlando Business Journal

The rise of rentals could be another form of relief for low-income families. The increase in occupancy will eventually lead to more single-family rental communities being built that then provide more affordable housing options. However, when it comes down to it, the majority of the responsibility to help reduce the burdens of housing costs and minimum wages falls on elected officials. Without the support of the local and state government, deploying a plan to promote affordable housing is left in the hands of developers and the community. 

Face Off: Adaptability is par for the course for these development leaders

Face Off: Adaptability is par for the course for these development leaders

By: Max Crampton Thomas

Patrick Lee

Andrew Burnett

3 min read August 2020 Although there have been major roadblocks stemming from the pandemic that have created some slowdown, development in South Florida has continued to show a steadfast resilience and adaptability as projects around the region have remained on a path toward completion. For companies within the construction and development sectors, there is an understanding that being adaptable to the communities’ changing needs is just par for the course. While the future may be uncertain, it’s important to keep a cautiously optimistic attitude. Invest: spoke with both Shorecrest Construction President Patrick Lee and Senior Principal for Stantec Andrew Burnett about their companies’ major developmental successes over the last year, the constantly shifting industry landscape and their best estimations of what the future may hold. 

What are some recent landmarks for your business in the Miami-Dade region? 

Patrick Lee: The main markets Shorecrest Construction focuses on are hospitality, boutique commercial and luxury residential. In the last few years, all of these markets have been extremely strong. We just completed the renovation of the Soho Beach House in Miami Beach, which included the refreshment of guestrooms and suites, bar areas and gym to keep guests engaged and coming back. In luxury residential, a mainstay market for us, we build high-end homes on the water and complete condo interiors in some of the most prominent South Florida neighborhoods. Shorecrest works closely with well-known architects and designers to bring their concepts to life. We just finished the penthouse at the Four Seasons Surf Club designed by Holly Hunt. In the last few years, we have gotten a stronger foothold in those markets.

Andrew Burnett: Recent landmark projects in full swing include Wynwood Square, a 12-story mixed-use facility that includes apartments and retail space; the 30-story YotelPAD Miami condo and hotel project under construction; and a 43-story Luma tower in Miami’s Worldcenter. And there are a lot of new projects to be announced soon and currently coming on board. Each asset within our portfolio contributes to our growth in the creative services space, beyond architecture and interior design, but also engineering and resilience. We think beyond traditional physical traits and focus on how our vast team builds our communities and what we create so there is continuity in our lives and the spaces we inhabit and to ensure that we protect diversity and creative thinking. We call it cultural resilience. 

Have you seen more cognizant efforts toward building for the future with sustainability in mind? 

Lee:  From a climate change perspective, we have been building at a higher elevation, which has been mostly code-driven. Having said that, we have worked on projects where our client has voluntarily built higher than the codes require. Miami Beach has been extremely aggressive in its efforts to raise sea walls to deal with issues stemming from sea level rise. As far as our clients, everybody is technologically savvy, so a lot of the smart home amenities that were reserved for the elite level of homes are becoming a more common feature in homes. We find a lot of our younger clients, in particular, prefer that kind of addition.

Burnett: There is a significant level of agreement across the industry related to what we are facing and where we need to go. It is only a matter of how and there are varying perspectives to harness. Our government agencies, utilities, partners, clients, insurance agencies and lenders all commonly understand the need to mitigate prevalent risks and maintain our quality of life. There is power in the collective movement and I am optimistic about our future and path. 

What does the rest of the year look like for your company?

Lee: Shorecrest has a couple of projects that will still happen as well as some ongoing projects that are still running, including a condominium at the Continuum South Beach and several single-family residences in South Florida. We have two luxury clubs and restaurants right on Miami Beach and the owners of those projects are still very bullish on the construction. I think there will be more of an influx of people who have been coming into Miami from the Northeast because they no longer want to live in such dense cities and prefer to live in a place like Florida. I predict that there will be a recovery in Miami relatively quickly. 

Burnett: We have been quite busy, which is a reflection of the busy private development market. Projects are moving forward and the entire development community is gearing up for when the play button is pressed. In 2009, during the H1N1 outbreak, we established a pandemic committee, granting us an effective way to respond quickly to the pandemic and set up a remote work setting. Fast forward to today: Our productivity levels have allowed us to meet established deadlines and keep projects moving forward, continuing business as usual. Our current outlook for 2021 does not project significant levels of interruption. We want to continue to support that in any way we can. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.stantec.com/en

https://shorecrestgc.com/

 

 

Charlotte provides relief now while thinking about the future

Charlotte provides relief now while thinking about the future

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read August  2020 From a census count, to civil unrest, to the health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be a pivotal year for the nation. And though uncertainty has remained constant throughout the year so far, the Queen City’s infrastructure investments, diverse business climate and access to talent continue to draw interest from companies and new residents. As the pandemic continues to change the way Charlotteans live, work and play, however, city leaders are juggling the precarious task of providing relief for residents now, while contemplating the future development and growth expected in the Queen City. 

 

From workforce development efforts to small business relief, state, municipal and banking leaders are working to mitigate the pandemic’s immediate economic impact. In August, in an effort to continue to help embattled renters and homeowners, the Charlotte City Council approved an additional $8 million of federal stimulus funding to expand the existing Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program (RAMP CLT). Since April, more than 1,500 households have received $1.4 million in mortgage, rent, hotel and utilities relief and upfront housing assistance due to COVID-19, the city reported. Individuals earning 80% or below the average median income who face COVID-19 hardships and cannot make housing payments may apply for rent or mortgage assistance.

Though the pandemic-infused economic contraction has hit the Charlotte metro area, the region continues to be a favorable destination for new residents. The Charlotte metro continued to be a major draw for new residents coming from the East Coast and as far as California, global property investment giant Jones Lang LaSalle reported in August. “New residents have been drawn by a robust job market, lower cost of living and more pleasant climate,” JLL wrote in its “Tracking population migration in Charlotte” snapshot report. “Year over year migration from the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro increased by 450%,” while “in-migration from California has increased by 500% year over year as the California diaspora moves further east,” JLL found. 

Charlotte’s appeal to new residents, business owners and companies will likely drive commercial and residential development demand as the region moves past the pandemic. In an effort to maximize the value of development projects expected to come to the city, Charlotte city leaders are considering implementing impact fees on property developers to cover public services for new developments, including any new infrastructure needed. These fees can also help create public green space, support schools and parks, as well as fund public transportation projects. 

Leading the effort on the impact fees proposal is Taiwo Jaiyeoba, assistant city manager and director of Planning, Design and Development, who is expected to present a proposal to the city manager in the coming months, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. Impact fees are vehemently opposed by developers who say the fees can potentially stifle development projects. Additionally, to move forward with impact fees, the city will have to receive permission from the state legislature, which has traditionally opposed the measure. 

During these uncertain times, sound insights and collaboration between the public and private sectors will be pivotal in ensuring financial recovery for both businesses and residents. To learn more about the future of development in Charlotte, register now for the Invest:Charlotte 2020 Virtual Launch Conference. The conference takes place on Sept. 10 at 11:30 a.m. The virtual conference will feature two robust panels, including “The future of development in the Charlotte region,” moderated by Taiwo Jaiyeoba, assistant city manager and director of Planning, Design and Development, and featuring Zach Pannier, business unit leader, DPR Construction; Marcie Williams, president, RKW Residential; Clay Grubb, CEO, Grubb Properties; and Lawrence Shaw, managing partner, Colliers International.

 

To learn more, visit:

https://www.us.jll.com/en/views/snapshots/charlotte-snapshot-8-3-2020

https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07eh85c9d965e383fa&oseq=&c=&ch=

 

Tourism in Orlando pushing forward despite rise in COVID-19 cases

Tourism in Orlando pushing forward despite rise in COVID-19 cases

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read July 2020 — It has been almost six months since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. Within days, each sector of the economy had to discover new ways to keep businesses afloat despite being forced to close their doors. Unlike banking and technology, tourism relies on almost every aspect of life that is now restricted, like travel and face-to-face interaction. For cities like Orlando, tourism is a major factor in the economy, to the tune of $75 billion a year.

 

 Tourism supports an estimated 41% of Orlando’s workforce. Around 463,000 jobs have been affected and millions of dollars worth of wages are being lost each day during the area’s local tourism shut down. Tourism also accounts for $5.8 billion in state and local taxes, finances which go to support local schools, roads and other crucial services, according to Visit Orlando. The city’s resilience, however, is proving that it is not going to let a microscopic organism bring it down as tourism continues to push forward.

Although the hotel industry has been wrestling with obstacles caused by COVID-19, activity in that area is starting to gain traction again. One example is the development of a five-star convention hotel that was recently announced. Summa Development Group LLC has proposed a 33-story project in Thornton Park and the construction is expected to begin sometime next year, according to Orlando Business Journal. As for the big players like Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios, they too have begun to jump-start their operations. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot officially opened on July 15. Universal Studios welcomed guests back to its park on June 5, after almost two and a half months of closure. Of course, the theme parks will each have their own updated operational guidelines, including mandatory face coverings, temperature checks and social distancing regulations.  

When we first made the decision in March 2020 to close Universal Orlando Resort in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we didn’t know how long it would be for. We didn’t know what the future held or what a reopening would entail … Getting us here has been an in-depth process, and I am incredibly proud of the ways our Team Members have listened to experts and implemented new operational guidelines for the safety of our guests. At Universal Orlando Resort, we are following what we’re calling the three Ss. That’s screening, meaning we’re taking everybody’s temperature before they enter; sanitization, because we are constantly sanitizing areas and high-touch surfaces in the parks; and spacing, providing markings and reminders throughout our resort so guests can socially distance themselves from other parties,” said Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando Resort, in a welcome back letter. 

It’s safe to say that tourism is the bloodline of Orlando’s economy. While there is hope for a new beginning and a new normal after the pandemic, the city isn’t in the clear just yet. Despite every attempt by public officials to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, cases continue to surge and hospitals are starting to fill up. On July 19, Florida reported 10,328 new positive COVID-19 cases and 90 Florida resident deaths related to COVID-19. Orlando has been listed as the second highest city, behind Miami, with the most confirmed number of COVID-19 cases, according to The Florida Department of Health

 

Real estate development is booming in Fort Lauderdale

Real estate development is booming in Fort Lauderdale

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read –  Real estate development in Fort Lauderdale is getting a jolt of confidence despite the lingering impact of COVID-19. On March 24, a majority of businesses were forced to shut down after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide shelter-in-place order. However, construction companies, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations and other essential businesses were allowed to carry on with work as usual.

 

Florida is just one of several states that allowed construction to continue despite nationwide shutdowns. Similar to many other regions in the area, development is a vital part of Fort Lauderdale’s economy. The construction industry is projected to have the largest industry increase in employment from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

A strong signal of the confidence in the market is a recent move by Oko Group, an international real estate development firm founded by Vladislav Doronin. It is the first company to close a large deal since the beginning of COVID-19. The firm recently purchased 6.68 acres of land east of the county courthouse in Downtown Fort Lauderdale for $62.59 million. “Oko Group is excited to expand its portfolio of South Florida real estate with the acquisition of a mixed-use development site in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s urban core,” the developer said in a statement reported by South Florida Business Journal. “The Oko Group team, led by Doronin, now looks forward to working with the city of Fort Lauderdale to finalize plans for an exceptional development that will help to further transform the Downtown district while adding significant amenities for nearby residents and businesses.”

The majority of developments in the pipeline for Fort Lauderdale will most likely be residential. Retail and office real estate have proven themselves to be the weakest sectors in the market during the pandemic. “Prior to COVID-19, South Florida’s real estate sector was very strong, propelled by the demand and low interest rates. I think the commercial office market may see a bit of a correction. So many people are working from home and I imagine that most of them are going to continue to do that the rest of the year. I think business owners are getting more comfortable allowing their employees to work remotely. So far, the industrial and residential markets have proven themselves to be the strongest sectors in the real estate industry during the pandemic. I don’t think we’ll see any correction there. Currently, at Touchstone Webb Realty Company, we are watching retail and commercial as we move forward. We think it is going to take a good year before we see this sector begin to correct. We are still purchasing industrial and flex spaces for our clients,” Susan Thomas, president of Touchstone Webb Realty Company, told Invest: Palm Beach.

As Thomas mentioned, CDC regulations like social distancing have compelled more people to want to work from home. As a result, business owners could require less office space. Fairfield Cypress Creek is just one example of this trend. The new mixed-use project is currently underway between 6500 and 6520 N. Andrews Ave. The land which was originally occupied by office buildings will now hold 295 residential units, shops and restaurants. A new downtown could be another exciting project on the horizon for Broward County. Broward is recruiting a large company to relocate to the 140 acres next to the Everglades in Sunrise. “It’s one of the last few pieces you could make a statement. We really want to market this site internationally, not just nationally,” County Manager Bertha told the Sun Sentinel. 

 

 

Charlotte: Toe to Toe with Coronavirus

Charlotte: Toe to Toe with Coronavirus

By: Felipe Rivas

4 min read June 2020—The tenacity of the coronavirus has challenged, and at times highlighted, the economic strength of cities across the nation. While the pandemic has severely bruised the Queen City’s economy, the city’s dexterity and sound fundamentals are helping to soften the blow as Charlotte recoups and prepares for an uncertain future. 

 

Marked by serious losses and promising victories, June has been a roller coaster of economic activity for the Charlotte Metro Region. Unexpectedly, the city’s hospitality sector, an already embattled segment of the economy, suffered a further blow when President Donald Trump and Republican leaders swiftly yanked the Republican National Convention (RNC) out of Charlotte after coronavirus-related concerns prevented North Carolina leaders from guaranteeing a fully operational Spectrum Center, hotels and other amenities. But as Charlotte reeled from this sudden blow, the region jabbed back at the coronavirus-related adversity with positive job expansion and promising rezoning announcements slated to be catalysts for growth in the near future. 

Two years of RNC preparations vanished as RNC leaders decided to move more than half of the August festivities to Jacksonville, Florida. Since winning the bid to host the 2020 RNC in 2018, the host committee and Charlotte’s hospitality and business leaders have toiled to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for the thousands of delegates, journalists, and visitors expected for the event. However, as government and business leaders entered 2020 confident about the state of the economy, the contingency plans unsurprisingly failed to factor in a global pandemic and the subsequent reduction in major events and large gatherings of people. 

In late May, in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, RNC leaders demanded that Charlotte, which remains in a state of emergency, guarantee a “full convention,” and “full hotels and restaurants, and bars at full capacity,” according to a response letter published by the governor’s office. Citing uncertainty and the state of the coronavirus come August, Gov. Cooper said planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity. “As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the Convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Gov. Cooper wrote to the RNC leaders. “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.” 

This lack of guarantee prompted RNC leaders and President Trump to move three of the four convention days to Jacksonville, according to different news sources. Charlotte will host the first day of the convention, with the traditional speeches and fanfare occurring in Jacksonville. The convention is scheduled to run Aug. 24-27.  

“We wanted to host the RNC because we hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and so we want to prove to the world that we are capable of delivering high-quality events,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles told Invest: Charlotte in the spring, before the RNC decision. She further explained the advantages for Charlotte: “It is a great branding opportunity for the city, as we expect up to 50,000 people, including many international journalists, to visit during the event. It will also provide a huge boost to our hospitality industry.” she said. The convention was expected to generate more than $150 million in revenue for the area’s restaurants, bars and hotels, the Charlotte Observer reported.  

As the hospitality and tourism sector begins to gather its composure after such a punch, Charlotte heavyweights aim to continue to strengthen the region’s foundation. Two significant redevelopments projects moved forward on Monday after receiving unanimous approval from city leaders. Rezonings were approved for the redevelopment of Atrium Health’s Midtown flagship campus and the former Eastland Mall property in east Charlotte, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. 

Atrium Health, the region’s largest employer, seeks to rezone close to 70 acres at the Carolina Medical Center to accommodate a live, work, and play environment, complete with a new bed tower, rehabilitation hospital, office space, affordable housing and more. In 2019, Atrium Health announced more than $1.5 billion investment in the Charlotte metropolitan area to help build new infrastructure, including new hospitals and medical facilities, President and CEO Gene Woods Told Invest:Charlotte in the spring. “This is about more than just adding brick and mortar. It’s about investing in this community because this is the place our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones call home, and we want to see it continue to thrive,” Woods said. “As the major healthcare system in the state of North Carolina, we know we can play a key role in helping our economy flourish as well.”

The Eastland rezoning includes close to 78 acres of mostly city-owned property, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. The site will be the future headquarters of the yet-to-be-named Charlotte Major League Soccer team, owned by business leader David Tepper. Similar to the Atrium Health project, Eastland will be the site of mixed-use development featuring residential units, office and retail space, and athletic fields. 

And while these projects are expected to pay dividends to the community in the future, the region scored significant economic development victories on Tuesday when Chime Solution and Ross Stores announced the addition of 250 and 700 jobs respectively to the region’s economy. 

Georgia-based Chime Solutions, a provider of customer contact services for several industries, will add jobs for licensed life and health insurance agents and will pay $16 an hour and include training and licensing,  WFAE reported Chime Solutions  opened an office in the University City area last fall. Leading off-price apparel and home fashion retail chain Ross Stores Inc. announced it will expand its distribution and warehousing operations in York County, according to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The company’s $68 million investment is projected to create 700 new jobs over five years. 

To learn more, visit:

https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/2020_06_02_RNC-Response-Letter.pdf

https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2020/06/16/eastland-mall-atrium-health-rezoning.html

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/rnc-2020/article243540772.html

https://charlotteregion.com/index.php?src=news&submenu=Relocation_Expansions&srctype=detail&category=Investor%20News&refno=8639&hurl=n

https://www.wfae.org/post/charlotte-says-chime-solutions-250-job-expansion-offers-economic-mobility#stream/0

 

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read June 2020 —Global design and engineering firm Stantec likes to think beyond traditional traits to focus on building communities,  Senior Principal Andrew Burnett told Invest: Miami in an interview. The company goal is to deliver continuity while protecting diversity and creative thinking. Stantec calls it “cultural resilience.”

 

 

What recent Stantec landmarks in the Miami-Dade region would you like to share? 

Recent landmark projects in full swing include Wynwood Square, a 12-story mixed-use facility that includes apartments and retail space; the 30-story YotelPAD Miami condo and hotel project under construction; and a 43-story Luma tower in Miami’s Worldcenter. And there are a lot of new projects to be announced soon and currently coming on board. Each asset within our portfolio contributes to our growth in the creative services space, beyond architecture and interior design, but also engineering and resilience. We think beyond traditional physical traits and focus on how our vast team builds our communities and what we create so there is continuity in our lives and the spaces we inhabit and to ensure that we protect diversity and creative thinking. We call it cultural resilience. 

How has your emphasis on cultural resilience unlocked your success? 

From a business perspective, a model that focuses on a single person is inherently limited to that individual. Whereas a business with tremendous expertise and resources in multiple channels, like Stantec, focuses on collaboration and the bandwidth to achieve more. When we empower people and foster collaboration, we are able to affect more positive change, get more involved in opportunities and better affect our clients’ bottom line. 

How would you rate local industry efforts on environmental resilience? 

There is a significant level of agreement across the industry related to what we are facing and where we need to go. It is only a matter of how and there are varying perspectives to harness. Our government agencies, utilities, partners, clients, insurance agencies and lenders all commonly understand the need to mitigate prevalent risks and maintain our quality of life. There is power in the collective movement and I am optimistic about our future and path. 

What opportunities and innovations can we expect from the post-COVID-19 period? 

There is a shift of trust and working in a different way. It may pose opportunities to bring in industry experts who normally could not access a project in South Florida. Now, they can have an influence and we can tap into knowledge we may not have been able to tap into before. Companies can even attract a different type of workforce that we could not attract before by operating with new flexibility. Also, we take proximity for granted and do not always make the best use of our time because of it. When it is an amenity or a luxury, you make better use of it. 

What will 2020-21 look like for Stantec and Miami-Dade? 

We have been quite busy, which is a reflection of the busy private development market. Projects are moving forward and the entire development community is gearing up for when the play button is pressed. In 2009, during the H1N1 outbreak, we established a pandemic committee, granting us an effective way to respond quickly to the pandemic and set up a remote work setting. Fast forward to today: Our productivity levels have allowed us to meet established deadlines and keep projects moving forward, continuing business as usual. Our current outlook for 2021 does not project significant levels of interruption. We want to continue to support that in any way we can. 

To learn more, visit: 

https://www.stantec.com/en

 

 

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19-related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus.

 In the Peach State, a region known for its sound business environment and one of the first states to reopen its economy, leaders across economic sectors in Atlanta are analyzing the opportunities and possible innovations created as a result of the virus outbreak. For the legal industry, an industry already comfortable with remote work prior to COVID-19, technology is at the forefront of the evolution of the sector’s business model and best practices. “I believe that remote depositions, virtual oral arguments, and maybe even some virtual trials are here to stay,” Holland & Knight Immediate Past Executive Partner J. Allen Maines told Focus: Atlanta. “These new technologies are easy to arrange and the cost-benefit analysis is pretty compelling for implementation, although It may still be necessary to have an in-person interview in order to size up the credibility of key witnesses. The virus has forced law firms to accelerate their adoption of technology and training,” he said. As businesses and law firms embrace the benefits of balancing in-person and remote work, it is likely the need for office space will change as well. “Currently, law firms can do everything electronically and remotely. I would expect law firms will not use the amount of office space that was customary in the past,” Maines said.   

The coronavirus landscape may possibly have positive residual effects related to work-life balance for lawyers and the way in which law firms think about pro bono work. “Hopefully, one permanent change will be a focus on the well-being of lawyers, which has been real positive during this time,” Maines said. “Another positive that has emerged has been an even greater pro bono assistance to the underserved and vulnerable communities. A lot of our clients have employees in the gig and hospitality industry and it has been rewarding to help them get through this period.”

Similarly, for Atlanta’s construction sector, some projects were halted as a result of the initial COVID-19-related shocks, while other projects continued a successful trajectory. “The COVID-19 crisis was completely unpredictable, which has caused significant disruption to the economy,” DPR Construction Business Unit Leader Chris Bontrager told Focus: Atlanta. “We have continued to see success in the healthcare sector through March and April but some of the private commercial work has been put on hold. So far, we have weathered the storm very well,” he said. DPR has been running multiple scenarios to account for the current volatile economic cycle. “No one knows the true impact of COVID-19. Relatively speaking, the Southeast is doing well. The market was very strong prior to COVID-19 and our industry was deemed essential from day one in the Georgia market. We have had some projects that we were unable to start but we have not had any ongoing projects that were shut down,” Bontrager said. “It feels like most contractors will maintain a positive year for 2020 due to a strong backlog going into this recession and the construction community won’t truly feel the recession until the first half of 2021. If the project owners move forward with current plans, we will finish the year at or just below our current business goals.”

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.hklaw.com/en/professionals/m/maines-j-allen

https://www.dpr.com/company/leadership/chris-bontrager

 

 

Spotlight On: Randy Hall, President & CEO, Batson-Cook Construction

Spotlight On: Randy Hall, President & CEO, Batson-Cook Construction

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020 — Despite the prevalent challenges of construction costs and a depleted talent pool, Atlanta continues to showcase growth and a business-friendly environment for construction players. In an interview with Invest:Atlanta, Randy Hall, President and CEO of Batson-Cook Construction, talks about how his company is thriving in the market and tackling the issues the sector faces.

 

 

How did Batson-Cook’s perform in 2019?

We have been in the Atlanta area for six decades. 2019 was a good year for Batson-Cook.    We are approaching $700 million in revenues as a company and exceeded our business expectations in 2019. We launched several construction projects across the Southeast in 2019 and some new ones in 2020. The most prominent to break ground is Emory University’s Winship at Midtown cancer facility. We work for all the healthcare systems around town, from Northside Emory, Piedmont, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, to name a few. Historically, half of our business is in healthcare, the other half is in commercial construction. We are primarily a Southeastern-based contracting firm; however, in 2019 we opened an office in Dallas and we are growing our presence there. Even through the pandemic, new work continues to be widespread. We have received several new project awards through the second quarter of 2020.

 

How are construction companies tapping into the demographic and economic synergies of the Southeast region?

We follow the demographics in the areas where our offices are located. Each city has its own personality and needs. Batson-Cook does its best to be flexible and agile to serve those needs by offering a diverse suite of services and expertise across the Southeast. The Southeast still enjoys constant migration flows from inhabitants in the Northeast and the West Coast. Of our seven offices, Atlanta is by far the largest in terms of revenue. Atlanta’s airport and its pro-business environment are major catalysts for continued growth in Atlanta.

 

How are construction companies and academic institutions collaborating to cater to talent needs?

Our recruiting team dedicates a significant amount of time to interactions with 10 different academic institutions. We intensely promote internships at different levels in collaboration with college institutions that have construction programs. We employ between 40 and 50 interns each summer and 30-40 year round. We are delighted with our relationship with higher education institutions across the state of Georgia. Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern are the best recruiting grounds for talented young people who share our core corporate values. Historically, more than 90 percent of our interns accept our job offers at the end of their internship.

 

How are you navigating the prevalent challenges the construction industry faces?

Most of the work that Batson-Cook does involves a significant portion of pre-construction. We understand how to manage the construction process and by getting involved early in the design phase, we can maximize the opportunity to complete a project as economically for our clients as possible. An uptick in construction costs impacts the entire value chain. We are constantly looking for better ways to build so owners can achieve what they are looking for at the lowest cost possible. 

 

We are proud to work in an industry that is considered essential in the United States. All our projects have continued to work successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because our industry continues to suffer from a shortage of qualified labor, we are hopeful that unemployed workers will find the construction industry to be a viable alternative to their previous place of work.

 

What is your outlook toward 2021?

Even though the hospitality market has been dramatically impacted by COVID-19, more so than the other spaces that we work in, we still see opportunities for hospitality. Healthcare systems continue to expand and grow; however, funds are being shifted from capital expenditure budgets to operations. We are optimistic that impacts to the healthcare industry due to the pandemic will not dramatically impact future construction work. 

 

To learn more, visit: http://www.batson-cook.com/