Staying connected: ‘Saturday Soiree’ in Palm Beach

Staying connected: ‘Saturday Soiree’ in Palm Beach

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020 — The novel coronavirus forced a global halt to major international, regional and local events. From the NBA season to networking conferences, all gatherings of any size stopped abruptly in an effort to flatten the curve and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from spreading further. However, as the population at large becomes accustomed to social distancing, stay at home orders and self quarantining, many events went from a hard stop to full speed ahead virtually. As the business community adjusts to the challenges of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, many institutions are building value and maintaining relationships with patrons by maximizing the use of webinars, online classes, video conferences and even virtual happy hours. 

In its “Staying Connected” series, Invest: is talking to leaders in various markets about their efforts to, well … stay connected.

In Palm Beach, a region known for its daily community outdoor events and weekend parties,  institutions have had to shift to online platforms to preserve the community feel and give people an escape from social distancing. The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority did just that by hosting a party with musicians online. “This past saturday, we hosted what was to have been an outdoor event called ‘the Saturday Soiree’ with musicians and we streamed it throughout social media and let each one of them have their set,” Executive Director Raphael Clemente told Invest: Palm Beach. “It was a big success and gave us ideas on how to keep Downtown top of mind,” he said. 

The authority is focusing on being a support system for residents and Downtown business leaders in this period of economic uncertainty. “We meet with a lot of stakeholders, and internally. I am loving Skype and Zoom. We have gone to these platforms as everyone else has. As a team, a big part of our conversation was how we can do our job of marketing and sharing information, but keeping top of mind the sensitivity of people right now to their business issues,” Clemente said. “It is not just what we are saying, but how we are saying it. Also, just picking up the phone, versus using only email, is an important thing to do.”

The video conference platform, Zoom, has quickly become ubiquitous across the virtual events space. Across economic sectors, different institutions are taking advantage of Zoom and similar platforms. To host a successful virtual event, event planners must decide between hosting a virtual meeting or a webinar. “If you expect attendees to mostly just listen,” the best option is a webinar, Zoom advises as part of its digital event best practices. “When you need more back and forth between the audience and the host,” planners should choose a virtual meeting, the platform advises. 

Once the type of digital event has been narrowed down, hosts should hardwire the internet connection to prevent any Wi-Fi-related hiccups or virtual lag. In terms of audio, hosts should test speakers and audio prior to the meeting and minimize any background noise, according to Zoom. Additionally, hosts should dress to impress and make sure to start the virtual event on time. It is important to set the tone of the event and encourage Q&A’s during the virtual meeting or webinar. As a best practice, Zoom recommends the use of the Chat function to keep track of questions and comments. For larger webinars, Zoom offers a PayPal integration to charge the registration fees seamlessly. 

For the time being, social distancing will be part of the mainstream business landscape until at least May. However, many institutions are adjusting and pivoting more and more to the virtual hosting model to build value, share information and regain a sense of community in a time where residents are being asked to self-isolate as much as possible.  

To learn more visit: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/04/best-practices-for-hosting-a-digital-event/

https://downtownwpb.com/

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Regional Market President, Seacoast Bank

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Regional Market President, Seacoast Bank

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020 — Over the last few years, consolidation and mergers and acquisitions have dominated the banking industry. In Florida, as the population continues to grow and the financial sector diversifies further, the Palm Beach market remains vital for banks looking to grow their operations in the state. With the recent acquisition of First Bank of the Palm Beaches, Seacoast Bank is positioning itself to take full advantage of the opportunities within the Palm Beach market. In an interview with Invest: Palm Beach, Regional Market President Chuck Cross talks about the strength of the Palm Beach market, the evolution of the banking sector and his outlook for the industry during an economic downturn.

How did Seacoast Bank perform in 2019?

Seacoast Bank once again delivered a record-breaking financial performance in 2019, propelled by a balanced growth strategy. We combined solid, organic growth with smart acquisitions and careful cost control that enabled us to outperform our peers. Seacoast Bank produced double-digit growth and net revenues of $297.8 million. Overall, Seacoast Bank’s goals are focused on growth and Palm Beach County is an important contributor to that growth. Our recent acquisition of First Bank of the Palm Beaches increases our presence in the county from six to eight branches and grows our total deposits to $821 million. When you consider the strength and overall growth of the economy in Palm Beach County, we see the demand for banking services increasing. We are well-positioned to service that growth in Palm Beach County.

How has the banking sector evolved over the last couple of years?

The banking sector has seen a lot of consolidation in the last 10 years, and I think we will continue to see that. Customers are looking for more ways to bank remotely. As banks compete for customers, it is likely they will increase the number of products and services available in their remote channels. The key for a successful merger and acquisition is to integrate and consolidate well and to win over the hearts of acquired customers by providing the convenient products and services of larger banks, but with the personalized attention of a hometown community bank.

What can be done to level the playing field when it comes to credit unions?

The Florida Bankers Association has pushed for legislation to close the loopholes for the mega credit union, those with over $1 billion in assets, and to impose CRA requirements and corporate taxes. Today, there are more than 360 credit unions with more than $1 billion in assets. The majority of credit unions still live up to the intent of the legislation, as they are small and focused, but some of them have grown and may not fit the original intent of the law.

How do you see the banking industry performing during an economic downturn?

The banking industry is federally regulated to make sure that banks remain solvent even in a downturn. Since the last downturn, the Florida banking industry has undergone major consolidation. The winners will be those that manage to deliver the services and technologies that the big banks are known for while still maintaining the high standards of personalized customer services that we all know and love in the community banking environment.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:https://www.seacoastbank.com/

Spotlight On: Renee Jadusingh, Executive Director, Delray Beach CRA

Spotlight On: Renee Jadusingh, Executive Director, Delray Beach CRA

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read March 2020The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was established by the City Commission in 1985 to guide the city in its redevelopment efforts. The purpose of the CRA is to revitalize the physical environment and the economy of the Community Redevelopment Area. The CRA’s activities are designed to solve the underlying problems of slum and blighted conditions through planning, redevelopment, historic preservation, economic development and affordable housing.

What is the key characteristic for a successful CRA?

Communication is a very important component for investment. We need to communicate what we have done and where we are going to attract the right investment. A focus for us on a city level is the Northwest-Southwest neighborhood, which is an Opportunity Zone. We have the land and are open to working with a third party to develop it. In this area, we want to have a continuation of Downtown from I-95 all the way to the beachfront. That is a shared goal between the Chamber of Commerce, the City Commissioners and the CRA. We provide resources to help small businesses grow, including funding, help with business plans, research, investment guidance and grant and federal funding applications.

How do you balance support for small businesses with trying to attract bigger companies to the area?

As a CRA, we have programs that are available for businesses that want to renovate or relocate into the area. We provide funding for up to a year to help businesses with their rent, which encourages people to come to our district. We have programs to renovate structures through investment funds. We also acquire property to turn around to developers through an RFP process such as 4th and 5th Delray and the Fairfield Inn, which is a land-lease with an option to purchase.

How are you avoiding the pitfalls that come with gentrification, such as affordable housing and connectivity?

Affordable housing is a big part of our mission. We have always worked with the community land trust, which the CRA and the city created to help with affordable housing issues. The city has a workforce housing ordinance that provides a density bonus for developers that provide housing for certain income levels. We have a 7-acre redevelopment project taking place in the Northwest-Southwest area, which is taking advantage of that density bonus. As a CRA, we are in the process of building 30 single-family homes in this neighborhood.

In the commercial segment, we are looking at building out two spaces. One is a property we purchased in 2018. At first, we allocated it to housing but we realized there was more of a need for office space and changed directions. The top floor will be a coworking space with some individual offices, hot desks and a shared desk area. The ground floor will be traditional office space and perhaps a restaurant. If we own this, we can control the rent, which will help companies grow, but at some point, this would be turned over to a management company. We are open to opportunities for partnerships in the meantime.

The other project is a vacant piece of land on Southwest 5th Avenue, which is a historic business district that thrived in the 1950s among the African American population. Our focus is to bring back activity into that corridor. We are in the design phase to build a two-story office space in the building and this could be an investment opportunity for a third party. The Arts Warehouse is in the Arts Alley area, and we renovated this into an arts incubator, so we have about 15 artists renting small spaces at a rate of $2.50 per square foot. There is also a gallery in this space where people can apply to display their work. We are also putting about $2 million into the ground infrastructure in the Arts Alley district.

How are you attracting young entrepreneurs, especially in the tech sector, to Delray Beach?

The kind of investments we are making on Northwest 5th Avenue demonstrates that. One is a coworking space and we also are renovating a more modern-looking building. If they come to us, we direct them to the right avenues to encourage their ideas. But ultimately, after the business plan, they need a place to go, and that’s where the CRA comes in. The 7-acre project requires that at least three business spaces are used for locals, so we can keep encouraging local young businesses to grow and thrive. The Arts Warehouse is not a traditional gallery and is definitely a novel concept.

We invest a lot of money with the city to do the underground, which is not necessarily an attractive investment, but it is necessary. The infrastructure has to be there to support the growth of an area. To help encourage businesses, we contribute that development, otherwise it may fall to the developer. This is our way of encouraging businesses to come here.

What are some of your main goals for 2020?

The investment in the Northwest-Southwest corridor is our most important project. We are also investing in a park where famous tennis players, such as the Williams sisters, trained. To date, we have invested about $3 million in a $25 million project that is intended to concentrate activity in this area. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://delraycra.org/

Stay hopeful: Handling coronavirus-related stress in Palm Beach County

Stay hopeful: Handling coronavirus-related stress in Palm Beach County

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read March 2020 — With constant updates on the coronavirus and its impact on the United States, social media posts displaying frenzied buying, and closure of schools and other municipal buildings, it is easy to stress and feel coronavirus-related anxiety. As you monitor the news for the latest coronavirus developments in Palm Beach County, here are a few ways to make daily life under this changing landscape more bearable.

Try that new restaurant you were craving, via takeout or delivery of course

Many states and municipalities are enforcing early curfews or closing dine-in options altogether in the midst of the coronavirus. However, that does not mean you have to forego that delicious entree or amazing dessert you were craving. Go ahead and treat yourself to succulent food by perusing the different delivery options UberEats, Grubhub, and Delray’s own Delivery Dudes have to offer. Delivery Dudes and the like offer favorite, local restaurant options to enjoy if you are shacked up with the little ones and their homework duties, or neck deep with remote work.     

Go out for a beach walk

As government leaders encourage social distancing, this may be the best time to get in touch with nature and disconnect from the stress brought on by the coronavirus talks. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach is the perfect place to stay six feet away from people and then some. Though events have been canceled, the park remains open until further notice and is encouraging beach walks. Dip your feet in the sand, stretch, and breathe in the Palm Beach air as you take a mental break from the news and other worries. 

Connect with others

In this particularly stressful period, it is easy to sulk and retreat from others, especially with talks of self-isolation and quarantine. However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends to use this time to reach out to others who may also feel stressed and anxious due to the coronavirus pandemic. The administration recommends that reaching out to those you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness and boredom during the possibility of social distancing, quarantine and isolation. SAMHSA recommends to use telephone, email, text or email messaging, as well as Skype and other video conferencing services to stay in touch with loved ones and friends. The administration recommends to maintain a hopeful and positive attitude during this time and to consider keeping a journal to write down grateful and positive thoughts. 

Family staycations:

Staycations have been part of the social conscience for some years, and now is the time to perfect the coveted family staycation. Use this time to have some fun with the entire family as schools and workplaces transition into online classes and remote work. Come up with an after-dinner family movie list or interactive project. Maybe it’s time to dust off those boardgames or old books littering the garage, and why not do some spring cleaning while you’re at it. Perhaps a family dance-off or storytelling competition could help break the monotony of being indoors and bring the family closer together. Try it out. With so much time indoors, it is the perfect time to enjoy family time in a totally new fashion. 

To learn more, visit: 

https://deliverydudes.com/

https://www.macarthurbeach.org/

https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma14-4894.pdf

For up-to-date advice on the Coronavirus response, you can check the CDC website here.  For Florida-specific information, click here

Top 5 Tourism Drivers for The Palm Beaches

Top 5 Tourism Drivers for The Palm Beaches

By Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read October 2019 —  With more than 8 million visitors to Palm Beach County in 2018, it’s no secret that tourism is the driving force behind the economy in The Palm Beaches. Last year, these visitors generated $7.4 billion in economic impact and are the reason for over 70,000 tourism jobs. While the appeal of a relaxing beach vacation may seem like the obvious tourist magnet, there are so many different and unique facets of the county that drive the economic behemoth that is the tourism sector. Here is the Invest: Top 5 tourism drivers for The Palm Beaches

BEACHES

Palm Beach County is bordered by 47 miles of Atlantic coastline that offer some of the state’s most attractive beaches. These include Boynton Beach Ocean Park, Coral Cove Park, Juno Beach Park and many more, with a large portion of these beaches offering resort amenities and marine activities. The Palm Beach County coastline was also nicknamed Florida’s Gold Coast after gold was recovered from Spanish galleons that sank off its shores. A fitting nickname for beaches that are like gold to the Florida economy. Invest: spoke with Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, who touched on the importance of the beaches to the tourism industry in the county. “Leisure remains the most crucial tourism driver for The Palm Beaches, with meetings and conventions continuing to gain momentum. Within the leisure tourism market, our beaches are the biggest draw for not only those seeking to relax and rejuvenate, but also those interested in activities such as boating, fishing, scuba diving, kayaking and paddleboarding,” Pesquera told Invest:. 

You can learn more about the county’s best beaches here: https://www.thepalmbeaches.com/blogs/best-beaches-are-palm-beaches

ARTS & CULTURE

Home to cultural institutions like the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, The Palm Beaches are an arts and culture hub that drives many cultural travelers to the area. Invest: discussed with Judith Mitchell, CEO for the Kravis Center, how this increased interest from out-of-town visitors has positively affected her business as well as those in the surrounding area. “Our strong programming and marketing teams ensure that we continue to bring the best of Broadway and other diverse performances that attract audiences from outside the state and from cities north and south of the Center. In 2018-2019, the Center saw an increase in out-of-county audience members by nearly 50%. This also has a positive economic impact on the surrounding hotels, restaurants and shops as these nonresident guests choose to dine, shop and stay overnight before or after attending a performance.” 

For more on the various arts and culture destinations in the county, visit: https://www.palmbeachculture.com/

SPORTS

For an area that doesn’t have a major professional sports franchise, the county’s tourism market has a strong driver in the sports tourism market. It helps that among Palm Beach County’s various monikers, one of the titles held most proudly is “The Golf Capital of Florida,” boasting more than 150 public and private golf courses. It also doesn’t hurt that Major League Baseball teams, namely the Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, call Palm Beach County their home during spring training. For those who prefer alternative sports, The Palm Beaches are also the location of polo and equestrian events, including a variety of International Polo Club tournaments. 

Interested in learning more about sports offerings in The Palm Beaches? Visit: https://www.palmbeachsports.com/

ECO-TOURISM

When a county boasts 110 parks and recreation facilities paired with 35 natural areas that make up more than 31,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands, it is bound to attract eco-tourists. This form of tourism may seem obscure from an outside perspective, but it not only can provide visitors with a memorable experience, it also provides health benefits as well. Invest: recently sat down with Deborah Drum, department director of Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management, who spoke to this tourism driver and its benefits. “We have conducted economic studies of our natural areas. We have over 300,000 visitors just to the natural areas in our county. These are remote areas that offer more passive types of recreation, including hiking, fishing or bird-watching. We have done a study with the University of Florida on this passive connection and we have determined that these visitors are coming for that purpose. There have also been a number of studies about the connection between mental health and time spent in natural areas or spent outside. There is a positive relationship between the reduction in mental health issues with more time spent out in nature,” Drum explained. 

Check out more on Palm Beach County’s Natural Areas Map: http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Pages/Natural-Areas-Map.aspx

MEETINGS & CONVENTIONS

There is a direct correlation between the increase in business tourism to The Palm Beaches and the economic and business growth that the county is enjoying. The beneficiaries from this driver of tourism are a wide range of business types, from hotels to restaurants and even retail. Discover The Palm Beaches’ Pesquera highlighted just how significant this is to the tourism market. “On the meetings front, we’ve seen a 567-percent increase over the last several years in groups booked at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Unlike our good friends in Miami and Fort Lauderdale — where there is a clear and established epicenter of tourism activity — The Palm Beaches are truly a collection of midsize to small cities and towns that altogether deliver an exceptional vacation or meeting experience,” Pesquera told Invest:.

For more on this and the tourism industry in Palm Beach County, visit: 

www.thepalmbeaches.com/

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

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

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

http://www.rivierabch.com/

Spotlight On: Rick Gonzalez, AIA, President, REG Architects, Inc.

Spotlight On: Rick Gonzalez, AIA, President, REG Architects, Inc.

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — Development of commercial and residential facilities is reliant upon well-thought-out and deliberate architecture and design. In a region like Palm Beach County, where there is a flurry of development and redevelopment happening, architectural and design firms like REG Architects, Inc. are in increasingly higher demand. REG Architects specializes in architecture, historic preservation, interior design and community planning, and Invest: Palm Beach had the opportunity to speak with company President Rick Gonzalez. He spoke to Invest: about the firm’s growth, its approach to design work, services that are in the highest demand and emerging trends due to the influx of young professionals into Palm Beach County.

What were some highlights for REG Architects in the past year?

 

One of the highlights was the celebration of our 30th anniversary last spring. We have been awarded some nice projects, like the campus for the Seacoast Utility Authority in Palm Beach Gardens, and we have also been doing new residential work. Last year was probably the best year in a decade, when we had the big recession, and 2019 has started very well.

What are some unique qualities that set REG Architects apart from other firms in the area?

 

Besides our longevity, our approach to design work sets us apart. We do a lot of historic preservation in our office; we like to use historic context when designing to be inspired by a historical place. For example, we worked on Mar-a-Lago for President Trump. We used the design of the place as inspiration. We try to use that in all of our projects, whether it is commercial, residential, equestrian, historic or mixed use. Most companies today tend to focus on cutting-edge or modern architecture, and I think there’s a good place for modern architecture, but we like to have a tie to the community.

 

Which of the firm’s services are seeing the most demand today?

 

We have a healthy balance between commercial, residential and governmental projects. In terms of design services, we do all our work now in Revit, which is a robust architectural design and documentation software application with a 3D modeling system. Animation is now important for clients and it is seeing high demand. We are also known for our design preservation work, and we get a lot of requests in those areas as well. 

 

Have you seen any emerging trends with more young professionals moving to the area?

 

People are picking the place first, and then they’re looking for the job. They want to come to exciting, invigorating places like downtown West Palm Beach or downtown Boca Raton — cities that are unique and well-positioned, where they can live, work, play and study in the same area. People also want to work in interconnected, open office spaces, and they want to live in smaller units with diverse community features, such as outdoor areas, swimming pools, decks, restaurants, shops and easy ways to get around town.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

http://www.regarchitects.com/

Spotlight On: Roxana Scaffidi, CEO and Owner, Florida Accounting & Advisers

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — There are multiple factors that attract people to Florida, including wonderful weather, a growing economy, an ecosystem that is conducive to successful businesses and perhaps most attractive, the tax climate. After the passage of the sweeping tax reform known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the tax climate in Florida only became more attractive to both people and businesses looking to relocate. Now, almost a year and a half since the reform has been in effect, there is a greater need for proficient accountants and financial professionals to help navigate this legislation. Invest: Palm Beach spoke with Roxana Scaffidi, CEO and owner of Florida Accounting & Advisers about how the new tax code is affecting people’s lives, the key to success within the accounting and financial world, and how she created a successful business in Palm Beach County. 

How have you seen the tax reform affect people’s lifestyle? 

The new tax code has really changed people’s lives, and we are now seeing certain individuals immigrating to Florida because of the business opportunities that the state offers and its quality of life. High income tax states include New York, California and Massachusetts, and those are the people coming here. To qualify for Florida’s tax benefits you must be a legal resident here, which means six months and one day of residency. Under the new tax laws, individuals are capped at $10,000 as a deduction for their state income taxes, personal property taxes and their sales tax. In addition, if they have a large mortgage on their house, the new tax code only allows them to deduct interest up to $750,000.

 

What is the key to success in this industry? 

The key in this industry is to be proactive rather than reactive. We observe what’s going on in the world today with the national and world economies. Everything is changing and as it changes you start to see more vacancies in areas where there used to be none. This is demonstrated with how Amazon has essentially killed a lot of the big-chain retail stores. To succeed in today’s market you need to stay on top of emerging trends and you can’t be afraid to point out these things.

 

To what do you credit the success of your business in Palm Beach County? 

When I started this company I knew that to run a successful business I needed to not only have a great product but also to always remain community-minded. As the 2018 Small Business of the Year recipients, I realized quickly that Boca Raton is very business and community-minded, so it was the perfect place to set up my business. I set out to build this business based on my values, knowing that those same values would translate to trust among our clients. In this business there is nothing more important than having your clients’ full support and trust.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.fl-accounting.com