Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read August 2020 — The coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of health, wellness, the essentiality of work, and the innovation that is possible in the midst of a constantly changing landscape. The global pandemic also shed light on the need for businesses and companies to ramp up their sustainability efforts, reduce their carbon footprints, support green initiatives and leave the world a better, cleaner place for future generations. In Palm Beach County, from the air to the ocean, local entrepreneurs are working hard to innovate in an effort to preserve the health of the planet in South Florida and beyond. 

For the past two years, local Palm Beach County resident and entrepreneur Tim Sperry has toiled to transform the ubiquity of paint into an air purifying instrument. His company, Smog Armor, is a solutions provider keenly focused on ending air pollution. With its slogan, “We innovate, you improve,” Smog Armor is committed to helping business owners and residents improve the air quality around them in an effort to eradicate air pollution. 

More than an eco-friendly paint, Smog Armor produces a water-based paint that is nontoxic, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and infused with enhanced zeolite minerals for maximum absorption of air pollutants. Sperry’s patented process is optimal for reducing air pollution for up to five years depending on the condition of the environment it is painted in. Multiple independent testing has shown Smog Armor paint to reduce 95.1% of indoor air pollution in one hour, while its Green Wise certification ensures it has zero VOCs. 

With a background in real estate and business, and a consuming passion for entrepreneurship and preservation of nature and environment, Sperry transitioned from a life as a restauranteur to a biotech entrepreneur. “I needed to come up with something that I was passionate about, fulfilled by. With my love for nature, I wanted to find a way to help nature and do something that I really enjoyed doing,” Sperry told Invest: Palm Beach. As someone with a sensitive respiratory system, he knew helping reduce air pollution would be the main path in his journey to innovation and preserving the environment. 

His journey began by attempting to reduce vehicle carbon emissions because at that time “that’s what I saw,” he said. He spent months on end researching the dense, esoteric, chemistry-related literature revolving around air pollution and efforts to reduce it. “I essentially became a self-taught chemist,” he said. “I had two computers open. One with the research, and another to decipher those readings.” Time and time again he read about zeolite, a negatively charged mineral that is extremely effective at trapping carbon emissions and airborne pollutants. He designed a series of exhaust tips infused with zeolite aimed at directly reducing CO₂ emissions from cars, conducting and measuring air quality with and without the specialty exhaust tip. His exhaust tips proved to reduce car emissions by as much as 80 to 90 percent, he said. But after driving around for a while with the specialty exhaust tip, he realized that the system was impractical for the average consumer because the tips would constantly fall off and would become saturated after a few months of use. After going back to the drawing board, his light bulb moment came when he considered replicating this process with paint rather than the exhaust tips.

“At that point, I had to try something new,” he said. “Everyone uses paint, so I am not teaching people new habits.” After months of researching the proper paint manufacturers, honing the formula and testing the air purification efficacy of the paint, Smog Armor was ready to cover the walls of commercial and residential buildings and beyond. Local hotels have already used Smog Armor paint to improve consumer confidence in the coronavirus landscape, Sperry said. On the community outreach end of the spectrum, the company has tapped into the power of the arts, collaborating with nonprofit organizations to create impactful murals that purify the air of their local surroundings. To put it in perspective, three gallons of Smog Armor paint will remove as much CO₂ as one adult tree does in an entire year, Sperry said. For Sperry, giving back to the community via the art installations, for example, while advocating for a more sustainable future is the ultimate goal. “We have seen a spike in what we are doing because of all that is going on. We’ve got some amazing collaborations, working with amazing artists and companies, that are interested in showing that they are improving customer experience while building customer confidence and showing that they care about the environment in a public way,” he said. 

Similar to Sperry, two Florida Atlantic University alumni and entrepreneurs are on a mission to end plastic pollution in the ocean. Docked at Florida Atlantic University’s Research Park, 4ocean is a public benefit corporation founded by Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. 4ocean’s mission is to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis through global cleanup operations and a variety of methods that help stop plastic pollution at its source. In March, the company relocated it’s corporate headquarters to FAU’s Research Park. 

Through it’s “One Pound, One Promise,” 4oceans supports its efforts from the sale of bracelets, apparel and other products made from recycling recovered materials. Each product purchased removes one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines. To date, the company has recovered more than 10 million pounds of ocean plastic and trash, according to the company’s tracker, found on its website.

“Partnerships like this are extremely important in advancing our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis,” said Director of Operations Desmond Reese in a press release related to its move to FAU. The Research Park at FAU was the ideal location for future growth and innovation because it offers an opportunity to collaborate with FAU’s faculty and students on research and development, Reese said. 

FAU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science will work with 4ocean on several projects, such as developing enhanced methodologies to track ocean cleanup volumes in real time, diving deeper to understand the impact of cleaning waste from specific coastal and river outflow locations, developing additional cleanup operation tools and increasing its efficiency at interruption, capture and prevention of ocean inflow waste in remote regions while also developing datasets and tracking models.

“The arrival of 4ocean is very exciting,” Research Park President Andrew Duffell said in a press release. “It offers real-world research opportunities for both the faculty and students at FAU who can see how two of their fellow alumni are making a positive impact on our environment through entrepreneurship.”

For more information, visit:

https://www.smogarmor.com/breathe-cb

https://www.4ocean.com/

Why Palm Beach’s legal sector could emerge from pandemic a winner

Why Palm Beach’s legal sector could emerge from pandemic a winner

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020Individuals and companies alike need reliable legal counsel during a time of need, and much like the people and businesses they serve, legal professionals quickly adjusted their operations as a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the coronavirus may linger and continue accelerating change throughout different industries, Palm Beach legal professionals believe the county is suited to withstand the uncertainty and will continue to adapt to future changes. 

Florida’s favorable tax landscape, talented legal workforce, and diversifying economy are among the factors driving the population growth in the Sunshine State, which in turn drives the legal needs of businesses and residents. “The biggest factor is need, with South Florida growing in terms of population and as a regional business powerhouse,” West Palm Beach injury lawyer Gary Lesser told Invest: Palm Beach. “This means more lawyers have been needed to meet the legal needs caused by that growth.” Lesser, managing partner for Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith PLLC, one of the state’s oldest law firms, said Florida law schools’ emphasis on business, community involvement, and technical knowledge produce well-rounded graduates. “We are producing law graduates who are much more adept than they were years ago. Many lawyers are now graduating from law school and joining firms or setting up their own practices in South Florida,” Lesser said. 

 

“Florida has terrific law schools,” Fox Rothschild West Palm Beach Office Managing Partner Robert Sacco told Invest: Palm Beach. “They prepare students to be good theoretical lawyers and also provide critical insights on the practical aspects of being a lawyer. The clinical programs the law schools offer are particularly important in this regard as they give students a real sense of what it is like to practice in the real world,” he said. 

 

While Florida’s legal sector can count on well-rounded talent, COVID-19-related change was inevitable for legal professionals. “COVID-19 has really accelerated trends in the legal and business worlds. One example is the movement toward paperless systems, which is now much more common. The technology was always there but we have now developed greater efficiencies, which clients appreciate,” Lesser said. Video conferences have made client meetings, hearings and mediations possible during the pandemic and help meet the demand for legal services. “I think a lot of these changes will stay with us going forward, making law firms and businesses in general more efficient for clients and customers. I think there will be sectors of the economy that will scale down, but the legal and business worlds will continue to stay very busy,” Lesser said. 

While technology undoubtedly is helping the legal industry meet client demand, it can also increase opportunities for legal professionals. “Technology is a growth area for Palm Beach County,” Sacco said. “Technology companies are finding that South Florida offers business expansion opportunities that increasingly are becoming similar to those of Silicon Valley. West Palm Beach in particular is a developing hotspot for the tech industry – a sizable economic shift from the early 2000s when the area was more focused on tourists and retirement communities.” 

Although the future remains uncertain, Palm Beach County’s business and legal environment is likely to remain resilient in the midst of the coronavirus-related challenges. “Florida is too vibrant to be held down regardless of the outcomes. I think some job creation is needed since we lost so many jobs, but I think the prognosis for Palm Beach County is very good. I have seen some activity picking up in the last few weeks and the businesses that are adept and flexible will see the rewards going forward,” Lesser said. 

Sacco echoes Lesser’s sentiments when thinking about the medium- to long-term future of the region’s economy. “Going into the second half of 2020, the many business growth decisions that were delayed will be unleashed. I believe we will likely see a surge in economic activity as we go forward into 2021,” he said. “While it will take some time to reinvigorate some economic pipelines, I believe the outlook for 2021 is positive and we will ultimately see a strong economic rebound in 2021.” 

For more information, visit: 

https://www.lesserlawfirm.com/our-lawyers/gary-lesser/

https://www.foxrothschild.com/robert-j-sacco/

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

 

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: Kate Saft, Partner, Greenspoon Marder

Spotlight On: Kate Saft, Partner, Greenspoon Marder

By: Max – Crampton Thomas

2 min read March 2020 — As the epicenter of the tourism and hospitality industries, Orlando affords many opportunities for businesses within those sectors and also to the service businesses outside those sectors. During her discussion with Invest:, Kate Saft, a partner with Greenspoon Marder, spoke on the opportunities the Orlando area affords her firm, the benefits of technology and how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting business as usual. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your firm? 

 We have seen consistent delays and pauses in our financing and real estate deals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some clients are anxious to complete as many pending transactions as possible given the uncertainty of what is ahead.  Others are seeing deals in which they can be competitive in light of the interest rate drop. We do anticipate some logistical issues, particularly in-person closings, which is why online notarizations are helpful.

 

How does the Orlando region provide opportunity for the firm? 

Orlando is the epicenter for the tourism and hospitality industries, including, specifically, the timeshare industry. Our Orlando office focuses heavily on representing timeshare clients, hotel operators and real estate developers, and that representation has led to many legal opportunities for Greenspoon Marder. 

Within the hospitality industry there are a plethora of legal issues that arise, including real estate transactional matters, marketing matters, lending and securitization transactions, consumer litigation, employment litigation, commercial litigation, and regulatory matters under various state and federal acts, including but not limited to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Telephone  Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

Our firm was founded with a focus on the core practice areas of real estate litigation. We have seen demand for those practices increase, not only throughout Central Florida but across the United States. We are pleased to be able to meet the needs and demands of our clients in these areas. We are consistently looking to expand our real estate, timeshare, corporate and litigation practice areas, not only in Orlando but on a national level, as well.

 

Is there any particular legislation that you are keeping a close eye on in 2020?

We are closely monitoring two Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) petitions pending in the Supreme Court that challenge the constitutionality of the TCPA. In particular, there is a petition pending that questions whether a single call necessarily results in injury that is concrete for the purposes of Article 3 standing and a petition that questions whether the restrictions on using an automated telephone dialing system or an artificial, pre-recorded voice violate the First Amendment. We are very interested in the results of these petitions and how they will affect our hospitality clients.

 

How does new technology benefit your practice and the legal sector overall? 

Technology makes it easier for us to connect with clients and reach potential new ones. All of our employees, from partners down to staff members, have access to virtual connections to safely access our clients’ information anytime and anywhere. We hold regular meetings through video conferences, sharing our expertise, so other attorneys are aware of the practice areas within our firm. In that way, we are able to utilize the specialties of all our attorneys to assist clients who present a diversified set of legal needs.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.gmlaw.com/

Spotlight On: Alan Zuckerman, Managing Shareholder & COO, Flaster Greenberg PC

By: Max Crampton Thomas

2 min read February 2020 — Flaster Greenberg’s South Jersey attorneys are bringing in new talent to hone and increase the services they offer their mostly business and high-net-worth clientele, which include everything from M&A to succession work, while preparing to face challenges such as the impending legalization of cannabis in the state, the nationwide PFAS environmental problem and the changes to retirement planning contained in the SECURE Act,. Invest: spoke with Flaster Greenberg PC’s Managing Shareholder & COO Alan Zuckerman. 

 

What sets Flaster Greenberg apart from other law firms in the South Jersey market?

 

We are a midsized commercial law firm specializing in pretty much every practice that businesses and high-net-worth individuals, our primary clientele, would need. Most of our lawyers have come from large Philadelphia firms. We pride ourselves in doing the same type and quality of work as the larger firms, but at lower rates and more efficiently.

 

Most recently, we have done a tremendous amount of deals and merger and acquisition work. We have also had some very large bankruptcy cases. Regarding M&A, it has been all over the industry. Most of our clients have usually been closely-held businesses, even some very large ones. At some point, some of those businesses have to be passed on to the new generation, or they are sold. As a result, we have been seeing a tremendous amount of activity in the sale market, and we have been representing a lot of companies in all business sectors that are selling, in many cases to private equity firms. Private equity firms have been the most active buyers in the transactions we have been representing.

 

Is there any legislation, local or federal, that could have an impact on the way you or your clients do business?

 

There are two significant pieces of legislation, one at the national and another at the state level. There are environmental laws coming in that could mean a lot of environmental litigation. The others are, on a national level, the SECURE Act, which really impacts retirement plans, in particular, the amount and period of time in which people with 401k retirement plans will be allowed to take money out of their retirement plans and defer paying taxes. This new law substantially changes those rules and shortens the period of time for withdrawals. For many people who have done planning on their retirement plans, that is all going to have to be revamped.

 

There is also the pending legalization of cannabis in the state of New Jersey. We have some businesses gearing up for it, although there has not been a whole lot of demand just yet.

 

What are the main challenges facing firms and their clients in the South Jersey area?

 

One of the challenges is rate pressure, as our clients are cost-sensitive to legal work, as they should be, and that requires lawyers to be more efficient in their work. From a local standpoint, the opportunity we find in the South Jersey market is that office spaces are much less expensive compared to Philadelphia, which is only a few miles away. Although we have seen most of our growth over the last few years in Philadelphia and expect to see more, we made the decision last year to renew our lease here in South Jersey because the occupancy cost is less expensive.

 

One of the downsides in South Jersey we face for that decision is the lack of transportation infrastructure. We get into Philadelphia but that is about it. There is no local transportation for the most part. From a statewide perspective, taxes are very high, both income and property taxes, which make it harder for businesses to stay or relocate here.

 

What are the company’s main areas of focus for 2020?

 

Our focus is to continue to be able to be a full-service firm with very efficient and quick response to our clients. To do that, we feel that we need to continue to grow, bringing new attorneys into our firm. In addition to a six-lawyer firm we have already brought into the fold, we have expanded our footprint into the western Philadelphia suburbs with the opening of our Conshohocken, PA, office last June. Most recently, we grew our intellectual property department by welcoming an 11-member patent team headquartered in the firm’s Philadelphia office.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

 

https://www.flastergreenberg.com/

 

Spotlight On: Alan Higbee, Managing Partner, Shutts & Bowen

Spotlight On: Alan Higbee, Managing Partner, Shutts & Bowen

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read January 2020 — Expertise on the local market is a must in the legal sector, especially within the competitive landscape of the Tampa Bay region. Understanding the nature of the business community within the region and the apparent challenges are keys to a successful practice. Shutts & Bowen law firm’s Managing Partner Alan Higbee discusses the benefits of having specialized practices in the Tampa Bay area, as well as how to deal with economic cycles and not lose talent in the process.

 

 

Why is Tampa Bay a good location for a firm such as Shutts & Bowen?

 

A full service firm like ours has experience in many areas, including some areas that are not necessarily customary for this market, such as our experience in international trade and transactions, experience with large industrial companies and experience representing large and small federal government contractors. Interestingly, the demand for these specialty practices is actually pretty high in this market. Such specialties have often been sourced from larger markets in the past. In our experience, businesses in this market are generally very happy to see that these specialty resources are available here to help and that they don’t have to look to other markets such as Washington, D.C., or New York.  For areas like federal government contractors, it makes sense to have that expertise here. I believe Florida is the third-largest market for federal contracting in the country and we are sitting outside the doors of MacDill Air Force Base, which has virtually every federal agency you can name, from all the defense agencies and divisions to the IRS. 

 

How does the firm take part in the business brought to the Tampa Bay Area by new companies and startups?

 

Startup businesses in the Tampa Bay area come in many varieties, but some of the most promising are often spinoffs: people who have had very successful careers in larger businesses and have decided to go out on their own. Many of these companies have a need for legal services in areas of high specialization, such as healthcare, technology and government contracting. We also see an awful lot of companies that are relocating some kind of division or business unit, or their entire U.S. operations, to this market and, candidly, besides being a pretty sophisticated business center, this area is also a pretty nice place to live.

 

In the market for legal services, we also see an increasing need for trusted advisers. Lots of lawyers can tell you what the law is, but very few have the industry and business experience to also tell you what you probably should do and should not do. Lawyers who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in a particular industry or business segment and can tell clients, “we’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends,” are extremely valuable to their clients and are in greater demand than ever before. 

 

What are the top challenges for the legal profession in the area?

 

The tightness of the labor pool is difficult, there is no question about that. It is certainly a major challenge for us. The other challenge is the general expansion of the needs of the market. We are becoming more sophisticated. When I moved here in 1980, the needs of this legal community were really pretty basic. In 2019, the businesses in this market are extremely sophisticated and that means their problems and issues are also very sophisticated. I think law firms generally need to consider developing or acquiring some of the specialty areas that are not necessarily indigenous to the Tampa Bay area. Acquiring such specialists can be hard. We have to go out and convince them that they will have enough work here.

 

How would a legal firm such as Shutts & Bowen deal with a potential economic downturn?

 

Things always happen in cycles. Like any business, we have to be prepared to handle those cycles. You have to position yourself to be adaptable and flexible, to learn to change what you are doing when necessary and to be able to pick up different kinds of work in the down cycle and be able to look outside your box to keep your talent busy. The down cycles are actually the best times to hire talent, because if your platform is doing well and you are able to find talent on other platforms that are doing well personally while their current platforms are struggling, you have a unique chance to capture that talent.

 

After every down cycle there is an up cycle. If you failed to keep your talent pool, and were not able to keep the collective resources and experience that you had, you start at a huge disadvantage when the market goes back up. On the other hand, if you are able to keep your talent pool intact through a down cycle, you generally have a huge advantage when the market recovers.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://shutts.com/

 

Local leaders optimistic amid Charlotte’s latest jobs ranking

Local leaders optimistic amid Charlotte’s latest jobs ranking

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read January 2020   — The Queen City closed out the decade as one of the hottest markets in the nation, especially in the southeast. Millennials, Fortune 500 companies, and even a new soccer team want to be fully established in Charlotte and tap into its growth. And while the region offers a robust, tech- and financial services-savvy workforce, and is steadily diversifying its economy, a new report puts Charlotte in the middle of the pack for best cities for jobs in 2020. However, local market leaders across industries say job opportunities will remain sustainable for 2020, especially in the technology, law, and real estate sectors.

 

A new report by WalletHub puts Charlotte at No. 104 on its ranking of “2020’s Best Cities for Jobs.” The personal finance website compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 31 indicators of job-market strength, such as employment growth and monthly average starting salary. Scottsdale, Arizona, took the top spot, and Detroit, Michigan, came in last at No. 182. Other major North Carolina metros received mixed reviews, with Raleigh cracking the Top 50 at No. 48, and Fayetteville listed before Detroit at No. 181. Though the report listed Charlotte as middle of the pack for jobs compared to other cities, the technology, law and real estate sectors will continue to provide opportunities for the region’s workforce, local leaders say.  

 

Charlotte is quickly becoming a tech town, as evidenced by the different tech-based companies that relocated to the region in the latter half of the last decade. “In the Charlotte market, the technology talent pool is growing at a rapid pace, largely driven by companies like Red Ventures, LendingTree, and AvidXchange,” JLL Market Director Chase Monroe told Invest: Charlotte. “There has been a need for high-tech talent. Locally, there has been investment in the school system to drive technological education.” Charlotte’s banking legacy, coupled with the fintech that is coming out of the banking system, is also fueling the technology sector and driving talent to the Queen City, Monroe said. “Those factors have allowed Charlotte to be a top recruiter for multiple tech-based opportunities across industries. Recruiting and retention of talent has been a huge factor in the Charlotte Metro Area.” 

 

Similarly, the legal sector has evolved with the growth of the city and has a positive outlook heading into the new decade. “I don’t see anything but good things for the legal profession here,” Poyner Spruill Partner Tate Ogburn told Invest: Charlotte. “Charlotte has grown for the two decades that I have lived here, and I don’t see that dramatically changing.” The legal needs of companies evolve with the economic diversification and growth of the region, which creates opportunities for legal professionals, he said. “It is still a place where people want to be and there are more opportunities with new and more sophisticated companies coming in for the legal sector to continue growing. There are a lot of opportunities in terms of new clients and people, and different types of work as well,” Ogburn said. 

 

Real estate and development provide investor confidence and opportunities for the workforce as Charlotte continues to grow. “I’ve been at this for 40 years and the real estate market in Charlotte is the strongest, most robust I’ve ever seen,” Northwood CEO Ned Curran told Invest: Charlotte. He highlighted the growth of the residential, industrial and commercial sectors. “Residential leads the way. It has not slowed like in other cities. Distribution and manufacturing continue to grow, and we have a unique distribution hub of state highways and rail networks associated with the airport. The office sector has trailed a little, but in recent years it has been catching up, which is a reflection of job growth,” he said. Curran expects the growth to continue during an election year and beyond while expressing confidence in the region and its economic diversification, which will allow the region to be better prepared in the event of an economic downturn, he said. “We will continue to grow across all sectors. We continue to diversify our economy, which only gives us greater strength. When there is a downturn in the economy, not everybody suffers. Some have disadvantages, some have advantages, but we are all components of an economic system and with our great diversity, we will be able to weather it better.”

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: 

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-for-jobs/2173/#methodology

https://www.us.jll.com/en/locations/southeast/carolinas

https://www.poynerspruill.com/

https://www.northwoodoffice.com/

 

Spotlight On: Bill Schifino, Tampa Office Managing Shareholder, Gunster

Spotlight On: Bill Schifino, Tampa Office Managing Shareholder, Gunster

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

  2 min read December 2019 — A greater number of law firms in the Tampa Bay market may be a concern to some but for firms in the Tampa Bay region, these new legal-focused businesses are welcomed. Bill Schifino, the managing shareholder for Gunster’s Tampa Office, believes there is plenty of work for quality law firms throughout the region and that the collaborative environment between the various firms in Tampa Bay is a benefit to both his office’s practice and its clients. 

 

 Do you believe there is enough work to meet the increased supply of law firms in the region?

 

There is plenty of legal work in Tampa Bay for quality law firms and competent lawyers. I have been in this marketplace for 33 years, and the way law firms interact with one another has relatively remained the same. The law firms in this region play well together, and we refer work back and forth to one another because we sometimes have inherent conflicts in our cases. For example, if there is a business litigation case that involves multiple parties and the lawyer can’t represent them all, that lawyer will call other lawyers who may have been on the other side in a similar case in the past but who are capable and competent. So while I may have a case where I’ll see a credible law firm on the other side, one day they may be joining with me to help defend another group on a different case. 

 

How does Gunster’s statewide presence benefit your clients? 

 

One of Gunster’s attractions for me was the fact that I can offer my clients statewide coverage in all of the key markets. When I have a client with an issue, whether it be in Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Jacksonville, we can make sure they are covered because we have 200-plus lawyers around the state. It also helps that we have some of the best and brightest lawyers Florida has to offer. If I have a client with an issue-based question, and I do not have the talent here in Tampa to address it, I can consult someone from one of our other offices who has expertise in this area. This is how we handle all of our clients’ needs. Gunster also is a big believer in their lawyers serving their community, which is why you will see the firm extremely active in our respective markets.

 

How important is being a steward of one’s community to the success of a law firm? 

 

A law firm cannot attract the right talent without a commitment to community service, service to the profession and pro bono work. It is critically important that we as professionals give back to those less fortunate. Within the Florida Bar, a big focus is access to justice. In the criminal justice system, if you’re indigent then you are constitutionally entitled to a public defender, but what if you are someone that just really cannot afford a lawyer and are on the cusp of being below the poverty level? What happens if that person all of a sudden has a traumatic event in their life, and cannot get free legal service? We need to address how we as a profession can make certain that those people are being taken care of. The Florida Bar works extremely hard at addressing this issue, along with lawyers providing millions of dollars in pro bono hours to those in need throughout their community.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.gunster.com/