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.”

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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. 

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Small business, commercial and construction lending drive strong growth for South Jersey banks

Small business, commercial and construction lending drive strong growth for South Jersey banks

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — The Southern New Jersey region is mainly driven by the healthcare, education and retail sectors, but small businesses remain key cogs in the region’s economic machinery. Their financial needs are among the busiest service areas for lenders along with commercial and construction lending, according to local banking leaders who spoke with Invest: South Jersey.


Small businesses represent growth opportunities for South Jersey financial institutions, as evidenced by the robust professional sector in the region that continues to grow rapidly as more individuals start their own businesses. 

WSFS Bank has about 50,000 primary core customers in South Jersey, with millennials being its second-largest demographic. Phil Corradino, Senior Vice President and New Jersey Regional Director at WSFS, is focusing on growing alongside millennials as they launch their own companies, purchase their first properties and start their families. 

“In terms of small business, we feel that we’re in a great growth position. The small-business sector went through a very difficult period from 2008 and onward, even as recently as 2015, but now you see a lot of small business growth and lending, especially in South Jersey. We’ve put dedicated lenders in place at the local level to serve these business owners, and it’s their mission to be there to help educate them, with roundtables, focus groups and networking events.”

Louisville, Kentucky-based Republic Bank has consistently been a top small-business lender in the region over the last few years and is also experiencing growth in that segment. “We focus on small businesses because South Jersey is known for its mom and pop shops. We promote our commercial customers and make donations to help attract consumers to their businesses and support their growth. We don’t limit our services to just one industry or type of business, we try to serve every business and prospect in any industry,” said Joe Tredinnick, market president at Republic Bank.

Financial institutions are positive about the near-term growth outlook for the small-business segment.”The small-business potential and growth that I believe we are going to see over the next three to five years in South Jersey is going to be monumental, and WSFS is excited to be in the middle of it,” Corradino stated.

According to Parke Bank President and CEO Vito S. Pantilione, its construction lending product is enjoying strong demand in the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas. “It is a very attractive product, especially because many banks have discontinued this banking product. Even though the regulations for construction lending have become much more stringent, our structure allows us to handle it because we are well-capitalized and we have the experience and expertise,” said Pantilione.  

Most recently, the bank has also seen an increased demand further north, in the Bronx and Brooklyn areas of New York City. “We carefully entered the Bronx and Brooklyn markets and now have multiple multifamily projects and commercial loans in these areas,” he said. 

Similarly, New Jersey-based OceanFirst Bank is seeing fast growth in its commercial lending activities. Vincent D’Alessandro, OceanFirst’s southern region president, said the bank’s growth has been driven by its talented commercial relationship managers. “Our business customers have a specifically assigned relationship manager who focuses on those businesses. Our expansive growth has enabled our relationship managers to dive deeper into businesses that they may not have been able to tap into before, in providing more sophisticated products and services.” 


To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Parke Bank: 

OceanFirst Bank: 

WSFS Bank: 

Republic Bank: 


Spotlight On: Vito S. Pantilione, President & CEO, Parke Bank

Spotlight On: Vito S. Pantilione, President & CEO, Parke Bank

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read anuary 2020 —  Parke Bank is expanding its lending business, including construction lending, from the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas to North Jersey and New York’s Brooklyn and the Bronx with its lending expertise. Parke Bank has a major Asian client base, which makes it important to keep a careful eye on the politics of the country toward China. Parke is also one of the few banks that provide banking services to the cannabis industry, which also requires careful monitoring of Washington’s ever changing position on the emerging cannabis business, says Vito Pantilione, president & CEO of Parke Bank, in an interview with Invest:.



What main changes have you observed in the banking and loan business in the South Jersey market?


We are in a great location to provide lending and banking services in New Jersey, and the Philadelphia area, in addition to expanding up into the Lehigh Valley area. Because of our growth, we’ve also grown our lending operation to North Jersey, Brooklyn and the Bronx.


The banking industry is always changing, I don’t think there is any other industry except maybe insurance where there are as many regulatory changes. There is also a lot more competition, even from nonbanking entities. We embrace competition because it makes you pay more attention and sharpen your pencil.


What services are most in demand for an institution like Parke Bank?


One of the services we’ve offered since we opened the bank is construction lending. It is a very attractive product, especially because many banks have discontinued this banking product. Even though the regulations for construction lending have become much more stringent, our structure allows us to handle it because we are well-capitalized and we have the experience and expertise. We find that our construction lending product is very attractive in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area and most recently in the Bronx and Brooklyn. We carefully entered the Bronx and Brooklyn markets and now have multiple multifamily projects and commercial loans in these areas.


How does the bank support the small business community in South Jersey?


We are very active in commercial lending, which includes small business lending. Some of our commercial lending is related to real estate as we have financed many investment properties. We also look at some of the South Jersey markets that need extra services, like startup companies and small companies that need to expand to remain competitive, where it is more difficult to get financing. We look at those sectors and try to establish loans and banking relationships to help support those markets. 


Small business lending is important to us. We are a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, which allows us to provide funding for projects to small businesses that may not fit into the standard bank  financing. The SBA is a perfect vehicle to provide the needed credit enhancement to make those loans possible. That type of lending with small business banking also provides the opportunity for full service banking, bringing much needed deposits.


Are there any worries or challenges in the banking industry that Parke Bank is watching?


One area in which we’ve been very fortunate is our Asian business. I used to be president of a Chinese bank in Philadelphia, and when I opened this bank in 1999, I was fortunate that a lot of my clients and friends from the Asian bank followed us to Parke Bank. The current Chinese trade situation with the United States is a concern to me personally, which can reduce growth in the Asian market. As far as actual business, it has not really affected us that I can see. We are still getting new Asian customers and we have a branch right in the heart of Chinatown in Philadelphia, with a multilingual staff. We are very proud of that.


Another potential challenge is the Banking Secrecy Act, which is of major importance to us because we are one of the few banks in the country to provide banking services to the cannabis industry. We entered the market totally by accident because we had a major customer of the bank who received a permit to open a cannabis dispensary and asked us to finance the building. We loaned him millions of dollars over the years and it wasn’t until two years later that we realized what a major step that was for Parke Bank. At that time, we were one of the very few banks that was even banking cannabis. Now we have about 130 customers, and that is an industry where government regulations are having a big impact. We are very careful to follow the regulations that are in place, given there are really no clear regulations yet in place because it is not legal at the federal level. We are a state-chartered bank doing business with state-approved cannabis businesses. 



To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Parke Bank: 


Spotlight On: Robert Kane, Market President, KeyBank

Spotlight On: Robert Kane, Market President, KeyBank

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read December 2019 — Philadelphia’s growing economy and robust education and life sciences sectors have been some of the main drivers of small businesses to the area. As reported in our Invest: Philadelphia 2020, many banks are seeing growth in small-business lending and services. KeyBank Market President Robert Kane, spoke to the Invest: Philadelphia team about the ways the institution supports the region’s small businesses and other services in high demand. 

How have you seen the small-business community grow in Philadelphia over the last few years and how is the bank supporting these businesses?


Philadelphia has long been home to successful small businesses, but in recent years the collaboration between the public, private and nonprofit sectors is spurring a new level of growth. Companies are creating quality jobs that are attracting a new generation of talented workers to the region. It is very exciting. As a bank, our most direct link to supporting these businesses is to provide them with the solutions they need to identify and realize their goals. From accounts to lending, payments, workplace solutions and more, we help small businesses thrive. For example, KeyBank is 13th among more than 1,800 SBA Lenders nationally. In the last five years, we have loaned more than $1.13 billion to small businesses across our footprint. We also created an award-winning, AI-enabled tool that provides clients with customized attention and allows a deeper understanding of their needs: the top challenges they face, sales and payment trends and entrepreneurial motivation. In 2019, the biggest challenges small-business owners face are improving cash flow, reducing operating costs, improving financial wellness, balancing growth with quality and hiring and retaining talented employees. We have a number of products to aid in meeting these challenges, including Key@Work, which is a comprehensive, no-cost employee financial wellness program. We also have a program, Key4Women, that supports the financial progress of women in business. It’s a great program, offering mentorship opportunities, access to capital and professional development. 

Which of your services is seeing the most growth in Philly and what opportunities does this present?

We’re seeing the most growth in commercial lending, which serves the needs of companies with $10 million to $250 in annual sales. In 2018, we had growth just short of 16 percent. Our differentiator in the market is we are both a commercial and investment bank. Years ago, you had commercial banks and investment banks. They were separate entities. This is important because when a company decides they want to sell, they typically need to hire an investment banker. KeyBank can provide our commercial clients with access to investment bankers as well as industry experts. It really helps us build deeper relationships. In the greater Philadelphia region, we have a few companies under mandate with KeyBanc Capital Markets to be the companies’ investment banker as part of the sale process. What that does is helps KeyBank become more of a trusted financial adviser to their commercial borrower. If the commercial borrower is going to be sold, we can also introduce our wealth management team to the entrepreneur for advice on his or her estate plan and investment strategy for the proceeds from the sale of the company. All of this results in KeyBank acting as the lender, the investment banker and the wealth manager. Clients value deep relationships. Our model provides that, and we’re experiencing great growth as a result. Last year was our strongest year yet, and 2019 looks equally promising.

What is your outlook for the industry in Philly over the next 18 months?

The outlook for the region is good and overall the economy is very healthy. Manufacturing, industrial technology, healthcare, sustainability—each of these areas and many others are poised for continued growth. At KeyBank, our goal is to grow as well. My job is to expose the bank even further in the marketplace. 2017 was a year of complete consolidation for us. 2018 was a transitional year that got things moving in the right direction and created momentum. 2019 is our year to hire the right people and continue to expand the products we have and begin winning in the market. We want to compete with the Top 5 banks in the region. It’s a very competitive marketplace, and we currently rank 10th. We’re actively trying to grow households and add new clients. This will further grow our loan base. These are the most important factors to our outlook for the future.


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Spotlight On: Sam Miles, First Senior Vice President, Central Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

Spotlight On: Sam Miles, First Senior Vice President, Central Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read November 2019 — Central Florida’s economic growth has driven many financial institutions to rebrand and adjust to the latest innovations and client needs. That is the case of Valley Bank. In a discussion with Invest:, First Senior Vice President Sam Miles, who oversees the regional bank’s Orlando and Jacksonville markets, addressed trending business areas for the bank, the impact of its Professionals Group and the bank’s branch rebranding effort. 


Which of the bank’s lending areas are seeing the most demand?


Our largest piece of business revolves around commercial real estate financing. There is a significant amount of capital being invested in real estate in Central Florida. As an example, there are 38 new multifamily projects either under construction or in the planning stages that represent $1.7 billion in investment. That growth, combined with strong employment, is creating high demand for residential developments, and we are very active in multifamily construction lending. In the last year, we also expanded our SBA team to help address the small-business lending market in Orlando. We have a full array of professionals in place with expertise in residential lending and SBA lending to complement our commercial real estate and C&I teams. 

What are your expectations for the relaunched Professionals Group? 

With the relaunching of the Professionals Group we’re trying to reach an affluent population that we haven’t specifically targeted previously. The Professionals Group is a team of commercial lenders dedicated to customizing products and services for any 

group of professionals, including doctors, attorneys, accountants and centers of influence operating throughout our bank’s footprint. It can be a wonderful source of referrals and, by establishing relationships with these professional groups, we will be able to drive new business.


How is Valley Bank improving customer experience? 


We are in the process of rebranding and redeveloping our branches to make them more user friendly. Clients will no longer have the traditional walk-in when they visit our branches. We are providing a modern feel with a warm and welcoming setting. Each branch that we are building now is going to have that model. We are also refurbishing existing branches to fit a more modern and welcoming environment. These new branches fit the trend of people wanting a different, fast-paced environment. 


How does Valley Bank give back to the Orlando community? 


We’ve played a big part in LIFT Orlando, and the redevelopment of the West Lakes area. We have been heavily involved in financing the projects there that are revitalizing that community. That is a wonderful community effort and we’re proud to play a part in it. Our team also spends a lot of time in the community with local groups such as The Ronald McDonald House, Second Harvest Food Bank and The Coalition for the Homeless. We provide paid days off to encourage our employees to volunteer and give back to the communities where we serve. 


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Valley Bank:


Spotlight On: Gary Gagnon, President & CEO, Gagnon Development

Spotlight On: Gary Gagnon, President & CEO, Gagnon Development

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — Gary Gagnon’s family has been involved in the real estate industry since the 1930s. Gagnon decided to follow in his family’s footsteps by creating Gagnon Development, LLC and  Gagnon Real Estate Investments, LLC. He also specializes in commercial income producing property in Central Florida. In an interview with Invest:, Gagnon described the benefits and strength of Orlando’s real estate sector. 


How would you describe the strength of Orlando’s real estate sector today?

Orlando’s real estate sector is stronger than most, since it is somewhat in a protective bubble because of being mostly tourism-driven, though we are actively trying to attract more tech-related businesses. Our unique location and economy protects us whenever there is a slowdown or recession. With low interest rates and prices increasing for commercial and residential real estate, fear is beginning to spread and people are starting to question if it is time to sell. Luckily, if the whole country takes a hit, I think Orlando is somewhat protected and should not be as harmed as much as the rest of the country would be.


Lenders are starting to get over their fears and they are starting to have a hunger to loan but are still being cautious and require larger down-payments or cross collateralization. Development is booming and we are seeing a high amount of capital in A-class products. However, the growth of new office space in Orlando has been historically stagnant and there is not enough large office space available. Orlando has several new office projects in the works, which should help satisfy the demand for new office space. Many of our international clients are choosing to build new office space instead of renting since it is less expensive than leasing at current rates. Orlando also provides an opportunity for investors to generate high cash flow with less investment dollars when compared to other cities such as Miami and New York. 

Which markets are seeing the most demand in Orlando?

Apartments continue to see great demand. E-commerce and big chain retailers transitioning to or expanding their online sales footprint have created an increased demand for large industrial space. We usually do build-to-suit projects specifically for a client’s needs, but we recently worked on a speculative flex space project with a client. That project consisted of smaller spaces with an office and showroom in the front and warehouse in the back. Along with the client, we were able to sell five of eight units before completing construction. A trend we are seeing in industrial is the smaller the square footage you build, the faster you lease or sell it. There is a demand for flex space and we are looking to expand in that area. Warehouses are in high demand, too. Many larger investors are looking for warehouses that have rail access. Office building is just now hitting its stride. Public storage is keeping up with supply and demand but we don’t see above average growth in that sector. Overall commercial real estate in Orlando is in very high demand and there is more demand than there is supply.


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Gagnon Development LLC: 

Spotlight On: Jeffery Klink, First Senior Vice President & Southern Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

Spotlight On: Jeffery Klink, First Senior Vice President & Southern Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read August 2019 —During times of economic prosperity, the banking sector is primed to benefit the most, but when the economy begins to slow, or a recession hits, lenders normally feel the harshest effects. This forces banks and financial institutions to be innovative and mindful of how they approach their day-to-day business. There are, of course, the outliers like Valley Bank, which, as noted on its website, has never produced a losing quarter since its founding in 1927. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale recently spoke with Jeffery Klink, first senior vice president and Southern Florida regional president for Valley Bank, who spoke about the bank’s efforts to ensure great customer experience, how it differentiates itself in a crowded South Florida marketplace and the biggest challenge facing the banking sector. 

How does Valley Bank ensure a community bank feel while still providing the services of a large regional bank? 

We are a community bank with a regional overlay and that is how we choose to operate. What has been really interesting is that our clients in many cases do not realize that we are a large regional bank unless they need access to loans that are $25 million to $35 million or above. Our core business clients that are looking to borrow $500,000 to $5 million still view us as a community bank because that’s the space that we operate in.

How does Valley Bank differentiate from the competition in the region? 

Being client-centric is really our main differentiating factor in banking. Valley Bank, like most regional and national banks, has a similar technology platform. These systems allow users to access their accounts remotely, and they may very rarely come into our branches. How we mitigate this so the banking experience doesn’t become impersonal is to ensure that each client has a core group of bankers who they know and who know their needs. When customers call our bank, they are actually talking to somebody who knows the client not just from a business standpoint, but also on a personal level. This personal service combined with our technology platform has really allowed us to compete from a service perspective with the community banks.

What is the biggest challenge facing the banking sector? 

The main challenge in banking is balancing interest rate movements. Throughout 2018, we saw Treasury rates increase significantly and that was allowing banks to adjust and increase the rates they were collecting on new loans. In 2019, we have seen interest rates pull back, which has been to the benefit of borrowers because rates have dropped to nearly historical lows. Banks are going to have to address and combat margin compression throughout 2019 because we are collecting less on the loan side and we are paying more than we have for close to 10 years on the deposit side of the balance sheet.


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Spotlight On: Brett Forman, President & CEO, Trez Forman Capital

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read July 2019 — The demand for residential and commercial real estate development in Palm Beach County is at a high, and developers are jumping at the opportunity to capitalize. This spike in demand has not only been beneficial to developers but also to those who are helping fund this development. Invest: Palm Beach recently sat down with Brett Forman, President and CEO of Florida-based, commercial bridge lender Trez Forman Capital. He discussed how Palm Beach County is uniquely positioned for real estate development, and how his company is benefiting from the boom in the market.

Where are you seeing the highest demand for your services? 

We experience the highest demand from developers of condominiums or multifamily rental apartments. There are a variety of financial firms pursuing these type of deals, but we offer something slightly different. We’re competing with banks every day, and we’re competing with more traditional mezzanine players and preferred equity investors. As a result, we have to be creative and offer a unique one-stop shop, including higher proceeds than the banks and non-recourse options. 

How is Palm Beach County a unique market for real estate development? 

Palm Beach County is home to some of the most expensive residential real estate in the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also home to some of the poorest areas. So when you talk about Palm Beach real estate, you’re talking about a very diverse asset mix.

Trez Forman is more or less asset-agnostic; we lend against residential real estate, whether it’s apartment communities for rent, single-family houses for rent or condominiums for sale. We don’t necessarily construct homes, but we finance the lot on which developers do the horizontal development. 

What differentiates Trez Forman Capital from a traditional bank? 

It’s very easy to understand what differentiates us from the banks, since the banks are highly regulated. They have to do things according to what the regulatory agencies prescribe, and their leverage is usually much lower and typically requires recourse. What we’re offering is a much higher loan-to-cost solution. Trez Forman basically can take what the bank and the preferred equity investor offers and combine it to provide our clients with a one-stop solution that has surety of execution. We like to under-promise and over-deliver. We can fund a deal in 30 to 45 days, unlike a bank that may not be able to lend in that timeframe.


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