Palm Beach education leaders assess 2020-21 academic year

Palm Beach education leaders assess 2020-21 academic year

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July  2020Forced to switch from in person learning to remote instruction seemingly overnight, Palm Beach education leaders are now planning the reopening of county campuses as the 2020-21 academic year nears its August start date. The reopening of public schools has been a contentious topic among parents, policymakers and educators, all of whom have different visions for the reopening process. 

The Palm Beach County School Board convened on Wednesday to discuss what the reopening of county public schools could look like under the coronavirus landscape. The Palm Beach County School Board is likely to approve its reopening plans, which will feature a mixture of distance education and a phased reopening process, according to the Sun Sentinel. With this approach, the youngest of each grade category will be among the first students to return to the classroom, along with those students with special needs. This would include students in pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade and ninth grade, the paper reported.     

Further complicating the difficult reopening process, many teachers and parents fear that opening campuses would not be safe given the recent spikes in cases and Florida’s standing as the epicenter of coronavirus cases worldwide. Florida has reported 301,810 cases of the virus and 4,521 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard. 

Not everyone is on board with strictly online classes, either. Some Palm Beach County parents gathered in front of the Palm Beach County School District’s headquarters on Monday to protest school officials’ decision to bar students from campuses and deliver only online classes at the start of the new school year. Among the parents’ chief concerns are the needs of students with disabilities, or those struggling with the online learning environment, and the needs of parents who have to choose between working or taking care of their children, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

According to the Palm Beach County School Board’s agenda, Palm Beach County Public School Superintendent Donald Fennoy is recommending “starting the school year with distance learning for all students and allowing for a phased return to brick and mortar in-person instruction when county health conditions permit.”

At the university level, institutions like Florida Atlantic University are also likely to begin the school year with an emphasis on remote learning while enforcing mask measures and strict social distancing rules for students and staff present on campus. Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly announced in late June that the university’s fall 2020 reopening plans were approved by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors. The school’s 25-page plan features the requirement of face coverings, with most classes remaining online, including classes with more than 50 students and all graduate-level courses, according to the university. Classrooms are to remain at 25 percent capacity and faculty, staff, and students will be required to observe social distancing measures while in the classroom.

Each of the state’s 12 public universities was required to file such a plan. School leaders still have to submit their reopening plans to the Florida Department of Education for final approval by July 31, 2020.

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Spotlight On: William Reichel, President, Reichel Realty & Investments

Spotlight On: William Reichel, President, Reichel Realty & Investments

By: Max Crampton-Thomas 

2 min read December 2019 — The real estate market in Palm Beach County and South Florida is one that is marked with ebbs and flows, so it takes real market knowledge to be able to successfully navigate it. Invest: spoke with local market expert William Reichel, president of Reichel Realty & Investments, on all things related to commercial real estate in the county. He spoke of embracing the current regulatory environment as opposed to holding out hope it will change, his outlook for the real estate market and some significant emerging trends in the industry. 


 What challenges does Palm Beach County present in terms of the commercial real estate sector? 

Generally speaking, Palm Beach County is very pro-business, but it presents challenges as well for the commercial real estate sector. So much of business growth is dependent upon the process, and the ability to deal with the complexities, various codes and government agencies within the county and its 39 municipalities. 

I had a partner who would say, “It’s harder than it used to be, but it’s easier than it’s going to be.” That means it’s important to embrace the current regulatory environment rather than holding off in hopes it may change. We focus our 30-plus years of commercial real estate experience in this market on navigating the challenges for clients, which includes knowing which professionals to utilize in the approval process depending on where in the county the project is located. 

What do you predict for the next year in the real estate market? 

The real estate market in Palm Beach County will continue to grow, and I don’t see anything stopping it. While there will be ebbs and flows, there’s a lot of capital and tremendous wealth in the area that is driving the market. As a broker, we get paid when the transaction is completed, so we are incentivized to be engaged in the whole process, to make sure that it goes smoothly, is done properly and is as timely as possible. 

What emerging trends have you observed over the last year and how have these affected demand on the market? 

One of the large, emerging trends weve seen in commercial real estate is shared office space, which has become a national phenomenon, and it’s growing here in Palm Beach County. Another trend we‘re seeing is growth of health- and fitness-related facilities that aren’t just gyms but also incorporate other modalities such as yoga, recovery, saunas and more. As the baby boomer generation gets older, they want a quality of health and fitness, which includes exercise as well as recovery. We’re seeing an influx of those types of prospects, which we believe is a terrific fit in this market, given the demographics with significant wealth, and who are willing to spend money on their health. 

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Spotlight On: Jesse Flowers, Community President, CenterState Bank

Spotlight On: Jesse Flowers, Community President, CenterState Bank

By: Max Crampton-Thomas


2 minute read November 2019 — Staying competitive and emerging as a leader in a crowded banking field takes smart growth strategies, remaining cognizant of trends in the industry and an ever-increasing focus on the technological wants and needs of customers. Jesse Flowers, the community president for CenterState Bank, spoke to Invest: about how his bank is ensuring continued growth into the future.  

How does your bank ensure continued and sustainable growth? 


We continue to grow, hire more people and expand our client base. We are always looking for acquisitions and good partnerships. We have acquired five banks over the last six years in South Florida, and all of them have been a strong fit. We want to make sure that our culture fits with the companies we acquire. We still run like a small bank, and all our decisions are made locally.


We stick to our fundamentals. We make sure that the loans that we provide are to good, qualified borrowers that can withstand a recession. On the commercial lending side, most of the demand is driven by real estate. We are paying close attention to where we are in the real estate cycle because Florida is mostly driven by tourism and real estate.


What is a particular trend you are keeping a close eye on? 


Banking is always changing. One of the trends that we have seen over the last five years is people using alternative lenders. Whether it be hedge funds, internet lenders or hard-equity lenders, a high number of those lenders have stepped into the market, more than they used to in the past. That might continue to be a trend because they are often able to be more flexible on the terms and conditions of their loans due to less regulation.


How does CenterState Bank remain client-focused in a rapidly changing banking environment? 


People are more focused on technology. We have to focus on the services that people want, like better and easier online technology. Those are the services that are expanding with people using phone and online banking. CenterState has invested in technology over the last several years because we know how important it is. Now, with open source platforms, access is getting cheaper, and we have hired in-house programming professionals to develop software for us.


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James Fox, President, Maddox Group

James Fox, President, Maddox Group

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read October 2019 — To be successful in the construction industry, a company needs to be flexible and cognizant about the sector’s constant state of change. A construction company also needs to be wary that even with new technologies in the market, at the end of the day, there is no way to control unforeseen issues and challenges. James Fox, president of Maddox Group in Boca Raton, discussed these ideas with Invest: as well as how his company is ensuring it remains as recession proof as possible in preparation for an eventual economic dip. 

With which business sectors are your services most in demand?


The sector where we’re seeing the most demand is, first and foremost, corporate interiors. Second would be medical offices, then industrial and finally retail. The demand for medical offices seems pretty self-explanatory: retired people relocate to Florida and enjoy the weather, which ultimately increases the need for more medical services. In regards to the demand for more corporate offices, the trend seems to be going toward Palm Beach County due to the simple fact that, in comparison to Miami, there’s more land and more opportunity here now.


How have you seen the demand for office types change? 


Traditionally a typical build-out would consist of new ceilings, new flooring, new lighting and specified work stations. Today’s young entrepreneur is building offices that aren’t really offices; rather, they are 360-degree workspaces where there isn’t an emphasis on a desk or workspace belonging to any one individual.


How has new technology changed the construction industry? 


In our industry there are always new technologies popping up to make construction quicker, but at the end of the day it’s still construction. The fact is that you’re building things, and issues are going to arise that are out of anyone’s control. What we do is tell our clients that this is our schedule and barring any unforeseen challenges you’ll be able to move in by this date. But like I said, things happen, and technology can’t always help avoid them.


How do you best protect your business in the case of another economic slowdown? 


Everybody wants to talk about when things are going to come back to reality in the construction market. People can theorize but no one actually knows. My thought process is to stay recession proof. Doing interior build-outs has been the key to this. When the economy dips, businesses don’t have the capital to relocate and build a new office; instead, they will take the space they are working out of and change the interior. Instead of going out into the market and claiming we do 20 different things, we focus our efforts on interiors and it works for us.


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Spotlight On: Sal Saldana, General Manager, Town Center at Boca Raton

Spotlight On: Sal Saldana, General Manager, Town Center at Boca Raton

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read October 2019The world is changing rapidly thanks to technology. For certain segments of business this means changing with the times or risk falling into obscurity. The traditional mall has become one of these segments, and with the rising popularity of e-commerce, the need for innovation is at an all-time high. One of the malls that recognized this early on was Town Center at Boca Raton, whose General Manager Sal Saldana spoke to Invest: about the mall’s successful longevity in the market, how it is handling the challenge of evolving customer demands and how it is innovating its business model to become much more than just a shopping center. 

How is Town Center at Boca Raton a staple for Palm Beach County? 

This mall is a regional shopping center that is owned by Simon Property Group. It has been in the Palm Beach County area for a number of decades, and over that period of time there has always been an emphasis on making sure it always meets the quality and brand recognition of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County. The mall is an extension of Boca Raton, which is known for its beauty, quality of life and wealth. It also has an international flavor because it houses some of the most widely recognized and regarded retail shops. Overall, the mall is an important asset to the community, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. 

What has been the key to Town Center’s longevity and success in the wake of an e-commerce-centric world? 

Simon Property Group is an amazing company and has a phenomenal group of shopping centers nationwide. We have been able to really cater to the community and meet its needs and demands from a domestic and international standpoint. We also have the resources to continue improving our operations and attractions. What we do is make sure that we are meeting and surpassing the expectations of a traditional mall. We maintain a very high standard of what we are because we are not only a shopping center, we are also an entertainment destination. 

What challenges is Town Center facing, and how are you mitigating those challenges? 

We are always looking to see how we can improve customer experience, and in this business there is the challenge of keeping up with the times while making sure that we meet customers’ demands. Our competition now comes in many forms, whether that is the internet or a direct competitor in the region. We always want to be projecting new and improved, and this isn’t always necessarily a challenge, but more of an opportunity. To be successful, we have to have a team that is always thinking of what we can do next to make sure that we are staying ahead of the curve. For instance, we are adding a 1,600-square-foot recreational space called PLAY that will feature a combination of seating and interactive play elements inspired by local waterways and waterfronts. Everybody that we work with has to be on the same team and have a philosophy of approaching this shopping center as a five-star resort.


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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


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:


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:


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. 

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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:


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:

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Executive Vice President & Commercial Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

Spotlight On: Chuck Cross, Executive Vice President & Commercial Banking Executive, Seacoast Bank

By Max Crampton-Thomas


2 min read October 2019 – With over 30 years in the banking industry, Chuck Cross has witnessed seismic changes in the way the banking sector conducts business. Currently serving as the executive vice president and commercial banking executive for Seacoast Bank, Cross has a unique perspective on the prominent growth of the banking sector in the past couple of years. He recently sat with Invest: Palm Beach to discuss how Seacoast has sustained continuous growth, why the business ecosystem in Palm Beach County is a benefit for banks and some of the reasons he attributes to the overall growth of Palm Beach County. 

How has Seacoast Bank sustained continuous growth? 

Seacoast Bank has been growing organically by hiring people and building relationships with customers since the recession, but we augment that organic growth with strategic M&A activity as well. We acquired Palm Beach Community Bank in November 2017, expanding our branch locations in the county from three to five and getting access to new customers. We also have  two commercial offices in the market, which is another catalyst for growth.


Why is Palm Beach County a conducive business environment for the banking sector? 

From a macro perspective, when you have a half million people relocating to Florida and a good amount of that coming to Palm Beach County, it drives the kind of growth we hope to see for the next couple of years. From a financial services perspective, Palm Beach is a great place to be operating and providing service.

Palm Beach County has really grown over the past decade. Dense population provides great opportunities for banks. Palm Beach is growing like the whole state of Florida is growing. Everyone wants to move to Florida either for the weather or for some of the changes in the tax reform, and people have always wanted to retire here. Palm Beach also has great infrastructure in terms of education. In addition, there’s a lot of oceanfront property that attracts high-net-worth individuals, which in turn attracts retail, recreation and service jobs.


To what do you attribute the growth of the local economy in Palm Beach County?

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County has done a great job of attracting a lot of wealth management and private equity firms where the owners can live on the island and operate their companies from there. In the northern part of the county, there are also some aerospace companies, and there are healthcare technology companies like Max Planck and Scripps that are providing higher-level jobs as well. Hopefully this will help attract other types of high-level businesses.


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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.


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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.


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