Spotlight On: Asi Cymbal, President & Owner, Cymbal Developmentf

Spotlight On: Asi Cymbal, President & Owner, Cymbal Developmentf

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Fort Lauderdale’s real estate development market is in its prime and if there was ever a time to capitalize on that, it’s now. The successful developers are those who truly understand the market, can create an innovative product and have the foresight to protect themselves if this hot market goes cold. Asi Cymbal is the president and owner of Cymbal Development, a development and construction company that is working on a new innovative development along the water called Marina Lofts. Cymbal discusses the key differences he has identified in Broward and Miami-Dade’s real estate development markets, market trends and how vital the financing market is to how real estate development performs. 

What can be expected for your development of Marina Lofts? 

We have a significant interest in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, and we own a six-acre site along the water where we are building The Marina Lofts. We brought in Bjarke Ingels, an amazing architect, to design the project. Marina Lofts will be a multi-use project with residential, marine and retail, and a possible hotel and condo component as well. We have waited for the market to come to us, and we believe this is happening now with all the activity that is happening south of the river. It is primarily a rental market on the river and we think there is an opportunity to create something spectacular and cost-efficient along the waterfront.

How do the markets in Miami-Dade and Broward County differ? 

Miami and Broward are quite different, although they are so close in proximity. Fort Lauderdale strives to be a city that seems closer in line to the bigger cities in the Midwest, while Miami strives to be a city that is more closely aligned with Eastern cities like New York. They have slightly different demographics as well, but both are attractive cities in different ways, which I believe adds to their appeal for various types of renters or buyers. An issue we are dealing with in both places is construction costs, and we are emphasizing efficiency in design more than ever. To be successful in these markets, we need to be a lot more cost-conscious than we have been in the past.

 

Where do you see development trends gravitating as we move into 2020? 

There will continue to be strong demand for multifamily units. I believe retail will take a hit even though there are some interesting innovations happening in that space. There is an opportunity for growth in office space and there is more of an emphasis on an environmentally friendly product. Our housing tenants expect to see more of this emphasis, so we do design with an eye toward energy conservation, green efficiency and things of that sort that appeal to this demographic. Overall, we are cautiously optimistic through 2020, and our company will remain in significant expansion mode.

 

How dependent is real estate development on the financing market? 

The financing market helps check the type of real estate product and the quantity of product being developed in South Florida. Regulation is a lot more strict today than it was right before the Great Recession. Having a stronger financial backing for projects is what keeps the region from over-building and there is a lot more hesitation and thought going into what is developed in South Florida. During the Great Recession, we saw opportunities to develop, but it was difficult to find financing. By the time we were mid-cycle everyone wanted to finance, but the opportunity was diminished. Now, we are toward the end of the cycle and there is financing, but you need to create your own opportunities.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

http://cymbaldevelopment.com/

Spotlight On: Kevin Rogers, Regional President, Seaside National Bank & Trust

Spotlight On: Kevin Rogers, Regional President, Seaside National Bank & Trust

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Seaside National Bank & Trust may be considered a newer entry into the market, having first opened its doors in 2006, but since then it has become a prominent force in the banking community. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale recently spoke with Kevin Rogers, the regional president of Seaside National Bank & Trust’s South Florida operations. During the discussion, he spoke on the importance of cybersecurity to a bank like Seaside, how Seaside handles the challenge of competition in South Florida and his approach to finding the right employee candidates. 

How are you protecting your clients in regards to cybersecurity? 

Cybersecurity is a huge topic, not only at our bank, but also across the financial services industry. We tell our people all the time that we’re a small bank, and if we took a $2 million to $3 million hit it would substantially hurt us. Our people are on guard every minute. We have an incredible onboarding process, and we not only know who we’re banking with, but we also know who are clients are dealing with as well. If you ask what keeps me up at night more so than hitting balance sheet goals, it’s cybersecurity and being hit with a loss.

The amount of money that the bank spends on cybersecurity is incredible, but you have to stay ahead of the game. We conduct a lot of training on the subject. I even do a communication call twice a month with our South Florida employees, and one of the main topics is cybersecurity. We want to make sure that everybody is on guard, that they know who their clients are and that they’re asking the right questions. You have to ask the tough questions to make sure you protect the bank.

 

What is the biggest challenge in the market for a small to midsize bank like Seaside, and how do you overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge is always going to be the competition. Banks of our size do not have the brand recognition that a Bank of America does, so the question is how do we sell Seaside Bank? We have to go out and talk to our clients about who we are and what we specialize in. We drive home the fact that we are able to provide the same products and services that the big banks do but in a community bank setting. We’ve taken a lot of clients away from these big banks. If you look at what’s going on in the big banks right now, it’s all about sales process management and managing their people to numbers that, a lot of the time, mean selling products and services that the clients really don’t need. We don’t subscribe to this notion and instead focus more on listening to our clients and making sure that they get what they want and need. We’re not for everybody; there will never be a time when you’ll see a Seaside branch on every street corner like you do Bank of America. If a customer is looking for that then we’re not the bank for them. If they’re looking for a single point of contact to deal with on a consistent basis then we are a perfect bank for them.

 

How difficult is it to find professional, hard-working talent in the Palm Beach County market? 

It is very hard, and I find that I’m always looking for people. I’m constantly asked the question when I’m out at a meeting or at a networking event, “Are you looking for bankers?” I always say, “I’m never looking, but I’m always looking” because I’m trying to find the right person who will fit into our culture. 

It’s also very hard to recruit a good banker who is working at a big bank because they already have an established book of business and a continuous flow of referrals. At a smaller bank like ours we don’t have that, and you have to be an aggressive calling officer and business developer to be able to be successful here. We have to be careful about whom we hire because we don’t want to set anybody up to fail. Some of the best people I’ve recruited are from big banks and who want to try something else because they’re at a  time in their lives when they want to scale down. A smaller bank like ours is attractive to these people because of our incentive plan and how we operate.

To learn more about our interviewee visit: 

https://www.seasidebank.com/

Spotlight On: Joseph Cox, President & CEO, Museum of Discovery and Science

Spotlight On: Joseph Cox, President & CEO, Museum of Discovery and Science

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read September 2019 — To be considered a staple within the growing economic landscape of Broward County is no small accomplishment, especially as new options seem to become available to the public on a weekly basis. There has to be a real sense of connection and purpose formed with the public, as well as being an established economic driver, for a business or institution to achieve this status. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale had the opportunity to speak with Joseph Cox, the President & CEO of one of the staples of Broward County the Museum of Discovery and Science. Throughout the course of the discussion Mr. Cox made note of how the museum is working to address the lack of STEM workforce in Broward, how they are using new technology to their benefit, the counties support of institutions like the museum and the museum’s important role as an economic driver in the region.

How is the museum helping to address the lack of STEM workforce in Broward County? 

South Florida is powered by industries that thrive on a strong, vibrant STEM workforce. From aviation to tech, there is a unique voice in the local workforce of innovators, tinkerers and problem-solvers.  The Museum of Discovery & Science plays a crucial role in the community by introducing children of all ages to the exciting opportunities offered by careers in STEM. We recently opened The Leighton Family Hangar, our innovative Makerspace exhibit, a hands-on collaborative experience that fosters the learning of new skills, creating products and sharing ideas. Through partnerships with corporations, universities, technical colleges and, of course, our local school system, we will be offering an exciting range of programs and events that allow students to gain valuable skills for their future and ultimately our community’s future. The Hangar will inspire new generations to embrace the engineering design process as they develop, innovate and problem-solve.

 

How important is the adaptation of new technologies to a science museum?  

One of our goals at MODS is to connect people to inspiring science, and this includes state-of-the-art technology. Technology at the Museum is powered by our most vital resource: our staff and their creativity. Innovative technology is one of the tools our staff uses to help bring the exhibitions and programs to life. We are experimenting with the integration of augmented and mixed reality in exhibits and educational programs, as it truly is an opportunity to contribute to a new path of learning in museums. We are thrilled to have strong partnerships with Broward-based technology companies such as Citrix, Florida Power & Light and Magic Leap that allow us to drive innovation and technology forward in an accessible and meaningful way.

 

What is your view of the county’s support for arts and cultural institutions?

The Broward County Cultural Division clearly champions the arts in our community. The Cultural Division’s ongoing investment in cultural programming, public art and capital projects reflects the value attributed to the arts by the County.  We are fortunate to have an incredibly vibrant cultural community where collaboration is celebrated. The Museum considers the Cultural Division a partner as we work together to strengthen local cultural offerings, from exciting exhibits and award-winning education programs to breathtaking IMAX documentaries.

 

How is the museum an economic driver in the Broward County region? 

Beyond the cultural impact of the Museum, we also play a role in the local economy, with 150 employees and more than 400,000 visitors annually. A recent Americans for the Arts survey estimated our economic impact to be more than $22 million. The Museum purchases goods and services locally, hires and trains staff and supports many social service agencies with free and reduced admission. Whether having lunch in the neighborhood or traveling from out of town for the weekend, our visitors help drive the local economy and, with over 15% of our visitors coming from overseas, we are supporting the diverse offerings of our destination.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://mods.org/

Spotlight On: Andrew Verzura, Principal, VCM Builders, Inc.

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — The amount of construction in a region is almost always an effective gauge of how the local economy is doing. Broward County is among those regions that has become synonymous with an abundance of ongoing and future construction projects, which speaks volumes to its strong and growing economy. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale recently spoke with Andrew Verzura, Principal of VCM Builders, Inc, one of the construction companies benefiting from the strong market in Broward County. Verzura discussed trends in the market, how Broward County compares to other markets and what the future of the construction industry in Broward County may look like.

What trends are emerging in the renovation projects VCM is working on?

In construction, we have to constantly regroup because the market changes. In recent years, our company decided to focus on renovations. Some of the trends we are seeing call for cleaner designs because people want to get away from heavy woods and marble, which don’t hold up well. We are seeing more porcelain, lighter colors, fewer moldings and more technology-based demands. Most of these condo buildings that were built 15 years ago did not have the technology we have today, so I’m challenged in every condo building with elevator integration, security integration and package rooms. Millennials want the ability to run almost everything off their phones, and we have to try and meet that demand. 

How does Broward County compare with the other markets you work in? 

The difference with Broward County is that it’s a very small, close-knit community. You can meet the commissioners, public officials or the building official and they all remember you. They are extremely friendly to do business with because they have a set of rules and regulations they follow. Whenever we have issues, I can go speak with somebody. I would say that over the last 15 years, I’ve been able to work with the city to solve 95% of the problems we’ve had. People are coming here because the business environment is so friendly.

How have rising construction costs affected your business? 

Construction costs are very expensive, and they have not gone down. Compared to when we started building spec houses in 2013 to where we are now, construction costs are up 30%. Construction costs are deal breakers for a lot of projects that we are looking at because they just do not make financial sense. The banks are not going to finance projects when the numbers do not make sense and will not work. We have seen many of the large rental communities being funded by pension funds. Most of these projects, which are primarily funded by pension and real estate funds, have been looking for a 6% return.

How does the next year look for the construction industry in Broward County? 

My outlook for Broward is still very strong. There is competition but that is a good thing. I believe we will still see people buy properties here. We have a friendly environment for developing and a government that is pro development. As long as we have builders and developers continuing to focus on sensible building, then we should be in good shape for the next year. We have to be very careful and look at deals that make sense because there are a lot of inflated deals out there right now. People all think their property is worth so much money but in reality it is only worth as much as people are willing to pay for it. The market is leveling off, which is not a bad thing, and it will be interesting to see how the market accepts all the new rental buildings in downtown. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

http://vcmbuilders.com