Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020—Creative Choice Group is a U.S.-based investment and development company involved in the business of private real estate investment and development. President and CEO Dilip Barot, the company’s founder, spoke with Invest: Palm Beach about the county’s place in the company’s strategy, the impact from a changing demographic and the outlook for the sector.

 

How have your projects evolved in the last year and how is Palm Beach important for your strategy?

We have focused on strengthening our company, both nationally and internationally. In Palm Beach County in particular, our goal is to create 1,000 jobs in the near future. We want the community at large to benefit from the wellness programs we are providing so we are looking at ways to bring wellness programs to the community beyond what Amrit will be bringing. Palm Beach County’s profile continues to grow and we are part of that ecosystem. Of course, in 2019, construction costs increased and that impacted us. But there is always some impact from construction prices and this needs to be offset by creative thinking and collaboration between business owners and community leaders. 

How are the changing demographics impacting your business and how is the county encouraging more young people and families to settle here?

The people coming to Palm Beach County want to learn more and assimilate into the community. Parents with school-aged children will make a decision based on the choice of schools and the younger generation tends to focus on the live-work-play lifestyle. We try to assist them as much as possible to make the right choices when settling in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County has a reputation of being home to a lot of wealthy older people. But we have to be diverse because that is what creates the growth and injects the vitality into the county. We therefore need to create an attractive environment for this generation. One way we can do this is by providing a means to have a social lifestyle, providing entertainment, physical activities and most importantly, affordable housing. At a younger age, earning power is typically lower than for older generations. We should appreciate the services and future the young generation bring. New industries will bring new jobs.

How are the Palm Beach authorities providing the auxiliary infrastructure that is needed for population growth?

The county has a good road system but the interconnectivity, particularly from east to west, can be improved greatly. We may need to implement cycle paths and introduce infrastructure, such as bike stands. Lessons should be learned from other communities that have faced the issue before us so that we do not make the same mistakes. The one-person, one-car model is outdated, and people are now learning through this pandemic that open spaces and a healthier, more active lifestyle are far superior.

More and more people are now realizing the importance of a more balanced life, particularly between materialistic needs and good mental health. I believe people in general are constantly striving for improvement and this goal is really coming to the forefront now. In the last 100 years, materialistic growth has been significant, but the inner journey has not kept up with that momentum. We are now seeing that much more in the younger generation, who do not need a lot of money or possessions but instead value experiences and opportunities. I think that is the correct path. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business and what innovation do you see coming from the crisis?

We were able to keep our construction site operating despite the pandemic by ensuring we were practicing the guidelines of the WHO and CDC. We did allow our office employees to work from home.   We are only now reopening through a structured approach. Within days of the outbreak here, we created a virtual online sales center where customers could interact in real time with our sales professionals and have access to all the marketing collateral, including virtual tours. In doing so, we had to consider minute details such as data protection, but we still were able to do this within weeks. We had our best month on record in April in terms of condo and residential sales. We have now implemented a virtual open house system and any in-person showings now have increased hygiene measures in place. We feel our employees are now more engaged at home and productivity is off the chart. We think going forward we will allow a portion of our workforce to work from home, which also builds an automatic contingency into the business model. We have learned a lot from this experience.

How will space and touchless technology be incorporated into everyday life moving forward?

There are already technologies that exist, although perhaps in a more niche space. In our ongoing development, we already have touchless toilets that we see on a widespread basis, but there are also things such as touchless showers that we can incorporate. We see a greater desire for more space going forward. We are learning as we go and welcome feedback from customers at every step of the way. Early next year, we will complete construction on the residences at Singer Island and the resort side will be open early in 2021.

What does your pipeline look like for the next year and a half?

We have a very promising pipeline. There are four sites that could be great wellness and real estate developments for us. We are also looking to develop some of the technology related to wellness. People are spending more money on wellness and developments like those we provide can offer them the opportunity to live their lives in a development with these features already incorporated.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: www.creativechoicegroup.com

 

 

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 Many of the nation’s largest capital operators are increasingly moving headquarters and operations to South Florida to take advantage of the business and tax advantages available in the Sunshine State. As a result, the region is starting to transform its reputation as a playground to be recognized as an environment for serious business, Mary Beth Tarter, the regional head of tax advisory and accounting services firm Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone, told Invest: Palm Beach.

 

What main services does the firm provide in the Florida market?

We are a tax advisory and accounting firm. Our clients are primarily in the financial services industry, such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity and distressed debt. We also do a lot of commercial real estate. 

 

I work on the individual side of the practice, so I work with fund principals and fund managers, helping with compliance and advisory. We look at their estate planning, trust, gifts, private foundations, all those tools that the high-net-worth group uses.

 

We’ve been here for three years, and we expect to continue growing, to continue expanding our staff within the next six to eight months.

 

What are the particular opportunities that South Florida offers for the kind of clients your firm specializes in?

 

Our firm has always had connectivity to South Florida, because the ultra-high-net-worth community will have vacation homes here. But it really started in 2017, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was the most sweeping tax law change we’ve had since 1986. Hedge funds and private equity funds could stand to lose millions because of the deductions that were not allowed at the individual level, even at the partnership level. It got to the point where some of them looked at it very analytically, and recognized that moving to Florida could save them $1 million a year because of the tax situation, and so they moved.

 

Over the course of 2018 and 2019, I think our firm handled more residency planning for our clients than we did in the previous 24 years. Many of them did it from an analytical standpoint, while for others, it was just the impetus that they needed: they decided that now was the time.

 

The wonderful part of already having connectivity is that it was seamless for our clients. Now we are here, boots on the ground, and that’s very important for us. They expect a certain level of service and we did not want any disruption to that.

 

People are also starting to recognize that Florida is not just a playground. This is a very serious business area as well. The median age of people moving down here is younger, and that speaks tremendously to the local commerce, the lifestyles that people want for their families, for their businesses. There are so many companies relocating or expanding down here, and of course, taking advantage of the fact that it is, in a lot of cases, tax driven.

 

Has that recognition created a new environment for investors in Florida?

 

It has. New York is rebalancing its budget because Carl Icahn is moving to Miami. New Jersey is rebalancing its budget because David Tepper left. They are coming to Miami to be part of the hedge fund community there, which is amazing.

 

We’ve actually just created another division, with a gentleman who has been in the hedge fund community for the last 25 years. He is Latin by birth and is looking to expand and help those startup funds, even those that are coming from Latin America as well. A big part of our clientele also has international connectivity.

 

How do you see the reactivation of the commercial real estate industry after COVID-19 is left in the rear-view mirror?

 

I think the real estate industry is going to be a little stalled until people can get outside again. Then they are going to start taking advantage of the opportunities they have been denied over the last couple of months. I truly believe that for anybody who has the available cash, for the most part, our clients among them, we will see an increase of activity in both commercial and residential real estate because you weren’t allowed to do it. 

 

All companies, not just those in commercial real estate, need to be really thoughtful about what they do in the future, especially those people who have taken the stimulus loans, such as the PPP loans. You have certain requirements that you have to certify in order to go through the application process, but I also believe there’s going to be heavy oversight to limit the potential of fraud.

 

This has forced a lot of people to pivot their business model, and I think that some of the things that people have come up with are amazing, and a true credit to the ingenuity of the entrepreneur. I see nothing but positives after this is done. I really don’t see any negatives.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: http://www.flsv.com/

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

By: Felipe Rivas

Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of conducting business during the coronavirus landscape. 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 South Florida, a region hit particularly hard by coronavirus, real estate professionals are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 to the market while analyzing current and future opportunities. “Simply put, the South Florida industrial real estate market is healthy, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” Miami Cushman & Wakefield Managing Partner Gian Rodriguez told Invest: Miami. When you factor in the scarcity of developable industrially-zoned land, a growing population, single-digit vacancy rates, steady air and sea cargo volumes from our ports, as well as positive lease absorption of industrial product, it’s no wonder the major institutional owners and occupiers have a large stake in our market,” he said. These factors coupled with demand for e-commerce provide opportunities for distribution, logistics and warehousing subsectors in Miami-Dade County. “With the onset of COVID-19, we’ve only seen an increase in demand for well-located distribution space, further spurred-on by stay-at-home mandates which have only bolstered online orders.  Just take a look around, there are UPS, FedEx, DHL and Amazon trucks rolling down our streets almost on an hourly basis, and each one of those come from a warehouse within our market,” Rodriguez said. 

New construction will likely experience a growth in demand as population growth continues in South Florida and residents settle into the suburbs and other communities away from the downtown areas. “While we are only in the early innings of the COVID-19 impact on real estate, we are following several trends closely. New construction may have an advantage over existing, as residents will likely equate “new” with “clean and safe,” Lesley Deutch, principal with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Palm Beach, told Invest: Palm Beach. “We are also anticipating a trend we call ‘the Great American Move.’  For safety reasons, financial prospects, life change improvements, personal comfort, or employment, we expect a surge in household and business relocations that will provide new strategic opportunities for the real estate market,” she said. This trend will likely create opportunities for real estate developers, investors and home builders. “New construction can incorporate technology such as air purification and touchless lighting which will appeal to future residents. A stronger focus on health and wellness will translate into new housing product with better home offices or private workspaces in apartments, flexibility for multigenerational living, private outdoor space, and a preference for functionality over design appeal in the home,” she said.   

 

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: https://www.realestateconsulting.com/

https://www.cushmanwakefield.com/en/united-states/people/gian-rodriguez

 

 

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020Shrinking office space has led companies to focus more on the rehabilitation and renovation of Palm Beach’s office space. Angelo Bianco, managing partner of Crocker Partners, walks Invest: through the main trends in the office niche, how it imbues sustainability and resilience into its projects and why Boca Raton is the buoyant business center it is today.

 

 

What is your take on the evolution of the office sector in Palm Beach?

Palm Beach County’s office market has not changed as much as others. Office users by and large have not changed. Even considering new trends such as co-working spaces, it makes up a small fraction of our portfolio. We have observed tenants in Palm Beach County making an effort to reduce their square footage per employee, parallel with technological advances. The need for law firms to have file storage, for instance, has declined dramatically. We still see the desire for private offices and a significant portion of traditional office use. Some companies have switched to open offices, but the pendulum is swinging back even faster now due to the pandemic. The trend to create more private offices and more square feet per employee will offset the impact from the other trend we expect following the coronavirus crises: more telecommuting. Although technology has changed the need for space, the human condition has not changed. People still appreciate privacy and separation from their co-workers.  

What primary factors explain these preferences?

Our Palm Beach portfolio consists of 3 million square feet of office space. Most of our tenants have renovated their space over the past 10 years. Even though firms have grown since the 2008 crisis, their footprint has not gotten larger than it used to be because they use the same office space much more efficiently. Shortly before the coronavirus crisis, we reached the point where employment gains fueled by the longest economic expansion in our history backfilled the space lost during that last downturn.

We are on the cusp of a new disruption with the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news for office landlords is that tenants have already reduced their space needs per employee significantly and during this past economic expansion have not taken additional space for growth. Although some office tenants will be significantly impacted by the pandemic, office tenants and their landlords should be in a good position to weather this storm.

How do you view the residential and industrial sectors?

During the first 10 years of our company’s existence, we developed and invested in many property types: hotels, multifamily, retail, office and industrial. Over the years, we specialized in office buildings primarily and although our business has done quite well as a result, the over concentration in one product type has prevented us from participating in the significant growth experienced in multifamily and industrial property over the last 10 years, particularly in Palm Beach. Despite the recent impact on the multifamily market, we believe that this sector will continue to benefit from the constant inflow of people moving into the area who require housing. This is the same reason that we are bullish on industrial. The Southeast region of the United States is an area that continues to see fast-paced growth in employment and population so investing in front of that is critical. 

What is your assessment of the up-and-coming Boca Raton market?

Boca Raton is by far the biggest employment base in the county. It dwarfs any other market. If you took all the office space in West Palm Beach and doubled it, you would still fall short of where Boca Raton is positioned. It has been a business hub for decades and will continue to be an attractive place for companies to headquarter. The quality of life is phenomenal, plus it has an unparalleled access in Palm Beach County to an incredibly well-educated, well-informed workforce. This is part of the reason we have been headquartered there for 35 years.

What is Crocker Partners’ outlook for 2020?

2020 is going to be a muted year. Any noncritical, ongoing investment project is likely to be delayed until 2021. Everything has stopped dead in its tracks due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Regardless of when businesses restart, it takes time to remobilize, meaning projects will not realistically recommence any sooner than 4Q20. The delay will be made worse by the fact that everyone will want to restart their projects at the same time. By Q121, we expect to be back to business as usual. We expect to spend much of the remainder of 2020 focusing on ensuring a safe workplace environment for our tenants. In April, we formed a Remobilization Task Force headed by our director of construction and development and consisting of senior regional managers in consultation with our vendors and contractors to review and implement governmental and industry guidelines and evaluate best practices and potential capital improvements to facilitate a healthy work environment. We are also in the process of hiring a full-time director of environmental health who will absorb the responsibilities of the Remobilization Task Force on a permanent basis and research and implement physical changes and protocols with the hope of making our buildings the paragon of environmentally health and safety in the industry.

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

 

Spotlight On: Michael Simon, Executive Director, Boynton Beach CRA

Spotlight On: Michael Simon, Executive Director, Boynton Beach CRA

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020Affordable housing, business and economic development are issues at the heart of every buoyant city. Michael Simon, executive director of the Boynton Beach CRA, goes over the different projects and initiatives in place for the city to continue its growth despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

What is Boynton Beach CRA’s contribution to Palm Beach?

The Boynton Beach CRA is tasked with community development, whether that is in the form of affordable and workforce housing, business and economic development, or physical redevelopment, such as mixed-use projects,  streets, parks and sidewalks. For the last 15-plus years, the CRA has been heavily focused on physical and economic redevelopment, as well as affordable housing. That has taken various forms, including business promotion events and assisting with the development of a $70-million, 354-unit mixed-use project with commercial space on Ocean Avenue. Recently, we’ve done a lot on affordable housing. We have 123 units going up that should open toward January 2021. There is another ongoing project with the Centennial Management Corporation for another mixed-use project in the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard redevelopment corridor.

 

Our business development activities have intensified due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but we have always offered commercial improvement grants focused on our businesses and matching grants for façade improvements, interior buildout and rent-reimbursement programs to assist businesses in the first year of their lease. Our matching grants go as far as 50 percent of their lease rent, up to a maximum of $1,750. We pumped several million dollars over the last two years into those programs and have assisted 85 businesses since 2015. 

 

How has the Downtown area benefited from these initiatives?

The CRA district, which extends along the federal highway corridor, lacks the commercial spine that Delray Beach, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach have. Boynton has a small main street called Ocean Avenue that has a mix of existing residential and commercial units. All of the infill redevelopment projects have been focused on the main hub corners. We are focusing our efforts on recreating our Downtown in the sense that people are used to thinking of one. 

 

How have your affordable housing efforts been received?

We have been really blessed on different fronts. First of all, finding the land. The CRA made major land investments in 2005-6, one of which was purchasing 8 acres on North Seacrest Boulevard. That provided an opportunity for single-family and multifamily space. We built 21 homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County and the  Boynton Beach Faith-based CDC on half of those acres. Affordable multifamily rental apartments are being built on the remaining 4 acres. Like most towns, we have a higher need for affordable rentals and ownership properties. We showed creativity in those projects as we distanced from the usual use of down payment funding, resorting to land acquisition instead and turning it over as the subsidy to the nonprofit developer to build the housing. The rental side is a difficult market to get into for affordable builders. It is hard for them to find financing.

 

What local partnerships have you put in place to meet your objectives?

We have a good relationship with CareerSource of Palm Beach County. We have relied on them during our job fairs and to assist with our placements. They are a big player in Palm Beach County and the Business Development Board has an excellent relationship with them as well. South Tech, an academic institution, provides marine technology degrees and certifications, as well as for plumbing, automotive and electrical. We are looking to partner with them more in the future through their relationship with the city and feed those graduates and school alumni into these larger construction projects within the CRA district. 

 

How has the CRA reacted to the COVID-19 landscape?

The CRA took immediate action just prior to the shutdown and remains active during the pandemic. We are reaching out personally to our grant recipients and local businesses to maintain a line of communication as the economic activity reopens to remain attentive to their needs, address their fears and assist them in any way possible. We designed and implemented a Small Business Disaster Relief Forgivable Loan program, totaling $500,000 for maximum loans of $10,000 each. If the loan is spent on eligible payroll, utilities and inventory for their business within one year of the loan date, we can turn the forgivable loan into a grant, provided the required justifying documentation is presented. We released the funding on April 23 and by April 24, we received  about 100 applications and issued the funds in less than a week. 

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.catchboynton.com/

Staying connected: ‘Saturday Soiree’ in Palm Beach

Staying connected: ‘Saturday Soiree’ in Palm Beach

By: Felipe Rivas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://downtownwpb.com/

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

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

By: Felipe Rivas

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

How did Seacoast Bank perform in 2019?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maintaining unity through webinars and industry-specific virtual talks

Maintaining unity through webinars and industry-specific virtual talks

By: Felipe Rivas

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

 

In South Florida, a region known for its events and conferences, different institutions have embraced virtual meetings to build value and maintain close relationships with clients in the midst of social distancing. For the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, a chamber known for its networking events focused on covering top-of-mind issues for its members, virtual meetings and webinars have become the go-to instrument to stay connected to its members and coach them through this new business landscape. “At this point in time, in an era of social distancing, we are gearing our efforts toward creating webinars that give our membership and beyond a chance to find out what resources are available to them, how to maintain their business in this socially disconnected economy and coaching them on how to bounce back when that time comes,” Spokeswoman Morgan Mongelia told Invest: Miami. “All our regularly scheduled monthly programming had to be moved to a virtual platform and format,” she said. As part of its virtual offerings, the chamber has a full slate of virtual webinars, in addition to industry-specific teleconferences. “We are also using this time to support fellow community organizations and businesses via personal phone follow-ups to ensure the long-term success of the Coral Gables business community as a whole,” Mongelia said. 

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

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/CoralGablesChamber

https://site.coralgableschamber.org/events

https://coralgableschamber.org/

 

 

Spotlight On: Stephanie Immelman, CEO,  Delray Beach Chamber Of Commerce

Spotlight On: Stephanie Immelman, CEO, Delray Beach Chamber Of Commerce

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read March 2020 — Once known as America’s most fun small town, Delray Beach is quickly transforming into a much bigger town with a more diverse local economy, while still maintaining its fun atmosphere. The Palm Beach healthcare and financial sectors continue to grow and solidify in cities like Delray Beach. The Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce is working closely with the business community to help diversify the economy further and continue to attract talent to Delray Beach, CEO Stephanie Immelman told Invest: Palm Beach. The city has not had problems attracting young talent due to its favorable tourism roots and fun atmosphere. With its diverse economy, the city is well-positioned for future growth as there is available land for new development outside of the Downtown area, Immelman said.

How is the chamber working with the business community to improve hiring in a tight labor market?

Delray is more than a tourism town, though we have built a reputation based on tourism. There is a lot of diversity here in terms of business. We have one of the largest automobile sectors in South Florida, for example. Also, our healthcare and financial services sectors are very strong. In terms of the tight job market, this year we are hosting job fairs. We have done job fairs for the automobile and hospitality and tourism sectors. We are working very closely with our business community and members to drive those people in Delray Beach who need jobs to the businesses that have them. That is a big focus for 2020. We want to make sure that the economy works for everybody. This will make our community stronger in the long run.

 

How have Delray’s demographics changed in the last few years?

We have not had a difficult time attracting young people to Delray Beach because of our tourism roots. We are known for being the most fun small town and that is attractive to young people. Today, you can work anywhere you want to. Financial advisers and managers from the Northeast are starting to relocate to the area because of their ability to work anywhere, for example. We have a lot of working spaces and incubators targeting entrepreneurs. Our economy started with tourism because we have a beautiful and charming town, but we are branching out and targeting entrepreneurs and businesses.

 

How is Delray preparing for future growth?

There are many places for the wealth to spread to. In our core Downtown area, the rents are really high, but there is a great deal of room to spread to other areas. There are many ways to make other areas in Delray as charming and amazing as Downtown. We are well-positioned for this growth in the county and South Florida in general. The city is hyper-focused on affordable housing. Any development in the region is going to have an affordable housing component. There is space to develop further.

 

In what new ways is the chamber connecting with the community?

We are really big on video. We have a weekly Delray Morning Live video show where we talk about what is happening in the city in the coming week. That has had a lot of traction and is doing very well. We want to expand it to culinary- and tourism-related content. We are all about communicating that way. It is important to create content and speak to people in a way that relates to them today. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: http://delraybeach.com/