Spotlight On: Lynda Remund, President & CEO, Tampa Downtown Partnership

Spotlight On: Lynda Remund, President & CEO, Tampa Downtown Partnership

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read March 2020 — A downtown is the city’s core and ultimately the face of any given region, so it is important to ensure that it is as strong as possible, said Lynda Remund, president and CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership during a conversation with Invest:. Consistent reinvestment and place-making are major keys in unlocking the full potential of what the Downtown Tampa area can be, she said.

 

How important is a strong downtown to the economic growth of Tampa Bay? 

 

If you go to any city in the United States or around the world, you will see that a strong downtown is their central core and is really the face of that region. I believe it is very important that we have that strong city center. Downtown Tampa is growing by leaps and bounds and we are excited about that. A quick look around Tampa reveals that the Downtown area is not only growing but so are the outskirts and the suburbs. This is apparent when looking at areas like Midtown and projects like those in West Shore. We are proud that Downtown is such a strong center for our city, but happy to see that the region is developing as well.

 

What is the Tampa Downtown Partnership’s role in developing the Downtown area? 

 

We do a lot of place-making in Downtown Tampa, and it is really about creating a space for people to gather and make things happen. For example, our ambassador program, which is like a concierge on the street, helps with things like directions and restaurant suggestions. The participants are feel-good ambassadors who can talk to visitors, residents and workers who are Downtown and make sure they are happy and having a good experience. We also have our litter patrol out on the street to ensure our beautification efforts are being met. We advocate for transportation solutions for the Downtown, like safer streets, pedestrian crosswalks, wayfinding signage and anything else that is going to make a person’s experience better.

 

One of our top priorities is reinvesting into the Downtown area. We are looking at getting involved in some small-scale capital improvement projects. We will be reinvesting in a couple of small projects that will help pedestrian safety in regard to signage, lighting and aesthetics for the Downtown. Downtown is probably the safest place in the whole city and we are working to make it even safer. We are also bringing the International Downtown Association Conference here in October 2020. That is an audience of about 1,000 people from around the world, consisting of planners, elected officials, architects and business leaders. All of these experts will be here to share best practices and we are excited to receive them.

 

How important is smart growth to the development of Downtown Tampa?

 

Smart growth is vitally important to the Downtown region. Having a strong city center is the basis for any successful city. Tampa is now being recognized as a top spot not only in Florida, but in the nation. We have hundreds of new residents moving into this region everyday. Our statistics show that housing in Downtown alone has increased 219% in the last 11 years. I believe the growth that is happening now is sustainable growth, and I do not believe that is going to change. There are more cranes Downtown than ever before and new businesses are continuously moving in here. People are making the investment into Tampa and especially Downtown. 

 

What would you identify as the biggest challenge facing economic development in this region?

 

One of our biggest challenges in this region is obviously transportation, so having a commuter system in place will help to mitigate this issue. We often hear from big companies that are looking to move here or even conventions hoping to come here that they are looking for a place where people are able to move around easily. We are starting to provide more of these options, but we have so much more work to do to become a more viable option for people.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.tampasdowntown.com/

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read February 2020 — Duke Energy Florida is not just increasing the amount of renewable power it is offering customers, with several solar plants coming online, it is also looking to harden its grid to protect it from increasingly harsh storms in the southern United States, as well as in cutting-edge “self healing” technology to reduce the impact of outages, according to Catherine Stempien, the company’s president.

 

 

 What advances have been made regarding the company’s clean energy projects in the region?

 

We are still in the process of building 700 megawatts of solar in our system and that will be completed by 2022. We are making significant progress on that. We are either operating or in the construction phase for about half of those megawatts. We brought two new solar plants online in December, at Lake Placid and Trenton, and we have two being completed in the first half of this year in Fort White and DeBary, with two others just announced in North Florida.

 

The other area where we have really made progress is in battery storage. We have said that we are going to build 50 megawatts worth of battery projects, and we have made announcements for three of these projects located in Trenton, Cape San Blas and Jennings. The battery charges when the sun is up and when the sun is down the battery discharges that energy. But batteries can do much more for our system. We have been testing a lot of cases for battery use, and the projects that we are going to be doing will help improve reliability for our customers, giving them more reliable power.

 

How is the company ensuring customers get the energy they need?

 

Our customers want power, and they want that power to stay on 24/7. We are midway through deploying our self-healing grid technology. About 50% of Pinellas County is covered by this technology now. If you think about the electric grid as a highway system, when you have a traffic jam somewhere in that system you want Waze or Google Maps to redirect you around that traffic jam. The grid works the same way: if we have an outage, or a tree falls down on a line, you want to be able to redirect the power around that problem to make sure that people get their energy. This technology does that automatically. We have sensors and communications devices all over our grid that automatically reroute the power and minimizes the problem, reducing the number of customers impacted. People might see a one-minute outage and then it will go back up again. In 2019, 150,000 outages did not happen because our system was able to reroute power, and that prevented 10 million minutes of customer interruptions. 

 

Why is Duke Energy pushing forward with sustainable power solutions?

 

Duke Energy Corp, of which we are a part, decided it was going to push itself and target climate goals that we are going to hold ourselves to. By 2030, we want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% from 2005, and by 2050 we want to be at net zero. Duke Energy Florida is going to be an important part of the enterprise goal. We have a line of sight on how we are going to meet the 2030 goal, but we don’t have an exact line of sight into how we are going to do it by 2050. We need certain technologies to advance faster, and we need the regulators to come along with us. We believe you have to set yourself aspirational goals.

 

How much should companies involve themselves in sustainability efforts?

 

Over the last number of years, we have seen an increase in the intensity and the characteristics of storms hitting the United States. Florida is at a higher risk of getting hit by those storms. We believe we need to plan for storm events. In 2018, two major storms hit our service territory, one in Florida and one in North Carolina. Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 storm that devastated the areas it hit. We had to completely rebuild the distribution system and 34 miles of transmission lines. But it left pretty quickly. 

 

Another storm, Hurricane Florence, hit the Carolinas. It was a water storm that stalled over the eastern part of North Carolina and dumped rain for days, causing extreme flooding, which makes it difficult to access substations and lines. It is hard to predict these kinds of events, so we are looking to constantly improve our response, making sure we have the right crews, with the right equipment, available to restore power.

 

The Florida legislature recognized these challenges and passed legislation in 2019 to encourage utilities to invest in hardening their grids for storms. It cleared the regulatory path for us to work on storm hardening, from making poles stronger, undergrounding certain parts of the grid, and replacing lattice towers with monopole towers. All of this work is part of a 10-year plan to harden our system so we are prepared.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.duke-energy.com/home

 

 

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. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.reichelrealty.com/

 

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.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.centerstatebank.com/

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.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://maddoxgc.com/

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.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.simon.com/mall/town-center-at-boca-raton

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.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.seacoastbank.com/

Face Off: The Bay’s Banking Bosses

Face Off: The Bay’s Banking Bosses

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

4 min read September 2019 The health of the banking sector is a great way to gauge the overall health of the economy, so when the banking sector is prospering it is normally on par with a healthy economy. This remains true in Tampa Bay as the local economy has been experiencing a long and healthy growth that is also shared by the banking sector in the region. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with David Call, Florida regional president of Fifth Third Bank, and Allen Brinkman, region president for Seacoast Bank, two of the premier banks in the Tampa Bay region. Discussions with both banking institutions covered their view of the current state of the market in Tampa Bay, how emerging technologies are impacting their banking practices, and ways to keep growth in the sector and Tampa Bay sustainable for the future.

What is your view of the local market in light of the burgeoning economy in the region?

David Call: Everything is moving at a fast pace in the Tampa Bay region, and from my perspective there is not one particular sector or segment of the market that is doing better than another. Our bank has five lines of business in the region: commercial, small business, retail, wealth and mortgage. All five of those lines are doing well and we are still seeing strong momentum. We have seen this growth for the last four years, and while we are prepared for any kind of slowdown, we haven’t seen any sign of that for the near future.

Allen Brinkman: As long as the economy does well and as the spirit of Tampa Bay continues to rise, the market will remain prosperous. There is a growing sense of pride in the city. This pride is creating opportunities for new businesses to start, established businesses to expand and investments into the business market to remain lucrative. It has been a great market for quite some time, and outside of a global economic issue, Tampa Bay is going to continue to do well. I believe that even if the global economy slows down, Tampa Bay is somewhat insulated because it is a place that people want to be, for both a younger and older demographic. There is almost nowhere else in Florida that is as cost-effective, beautiful and offers as many cultural and economic opportunities as Tampa Bay.

With the prominence of emerging technologies in the financial sector, how can banks find the balance to still deliver a personal experience?

Call: Technology has not taken the place of our physical centers, but everything that we do around technology has definitely taken off. Whether that is depositing a check or checking an account balance, all of these uses are being adopted at a much quicker pace than how technology was adopted in the past. That being said, we believe at least 60% of our clients still want to come to a branch and bank with a human being. That does not mean that they do not want technology, because they do, so it is a balancing act. We are still building branches in the state of Florida, and we will have more branches in the Tampa Bay area too. We want to offer all these various channels for people to use because ultimately we need to stay in line with the voice of the customer and keep them at the center of what we do.

Brinkman: The online and digital experience is more of a convenience vehicle than it is an alternative to all banking. Simple transactions like depositing a check or finding a branch can be accomplished with technology,  but more complicated transactions are usually going to involve an interaction with a banker. Banks are somewhat of a commodity today, and the only way to set yourself apart from other banks is by the advice you give. Our bankers are trained and spend a lot of time on their consultative approach. For example, in the past, we knew that the mortgage business was about borrowing as much as you could to get the biggest house, and hopefully everything worked out. Today, bankers give a little more advice and guidance on what is a responsible financial decision for a customer to make. This type of personal interaction could not be accomplished by technology.

What are some ways to keep banking sector growth and that of Tampa Bay sustainable and recession resilient?

Call: When we adapt to this influx (of high-net-worth investors), it has a positive affect on our business, and this is true for all of Tampa Bay, not just our bank. There are a lot of businesses and people bringing money to Tampa Bay because they see the growth. Outside investment is a huge part of keeping this growth sustainable because we need an infrastructure that matches the influx of people coming to Tampa Bay. In regards to our bank, we are investing our time and resources into making sure that we are a part of the change so we can help our communities thrive.

Brinkman: We are quite conservative in terms of our approach to lending, which some could misinterpret as not offering loans. However, we do offer loans just as much as most banks, we just tend to be conservative in how we advise our customer. Our bankers sit down with customers to understand why they need a loan, what the purpose is and inform the customer of whatever risk elements are out there that they may not have thought of. When a loan is done with Seacoast, a relationship is formed. We make the decision jointly versus just providing a loan that may not be right for the customer. Our role as a bank is to protect the customer, which creates a greater sense of responsibility to really develop a product that’s customized to their needs. If there is another recession, we believe we will fair well because of this practice.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.seacoastbank.com/

https://www.53.com/

Spotlight On: Mayor Sandra Bradbury, City of Pinellas Park

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read August 2019 — The unprecedented economic growth the Tampa Bay MSA, including Pinellas County, is enjoying comes with both benefits and challenges. At the very center of Pinellas County is it’s fourth largest city, Pinellas Park. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with Mayor of Pinellas Park Sandra Bradbury. She discussed how the city is handling the region’s growth, its focus on remaining economically and environmentally sustainable, and her outlook for the next year.

 

 

 

What efforts are being made to encourage environmental sustainability in the city? 

In a partnership with the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch, we just started development on a new park called Lurie Park. This park is going to be completely accessible for all handicapped people, from children to the elderly, and will be geared toward our veterans. We also just purchased a four-acre property that was a horse stable, which we are in the process of converting to a farm. It is an extension of the existing Helen Howarth Park. Our goal is to work with the U.S.-based network of youth organizations 4-H and bring students to the farm to teach them how to sustainably raise and grow their own food.

How are you supporting local business growth? 

Businesses come to us all the time because we have a relatively large amount of commercial area that’s available for development. The city council and voter referendum created a package of incentives that we could use to retain businesses that want to grow and expand. These incentives allow businesses the flexibility to move offices or add square footage to their buildings. We are one of the few places that has this ability. It is within our ordinances to allow our economic development manager and her team to offer incentives to local businesses, which revolves around how much they are growing and how many employees they will be hiring with the expansion. So far, city council has provided seven packages to different companies that have grown in Pinellas Park. 

What does the next year look like for Pinellas Park? 

We think the future is bright. We have a lot of businesses that are still looking at us as a place to expand into. Our position is unique because we are at the very center of the county. We are also one of the few cities that still has vacant land available, especially in our industrial area. This gives a business the opportunity to come here and develop their work space. With the economic growth in the region, our homes have gone up in value over the years, but overall the Pinellas Park area is still affordable. We have parks in the area, and our citizens assist in the conservation and revitalization of those parks as necessary. Overall, we feel extremely positive about the next year. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.pinellas-park.com/