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Leads Miami-Dade’s Public Schools to National Prominence















The Related Group is a trade name for a group of companies and partnerships that develop distinctive real estate projects. Each particular real estate development project that uses the name “Related Group” or “The Related Group” is a separate, single purpose entity that is solely responsible for its own separate development project, contracts, obligations, duties, and responsibilities and each uses the Related Group trade name by license agreement and each condominium project depicted is developed by one such distinct and separate, single purpose entity. This is not intended to be an offer to sell, nor a solicitation of an offer to buy, any condominium units to residents of CT, ID, NY, NJ and OR, or of any other jurisdiction where prohibited by law, unless the condominium has been registered or is exempt from registration, and your eligibility to purchase may depend upon your state of residency. Any offering made for, or by, any of the condominium development projects depicted is made solely by the Prospectus of such project which Prospectus is filed with the State of Florida and available from the project developer.


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28 Alberto Carvalho By Carlos Harrison Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent employed inclusivity and outreach to lift the country’s 4th largest district to national prominence.

36 Plateau-phobia

Four South Florida institutions offer fresh opportunities for executives who seek advancement in their jobs and a new outlook on life.

50 The Business of Charity

By Bill Kearney Restauranteur Shareef Malnik keeps The Forge relevant by welcoming challenges and rejecting the status quo.

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By David Lyons Our roundtable of board chairs reveals how nonprofits keep precious dollars flowing into worthy philanthropic causes.



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The newsmakers, game changers, and innovators who are driving business in the region.


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Where business and politics intersect.

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CREATIVE DIRECTOR Lourdes Guerra CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Carlos Harrison Bill Kearney Catherine Lackner Millie Acebal Rousseau David Volz CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jimmy Abraham Aixa M. Holt Jorge Parra Ada Stevens Douglas Stevens Donna Victor Candace West MARKETING MANAGER Liudmila Leonova COVER Photo: Donna Victor Š2015 Executive South Florida magazine is published 9 times per year by South Florida Executive LLC, 800 Brickell Avenue, Penthouse One, Miami, fl 33131. All rights reserved. The entire content of EXECUTIVE South Florida may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the publisher. EXECUTIVE South Florida accepts no responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts and/or photographs, and assumes no liability for products and services advertised herein. EXECUTIVE South Florida reserves the right to edit, rewrite, or refuse material. To order a subscription, please call 305.735.2873. For more information, please contact: To distribute EXECUTIVE South Florida, please email:

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Leads Miami-Dade’s Public Schools to National Prominence



he national debate over the effectiveness of government and the public sector rages on, yet the efforts of those who work on behalf of the citizenry often get lost in the fog of political discourse. But as we prepared this edition of EXECUTIVE South Florida, we didn’t have to travel far to find South Floridians who demonstrate a passion for the public interest, and who set a remarkable example of giving back to the community. In our cover profile, Alberto Carvalho, the Miami-Dade County Superintendent of Schools, tells how he emerged from the ranks of immigrants to lead the nation’s fourth largest school district to national prominence. His roll-up-the-sleeves style of management and advocacy for the county’s public school children is a prime example of how a top public sector executive can effectively bring about change in a complex organization. We wondered what the board chairs of South Florida’s major non-profits dealt with on a regular basis. For the answer, we reached out to leaders of more than a dozen of the region’s top organizations to gauge the health of charitable giving in our local communities. While our roundtable discussion of non-profit board leaders revealed that the public’s will to donate remains robust, they exposed the need to be creative and implement select private sector strategies in finding ways to keep the dollars flowing. And then there is our Coral Gables City Report, another installment in our series that focuses on the status of South Florida’s major municipalities. “The City Beautiful,” as it has been traditionally called, is determined to carve out a future that is in keeping with the Mediterranean design and internationalist vision of its founder, George Merrick. That means the city government must make tough calls to preserve a lifestyle and urban architectural look that attracts companies and residents who think globally. Despite the tough debates and protracted deliberations, Jim Cason, a career diplomat turned mayor appears to be leading the city in the right direction.

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37 LO C AT I O N S W O R L D W I D E ˚ – I N C L U D I N G S E V E N F LO R I DA O F F I C E S

Miami Roots, Global Reach. Greenberg Traurig proudly supports South Florida’s philanthropic organizations in their mission to preserve, promote and protect the welfare of our great community. We are honored to be involved in the call for change and stand next to our partners in a steadfast commitment to making a difference in the community we call home. GREENBERG TRAURIG, P.A. 333 S.E. 2ND AVENUE | SUITE 4400 | MIAMI, FL 33131 | 305.579.0500 GREENBERG TRAURIG, P. A . | AT TORNEYS AT L AW | WWW.GTL AW.COM Greenberg Traurig is a service mark and trade name of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. ©2015 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved. Contact: Jaret L. Davis in Miami at 305.579.0500. °These numbers are subject to fluctuation. 25764

Miami Children’s Health Foundation’s Donor Recognition Event Celebrated $32M In 2014. A Heartfelt Thank You To The Donors Who Have Contributed $25K Or More To Our Together For the Children Campaign. 3M Corporation 5LINX Enterprises, Inc. 640 Sports/Orlando Alzugaray AB&A Advertising Anthony R. Abraham Foundation, Inc. Ace Hardware Corp. John B. Agnetti, Esq. Gigi and Karim Alibhai Allendale Capital LLC Cesar Alvarez, Esq. American Airlines Andrea Beloff Fine Art Anita Andrews April Andrews-Singh and Gagan Singh Annette and Juan Carlos Antorcha, Esq. Anonymous Isabelle and Oscar J. Arellano Maria and Agustin R. Arellano, Sr. Artefacto/Lais and Paulo Bacchi AT&T Community Giving Program Azamara Club Cruises BankUnited - Miami Lakes Bâoli Miami Restaurant & Lounge Debla and Anthony Baradat Essie and James W. Barfield Fund Gloria and Herbert Barker Barker Animation, Inc. Robert A. and Gertrude A. Barnett Foundation Candice P. Barrs Trust Cathy and Jeff Bartel Richard R. Bassett The Batchelor Foundation, Inc. Estate of Millicent Bauer Eilah Campbell-Beavers and Ben A. Beavers Estate of Angelo A. Belfi Rose Bell † Barry E. Bennett Dana and Dr. Kevin Berkowitz Susan and Jon Berusch Crystal and Timothy L. Birkenstock Biscayne Bay Marriott Hotel & Marina Stacy and John Paul Bolduc The Jay Bon Salle Foundation Bonfaire, Inc. Natalia and Carlos F. Bonzon, Jr. Bradford Renaissance Portraits Corp. Tricia Menéndez and Felix Brambilla Criselda and Jonathan Breene Brickell Motors Brigadoon Fitness, Inc. Britto Central, Inc. Klaudia and Lewis N. Brown Walter K. Brown Brown and Heller, P.A. Dr. Cathy A. Burnweit/Eric L. Aserlind Amy and Jose Cabrera Samuel C. Cantor Charitable Trust CareCloud Chanin and Adam E. Carlin Cartier Latin America & Caribbean Alicia M. Celorio Mariana and Roberto Chapur Duarte Heidi M. and Pierre Charalambides Chico’s FAS, Inc. Corporate Office Children’s Cancer Cooperative, Inc. Children’s Miracle Network ® Hospitals Ravneet and Anand Chowdhury Chowdhury Family Foundation CIT Group Inc. Claudine L. Claus/ Home Financing Center, Inc. CO-OP Financial Services Coastal Construction Group

Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc. Margarita and Armando Codina Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company Community Foundation of Broward Community Foundation of Collier County/ The Eleanor B. Sweet Designated Fund Michael A. Comras Coral Gables Country Club Patricia and Thomas M. Cornish Costco Wholesale U.S. Cox Media Group Miami Credit Unions for Kids Cruciani USA, LLC Isabel and Eduardo Cruz CureSearch for Children’s Cancer Dade Medical College The Dan Marino Foundation, Inc. Marcia and Marcus Franco de Andrade Vivian C. de las Cuevas-Díaz, Esq. and Ricardo J. Díaz Ana Cristina and Edgardo Defortuna David Delgado The Delphi Foundation Delta Dental Community Care Foundation Jodi and Robert H. Dickinson Dimitri & Co. Do Unto Others Trust, Inc. The Dosal Family Foundation Dry Echo/Dean Neiger Michele and Timothy B. Dudley Mandi and Patrick Duggan Mirka Bottari and Mathieu Duguay Duty Free Americas, Inc. Cristina Maria and Daniel Echavarria Eden Roc Miami Beach Resort & Spa Dr. Margaret Eidson and Mike S. Eidson, Esq. Elite Brands International Elite Island Resorts Elizabeth Arden Inc. Equinox Fitness Clubs - South Beach Ernst & Young LLP Olivia and Fernando J. Espinosa Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management Sheila M. Ewing Kathrine and Craig S. Fainstein Jana and Simon Falic Falk, Waas, Hernández, Cortina, Solomon & Bonner, P.A. Farrell & Patel, Attorneys at Law Constance and Miguel B. Fernández Miguel B. Fernández Family Foundation Frances Fields Charitable Remainder Unitrust Ana and Tony Figueroa Cisneros Caridad and Julio Figueroa Karin Figueroa Cisneros Finaccess Advisors, LLC First Hand Foundation Firstgiving, Inc. Eloah and Mark Fisher FIU Dance Marathon Florida Blue Florida Fresh Market Enterprises Inc. The Fortin Foundation of Florida Fortune International Florida Power & Light Fundación Teletón Future Energy Solutions Services, Inc. Gloria and Michael Fux

The Michael Fux Foundation Inc. Eloy García Jr. Carolina Maria and Gregg M. Gelber Genzyme Corporation Lydia Ghigliotti † Gilded Age Greetings Glamsquad Sheryl Sandberg and David † Goldberg Monica B. and Luis A. Gonzalez Jacqueline and Nelson D. Gonzalez Rainier González The Anne Goss Foundation Dr. Deise Granado-Villar and Rodobaldo P. Hassor Greenberg Traurig, P.A. Sheila and Gary Gregory Grossjung Foundation/Pam and Thomas Grossjung Theresa Margaret Grote Fund Stacey Ann Tucker and Randolph Samuel Gumenick Batoul and Mohamad Hachem Estate of Jessie Hancock Hasbro Latin America Estate of Ralph George Hasker Daniel F. Hassan Tomas Hauff Barbara Havenick Alexis and Isadore Havenick Patricia and Garrett S. Hayim Health Foundation of South Florida Heather on Earth Music Foundation Dr. Gabriella Heisel and George T. Heisel, Jr. Alina and Jorge L. Hernández Estate of Elaine B. Hillman Mary and James W. Hipp Amy and Douglas K. Hirschhorn HMS Host at Miami International Airport Wendy and Wayne G. Holman Nancy and Paul Humbert Hyundai Hope On Wheels I Care I Cure Childhood Cancer Foundation iHeartMedia IHOP Restaurants Interamerican Medical Center, Inc. Dairy Queen It All Works Out Incorporated Michele and M. Stephen Jackman Maria G. Jiménez and Carlos Kauffmann Sofia Joelsson Johnson Controls, Inc. JPMorgan Chase & Co. JW Marriott Marquis Miami Annie M. and Manuel Kadre Karla Conceptual Event Experiences Claudia and Thomas H. Kato Stacey and Drew Kern DJ and Steven Kerr Kidz Medical Services Drs. Rekha and M. Narendra Kini Kohl’s Department Stores Kramer Portraits, New York Latux Diamond Blade Distributors Lava Studio Ashleigh and Justin C. Leto George Lindemann, Jr. Christina and George P. Lindemann Live Like Bella Foundation Marile and Jorge Luis López, Esq. Marianne H. Luedeking in Memory of Heinz Luedeking

Ann E. Lyons Roxana and Ricardo Machado Alina and Felipe MacLean Macy’s Foundation Macy’s Florida Magic City Casino Alessandra and Ricardo A. Magro Marcum Foundation Marriott International, Inc. Patricia and José Ramón Mas Vivian and Juan Carlos Mas Aleyda and Jorge Mas Santos Massage Envy Spa Brickell Beatrice C. Mayer MC2 Realty Ruth McCormick Tankersley Charitable Trust/Mark McCormick Miller The Shane McGee Foundation Martha and Fred H. McGill MCM Munilla Family Foundation MCP Waterford Atrium, LLC Karina and Jason Medcalf Lisette and Manuel Medina Medina Family Foundation, Inc. Melissa Medina-Schnur Ronne and Dr. Steven J. Melnick Amy and Alan Lewis Meltzer Tricia Menéndez and Felix Brambilla Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC The Miami Foundation Miami Marlins Community Foundation, Inc. Miami Perfume Junction, Inc. Miami Retreat Foundation Microsoft Giving Campaign Cristina and Henry Miller Henry L. & Kathryn Mills Charity Foundation Adrianne and Paul Mittentag Andria and Andres Miyares George Mobassaleh Modern Luxury Luz Morillo, Esq. Jane and Dr. Glenn Morrison Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC Mortimer J. Harrison Trust Lillian Katona and Alexander D. Moskovitz Laura and Juan Munilla Bibiana and Mario Murgado Yolanda Nader Jane and Albert Nahmad Estate of Shirley Narcisenfeld Cynthia T. Nash National Non-Profit for Americans with Disabilities, Inc. Danielle and Alex Nemiroff Nestle Purina Petcare Neuro Network Partners, LLP Norma Ryder and Bill Newcomb Beverly Jane and Kimrey D. Newlin Newman’s Own Barbara B. and Jack Nicklaus Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Auxiliary Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Gift Shop Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Staff Fund Felicia and Yefim Nivoro Northwestern Mutual/ Darling Lie-Nielsen Claudia and Carlos A. Nunez-Vivas Ocean Drive Media Group OHL-Arellano Construction Co. Oliva Cigar Company Olloqui Family Dominick Orlando †

#2gether4thechildren Please join us in our mission to bring hope for better outcomes, for better health, for a better quality of life to children and families here and around the world. Because together, anything is possible.

Pasha’s - Miami Passion Growers, LLC Peacock Foundation, Inc. Pediatric Heart Foundation Cheryl and Jaime Peisach Dr. Barbara García Peña and Constantino S. Peña Adriana and Manuel Pereira Reyes Kristi and Alberto J. Pérez Sylvia and Ernesto A. Pérez Zuleida and Rafael P. Pérez The Perez Family Foundation Menchu Escolar and Fernando Pérez-Hickman Perkins + Will, Inc. Perry Ellis International, Inc. Amanda and John Petrucco Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity Bertha and Paul Pino Dr. Brigitt Rok and Alan Potamkin Premier Beverage Company Pritchard Sports & Entertainment Group Produce for Kids, Inc. Prudential Financial Publix Super Markets, Inc. Pulse International Realty/Rena Kliot RE/MAX International The Ethel and Harry Reckson Foundation Kenneth J. Reilly, Esq. Erich H. Reissig Manuel Reyes Jessica and Steven M. Rhodes Pat Riley Family Foundation Robins & Morton Christian Rodríguez Raul Rodríguez Roger Vivier Bal Harbour Roger Vivier Paris The George and Phyllis Rothman Foundation, Inc. Mark Rousso, Esq. Royal Caribbean International Royal Recovery Resources The S and Naomi Myers Trust Sabadell United Bank Felix Sabates Olga and Carlos A. Saladrigas Ana Francheska and Anibal Alejandro Sánchez Mayra and Albert Santiago Ross Argent Rodríguez and Stephen Sawitz SBS-Spanish Broadcasting Systems Lynn and Frank C. Scaduto Mary A. Scannell Trust Henry Schein, Inc. Lisa Schejola-Akin and Jeffrey Akin Lona Smith, PhD. and Zachary Schiffman Lauren Rachel and Adam Jason Schwartz Selecta Magazine Sergio Rossi Jennifer and Eric Sheppard Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP Norman Shulevitz Foundation Ida L. Siegelman Estate Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity Marte and Paul Steven Singerman Snap Global Solutions Joseph John Snieg Trust Molly and Todd Snyder Sociedad Textil Lonia Corp., dba Purificacion García

Sojo Design Patricia and Alex Soto South Florida Sports Foundation, Inc. dba Miami Dolphins Foundation Gabriela and Joey Souto Spirit of Children Elizabeth Spill Jessica and Scott A. Srebnick, Esq. Starlight Children’s Foundation Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, PA Stericycle, Inc. Stop! Children’s Cancer of Palm Beach County, Inc. Lauren Sturges-Fernández and Charles M. Fernández Jenna and Farid R. Suleman The Taft Foundation Sandra and Anthony Tamer Taylor & Mathis of Florida, Inc. Tee Shirt Central, Inc. The Helping Hand The Holman Family Foundation The Ortega Foundation Katrin Theodoli Corina and George Thermiotis TNS Charitable Fund Olivia and Frank Toral Toral Family Foundation The Torch Relay for Children’s Miracle Network, Inc. TotalBank Tri-City Electric Co., Inc. Trump National Doral Golf Resort & Spa Lourdes and Hector Tundidor Kira Turchin and Jason S. Turchin, Esq. Turner Construction Company United Way of Miami-Dade University of Miami Dance Marathon Univision Brenda Vargas Briana Vega † Estate of Phyllis Vershay Trust of Rita Green Wallach Walmart Foundation, Inc. Walmart/Sam’s Club The Ware Foundation/ Morgan Ware Soumah Wells Fargo Foundation West Coast University West Flagler Associates, Ltd. Wicker, Smith, O’Hara, McCoy, & Ford, P.A. Helena Wilk Residuary Trust u/w/o Helena Wilk Siri Margrethe and Are Willoch Winn-Dixie Foundation, Inc. Libby Witherspoon Rubin and Gladys Wollowick Family Foundation Janelle and Justin Woodward Worldwide Express Wow Factor Marketing Group/Jose and Heidi Dans WQAM/Orlando Alzugaray WSVN-7 Sunbeam Television Corporation X-EETO, Inc. Jerome A. Yavitz Charitable Foundation, Inc. Nancy and Paul Zarcadoolas Susan and Richard Zinn The Zyman Foundation

Signifies deceased

Photo by Donna Victor



Shareholder, GrayRobinson Besides serving as a legal counselor to his clients, GrayRobinson shareholder Kevin Levy is viewed by Miami business leaders as a champion of growth in the technology community. AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015



hen the law firm of GrayRobinson went searching for someone to lead its technology transactions group, it dipped into the deep talent pool at rival Gunster. In April, the Orlandobased firm found 20-year veteran technology guru Kevin M. Levy, named him the group’s statewide leader and assigned him to its Miami office. In Levy, GrayRobinson succeeded in hiring a widely acknowledged leader of the technology movement in South Florida. He is co-chair of The Beacon Council’s Technology Committee, and previously chaired the Florida Bar’s Computer & Technology Law Committee as well as the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Technology & Bioscience Committee. In a region once devoid of mentors for hungry startup operations, Levy has served as an advisor for a number of incubators and has collaborated with eMerge Americas, serving as the Legal Chair, Legal Subject Matter Expert (SME) on the Advisory Board and on the general steering committee. “Kevin Levy is the right fit for Co-Chair of The Beacon Council’s Technology Committee as he knows Miami’s unique role in technology, and as a lawyer representing tech companies and entrepreneurs, his insights add great value to our committee’s mission,” The Beacon Council President & CEO Larry K. Williams said. “He is a proven leader who knows how to bring the right people together to drive the growth of Miami-Dade’s tech sector.” Levy also has admirers at the Miami-based Knight Foundation, which has sunk a considerable amount of money into helping to jumpstart the South Florida technology movement. “Kevin is a great champion of Miami’s growing tech community,” said Matt Haggman, the Miami Program Director at the foundation. “Not only is he a vocal advocate for it but is also one of leaders really driving it.” Three months into the new job, Levy likes the way business has unfolded at GrayRobinson. “I’m very pleased with how busy it’s been— a lot of new work at various level,” he said in an interview. “Of note there is a major new client doing some things on the innovation front for tourism.” He declined to identify the client. Levy’s appointment as head of the Technology Transactions Group placed him charge of 40 GrayRobinson legal professionals statewide. The firm maintains offices in 12 Florida cities. “It was an awesome opportunity presented to me and so I made the move,” he said. The move came after 13 years at Gunster. He has practiced law for 20 years. He earned his law 16


degree from the University of Miami and his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. The people who report to him are based in technology hotbeds around the state. The cities include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Gainesville. He also has people in Tallahassee who work the lobbying side of the business. “We have people well positioned in all of those offices,” he said. His chief methods of communication with the group are videoconferencing and email, not time-consuming, in-person group meetings. The latter, he said, “takes a lot of time and money.” His approach, and that of his new employer, is to ensure the firm’s lawyers spend more time on their clients’ needs and problems than filling out forms. “GrayRobinson has a unique structure: We want people to work with their clients rather than having a burdensome administrative level,” he said. “We absolutely have metrics,” he added. The lawyers still have to pay attention to their hours and other business matters such as collections. Still, the idea is to ensure that the firm helps its clients realize their legal objectives, and more. “To me, every relationship is an opportunity to add value to an enterprise,” he said. “I’m looking to be more than an attorney. I want to help them succeed by doing whatever I can to add value. It might be an introduction to an accountant. It might be an introduction to a place to get grants. It might be an introduction a developer or vendor.

“That’s why I play a role in the community to help the tech community grow,” he said. Tony Argiz, chairman and CEO of the accounting firm Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, applauded Levy’s advocacy for entrepreneurs. “At the chamber he really did a great job with the technology committee,” Argiz said. “He took it to new heights. In that area he is really a mover and shaker. We actually use him as an attorney for one of our businesses.” Levy said his community involvement dates back eight to nine years, when “the momentum had been building for the younger entrepreneur and early stage companies.” “There’s a hundred technology companies in South Florida at least,” he said. “I’ve been involved in so much of this from the start.” Still, as recently as three years ago, many start-up entrepreneurs complained that mentors and other professional service experts were in short supply in South Florida. But since then, the speed and pace of innovation and new technologies have picked up considerably. The Miami area business community has rallied around its burgeoning population of local innovators, providing the connections that entrepreneurs need. Levy, according to technology community advocates, remains among those who are at the forefront. “Again and again, we’re seeing when people are provided the opportunity to mentor and counsel early stage entrepreneurs, it is something people are delighted to do,” said Haggman of the Knight Foundation. “Kevin has been one of those leaders. [He’s] someone who offers time and counsel to entrepreneurs along with being an advocate for Miami’s startup tech community.” E —David Lyons

Photo by Donna Victor






Miami Market Manager, Bank of America

Photo by Donna Victor


hen most people think of banks, they may think of personal and business banking and other services, such as loans and lines of credit. The phrases “giving back” and “community outreach” aren’t the first ones to come to mind. Maria C. Alonso hopes to change that. As market manager, she oversees Bank of America’s deployment of time, talent, and treasure to make the community better, with the bank’s overarching goal of making the economy stronger. “I tell their [the bank’s] story beyond products and services,” explained Alonso. “We’re a global company with a local focus; we have a strong commitment to our community, and the communities that we serve where we live, work and play.” Alonso, whose undergraduate degree is in industrial engineering—her master’s is in business administration with a focus in marketing—has had various important roles with Bank of America, including implementing the marketing strategy for the bank’s International Private Bank Unit and spearheading the national Hispanic marketing strategy. Those positions required a lot of traveling, so when the market manager opportunity presented itself, she didn’t want to pass up the chance to permanently plant roots in Miami, her hometown. Her background in industrial engineering has ended up being quite useful throughout her illustrious career. “The skill sets I learned in industrial engineering that I apply today are how I approach problems and the process side of product management. It was an unusual way to end up at a bank, but I have a very broad perspective as a result.”

Just in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), Bank of America, in 2014, invested $2.5 million in the community through grants via its charitable foundation. That amount does not include sponsorships or matching gifts, nor does it account for the value attached to employee volunteerism. On a national level last year, the bank committed $10 million to RED to fight the transmission of AIDS from mother to child. The national commitment was localized with a series of events to raise additional awareness. “We’re a stakeholder in our community’s success—in this case, Miami’ success. We’ve realized our success, and that of our communities, is totally linked,” Alonso said. For the fifth straight year, Bank of America has partnered with Feeding America as the presenting sponsor of its Give a Meal program, contributing $2 (up to $1.5 million) for every $1 donated to the non-profit organization or one of its more than 200 member food banks across the U.S. Local efforts resulted in over $70,000 to Feeding South Florida, which is Feeding America’s local member food bank. Alonso herself is actively involved with United Way of Miami-Dade. She is a board member and co-chairs the Community Investment Council. The organization’s president and CEO, Harve Mogul, who’s known Alonso for 15 years, describes her as innovative, and said Bank of America has been a major supporter of the organization by investing in early education through grants and supporting the Center for Financial Stability, which models best practices and was launched during the recession in 2007. “She’s a very button-up individual, careful, very strategic and is not driven by emotions,” Mogul said. “She’s also a thoughtful, consistent and caring person,

and just doesn’t give up. She gets people around the table, and when she makes reports at the board meeting, she gets applause. That’s pretty unusual. People respect how much she cares, and how good of a job she does.” It’s hard to quantify the financial impact Bank of America’s outreach efforts have had on the local community. “We invest, but we’re not the direct service provider,” Alonso said. “We cite their impact, the number of children they work with and mentor, the number of meals provided as a result of our grants.” She said that nationally, the bank made a $2 billion 10-year philanthropic commitment through 2019. Bank of America is also committed to diversity and inclusion, and supports internal programs to foster a better understanding of people’s difference and similarities. “We can connect better with each other, whether generational or ethnic, and serve our very diverse array of customers and clients.” Alonso is a recipient of both the Coral Gables Community Foundation Education Award, and the American Red Cross Spectrum Award Miami Ambassador. She also received, last year, the Silver Medallion Award from the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews (MCCJ), and was recognized by the Junior League of Miami’s Women Who Make a Difference. Alonso also chairs the New World School of the Arts; is a board member of the Miami Dade College Foundation, where she serves as the program committee chair of the Miami Foundation; sits on the advisory council for Teach for America, Miami; and is a board member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and past chairman. She was the fifth woman overall to lead the chamber, and the first Cuban-American woman to do so. E —Millie Acebal Rousseau AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015





t would be wrong to say that with a wave of a wand, Meredith Lasher, president and CEO of Bombshell Productions, has somehow magically drawn in prestigious clients such as Fendi, Harry Winston, and Red Bull. The truth is, it’s taken her a combination of grit, charisma, and persistence to get noticed, coupled with hard work and pristine quality to keep the clients coming. Bombshell Productions takes a jack-of-alltrades approach to marketing and branding projects. The company is self-described as an experiential marketing, custom event production, and global branding firm. And it’s not a stretch; it really does all those things. Generally speaking, experiential marketing is a form of advertising that seeks to connect consumers with a product through some form of personal, hands-on experience. Through the staging of special events, the end game is to provide the would-be buyer with a pleasurable or memorable connection that will inspire a purchase and build long-term loyalty to the brand. Lasher is a cheery, petite blonde who got her start in business working for another special events company. But when it came time for a change, a conversation with her father altered her trajectory. “I was with my dad on Father’s Day, and he said, ‘I’m sure you’ve thought of doing your own 20


thing,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I will,’” Lasher recalls telling her dad, who runs his own business. “Then it became very real, and I thought, what’s going to happen? I’m going to go figure something out.” Ultimately, she found a space, and two co-workers from the previous company decided to join her. Bombshell Productions was officially launched. The trio’s first client was Continental Group, a property management company that needed help pulling together its first expo and trade show. Lasher also launched herself into networking. “I went back to my theater roots and got connected with the Arsht Center and started building sets at the Carnival Studio,” she said. “The other angle that I worked was my brother’s skateboard buddy from childhood.” That “buddy”—Kevin Perkins—had grown up and become the logistics manager for Design Miami. At first, Lasher admitted, it was a hard sell. But she and her colleagues were able to connect mostly due to the unique capabilities Bombshell could provide, such as working with fabrics. “A lot of people at Design Miami require a very customized build, but when you have a client such as Fendi or Swarovski, they’re very particular and require technical direction. They have a conceptual idea, but how do you get it to be a real, physical thing?” she said. That’s where Lasher’s team stood out, and

four years later, Bombshell continues to work with Design Miami. “We have very high-end sponsors and incredibly demanding vendors … Bombshell specializes in really complicated build-outs that demand a lot of attention,” Perkins said. Harry Winston, the luxury jeweler and producer of Swiss timepieces, contacted Bombshell two weeks before an event. The company needed to transform a rehearsal room into a Harry Winston salon room for the New World Symphony gala. Lasher was working with 500 square feet of space, and could not put even one screw in the wall. Yet, they pulled it off with carpeted floors, tapered walls and a lightbox with iconic images. When Kim Costello, who oversees corporate communications and social media for AutoNation, told Lasher she needed a dry ice cocktail in the color Audi red for an event, Lasher didn’t flinch. Costello also likes that she plans ahead. “She does everything from planning to 3D mockups, which allows me to actually see what she’s envisioning,” Costello said. For her work, Lasher has received over a dozen Addy Awards, and last year, a Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business. She currently employs six full-time people, but hires about 60 contractors on a freelance basis every year. E —Millie Acebal Rousseau

Photo by Jorge Parra

President & CEO, Bombshell Productions





Photo by Melanie Bell

Vice-President, Sunbeam Properties & Sunbeam Development


s V.P. of Sunbeam Properties, Andrew A n s in ov e r s e e s d e v e l o p m e n t , management, marketing and leasing for the Miramar Park of Commerce. The park might not exist today if it was not for a serendipitous error made on the land’s purchase decades ago. Andrew, or Andy, as he’s known, is the third generation in the well-respected Ansin family to be involved in real estate. After World War II, his grandfather Sidney purchased 2,000 acres of surplus government property, which the military had been using as a testing range. The property Sidney wanted was actually in Pembroke Pines, but the broker made an error and he ended up purchasing the property in Miramar. Today, that land is home to the Miramar Park of Commerce, Broward’s largest business park. “I work for a family, not an institutional player. The family is committed to South Florida. They’re not here to pop in and pop out; they’re here for the long-term play,” said Maridee Bell, vice-president of leasing and marketing for Sunbeam Properties. Bell, who started as an administrative assistant with the company and has worked with Ansin for the 22


past 23 years, calls him brilliant, a boss who teaches you how to think about things, not tell you how to do them. “His style is to make sure you understand how to think about the process so you can grow. You’re not just working for him, but with him, in partnership, even though he’s the boss,” she said. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were many civil disturbances and riots in the Miami area, so many companies wanted to leave. But they had nowhere to go other than Sunrise or Pompano Beach. That’s when Andy’s father—broadcast billionaire Edmund Ansin—approached Miramar’s leaders and explained that many of those companies preferred to stay near MiamiDade. So, he proposed the business park on the county line. That’s how, in 1985, Miramar Park got its start. At the time, Andy had his eye on Wall Street. “That was right after I graduated college,” he said. “I had intended to go to business school, but my dad suggested I go to work first. I started running aspects of the park.”

When Hurricane Andrew leveled much of South Miami-Dade, the park in South Broward enjoyed a revival. “It was good for us. We had product and a lot of companies moved; some moved North on a temporary basis, and some decided not to rebuild in Dade,” he said. Today, 80 percent of the park’s structures house distribution or manufacturing operations. The balance of the commercial space includes single-story office or flex buildings. The single story office buildings were a good move for Sunbeam, as they are surrounded by enough land to offer ample parking. This led to major deals with companies like Spirit Airlines and American Express, which had heavy parking requirements for their call center workers. “Andy is a very competitive person, great businessman, very patient, tenacious and extremely intelligent. He’s got a great pedigree,” said Paul Becskehazy, president of PB Commercial Realty. “I suspect that Andy would’ve been very successful regardless of what his background is. He’s somebody who can mix pleasure and business, and relationships that are sometimes conflicting.” E —Millie Acebal Rousseau


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CONGRESSWOMAN DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ Chair of the Democratic National Committee

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will do whatever it takes to reach consensus in Washington, even if it means taking to a ball diamond for a friendly game of softball with her political adversaries. 24


Photo by Candace West


t her district office in Pembroke Pines, the desk of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz is lined with donkeys—the Democratic Party mascot—and a ceramic jar for pens that bears the inscription: “Ashes of Old Republicans.” It might seem paradoxical that the chair of the Democratic National Committee, who frequently engages in intense verbal combat with GOP figures, shows a sense of humor. But then again, today’s gridlock in Washington may well make comic relief a job requirement. The congresswoman acknowledges that these days, Democrats and Republicans are not agreeing on much, which makes it tough to pass legislation. “Finding consensus with people who think very different requires investment in developing a personal relationship,” she said. “If you like someone, you’re more likely to trust them, and it’s easier to get them to ‘yes’ as opposed to ‘never try.’” And what better way to get to know someone than over a ballgame? In 2009, Wasserman Schultz spearheaded, along with Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. They assembled a bipartisan team of female members of Congress to play against the women of the Washington, D.C. press corps. “We raise money for a common enemy—breast cancer.” The spirited game led Wasserman Schultz to team with Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), asking Ellmers to be the Republican lead on the EARLY Act breast cancer legislation— it passed—targeting young women at high risk for breast cancer. Wasserman Schultz herself battled the disease. “It’s very unlikely I would’ve gotten to know her,” Wasserman Schultz conceded. “Philosophically, we have very different viewpoints.” When it comes to taking risks, the congresswoman weighs her options carefully. She recalled first running for a state House seat when she was just 25 years old, making her the youngest woman ever elected to the Florida Legislature. “The good old boys told me it wasn’t my turn yet, to get in line, and they’d decide when it was my turn,” she said. It didn’t stop her. “I said to the good old boys,

politely, I was going to run, and I hoped when they ran the primary I’d have their support.” She said they agreed dismissively, not thinking she’d win. “You have to be willing to take risks in order to make progress,” she said of her risk tolerance. She added, however, that it’s important not to take on unnecessary risks, and to measure the risk with the reward. “Taking a risk is being able to go after something you know you want, know you’d be good at, and not being afraid to take that risk, but also being smart about the risk versus the reward.” As a mother, it’s something she constantly thinks about—taking a risk on missing out on a stage of her children’s lives and questioning if it’s worth it. As one of a handful of women with young children serving in Congress, Wasserman Schultz advocates for women’s issues. “I’m looking through a different lens of priorities than men, or even older women.” Recently, she was on a congressional delegation to Kenya and Malawi to learn about programs that invest in the well-being of women and girls. She says balancing being a congresswoman with motherhood is one of her biggest challenges. “My first responsibility is to be the best mom to my children and make sure I’m able to provide and care for them, and prepare them for success in life,” she said. “Professionally, my first responsibility is to my constituents and being able to balance those two things, along with the President asking me to chair the DNC … requires a lot of organization and skill in trying to balance it all.” Wasserman Schultz also is a supporter of business causes. She hosts small business workshops to help entrepreneurs find loans and learn the basics of starting a successful small business. The sixth annual workshop was held in late May at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. The congresswoman was thrilled with this year’s event, which was attended by more than 400 small-business owners and prospective entrepreneurs. As part of the workshop initiative, an entity called The Early Learning Business Institute provides business training for early learning center owners. “The problem we identified was that they were really good at taking care of children, but not very good at running a business,” she explained.

To address the situation, the congresswoman convened a separate roundtable of early learning center owners along with leaders from FPL, Wells Fargo and other corporations. The center owners received business training they’d never have access to, she said. This year, she distributed 74 certificates to graduates of the Institute at the Broward workshop. Earlier this year, Wasserman Schultz announced she would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, saying she preferred to serve out her term as head of the DNC and help elect the party’s eventual nominee for the White House. “As the 2016 race unfolds, my schedule at the DNC will indeed intensify, but like the last four years, it will not interfere with my important responsibility of representing the people of Florida’s 23rd District in Washington,” she said. When asked in her office about backing Hillary Clinton in 2016—especially since she was one of her international co-chairs in 2008—the congresswoman was reserved in her response. “I’m the chair; it’s my responsibility to neutrally monitor ... it’s my expectation to support whoever the Democratic nominee is.” When pressed further, she responded, “My answer I gave you, stands.” When asked about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who is allowed to run as a Democrat under the bylaws of the DNC, she replied: “The Democratic Party appreciates the contributions that Sen. Sanders, Secretary Clinton, and other candidates will make to a healthy dialogue about the future of our party and our nation. There is a distinct contrast between Democrats who are on the side of the middle and working class families, and Republicans who are concerned with the very rich and wealthy corporations. Over the next year, the discussions we have during our respective nominating processes will help make that choice clear.” She remains confident that the Democratic Party nominee will win the race for the White House next year. “The DNC treats each candidate for president equally, and any one of our candidates, were they to become the nominee of the party, will beat the Republican because voters know that it is Democrats who have their backs and who are fighting for them on jobs, the economy, health care, education, and so much more.” E —Millie Acebal Rousseau AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015



LEONCIO DE LA PEÑA CEO and Founder, De La Peña Group

Miami lawyer Leoncio De La Peña represents foreign nationals who want to invest in the U.S. Often, he counsels them that they need to place their trust in the rule of law. 26


Photos by Douglas Stevens


t’s widely recognized among South Florida business and civic leaders that the region’s economy has gotten a major lift from foreign investors. And in recent years, big out of town law firms set up shop in Miami to grab a piece of the action. But long before they did, a small boutique law firm had jumped into the game. The De La Peña Group law firm is a six-attorney shop that specializes in complex business litigation, insurance, maritime and admiralty. The firm, led by CEOfounder Leoncio de la Peña, serves clients throughout Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Many of its clients are U.S. corporations doing business in foreign jurisdictions. Others are influential families from Latin America who maintain investments or seek new opportunities in North America. Born in Cuba, De la Peña holds a law degree from Nova Southeastern University and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Florida. He is a Gator, he says, “by the grace of God.” A descendant of the first attorney general in Cuba after its war of independence, he arrived in Miami in 1969. The “seed was planted,” he says, to choose law as a career path as a result of his great-grandfather’s service and his experience of growing up as a Cuban refugee in Miami. De la Peña and his colleagues—two of whom were also born in Cuba—have done well over the years, attracting clients worldwide and participating in community and political activities. De La Peña was a member of the Republican Party of Florida 100, which raises funds for high-level GOP candidates. Arturo Alvarez, of counsel to the firm, is a co-founder of the Cuban American Bar Association. The firm was picked by the FDIC to help dispose of the assets of the failed Hamilton Bank of Miami. De La Peña’s international activities have not been devoid of intrigue. He recalls that once, after filing litigation on behalf of a client in Ecuador, the U.S. envoy to Quito advised him not to set foot on local soil. The court filing, as it turned out, had not been well received in certain political circles. EXECUTIVE South Florida: Are most of your clients transnational clients? Leoncio de la Peña: They are looking to make a small investment and somehow that small investment draws them to spend more time here. It’s sort of like that chamber of commerce award—the Sand in Your Shoes award. From whatever part of the world you come, you’re bitten. This is the land of freedom and that also applies to people who come from other democracies. EXECUTIVE: What is your competitive edge in getting to represent these people? De la Peña: It’s understanding their needs, fulfilling their legal needs, obviously, and giving them the confidence and understanding of how to operate in the United States.

EXECUTIVE: How do you do that? De la Peña: You open doors for them. You make the appropriate introductions. For anybody that wants to be successful in Miami in any enterprise, it is important to be multicultural. One must understand what a European thinks. And one must understand that an Argentine thinks very differently than a Colombian. EXECUTIVE: Can you describe how that plays out, using an example? De la Peña: Someone that comes from Europe, they have a trust in the rule of law, but their rule of law has many, many regulations and they’re complex. Someone that comes from South America has, sadly, a distrust for the judicial system and come from countries where they have no rule of law. So part of the learning curve is that we are a nation of laws and they need to be followed … Our system works. It is one that has a great deal of integrity. EXECUTIVE: How do you compete against those big multinational law firms that have come to Miami? De la Peña: Those law firms have great lawyers and great expertise. We do things at their level but we don’t do everything. What our clients come to us for is our service and our dedication and many, if not most family owned enterprises which are the majority of the businesses of the world prefer to deal with a sophisticated boutique law firm. Many of the [oligarchs] prefer to be with a small firm and develop a relationship with a lawyer they can trust. And there is a very clear understanding that the lawyer will work with other lawyers and large law firms when appropriate … For example, I am leading a very large estate planning. I am not a tax lawyer, but I am leading that estate planning because the family has a great deal of trust in me. EXECUTIVE: In what types of disputes do you represent clients? De la Peña: We’ve handled very large fraud cases where the clients have been defrauded. We represented one of the largest financial institutions in Central America when they made horrible $204 million investment in a company … I literally spent two years traveling among Barbados, Guatemala and New York ... If you look at the team of lawyers, I had one of the finest law firms in the world working for me in New York—Kirkland & Ellis. EXECUTIVE: What do you think about the changes unfolding between the U.S. and Cuba? De la Peña: I think that good or bad, people are going to have to accept that change is here. I think that the enthusiasm and the rush to do business with Cuba is premature in that there are still great changes that must take place there … they need to recognize private ownership and private investments and there has to be a movement to the rule of law. E AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


ALBERTO CARVALHO A true American success story, Alberto Carvalho rose from humble immigrant roots to lead Miami-Dade Public Schools to the pinnacle of education excellence in this country. A passionate leader, Superintendent Carvalho has brought national prominence to the country’s 4th largest school system, silencing even his harshest critics and endearing himself to teachers, parents and the business community. By Carlos Harrison | Photography by Donna Victor


ast November, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho introduced the president at a White House conference on closing the digital gap in education. Square-shouldered, perfectly coiffed, and clothed in his trademark look—a brilliant white French cuffed shirt, crisply knotted tie and impeccably tailored dark suit—he was also, in many ways, the ideal example of the challenges and possibilities faced by South Florida and the nation. “I stand before you as an American by choice, not chance,” Carvalho told the gathering of educators and officials, “the son of a third-grade educated father and mother, and today to be in the White House to participate in the launching of a critically important initiative is a point of pride for me.” Education has been Carvalho’s ticket from homelessness to head of the nation’s fourth largest school district. An immigrant who came seeking a better life, then overstayed his visa and stepped into murky legal status, he has a uniquely personal understanding of the reasons so many of South Florida’s students are here, and the very real 28


language, economic, cultural and sometimes legal obstacles they must overcome if they hope to succeed. “You’re speaking with somebody who once was a kid who fell into the trap of every one of the opportunity gaps that I spend time eliminating,” he elaborated in a recent interview, which took place in a school district conference room overlooking Biscayne Bay and the frenetic construction of a new, soaring Miami skyline. The district headquarters, and the district itself, sit at an intersection of sorts: between the opulent affluence of theater-going crowds flocking to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the poverty-stricken masses crowded into deteriorated hovels in Overtown. Carvalho has lived at both ends of that economic divide. “I’m a reflection of the fabric of this community, a community that affords incredible opportunity to both those were born here and those who come here for whatever reason—political oppression, seeking economic opportunities.” He sat at the head of the table, a few feet from a prestigious array of Broad Prize for Urban Education awards, four clay finalist statuettes and, the most recent, the bronze winner’s trophy from 2012. The prize

“ 30

We never once fired a teacher for economic reasons during the recession ...


— Alberto Carvalho

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH)

is often called the educational equivalent of the Nobel or the Oscar, and these stood as a testament to advances the school district has made since Carvalho took over in 2008. Among the gains cited: Graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students both increased by 14 percent between 2006 and 2009, and Hispanic students outperformed their peers in other districts in reading and math at all school levels. The credit goes to Carvalho. He took over in an environment where school board meetings were so rancorous, the Broad noted, “parents stopped bringing their children”; where half of the school buildings were 40 years old or older and desperately in need of updating; and the district faced dire financial straits— with financial reserves depleted to less than 1 percent of the budget and the worst recession in 80 years battering revenues. He met with local and national business leaders; took staff to visit and learn from successes at Apple and Dell; pushed for a $1.2 billion bond to improve buildings, install Wi-Fi at every school, and place state-of-the-art interactive “Promethean boards” in every classroom; and used the recession to his advantage as he slashed the operating budget through reductions in administrative staff, refinanced the district’s debt at more favorable interest rates, and reinvested the savings in educational programs. “Never allow a crisis to go to waste,” he said. “We decimated administrative spending but we protected teaching jobs. We never once fired a teacher for economic reasons during the recession, even though we took a hard look at performance. Through demotions, promotions, and terminations we replaced 75 percent of all the principals in Miami-Dade County public schools.” He did it with the support and input of community leaders. Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust Chairman and CEO, Adolfo Henriques, was among those from whom Carvalho sought input. “We had numerous, very detailed conversations about what areas should and should not be affected as he went through the required adjustments and cuts,” Henriques says. “It went everywhere from individual line items to making sure that the cuts were not in the delivery of programming and things that actually directly affected the education the kids were receiving.” The extent of Carvalho’s grasp of expenditures is impressive, says Tony Argiz, chairman and CEO at Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC. “I think he knows how much they’re spending on paper clips,” he says. The conversations serve as an example of Carvalho’s determined effort to involve the business community, what Miami Marlins’

Foundation Vice President and Executive Director Alfredo Mesa calls Carvalho’s talent for “inclusivity.” “I think his greatest success is how inclusive he is, and that has resulted in every sector of the community—be it business, civic, community—feeling like they have a responsibility, they have ownership over what happens in Miami-Dade public schools because of his outreach to every sector,” says Mesa. “That inclusivity, that outreach that he is so good at, does result in the business community being more involved, paying more attention to what’s going on, and stepping up when asked by him and members of the board.” And, his supporters say, it’s not just lip service or a way to curry favor. Carvalho genuinely seeks out opinions and advice, and follows through. “I measure things on results, and that’s what Alberto accomplishes,” says Juan del Busto, the former regional executive of The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Miami branch, and now chairman and CEO of Del Busto Capital Partners. “He listened to all of us and took it to heart and, most important of all, he not only listened, he took clear, decisive action to improve the situation.” Carvalho also worked diligently to ease the tensions between the superintendent’s office and the school board. “He turned each and every one of those board members into advocates to work as a team, to work together, and to work with him,” says United Way President and CEO Harve Mogul. “The spirit is one of really shared goals.” The rancor that had turned the board meetings into a vicious circus, as the Broad Prize highlighted, is now a thing of the past. “He’s killed TV time for me,” Mogul says. “It used to be I watched the school board meetings for perverse entertainment, having them yell at each other and the nastiness was made for TV. But he really engaged with them and turned that around.” As Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg put it the year after the Broad win, the “school board has never had a better superintendent.” Eric Woolworth, President of Business Operations for the Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena, put it simply: “He’s a local hero, really.” As if to prove them right, in 2014 Carvalho was recognized as the “Superintendent of the Year” in both the state and the nation. It’s a series of accomplishments and a rise to national acknowledgment that might never have happened if a young man in Lisbon, Portugal, the first in his family to graduate from high school, hadn’t gambled his future on an airplane ride to New York. AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


“I always had this fascination with the United States of America. I always looked up to this country as, really, the proverbial land of opportunity,” he said. “I had this feeling that a country that had opened its doors to so many, certainly could crack the door open for me.” Carvalho was one of six children, the son of a custodian and a seamstress, living in a one-room apartment with no running water or electricity. He has a high regard for his father, whom he described as a “remarkably bright man,” who wrote poetry, built furniture, and played a guitar he made himself. But, Carvalho said, his father was “arrested by his social circumstances.” The son chose differently. “It really drove me to finish schooling, high school, and then I was determined to finish college and go on to graduate school because I felt that I was on this journey, on this mission to not only live out my life but actually live the life that I felt my father would have lived if given the right opportunity.” He worked all summer after high school to buy a round trip ticket to John F. Kennedy International Airport. He came on a tourist visa, but he had no intention of going back. Instead, he headed south. “I can give you a whole repertoire of jobs that I did,” he said, “from washing pots and pans in kitchens to being a busboy to being a day laborer, a construction worker, doing asphalting and roofing here in South Florida, which is messy, hot, hot, hot work.” His lucky break came when he was working at a restaurant and wound Alberto Carvalho at Dade Schools Athletic Luncheon up serving, and telling his story to, former U.S. me through the immigration process and got Congressman E. Clay Shaw of Fort Lauderdale. me my student visa that gave me the first legal By then, his visa had expired and his “status opportunity to really make something of myself was shaky, at best.” in this country.” Shaw, he said, was “a moderate Republican Even still, “before things got better, they who in a different era in America saw beyond certainly got worse.” the immigrant and recognized perhaps some He enrolled at what was then Broward talent that would be developed at some point Community College, but hit such hard times in the future. He’s the one who actually helped

I always had this fascination with the United States of America. — Alberto Carvalho



he had to sleep in a buddy’s U-Haul trailer filled with paint and cleaning solvents, and take his showers at the college gym. “It’s funny, “ he said, “because I didn’t think of myself as homeless until I became superintendent and connected my journey to that of about 5,000 school-age homeless kids present in Miami-Dade Pubic Schools today.” His experiences on the way to the top of the school district make him a leader students can identify with, and community leaders can believe in. “Students can see that even though he is a great leader now, nationally and professionally, he is really one of them,” said Jonathan Plutzik, owner of the Betsy Hotel and co-founder of its PACE (Philanthropy, Arts, Culture, and Education) program. “He has gone through many of the same struggles that all of them confront each day. And, at a time when they’re not sure that they can overcome them, to see someone who actually has overcome them I think is tremendously powerful. “It’s equally powerful that members of the leadership community,” he continued, “can see tangibly what it means to give opportunity to someone like Dr. Carvalho who frankly was no less needy, no less alone, no less challenged than some of the most challenged students who now are in our community. So t hose pri vate s ector folks are able to see the powerfully positive impact of that investment.” Carvalho went on to win a scholarship and study biology in a pre-med program at Barry University. His dream then was to be a doctor. It lasted until, he said, “I think gross anatomy was more gross than anything else.” After graduating, he decided, “Let me give teaching a try… and the bug infected me.” He started as a science teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High as the 1980s came to a close. South Florida had gone through the wild days of cocaine cowboys and Miami Vice,

Photos by Jimmy Abraham

Alberto Carvalho

End of the Year Celebration at SBAB Auditorium the racial turbulence of the McDuffie riots, and the massive influx of Mariel refugees from Cuba. “I saw a significant shift in terms of the demographic profile of the school from predominantly African-American to Hispanic, and we saw at that school just the impact of immigration unfolding so quickly. It was good training … there was a clear indication of things to come.” In 1993, Carvalho took his first administrative job as assistant principal at Jose Martí Middle School in Hialeah. “The reality was I was frustrated as a teacher,” he said. “I felt that I couldn’t get books, the system was slow in responding to my needs as a teacher and certainly to the needs of kids in school. There were too many layers to get an answer, to get something done. And sometimes when you want change you first have to become the change you want and then you have to drive others to that same level, to that same state.”

He left Jose Martí for a vice principal post at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School. It was a transformative experience, shaping many of his approaches to education that continue today. “Turner Tech,” he said, “distinguished itself as a national model for a high school that was achieving remarkable results with the same challenging population that we see at many schools across Miami-Dade, but producing results that were comparable if not exceeding suburban schools.” It was the first “Academy” high school in the county. Students wore uniforms specific to the discipline they chose—in architectural drafting, business and finance, health occupations, law enforcement—and they connected with community leaders on industryspecific boards. “So the rigor and relevance that sometimes schools struggle with was embedded as part of the fabric of the school,” Carvalho said. “And the school got so much national recognition that I was tapped … to be the spokesperson

for high school reform, working directly with the administration at that time.” From there came a steady rise to assistant superintendent, a post he held during the tempestuous tenure of former New York School’s Chancellor Rudy Crew. The school board had deliberately sought an outsider to raise Miami-Dade’s abysmal academic standing, and while Crew succeeded in raising student performance—enough so that he earned the National Superintendent of the Year accolade in his final year here—he failed to connect with the community and his bosses. Meetings turned acrimonious. Then, in 2008, after the district spent $64.2 million of its reserve fund, leaving just $4.9 million, the board cut him loose, and turned to Carvalho. The new superintendent immediately set to building bridges, even as he brought a deliberate upheaval in the way the district approached education. He held town meetings, armed with data, to show the need for reform; created an Education Transformation Office to tackle the problems at academically AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


Alberto Carvalho

iPrep Academy

troubled schools; and, to the dismay of some, replaced principals based on performance rather than race. In honoring Miami-Dade with the 2012 award, the Broad Prize noted: “The district moved out ineffective teachers, identified teachers whose students had performed better than predicted, provided incentives for them to go to the takeover schools, and brought in Teach for America to increase the teaching talent pool.” Carvalho also dusted off some of the lessons from Turner Tech, and went large. “I felt if it’s so good for some, why can’t it be for everyone? So I began to sort of replicate the model at Turner, and support career academies in our schools, add additional periods to our day in high schools to offer more choice programs,” he said. Now, 60 percent of students are enrolled in programs of their own choice. Turner used innovative teaching approaches. Now, that’s the model he emphasizes. It has resulted, he said, in both rigor and relevance at the school.

CARVALHO DOUBLES AS PRINCIPAL OF TWO INNOVATIVE SCHOOLS Alberto Carvalho’s innovative iPrep Academy and Primary Learning Center are concepts so dear to him that he serves not just as superintendent, but as principal at both schools. “We threw out everything that we felt was really not conducive to learning and created a schooling experience that puts the student center stage and builds the educational program around the student. Allowing for incredible opportunity, incredible choice. No bells. Very cool surroundings, furniture.” They threw out the concept of “bell-to-bell” instruction at iPrep, involved students as active participants in the educational process with laptops and digital content, “and really flipping the relationship between student and teacher, from one where you and I were educated where the teacher is responsible for pushing out information whether you were ready to acquire it or not, to one where the student is empowered with actually pulling in knowledge at his or her own pace, using his or her own modality for learning,” he said. The experiment has now spawned a spinoff and plans for more innovation and digital involvement. The Primary Learning Center uses data and individualized involvement to cater instruction to the student’s needs and foster improvement. “It’s really a moral imperative,” Carvalho said. “We cannot expect kids to come to us to meet us where we believe they ought to be in terms of academic readiness, in terms of proficiency specific to grade level, in terms of college and career readiness pathways. So if we can no longer have that expectation—and the reason for that is that they’re not all getting to us at the same level, at the same time— we need to individually connect with them.” 34


It’s especially important in South Florida, where students from 160 countries speak 56 different languages, 21 percent are English– language learners, and 70 percent are at or below the poverty level. “We’re doing it right if we are raising the floor at the same time as we are expanding the ceiling. This is about simultaneously guaranteeing acceleration and remediation,” he said. “We cannot say let’s shoot for the middle, sacrificing the highfliers who can learn faster; nor can we forget those who, for whatever reason—poverty, language limitation, disability—aren’t learning as fast as perhaps they should.” Using data to evaluate students does not make Carvalho a fan of heaping assessment tests on them. To the contrary, he took a bold stand this past school year, rebelling against state-mandated exams. “Unfortunately, this became the proverbial tail wagging the dog,” Carvalho said. “Accountability and assessments were being used not necessarily to ensure that students were learning but really to drive teacher evaluations. And I think that’s going too far.” So, this year, the district eliminated every one of the 23 elementary year-end tests, slashed middle school tests from 77 to four, and cut high school level exams from 186 to six. “What I’m seeking, then, is a shift from a disconnected approach to assessment where we feel we need to assess everybody, everything, all the time, to fewer but better assessments that really allow the teacher, the community, and the student to monitor academic progress.” The bottom line, he said, is learning. “We’re not going to assess our way to excellence. We will teach our way to excellence.” E

Photo by Jimmy Abraham

Alberto Carvalho at End of the Year Celebration Rigor evolved from the administration’s insistence “on students taking and exceeding the state’s graduation requirements.” Relevance came about “by bringing in contextual experiences from the fields, relying on internships for students, relying on the power of business partnerships.” He ruffled a few traditionalists by creating “franchises” based on effective schools. MAST Academy on Virginia Key became a model for similar magnet schools emphasizing math and science technologies in Homestead and Hialeah. “We opened another MAST last year at the FIU Biscayne Bay campus, and we continue to open more replicas of those iconic schools,” he said. “Now, some people do not like that. Those folks who graduated from the original MAST 20 years ago, they were protective of the brand and the identity. But I really feel if it’s so great we ought to replicate it. It ought to be a success story in more ZIP codes than one.” Modeling new schools after successful existing schools was only one route. Carvalho wanted to try something that hadn’t been done before. “I felt, again, we were doing a lot of innovation,” he said, “but I wanted to start something from scratch. I wanted to really reinvent the architecture of a school, a publicly funded school, by beginning with a blank canvas.”

The result: the iPrep Academy and Primary Learning Center, which upended traditional student-teacher relationships, allowing students to learn at their own pace and, to a large degree, in their own way. It’s working. Graduation rates have risen some 15 percentage points and now stand close to 80 percent, higher than the state average. Last year, the district earned top honors as the College Board Advanced Placement Equity and Excellence District of the Year for improving access and performance in Advanced Placement college courses at its high schools. It was noticed at the highest levels nationally. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is a shining example of what can happen when educators insist on providing the highest quality education for every student—no matter their ZIP code or background. Through the rigorous course work of Advanced Placement, these schools are better preparing students for success in college and beyond,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said when the award was announced. “I hope that MiamiDade can serve as a model for school districts across the country on how raising the bar leads to more—not less—success for every student.” Some, however, complain that the pace of change has not come equally to all areas of the district. Community advocates in the urban core, such as Larry Williams, president of

Miami Northwestern High’s alumni association, say schools there need greater improvements at a faster pace. “It would be hypocritical for me to say he has not done positive things for Dade county schools in general,” Williams said. “However, the urban core schools that matter to me the most, the ones that educated children who look like me, we still are getting somewhat of the short end of the stick.” But the successes have gained national attention and made supporters of even those who admit they don’t always agree with the superintendent, but believe in his passion for education. “I spent years working on giving to homeless issues, which remains a problem in our community, but I came to the conclusion that we will never have enough money to build enough homeless facilities with enough beds,” said Stephen H. Bittel, founder and chairman of Terranova Corporation, who has worked with Carvalho as a member of the Teach for America board. “That’s dealing with the symptom and we have to fix the underlying cause, which is education. So I reoriented my charitable efforts to focus on helping Miami achieve the goal of having the best education system in the country. Better education fixes healthcare, fixes criminal justice, and you have an engaged citizenry that comes out and votes because they care about the issues.” The successes, and the attention, have raised speculation about Carvalho’s future ambitions, including talk of him running for county mayor. He laughs it off. For now, at least, he’s staying put. He already turned down a position with the U.S. Department of Education. His superintendent contract runs through 2020. His focus, he said, is on closing the digital gap for Miami-Dade County kids. That means extending Internet access and technological tools into every classroom and beyond. The district already sends poor kids home with wireless cards that allow them to go online. He aims to bring every student into the digital fold because, as he said at the White House conference, “there is no greater gap right now than the digital gap. And if we close that gap we have the potential to level the playing field for students like nothing we’ve seen before.” Education, he said, made all the difference for him, and it’s his way of making a difference for others. “I didn’t come to this country to wash dishes for a lifetime as I did in New York,” he said. “The promise that I made was, if given the opportunity, I would spend the rest of my life paying it back. And what I do today I hope represents part of that paying back.” E AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


Plateau-phobia Shareef Malnik knows that being the hot new restaurant is one thing, but maintaining an iconic steakhouse for more than two decades requires a different kind of business acumen.

By Bill Kearney | Photography by Jorge Parra

Shareef Malnik 36






hareef Malnik, owner of The Forge restaurant, sits behind a beautiful airplane wing of a desk in his office above the restaurant as his fianceé, actress Gabrielle Anwar, finishes up a phone call with a potential publicist for their forthcoming documentary about sexual awakening, Sexology. Anwar likes the publicist’s moxie, but Malnik wants to make sure the firm is up to snuff with search engine optimization skills before committing. The couple seems quite happy coming at things from different angles, and kiss goodbye. Anwar’s off to tend to her kids, and Malnik’s got a Friday night restaurant to watch over. The Forge is not just any restaurant, it’s a landmark. Initially a blacksmith’s forge in the 1920s, the owner converted it into a dinner and dancing club in the 1930’s, and it remained a celebrated restaurant through the mid 20th century, falling into disrepair in the 1960s. Al Malnik bought it, gutted it, and reopened the 30,000-square-foot space as a fine dining steak house in 1969, attracting celebrities such as Desi Arnaz, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor over the decades. A fire closed the restaurant in 1991, and when it reopened, the 33-year-old Shareef, who had peeled potatoes in the kitchen as a teen and worked front of house as a manager, was at the helm. He’d studied business at the University of Miami, and eventually earned a J.D. degree from the school of law there, but restaurateur was not necessarily part of the plan. The idea of his father closing the place proved to be motivation enough. Glenn Frey of The Eagles once crooned, “There’s a new kid in town” about how every beloved new kid gets replaced. The same can be said of Miami’s culinary scene—in a town obsessed with the new, where eateries rise and fall in a season, how can The Forge, as iconic as it is, remain relevant? It’s a question that Malnik wrestles with constantly. The answer, it turns out, could be called a business philosophy, but it’s also a life philosophy drawn from trial, error and exhilaration. Chat with Malnik enough and you get the sense he’s plateau-phobic, wary of stagnation, of quiet waters. His hobbies have included 38


auto racing and power boat racing (he won the Miami Annual Offshore Grand Prix), he trains in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and performed a technical dive 500 feet down along a trench in Grand Cayman. He says his relationship with Anwar is about breaking paradigms. “There’s no room to grow if you’ve got this yoke around your neck, the past, and it’s just holding you there,” he says of both relationships and business. “Every time you have a repetitive action, you’ve created a paradigm. But the world is changing every day. In order to compete and thrive one has to adjust. Nothing remains the same, so I have the attitude that if something is working well, the first thing I start thinking is, when is it going to stop working, and what can I institute now so that I can catch before there’s a slide? I’m applying that to everything. I love people that push my buttons and kind of piss me off—that gives me a chance to explore, if I know what I’m talking about. And if I don’t I’d better change my tune. I apply that to my life, my relationship with my fianceé, my son, my parents.” In other words, it’s not about the dust settling, it’s about mixing it up. Sounds a lot like Miami, where new demographics sweep in like the tide when foreign economies boom and bust, or when Miami’s does. Malnik’s approach to Miami’s vicissitudes is to acknowledge that The Forge can’t be everything to everybody. “I’d fail,” he says. He breaks the restaurant’s draw into elements: fine dining, steak, design and energy. “There are some who like all those things. Some young people just like the energy and design. Some older people might like the fine dining. And some middle-aged people might like the fact that we’re a steakhouse with great energy on a Friday night. So they find their niche.” Today, The Forge has to compete in the most dynamic culinary scene Miami has ever experienced. “One of the major implications of the food scene here is that more experts are coming to town and opening restaurants than ever before,” he says. “It’s not how many more steakhouses are in town, it’s how many great restaurateurs who really know what they’re doing are here. Now you’re up against the world’s A-game. You have to have an A-game. We’re going in the right direction. Our revenues are up substantially over last year, and that’s my measuring stick.”

Though The Forge is a landmark, Malnik knows he had to keep pace with a fresh round of modern-day A-games. Five years ago he closed the space and put the restaurant through a profound renovation, replacing oldworld heaviness with a more whimsical popFrench rococo playground. And last year Malnik brought in James Beard-award winning chef Chris Lee. “He’s really responsible for the best food we’ve had in 47 years,” says Malnik. Lee, who admits to “training” food purveyors by regularly sending back goods he deems less than ideal, keeps steak as the core of the menu, but adds compelling flourishes: appetizers include a Jamaican jerk bacon with tropical salad; the Chilean sea bass is miso-marinated and gets a yuzu-ginger reduction; and you can get your 40-ounce prime tomahawk chop rubbed with smoky Portuguese spice, or add blue cheesecreamed caramelized onions. The most recent manifestation of Malnik’s quest to stay relevant is Project f, a series of live music vignettes woven into the dining experience every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. You might be eating dinner, vibing to Blondie’s Rapture, when you realize the woman standing next to you has a microphone, and she’s performing the song live. When the song ends, she disappears. “I didn’t do a PR push, I wanted to see if it was going to work,” says Malnik of the program, which is a collaboration of creative director Marybeth Desarle and lighting director Juan Mitchell. “I add my two cents, as well,” Malnik said. “The overall vision is mine but it is tweaked by Marybeth and Max who take it to the next level.” “I didn’t want to do dinner theater,” he added, thinking that people would feel trapped. “I wanted to entertain people and surprise people, and not bill it.” Though there were lighting and sound challenges, so far so good—on Friday nights, people get up and sing along to Blondie or Hall & Oats. Aside from philosophies, there’s a particular nature to Malnik that just may be a prerequisite to restaurateur success. He’s been told he should separate himself from his business. “No, I am my business. It’s an extension of who I am, it says who I am. If I don’t feel that, how will I have the motivation and energy to make it succeed?” He uses the pronoun “I” when talking about what The Forge offers clientele. Though that

may strike some as egotistical, that fact that he takes things personally fuels his focus. “Every time I walk in the restaurant I’m looking for things to fix. Any mistake hurts me inside as if it was my first day here, and I’ve been doing this for some 24 years.” If ever there was an industry where attitudes spread, it’s the restaurant business. If a manager is lax, it’s a permission slip for the entire staff. “It trickles down—enthusiasm and care, and complacency,” says Malnik. “My job is to make sure my management doesn’t have that attitude. Their job is to make sure the rest of the staff doesn’t have that attitude. That means I have to communicate my attitude frequently, so they know what page I’m on.” But it’s not all restaurant and hobbies for Malnik. He also helps run Nexwave Funding

with his brother-in-law and son. “The majority of small and mid-size business today cannot get funded by a bank. The compliance issues are so onerous. So we fund companies across the U.S.” They do this by buying future receivables, and he claims the client’s fee, on a per annum basis, is comparable to a bank’s interest rate. “It’s a high-risk business because they’re not collateralized,” he says. “If they fail they don’t owe us the money anymore. We’ve developed a proprietary algorithm in order to underwrite successfully.” The Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit that grants wishes to children with lifethreatening illnesses, plays a big part in Malnik’s life, and vice versa. He’s chair of the foundation’s annual fundraising ball, which broke records last year, netting $2.5 million, and he’s slated

to be chair of the South Florida chapter as of August 2016. Why be so entrenched? “The people who are involved are people I aspire to be like. They are people I really saw as better people than I am. I said, ‘if they can be that kind of person, then maybe I have a chance to be that kind of person, too.’” In the end, Malnik seems to have a sponge-like approach to life so as to process the world and hone a very specific vision for The Forge, to keep it relevant. “Growing up I always wanted to be like my father, and have the drive to work on diverse businesses. I still learn a lot from him. I want to educate myself and know what 20-year-olds know, and I want to know what an 80-year-old knows. You can learn from both, and I want to be open-minded.” E AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


• • •

S P O N S O R S H I P O P P O RT U N I T I E S ALL GOLFERS RECEIVE THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS • A $300 Callaway shopping spree to be redeemed at their mobile store at the golf tournament or on-line. • Breakfast, catered food/drinks on the course, plus invitation to an Awards Luncheon following golf tournament. • Invitation to attend the exclusive VIP Pre-Party on November 12, 2015. • SPECIAL BBBS GOLF CLASSIC ROOM RATE.

VISIONARY SPONSOR $15,000 At this level, your organization would impact the lives of approximately 10 children

MAGIC MAKER SPONSOR $10,000 At this level, your organization would impact the lives of approximately 6 children

• TWO FOURSOMES • Logo recognition on the event invitations to the VIP Pre-Party, golf sponsor flyer, BBBS website, and the annual report. • Company name/logo displayed on our large sponsor banner/signage located at registration. • Four hole signs displayed during the tournament. • Company name/logo displayed during the evening of the VIP Pre-Party. • The right to set-up a company display/exhibit on both of the courses during the golf tournament on November 13, 2015. • Promotion in a half-page Miami Herald Ad thanking our generous supporters. • The right to be branded with one special players contest (i.e. longest drive, putting contest, etc.) before tee-off (special prizes will be awarded to winner in the sponsors honor). • The right to include and/or distribute any promotional items or gifts to all BBBS golf participants. • Your company promoted on via BBBS Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. • ONE FOURSOME • Listing on the golf event brochure and on the BBBS website. • Company name displayed on our large sponsor banner/signage located at registration. • Three hole signs displayed during the tournament. • The right to set-up a company display/exhibit on one of the courses used during the golf tournament on November 13, 2015. • Promotion in a half-page Miami Herald Ad thanking our generous supporters. • Your company promoted on via BBBS Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, etc.



At this level, your organization would impact the lives of approximately 3 children

At this level, your donation would impact a child’s life

• ONE FOURSOME • One hole sign displayed during the tournament

• Will be paired with three other individuals to create a foursome • Opportunity to network among other local business people


For information and reservations, contact Scott Giebler at: or call 754-214-8596 To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters visit BBBS is a 501(c)(3) organization

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George Merrick’s goal of building an international city is a public-private sector priority.


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The City Beautiful attracts newcomers with amenities, not cash, when recruiting candidates for locating in the city.


While available space is tight, developers’ projects must pass stringent tests before they receive a green light.



From the mayor to the commission, leaders agree that Coral Gables has achieved a special status in South Florida.

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©2015. The Coral Gables City Report is produced exclusively by EXECUTIVE South Florida magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part of any text, photograph, or illustration without the written permission of the publisher is strictly forbidden. EXECUTIVE South Florida magazine is published 9 times per year by South Florida Executive LLC. 800 Brickell Avenue, Penthouse One, Miami, FL 33131. To order a subscription, please call 305.735.2873. For more information, please contact:



A diplomat-turned-mayor leverages his lifetime experience to burnish the city’s global reputation.

AND FINANCE 28 BANKING Despite the city’s population of just around

50,000, institutions flock to the Gables for its high income customers.

30 LAW For law firms, Coral Gables is a preferred landing spot as congestion grows in Miami.

32 EDUCATION As a founding donor, George Merrick would be pleased with the city’s close ties with the University of Miami.

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hen longtime South Florida developer W. Allen Morris moved his company’s headquarters from Miami’s Brickell Avenue to Coral Gables, he thought the move “was like dying and going to heaven.” “It has all the sophistication of Brickell Avenue with a far superior quality of life,” he says of the city. When Mayor James Cason took office, he arrived with a U.S. diplomat’s portfolio that sent a strong message to foreign investors and businesses: Coral Gables is an international city with the poise and infrastructure that would serve any multinational corporation well. And when entrepreneur Philippe Houdard completed his Pipeline Brickell collaborative work space operation in Miami, he couldn’t take his eyes off the possibilities that a similar operation could fetch in Coral Gables. So he followed through, and today Pipeline Gables is under construction on Merrick Way. Local business and civic leaders attribute much of the attraction to the vision of city founder George E. Merrick, a fruit plantation owner, poet, real estate developer, and dreamer. Despite various interruptions over the years, they agree that the city he envisioned in the 1920s and ’30s has been largely realized. A proponent of the “City Beautiful” movement of the early 1900s, Merrick and a small cadre of compatriots designed a city that emulated Frederick Law Olmsted’s New York Central Park: a space characterized by wide-tree lined avenues, winding roads, fountains, ornate plazas, and vast areas of green space.

“He and his wife and architects set about to turn the fruit groves into a planned city that would be different from the industrial grid in most cities and to make it a garden,” Cason said. “The whole idea was to make this an opening to the world.” Over the years, the international business community has gotten the message. Dozens of multinational corporations have located their Latin American headquarters in the city, while consuls general from nearly 20 nations established offices there. More are knocking on the door and would move to Coral Gables in a heartbeat if they could find the space. As the city turns 90 this year, developers are working to fill the demand for real estate with an array of proposed mixed-use projects that would increase the living and working spaces downtown and elsewhere. Current projects include the Mediterranean Village at Ponce Circle and the Collection Residences. The city is also undertaking its own series of upgrades. It hopes to replace a pair of parking garages downtown. There are plans to totally revamp the prominent Miracle Mile business strip and Giralda Avenue restaurant enclave with millions of dollars in improvements to make the area more inviting to visitors. The city is also working to make navigation easier, promoting a growing trolley service and helping to sponsor The Underline, a 10-mile long bicycle and foot path that runs through the city beneath the Metrorail between the Miami River and Dadeland. The new development is all supposed to occur, of course, under the strict zoning codes and Mediterranean-style guidelines that Merrick had in mind during the 1920s. City leaders say they wouldn’t have it any other way. For developers who are willing to conform to the program, a welcome mat is waiting for them. CG CORAL GABLES 2015




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oral Gables, population 49,104, is home to over 160 corporate headquarters from Latin America and many more U.S. based businesses. It is a city that does not experience the crime or other major problems that plague urban areas around the country. It is a city, says Mayor James Cason, a former career diplomat who served in Latin America and other locations abroad, that enthusiastically supports businesses both foreign and domestic. In an interview, he gave his take on where the city is heading after 90 years. Separately, City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark and city commission members Vince Lago and Patricia Keon answered questions about how they believe the city is following founder George Merrick’s legacy, while providing a favorable environment for economic growth and development.

Coral Gables City Hall


Municipal Millage Rate: 5.589

Budget: $159,837,657

Total Millage Rate: 19.8826







49,104 2,666,776


18,935 928,604
















Source: City of Coral Gables






I could have gone anywhere in the world and I chose this place.

EXECUTIVE South Florida: In your estimation do you feel the Merrick dream has been fulfilled? Mayor James Cason: Yes. It’s like democracy—it’s a road, it’s a process. It may never get there, but his dream was to make a beautiful, great place for professionals. Judging from the awards we’ve won for 30 years … I went to China two years ago and we competed for the most livable small town in the world and we took a silver. We were the only city of our size invited from the Western Hemisphere to go. Certainly it’s one of the most beautiful cities. And I think he wanted to be international. We’ve got 160 corporate headquarters here from Latin America. We’ve got the biggies: Intelsat and Diageo, Bacardi, Jose Cuervo. So it’s a Mecca for professionals. I used to go to mayors’ conferences and I’d come back and say, ‘I didn’t learn anything because all of the problems were not [our] city’s problems.’ We just don’t have the kinds of problems that most other cities have. Part of it is because the way George Merrick set about creating a place that was very controlled in a sense of what you could do so [that] what you did, did not hurt the neighbors. Our fire department is a Class One department. In fact, we really don’t have many fires because of the stringent building code … Our police department is one of the top in the country. We have very low crime. Our crime is 8


property crime—they want our stuff. Garbage collection is 3 times a week. We strive to have parks within walking distance of every home. And we want to have a vibrant downtown and cultural offerings. We’ve got four theaters here. Books & Books is recognized as one of the best bookstores in the United States. We have Actors’ Playhouse and Gables Stage. We have something like 20-odd consulates. EXECUTIVE: What is your relationship with the University of Miami? Cason: Super. It couldn’t be better. We meet once a year with the board of trustees and the president’s office and the city commission and we discuss how we’re doing … For example, we just ceded one of Coral Gables’ streets to build the overpass over Dixie Highway ... One-third of our residents are alumni of UM. Most of our professors live in the city or close by. EXECUTIVE: Are both the city and the university supporting the Underline project? Cason: We bought into it and we’re fully supportive. We’re waiting to see what the final design will be. We’re looking to some of our developers putting money into projects related to the Underline. That’s an example

Photo by Ada Stevens

— Mayor James Cason

of the city working with other communities. We’re trying to work on sea level rise with the CLEO Institute [a non-profit organization advancing environmental literacy and civic engagement]. We’re looking at our capital budget and I think we’ll put in a quarter of a million dollars to study what we need to do to get prepared for the inevitable sea level rise. We have more sea frontage here than Miami Beach. We have more than 44 miles of canals. A lot of those were built by Merrick. EXECUTIVE: We spent some time with the folks at [the collaborative work space] Pipeline Brickell and they are building a replica of their Brickell Avenue fascility in Coral Gables. The founder, Philippe Houdard, said you were involved the initial swinging of the sledgehammer for demolition. Cason: This is the second such group here. We have Right Space with Carolina Rendeiro, who is on the National Sister Cities Board, and she does a lot of work with the incubators and bringing new companies in. The Catalonia Trade Office has a separate office here and they have six or seven small Spanish companies that are testing the market here. I think that’s great. The more we can get people coming out of the universities or foreigners coming in to test the market—they can work out of an office for a while and see whether it makes sense to go bigger. We’re fully supportive of that. We work closely with Mark Trowbridge of the Chamber of Commerce. We have a very good relationship. We do Small Business Saturdays. Despite our 160 corporate headquarters, most of the businesses were designed by Merrick to be small the way he built on Miracle Mile. He wanted to have lots of business and lots of opportunities for businesspeople here. They contribute about half our revenue in our downtown so we are very supportive of business in general. We do a lot to try to recruit people to come here and support them. EXECUTIVE: Tell me about the Streetscape project for Miracle Mile and plans for making Giralda Avenue more pedestrian friendly. Cason: Everything is done except the approval of the final design. They’re working very closely with advisory groups like architects from

UM, the business owners and retail and restaurant people, the BID [Business Improvement District] and the chamber. Cooper Robertson, which is out of New York, has done a lot of work. We’d been kicking the can down the road for 35 years and we said enough is enough. No more excuses. We’re going to build it. EXECUTIVE: We see a lot of Latin America’s business elite coming north looking for investment. Cason: What they’re trying to do is get their money out of South and Central America and diversify. They want to put their money into bricks and mortar type of investments and Coral Gables offers them a great opportunity. They know this is a good quality place. They know that you’ve got a good local government. They know their property values won’t go down. People are coming here for the quality of life because that’s what we can offer. You come here, you’re going to be safe, you’re going to have great services and you can walk and bike and take the free trolley. You have all the restaurants and the shops and you don’t need to have a car. So the construction that’s coming forward is really going to be more for the 30- and 40-year-olds who are coming in with the new companies who don’t want to drive from some faraway place to come to work here. They want to live here. They don’t want a car. They want a fun place and we’re creating that environment for them now. The construction is probably 700 to 1,000 residential spaces being developed for that demographic group. We don’t provide incentives except that we do our best to expedite permits and generally assist developers when we can. And we tell them if they are going to work long hours at these companies, their families will be happy that all of our schools are ‘A’ schools. We’ve have over 30 different churches in the city and all kinds of civic opportunities, clubs, and women’s groups. The families are happy that the kids have all of these opportunities. You can live in a gated community if you want with a boat and everywhere is treelined and safe. That’s how we recruit people. That’s why I came here. I could have gone anywhere in the world and I chose this place. Because it was the place that reminded me the most of living near an embassy.

VIEW FROM THE CITY MANAGER AND COMMISSIONERS EXECUTIVE South Florida: As Coral Gables has grown over the years, do you believe that local government planners and private developers have fulfilled the vision of founder George Merrick in the areas of architecture, design, and layout? Has the private sector “bought in” to the road map laid out by city planners to sustain the Spanish/Mediterranean style Merrick envisioned? City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: As the number of modern office buildings grew in the 1980s the community became concerned that it was losing its sense of self. Tall, glass, modern buildings were replacing the delicate Mediterranean revival buildings that were signature to the City. Thanks to Mayor Bill Chapman and a special task force of architects, Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and height bonuses were created for those buildings that incorporated the Mediterranean design features. At the time, it cost about 20 percent more to build “Mediterranean” but the bonuses provided an important offset. The new Mediterranean buildings were, and remain, highly desirable

for Class A tenants, which further enticed developers to incorporate these designs. Commissioner Vince Lago: Coral Gables was the first planned community in the State of Florida. George Merrick wanted to put forth an exceptional quality of life, public safety, and a vibrant commercial district which would be a lifeblood of the city. The Central Business District provides close to 50 percent of the tax revenue which allows us the luxury of having beautiful parks … a first class fire and police department, and world class amenities, which are significant drivers when executives and foreign individuals are looking to make significant investments, establish corporate headquarters, and provide a safe environment for their families. Commissioner Patricia Keon: What is so interesting about Merrick is that he plotted this city in 50-foot lots ... If you didn’t have a lot of money you could buy one and put a house on it. In the North Gables you can see a neighborhood that is all 50-foot lots. Granada Boulevard CORAL GABLES 2015






was laid out by Merrick as a grand boulevard. There were bigger homes, and wealthier people. They assembled multiple 50-foot lots to do that. If you look at Segovia, that is all duplexes. In his planning, he really allowed for diversity in a community by how many of these lots you would assemble. As time has gone on, the city has annexed other areas like Snapper Creek. That became incorporated into the fabric of the city. I think that that has been maintained within the city. We are working on a study for the development of the North Ponce area east of Le Jeune Road and south of Alhambra. How do we develop that? … We have set aside spaces for parks to create community spaces and green spaces for our neighborhoods. There is no more real development in the residential community ... What’s at issue is some of our downtown development is the only place where there is land to develop or redevelop.

original plan. Consider all the international villages Merrick created in the 1920s— Chinese Village, Dutch South African Village, French Normandy Village, etc. The international villages remain highly sought after because they were right-scaled, quality developments and complemented the Mediterranean designs.

class health care, and a cute little trolley that is convenient and free are all key ingredients.

EXECUTIVE: In the areas of commercial and residential real estate development, are projects on the drawing board today sufficient to meet the needs of the future? As developers construct modern facilities, are the parties keeping their projects in step with the city’s original design program? Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: Coral Gables has always been careful in the review and approval process to make sure that certain developments are right-sized and well-designed. It is that “barrier to entry” where the sky is NOT the limit that helps make it one of the most sought-after areas to develop in South Florida. For Coral Gables, good design and quality development can come in a variety of styles, which is consistent with Merrick’s 10


Vince Lago: We have some pretty significant projects either on the drawing board or [which] have come through the commission for approval. One of the projects was 396 Alhambra which has been a success due to the caliber of the commercial entities that have taken up residence: HBO, Diageo, Kraft Foods, and a multitude of other international conglomerates, which could have easily taken their headquarters and significant investments to other communities, but chose our city due to our incredible location. EXECUTIVE: Do you believe that the city offers sufficient amenities (such as art, entertainment and restaurants) and services (healthcare and public transportation) to attract world class businesses and a highly educated work force? Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: It is exactly that special and abundant collection of amenities that makes Coral Gables such a desirable office and residential address. Proximity to executive housing, close (but not too close) to Miami International Airport, excellent restaurants and a wide-array of shopping, wonderful year-round cultural offerings (such as concerts, plays, film, art, and Fairchild), quality recreational offerings (like golf, tennis, cycling, and jogging), a major university, world

Vince Lago: We have a trolley system that provides close to 1 million users the ability to travel throughout our city without their having to use a car. EXECUTIVE: What portion of the city’s population is from South America? Europe? Are these new residents looking to start new businesses? Did they come in search of better financial and personal security? Do you think the new arrivals have found what they were looking for after locating in the city? Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: One thing that makes Coral Gables special is that regardless of where our residents and businesses come from, they come to Coral Gables because they want “quality”—not only in design and services but in overall high quality of life for residents and businesses. Vince Lago: Most of South and Central America are currently having a multitude of political or financial issues. They view Coral Gables as not only a potential location for startup businesses, but also a safe location for their families to reside. EXECUTIVE: Do you interact with the large consular corps in the city? How have consuls general helped with the growth and expansion of the city’s multinational corporate base? Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: The City is proud being the South Florida home to so many foreign governments—not only their

have attempted to do that. As a city we are working very well … to connect our parking places and garages in a sense that people come to downtown and you can park and stay; or if you live downtown you don’t have to get into your car. We created covered sidewalks and a streetscape. They are not walking across surface parking lots and ground floors … so we have good attractive walking space. EXECUTIVE: Are you satisfied that there will be more growth opportunities for prospective inbound businesses in the years to come?



office address but also their residential address. Their presence and enthusiasm for the City provides an unwritten testimonial to the quality and internationalism of Coral Gables.

age, people are looking to live and work as close as possible to home in order to minimize their commute. I have several friends of mine who have a 5-minute commute.

Vince Lago: We have 16 consulates in our city and 7 foreign government offices with 6 sister-city relationships, which is essential for foreigners who are looking for a place to call home. They have an embassy in their own backyard that provides security for the person looking to make a significant investment in the city. That’s happened a lot. It plays a significant role in the way our city is perceived as both a business hub and a small community which offers multicultural experiences and a world-class university like the University of Miami.

EXECUTIVE: The city has a number of projects designed to upgrade the infrastructure of the urban core. They include the redesign of Miracle Mile, the Underline project, and the construction of new parking garages downtown. Do these projects enjoy popular support? Do you think that the local population is satisfied with the state of “connectivity” that is now in place? What can be done better?

EXECUTIVE: How would you rate the support the city is giving to businesses seeking to expand or to relocate to Coral Gables from other jurisdictions? Can you cite any examples? Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: The City prides itself on its municipal services—the highest national ratings in Public Safety (CALEA Gold Standard for Police and ISO Class 1 for Fire) and our attention to detail. We have a permit-expediting process for businesses, and recently we created an Ombudsman for Residents and Small Businesses in the City Manager’s Office to ensure an even higher level of service. Vince Lago: It’s very good. The main driving force for people moving to our city has different facets: our location, it’s a safe environment for executives and their families to set up residences. And above all, in today’s day and

Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark: The Underline is not a City initiative but we are excited and supportive of the project, which will be a wonderful regional amenity. The City’s infrastructure projects like the Miracle Mile and Giralda Streetscapes are being designed to serve the public—those that live nearby or halfway around the world. We are also excited that we will be growing our trolley service and working on car-sharing opportunities, bike racks, street lighting, and pedestrian amenities. While Coral Gables is convenient by car; it is best experienced up close and on foot. Vince Lago: We have an architect in place. We have a general contractor procured. That is going to be an economic driver in downtown. It’s going to give us an opportunity for open-air cafes, expanded sidewalks, and an opportunity to really increase our city branding at an international level. Patricia Keon: What we can work on is intracity connectivity, and with the trolley we

Cathy-Swanson-Rivenbark: South Florida has a great entrepreneurial spirit and Coral Gables is a proud part of that spirit. The presence of a major university, the proximity to other markets, excellent connectivity, the quality of life offerings—Coral Gables will always provide ample opportunity [for] businesses to thrive, to create, and to be. Vince Lago: I think Coral Gables is ripe for even further investment for international and national corporations. The opportunity to continue building relationships which will draw large corporations to make significant investments is going to happen. There have been major investments from the Agave group, along with several other significant projects that will break ground in the next few months. These types of projects will offer the necessary office space required by large companies to conduct business in our city. Patricia Keon: I think what the city offers geographically is its proximity to the airport. Within the city, what is offered is a very safe and a very secure environment to work in. There is Class A office space if you want it or Class B office space if you are starting out. There is an educated work force in the city. The security is exceptional. You are surrounded by good restaurants, by entertainment, and by a residential community where your commute is never more than 15 minutes. It is rare you can work in a city and live in a city. It’s an exceedingly desirable amenity. We have been working with the schools to make sure they are high quality schools— whatever people choose—great public schools and great private schools. If you have a saleable product in the marketplace, you can certainly thrive here in the city of Coral Gables. It has a government that cares deeply about its business and residential community [which is] collegial and has never been plagued by questionable practices. It has been a very solid and very honorable city government. CG CORAL GABLES 2015







2015 90

1925 - 2015

, our Founding Chairman had a dream.

, we celebrate Merrick’s enduring vision.

years of building business and developing community in Coral Gables!

Progress Week 2015 | October 4th - 10th

224 Catalonia Avenue | (305) 446-1657 |



The Biltmore Hotel


hen business and city officials recruit companies to locate in the City Beautiful, the pitch focuses more on the municipality’s growing suite of amenities and how the local government can make things easier to find a home. When making the case, traditional cash and tax incentives that are dangled by other cities are not part of the equation. “The first thing people think of is financial incentives,” said Leonard Roberts, acting director of the city’s Department of Economic and Cultural Development. “We don’t approach it that way. The city takes a lot of pride in customer service … We take pride in our permitting assistance program. We’ve helped HBO [Latin America], Gibraltar Private Bank and Trust and Cable & Wireless. With those alone we’ve added 1,200 jobs.” In effect, the city is selling itself, promoting its art and cultural institutions, highly educated work force, improving infrastructure and high-end lifestyle. Roberts noted that developers have the opportunity to build higher buildings if they agree to stick to the Mediterranean-style architectural vision promulgated by city founder George Merrick.

“There’s a direct incentive,” he said. “Most entities—even the small developers—try to take advantage of that, which is great.” Roberts added that the city manager’s office created a position to help small business start-ups. George Merrick, according to city officials, actively sought to build a business community that offered many opportunities to a broad spectrum of people. Along that vein, the city has welcomed a pair of collaborative work spaces—Pipeline Gables and Right Space Management, where startup entrepreneurs can develop their businesses with the help and encouragement of mentors and visiting experts. Both enterprises already maintain operations in the Brickell Avenue District of Miami, and saw opportunities to expand in Coral Gables. “The benefit for us in the Gables is that it’s a dynamic city that’s growing,” said Pipeline co-founder Philippe Houdard. “There’s a tremendous density of successful and growing businesses.” To demonstrate the city’s support, Jim Cason, the mayor, and Mark Trowbridge, the president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, participated in a ceremonial demolition event to pave the way for construction at Pipeline’s 14,000 square-foot facility on Merrick Way.

CITY REPORT: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Trowbridge said the city’s top leaders—from the mayor and city manager to the commissioners—have taken a proactive role in facilitating economic growth. In many respects, that means helping companies navigate the city’s tough permitting and code structures that were born out of the design and architectural visions of Merrick. “The City and Chamber have an expediting permitting assistance program that helps fast-track the process for companies that meet several criteria: new to market, company HQ, job creation and capital investment,” said Trowbridge. “In our own unique way, this is an incentive.” “Where the challenge may exist at times is the fact that there are stringent codes and expectations of businesses—permitting and signage— and the new company needs to understand the process, as well as be patient,” Trowbridge explained. “I know that perception is often reality, but I am quite pleased by what I have seen. We have come a long way in the last decade and made even greater strides in the past year.” These days, Trowbridge observed, companies in the city are sophisticated enough to see government “as a partner, not a be all, end all provider.” He said he also views the local taxation structure as fair. “Beyond basic infrastructure, which is in a constant state of review and improvement—two new public garages are to be built in the next three years, for example, the City is engaged in a series of conversations around myriad subjects [such as] permitting, North Ponce development, The Underline, for example,” he said. “And, for the last four years, this Commission has voted to reduce the millage every single year. As for fairness, a tax is still a tax, but in general, I would say yes, especially when compared to other municipalities. In fact, the business community helps contribute nearly 50 percent to the tax base which is amazing.” The most prominent source of investment right now is coming from Latin America, with Brazil and Venezuela being the leading drivers, Trowbridge said. “My feeling is that investment right now is being driven by those seeking opportunities to move their money out of Latin America and into the U.S., and many are doing this via real estate investment, specifically, he said. “The EB-5 Visa program will also play a larger role in the near future—so keep an eye on this program.” The city’s strong backing of a growing foreign consular corps is also influential in attracting investment from foreign nations. It helps that Mayor Jim Cason, a former career U.S. diplomat, is leveraging his experience on the city’s behalf. “With a mayor who is a former diplomat for 30-plus years, this is a strong suit for us,” Trowbridge said. “We have more than 20 consular offices in the Gables and the number of multi-nationals is an indication of this focus and commitment. Many of them have professional trade officers on their team. We host an event annually for the Corps in April and now we co-host the World Strategic Forum that is also produced in Toronto and Montreal each year.” Jaap Donath, Senior Vice President, Research and Strategic Planning at the Beacon Council, the economic development of Miami-Dade County, said one of Coral Gables’ strength is its geographic location due to its close proximity to Miami international Airport. It is “definitely seen” as a “community for international companies,” he said. The international community gives a strong boost to the city’s iconic 280-room Biltmore Hotel, which for nearly 90 years has hosted kings, queens, diplomats, movie stars and global conferences. “As you probably know in terms of overnight visitors to MiamiDade we have 50 percent that are international, the largest percent of any [U.S.] gateway city,” said Gene Prescott, president of Seaway Corp., the company that manages the hotel. “We’re by far the largest,” Prescott said. “Thank goodness we have that as an underpinning.” Seaway manages the hotel and has a 50-year lease with the city. The city owns the hotel and its 18-hole golf course, which was frequented by Bill Clinton when he was president. 14


Mark A. Trowbridge, President & CEO, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce

Prescott also said that the consulates and international businesses in Coral Gables “have meant that we get a lot of international visitors and the business traveler and the leisure traveler.” Even before Cason arrived on the scene, Brazilians represented the number one foreign nationality to visit the hotel, followed by Canadians, Colombians and Argentinians. Another venerable jewel of the city is the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, which is dedicated to “exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants.” It is one of the premier conservation and education-based gardens in the world. It boasts a membership of 45,000 and is supported by more than 1,200 volunteers. Three years ago, it became the home of the American Orchid Society. “I think Fairchild is the oldest cultural institution in South Florida,” said Nanette Zapata, the chief operating officer. “Its roots are deep. It’s 77 years old.” “We work very, very well with the city,” she said. “We did a ceremonial planting as part of our Million Orchid Project. The city really does understand the value and asset that Fairchild is. We don’t have to go in and remind them of who we are. You have to go to Hawaii to see the kind of plants that grow here. It’s definitely a jewel and they understand and appreciate that.” While the Biltmore and Fairchild may be viewed as the city’s most iconic amenities, a burgeoning collection of restaurants, theaters, museums and transportation options have buttressed a strong portfolio of sales points for city promoters. “We get very strong reviews on quality of life amenities, especially as it relates to cultural programs, restaurant diversity, walkability and architectural beauty,” Trowbridge said. Roberts cited the strength of the arts and culture scene, which is considerable for a city the size of Coral Gables. “One thing that really differentiates us from other cities is we have four live theaters and two art cinemas,” he said. “For a population of 50,000, that’s very unique for South Florida. We have over a dozen galleries … Books and Books is rated as one of the best independent bookstores in the nation.”

The city’s additional population of 50,000 office workers during each work day frequently avails itself of offerings from all of the museums to a free jazz series. The work force is one of the best educated in the region, with 60 percent of the city’s population over the age of 25 holding bachelor’s degrees. Thirty percent of that group holds graduate degrees. “The University of Miami is here. We have the Northwestern Kellogg MBA program,” Roberts said. “I’d love to see another executive MBA of their magnitude here in the Gables.” Roberts estimates that 50- to 60 percent of the city’s population speaks another language besides English. Roughly half the population is from South America. The next largest outside group of residents hails from Western Europe. The work force is on the cusp of seeing a major transformation downtown, where a multi-million dollar streetscape overhaul will take shape. The objective is to ensure that Merrick’s vision for a world class city will be realized in the 21st Century, said Marina Foglia, who heads the Business Improvement District of Coral Gables. The initiative is an $18 million overhaul for Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, which is also known as “Restaurant Row”. Construction is expected to begin in January of 2016. “In 2009, the BID set forth a vision and conceptual design for downtown Coral Gables,” she said. “The City of Coral Gables Commission approved and developed a financing plan and assessment methodology, agreed by property owners, for the Streetscape improvement project on August 26, 2014.” The conceptual design was developed by the award-winning architectural and urban design firm of Cooper, Robertson & Partners of New York. It entails a pedestrian friendly atmosphere to encourage more foot traffic. Wider sidewalks, public art displays and open plaza areas are envisioned. “During certain times of the day and night, bollards along Giralda Avenue will be raised making it a pedestrian-only zone,” Foglia said. “Additional features include urban lighting, tree grates, benches, kiosks, better signage for businesses and parking garages, more welcoming connections to garages and alleyways and permanent valet stations.” The value of keeping the downtown core competitive with neighboring urban areas is not lost on city planners. “The entire community feels the time is right to improve and enhance Miracle Mile’s physical condition and maintain its position with regard to other competitive retail markets such as Lincoln Road, Mary Brickell Village, Coconut Grove and South Miami,” Foglia said. Connectivity, meanwhile, has become a byword around town as planners seek more ways to move people in and out of the city in lieu of the car. A trolley system that stretches from the Douglas Station of the Metrorail to Flagler Street has taken 1.2 million cars off the street annually. The city is also looking for developers who would replace a pair of parking garages downtown. The city has also thrown its support behind the county’s Underline project which would transform a narrow bike and pedestrian path beneath the Metrorail between the Miami River and Dadeland into a more usable stretch of public property. Going forward, all of the improvements are destined to keep Coral Gables at the head of the pack when competing for the attention of out-of-town companies in the relocation game. “I am absolutely bullish on the subject and possibility of robust growth for three reasons,” Trowbridge said. “Coral Gables offers the highest and best quality of life opportunities in South Florida that flourishes for both residents and businesses; the number of multi-nationals already present here and gaining—buoyed by the professional service firms/banks make us an epicenter for domestic and international business—think British companies Diageo, BBC, Cable + Wireless all coming here in the span of two years. Finally, we are Coral Gables, a business address second to none that I would stack up against any in the country!” CG

CITY LARGEST EMPLOYERS University of Miami Bayview Financial Trading Group Baptist Health South Florida HQ Doctors Hospital City of Coral Gables The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables Hospital Dade County Public Schools Bacardi U.S.A. The Collection Mercantil Commerce Bank/Commerce Bank Gables Engineering, Inc. Gibraltar Bank HBO Latin America Bill Ussery Motors Mercedez-Benz Diageo IBM Corporation Kindered Hospital Stantec Yard House Restaurant Richemont L.A. & Caribbean Univision Radio Florida Hyatt Regency Coral Gables The Westin Colonnade Hotel American Airlines Cable & Wireless

TECHNOLOGY CLUSTER Apple Computer AT&T Americas Cable & Wireless Citrix Systems, Inc. Dabrein ESRI IntelSat MasTec Millicom International Cellular Sice Terra Networks Yahoo!

Source: City of Coral Gables




KEY PLAYERS CRAIG E. LEEN, City Attorney JAVIER A. BETANCOURT, AICP, Economic Development Director



Business Improvement District of Coral Gables EXECUTIVE South Florida: As Coral Gables has grown over the years, do you believe that local government planners and private developers have fulfilled the vision of founder George Merrick in the areas of architecture, design and layout? Has the private sector “bought in” to the road map laid out by city planners to sustain the Spanish/Mediterranean style Merrick envisioned? Marina Foglia: The City of Coral Gables and the Business Improvement District of Coral Gables has worked together for many years to ensure that George Merrick’s vision for a world-class City Beautiful is being realized in the 21st century. At the center of this work is the $18 million Streetscape improvement project for Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue in downtown Coral Gables. Construction is expected to begin in January of 2016. In 2009, the BID set forth a vision and conceptual design for downtown Coral Gables. The City of Coral Gables Commission approved and developed a financing plan and assessment methodology, agreed by property owners, for the Streetscape improvement project on August 26, 2014. The conceptual design, developed by the award-winning architectural and urban design firm of Cooper, Robertson & Partners of New York, will create a pedestrian friendly atmosphere and encourage more foot traffic providing for wider sidewalks, public art displays and open plaza areas. During certain times of the day and night, bollards along Giralda Avenue will be raised making it a pedestrian-only zone. Overall, these improvements will accentuate Merrick’s unique design and layout of the City Beautiful at the street level. The Spanish/Mediterranean style that Merrick envisioned clearly differentiates Coral Gables from other cities in Florida and across the country. This is equally supported by the private sector- property owners, merchants and residents alike. EXECUTIVE: Do you believe that the city offers sufficient amenities (such as art, entertainment and restaurants) and services (healthcare and public transportation) to attract world class businesses and a highly educated work force? Foglia: The City of Coral Gables offers all of the amenities that businesses and a highly educated workforce desire in a flourishing downtown community. It has a thriving arts and cultural district which include the Coral Gables Museum, the Coral Gables Art Cinema, Books & Books and the Miracle Theater. Monthly activities such as Gallery night attract arts 16


MARK A. TROWBRIDGE, President and CEO, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce patrons to the downtown. Miracle Mile and downtown Coral Gables is also a destination in the evening because of its popular 5-star restaurants, hotel entertainment and local bars. Coral Gables has easy access to Miami International Airport, only 10 minutes away. The free citywide Coral Gables Trolley brings hundreds of employees and residents to the downtown on a daily basis and has easy access to the Metrorail via the Douglas Road Station. Coral Gables has high quality healthcare services including several acute care hospitals, urgent care centers, HMOs, concierge medical practices, individual physician practices and high end senior living communities. EXECUTIVE: What portion of the city’s population is from South America and Europe? Are these residents looking to start new businesses? Foglia: Visitors from South America and Europe are important contributors to Coral Gables’ economy. They are frequent shoppers to the Miracle Mile area. They invest in office buildings and condominiums in the downtown area and are patrons to its sought after restaurants. EXECUTIVE: The city has a number of projects designed to upgrade the infrastructure of the urban core. They include the redesign of Miracle Mile and Giralda as wel as the construction of new parking garages downtown. Do these projects enjoy popular support? Do you think that the local population is satisfied with the state of “connectivity” that is now in place? Foglia: The Streetscape improvement project on Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, and the two parking garages to the north of Miracle Mile are popular with Coral Gables residents and businesses. Renovations are needed to stay competitive and because people understand these improvements will increase property values in the Downtown Coral Gables area and create an economic boom for the area. As more and more residents live in the Downtown, their quality of life will improve through the enhanced amenities being offered and walkable pedestrian friendly atmosphere. The entire community feels the time is right to improve and enhance Miracle Mile’s physical condition and maintain its position with regard to other competitive retail markets such as Lincoln Road, Mary Brickell Village, Coconut Grove, South Miami and the downtown Coral Gables area. CG



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THE RESIDENTIAL SCENE Not many places to build homes, but plenty of space downtown for condos. Rendering of The Collection Residences


on Shuffield, a South Florida dean of real estate executives, has been around long enough to see Coral Gables evolve from a would-be “City of the Future” to a dynamic destination for international businesses and a new generation of young professionals. The president and CEO of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors (EWM) sees a city fully built out with single family homes. The chief place left for expansion is downtown through condo development. “For single-family homes, we don’t have anywhere else to build; there’s a lot of room left downtown for condos,” he said. And there’s a lot of income available from city residents to make purchases. According to the city of Coral Gables, the city boasts a median household income of $68,115 and an average household income of $120,672. Both figures well exceed those of Miami-Dade County as a whole. In addition, more than 13 percent of the city’s households make incomes of $250,000 or more, with 5.5 percent showing incomes of $500,000 and above. The demand is coming from young professionals who like the convenience of being near Miami International Airport, and who work for the many multinationals and large U.S. corporations that maintain operation in the city. “The Gables is attracting younger people today … because they recognize the quality of life that living in a downtown district provides,” Shuffield said. “There is an increasingly active nightlife … you have restaurants attractive to young people that you didn’t have a few years ago.”

But he also noted that empty nesters are not leaving the Gables, opting instead for smaller residences such as town homes. “These are families that have lived in a Gables home for 30, 40 years. They love their neighborhood and don’t want to leave. The thought of living in an urban community, in a townhome or upscale apartment in very appealing to them”. And the opportunities to build new single family homes are severely limited because of a tough preservation code and a shortage of buildable land. “From a residential standpoint, you’re going to be primarily looking at renovations,” said John Allen, vice president of operations for Home Financing Center in Coral Gables. “There’s not much land left to fill in. A lot of the neighborhoods are under historic preservation codes. Demolition is not an option, which increases the desirability in my opinion. Since the ‘70’s they really have been really very diligent in enforcing those codes and maintaining what survived.” As more developers petition the city to build new projects, the prospective options for the new urban housing that young professionals seek are growing. Masoud Shojaee, Shoma Group President and Chairman said he and developer Ugo Colombo of the CMC Group decided to build The Collection Residences because of the city’s rich portfolio of cultural attractions and landmark destinations. “When the unique opportunity arose for The Collection Residences, Ugo and I knew it would be the perfect addition to the City Beautiful,” Shojaee said. “Also, we have the opportunity to bring the first live/work residences to the city, which is a product that we believe will be very well-received.” CORAL GABLES 2015



Aerial of Mediterranean Village being developed by Agave Ponce LLC

The partners took advantage of city building incentives by agreeing to reduce the density of the units to allow for fewer, larger ones. In addition, the builders opted for exterior and interior designs that they believe would have met with city founder George Merrick’s approval. “We have ensured that The Collection Residences will reflect a design that George Merrick would have himself envisioned for the city,” he said. “Architects Arquitectonica and DPZ have honored the city’s rich architectural past with a nineteenth-century, Mediterranean Revival-style exterior. While inside, acclaimed Italian interior architect, Massimo Iosa Ghini, gives a nod to his home country with the incorporation of the finest Italian-crafted finishes and adds a modern twist throughout that is set to invigorate the senses.” The project is expected to attract a diversity of buyers. “Our buyers at other Shoma Group projects—including Oasis Park Square and Santander—have largely hailed from Latin America but we are certainly seeing buyers from all over the world purchase at our projects,” Shojaee said. “At The Collection Residences, we anticipate our buyers will be local, international and from around the U.S.” The city’s biggest mixed use project on record, the Mediterranean Village developed by Agave Ponce LLC, received final city approval in July. It contains a major residential component at the Old Spanish Village site. Agave Ponce, the company with ties to the owner of the Jose Cuervo tequila brand, took over the site in 2013. It had been originally earmarked for a mix of residential, retail and office buildings in 2006 by another development group. But the project stalled during the recession. The Agave Ponce project is scheduled to include 214 condo units and 15 townhomes as well as a high-end hotel, 300,000 square feet of office space, restaurants, retail and a gym. Jose Antonio Perez, managing director of Agave Holdings’ USA operations, said Coral Gables’ movement toward better connectivity is among the factors drawing executives and their families away from high density urban areas, particularly Miami. “We have friends who have moved from downtown,” he said. “They no longer want to be there because of the traffic. All of those executives that live in Pinecrest and Coral Gables—they don’t want to commute. The proximity to the airport is really important. It’s not more than seven or eight minutes.” “We have the Metrorail very close, and the trolley,” he added. “We want to connect our project with Miracle Mile.” Henry Torres, developer of Merrick Manor, a city-approved 10-story condo project of the Astor Companies, says he expects the residents’ profile will fit the pattern envisioned by other real estate and development veterans who are doing business in Coral Gables: there will be business professionals, empty nesters and a “good percentage of South Americans” who are relocating to the United States because of political unrest in their own countries. Merrick Manor will have 224 units ranging from 574-square-foot one-bedroom apartments to three bedrooms at 3,200 square feet. The amenities at Merrick Manor, across the street from the Villages of Merrick Park shopping complex, will include 9,000 square feet of health and spa facilities, restaurant, retail, Turkish bath and a pool.

Other services will include a 24-hour valet and security. The design will be Spanish Mediterranean. Prices will start in the $300,000 range and reach as high as $2.1 million. “We anticipate getting started in the first quarter of 2016,” Torres said. “We’re taking care of all of the utilities and putting everything underground. We need to do that because of the complexity of the site.” The completion date is expected to be in 2018. Groundbreaking is expected in September or October of this year. Torres said 55 percent of the project is sold. “High-end scale units are typical of what Coral Gables expects,” he said. “The Gables is the City Beautiful and people expect to have luxury apartments, good police protection and all of the amenities that a city such as Coral Gables provides its residents. CG




$10,072,262,531 $537,053,435 $10,609,315,966


$11,583,673,283 $358,647,741 $11,942,321,024


$12,608,566,150 $368,490,172 $12,977,056,322


$11,875,112,539 $312,425,424 $12,187,537,963


$11,069,459,141 $297,254,234 $11,366,713,375


$11,582,581,921 $288,250,994 $11,870,832,915


$11,752,319,227 $273,243,675 $12,025,562,902


$11,996,154,496 $284,616,094 $12,280,770,590


$12,563,996,934 $291,419,796 $12,855,416,730


$13,395,162,364` $297,441,249 $13,692,603,613 Source: City of Coral Gables



Rendering of Mediterranean Village being developed by Agave Ponce LLC

W. Allen Morris


Photo by Ada Stevens


eteran developer W. Allen Morris never spent the time that the author Washington Irving did as a guest of the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain, chronicling what he saw. But Morris, whose company has developed more than 80 real estate projects, does have his own symbolic “Tale of the Alhambra” to tell. “When I was ten my father and mother took me to Portugal and Spain, and I was enthralled and mesmerized by these cathedrals and castles,” he recalled. “And so the opportunity that I felt like I had was to create something that could be a gift to the City of Coral Gables, and I go overboard with creating a 21st Century interpretation of the cathedrals of Spain.” As EXECUTIVE South Florida reported in its Skyline issue earlier this year, “few of the city’s landmarks are bigger or richer than the 174,000-square-foot Alhambra office building in the central business district of Coral Gables.” The building, which opened in 2002, houses the headquarters of The Allen Morris Company. It is the type of iconic building that has helped set the stage for ensuing projects around town. Construction started in 1998, and it took a number of refinements to shape the design the way Morris wanted it to be. “It was my vision and I asked the architect to see if he could draw it,” Morris recalled. “After three attempts he finally got the idea and we kept refining it together.” He credits the architect, John Cunningham “with the ideas to make it better than I had envisioned.” Atop the building on the westerly tower is what Morris calls a “21st century reinterpretation of the Giralda Tower in the Cathedral of Seville.” It boasts a working weather vane.

These days, Morris applauds the emergence of new projects designed to reflect the vision of city founder George Merrick: buildings that reflect Spanish and Mediterranean designs, elegant landscaping on Alhambra Circle and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, and the planned overhaul of the Miracle Mile streetscape. “These are all things that are all part of the renaissance of Coral Gables,” he said. “I think Coral Gables is the best kept secret in town. And I say that as a Brickell developer. We had our corporate headquarters on Brickell Avenue for 33 years. I thought it would be hard to adjust. It was like dying and going to heaven. [Coral Gables] has all of the sophistication Brickell Avenue with a far superior quality of life.” He thinks Merrick’s vision for a Mediterranean-styled city “got lost” in the 1970’s and the 1980’s but has been since revived. He credits Mayor Jim Cason with raising Coral Gables’ visibility as an international destination that leaves the front door wide open to international companies and foreign government that want to do business in the city. “One of the things I think Mayor Cason brings to the city is a valuable appreciation of how unique Coral Gables is in the world. He has lived in and worked in so many different cities and so many countries,” Morris said. “He has opened his arms and the arms of the city to invite and receive these foreign consuls and international businesses that create a vibrant and sophisticated population in our downtown and our residential community.” Morris said the city is in need of more office space amid growing demand by foreign and domestic companies to locate there. CORAL GABLES 2015


CITY REPORT: REAL ESTATE “We went through a period of drought during the recession,” Morris said of the office market. “There has been very little new office development since then. We go through this in cycles. We’ve seen good absorption this past year. It’s become a serious office market. In Coral Gables, I believe we’re going to see more and more good, quality office development because people who don’t have to be downtown or on Brickell want to be in Coral Gables. They can spend an hour a day less time to commute to and from work. “When you think of what people’s time is worth in the business day—my commute is ten minutes from my house to the office,” he said. “For our people it’s typically a half an hour to 45 minutes instead of doing an hour and a half.” Continental Real Estate Companies, which occupies and manages the building, known as 2121 Ponce, decided to locate its headquarters in the city several years ago. “We really appreciated the professional atmosphere of Coral Gables and thought it would be a major plus for our company, and it has been,” said company co-founder Warren Weiser. “It’s a great place to work and play. It doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in restaurants.” He said Continental clients range from pension fund advisers to high net worth individuals. Continental maintains a portfolio of 12 million square feet of space in the state. “We have periodically done a lot of different things in the Gables.” At 2121 Ponce, a number of multinational companies occupy the property; a consulate office is located there, as well. “The demand for office space is very strong from local companies to international companies,” Weiser sad. “You have some looking for their U.S. headquarters, and other U.S. companies looking for headquarters for their international business. It goes both ways.” Juan Ruiz, a senior vice president at Blanca Commercial Real Estate in Miami, indicated that while there are vacancies, the availability of space in Coral Gables is likely to narrow over the long term. He placed the citywide office vacancy rate at 13 percent. “There is still a bit of space,” he said. “There might be a limited amount of large space. But there is space available. In the long term, you are definitely going to need more construction.” The Blanca firm is the exclusive leasing agent for the Douglas Entrance Office Park, a multiple-building complex containing Class A office towers, retail and office and event space. All told, the property boasts 467,325 square feet. Tenants include AECOM, MasTec, MetLife and Univision. The firm also represents the 396 Alhambra building. “It’s one of the markets where there’s always a lot of demand,” Ruiz said of the city. “Prices are less expensive than Brickell and downtown [Miami]. There’s always plenty of interest in Coral Gables.” Among the city’s attractive features: walkability, world class restaurants, first-class hotels and proximity to executive and work force housing. “The direct access to the airport is huge,” he added. While the space availability is shrinking, two new projects on the drawing boards offer additional inventory. The city’s recent approval of the huge mixed-use Mediterranean Village by Agave Ponce means an additional 290,000 square feet of office space for the market. The project is a follow-on to the 396 Alhambra building downtown that Agave finished redeveloping in 2012. Jose Antonio Perez, managing director Agave’s Miami-based U.S. operation, said the company came to the U.S. in 2009 to “diversify the real estate portfolio of the business in Mexico.” The 396 Alhambra property, which boasts 273,000 square feet of office space, marble from Alhambra, a north and south tower and a domed 24


Rendering of Giralda

gazebo, was “conceived as landmark,” Perez said. “This is a long-term investment. We are going to hold it for the long term,” he said. “We are not in the business of flipping properties.” A number of prominent tenants are in it for the long term, too. HBO Latin America signed a 16-year lease. Diageo has a 12-year lease. Other tenants include Citibank, Heineken, Hyatt International, Professional Bank and the law firm of Richman Greer. “We try to capture the top tenants of the market in Coral Gables,” Perez said. “The only problem we have now is some of those tenants want to grow and we don’t have the space.” The company’s big focus now is its Mediterranean Village project, which besides the office space comes with 180 hotel rooms, more than 200 units of residential (condos and townhomes), 289,000 square feet of retail and 29,000 square feet of restaurants. Agave wants to integrate the project—at 2801, 2901 and 3001 Ponce de Leon—with a nearby park and deliver a tie-in to Miracle Mile. Agave took great pains to ensure that the community bought into the project during what turned out to be a three-year approval journey, Perez said. “Our main concern when we started this was the neighbors. Those are the ones where we’ve had the most support.” He said the developer “went to everybody affected” to address everything from uneven sidewalks and streets to the economic impact. Agave is also contributing $5 million to the city’s Art in Public Places project. Now that the project has commission approval, Agave will have to submit a construction plan, which will likely take a year. Perez envisions the project will be completed toward the middle to end of 2018. “I think it is good for everybody,” he said. Another project emerging from the drawing boards is the Solution Group’s 47-unit Ofizzina at 1200 Ponce de Leon. Planners of the Mediterranean-style building envision 97,000 square feet of office space, two retail units on the ground floor and 335 parking spaces. Kickoff for construction is targeted for the fall with a completion date in early 2017. The projected cost is $75 million. Camilo Lopez, the Solution Group president and principal of the project, said he’s been approached by would-be tenants from a variety of industries including law, finance, accounting, advertising and media. He also expects “one or two” diplomatic missions in his project but declined to identify them. Based in the Miami Design District, the company has had a residential building under construction on Brickell. But then, Lopez said, he started to study the local office market. Of 200 buildings he found under construction in the Miami area, he said, “we have only three office buildings.” The Ofizzina developers expect some of their tenants will be environmentally sensitive. In the parking garage, there will be 30 charging stations for electric cars. CG

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CENTER FOR FOREIGN CONSULATES AND RELATIONSHIPS ACC1Ó (Government of Catalonia Agency) Consulate General of Barbados Consulate General of Colombia Consulate General of El Salvador Consulate General of Italy Italian Trade Commission Consulate General of St. Lucia Consulate General of the Principality of Monaco Consulate of Norway Consulate General of Spain

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Alhambra Circle



or multinational corporations and foreign governments, Coral Gables has emerged as South Florida’s premier location for Latin American headquarters operations and consuls general who desire a convenient home away from home while doing business in the region. “A lot of the consulates want to move here,” said Mayor Jim Cason, who himself spent his career as a U.S. diplomat. “The problem is trying to find space and get money from their government. But they realize this is the place to be. We have 122 nationalities in the Gables.” The city counts 160 companies that have operations within its jurisdiction. There are more than 20 foreign consulate offices, the mayor said. Large multinationals such as American Airlines, Bacardi, Cable & Wireless, Diageo, HBO Latin America, Intelsat, Pescanova USA and Univision are just a few of the big name corporate conglomerates that maintain operations in the city. Agave, the real estate firm with ties to the Mexico-based Jose Cuervo tequila brand, is developing the recently approved mixed use Mediterranean Village project. Cable & Wireless, responding to questions about its decision to locate its operational hub in Coral Gables, cited the city’s proximity to Miami International Airport, which allows for quick trips for company employees to reach customers across the Caribbean and Latin America. The company also cited “good quality housing, relatively easy parking and “shops, hotels and restaurants all within a few minutes walking distance” of the company. “Our main focus was centered on identifying the best location for our operational hub that allowed easy access to the main areas of geographic focus for our business which are Latin America and the Caribbean,” the company said. Similar factors for locating in the city apply for foreign governments, Cason said. “I think people recognize that Coral Gables is one of the best places to be located if you want to do business in Latin America,” he said. “You don’t have traffic problems, you’re close to the airport so if you have a 26


visiting foreign minister coming in you can whip in between flights, come to your consulate and do some business. But if you are in downtown [Miami], you might be stuck in traffic for hours.” Consular officials are charged with a variety of tasks. Their offices handle and process visa requests, protect the welfare of their country’s citizens, promote their nation’s culture and promote tourism and business opportunities back home. Cason says there are a number of nations that want to move their consular offices to Coral Gables. Italy moved its trade office from Atlanta to Coral Gables. “The Brazilians just moved out of downtown Miami,” Cason said. “They couldn’t find space in the Gables so they’re right on the edge on Route 1 and Douglas. They’re exactly right across the street. They have a zip code for the Gables. Their cultural office is here.” Spain departed Coral Gables amid that country’s financial problems. But now the country wants to come back. “They’re trying to find space,” Cason said. Paraguay, where Cason served as U.S. ambassador, and Honduras also want to locate in the city. In addition, the U.S. State Department maintains its Office of Foreign Missions for the Southeast in Coral Gables. It communicates with all of the honorary and career consuls in the Southeast and U.S. Virgin Islands. “So it’s good for us,” Cason said. The city, he said, treats the consular officials very well, right down to giving them a pass on parking tickets. The mayor said he also greets foreign mayors and high-ranking visitors from various Latin American countries. One visitor was the president-elect of Honduras. “They get a two-fer: they can get an ambassador or a mayor,” he said, alluding to his time as a diplomat. The conversations range from how to maintain clean governments to how Coral Gables, which operates more than 30 citizen advisory committees, can foster public involvement in local government. “They either want to do business or talk about how they can improve their cities through transparency,” he said. “We’re very advanced in terms of what we do in terms of public involvement. They like to hear how we do it.” CG

Photo by Robin Hill


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Alhambra Towers

oral Gables’ highly educated and upper-income workforce make the city an ideal market for retail and private banks. The city, according to bankers, has been highly cooperative with institutions seeking to establish headquarters or branches around town. So it’s no surprise that a roster of well-known domestic and foreign banks have located branches or bigger operations in the city. A sampling of a Who’s Who of banking names in Coral Gables includes: AmTrust, Banesco, Bank of America, Banco Santander, BankUnited, Chase, Citibank, City National, First American Bank (acquirer of the Bank of Coral Gables), Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust, HSBC, Mercantil Commercebank, Northern Trust, Professional Bank, Regions, Sabadell United, Seacoast Bank, SunTrust, TD Bank, TotalBank, U.S. Century, and Wells Fargo. Professional Bank, a full service commercial bank, located its first office in the city and moved its headquarters to the central business district a year and a half ago, said CEO Raul Valdes-Fauli. “There are a lot of professionals here,” he said. “There are good blue chip law firms, architectural and engineers. We wanted to be right in the middle of it to be interacting with a core clientele day to day.” 28


Valdes-Fauli lives in the city, as do a number of the bank’s executives. He likes the way the development scene is unfolding. “I think the mayor and the city commission has done a great job of fostering responsible development with measured growth,” he said. “Certainly there are big things on the horizon, including the Ponce circle project. I love working and living here. It’s a great place to raise a family. There’s fun night life and family activities.” He says his bank is steadily building its international business, particularly among Brazilians and Venezuelans who have established second homes in the city. Millar Wilson, Mercantil Commercebank’s Vice Chairman and CEO, says the institution was “welcomed with open arms” by the city when it established its initial presence in there. “The area, especially its downtown sector, has always been consistently viewed as an ideal location for multinational companies as a result of its thriving business sector and proximity to Miami International Airport. “This region functions as a global hub and that is something our customers want to capitalize on,” Wilson said. “As to investments, we have seen growth in commercial real estate investments, as many of our personal and commercial banking customers continue to view this as an attractive option.” “The city’s administration is also excellent to work with,” he said. “We appreciate their understanding that business moves rapidly, and most recently, when we were working to purchase our headquarters building, they were extremely supportive.” John Allen, vice president of operations at Coral Gables-based Home Financing Co., says that post-recession, “the city is in a very healthy position.” “I think Coral Gables got hurt the least in the recent recession,” he said. “It was certainly one of the first municipalities to come back. It’s a desirable place to live. Everybody got hit in the wake of the recession but Coral Gables got hit very lightly. It’s come back quicker.” Founded in 1984, Home Financing is an independently owned and operated mortgage lender. It offers FHA/VA mortgages, loans for firsttime buyers, commercial loans, reverse mortgages, and refinancing programs. It also owns Benefit Life Corp., which offers personal and commercial insurance products, as well as a title company and a private mortgage insurer. “Terry Claus Sr., the founder, was always insistent that Coral Gables was the place he wanted to establish our lending institution,” Allen said. “It started out in the small office on Merrick Way and we have made a number of moves since.” Claus graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, but devotes some of his philanthropic efforts toward the University of Miami. “He was here in the banking industry and decided to found his own institution,” Allen said. Allen, who was born in Coral Gables, says he likes the city’s prospects at a time when development, albeit carefully controlled, is enjoying a surge in activity, and the city is engaging in major improvements. “The streetscape project is going to be an absolutely terrific boom for the Miracle Mile,” he said. “Every city has a main street and Miracle Mile is our Main Street and the better we make it, the better we are.” CG



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Photo by Robin Hill


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396 Alhambra Circle, Suite 255, Coral Gables, Florida 33134 T 786 483 1757 1567 San Remo Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida 33146 T 305 666 8488



hrough the 1980s, attorneys say, the business of law in Coral Gables was a quiet, unassuming enterprise, with most firms focusing on real estate, private estates and some transactional work. But now, the city is home to some of the most diverse law firms in South Florida. The transformation is due in large part to the city’s growth as a center for international business. But the increasing density of high rises and traffic in Miami has played a key role in driving professional service firms into the arms of the City Beautiful. “That makes the Gables attractive,” said Juan Ruiz, senior vice president at Blanca Commercial Real Estate, which helps clients find office space in all three locations. “You can get more parking. And parking is less expensive as well. We’re seeing companies that don’t have to be in the Miami central business district.” One of the more recent law firm migrations to Coral Gables from Brickell was executed by Devine Goodman Rasco Watts-FitzGerald, which landed at 2800 Ponce de Leon. It was, said Robert Kuntz, a firm partner, a matter of recapturing valuable time spent with daily commuting and converting the commodity into more productivity. Other firms saw the benefits of exiting downtown Miami for Coral Gables many years before. “We were one of the first law firms to be downtown,” said Dean Colson, co-founder of Colson Hicks Eidson, who grew up in Coral Gables. “Now you have Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton and Stuart Grossman’s firm. There’s a list of law firms that have come south and nobody thinks twice about a Coral Gables address where, 30 or 40 years ago you had to be in downtown Miami. The whole idea of having



to be downtown because the clerk’s office is there—that’s all gone by the wayside because of the electronics.” In concert with several partners, Colson and Mike Eidson bought the property where Books and Books is located. “One half of the property was a rundown 1923 building and the other half was a parking lot,” Eidson recalled. “We saved the historic building and rebuilt it in the 1923 style and brought in Mitchell Kaplan, who had lost his book store space in the Gables, to operate Books and Books there and became his landlord for 10 years. We built the interior to his specifications. We built a three-story office building next door on the other half of the property where our office was located. We sold the entire property to a banker/investor, in 2008 and moved to our current location in 2010.” The firm is now at 255 Alhambra Circle. Longtime trial lawyer Stuart Grossman of Grossman Roth has seen the evolution of professional services firms since he first got out of law school. “I was 13 years old in 1960 when my family moved to Coral Gables,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like George Merrick. This is my place.” He graduated from Coral Gables High School and went to the University of Miami for his undergraduate and law degrees. “It isn’t just the evolution of legal practices that I’ve noticed, it’s the overall development of Coral Gables that has been amazing to me because it has preserved itself. It’s probably the only place in South Florida I can say that about other than Key West. To me the Gables, because of its measured growth and the carrying on of the Merrick tradition, has attracted people who have a heightened sense of community responsibility.” CG

Photo by Robin Hill


The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe (Coalition) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring early education for children in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The Coalition is headquartered in Coral Gables and is the largest of 31 similar organizations in the State of Florida and one of the largest nonprofit organizations in South Florida. The Coalition has been awarded a Child Care Executive Partnership (CCEP) grant to serve the children of Miami-Dade and Monroe. The CCEP grant is intended to help local businesses improve employee benefits by offering parents access to reliable, discounted quality early care and education programs. The CCEP grant provides match funding to enable business owners to offer the benefit of quality early child care and education for their qualifying employee; resulting in improved productivity and reduced absenteeism. The Coalition also administers the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) and School Readiness programs. Both programs focus on preparing children for academic success by laying the foundation for early learning through participation in quality early education programs. VPK is available to all four year old children who reside in Florida, regardless of the parent’s income level. The Coalition is currently accepting applications from local businesses for the CCEP program and from families for the VPK and School Readiness programs.

For more information on the CCEP, VPK, and School Readiness programs, please visit our website at or contact the Early Learning Coalition at

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Rendering of The Lennar Foundation Medical Center

THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: A Development Agreement Makes for Good Neighbors


n the 1920s, the University of Miami got its start with a cash donation of $5 million and a land donation of 65 acres from George Merrick. Over the years, the institution has grown into a nationally recognized research institution with a student population of more than 16,000 on a 240-acre campus. In 2010, the city and the school entered into a development agreement that has helped resolve a number of vital on-the-ground issues involving zoning and development, traffic and mobility, and community access to the school and its programs. “The relationship has been a really good relationship,” said Joe Natoli, Senior Vice President for Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer of the university. “The development agreement was a big part of that. We tried to deal with a bunch of issues that had been hanging around for a long time.” In turn, the psychological relationship between the two sides has improved. 32


“The way it exists today is if the university needs something from the city we pick up the phone and we call the administration and if it’s good for the city, it works,” he said. The business community is also sold. “What a wonderful neighbor to have in your backyard,” said Warren Weiser, co-founder of the Continental Real Estate Companies. “We’ve actually had a nice relationship with the University of Miami because we’ve used their business graduates and real estate people as interns in the office. It’s a situation where we can gain employees in the future. It’s a great feeder for us. They have a very good real estate program.” “The commission today is very supportive of the university,” Natoli added. “They are very protective of the neighbors. Even if it’s a handful of neighbors, both the administration and commission try to find win–wins for the constituency and the university.” “The agreement,” he said, “has a lot of elements that have to do with being good partners to one another. It was the vision of George

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CITY REPORT: EDUCATION Merrick that great cities need great universities and they’re synergistic to one another.” A key issue involved zoning, which Natoli said allowed the university to acquire a greater level of certainty that it could execute its development projects. “There had been some inconsistencies in the UM master plan submitted each year,” he said. “We agreed on things like heights of buildings on the perimeter of the campus and the transition zone and the interior.” The clarifications allowed the $160 million Lennar Foundation Medical Center to proceed on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Prior to construction, the project never had the all of the required zoning. The center is a 200,000 square foot outpatient facility that will bring most of UHealth’s abilities to the campus. Patients will be able to avail themselves of services from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The Lennar center would also provide men’s and women’s health and sports medicine services. “What we’ve been trying to do at the medical school is to create a health system which we’ve branded UHealth,” Natoli said. “We believe we have the finest physicians around. To access that care you needed to go downtown. What we’re trying to do is bring the services into more convenient locations.” “We wanted to have a facility in or around our campus,” he added. The city was enthusiastic “because they thought it would be good for the residents.” City residents can also avail themselves of a variety of offerings from UM’s cultural, athletic and engineering programs. In turn, a fellows program allows students to work with the city each year. Residents can take advantage of a lecture and concert series, as well as a “meet-the-doctors series,” where physicians from various UM medical programs reach out to the city. And no outreach program would be complete without special breaks on tickets to the university’s premier athletic programs in baseball, basketball and football.


SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR BUSINESS AND FINANCE AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Natoli said the university has also worked long and hard to resolve the traffic concerns of residents who live near the campus. “The neighbors years ago had concerns about traffic,” he said. “We’ve really driven that down.” “Our campus is commercial on the part that fronts Ponce and U.S. 1, and residential on the other side of campus,” Natoli explained. “We’ve done all sorts of things to manage traffic.” He said car counts are down by 40 percent after the school adopted a zone system for parking permits. For example, “If you don’t have a pass in the red lot, no sense in driving around there.” The school also worked with the city to beautify Ponce de Leon Boulevard. UM put up the funds for the city to plant palm trees. “Similarly, some of the circles around the university are much more attractive [now],” Natoli said. CG Jorge M. Pérez Architecture Center



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— Dean Tomislav Mandakovic


ur small class size, personalized attention, high-quality program and engaged faculty truly provide an experience like no other,” said Paola Moreno, assistant dean of Barry University’s Andreas School of Business. “In our MBA program, we incorporate our mission and values into our classes, through projects, case studies and other activities.” Founded as a Roman Catholic institution in 1940 by the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Barry University sits on a spacious 122 acres in Miami Shores. The student body of about 9,000 is served by more than 2,100 faculty members and administrative staff, creating an excellent instructor-to-student ratio. “Students come to Barry for the outstanding programs, engaged faculty, personalized attention, global perspective, and the smaller class sizes,” said Elsie Florido, manager of student recruitment. “However, upon graduation our students leave with more than a degree,” she added. “They leave with a stronger sense of ethics, social responsibility and an entrepreneurial attitude.” Barry’s Andreas School of Business was established in 1976. It is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, the gold standard for business schools. The school offers MBA degrees with six specializations: accounting, finance, health services administration, international business, management, and marketing. Each area of study is flexible, Moreno said, “and designed to suit the changing needs of the market and of our students.”

In today’s rapidly shifting business world, many executives who hold graduate degrees feel the need or desire to investigate a new business discipline. The Andreas School of Business has created a certificate program to do just that, Moreno said. Certificates can be earned in each of the school’s specialization areas. Topics covered include global marketing, cross-cultural management, consumer behavior, investment analysis, health law, and ethics. Those who have a solid foundation in clinical skills, or who have begun a career in sports management but want to take the next step, can take advantage of the school’s three dual-degree programs. For podiatry students, the DPM/MBA degree delivers both clinical skills and expertise in efficient practice management. An MBA program combined with a master’s of science in nursing prepares practitioners to assume leadership roles in healthcare organizations. The sports management/MBA blend teaches those who manage teams, arenas or sports broadcasts how to write marketing plans, assess competitive environments, and make strategic decisions. By utilizing Barry’s double degree option, students can earn a master of science in accounting or in management while immersing themselves in another culture and language. While in the host country, they make new friends and business contacts that can be useful in the future. Throughout the course of learning at the business school, “We connect our students with the local and international community through our various outreach programs and partnerships,” Moreno says. “Studying at Barry University,” Florido concluded, “can be a transformative experience.” E —Catherine Lackner

HED: International Partnerships Yield Double Degrees. Students at Barry University’s Andreas School of Business can leverage its MBA double degree program to earn a master’s degree from that school as well as an MBA or a business-related master’s degree from a partner institution abroad. Those schools are currently in Ecuador, Colombia, Spain and Germany, but the program’s popularity has persuaded the school to expand these partnerships. Not only does the graduate emerge with a degree from the United States, but also from the host country, expanding job opportunities and marketability. Instead of just learning about global markets, the student experiences them and gains a cultural perspective. It’s an enticing opportunity to earn two graduate degrees in half the time it would take to complete both separately, while paying lower tuition costs per credit hour, and developing an international network. As an added bonus, students at the partner schools who finish their dual degrees at Barry University can apply for a special visa that allows them to work in the U.S. for a year. E For information about Barry University’s MBA program, please contact us: 305-899-3500 • • AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015



Kevin Hamann, President and Owner of Deal Partners LLC and Vicky Sabharwal, Director of Finance for the Ambulatory & Primary Care Service Division of Jackson Health Systems 44


The College of Business has changed with the times.


— Angel Burgos, Executive Director of MBA programs

t Florida International University’s Chapman Graduate School of Business, tossing out tradition cleared the way for breakthroughs in graduate-level education. “We kept hearing there was a need for programs that create broad-minded executives to lead change in times of escalating complexity,” says Angel Burgos, executive director of MBA programs. “So we put our Executive MBA program on hold and completely redesigned it.” What emerged is a multi-disciplinary program of applied learning and reality-based decision-making. It takes into account challenges executives didn’t face 30 years ago, including globalization, technology and increasing government regulation, Burgos says. “The College of Business has changed with the times,” he explains. The Executive MBA program attracts seasoned professionals already at the executive level or who soon will be, Burgos adds, noting that students currently enrolled in the program have an average of 19 years’ work experience and 44 percent are women, compared to the industry standard of about 10 percent female enrollment in executive MBA programs. FIU’s is one of the two MBA programs in the U.S. to be selected to participate in the EMBA Consortium for Global Business Innovation, a week-long residency at a leading business school in a city like Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Cape Town, or Istanbul. “It teaches students to think about business situations, not in a numbers-crunching way, but with the perspective of the people who live there,” Burgos explains. Kevin Hamann, president and owner of Deal Partners LLC, graduated in June 2014 in the first executive MBA class since the program’s overhaul. After 13 years as senior vice president of merchandising at Tiger Direct, Hamann was ready for a change. He founded Deal Partners LLC in late 2012, and began to re-evaluate his educational goals. “I thought it was time to get my executive MBA and pursue the next chapter,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to start my own business.” After some investigation, he realized FIU’s approach dovetailed with this new period in his life. “The entrepreneurial track runs the entire length of the program,” Hamann says, and faculty members bring their real-world experiences to the classroom. One such instructor is Dileep Rao, a former venture capitalist and author of Bootstrap to Billions: How Entrepreneurs Build Great Companies from Scratch. “What we learned from Dileep about the pros and cons of various sources of funding was invaluable to me later,” Hamann says of his former professor. When faced with the challenge of raising capital to expand the fledgling business, he had the benefit of Rao’s observations. Without them, it would have been a much harder task, he says. A cohort of 19 students moved through the EMBA program together.

“We became a very close group,” Hamann says. “We were from different walks of life - we had bankers, people who were in luxury goods, and others - but when we got to interact and share experiences, we found we had a lot in common. We continue to stay in touch.” FIU’s Healthcare MBA also benefitted from an extensive retooling. “Healthcare is very team-focused,” says Mercy Bradley, director of Health Management Programs at FIU’s College of Business. The program was designed so that students can leverage their individual talents and skills but also function more effectively as team members, a key ingredient to their professional success in the fast-growing field, she adds. While students in the Healthcare MBA program go through the 18-month curriculum as one group, teams are switched up on a regular basis. “Our students gain the ability to work with many individuals,” Bradley says. As part of the Healthcare MBA program, students complete on-campus residencies focusing on leadership and critical thinking. They also study organizational behavior, information systems, finance, and other aspects of managing healthcare facilities and businesses. During the program, they can earn green-belt certification in Lean Six Sigma, a respected methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance and eliminate waste. “This is something tangible that students can take directly to the marketplace,” Bradley says. “That’s always our goal.” For working professionals, including clinicians who want to learn the management side of healthcare, FIU offers the Healthcare Management MBA online. Students emerge from the 18-month program with a comprehensive industry perspective, and the “big picture” vision that is key to understanding today’s rapidly changing landscape. When Vicky Sabharwal came to Miami in 2012 after nine years as a manager and then senior manager in pharmacy benefit management at Medco Health Solutions in New Jersey, she considered herself well versed in healthcare. “But I found out there was so much more to learn,” she says. Sabharwal, now director of finance for the Ambulatory & Primary Care Service Division of Jackson Health Systems, always wanted an MBA and was introduced to the FIU program by her husband Anup, a physician. “He had graduated from the program two years earlier, and loved it,” she recalls. It was his enthusiasm that drove her to explore and eventually enroll in FIU’s Healthcare MBA program in 2013. “It touches every single aspect of healthcare, and helped me understand how all healthcare organizations work,” Sabharwal says. “I knew this was the program for me. Every single day I use what I learned.” After earning her degree, Sabharwal’s career received a boost and she was promoted to her present position as a director of finance at Jackson. The program’s onsite team projects provided an added benefit, helping Sabharwal make friends that she expects to keep for life. “We really became close, and the professors are so enthusiastic,” Sabharwal —Catherine Lackner explains. “It was a great experience.” E

For information about Florida International University’s MBA program, please contact: Megan Morini • 305-779-7896 • AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez, Head of Business Department and Dr. James Bullen, Head of Business Division 46


I have students complete practical exercises. I want them to develop knowledge they can apply to the workplace.


— Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez, Business Department Head

magine getting to run a business while in school under the direction of someone who has had a long and successful career in business. This is what students in the Capstone course at the end of the Executive MBA program at Florida National University (FNU) get to do. And while it may sound exciting, it is not easy. Dr. James Bullen, head of the business division at FNU has very high expectation of students pursuing an MBA. Students in the eight week Capstone course are given the opportunity to play the role of CEO of a virtual corporation and Bullen acts as the chairman of the board. The students are given a set of challenges that a business leader might encounter over an eight year period. “Many of the students contract the jitters during the first week because they are overwhelmed by the task of orchestrating the activities of an entire company,” said Bullen. “I give them the challenges and problems that a business executive could expect to face when running a corporation. They learn how to develop a strategy for the company and the pros and cons of decisions they will have to make.” After completing the demanding Capstone course, most of the students are well prepared to pursue promotions at their current jobs or with other companies. Or they can start their own companies. The MBA program at FNU is geared for people who are working as many as two jobs and raising a family. Some have many years of work experience but want the skills and training to pursue higher level jobs and careers. Others have enjoyed career success in professions such as business and law and want to learn how to run an organization. The MBA students complete case studies and they learn to work in teams. “Students will come to me and say I want to work alone on projects. I tell them in business they will have to work well with others so opting out of team projects is not an option,” said Bullen. Dr. Ernesto Gonzalez, business department head at FNU wants MBA students to develop practical knowledge and learn how to work effectively in leading teams. “I have students complete practical exercises. I want them to develop knowledge they can apply to the workplace.” An important goal of the MBA program is to take people who may be very skilled at what they do and make them into effective leaders. It is similar to taking a great violinist and making him or her into a successful conductor. As the conductor of a company, one must be able to get all the musicians to work together. Bullen built and ran three very successful companies in South America and two in the United States. He was able to grow them

into multimillion dollar organizations. Bullen experienced the difficulties and challenges of running companies under various political systems. The MBA program allows students with a bachelor degree and work experience to focus on one of five concentrations. These include: General Management, Finance, Marketing, Health Services Administration or Public Management and Leadership. Each course reinforces the student’s knowledge and soft skill areas such as making presentations and problem solving. Most students take two courses during eight week semesters. People can complete the MBA in a year. They can also complete courses online or in a hybrid format which includes both online and in class work. People can participate in classes through GoToTraining, which allows to attend class through a video conference and benefit participation in classroom activities without being on campus. And they learn to use video conferencing technology. Bullen has found that other universities are looking to FNU’s program for ideas. The FNU MBA program is affordable for working people. The goal is to give more people an opportunity to pursue higher level education and have more opportunities to advance in the business world. FNU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Luz Essraowi achieved her goal of earning an MBA through FNU and is now a Human Resources Director and the owner of a photography business. She was pleased by the family atmosphere of FNU and praised the teaching of Dr. Bullen and Dr. Gonzalez. She found them to be demanding but supportive. She was quoted in an FNU document as saying, “These professors were my guiding light throughout my education at Florida National University.” After completing her MBA, Essraowi was hired as a Human Resources Director with another company. She had been working as a human resources manager while pursuing her degree and believes the MBA helped her gain a better position with a growing company. Victor Guembes performed well the MBA program and was class valedictorian with a 3.92 GPA. He is a branch manager for security. He pursued an MBA at FNU because he wanted more education in all the basic functions of management. He was quoted in an FNU document as saying, “I liked the response I received from my professors along with their method of teaching, which enhanced my managerial skills, and provided me with direction on how to be more efficient and effective in my daily decision-making process.” E —David Volz

For information about Florida National University’s MBA program, please contact: Dr. James Bullen • 305-821-3333 • AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


Dr. Irma Becerra, Provost and Chief Academic Officer; Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, President and Dr. Somnath Bhattacharya, Gus Machado School of Business Dean 48


We moved from being a business school to meeting the market as trends emerge, while preserving the Catholic tradition of ethics and social justice.


— Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, President

esponding to market demand is in our DNA,” says Dr. Irma Becerra, provost and chief academic officer of St. Thomas University. Founded in 1946 as Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Havana, Cuba, the school operated a sugar cane demonstration lab so students could gain experience with one of the island’s main crops. That tradition continues today. In addition to traditional MBA programs, the Gus Machado School of Business offers master’s degrees in trade and logistics, cyber security management, global entrepreneurship and sports management. “We develop programs that have strategic market relevance,” said Dr. Somnath Bhattacharya, Gus Machado School of Business dean and professor of accounting. “We moved from being a business school to meeting the market as trends emerge, while preserving the Catholic tradition of ethics and social justice,” says Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale, president. “We are equipping students for 21st century careers,” Becerra added. “We are the first to respond to the cyber security issue.” Cyber security touches upon many disciplines, including business, law, criminal justice and computer science. “Most universities are silooriented, but we are agile, we employ an inter-disciplinary approach.” As PortMiami prepares to accept post-Panamex ships from the Panama Canal into its deeper harbor, and as the post-recession economy continues to expand, demand for supply-chain management professionals in South Florida is expected to increase. Full-time students can complete a master’s of science in trade and logistics in as little as one year, but the program is flexible to accommodate those who already work in the field and who want to move up in their careers. An MBA specialization is also offered. Both trade and information technology have been identified as sectors that will add high-salary jobs in the coming years, added Hilda M.

Fernandez, vice president for university advancement, making these degrees even more valuable. St. Thomas University’s master’s degree in Sports Administration is the oldest program in the U.S. that is not based on kinesiology, the study of human movement. Casale said, “It is business-oriented, strictly business.” It continues to be extremely popular for those aiming for careers in team or arena management, sports broadcasting, athlete representation, and other fields off the playing field. A new doctorate in Business Administration concentrating in Sports Administration is also being launched. Sports Administration is also one of three disciplines for which the university offers a joint law and MBA degree. The others are accounting and international business. Each couples skills traditionally taught in MBA courses with the core principles of business law. The joint JD/MBAs join a broad range of MBA specializations offered at St. Thomas designed to address market need and interest. This includes MBAs with specializations in Accounting, Management, Global Entrepreneurship, Human Resource Management, International Business, Global Marketing, Trade and Logistics, Data Analytics and Cyber Security Management. While STU is offering some of these MBA programs online as well, MBA students consistently point out the benefits of the on-campus experience for these programs. Small class sizes promote a highly favorable instructor-to-student ratio. “One thing the students treasure is the personal attention,” Bhattacharya said. “They are not a number here. They have relationships with their instructors and advisors that can be personally transformative.” Professors know their students by name, Becerra said, and many take part in student clubs and activities. A deliberate effort is under way to create more internships for students, including graduate students. Bhattacharya said, “They have the opportunity to face real business situations.” “We’re trying to see how we can build collaborations,” Becerra said. “It’s really a win-win-win situation for everyone, including the university, and another way we can be embedded in the community.” E —Catherine Lackner

By fall 2017, it’s anticipated that the new building housing the Gus Machado School of Business at St. Thomas University will open its doors to students. A funding campaign for the free-standing building recently kicked off with a $5 million naming donation from Machado, a prominent Miami-Dade County entrepreneur, successful auto dealer and philanthropist. Alumnus, trustee and local businessman Jorge Rico also pledged $1 million. The new building will house the school’s institutes of global entrepreneurship, trade and logistics, sports administration and cyber security management. It will incorporate a lab for what Dr. Somnath Bhattacharya, Gus Machado School of Business dean calls, “ethical hacking”. By learning how criminals break into websites for nefarious purposes, cyber security professionals find ways to build better firewalls, he said. It will also boast a student business incubator, communications and media lab, trading room and conference auditorium. Classrooms will be equipped with specialized software and audience response technology, as well as networking and audio/visual capabilities. Born in Cuba, Machado came to the United States in 1949 and acquired his first dealership, Gus Machado Buick, in 1982. From there he built an empire. Machado and wife, Lilliam, have supported local organizations, including the American Cancer Society; American Diabetes Foundation; Jackson Memorial Hospital; Community Partnership for the Homeless; and Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation. E For information on St. Thomas University’s Gus Machado School of Business MBAs, Masters and Bachelors: 305-628-6674 • AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015




THE BUSINESS OF CHARITY Our roundtable of nonprofit board leaders agrees that while South Florida giving is robust, nonprofits need to innovate to keep their revenues at high levels.

By David Lyons | Photography by Ada Stevens




The Business of Charity

s the Greater Miami area’s economy has grown in the wake of the recession, so, too, has the region’s needs for charitable giving. Funding requirements for new arts and cultural institutions, education, healthcare, housing, youth services and other social services are all on the rise. Increasingly, the community is looking toward donors in the private sector to buttress financial aid in areas that are not fully funded— or funded at all—by local and state governments. And the competition for donor dollars is fierce. By one account, there are 10,000 nonprofits in Miami alone. The good news is that on the national level, charitable donations rose for the fifth consecutive year in 2014 to $358 billion, according to a report by the Giving USA Foundation of Chicago. Increases came from a variety of sources, including individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests. However, individual Americans continue to remain cautious about increasing the portion of their annual incomes that they allocate to charitable causes. According to the report, there has been modest growth in that donor category since the start of the recession. With those factors in mind, Executive South Florida magazine invited more than a dozen volunteer chairs of charitable foundations and philanthropic groups to assess the nonprofit fundraising scene in South Florida. The group members boast a broad spectrum of professional expertise. They hail from fields that include accounting, banking, executive search, finance, healthcare, law, public relations, real estate and telecommunications. During the course of a 90-minute roundtable, these high-ranking executives agreed that while the generosity of South Florida philanthropic donors remains high, the community of corporate and individual contributors is demanding more accountability over how their charitable dollars are spent. They also disclosed what it takes to effectively recruit and manage a nonprofit board, how to avoid “donor fatigue,” and how to find innovative ways to raise money from a community of contributors who face a growing universe of philanthropic alternatives with each passing year. The roundtable, which was moderated by Ron Mann, Executive South Florida publisher, and David Lyons, editor-in-chief, took place in the offices of the Greenberg Traurig law firm in downtown Miami. The discussion, which has been edited for clarity and space, started with a question about the state of corporate giving over the past year in South Florida. 52


Top leaders of South Florida nonprofits discussed strategies for keeping donor dollars flowing EXECUTIVE South Florida: Has the gradually improving economy helped drive donations or do you still need aggressive marketing activity to raise money? Marlon Hill, Miami Foundation: I think the state of philanthropy and corporate giving in Miami is robust but hasn’t really scratched the surface in terms of potential. We have seen a growth in investment in many community issues through the growth of the foundation’s portfolio. We have also seen a growth in the democratization of giving—meaning trying to create more opportunities for not only corporations but for individuals who are part of corporations and executives and their staff and employees to also participate in philanthropy and corporate giving. Marlon Hill and Blain Heckaman

We find that most of our corporate givers come from Miami Beach, the City of Coral Gables, and I think we need to take a look at asking more communities that are going out west where the immigrant communities of Colombia and Venezuela are growing. We need to ask more businesses and companies in South Dade to give as well. Blain Heckaman, Voices for Children: I think fundraising is something where you must keep your donors engaged. There is always the challenge of donor fatigue because you always seem to be going back to the same ones. I think it’s important to broaden your donor base, which is challenging. Technology helps but that requires resources. [With] South Florida primarily being a middlemarket business climate, a lot of our donors

are entrepreneurs and closely held businesses. I’d say we’ve had more success with those owner operators and focusing on people who care about children. We’re in the process of trying to get strategic and targeted to these larger corporate contributors—really trying to open doors to their employee base. EXECUTIVE: Let’s talk about board recruitment. As board chairs, it’s your responsibility to make sure you have active members on the board. What are the steps you feel are necessary where you have a board where a malaise is setting in and the board may not be as active as you’d like? Carlos Fernandez-Guzman, Chapman Partnership: The board recruitment issue has the same challenges that the donor base Carlos Fernandez-Guzman

has from a fatigue perspective and the “usual suspect” perspective. We tend to have a shortage of folks that want to become engaged. Many organizations are starting to move toward growing them at a younger professional level … and be in training for your board positions. We happen to be very successful with our “Next Gen” group. That’s a group of about 200 young professionals that are engaged with Chapman and that we like to believe are future board members in training. They’re familiarizing themselves with the organization, working on specific projects, participating at all levels of the organization and whose leaders are represented at the board level. At this point we’re reaching down to the high school level—if you can believe that—with our “Growing Together Program.” We’ve got [high school] seniors going into

college participating at that level. But I think most of us are depending on the current board to refer board prospects and screen them. We are also being very selective. The worst thing we run into is board members that appear to be very valuable on paper but yet the engagement isn’t there. That’s a danger in these organizations…resume building as opposed to true engagement. EXECUTIVE: How important is it to bring people on your board that are very well known from a celebrity standpoint? Tere Blanca, City Year: Communicating the mission of the organization to the community of course is a priority because we want to make sure the community understands the work of City Year. I think rock star status is not necessarily what’s required. What is required is, number one, that your board members believe in the work, that they’re passionate about the work that we’re doing and that they have the time and the commitment to engage so that we can make things happen from the fundraising standpoint as well as supporting programs that we do. People have to be willing to commit their time and resources and engage in a positive way. We are of the opinion that a smaller board that is fully engaged is much better than a bigger board that is not engaged. Taylor Gang, Make-A-Wish: Our board members tend to be people that can move the needle. When we look at recruitment, we look at geography, gender, location within an industry; whether somebody’s an AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


The Business of Charity entrepreneur—owning their own business where they would have a tremendous amount of flexibility—versus an employee of a larger company who might have greater resources from their company. We’ve got two kinds of folks that end up being part of the team. We have gone recently through a process of vetting our requirements and our characteristics and the constitution of the board. We’re increasing across the board everything we expect from board members including—which is part of my term as chair coming up—to improve mentoring. We’ve found that for the board members it takes them a year or two years to get up to speed. We’re looking at pairing senior board members, probably one or two with each new board member, …[as a way of] starting the cultivation process. The response from people I get is ”I don’t even know where to start.” How do you host an event and make it meaningful and have some impact? Fortunately we have a fair amount of seniority, the terms are spread out pretty good; it’s a 30-member board. There is very little what I would call deadweight on the board. You don’t want to bring somebody on and having them for name only because firing a volunteer is not a comfortable situation. Matt Shore, United Way of Broward County: We’re going through the process now … a lot of conversation about what’s the right makeup of the board. People get enamored by big names and people that have big titles and big Matt Shore



companies. The comment about moving the needle, I think, is a great comment. I’m board chair because I moved the needle. I’ve been involved in United Way for a number of years. I kind of worked my up through the organization. I ran the campaign, I ran the Tocqueville Society and became vice chair and then chair. We find that promoting people to the board that have already made an impact in some other fashion within the organization…[who] came in and… ran an event for a couple of years and did a great job and showed passion … showed the ability to raise money, greet people, create a buzz … there’s something to be said for somebody who has already proven themselves within the organization. It’s a destination to become a board member for some of these folks. I think bringing younger folks up through the organization, you can really bring a lot of energy into the organization. But you need a balance. You need those big names on your boards in some regards … a lot of times their companies are the biggest donors to the organization. You want more representation so you don’t want to lose that relationship and [you need to keep] them really engaged. Marile Lopez, Miami Children’s Health Foundation: In our foundation one of the things we look at the minute you enter as chair is succession planning. Similar to what Chapman Partners expressed, we also have a tier organization where we have the MCYA [Miami Children’s Young Ambassadors], which was Marile Lopez

started by one of our physicians. You work your way onto the president’s cabinet and then you work your way onto the board. The reason being is that we find that when you get involved at an early age your passion is there. At the board level we do look for future leaders within our own different boards. Just last Saturday I was the guest speaker at the MCYA first annual retreat where there’s 150 members and in the first year alone they raised almost $120,000. For a grassroots organization that is made of young doctors and young parents, they are raising substantial amounts of money because of their passion for this organization. We do believe in board succession. That’s the idea. That was our Day One plan. I came in [at the beginning of a] three-year term, [and said] ”let’s look at the next board chair already.” Because we don’t want to be faced down the line [with] ”Where do we go from here?” That’s succession planning. Jaret Davis, Miami Children’s Hospital: A quick two tactics that I’ve seen work well with a number of organizations. Number one, it goes to the issue of this whole balance between the superstar versus the worker bee, if you will. Let’s say you want the CEO of the Dolphins. The CEO of the Dolphins sits on your board but we ask if [they] can designate somebody, a rock star, young up-and-coming manager or executive who can actually attend the board meetings. That way you get the best of both worlds. You get the name resonance. You get their contact list. It’s pretty

Ramon Casas, Jaret Davis, and Marile Lopez much understood—”you’re going to be our conduit.” One of the other issues of the superstar or star appeal is that sometimes you can’t get in touch with them. So even though they’re on your board you won’t get access to the resources. If they have a senior VP who does the day-to-day [communication], you know you’re going to get access to them. The second point that I think that is critical to stress, and was mentioned before, is we have this tendency in Miami-Dade County— and I’m sure Broward’s the same way—to focus on one narrow geographic [area]. We focus on the downtown corridor. Most of the nonprofits in Miami do it. You want to source out your board members: You start from Brickell, work your way to Coral Gables, and you go up to, maybe if you’re lucky, Aventura. There are great pockets of leadership in Kendall. If you want to go into the agricultural community, it’s the Redlands and Homestead. If you approach them, they are civic minded. They want to be involved. They want to help. They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know some of the issues. These are highly intelligent, highly approachable business people. It just takes a little more legwork. But think about it from a tactical perspective. If you go after the person that 50 organizations are going after, it’s going to be very difficult. If you go after this person and no one is going after them … you have a guarantee of success.

their philosophy of just giving out checks. It used to be that the local locations and communities we lived in, we had an external affairs type president that really mirrored the business aspects of the local community. So much money was allocated and they just gave out checks to charitable events. I’m not saying AT&T no longer does that. I’m just saying they’re shifting their weight as to how that happens. And what they’re doing is two things: One is they have a philanthropic arm. AT&T has a program called ASPIRE … and that philanthropic arm of AT&T has nothing to

do with United Way or the employee giving campaign that is employee generated …and which they then match. What they do is [ASPIRE] will generate where the company believes that they [will have the] biggest impact. AT&T has selected education. This is education countrywide. It’s not just education locally. We looked at the United States and looked at where we are in the world and where have we fallen behind the intellectuals and scientists of the world? We feel that all of the students in the United States, even the brightest and best of the students, can’t compete because other countries like India and China are coming in and their folks [are] beating us out in science, technology and math. What AT&T has done is said, ”we want to keep our kids in school.” How do they do that? They do that with money but they match funds based on employees and individual employee resource groups within the company. We now have 20 different resource groups. The resource groups are comprised of individuals like ourselves who want to give back to [their] local communities. We do fundraising internally for different aspects. We give out scholarships for kids who are in school now and going into college. We raise money individually. Now, the challenge as posed by the question: I see that everything that’s been said here is true. There is competition for the people that are going to participate. I’ve seen that ... where we have the same individuals coming

Jackie Gonzalez, Robert Suarez, and Bonnie Crabtree

Robert Suarez, Junior Achievement of Greater Miami: One of the things AT&T has done over the years—and I think you’ll see this across all of the major corporations, the Big 100, the Big 50 … they have changed AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


The Business of Charity

LEFT TO RIGHT: Jackie Gonzalez, Robert Suarez, Bonnie Crabtree, Marshall Burack, and Ramon Casas

Bonnie Crabtree

and the same usual suspects are the ones that work. I think what the company is doing is…[trying to] get a broader base of individuals to donate their time and money.

out of the relationship? So board recruitment is… about you getting the check, but it’s important for them to have a true and defined and targeted ROI.

good board member. Have them go out and just ask those people. When [they’re] asked, the people say ”yes.”

EXECUTIVE: Great points. And you actually keyed on something early on which is to write a check. All of us that are involved with boards sometimes look at the organizations out there and say, ”we want the check, we just want the check.” And that’s what they focus on the most.

Marshall Burack, National Parkinson Foundation: The National Parkinson’s Foundation, although it was founded in Miami over 50 years ago and has deep roots in Miami, we’re a little bit different than all of the organizations in this room because our name is National Parkinson’s Foundation. We do have a national orientation. We’re different in that we try to provide support for people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. So we’re not focused on our mission locally. That being said, for a long time virtually all of the board members were from Miami. It’s only recently that the foundation has really expanded its board recruitment. The lesson I want to provide for all of you is the best way to recruit members—even though we now have board members from New York, from Washington, from Chicago, and from San Francisco—is personal contacts. Our chairman, John Kozyak, has been responsible the last two years since he has been chairman for recruiting more new board members than probably all of the other board members themselves. The point I’m trying to make is it’s a matter of personal relationships—people that you know, whom you think would be good board members. People are honored to be asked to be a member of a board of a charitable organization. The entire board is supposed to participate in the process. But in any organization there are a few people who have much bigger Rolodexes than anybody else. Get to work on those people. Tell them to get out. They know the profile—who will be a

Carlos Fernandez-Guzman: Robert brought up a very interesting angle to board recruitment which I probably should have mentioned …. The concept of corporations identifying human resources within their ranks that they want placed within certain groups and organizations that they want to penetrate from a leadership position and from a funding perspective…. That happens all the time in today’s corporate environment. So, Carlos is identified as the individual that’s going to be in United Way, and perhaps Robert is identified as the individual who is going to be at Miami Children’s, and they’re empowered to fit within that organization and bring in the dollars and resources of the corporation into that model. Being aligned with that is very important for the charity or the organization seeking support from the corporation. Because sometimes what we do is pick the wrong board member for that organization with respect to engagement with our own. It’s critical that we have that engaged conversation with these corporate entities to know who [they] have identified and how would [they] like for them to fit within that board environment. What resources are available and how can we get what [they] need 56


Ramon Casas, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind: We find that the personal recruitment of board members works the best. We have a couple of slots on the board because we brought in the Heiken Vision Center a few years ago. We have a slot on the board for somebody at Bascom Palmer. Occasionally we bring in a large donor and say, ”yes, you can be on the board.” But by and large the most involved board members are the ones somebody recruited and [who] have a personal interest…. Not that the other folks don’t get involved. But there’s a lesser involvement overall. We have a policy, by the way: you miss four meetings in a row and you’re out. And we enforce that. Sometimes you have to ask a large donor to come off the board and we’ve done it ... so we have an honorary board. If they’re not working board members, we really don’t want to have them around. EXECUTIVE: Big fundraising events. How heavily do you rely on them? Bonnie Crabtree: Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Miami: We have a gala. And we have a golf tournament. Those are our two biggest events—and those are 75 percent corporate giving and 25 percent individual giving. The difference we’re seeing is it’s really hard to get corporations to buy a table these days. We’re finding more and more that they want their gift, their money, tied to an outcome—”I’m giving you this and I want to see this.”

Marlon Hill, Miami Foundation: From the Miami Foundation’s perspective, I think that Bonnie’s comment in regards to corporations having some level of fatigue to donating to another chicken and carrots dinner is really something we need to pay very close attention to. I don’t know who mentioned it in regards to impact. Impact investing is a very important trend in philanthropy globally where the corporations really want to see …in their corporate social responsibility plans immediate impact as to metrics. The Miami Foundation has been, in the last couple of years, developing a program called Our Miami where we are trying to assess the metrics on certain issues here in Miami and try to convene a conversation as to how we can move the dial on these types of issues; whether it’s affordable housing or civic engagement or public spaces … and then allow the donors [to] invest in helping to move us to a place as a community we can see. We have to educate our community as to having a better understanding of what the needs are. And then if someone is going to make an investment, it’s not just reserved for the Greenberg Traurigs or the Kaufman Rossins, but individuals also need to open their checkbooks. Anything greater than zero dollars is an investment. We have a population of well over 2 million. If every person in Miami, no matter how small, would invest in a particular issue [and] they understood what the investment would result in…This is what we call democratized marketing—we really have to do that—otherwise the pool of funds are going to dry up.

The panel offered ways to reach out to new companies in the region marketing initiatives change. Those names tend to cycle through. The smaller-to-midsize corporations have been mainstays in our corporate fundraising. With respect to new corporations moving into your territory—we had that experience this year. Our territory is extremely large. Most people perceive Make-A-Wish as a national organization. We do have a very strong national management group and they’re divided up into territories. Ours is enormous geographically. My territory is basically Orlando south and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The challenge for us, including donors and board members, is to help people who live particularly far away from

our headquarters and where our main events take place feel ownership in that chapter and feel a part of it. We had an experience this past year with Hertz that moved down from New Jersey. We were introduced to their team by the New Jersey chapter that had a long-standing relationship. Right away they said if we want to get involved … and want to do a golf tournament … [they would] raise a minimum of $250,000. They committed to 300 for this year. I wish they were all that easy. It is difficult to find large national partners because there is competition. I tell people all the time that I have yet to come across a legitimate charity that has a bad idea for its mission.

Carlos Fernandez-Guzman and Taylor Gang EXECUTIVE: When you just mentioned the pool of funds drying up—it’s no secret that our big corporate givers are pretty taxed. But we do have new companies moving into South Florida. Tere can attest to that, being in the commercial real estate industry. Who here can give any insight into taking steps to reach out to those new companies? Taylor Gang, Make-A-Wish: Special events, fundraising and getting corporations involved. Last year I was blown away. We doubled our ticket prices and the tables sold out in a third of the time. I was very surprised by that. Our particular event has grown to a scale that I can only describe to people as the Oscars meets the Super Bowl. It’s our Intercontinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball. In November it kicks off the season for us in South Florida. We raised $2.5 million net last year in that evening; this year, hopefully around 3. It’s taken on a complete mind of its own. They fly in from [all] over the world for this event. The larger corporations—they have a shelf life with supporting particular charities. Their AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


The Business of Charity where I have [not] had somebody stop me and say what the organization did for me when I was a kid. I could have gone this way or this way. And I took the path because I was engaged and involved. When you hear that and cultivate that and many of the board members … grew up receiving the services, I think that’s an advantage.

ABOVE LEFT TO RIGHT: Ron Mann, Tere Blanca, Marlon Hill, and Blain L. Heckaman are not necessarily investing yet in Miami. Their children, when they grow up here [they] do get engaged … that’s where we’re seeing an opportunity at City Year, with the second generation of wealth that’s being created. It’s not a clear-cut path. But it has to be a multiple [level] approach.

Tere Blanca Tere Blanca: Someone gave me a statistic last week that in Miami alone there are 10,000 nonprofits. That’s a big number. There is such a number of ‘asks’ that are made to the same pool of people and it becomes very challenging. You’re talking about more companies moving here, yes. They continue to trickle in. We have many large global companies operating out of Miami and they are overseeing large P&Ls for the region, but their budget for marketing initiatives and for engagement in the community for nonprofit initiatives is very small. You really are tapping into a very small pool. We have many people moving here from New York spending a lot of time here who should be engaged in the community … but yet they’re not entrenched in the philanthropic Miami because they’re entrenched in the Robin Hood Foundation New York or other causes they’re supporting in New York. So Miami has the “Tale of Two Cities.” Tremendous wealth and tremendous needs for the community. Bridging that is a constant opportunity and challenge. From the Hispanic side you’ve got the Brazilian money coming in … the Argentines, Colombians, etc. Many of these people are very philanthropic in their own countries. They 58


EXECUTIVE: And that’s where the mentoring program probably comes in from current board members that bring in younger people. The younger people that are coming in are not coming from large organizations as previous generations did. They can’t tap into those large resources. Can anyone talk about identifying those individuals on your boards and helping them encourage their organizations to give? Jackie Gonzalez, Boys Club and Girls Club of Miami-Dade County: There isn’t a day Jackie Gonzalez and Robert Suarez

Jaret Davis: To speak on the Greenberg Traurig side as a funder because we obviously fund a great deal of organizations and events, I think part of that mentorship has to be really to [ask] what is the differentiator of the nonprofit? I can’t tell you how many times we’ll get a pitch and it’s a wonderfully drafted letter or a very glossy presentation but it really scratches on the surface. But it’s very rare that we will get a presentation that says, what is the differentiator between you and the other two organizations I received? It may not be 100 percent overlap with your mission, but maybe a 50 percent overlap. Because there is only a limited pot of dollars. I think part of that mentorship, part of that board training, is to help them with that messaging. City Year does a phenomenal job with that. I would say there are a lot of folks typically at the mid-tier of the nonprofit level and below that don’t do that. It’s critical from the external and internal perspective. The external perspective is to get the bucks. The internal perspective is to get them ginned up. After a certain period of time, you’re going to get it inevitably. But at least in the three- to four- to fiveyear span that’s how you get that member ramped up as they go through the ranks and they keep religion, if you will, with the organization. And I sometimes get the feeling that that is not always done.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Marlon Hill, Blain L Heckaman, Jeffrey Tew, Mathew Shore, and Carlos Fernandez-Guzman EXECUTIVE: How much involvement do you as board chairs have in the actual running of the organization on a day-today basis? Some of your organizations are quite large. Some are smaller in nature. Other than having the quarterly meetings or the monthly meetings, can somebody give us an insight? Jeffrey Tew, Miami Rescue Mission: We have a small board. We have a relatively large organization. We have three campuses—one in Dade and two in Broward. And we service literally thousands of people every day. We usually recruit a board member after he or she has participated as a volunteer in addition to giving the money. They have an interest in what we’re doing beyond just giving some money and showing up. What I found effective is to assign board members projects. Because these people by their nature are good organizers and they know how to get people to do things. For example, we are starting a school—a kindergarten school—at the Miami Rescue Mission. Marty Steinberger is one of our board members who as a board member has created a reading program. We’re in Wynwood, which is the poorest section of Miami and a lot of those children really are culturally and educationally deprived. Marty started a reading program in our children’s community center and she became interested in trying to help the children in Wynwood. I asked Marty, would you lead the project to create our new school? She said she would be happy to. She’s organized and spun off a separate 501(c3) to collect funds and to own the school, although it’s going to be in our facility. I have no interest in board members who are just going to come every quarter. I want them to become involved—not to interfere

with the professionals and staff members that provide the services, but to provide help to those people. We don’t have typical fundraising events. We don’t have banquets, we don’t have golf tournaments. We do events that focus on the people we serve. You may have seen them on television. We have Christmas in July and in our campuses we will serve our homeless people. While corporations are reluctant to write a check—they love to participate in events like that. We’ll have major companies send people and donate food. We had one company donate 1,000 pairs of shoes. One of our events is to provide shoes to children in Wynwood because they don’t have shoes. Their parents don’t have the money to buy shoes for school. It’s great publicity. We have hundreds of people who are interested. They are volunteers. It give you tremendous media attention. Marile Lopez: The Miami Children’s Health Foundation and the Miami Children’s—now Nicklaus Children’s—Hospital are embarking on a national capital campaign of $150 million. We started in 2011. We’ve reached $100 million collected and we’re now in the public stage of the campaign. Every board member has a particular role in that campaign and spearheads a part of that campaign. There [are] overall chaisr of the campaign … Barbara and Jack Nicklaus. We just named the hospital for their $60 million pledge. We have other board members such as J.C. Mas who chairs the special projects which [funds] our research center. Every board member will chair a particular need. It gives them ownership and it gives them an active involvement. It’s not just our foundation board, but our hospital board where Jaret sits. Jaret is part of one of those initiatives as well. It’s an involved group of board members.

Carlos Fernandez-Guzman: In the case of the Chapman Partnership, Alvah [Chapman] was a very hands-on leader within the organization. The executive committee does participate very actively, and so does the chair, in the operational components of the organization. They each chair certain segments of the organization’s functions. They are very engaged. It is actually quite demanding from the time perspective. By the same token, we leverage not just the fundraising capacity of the board member but their experience in business. Bonnie [Crabtree] is one of our board members so she can attest that it goes beyond fundraising and governance. It goes to engagement and day-to-day operations and in providing the management team and folks on the ground with guidance and advice. We’re the cheapest consultants in the business and we provide a lot of that guidance willingly and engage accordingly in the process. Robert Suarez: Our mission is to educate the children about economics—the economy. How do we teach open market economic if it ’s not t a ught i n the s chool s ? [A nd] it’s not taught in the schools. That’s not part of what they learn. As the board chairperson, my job is an administrator, so I’m constantly with the doers. I’m in contact with the president of all of the projects we’re heading up. If we assign those processes to certain individuals that have passion for what they want to do, I think the engagement is there. What we do as board chairs is we try to get people engaged. We’ll send them to the schools. There will be 20 of us that go into the schools—board members actually participate in teaching class. AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015


The Business of Charity Marlon Hill: Miami has some really extraordinary needs—huge, huge needs in terms of having one of the poorest ZIP codes in the entire United States of America. We have to have an investment in cultivating and training board members. We are encouraging more non-profits to provide board internships because we are losing executive talent. We have our kids educated at some of the best private and public schools here and they go away to New York and Boston and we’re not seeing enough of them come back home. We need to close the gap of getting our best and our brightest to come back to Miami to help us with these needs that we have. I think there is some investment needed in training board members. The Miami Heat and Dolphins have summer camp and spring camp for their players. We need to do the same for board members. EXECUTIVE: Who here advocates for the terminology, ‘give or get?’ There are certain boards where there is no financial commitment asked of the board members. And then there are some where you are very upfront about that. Is there a general consensus? Ramon Casas: We don’t have a dollar amount. But we strive very hard that every BELOW: Marshall Burack and Ramon Casas

Marlon Hill and Blain Heckaman board member must give. All of our funding comes from foundations and they require 100 percent board participation. My biggest job is to cajole board members into giving money. And by December 31 we get it every year, but it’s a task because some people just don’t focus on it. It can be $5, whatever you want it to be. But you have to give in order to make the grants that we get. About 20 percent of our income comes from grants and we have to have that money. Marile Lopez: We do have a written policy in our bylaws of a give and get when you become a board member. When I sit down with a prospective board member as chair, the first thing I let them know is that we are a fundraising board and we are fiduciaries to those donors’ funds. But we are also ourselves philanthropists sitting on that board and we have a commitment to that organization of our time, talent, and treasure—and our treasure being written into our bylaws of how much it is and it is a $50,000 give or get to be a board member of Miami Children’s Health Foundation. So it’s very black and white. Bonnie Crabtree, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Miami: I want to bring up another issue that we face and I’m going to guess that others face it, too. If you look at the room I think it



speaks for itself and that’s recruiting diverse board members. And I mean ”diverse” very broadly. Look at the room and there’s four women here. There’s one African-American. We have a huge challenge trying to reflect the people we serve from our boards. I want to pose the question to the group. How do you recruit diverse boards? Because this community is very diverse, but it is not reflected on those boards. Taylor Gang: We emphasize that pretty significantly. Our board is fairly diverse but not as much as we’d like. Certainly not as much as the children that we serve—it’s an incredibly diverse population. EXECUTIVE: Going forward, can anyone here provide any insight into some of things you’ve talked to your board about that are somewhat innovative? Robert Suarez: We talked about the big projects and talked about diversifying the boards with junior boards. I think that’s a very big element … involving another organization of young professionals and I know Carlos mentioned 200, that’s excellent. At the Junior Achievement Board here in Miami we have like 50. So we have this 50 [member] junior board, whereas the big board is only 26 of us.

When you think about the feeder process, the millennials, the Generation X and Y, those are real. Facebook, the way we communicate, we no longer have pencil and paper. You send a letter out [in] a couple of weeks you get a response, you get a check. It’s over. It’s instantaneous. You either got it or you didn’t get it. Matt Shore: We created a young leaders’ group within United Way of Broward County. That group has just exploded. They’re very involved. They do a lot of social events. They create awareness. They like to volunteer. They approached us two years ago. These young folks wanted their own event. They actually created Rock United, really creative and really innovative and they run it themselves. And they created a battle of the bands. We wound up with a bunch of corporate sponsors. You could see within the young leadership future board members. They raised $25,000. You can really see some of them stepping up and getting involved in more things at United Way. That’s what we’re trying to do … engage them early on and watch them grow with the organization. And I can tell you at least three or four folks that I know who will be future board members for sure.

Marile Lopez: I think sometimes we focus too much on what the organization plans itself. The organization doesn’t need to plan every event. You can outsource. You can have other community groups fundraise for your organization without you having to micromanage it. That is very successful. We at the Foundation have three major events, [the first of ]which is our ball, where last year we raised $6 million. We have our 5K run [from] which we raised $500,000. We have our Wine, Women, and Shoes, which raised $600,000. Those individual organizations use our logo, understand our mission, but they run it, they micromanage it, and we are the beneficiaries. Your organization doesn’t have to manage [all] 25 events that you hold. You can also outsource [them] and it’s very profitable. Marlon Hill: Utilizing technology and social media in the next generation is very key. We’re not seeing enough nonprofits taking advantage of the tools that technology and social media have to offer. The next generation of givers thinks fast, they move fast, and do everything fast. I think we have organizations here in Miami that are over 25 years old. They need to master the capacity to utilize technology and social media. E

EXECUTIVE South Florida Non-Profit • Roundtable Luncheon • Friday, June 19th 2015 • Attendees ORGANIZATION



Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami

Bonnie Crabtree

President, Foundation Board

Korn Ferry

Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade

Jackie Gonzalez

Board Member

Nicklaus Children’s Hopsital

Chapman Partnership

Carlos Fernandez-Guzman

Board Chair

Pacific National Bank

City Year

Tere Blanca

Board Chair

Blanca Commercial Real Estate

Junior Achievement Miami

Robert Suarez

Board Chair



Taylor Gang

Chair Elect

Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management

Miami Children’s Health Foundation

Marile Lopez

Board Chair

Jorge Luis Lopez Law Firm

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind

Ramon Casas

Board Chair

Wragg & Casas Strategic Communications

Miami Rescue Mission

Jeffrey Tew

Board Chair

Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez P.A.

National Parkinson Foundation

Marshall Burack

Board Secretary

Kopelowitz Ostrow

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital

Jaret L. Davis

Vice Chairman

Greenberg Traurig

The Miami Foundation

Marlon Hill

Board Vice-Chair

Hamilton Miller & Birthisel LLP

United Way of Broward

Matt Shore

Board Chair

Steven Douglas Associates

Voices for Children

Blain L. Heckaman

Board Chair

Kaufman Rossin & Co






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