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Mentors can foster major business success 2010 Census: Meet your neighbors How NWFL business fared in the 2011 Legislature

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850 special report: NoRthwest florida commercial real estate

THE BUSINESS OF WATER

Two old friends bottle and sell what they call the purest water in Florida — from the springs of Econfina Creek in Bay County


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A G ove r n m e n t a l a n d Leg i s la t ive C o n s u lt i ng Fi r m 106 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee | 850-402-1900 | dougbruceandassociates.com


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FLORIDA BUSINESS PRODUCTS Tallahassee, Florida SALES | SERVICE | SUPPORT 850-878-2654 | www.floridabusinessproducts.com

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850 Magazine June – July 2011

IN THIS ISSUE

CA RE E R CATA LYST Veteran businessman and entrepreneur Lane Rees (left) also serves as mentor and cheerleader for protégée Toby Williams. Read more about the unique influence of business mentors in our story on page 20.

850 FEATURES

Photo by scott holstein

entors Help Launch 20 M Executive Careers

Behind many great business executives are mentors who helped them along the way. They’re people like Ed Roberts, Rajeev Matwoni and Ben Graham, who were mentors to some of the most brilliant business minds in America. The benefits of mentoring aren’t easy to pin down, but research shows that executives who have had mentors earned more money at a younger age and are often happier in their careers.

Legislative Wrap-Up 26 2A011 look at what the Legislature accomplished for business during the two months it was in town.

he State of 35 TCommercial Real Estate

By Linda Kleindienst

Special RepoRt

850 THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA

An 850 Special Report ⊲

CommerCial real estate

From industrial parks to vacant land to office buildings, we provide a snapshot of what is happening across Northwest Florida — and a glimpse into the future.

By Lilly Rockwell

Despite an unrelenting onslaught of manmade and natural disasters over the past several years, Northwest Florida is showing its resilience as the commercial real estate market begins to rebound slowly, but surely. From Tallahassee to Pensacola, from office buildings to industrial parks to vacant land that’s been set aside for commercial use, 850 provides a snapshot of what is happening across the region and a glimpse into the future. By Linda Kleindienst

On the Cover: Longtime friends Johnny Patronis (right) and Jay Trumbull enjoy an afternoon at Econfina Creek. Photo by Scott Holstein

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850 Magazine June – July 2011

Photos by Scott Holstein (pgs 13,67,69,73)

IN THIS ISSUE

67 In This Issue 09  From the Publisher 11  By the Numbers 82 The Last Word from the Editor

69

Corridors CAPITAL

29 Hunter & Harp has almost single-handedly revived some of Tallahassee’s most overlooked neighborhoods. They are the brains behind Hotel Duval and helped revive the capital’s old Midtown.

FORGOTTEN COAST

Departments THE 850 life

13 Greg Donovan has been working in overdrive to get more flights and more respect for his airport. By Zandra Wolfgram

IT’S THE LAW

13

14 Thinking about a sweepstakes to help promote your business? A former statewide prosecutor clues you in on what to do but, more importantly, what not to do. By Melanie Ann Hines

14

HUMAN ELEMENT

73 6

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17 With college graduation here and graduates unable to get full time jobs, many are turning to unpaid internships to at least get some experience. But, are those internships legal? By Buddy Nevins

67 Using her expertise from WORKFORCE Plus, Kimberley Moore helped develop new business in Wakulla County as head of the Chamber of Commerce.

BAY

69 Johnny Patronis and Jay Trumbull mine a natural resource to quench the thirst of Northwest Florida.

EMERALD COAST

73 A century ago, Charles Lamar lost a coin toss and ended up with one of the country’s largest outdoor advertising companies. It’s still in the family, being run by descendants like Robert “Bobby” Lamar.

I-10

79 Angie Hill leaves the big city behind, returning home to Northwest Florida to fuel her entrepreneurial spirit.


850 THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA

JUNE – JULY 2011

Vol. 3, No. 5

Publisher Brian E. Rowland

Editor Linda Kleindienst

designer Tisha Keller

Contributing Writers Jason Dehart, Wendy O. Dixon, Ana Goni-Lessan, Lee Gordon, Linda Kleindienst, Ann McQueen, Buddy Nevins, Lilly Rockwell, Zandra Wolfgram, Kimberley Yablonski

staff Writer Jason Dehart

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Scott Holstein Editorial Interns Brittany Barriner, Holly Brooks, Terrika Mitchell, Bianca Salvant, Janeen Talbot

traffic coordinator Caroline Conway

Sales Executives Mary Beth Lovingood, Lori Magee, Linda Powell, Rhonda Simmons, Chuck Simpson, Chris St. John

online 850businessmagazine.com facebook.com/850bizmag twitter.com/850bizmag

President Brian E. Rowland

DIRECTOR OF Tim Fordyce PUBLISHING OPERATIONS DIRECTOR OF Linda Kleindienst EDITORIAL SERVICES

Creative Director Lawrence Davidson ProDUCTION director Melinda Lanigan

Manager of finance Angela Cundiff HR/Administration manager OF Dan Parisi INTEGRATED SALES

CLIENT SERVICE Caroline Conway REPRESENTATIVE

assistant Saige Roberts creative director ADMINISTRATOR OF McKenzie Burleigh SALES and EVENTS TRAFFIC coordinator Lisa Sostre ART DIRECTOR Tisha Keller

senior editorial Beth Nabi designer graphic designers Marc Thomas, Daniel Vitter Magazine Ad Builder Patrick Patterson

Network Administrator Daniel Vitter

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heart of downtown Tallahassee, Aloft is a fresh, fun hotel alternative and the perfect location to work and play. Enjoy stylish, loft-inspired rooms and the excitement and buzz of W xyzsm lounge, where the music always fits the mood.

200 N. Monroe Street | Tallahassee | (850) 513-0313 | alofttallahassee.com 8

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RECEPTIONIST Amy Lewis

Web Site rowlandpublishing.com

850 Magazine is published bi-monthly by Rowland Publishing, Inc. 1932 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee, FL 32308. 850/878-0554. 850 Magazine and Rowland Publishing, Inc. are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged but will not be returned. 850 Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright June 2011 850 Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Member, Florida Magazine Association and seven Chambers of Commerce throughout the region. one-year Subscription $30 (SIX issues) 850businessmagazine.com 850 Magazine can be purchased at Books-A-Million, Borders and Barnes and Noble in Tallahassee, Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, Pensacola and Panama City and at our Tallahassee office.

Proud member Florida Magazine Association


From the Publisher

Here They Go Again Americans from their annual ritual of loading up the family for a summer vacation. The same theme has been repeatedly echoed in other publications and on TV. Here we go again. The majority of tourists that visit our area in the summer drive here — and the last thing our region needs is another damper on what appears to be a recovering economy. Instead of inducing fear in American families that a driving vacation will plummet them into bankruptcy, can we take a moment and put this into perspective? Let’s do a little math. For an example, let’s take a family that lives 750 miles from Northwest Florida’s beaches or our beautiful capital city. If they drive a car that gets 15 miles per gallon, they would use 100 gallons for a roundtrip. In the summer of 2010, retail gas prices hovered around $2.76 a gallon. For 100 gallons, the cost would be $276. In the summer of 2011, the price for a gallon is now around $4. For 100 gallons, the tab would be $400. The difference: $124. For a one-week vacation, that amounts to $17.71 a day. Is that really going to keep the average American family home, shuddering in fear under their beds? I don’t think so. If the budget is tight, eating a modest-priced dinner or lunch would even it out. Or buy one less T-shirt for each kid. It’s unfortunate that national media attention focuses so much on the negative when Americans, more than ever, need to hear some good news and be encouraged to become part of our nation’s — and our region’s — economic recovery. The message I’d like to see? It’s time to go on a summer vacation. Get away from it all, even for a little while. Refresh your spirit and give your neighbors a little economic boost.

Brian Rowland browland@rowlandpublishing.com

Photo by scott holstein

This time last year, all one heard about was the never-ending doom and gloom over the oil gushing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well and how it was affecting the beaches and wildlife along the Gulf Coast, including Northwest Florida. Turning on the TV, one would see the same oil-coated bird over and over again — along with the constant commentary about the oil heading toward the beaches and the expected tainting of the seafood supply. In the end, other than a slight dusting of oil on the far western edges of the Florida coast, our area was mostly unaffected by the oil itself. Yet the perception that Florida’s beaches were covered with tar balls caused the bottom to fall out of our tourism-based economy. Phones rang off the hook with summer cancellations of resort and charter boat bookings and billions of dollars were lost during what is considered “the season” for our region. By the end of summer, many coastal community businesses that directly rely on tourism for their survival were destroyed or suffered major economic setbacks. And there was a trickle down effect that impacted many other businesses throughout Northwest Florida. The good news is that BP has stepped up in a big way over the past year, pouring billions into the region’s economic and environmental recovery efforts. And I have seen first-hand that it is working. Spring Break was strong this year and many area resorts are posting double digit increases over their projections for summer reservations. Clearly, the public wants to come to our beaches to relax and escape from their everyday stresses. But now we’re facing another media onslaught. Not over the oil threatening our beaches, but by high gas prices. A recent New York Times article proclaimed that skyrocketing gas prices would prevent

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Our region is a vibrant, diverse mix of companies with a wide range of economic influences. Our award-winning 850 Magazine tells the dynamic story of Northwest Florida’s exciting emergence in state, national and international marketplaces through insightful features, in-depth corridor spotlight stories and comprehensive articles on trends and perspectives that truly embodies the mantra: Our region’s business is our business. To put 850 Magazine to work for you, call (850) 878-0554 or visit 850businessmagazine.com today. 10

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Executive Mindset

By  the Numbers   t he 2010 census redefines the 850

At long last, the numbers are in.

STATEWIDE POPULATION STATS: 49% 51%

15,982,824 (in 2000) + 17.6% = 18,801,310 (in 2010)

2010 POP.

% CHANGE

% MALE

% FEMALE

MEDIAN AGE

% WHITE

% HISPANIC

% BLACK

13.9

50

50

40

79

5

11

CALHOUN

13,017

14,625

12.3

54

46

40

78

5 14

ESCAMBIA

294,410

297,619

1.1

49

51

38

66

5 23

FRANKLIN

9,829

11,549

17.5

58

42

42

80

5 14

GADSDEN

45,087

46,389

2.9

49

51

39

33 10 56

GULF

14,560

15,863

9

60

40

43

75

4 19

HOLMES

18,564

19,927

7

53

47

41

89

2

JACKSON

46,755

49,746

6.4

55

45

41

67

4 26

JEFFERSON

12,902

14,761

14.4

52

48

44

59

4 36

239,452

275,487

15

48

52

30

59

6 30

7,021

8,365

19

61

39

37

74

6 18

18,733

19,224

2.6

52

48

40

55

5 39

170,498

180,822

6.1

50

50

38

77

9

7 5

LEON LIBERTY MADISON* OKALOOSA

6

SANTA ROSA

117,743

151,372 28.6

50

50

39

85

4

TAYLOR*

19,256

22,570

17.2

56

44

41

73

3 21

WAKULLA

22,863

30,776

35

55

45

39

80

3 14

WALTON

40,601

55,043

35.6

51

49

42

85

5

WASHINGTON

20,973

24,896

18.7

55

45

40

79

3 15

6

*Madison and Taylor counties are part of the 850 area code and were added for additional comparison. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census

39 40 41

FLORIDA’S MEDIAN AGE

MiamiDade

r

Compiled by Linda Kleindienst

168,852

BAY

gle

Note: Race percentages do not include those identifying as Asian, multi-racial, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or Native American, and thus do not add up to 100%.

148,217

COUNTY

Fla

WHITE58% BLACK23% HISPANIC15%

2000 POP.

This spring, the U.S. Census Bureau released the results of its 2010 survey of America, giving us a new look at who we are and how we’ve changed since April 1 of 2000. Despite some rough hurricane seasons and a poor economy, Florida experienced doubledigit growth through April 1, 2010 — and so did 11 of the 18 counties that make up the 850 area code. Statewide, only Monroe and Pinellas saw their population drop during the decade. Of Florida’s 67 counties, four grew by more than 50 percent. Another eight, including Walton and Wakulla counties, grew between 30 and 50 percent. Only six counties, including Escambia and Gadsden, grew by less than 5 percent. Miami-Dade is Florida’s most populated county, with nearly 2.5 million residents. The smallest is Northwest Florida’s Liberty County, with 8,365. Here is a snapshot of Florida — and a look at your 1,452,724 neighbors, who make their home in the 850 and represent close to 8 percent of the Sunshine State’s population.

(850) County Snapshots: 2000 vs. 2010

Fastest growing county (by percent:) FLAGLER (89.8%)

Fastest growing county (in numbers:) Miami-Dade (214,756)

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Executive Mindset

) The (850 Life   

s urvive and thrive

Wing Man Greg Donovan, Gulf Breeze Okaloosa County Airports Director

G 1 2

1. Career aspirations:

jet image courtesy usaf museum/wikimedia commons

My great uncle took me up in a Lockheed once. I dreamed of flying it one day myself. There’s something so beautiful about an airplane.

2. Airport smart: Look for

online specials. Pack lightly, figure out what you’re going to do and don’t second-guess it.

3. Gratification:

Service members being reunited with their family and children every single day. The human element of what aviation accomplishes is one of the purest things in business.

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

3

7

4. Thoughts on Vision Airlines: They are planting

7. Green Bay Packers and San Diego Padres? I’m the

their flag here. They’re going to package flights in a creative way that is not seen in the industry today.

5. Self description:

I am dedicated to a bigger cause than just individual gain. I take on leadership as a major responsibility. Leadership is what you do when people aren’t looking. I take it seriously.

6. On piloting: It’s always on

my “to do” list. I want to get back to flying. Year’s resolutions. It’s therapeutic. The Blackberry doesn’t work at 8,000 feet.

only guy not wrapped around an SEC team. I guess I love rooting for the underdog.

8. Downtime: My kids have

gotten me into fishing. We fish from bridges, inlets and sometimes on a boat. Whether you’re 7 or 42, that thrill when you get a fish on is good stuff.

9. Lives by: I really do believe

things are meant to be, but you have to work for them. I put myself through school and I work hard. It’s a work ethic I hope I can pass to my kids.

reg Donovan always knew he wanted to fly. At 42, this pilotturned-executive serves as the director of three Okaloosa County airports: Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Destin Airport and the Bob Sikes/Crestview Airport. After bringing Vision Airlines to nest at the Valparaiso-based Northwest Florida Regional Airport (situated on Eglin Air Force Base) and while overseeing $19 million in airport enhancements, Donovan is flying high with hope that the Emerald Coast is finally more firmly placed on “the map.” Now, he says, it’s up to local businesses to get the word out to their networks about the new service. A native of Tulsa, Okla., Donovan and his wife traversed the country from Wisconsin to Texas while he racked up 22 years of airport management experience. Once his family began to grow (he has two boys — Ryan, 9, and Kyle, 7), he and his wife, Jennifer, were happy to land in Gulf Breeze. Donovan spoke to us from his office on the jetway not only about Vision, but about his passion for flying and a new love — fishing with his kids. — Zandra Wolfgram

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Executive Mindset

It’s the Law    c ustomer give-aways

Rules of Promotion Before you set up a give-away event, be sure you’re not legally shooting yourself in the foot By Melanie Ann Hines

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ne of the most unsettling things that can happen to a legitimate business owner is to learn that the conduct of their company is alleged to be criminal in nature. In many cases, entrepreneurs unwittingly stumble over business regulations that have been upgraded to criminal violations. There are a large number of such rules, so it can be easy to do. The financial and reputational consequences of such missteps can be enormous. Such dark chapters in the life of a company can often be prevented by studying the rules, seeking legal advice and implementing appropriate risk reduction strategies before embarking on an unknown path. To illustrate the point, take a look at a classic marketing and branding tool: promotional events that are designed to generate excitement about a company’s products. Consumer games, contests or sweepstakes can be run as small local affairs at a festival or other local public event, or they can be broadcast around the world from a company’s Internet website. Some may require a bit of skill, some may be more like a random drawing, but all of them result in a prize for one or more participants. Whether small or large, such contests give business owners a chance to be creative and create a sense of fun for the consumer. Hopefully, they increase brand name recognition. However, such promotions contain hidden dangers for the uninformed. If run without proper legal guidance, such promotions can become nightmares and result in unwanted, negative name recognition. If these promotions run afoul of the law, heavy fines can be imposed, criminal charges can be filed and all associated events become a matter of public record. Consider a hypothetical promotion. Imagine that a Northwest Florida waterfront luxury resort wants to modernize its advertising with a catchy new slogan summing up its


Playing By the Rules chief attractions. A contest is announced: The person who submits the best five-word description of the resort will win “an all expense paid romantic weekend getaway package,” including golf and spa privileges, a champagne reception and room service for all meals. The second place prize is a golf course pass and one golf lesson, and the third place prize is a Saturday spa package. The prizes have a total value of $5,500. Marketing promotions with total prize packages over $5,000 are regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. To comply with the law, the resort in the above hypothetical must first register the game with the Agriculture Department and pay an application fee of $100, at least seven days before the contest begins. And there are many more steps to follow in order to stay on the right side of the law. All the rules of the game must be conspicuously posted at the resort. Advertisements about the game must contain all material terms and may not be misleading in any way. A trust account (or a bond) in the total amount of the prize package must be established and maintained throughout the term of the game. The bank or insurance company must notify the Department of the terms of the account or bond at least seven days before the contest begins. (The trust account and bonding requirements can be waived by the Department after a five consecutive year track record of lawful contest promotions.) A certified list of winners must be provided to the Department within 60 days after the winners are named. The list must be made available without charge to anyone who requests it. Advertisement of the winners can be made in the newspaper and a copy must be provided to the Department. All winning entries must be held by the resort for 90 days after completion of the game. The rules of the game cannot be changed at any time after they are published. The resort cannot arbitrarily reject any entry, cannot predetermine that the contest winner will come from a particular geographic area and cannot require that contestants be actual guests of the resort or have purchased any item at the resort. There can be no entry fee. The resort cannot fail to award the actual prizes offered. The above contest rules sound simple; the registration process does as well. But let’s take

To keep illegal operations out of our state, the Florida Legislature charged the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consumer Services, with the responsibility to oversee game promotions according to Section 849.094, F.S. Game promotions offering prizes totaling more than $5,000 must file with the Division 7 days prior to commencement. Even game promotions based in other states must be filed if they are conducted in Florida and/ or are open to Florida residents and have prizes valued at more than $5,000. In addition, a surety bond or statement of trust is required from the operator unless they have conducted game promotions in Florida for at least 5 consecutive years and they have had no civil, criminal or administrative actions instituted against them for a violation of s. 849.049 F.S. during that 5-year period. This protects citizens who participate by ensuring compensation if the game operator is unable to award prizes offered in the promotion. The material terms of the rules must be published in all advertising copy. Full rules must be conspicuously posted in all outlets. Game operators must give, at no charge, a list of winners to those who request it. A violation of the game promotion law can result in a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation, an injunction and, in some cases if appropriate, referral for criminal prosecution. The law does not provide for restitution if a consumer has paid money to the operator. What is a Game Promotion?

>> A contest, game of chance or gift enterprise

>> Is conducted in connection with the sale of consumer products or services

>> Has the element of chance and prize What makes a Game Promotion illegal?

>> Failure to file with the Division of Consumer Services, if required

>> The game is manipulated for winners to be predetermined

>> Businesses sponsoring game promotions are pre-selected to receive winning games

>> The game is manipulated for winners to be determined during a particular time period or geographic area

>> Arbitrarily removing, disqualifying, disallowing or rejecting entries

>> Failure to award prizes >> Printing or circulating false, deceptive or misleading game promotion literature

>> Requiring an entry fee, payment or proof

a look at the issues that a novice might not think about. What does “all expense paid” mean? Does it include air transportation? Does it cover long distance telephone calls from the room? All TV movie charges? Endless bar tabs? Does it cover medical expenses incurred by the guests? How does the resort protect against exorbitant “expenses” in this scenario, without being misleading? It should be clear by now that a lot of attention must be given to the drafting of the game promotion rules and the information about prizes — these must be very specific, citing what is included, what is excluded and setting forth maximum allowances where necessary. What about the start date and end date of the contest? Sounds easy enough. Just come up with the dates on the calendar and include them in the rules, right? Not so easy! If hand delivered or email submissions are allowed, then a time deadline is necessary as well. But what happens if the resort’s computer goes on the blink or the Internet is very slow on the deadline day? How does the resort make the contest fair to those contestants who relied on the usual speed of the Internet? Should the resort accept late entries due to computer glitches or bad weather that grounds the delivery driver, or should the resort specifically exclude anyone from participating who does not strictly comply with the date and time deadlines? Again, all rules must be clearly spelled out and must be as fair as reasonably possible. Fairness must extend to all those who enter the contest as well as to all those who want to enter the contest and who make legitimate and appropriate efforts to do so as set forth in the rules. If the rules aren’t clear about the deadline and how it will be calculated, then excluded contestants could argue that their reliance on the Internet was reasonable and that with proper proof of a “sent mail” time, they should have access to the contest. In the end, the resort may have bought a lawsuit instead of a new marketing and branding opportunity. There are many other issues to consider. As examples: whether the “catchy new slogan” must meet certain standards of decorum, whether the participants must be a certain age to play and to win, whether the resort wants to exclude all employees’ family members from participating, and,

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it’s the law finally, how the resort will make the determination that the participant and the submission meet the resort’s standards. Then there’s the issue of when the contestant must collect the prize. How will the resort describe the deadline for “cashing in” on the awards, and how will it deal with exigent circumstances preventing the winner from collecting? Exigent circumstances beyond the control of the resort must also be anticipated on the front end. Imagine that a hurricane floods the golf course and a complete renovation is necessary. The renovation will take two years, well beyond the deadline for the second prize winner to use their golf pass or to take their one free golf lesson. Can the resort substitute a tennis package for the golf package? If so, does that decision adversely affect those individuals who might have entered the contest to receive a tennis lesson but not a golf lesson? The game promotion rules must address these considerations. The consequences for taking these issues lightly are severe. The laws related to marketing promotions and sweepstakes are designed to keep the unscrupulous from soliciting money with false promises of a gift or reward. The laws are aimed at Florida entities as well as those out of state entities that advertise their game promotions in

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If run without proper legal guidance, such promotions can become nightmares and result in unwanted, negative name recognition. If these promotions run afoul of the law, heavy fines can be imposed, criminal charges can be filed and all associated events become a matter of

authority to investigate game promotions for any instances of unfair and deceptive trade practices. Federal law also applies to the use of the Internet and the mail-in gaming promotions. Sound legal advice on the front end is a key component of a marketing campaign involving a game promotion or sweepstakes. Consult a lawyer who has administrative law experience and familiarity with the rules in this area. You may also wish to consult the website of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, where you can download forms, FAQ’s and a copy of the laws and regulations regarding gaming promotions. n

public record. this state. Promotional games run in violation of these rules can be shut down by court order on petition of the Agriculture Department. The Department can also sue the entity, seeking fines of $1,000 for each violation. Any person or business, or their agents or employees, who violate these laws can be prosecuted for criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Florida’s Attorney General also has

Melanie Ann Hines practices in the Tallahassee office of the business law firm of Berger Singerman. She served as Florida’s Statewide Prosecutor from 1991–2003 and has more than 30 years of experience in Florida’s courts. She currently practices administrative law and white-collar criminal defense, with an emphasis on corporate compliance and corporate crime prevention.


Executive Mindset

Human Element    i ns and outs of unpaid internships

In 2010, amid the recession, there was an increase in interns not being paid for work. Employers looking to save money hired interns for nothing rather than a regular employee. In response and to ensure interns are not being abused, the U. S. Labor Department issued six rules that had to be met to avoid violating labor laws.

All Work and No Pay Unpaid internships used to be standard fare in many professions. These days, it pays to take a closer look at the opportunities you’re providing the new work force — because the IRS sure is. By buddy nevins

F

or almost a year before he graduated, Florida State University student Dan Daley left his stuffy political science classroom and his dry textbook behind. He interned for the Republican Party of Florida in Tallahassee answering telephones, finally working his way up to meeting some of the best and brightest GOP campaign operatives. After his internship with the Republicans was done, he took a second internship with a Democratic legislator in the state Capitol.

“It was a dream come true for somebody interested in politics,” Daley said. “I learned sooo much.” Daley had the perfect intern experience. He and his employers benefitted — and he learned so much about grassroots politics that he is now running for office himself. Tens of thousands of U. S. students work at a kaleidoscopic variety of internships every year. In the past two decades, interning has become as important a part of higher education as the old apprentice system once was in the

trades. In 2008, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 50 percent of graduating students had internships at one time during their studies. Students in the M. E. Rinker School of Building Construction at the University of Florida have worked alongside professionals helping build roads and government buildings throughout the state. Students at the University of North Florida’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice take jobs with 60 agencies, from the U. S. Marshal’s to the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office. Florida State University’s English Department has a 13week internship writing for non-profit agencies, government, public relations firms, the media, the university and other businesses across North Florida. Lauren Loeffler, director of career services for the University of West Florida in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, said becoming an intern is one of the most valuable parts of higher education. She helps match hundreds of students with employers every year. “It’s a tremendous learning experience. It provides direction in life. We consider it a success if a student comes back and hated the job or if the student loved the job. Either way, the student is getting some direction for the future,” Loeffler said.

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human element What’s in it for employers? One benefit is self-fulfillment. “Many supervisors simply enjoy sharing their expertise and savvy in their roles as professional mentors,” said Michael True, director of the Intern Center at Messiah College in Grantham, Penn. True is a nationally-recognized expert on interns who has written guides and operates international websites on the subject. Perhaps the No. 1 reason employers hire interns is that it’s an easy way to recruit and evaluate potential employees, according to True. “Employer respondents to a national survey reported higher retention rates for those with internship experience, compared to those who had none,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for employers to try before they buy,” Loeffler agreed. That’s what happened to Daley. His boss at his second internship, state Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, liked him so much he hired him as his full-time aide when he graduated FSU in June 2009. “He was enthusiastic and very helpful,” Porth said. “I saw he was an asset to have around.” Employers hiring an intern also get a highly motivated student with the latest skills. For instance, an employer approached UWF last year with a request. They wanted an intern who could help them set up a social media marketing program. “The student had experience with social media and they could teach the student about their business. Both sides benefitted,” Loeffler said. The downside of internships is that successful programs take time and effort by managers, who must both supervise the interns and follow rules set up by the colleges and universities. Some schools even send officials to the work site to check on the interns. True recommended that the most important place for a business to start is with a written plan. The plan should map exactly what is expected from the intern. Managers need to follow the plan. Since intern programs are usually no more than three months, resources must be ready for the incoming student. A work area should be set aside and the necessary equipment such as computers need to be reserved. CBS TV affiliate WCTV in Tallahassee has a carefully developed blueprint for students who intern in its news department. The day-by-day guide prepares interns for everything they may face and what they are required to learn during the month-long program. Each day is filled with very exhaustive learning, much of it from prepared handouts the station has developed. It starts the first day with interns learning

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Decoding Internships According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) “Similar to an Education Environment” and “Primary Beneficiary of the Activity” In general, the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience (this often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit). The more the internship provides the individual with skills that can be used in multiple employment settings, as opposed to skills particular to one employer’s operation, the more likely the intern would be viewed as receiving training. Under these circumstances the intern does not perform the routine work of the business on a regular and recurring basis, and the business is not dependent upon the work of the intern. On the other hand, if the interns are engaged in the operations of the employer or are performing productive work (for example, filing, performing other clerical work or assisting customers), then the fact that they may be receiving some benefits in the form of a new skill or improved work habits will not exclude them from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements because the employer benefits from the interns’ work. Displacement and Supervision Issues If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA. Conversely, if the employer is providing job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close and constant supervision of regular employees, but the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience. On the other hand, if the intern receives the same level of supervision as the employer’s regular workforce, this would suggest an employment relationship, rather than training. The FLSA makes a special exception under certain circumstances for individuals who volunteer to perform services for a state or local government agency and for individuals who volunteer for humanitarian purposes for private non-profit food banks. The Department of Labor (DOL) also recognizes an exception for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible. — U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #71


what clothes to wear, newsroom etiquette, some legal training and WCTV’s overall philosophy. On other days, interns are helped with writing broadcast scripts and copy for the Internet. They are taught how to operate the equipment and pull footage from the archives. They are given instruction on how to prepare the five stories they are required to complete during internship. On the 30th day, interns tape a mini-newscast of them at the anchor desk, which they will put on a DVD to take back to college. A key decision for every employer is whether or not to pay an intern. In 2010, amid the recession, there was an increase in interns not being paid for work. Employers looking to save money hired interns for nothing rather than a regular employee. “With the recent economy, we have seen a surge in unpaid intern requests,” UWF’s Loeffler said. In response and to insure interns are not being abused, the U. S. Labor Department issued six rules that had to be met to avoid violating labor laws. According to the U. S. Labor Department in 2010, any unpaid intern program must: >> B  e run for the benefit of the intern. >> A  llow the intern to work under close supervision and not displace regular employees.

school at the University of Florida averaged $13.76-an-hour, paid by a wide range of businesses from general contractors to subcontractors to residential developers. David Silverman, who is due to graduate Florida State University in April 2011 with majors in criminology and political science, didn’t get paid. He interned for Broward County Judge Gisele Pollack during his junior year, and the court system had no money available for interns. Pollack introduced Silverman to many aspects of the court system as a way to make his studies come to life and prepare him for law school. “Rarely did I have to file, make copies or run around the courthouse dropping papers off to other judges. Judge Pollack wanted me to get

the most out of my internship,” Silverman said. So he attended court with the judge and spent time with public defenders, private lawyers and prosecutors to understand the process from their point of view. The judge arranged for bailiffs to show Silverman their job inside the courthouse. Pollack was following the guidelines developed by True. “Care should be taken to make all experiences worthwhile for the student, whether compensated or not,” True said. That is exactly the kind of experience Silverman got. “Seeing and being so close with each participant in the courtroom really allowed me to see the many options in the field of law,” the FSU student said. n

The downside of internships is that successful programs take time and effort by managers, who must both supervise the interns and follow rules set up by the colleges and universities.

>> N  ot provide the employer with a competitive advantage. >> E  mphasize that the intern is not automatically entitled to a job after the internship. >> M  ake it crystal clear that that the intern will not be paid. >> B  e “similar to training which would be given in an educational environment ... the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience.” UWF carefully vets each request for an unpaid internship. “They have to meet the Labor Department’s six-prong test,” Loeffler said. Many colleges hold tight on interns to guarantee that the experience is educational. The University of North Florida’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is a typical example. Seniors are given six credits to work in North Florida law enforcement, government and non-profit agencies. They are required to write a paper on their experience and share details with other students and faculty. Many internships do pay, although students shouldn’t expect more than minimal salaries. The 2010 interns from the Rinker construction

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A Helping Hand Once only for career newbies, mentors can help you — no matter your pay grade — along the path to business success By Lilly Rockwell

Ed Roberts. Rajeev Matwoni. Ben Graham. Never heard of them? They may not be household names, but their contributions to business are extremely significant. These men were all mentors to some of the most brilliant business minds in America. Roberts, who created the first personal computer, allowed a 20-year-old Bill Gates to write software for that computer. That job, and Roberts’ advice, helped launch Microsoft. Matwoni was a Stanford professor who mentored college students Sergey Brin and Larry Page on their ambitious project to catalogue web pages, which morphed into Google. Graham hired a 24-year-old Warren Buffett to work as an analyst for his firm and taught Buffett his value investing philosophy, which investor Buffett credits for his success. The lesson is simple. Behind many great businesses are great mentors. But the benefits of mentorship aren’t easy to pin down, like, say, the return on investment after a shoe retailer begins offering online shopping to customers. Gerard Roche of recruiting firm Heidrick and Struggles told Forbes magazine that executives

Photos by  SCOTT HOLSTEIN and KAY MEYER

who have had mentors earned more money at a younger age, and that his research shows people who had mentors are happier in their careers. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports the value of having a mentor. “Mentoring, in my opinion, is one of the most undervalued assets that are available to entrepreneurs and business people,” said Jerry Oster­young, the director of outreach for the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at Florida State University. “By undervalued, I mean in terms of cost and entrepreneurs not appreciating the value.”

A Mentor Is ... The definition of a mentor varies. For some, a mentor is simply someone to turn to for advice about their job or career, either within or outside their company. For others, it is a more formal arrangement done within the parameters of a companysponsored program with a prescribed number of meetings. And for some businesses, the term mentor is used interchangeably with consultant and refers to people who are brought in to help guide the founder or CEO. Those who have been a mentor or protégé speak enthusiastically about how it has provided tangible benefits to their career. Some

credit their mentors with helping them land their first jobs, obtain raises or learn a new skill. Others say their mentors have acted like work therapists, dispensing advice and providing encouragement. Many young professionals say it was a mentor that helped them launch their careers. Krystin Olinski was a 23-year-old Florida State University student getting a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications who needed work experience and guidance if she had any hope of landing a full-time job in the worst economic recession in her lifetime. So she applied for, and got, an internship at Moore Consulting Group, a public relations and marketing firm in Tallahassee that has clients such as CocaCola Co. and the American Lung Association. That single internship made a huge impact on her burgeoning public relations career, Olinski said, thanks to her boss and mentor, Fernando Senra. A former high school teacher, Senra says he loves guiding young public relations professionals as they begin their careers and insists on challenging them with tough assignments. A few weeks into her job, Olinski was writing opinion editorials for Moore clients that were eventually published in major daily newspapers. “I didn’t know if I was doing it right, I had never done one before,” Olinski said. “I thought

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it was way beyond my skill level.” Senra also helped Olinski think about her long-term career plans. “I went into his office six or seven times to ask for his opinion on my résumé,” Olinski said. When she applied to work at Tampa-based Tango Marketing after her graduation, Senra helped her secure glowing references. “(Senra) is the best mentor because when I had doubts about myself, when I was figuring out where to apply for jobs upon graduation, when I had boyfriend trouble, he was there for me,” Olinski said. Like many successful protégés, Olinski wants to pay it forward by starting an internship program at her current job. This time, she’ll be the mentor.

our younger folks and help them be successful,” said Ron Jackson, president of Saltmarsh, Cleveland and Gun. New hires tend to have the technical skills to do their job, Jackson said, but do not know how to market the firm or themselves and had never worked in teams before. “Those are some of the things that aren’t particularly taught in college,” Jackson said. Even though their mentorship program is just two years old, Jackson said it has yielded results. “It has allowed our older folks to talk to our younger folks about the history of the firm, our culture, why we do what we do,” Jackson said. “That transfer of knowledge is really important.” He believes their mentorship program will help improve retention. The Walton Area Chamber of Commerce matches mentors and protégés through its leadership program. A mentor and protégé must meet at least once a month for a year. Lane Rees is a Santa Rosa Beach-based human resources consultant who frequently mentors through the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program. He’s passionate about the topic because of a mentor that helped him in his own career. In the early 1980s, Rees worked for an oil and gas

Long Term Benefits Some businesses have formal mentorship programs that match young hires with senior managers in the company. Many business organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, also offer mentorship programs that match mentors with protégés. At Pensacola accounting firm Saltmarsh, Cleveland and Gun, newly hired employees are paired with employees that have worked at the firm for longer than five years. “We had some people here that had moved up in the firm and are very successful, and we wanted to transfer that knowledge to some of

company called ARCO. His boss urged him to move to Alaska to further his career. “It was taking a risk,” Rees said, in part because his Floridaborn wife wasn’t thrilled with the idea of moving to such a cold climate. But that single career change allowed him to move quickly up the ladder at ARCO, enabling him to retire early in 1999 and move to Florida. “A mentor is a person who can challenge you and help you dream bigger,” Rees said. Toby Williams, the principal for special services at Rocky Bayou Christian School, is Rees’s protégé through the Chamber’s leadership program. “I love what I am doing. I see the difference it makes in children’s lives,” Williams said. “With having a big family of my own, I got my eighth grandchild this year, I wanted to make sure I was keeping my priorities right.” She said Rees urged her to think about her long-term goals in her career and in life, even 10 years out. They discussed what steps needed to happen to reach those goals. “To be able to mentor (faculty) I need to have a mentor,” Williams said. ”I am growing in my leadership abilities, and

“Mentoring ... is one of the most undervalued assets that are available to entrepreneurs and business people. By undervalued, I mean in terms of cost and entrepreneurs not appreciating the value.” Jerry Osteryoung

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PHOTO BY KAY MEYER

Fernando Senra and Krystin Olinski

you can’t give what you are not receiving.” John Russell, president of Sandestin Investments, remembers how valuable a mentor was to him early in his career. At 23, Russell was working at his first hotel, a Hyatt. The director of human resources took Russell under his wing. “I had never worked for a large corporation before,” Russell said. “I had to go on corporate travel trips, and he would coach me — ‘This is what you wear and how you behave and watch out for the guys who want to stay out all night.’ ” Russell said he could have easily stumbled and damaged his reputation but instead he rose quickly in the hospitality industry and became a general manager of his first hotel at age 32. He has since worked for Ritz Carlton and other major hotel chains. Now Russell has decided to give back by participating in the Walton Chamber’s mentorship program. For a year, he has mentored Wendy Radke, the director of marketing and communications for the Chamber. “I’ve learned a lot from him so far in identifying my strengths and weaknesses,” Radke said. Russell has encouraged Radke to be more aggressive in pursuing projects she is passionate about. He also urges her to discuss with him her longterm career goals. Radke said Russell helped her conquer a fear of public speaking.

“The first time I stood up in front of 300 people I could not tell you one thing I said because of the roar of my head.” He told her, “You didn’t look nervous, I couldn’t even tell.” She said he also isn’t afraid to be honest about areas of improvement.

Troubleshooters Sometimes mentors are brought in to help guide a company through a transition or troubled time. Nolia Brandt and her husband Bill Brandt had reached a critical point in the life of their Tallahassee-based information technology company, Brandt Information Services, 10 years ago. Their industry was dramatically changing and in order to stay competitive, the company had to diversify its client base beyond state government agencies. The company needed to secure federal contracts and obtain more private sector clients. To cope, the firm itself had to expand, from 10 to 60 employees, in a short period of time. “We knew nothing about doing business with the federal government,” Nolia Brandt said. “We had never asked our employees to travel to do business from other locations.” The Brandts turned to Osteryoung at Florida State University. Osteryoung is one of the godfathers of mentorship in Tallahassee, along with Steve Evans, a retired IBM executive. Osteryoung has likely mentored, at one time or another, half

the businesses in Tallahassee as part of his duties at the Jim Moran Institute. “He’s brilliant,” Nolia Brandt said of Osteryoung. “Not only is he one of the best financial analysts I know, but he is so humane and passionate. What a lot of people don’t know when they are looking for a mentor is you really need someone who listens well and is compassionate, because sometimes all you really need is moral support.” Osteryoung also had plenty of practical advice. He told the Brandts how to structure their company so that it could handle a quadrupling of its workforce. He urged Nolia Brandt to outsource several key functions, such as human resources and accounting, rather than hiring someone dedicated to that task. He also told the Brandts to develop an advisory group of diverse mentors who could help guide them through their growth phase. Osteryoung’s advice worked. The Brandts went from $500,000 in annual revenue to $5 million in annual revenue in just a few years. They were able to sell the company in 2007 for an undisclosed sum and retire, which had been their goal all along. Another Osteryoung mentee is Pam Butler, co-owner and CEO of Tallahassee-based Aegis Business Technologies, which helps small businesses outsource their information technology

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John Russell with Wendee Radke and Nikki Berry

Nolia Brant (center) with Gloria and Dean Pugh

departments. “When I started my company, I did it all by myself and made a tremendous amount of mistakes,” Butler said. She was reticent to approach someone for help because she didn’t want to reveal the tricks of her trade. Finally, she got up the nerve to ask for Osteryoung’s help. “He kept asking me all these financial questions and I was being evasive,” Butler said. “He asked if he could take a look at my Quickbooks, and I thought, ‘That is like asking somebody if they can look in your underwear drawer.’ ” Osteryoung did eventually coax Butler into showing him Aegis’ profit and loss statements and from there he made suggestions on how to spend less money, such as eliminating costly and unnecessary insurance. “He would take my (profit and loss statement) and look at it and in two seconds point and say, ‘This one is not right and this one is not right. When I come back, I want this to be taken care of.’ ” Having a mentor like Osteryoung provided the accountability Butler said she was lacking because she had no boss. He also introduced her to other entrepreneurs who could share their own struggles. She began working with Evans, the retired IBM executive, who helped her restructure the company and add seven new positions. Osteryoung could also be remarkably prescient. “Jerry came to me in early 2007 and said

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‘Clean up your expenses. Get them down to the bottom line because I see something bad coming.’ ” Butler did and she said it helped her survive the economic crisis. “I believe in mentors. I would never be without one.” Sometimes a mentor is also your boss, though experts usually caution against such an arrangement. In Tallahassee, 26-year-old Nate Long found a mentor in his boss, Jay Schleuning, at Visit Florida. It was Long’s first full-time job in public relations. “(Schleuning) gave me unusually large and challenging projects and responsibilities that allowed me to grow a lot more than my position would have warranted,” Long said. “Within my first few months he allowed me to lead some of our media missions.” This meant traveling to a city like Birmingham or Chicago and pitching magazines and newspapers as to why they should do travel stories on Florida. Besides giving Long challenging assignments, Schleuning gave him tips on how to dress and behave. “He taught me to be early for everything,” Long said. Long said he could be candid with Schleuning about his long-term career goals, which include opening his own public relations firm. “You don’t always feel comfortable with

everyone you work with,” Long said. “Not everyone can be a mentor. Some of the qualities that set mentors apart have to do with forcing you out of your comfort zone and finding skills you can’t see.” Though Schleuning has left Visit Florida for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Long stays in touch. Meanwhile, Long’s career is on a fast track. He’s already been promoted to industry relations manager and has become a mentor himself to college interns. n


How to Pick a Mentor

sandestin photo courtesy Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort / photo by Sarah Brazwell

Determine what you are looking for in a mentor. Do you want someone within your company to act as your advocate, or someone outside your company who can guide you toward your long-term career or business goals? Experts say, ideally, you want both. When seeking a mentor, look for: Prior experience. Ask your colleagues and business associates if they have a mentor and whether they enjoyed working with him or her. A person you admire that seems to do his or her job well. The job you want someday. Someone who has the job you want will have great advice about how to end up in his or her shoes. A nurturing attitude and willingness to answer questions. Trust. Whether that person is inside or outside your industry, you must feel comfortable spilling your ambitions and business secrets. Skills. Look for someone that understands a skill that you would like to learn. A person who provides support but also challenges you to learn new things or find areas of improvement. You want someone who can provide critical feedback.

Jerry Osteryoung

So how does one go about finding a mentor? > If you own a company, try the Jim Moran Institute at Florida State University. Not only is Jerry Osteryoung, its outreach director, a great resource, but he can suggest appropriate mentors for you, both inside and outside of Tallahassee. >G  o to your accountant, banker or other professionals and ask for recommendations. > If your company has a mentoring program, sign up. If not, consider starting one, or join programs that organizations like the Chamber of Commerce sponsor. >A  ttend networking events and don’t hesitate to approach someone there you click with. >O  nline. MicroMentor matches mentors with protégés online for free. Most advice is given through email, the phone, Skype and occasionally in person.

Ron Jackson

“I was blessed throughout my entire career. I had people rooting for me. When I was a young lawyer, there were other women and men in the firm who took me under their wing. Look for those mentors, because sometimes mentors don’t find you — sometimes you seek them out.” Michelle Obama, speaking to Katie Couric; Source: Glamour magazine 850 Business Magazine

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Session: 2011 2011 Legislature hands major victories to Gov. Rick Scott — and business By Linda kleindienst

Did you know? 2011 Legislative Session Bills Filed: 2,186 (1,110 in the House, 1,076 in the Senate)

Bills Passed: 285

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ov. Rick Scott went into his first legislative session imploring lawmakers to focus laser-like on creating jobs, helping business and eliminating bureaucratic red tape. He emerged getting at least a piece of most everything he — and Florida’s business interests — asked for. The Legislature pulled a corporate income tax cut out of the hat at the end of the session, reduced government regulations, particularly on the environmental and growth management front, provided more money for economic development and set the stage for loosening the state’s grip on businesses that say they want to expand but have been stymied by red tape. “This session, the Florida Legislature passed five years of common sense reforms in two months,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Florida now has the opportunity to once again lead the nation in private sector job creation.” As the session ended, the new governor called his first encounter with the Legislature a “memorable one.” “We’re on the path to turning the economy around … to making this the state where people want to start their business, grow their business or move their business to,” Scott said. The highlights include $210 million in property tax relief, a reorganization of state agencies “with an eye toward economic development” and a change in the corporate income tax that will drop about half the businesses from the tax rolls. Jose Gonzalez, vice president of governmental affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, said the change in Florida’s corporate income tax structure will entice capital investment in the state. “Gov. Scott established some clear goals for making Florida the most business-friendly state,” he said. “And the Republican majority in the Legislature delivered some key victories for his administration.” Political and business leaders insist that what the Legislature did this spring will entice businesses to grow and whittle down Florida’s double-digit jobless rate. “While many other states are raising taxes to balance their budgets, Florida’s Legislature focused on job creation,” said Allan Bense of Panama City, chair of the Florida Chamber Board of Directors and a former speaker of the Florida House. “Florida sent a clear message that we are open for business.” Here’s a look at some of the business issues tackled by the Legislature during its 9-week spring session, which ended in the early morning hours of May 7:

Photo by  SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Corporate Income Tax Lawmakers boosted from $5,000 to $25,000 the amount of corporate income exempt from the state tax. That amounts to a cut of about $1,100 per business. The move effectively eliminates the corporate tax for nearly half of the roughly 30,000 businesses that now pay it. Estimated to cost the state about $30 million in lost tax revenues. The tax rate remains at 5.5 percent. Scott campaigned to eliminate the corporate income tax and plans to push for more cuts next year.

Corporate Tax Credit A tweak in the corporate tax credit scholarship allows companies that donate to a scholarship organization to now claim 100 percent of that as a credit. (Current law only permits a credit of 75 percent.) The scholarships are used to help low-income students attend private schools.

Economic Development Established a secretary of commerce, who will have an office down the hall from the governor, as the single point of contact for streamlining Florida’s economic development processes.

Growth Management Anyone challenging a developer’s environmental permit will have the burden of proving damage to the environment to get the development stopped. Current law puts the burden on the developer to show the growth wouldn’t harm the environment. At Scott’s behest, lawmakers virtually eliminated the state agency that regulates growth, the Department of Community Affairs. Lawmakers also killed a law that now requires developers help pay for new roads, schools and parks.

Immigration An appeal from big business, especially agri-business, helped kill an immigration bill over concerns that it would send the wrong message to immigrant laborers who are key to the state’s tourism, agricultural and construction industries.

Insurance A sweeping property insurance rewrite includes several industry-backed changes, including reduced deadlines for filing sinkhole and windstorm claims and allowing insurers to raise rates by up to 15 percent to cover increases in reinsurance costs. (The increases still must be approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation, but would be in addition to any other rate increases.)

Professions Workers will be allowed to get certain occupational licenses even if, as ex-felons, they have not had their civil rights restored. The Senate, however, killed a measure that would have deregulated a handful of professions — including interior design and auctioneering — that are currently licensed by the state.

Property Taxes Businesses could see some tax relief if voters in 2012 approve a measure that would reduce from 10 percent to 5 percent the cap on assessment increases on commercial property.

Sales Tax Holiday Sought by retailers hoping to boost the turnout for back-to-school shopping, consumers will get a three-day sales tax holiday Aug. 12–14 for clothing and shoes priced under $75.

Seaports Eliminates the duplicative requirements that enforce statewide seaport security standards in addition to federal rules. Supporters say that Florida seaports have been at a competitive disadvantage by having to adhere to both sets of security standards.

State Revenue Cap A constitutional “Smart Cap” amendment to be placed before state voters in 2012 would replace the existing constitutional limit on state revenues, which is pegged to personal income growth, with a limit based on inflation and changes in population.

Unemployment The tax paid by businesses to cover unemployment will be cut by 10 percent, saving the average employer $18 per worker when the law takes effect in 2012. And the maximum number of weeks that unemployed workers can receive state benefits is reduced from 26 to 23 weeks if the employment rate stays above 10.5 percent. (Weeks could be cut to as low as 12 or added, depending on the unemployment rate.) It will also be easier for businesses to show that an employee was fired for cause, meaning the worker would not get benefits. The maximum benefit will remain at $275 a week, one of the lowest in the country.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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Gadsden, Jefferson + Leon Counties

Capital Corridor

GAM E C H ANG ER S J.T. Burnett (left) and Chad Kittrell head up one of the most prolific — and imaginative — investment firms in the region.

Redefining a City WEST PHOTO COURTESY CAPITAL CITY BANK GROUP

Young financiers at Hunter & Harp are the developers of Hotel Duval and the backers of many soon-to-be iconic Tallahassee locales by lilly rockwell n opening night in October 2009, Tallahassee’s Hotel Duval, which had undergone a major $15 million renovation, transformed itself into Cirque du Soleil. There were drummers hanging from the hotel’s carport ceiling accompanied by ear-splitting music. Exotically dressed contortionists in silver body paint draped themselves around the hotel lobby and meeting rooms. And there was a fireworks display that could be viewed from the hotel’s swanky rooftop lounge. The 1,000-person guest list was a veritable who’s who of Tallahassee notables. That memorable grand opening party marked the beginning of Hotel Duval’s unprecedented popularity. It has become the go-to spot for events in Tallahassee

Photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN and  LAWRENCE DAVIDSON

and its South Beach-inspired rooftop lounge is a favorite destination among young professionals. Not a bad start for two young men in their early 30s with no college degrees and no experience running hotels. What Hotel Duval developers James “Chad” Kittrell, 32, and John Thomas “J.T.” Burnette, 34, did have going for them was a hunger and willingness to bet big, an uncanny ability to recognize and deliver what their hometown lacks, and the capacity to finance an ambitious multi-million dollar project in the middle of a severe recession. Friends and business partners Kittrell and Burnette teamed up with a third partner, Frank Whitley, on the development of Hotel Duval. Many of Kittrell and Burnette’s real estate development projects are done under

SOU N D BY T E S what’s new >> Ed West has assumed the role of Leon County president for the 115-year-old Capital City Bank. Formerly executive vice president of sales leadership, West WEST now oversees operations of the 15 offices located in Tallahassee, Capital City Bank’s headquarters. >> Veteran Tallahassee insiders Bob Sparks and Rich Ramos have formed the Ramos and Sparks Group, a consulting firm that will specialize in communications and strategic planning. >> Long-time Tallahassee public relations firm RB Oppenheim Associates has ventured deeper into the digital pool with the launch of its new integrated digital marketing division, “Digital Opps.” The firm recently merged with Catalyst Consultant Group LLC. Catalyst’s CEO and “chief ideation officer,” Michael Winn, serves in a dual role as chief digital officer at Digital

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College Connections >> Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, president emeritus of Florida State University, and Steven L. Evans, an entrepreneur and IBM executive of 30 years prior to his retirement, were recently honored by the Florida State University College of Business with Sunshine State Ethics in Leadership Awards. The awards honor two individuals each year — one in the private sector and one in the public sector — who have demonstrated a deep and unwavering commitment to the highest levels of integrity, ethical behavior and principled leadership. >> Longtime Florida State University supporters have made a $4.25 million gift that will expand the international reach of The Jim Moran Institute for Global

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quietly, over a span of a half-dozen years, kittrell and burnette have become a driving force behind many new developments and businesses in the city. anybody would have thought that (Hotel Duval) would be able to transform into what it is today.”

Young Entrepreneurs Hunter & Harp’s offices are located off South Monroe, near dingy car repair shops and modest strip malls. Their 13,000-square foot offices are renovated and modern. Kittrell has a stubbled chin and the good looks of a tanned baseball player. He wears a suit with no tie. Interviewed by phone, Burnette is confident, with a relaxed Southern drawl. Both Kittrell and Burnette grew up in modest, middle-class homes and shared an early entrepreneurial drive that continues to this day.

SCHMITZ ANDD HATCHER PHOTOS COURTESY SHERATON

the name of Hunter & Harp Holdings, though they do business under many other names, such as Capital City Partners. Quietly, over a span of a half-dozen years, Kittrell and Burnette have become a driving force behind many new development projects and businesses in the city, with ownership in companies employing more than 600 people. Besides Hotel Duval, this under-the-radar company owns trendy restaurant Midtown Filling Station, and before that the Winery and Tapas restaurant in the same location. They opened Genghis Grill on Apalachee Parkway last year. They own Tallahassee-based Ol’ Man Treestands, which makes and sells hunting equipment. Burnette is also a part-owner in the IT company Brandt Information Services. What most people don’t realize is that the bread and butter of their business is actually federal contracting work done under the name SheltonDean. Dating back to 2005, according to a federal database of contractors, SheltonDean received more than $64 million to repair and maintain federal buildings. “Our core business is federal contracting,” Burnette said. “Everything you see and touch is really just an investment. It is funny that everybody thinks of us as Hotel Duval.” Nevertheless, their success at Hotel Duval has opened doors for them to do other major development projects that have the potential to revive overlooked parts of Tallahassee. “They are visionary, you’ve got to give them that,” said Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, who met with Kittrell before hotel renovations were complete. “I like people who have vision and can see the potential in something. I don’t know that

RE INV E NT I ON Burnette and Kitrell helped transform an old part of Tallahassee into a bustling “MidTown” that beckons young professionals and influential people from all walks of life to its lively night life, shopping and eats. The Winery was what kickstarted the commercial development project.

HEADSHOT PHOTOS COURTESY FLORIDA RETAIL FEDERATION (FLEMING) AND BEACON COMMUNICATIONS GROUP (BONFANTI)

Opps and digital marketing manager at Oppenheim. >> A new Four Points by Sheraton — formerly known as Tallahassee’s “round hotel” on Tennessee Street — is slated to open this summer and become Tallahassee’s first LEED Certified hotel through the U.S. Green Building Council. Bo Schmitz will be general manager and Cheryl Hatcher, director of sales. >> The Red Hills Surgical Center, a joint SCHMITZ venture between Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and 35 local physicians from several area practices, is open for business. The 17,000-square-foot multi-specialty ambulatory surgery center features five operating rooms and several pre-op and recovery rooms. The facility is creating approximately HATCHER 30 immediate new jobs. >> The Gadsden County Tourism Development Council has launched a new website and tourism campaign, highlighting the county’s top activities and attractions. The newly designed website, eGadsden.com, includes an extensive list of places to stay and things to do, an events calendar, an easy-to-use itinerary-builder and an interactive blog written by Gadsden residents spotlighting local attractions. >> Veteran attorney R. Terry Rigsby has joined the Tallahassee office of the Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar law firm. Rigsby has more than 30 years experience in administrative law. >> Jim Saunders has joined The News Service of Florida. Saunders has written for Health News Florida and was the Tallahassee correspondent for the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Florida Times-Union. >> CenturyLink and Qwest Communications have merged to create the nation’s third largest telecommunications company. CenturyLink has also bought out information technology firm Savvis, giving it the opportunity to expand its data storage services as more companies turn to cloud-computing. >> The March of Dimes has named Melissa K. Joiner as the Florida chapter’s state director of public affairs. She will be based out of the Big Bend Division in Tallahassee. >> Hotel Duval, the first and only boutique hotel in Tallahassee, recently announced multiple promotions within its food and beverage team. Steven Adams has been promoted from Head Coach of Shula’s 347 Grill to director of Food & Beverage of Hotel Duval. John McCarroll is the new Head Coach of Shula’s 347 Grill and Paul Maraist has been promoted to Assistant Head Coach. Jasmine Clemons has been hired as business development manager of Shula’s 347. >> The Florida Justice Association (formerly the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers) launched its newsroom, the FJA Newswire, in early spring, going live during the heart of the 2011 legislative session. The Newswire will focus on new legislation, defective products and other issues affecting Florida’s consumers and patients. >> Florida entrepreneur and Enterprise Florida Board Member Digivay “Danny” Gaekwad has acquired Tallahassee-based ISOCORP, Inc., which will become a subsidiary of NDS USA Inc. Founded in 2001, ISOCORP is an IT staffing firm that works in the public and private sector.


Kittrell’s parents divorced when he was young, and his mother lived in a tiny 800-squarefoot home across from Kate Sullivan Elementary, which he also shared with two brothers. His mother worked in state government, and his father owned a fence-building company. Kittrell said he split his time between both of his parents. Up the road in Monticello, Burnette’s mother was a nurse and his father was an accountant. Early on, Burnette had entrepreneurial leanings, with his first job raising chickens at age 14. A few years later he started an IT temp staffing business and also began working as a contractor and later got his roofing license. “At 16, when Burnette Construction originally started, I got a $200,000 contract in Quincy to rehab HUD housing,” Burnette said. Then he got a series of lucky breaks. One of his first roofing assignments was in Panama City just after a hurricane blew through. A $40,000 assignment turned into $1 million worth of repair work. “Luck has a lot to do with it,” Burnette said. Meanwhile, at Leon High School, Kittrell played on the baseball team and was hopeful he might be able to parlay that into a career. After high school, he went to Tallahassee Community College and played for their baseball team. “I lived in a house with four guys and my Dad paid all my expenses,” Kittrell said. “It was a very easy life, and there wasn’t a whole lot to worry about.” Kittrell decided he want to quit baseball and “party” instead, he said. So his father cut him off financially, explaining that he had made a grown-up decision with grown-up consequences. Kittrell called up old baseball coaches to inquire about job opportunities. He landed a part-time job making minimum wage at the Department of Revenue and continued going to school at TCC. Not long after, he learned of an opening for an administrative assistant position in the marketing department at SunTrust Bank. There was only one catch — it was full-time. With bills to pay, Kittrell jumped at the chance to make a full salary. A few months later SunTrust announced it was consolidating its marketing department. Kittrell was told to move to Orlando, or seek employment elsewhere. Kittrell, who was then 19 or 20, reached out to Jimmy Alford, who was working in a SunTrust office that catered to highly paid doctors and surgeons. “He had a position come open where I would be underneath him, and he would serve as my mentor,” Kittrell said. On his first day, he was asked to amortize a 30-year mortgage. By hand. No calculator allowed. “I had no banking experience,” Kittrell said. “I had worked in the marketing department, I understood a little bit, but not enough to be dangerous.”

Capital Corridor Entrepreneurship based in the College of Business. >> Ron Frazier has been named The Jim Moran Institute’s second entrepreneur-in-residence. He will oversee the Student Business Incubator and Business Plan Competition in addition to teaching courses in the undergraduate entrepreneurship curriculum. >> The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Tallahassee Community College and the Small Business Development Center at FAMU to help counsel local businesses and better train their workers. TCC will provide a professional development training series and the Small Business Development Center will provide free counseling services and workshops from a satellite location within the Chamber’s downtown office. >> Recent graduates of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts topped all other film schools in the nation at the 32nd Annual College Television Awards by bringing home four trophies.

A NE W DI MENSI ON Hotel Duval’s swanky “Level 8” rooftop lounge instantly became the place to see and be seen in the capital city.

It took him several tries, but eventually he learned how to do it. “He taught me from the ground up, and then that grew into how the banking industry works and how banks worked,” Kittrell said. “He served as a great mentor to me.” Early on, Alford said Kittrell had a knack for mixing in the world of SunTrust’s wealthy clientele. “The thing I remember most about Chad was how well-liked he was,” Alford said. “How well he got along with other people. Everyone at the bank liked him, he was good at nurturing relationships with customers, and at that time we were doing a private banking function for the medical community; these were high-end people.”

Honors >> The Florida Association of Insurance Agents has awarded Bill Gunter its prestigious McKay Cup, presented to members demonstrating exceptional legislative policy and fundraising prowess. Gunter, a former congressman and state insurance commissioner, is chairman of the board of Rogers, Gunter, Vaughn Insurance, Inc., of Tallahassee, and CEO of Bill Gunter & Associates, a financial and insurance consulting practice. >> Ashley Anderson, PE, an engineer in the Tallahassee office of Atkins (formerly PBS&J), was named 2010 Young Engineer of the Year by the Big Bend Chapter of the Florida Engineering Society. >> Kathy Baughman McLeod of Bryant Miller Olive has been accepted to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business Global Executive MBA program, which is designed to enhance the international business acumen of senior level executives. >> CoreMessage recently received multiple honors at the Florida Public Relations Association Capital Chapter 2011 Image Awards ceremony, including the highest honor, the Grand All Image Award, for the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association’s 2010 Legislative Session Campaign. The initiative was also recognized with an Image Award in the public affairs division. >> Performing Arts Center of Tallahassee has announced that Amy S. Lowe, owner and artistic director, has been designated as an ABT® Certified Teacher for American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum.

Money to Play With Soon Kittrell rose to the position of vice president and moved to Wakulla Bank, where he was vice president of commercial lending at age 24. Kittrell learned, just as he had at SunTrust, that banking wasn’t just number crunching. “It was about building relationships,” Kittrell said. Because of his youth, he was entrusted with many clients under age 40 who had found similar success at a young age. Kittrell was making what he called “decent money” for his age. Perhaps it was his exposure to financially savvy bankers, but Kittrell chose not to spend it on a nice car, clothes or nights out with friends. Instead, he pooled his money with some of his similarly financially blessed friends from high school and became a landlord. “I bought my first house when I was 20 or 21,” Kittrell said. Records show in March of 2000, Kittrell bought one side of a duplex in Richview Park Circle, near Park and Capital Circle, for

$68,000. Three years later, in 2003, he bought the other side of that duplex for $86,000. Records show he sold both in 2005 for $150,000 each, a profit of $146,000. “We were able to gain some cash and some assets and we were doing OK, and then we had our real jobs, too,” Kittrell said. “So we were in good shape.” Through his work at Wakulla Bank, Kittrell met Burnette, who by then had done very well with his construction company and was starting to pick up more federal contracts. “Both of us went to a couple years of college and dropped out,” Kittrell said. The two became friends and one day decided to become business partners. “He and I formed a company,” Kittrell said. At first, it had a different name, but eventually they settled on Hunter & Harp — their mothers’ maiden names. 850 Business Magazine

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Capital Corridor The men were involved in one project to build condominiums in Alabama that went bust and taught them a big lesson, though Burnette said their involvement in it was minimal. “During the boom … anybody can get financing. It was a lot easier for projects like that,” Kittrell said. By contrast, today, if “a bunch of 25-year-olds” tried to get a multi-million loan to build a condominium “they would throw you out the door.”

Early Success at Midtown Though they were doing well from SheltonDean contracting work, Kittrell and Burnette were looking for investment opportunities. They started small, such as purchasing a warehouse with a tenant or a small office building. The idea was to generate cash flow to sustain them while they searched for bigger projects with more payoff. The first project that garnered media attention was The Winery and Tapas restaurant in Midtown. Opened in 2007, it helped lure young professionals to Midtown. Jon Gardner, a wine aficionado, was brought in to run the bar and restaurant. The Winery, with its extensive wine list and modern décor, quickly became a favorite happy hour spot and the Tapas restaurant got rave reviews for its food. “We saw a desire of young professionals to have somewhere to go where they didn’t have to go down to Tennessee Street and socialize with 19-year-olds,” Kittrell said. “The entire Midtown district really made a lot of sense to us.” Soon after, the sleepy Midtown district became a dining and shopping destination, with new neighboring businesses, including clothing boutique Cole Couture, rival wine bar The Wine Loft and cupcake shop Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery, which was featured on the Food Network. “We’d go anywhere and we knew what we were good at, which was financing,” Kittrell said. He insists their expertise in financing doesn’t only come from his banking background. “I learned a great deal from my mentors on how to navigate the system, but the real juice on what we do now we learned on our own.” Kittrell and Burnette spent a lot of time figuring out how to secure big bank loans when banks were reluctant to loan money. They eventually began using a combination of U.S. Small Business Administration and conventional loans. For instance, the SBA gave Hunter & Harp, under the name Duval Partners, a total of $5.25 million in loans to develop Hotel Duval. “A lot of that stuff we know (about SBA loans) are the keys to the kingdom, so we don’t really give that information out,” Kittrell said. “It has cost us a lot of money to learn those lessons.”

Going Boutique Hotel Duval was first built in 1951 and later became an FSU dormitory and offices. In the 1980s it was bought by Radisson and later became a Park Plaza hotel. Hunter & Harp bought the hotel as a “real estate play,” Burnette said. “Hotel Duval took on a life of its own,” Burnette said. “In the middle of that purchase you had a market that took a turn in the wrong direction. At that point you have to rethink your decision. We knew the hotel had to be the best of breed.”

Before construction even began, Kittrell and Burnette hired Marc Bauer, who had gone to Florida State and had experience opening new hotels. “I was incredibly impressed by their knowledge and business acumen at their age,” Bauer said. “They are sharp and entrepreneurial.” Though Kittrell and Burnette had spent most of their lives here, they had a good sense of what Tallahassee lacked. “We go out and listen to the market. We do a lot of listening,” Kittrell said. Many people in their 20s told him they would like to stay in Tallahassee, but felt there weren’t

W INNING TEAM Burnette and Kittrell rely on a team of seasoned professionals as business partners to make their (investment) dreams a reality. From left: Jamie Langley (Genghis Grill), Marc Bauer (Hotel Duval), Burnette, Kittrell, Richard Wise (Brandt Information Services) and Alex Beltrami (Midtown Filling Station).

“A lot of that stuff we know (about SBA loans) are the keys to the kingdom, so we don’t really give that information out. It has cost us a lot of money to learn those lessons.” Chad Kittrell

enough jobs and entertainment choices. They set out to research other hip boutique hotels, traveling to New York and Miami’s South Beach hotels, especially taking a liking to the sleek Gansevoort Hotel in New York. “A lot of our concept and our vision came from New York.” Catherine Baker, Burnette’s wife, is Hunter & Harp’s in-house interior designer and helped bring that vision to life, selecting the furniture, flooring and lighting. The risk they were taking wasn’t lost on them, Kittrell said. “We were all at a point in our lives, where J.T. and I weren’t married, we didn’t have kids, so if we were going to take a risk like that, we were at a point to take it,” Kittrell said. Two years later, the success of Hotel Duval is undisputed. It has simultaneously become a popular place for visitors to stay, but also a hotspot for locals with its rooftop lounge, ground-floor 850 Business Magazine

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lunch and breakfast bistro and upscale Shula’s 347 restaurant. Thirty percent of the hotel’s guests live within two hours of Tallahassee, and 45 percent of the hotel’s revenue comes from hotel bookings — meaning the majority of Hotel Duval’s income comes from its food and beverage services, Bauer said. The owners of Hunter & Harp are seen as the men with the Midas touch, able to transform buildings or even entire parts of town into something hip and trendy. “Before that project we kind of flew under the radar,” Kittrell said. “We didn’t really want to be out there. And we are still not those type of guys.”

Restaurateurs Hunter & Harp is increasingly moving into the restaurant business. The Winery and Tapas restaurant has been transformed into the Midtown Filling Station. It is run by managing partner Alex Beltrami, who used to own Fusion and Tantra Lounge. Beltrami said he was about to leave Tallahassee and move to Austin when he was persuaded by Kittrell and Burnette to stay and open a new restaurant. The Filling Station became an instant hit, with a garage theme and bar food done in a gourmet style. For instance, they have tater tots smothered in a three-cheese fondue and bacon. “A good CEO can’t wear all the hats and do everything, but they recognize talent and put it in the right spot. It’s been a great relationship,” Beltrami said. Jamie Langley is another restaurateur who ended up in business with Hunter & Harp. The owner of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s franchises in Tallahassee was working on opening a Genghis Grill in Tallahassee last year. Genghis is a restaurant franchise offering build-your-own Mongolian stir fry. Langley was told by his business partners one morning by email that they were not interested in investing in Genghis. Sitting in a hotel room in Clearwater, Langley panicked. He had already told the Genghis Grill headquarters to green-light the project, but he needed more than $1 million to get the Genghis Grill up and running in Tallahassee. He racked his brain to see if he could think of someone with the cash and interest to help him out. He remembered a nice guy named J.T. who used to come to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s on Thomasville Road and shoot the breeze with him about the restaurant business. “I thought, ‘Hell, this guy, maybe he has restaurants that I don’t even know about,’ ” Langley said. “I remembered he had a Hotel Duval hat on and I knew his initials were J.T.” He called Hotel Duval that morning and asked to speak with J.T. Langley spent 10 minutes explaining his dilemma. He told Burnette what the development 34

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costs would be and promised to use his own money first. He was shocked when after only a few minutes Burnette told him: I’m in. Did a stranger just agree to help finance a $1 million project? “I said, ‘Do you understand that this is a big deal?’ and he said, ‘I get it, you just tell me how much stock you want and we’ll take the rest,’ ” Langley said. Later, Burnette told Langley that he agreed to help finance the project, because in his talks with him at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s he had seemed like a nice guy. “We like to identify people with experience and determine what they are qualified to do and enable them to pursue their dreams,” Burnette explained. In that way, Hunter & Harp is closer to a venture capital firm that invests in start-ups.

“We like to identify people with experience and determine what they are qualified to do and enable them to pursue their dreams,” j.t. Burnette “Genghis has gross sales in excess of $4 million,” Burnette said. “Three to four stores will open this year and within a two-year time Genghis will have gross revenues in excess of $10 million.” He said his decision wasn’t based on the Genghis concept. “I only believed in Jamie,” Burnette said.

From Stir Fry to Computers Hunter & Harp has other businesses that most Tallahasseans never interact with. Burnette is also a part-owner in Brandt Information Services, which provides information technology services to governments. For instance, Brandt has found a niche providing labor market research and mobile solutions to the state of Florida and the federal government. Richard Wise, 34, and John Thomas, bought

Brandt Information Services in 2007 from Nolia and Bill Brandt. They now own it in partnership with Burnette and employ more than 100 people. “John Thomas and I are the day-to-day operators and J.T. Burnette is our third partner that helps us at the 30,000-foot level,” Wise said. “He is a great entrepreneur and a great financier …  . J.T. is a guy that has the big idea and understands technology and business and can keep us pushed toward growing and new markets.” Wise said he is impressed with Hunter & Harp’s efforts to revive Tallahassee. “(Hotel Duval) was something the city definitely needed,” Wise said. When he recruits people to come work at Brandt, he said having amenities like Hotel Duval and the Midtown area helps. “Everything we do is about bringing something new to Tallahassee, or something new to the market,” Kittrell said. “If it’s a new experience, people take hold of that.” What Hunter & Harp invest in may seem like a mixed bag, but Burnette said there are lessons learned at each business than can be applied to the other. “I’ve owned over 14 businesses,” Burnette said. “What happens when you own 14 is you get to see this full spectrum across all these different industries and all the similarities.” Though they did not disclose the company’s revenue or profit, it’s clear Kittrell and Burnette have had enormous success. But both take pains to behave modestly. Property records indicate Kittrell doesn’t even own a house. Burnette’s wife is listed as the owner of a home purchased for $1.5 million in 2009. “I’ve never in my life spent more than 10 percent of my income to live off,” Burnette said. When asked why he chose to use his money to make investments, he said the answer was simple. “It doesn’t matter who you are, if it costs you only $100,000 to live, what in the world are you going to do with the rest of it?” Burnette said. “This is what makes the most sense to me — enabling people to meet that goal of ‘We are going to produce something.’ ” To that end, Burnette said they are now working with Florida State University to help them commercialize some of their solar energy technology, a direction he’s excited about taking and the reason for a recent trip to China to conduct research. Kittrell said he appreciates the unique capacity Hunter & Harp has to make Tallahassee a better place to live. “Right now we’ve got a reputation of being the capital, driven by state government and Florida State University and FAMU and TCC,” Kittrell said. “If I had an overall vision, hopefully we build a city that one day can hold the talent that we produce — and that is when the city will grow.” n


Special Report

850 THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Commercial Real Estate

From industrial parks and vacant land to office buildings and retail, we provide a snapshot of what is happening across Northwest Florida — and a glimpse into the future.


COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

The Titanic Turns There are bargains to be found as Northwest Florida’s once-sinking commercial real estate market slowly recovers By Linda kleindienst

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orthwest Florida’s commercial real estate has taken a devastating financial punch the last few years, a victim of the Great Recession and, in some parts of the region, last year’s Gulf oil spill. Many businesses shuttered their doors. Empty offices, retail outlets and restaurants were scattered across the landscape from Pensacola to Monticello. But experts say the times they are now achangin’. This year, as the national and state economies struggle to right themselves, so too is the 850 region’s commercial real estate market. “It’s nowhere near recovery, but it’s headed that way,” said Ed Murray, president and cofounder of Tallahassee-based TALCOR Commercial Real Estate Services and a 27-year veteran of the industry. “It’s substantially better than two years ago.” Companies that have been tightening their belts since the bottom dropped out of the economy are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, said Jim Hizer, president of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “More and more companies, large and small, are considering investments.” Malls are being transformed. Commercial parks are expanding. The surplus of office space

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is beginning to dwindle. Empty apartments are being filled, growing the need for more multifamily dwellings. “Big Box” stores like Walmart and Best Buy are looking for scaled-down properties to expand their presence in new, smaller markets. Out-of-state retailers are again looking to move into growing markets — and property owners are ready to make them a deal. “Landlords are being very aggressive,” said Daniel Wagnon, a shareholder with Structure Commercial Real Estate in Tallahassee. “The deals we’re seeing are (priced up to) 30 percent below 2006 levels.” Change is coming faster in some parts of the region than in others. But the certainty is that the population of Northwest Florida is growing, in some of our counties by double digits. Between 2000 and 2010, Leon County grew by 15 percent, Bay County by nearly 14 percent and Santa Rosa County by 28.6 percent. Those new residents need services and goods. And more will be coming — retiring boomers for certain, as well as thousands connected to changes at local military bases. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Army’s 7th Special Forces are moving to Eglin Air Force Base — a change that by itself is expected to bring about 10,000 troops and dependents into the region. “Eglin is one of two bases getting the F-35 and that’s going to bring a lot of jobs to the area.

850 commercial real estate outlook 2011

We’re already working with several defense contractors who will be moving big numbers of people here when the plane gets here,” said Craig Barrett, CEO of NBI, which has offices in Fort Walton Beach and South Florida and plans to open one soon in Panama City. Meanwhile, he added, prices are just right for savvy investors who have been waiting for this market. “Pricing is at the bottom,” Barrett said. “Right now is the worst time to sell and the best time to buy.”

Capital Region Fishing tournaments for employee’s families. Soapbox derbies. Green technology. Unlimited broadband width. Summit East is a 117-acre high-tech campus in Tallahassee where 27 companies employ up to 550 workers — and that’s just in Phase One, which is now built out. Phase Two’s 60 acres have 15 parcels that will be ready to build this summer. Two parcels were sold even before the launch of a new marketing campaign for the park, which is located east of downtown and has easy access to Interstate 10. “When other parks have 15 percent vacancies, we’re 95 percent leased up,” said George Banks, broker and managing member of Summit Group Commercial Properties. “A lot of it

Photo by  SCOTT HOLSTEIN


COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

M O D EL C I TI Z EN The glossy new corporate headquarters of Tallahassee-based Florida Commerce Credit Union is located near several other midto small-size businesses that are thriving in the vibrant, employeefriendly environment of Summit East, an office park in the Capital City.

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has to do with identifying the businesses you are trying to attract.” The technology alone has helped attract companies like Florida Commerce Credit Union, IBM, URS Engineering, Mainline, Megas Software and United Technologies. While Summit East may have a unique success story, local realtors say that Tallahassee has not been as hard hit on the commercial real estate front as counties to the west. Carlton Dean, managing director for Sperry Van Ness/Southland Commercial Real Estate Advisors in North Florida, said the local market has been partly protected by its universities and public sector jobs. “Tallahassee has few retail properties that are distressed (other than the Tallahassee Mall) ... . Restaurant demand is as strong as it has ever been,” Dean said. “Many of the businesses that are already located here have used this economic downturn as a time to re-evaluate their real estate occupancy costs and take advantage of lower prices by negotiating restructured or new leases.” While a few pockets of retail have held up, like in Midtown, rents in the city’s northeast sector that were averaging as high as $25 per square foot are now down to $15. Many local businesses have used those kind of financial breaks to downsize their office space and save money. “They were happy to get the deal, but that’s not good for the economy,” said Jim Bettinger, managing director and broker of Regional Real Estate Group. “But I think that has stopped. We’re starting to see signs that it’s loosening up. Right now we’re working with users for a total of 55,000 square feet. That’s a good chunk. A couple of (local) businesses are expanding; two are new.” To help the situation, local brokers say the city and county have become more pro-development, helping to fast-track new projects. Said Danny Manausa, a real estate attorney involved in projects from drafting contracts to permit approval: “They finally realized, you grow or you die.”

of the ramp-up in military spending,” said John Paul Somers, a broker who handles commercial and residential real estate from Pensacola to Panama City. “With the massive migration of personnel and their families, you will have friends, high-tech companies, defense contractors (and) people in support functions coming to this area.” The region’s focus on the aerospace and aviation sector because of the military is also expected to help boost the desirability of local commercial and industrial properties. Among the major marketers is The St. Joe Company, which hopes to fill industrial space around the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Bay County with defense-related companies. New low-cost passenger service by Southwest Airlines at the Bay County airport and Vision Airlines at Northwest Florida Regional Airport (Okaloosa County) is another asset local realtors believe will have a positive impact on the local business economy. Not only do the affordable flights open the region to more visitors who otherwise might not have come to the area, giving a boost to the tourist industry, it introduces Northwest Florida to potential entrepreneurs and national companies looking to expand. “The first thing we’re focusing on is site consultants — 70 to 80 percent of all projects come through them,” said Neal Wade, senior vice president of economic development for St. Joe, who is working to market the company’s major commercial real estate project, VentureCrossings, at the airport. “We have found that Northwest Florida is a fairly unknown region, so we are working on them as much as we possibly can. We’ve been a somewhat forgotten area, but I think that’s going to change.” On the retail side, even outlet malls like Silver Sands in Destin experienced some downturn. “We’ve been flat the last couple of years,” said Art Butterfield, vice president of leasing for

Howard Group, which owns Silver Sands and Grand Boulevard. “To be flat is the new up.” While some say they feel like they are turning the Titantic, they are beginning to see some change. Last year Rooms To Go opened a 30,000square-foot showroom in Destin Commons and later this year Lowe’s Home Improvement will open a new 94,000 square foot store there. “We do extensive research before considering any site in any community, and we look at hundreds of factors before making a decision … (including) home ownership in the area, population, access to major roadways … growth in the community,” said Stacey Lentz, a spokesperson for Lowe’s. Silver Sands has 100 designer factory stores with 465,200 feet of retail space — and only an 8 percent vacancy rate. The stores that bounced back the quickest are the ones selling luxury goods because “the people at the top are loosening their purse strings,” Butterfield said. Value retailing, he added, remains fairly strong. Consumers have gotten into the mindset of frugality — and with high gas prices they’ll likely continue looking for bargains. Of course, those looking to sell or lease office and retail space or restaurant locations are also willing to make deals. Rents and sale prices have been cut. Shopping centers are willing to put up better signage or reposition some tenants into more visible locations. Deals are being cut to customize office space for new tenants. David Lee, general manager of Pier Park in Panama City Beach, said he didn’t lower rent, but worked with his tenants to make sure they could pay their bills. “It was in all of our best interests to work through those issues during difficult times,” he said. Pier Park, which opened in 2008 and covers 100 acres between U.S. 98 and Front Beach Road,

image courtesy Ideawörks

Emerald Coast & Bay County The commercial real estate market in Northwest Florida’s coastal communities took a major hit from the recession and oil spill, but improvements and new service at local airports, along with changes at local military bases, may become part of the answer to local prayers for an expedited recovery. “Probably one of the hottest markets in commercial has been Fort Walton Beach … because

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has about 1 million square feet of retail and restaurant space. The occupancy rate is “well above” 95 percent and about half the tenants are local entrepreneurs. “We offer something new,” Lee explained. “We not only have retail, but amusements, restaurants, the beach. It’s a unique overall experience that isn’t offered anywhere else in Northwest Florida.”

Pensacola One of the slowest areas to rebound in the 850 region has been Pensacola, which in March had 10.3 percent unemployment and was one of Northwest Florida’s slowest growing counties over the past decade. What has been selling mostly has been the very low end — property that is distressed, bank-owned land and property people need to turn into cash. “There have been a couple of commercial building starts around here, but two does not make a trend,” said Mike Mangrum, director of commercial real estate for Coldwell Banker in Pensacola. “Residential real estate has begun to rebound, but not so much in commercial.” Leasing is what has sustained the local commercial real estate market in the toughest times, “it’s what has kept a lot of folks alive,” explained Mangrum, chairman of the Pensacola Association of Realtors. Some people who owned had to sell and get into rental or had to downsize, so that kept some deal action going, but not what Mangrum would classify as economic development. Office space remains a soft market — but rates are down, and it’s a good time for businesses to move in. “In the wake of the oil spill, some companies teetered or went out,” said Hizer of the Pensacola Chamber. “We probably hit the high water mark of vacant space last fall, but the market is now recovering. Our tourist numbers have been up four months in a row. In February this year, they were 30 percent higher than February of 2010.” Some new commercial projects are slowly beginning to pop up in the region. A $42 million development, which includes a Hyatt Place hotel and a mix of office and retail, is underway at the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport. The construction is expected to employ 500 people and, on completion, the businesses to be located there are expected to create 235 jobs. And improvement money is being pumped into businesses like the Margaritaville Beach Hotel. In downtown Pensacola, the old sewage treatment plant has finally been torn down to make way for a community Maritime Park and

Harborwalk Village Phase II There’s no doubt that developer Peter Bos of Legendary Inc. is optimistic about the future of the Emerald Coast, and in particular, Destin’s East Pass. “What makes the Gulf Coast unique is the East Pass. We have a lot of beach everywhere, but there is only one East Pass,” he said. This explains his $200 million investment in HarborWalk Village, which includes the Emerald Grande hotel and Destin Harbor-side village with shops, restaurants, condominiums and entertainment. The project is about half finished. Construction on Phase II will begin “when the economy stabilizes and improves,” Bos said. Plans include an additional 100,000 square feet of retail space, for a total of 200,000, and 250 combined hotel/condominium units. No cost estimate is available yet. — Ann McQueen

Santa Rosa Beach’s WalMart Controversy A 76,727-square foot Walmart Supercenter opened on U.S. 98 in Santa Rosa Beach last June, but the project was met with debate. Opponents cited environmental concerns and worries about the impact on small business. Supporters focused on sales tax revenue, job creation and below-market prices for a struggling work force. “I believe our area businesses have expressed mixed feelings through the process of Walmart coming to town. On one hand, many are concerned about commercializing our pristine coast and taking away from our local businesses already established here. On the other hand, many are happy to see the economic development our area is experiencing. In any case, it is here and we are resilient and resourceful residents willing to make the best of this change,” said Kitty Whitney, president and CEO of the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce. The store has hired about 215 associates, 75 percent of whom are new to the company. — Ann McQueen

technology center — something long sought by the local business community. Last year the Chamber launched Vision 2015, an economic development campaign designed to create 3,000 new jobs, and this summer it plans to kick off a major marketing campaign to lure new industry and business. Echoing a theme repeated in other areas of the region, Hizer added, “We need to raise our visibility with the professional site selector community. Northwest Florida has not been on the radar. In the next couple of months we have trips planned to strategic markets like Atlanta, New York City and Chicago to increase our visibility. We’re going to get there.”

Rural Small towns scattered between the cattle ranches, cotton fields and farms of Northwest Florida probably face the biggest challenge when it comes to luring industry and manufacturing plants that will boost their commercial real estate market. Opportunity Florida has won a $23.6 million federal grant to provide a broadband network in eight rural counties — Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington. Many hope the technology boost will encourage the development of more commercial properties. Another glimmer of hope is the project to turn Port St. Joe into a deepwater port that would then encourage more commercial development in the region, especially around the port and at the Port St. Joe Commercial Park. For Jackson County, meanwhile, it was a major victory to win a Love truck stop planned for the interchange at U.S. Highway 231 and I-10. “I hope it will plant the seed at a sleepy intersection,” said Robby Roberts, the former Chamber of Commerce chairman who runs Prudential Jim Roberts Realty in Marianna. To put it mildly, he adds, “It’s been kind of dead.” The county suffered a major blow several years ago when it lost Alliance Laundry, which occupied a still-vacant 284,000-square-foot plant that employed 450. Yet it does have the 75-acre Family Dollar distribution center at I-10 and Green Circle Bio Energy, which built the world’s largest wood pellet plant in Cottondale. “We have the interstate, the rail system, the rivers, the new airport,” Roberts said. “The stars are trying to line up somehow. When they do, there will be great things happening here.” n Writers Jason Dehart and Ann McQueen contributed to this report.

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At the Crossroads Giving Northwest Florida business access to air, sea and land

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ptly named, VentureCrossings is a 1,000-acre commercial real estate project that sits at the hub of a transportation network that can open the world to a business. Under development by The St. Joe Company, it is one of the largest commercial projects in the country and includes plans for office space, retail, restaurants, industrial and manufacturing facilities and warehouses. The big plus? It’s got access to a 10,000-foot runway at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport — and to a nearby seaport, rail lines and a major east-west interstate highway. “This is new space with so much potential,” said Neal Wade, the former head of the Alabama Development Office who last fall joined St. Joe as senior vice president of economic development. “Ten years ago this was only pine trees. It was

By linda kleindienst a white piece of paper and you could do whatever you want — and with a brand new airport. The key part is that it is an international airport, and I believe we’ll soon be having cargo flights from places like Europe and South America.” The first 100-acre phase of the project is where St. Joe plans to build its new corporate offices, having recently relocated its headquarters from Jacksonville to Northwest Florida. The second, 300-acre phase is now being marketed, and Wade believes it will end up being used mostly by companies involved in renewable energy and the aerospace sector. “There are more than 300 aerospace and defense companies in the Northwest Florida region,” Wade said. “The airport and VentureCrossings sits right in the center of the region’s military bases.” The third phase, encompassing 600 acres, will have direct “through the fence” access to the

airport runway. Wade said St. Joe is currently focused on making economic development site consultants aware of the project and the region. With Northwest Florida having suffered tourism setbacks the last two years from the Great Recession and then the BP oil spill, “the economic challenges have forced leaders in a lot of areas to realize that you can’t live on tourism alone. Economic diversity is a very important thing.” This month the company will be talking up its venture at the Paris Air Show and has Asia, Central and South America and Cuba in its sights as areas of opportunity. “We (at St. Joe) have been characterized as the 800-pound gorilla. With that comes responsibility,” Wade said. “Owning about 560,000 acres in this region, we have a responsibility to help grow this economy.” n

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Shovel-Ready Depending on where you go, there is a vacant commercial lot ready for the right owner

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xpanding businesses need room to grow, and new businesses need a place to start. Finding the right spot of commercial land in Northwest Florida takes a savvy developer and a solid business plan, especially in this day and age. “I know that throughout the 16 counties there is vacant, shovel-ready land,” said Cindy Anderson, marketing committee chairwoman of Florida’s Great Northwest, the economic development arm of the Panhandle. “Local economic developers are making a point to ensure that we have product ready for new industries looking to

Photo by  lawrence davidson

By Jason Dehart come into Northwest Florida and for our existing industries that may want to expand.” In Tallahassee, there are 21 sites in the four counties that make up the capital city’s metropolitan statistical area, according to Beth Kirkland, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. According to the EDC, these include the Gretna Industrial Park in Gadsden County, which offers 75 acres of available land just two miles north of Interstate 10. Here, the streets are paved and already hooked up to water, sewer and electrical services. In Leon County, there is the Airport Commerce Center, which also has 75 total acres

and tracts ranging in size from half-acre up to 16 acres. The area is zoned Planned Unit Development, which allows for office, light manufacturing and distribution with quick access to major roads. Also in Leon County is Northwest Passage on the northwest side of Tallahassee with “easy access” to I-10. Kirkland said many incentives, programs and service utilities exist to make these tracts, and others, prime for development. “The EDC will assist companies looking to bring jobs to Florida,” she said, noting that the EDC’s website maintains a list of available properties and acts as sort of an MLS for interested

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

The central location of Grand Boulevard’s Town Center at the entrance of Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort provides a vibrant and creative work environment, strikingly beautiful public spaces and state-of-the-art business amenities. With convenient access to fine restaurants, national retailers, exclusive boutiques, professional services, two Marriott hotels and Publix, Grand Boulevard is a complete destination in itself.

“Our recent relocation to Grand Boulevard has already exceeded our expectations. The Town Center offers our firm an easily accessible, high profile location with a multitude of on-site amenities. When we meet clients, we can walk to a number of great restaurants while continuing the business discussion and not lose momentum.”

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commercial developers. “Around (Tallahassee Regional Airport) there are 1,200 acres of properly zoned land,” Kirkland said. “That is an example of a publicly held opportunity. On the privately held side there are several opportunities that are entitled through the growth management process. We’ve got Summit East preparing its second phase and will allow an additional 800,000 square feet of commercial and light industrial space. Canopy, the (505-acre) Welaunee mixed-use development, is going to be residential, commercial, medical and light industrial.” In Bay County the biggest challenge is lack of appropriate inventory or desirable inventory, said Janet Watermeier, Bay County Economic Development Alliance executive director. She said there currently is a 20-acre “pad” that’s ready for development in the Intermodal Distribution Center, a 250-acre business park owned by Port Panama City. Port Panama City includes the core 138-acre port located on Dyers Point, just off U.S. Highway 98 at the southwestern boundary of Panama City, and the distribution center, about 10 miles to the northeast on U.S. Highway 231. “The utilities and dirt are ready. You just have to put the building on it. It has rail access and it’s on Highway 231, and connected to the port by

“if a company comes with a lot of jobs and has a high wage rate, we can drop the price very low, to (provide incentive for) them to come. Whereas, we don’t have as much flexibility with the private sector.” CINDY ANDERSON, FLORIDA’S GREAT NORTHWEST

that in Santa Rosa County there are three industrial parks, all of which have property owned by the county. These come with pricing guidelines approved by the county leadership, and the county also provides discounts based on factors such as number of employees a company will be needing, the average wage rate they pay and what type of industry it is. “So those are shovel-ready with specific prices,” Anderson said. “The prices vary from $35,000 an acre up to $75,000 an acre, based on the needs of the company looking for property.” In that way, Anderson said, land that is publicly owned has certain advantages over land that’s privately held. “Private property owners are in the land sale business and economic developers are in the job creation business,” she said. “So, if a company comes with a lot of jobs and has a high wage rate, we can drop the price very low, to (provide incentive for) them to come. Whereas, we don’t have as much flexibility with the private sector.” Anderson said Florida’s Great Northwest, long famous for its military-industrial complex, is always looking to attract more of that hightech sector. “We target aerospace and defense across the 16 counties of Northwest Florida as well as

Landmark Center Fort Walton Beach Plans are still underway to build a hotel at the corner of Miracle Strip Parkway and Perry Avenue in downtown Fort Walton Beach. Developers of Landmark Center are ironing out negotiations with possible hotel franchises before finalizing details and beginning construction on the 120,000-square-foot building. The 1.4-acre site is ideal for the three-story hotel with ground-floor retail space, said Gary Wright, a partner in the project. Estimated construction cost ranges from $10 to $12 million. Developers purchased the land for $1.9 million. — Ann McQueen rail,” she said. But there’s more to come in the near future. A parcel of 1,400 acres around the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport will become available once it is permitted and approved in about a year, she said. But until then, nothing can be developed there. “Then there is VentureCrossings at West Bay (site of the planned headquarters for The St. Joe Company), and when that is permitted there will be lots of great industrial and light industrial sites out near the new airport,” Watermeier said. However, Watermeier said there are other challenges facing Bay County, such as the lack of available vacant buildings. She said 80 percent of the inquiries her office receives want an existing building that meets their criteria. And that’s a tough sale in her neck of the woods.

“Most industrial sites either are small or they’re not yet fully entitled. You’d have to get some approvals to put something in the ground. Or, they’re stand-alone pieces and not in a park. That can be difficult for some customers,” she said. Ferd Salomon, a commercial realtor who does business in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, said Santa Rosa County has done a good job of making industrial land available but not so much in Escambia. “They’d like to have more inventory of county-owned industrial property for a commercial park, but it doesn’t have to be smoke stacks. I think there is a lot of promise for that. There is a shortage of publicly-owned industrial property, generally,” Salomon said. Anderson at Florida’s Great Northwest said

renewable energy companies, companies associated with human performance and information technology companies,” she said. “We want to develop a Web-based portal to identify all the available industrial property, private or public.” Helping that along is the fact that the county’s residential and industrial growth rates have gone up, but commercial is still lagging a bit, she said. However, she’s not worried. “According to economists, commercial is always the last to pick up. So we are very optimistic with our other two growing as much as they are. The residential growth rate is 29 percent in Santa Rosa County, and last year was the most fruitful regarding industrial, growth-wise,” Anderson said. Salomon said the biggest challenge in Santa

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Hotel Viridian in Seagrove Beach

850 Special Report

image VIA hotelviridian.com

At the corner of Scenic Highway 30-A and County Road 395 is what George Hartley calls the Boardwalk and Park Place of Walton County. It is also the site of the future Hotel Viridian. When complete, it will consist of a four-story private residence club with a rooftop swimming pool, a restaurant, some retail space and underground parking. The project also includes two home sites across the street that will offer owners more options. Phase I was completed in March and includes the ground floor, which currently houses the hotel’s restaurant. Marketing on Phase II is well underway, and once 80 to 85 percent of the club is under contract, more construction will begin. To date, the project has cost “a bazillion dollars,” laughed Hartley, a partner in the project. “Truly, it has, when you consider the original land cost, the carrying cost of the loan, the architectural and legal fees. We got in at the height of the market.” Despite suggestions to the contrary, he and his partner “held on by their fingernails.” Now, their optimism is as strong as ever. “We will never find an intersection like this again. We will never have this development order for a project like this again,” he said. All in all, he expects the total cost to run approximately $32 million. — Ann McQueen

Rosa and Escambia is the shortage of undeveloped commercial land. “Even if you can find it, developing it is a challenge because financing is a challenge. Banks are tighter, terms are a little tighter, so if you got a solid business plan you can get financing,” he said. “The biggest challenge is (vacant land) and there are so many vacant buildings available that it is cheaper to buy an existing building than buy a tract and build on it. I think in both counties that’s the case — and regionally. People have options, and unless they are really well financed and have a specific purpose in mind it’s cheaper to buy a building and change it.” Art Kimbrough, president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, offered a different analysis for his county, saying now is the time to grab up undeveloped commercial/industrial land because prices are low and sellers are “very eager” to cut a fair deal. And, he added, building and construction prices have stabilized to a point they are competitive. “That’s a prescription for success,” he said. “If a business has the need and the long-term vision and financial ability to do it, now is an excellent time to acquire and ‘build to open,’ or acquire and hold for later use. Either of those scenarios is good. “If there is a motivated buyer, the prices are right,” Kimbrough added. “If you have a highvalue location where the owner has no urgency to sell, then some of those prices are still up there because they believe they will find the right customer to pay for it. Other than that, if it’s not that

kind of property, prices are cheap.” But it’s still not without its challenges, according to Bill Stanton, executive director of the Jackson County Development Council. “The challenge is hundreds and millions of acres of land that doesn’t have access to infrastructure. The first basic is roads. If it’s landlocked you can’t do anything,” he said. However, land that is held in timber has proven to be a moneymaker. Stanton pointed out that Plum Creek, now the largest private landholder in Florida, is purposely buying up tracts of timber whereas The St. Joe Company has been selling off its holdings in recent years. “(Plum Creek) and other companies who are into raw acreage are growing trees, and even trees during the Great Recession are providing income,” he said. “Trees, yellow pine in particular, have been providing income to tree owners in Northwest Florida. This has been traditional because of the price point. Land that is planted in trees prior to the recession was selling for less than $2,000 an acre and as much as $4,000 an acre. Today, that is still selling in that same range. Other land, I don’t care what it is, has been reducing in value.” The income from timberland comes from selling it for lumber or paper, but lately it’s being sold to renewable energy plants like Green Circle Bio Energy, a project that Stanton helped bring to Cottondale. Green Energy takes timber and turns it into wood pellets, which are then used to supplement coal in “co-fired” power plants. n

WHO TO CALL

i-10 EmERalD

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FoRgoTTEN

CAPITAL CORRIDOR Advisors Real Estate Group, LLC | Chris M. Keena (850) 222-2373 ckeena@advisorsrealestate.us advisorsrealestate.us Florida Commerce Credit Union | Sherwood Brown (850) 410-3565 sbrown@floridacommerce.org floridacommerce.org/business_serices The Naumann Group Real Estate Inc. | Brian Messer (850) 325-1681 brian@naumanngroup.com naumanngroup.com/commercial Structure | Stewart Proctor (850) 656-6555 stewart@structureiq.net structureiq.net Summit Group | George Banks (850) 219-5210 george.banks@summitgroupcommercial.com summitgroupcommercial.com

BAY CORRIDOR OASEAS Resorts | Marty McDaniel (850) 249-0275 marty_mcdaniel@oaseasresorts.com oaseasresorts.com

EMERALD COAST CORRIDOR Coldwell Banker | Mike Mangrum (850) 432-5320 mike.mangrum@cbunited.com cbcunitedrealtors.com Gulf Coast Real Estate Group | William J. “Jay” Rish, Jr. (850) 227-5569 jay@floridagulfcoast.com floridagulfcoast.com Howard Group | Dana Hahn (850) 837-1886 dana@howardgrp.com grandboulevard.com John Paul Somers & Company | John Somers (850) 259-9732 jps@jpsomers.com jpsomers.com The Naumann Group Real Estate Inc. | Jason Naumann 850-325-1681 jason@naumanngroup.com naumanngroup.com/commercial Ruckel Properties Inc. | Kelly Murphy Redd 850. 678.2223 kmurphyredd@ruckelproperties.com ruckelproperties.com

FORGOTTEN COAST CORRIDOR The Land Group | Dan Ausley (850) 566-6761 dan@thelandgroup.us thelandgroup.us

I-10 CORRIDOR Florida Commerce Credit Union | Chuck Hudson (850) 573-2100 chudson@floridacommerce.org floridacommerce.org/business_services

SPON SORE D L I ST I NG S

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

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Give Your Business

The Address

It Deserves. 850.385.9010

, CCIM

Providing Commercial Sales and Leasing Experience.

www.BrokerGroupRealty.com Summit East Technology Office Park

LEASING & SALES OF: CLASS “A” COMMERCIAL OFFICE Staybridge Suites Hotel

Phase 2 at Summit East NOW OPEN

2073 Summit Lake Drive Suite 155 Tallahassee, FL 32317

RETAIL/ RESTAURANTS

Bannerman Crossings Retail Center

George Banks 850-219-5210 george.banks@summiteast.com

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

Grand Boulevard

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Work. Stay. Play.

t’s a shopping center. It’s a lifestyle center. It’s an office park — and much more. Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach is one of a kind in Northwest Florida, a commercial property that has it all, from a Publix to a Marriott to a dry cleaner. With bistros, boutiques and a bank in between. Having all this in one place is why accounting firm Carr Riggs & Ingram made the decision to move 50 CPAs into a new office at Grand Boulevard, a location that gives the firm easy access to clients in Destin and Panama City. CRI rents about 13,500 square feet in a space that was built specifically to accommodate the firm and its needs. “There is absolutely no down side to this,” explained Steve Riggs, CRI’s managing partner. “We had at least five viable competitive options,

By linda kleindienst

but we made this decision because it was our best option.” Built by the Howard Group, Grand Boulevard opened about three years ago, just as the economy was starting to go south. But they got creative on pricing and deal structure to keep tenants in their buildings. “There is so much excess inventory on the market that, to be successful, your property has to offer a lot of extras to win out in someone’s decision making,” said Dana Hahn, lease administrator for the Howard Group who focuses on retail. “Grand Boulevard has those extras, from retail to office to restaurants.” The concept has been well received, said Merlin Allan, Howard Group’s vice president of real estate, who handles office leasing.

“I’m getting more and more calls from businesses looking to expand,” he said. (This summer, Charter Capital, a private wealth management company, will move into an expanded 2,500-square-foot office.) “It’s primarily local people, but we’re starting to get some national calls as well.” About 60 percent of the 200,000 square feet of office space has been leased and close to 90 percent of the 850,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space is also occupied. As soon as the economy recovers, more phases of the project will be developed. “What we have here is true Class A office space,” said Hahn. “We have the work, play, stay element. You get a lot more than just office space.” n

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

Enhanced Partnership Saufley Field in Pensacola may see new life as a commerce park By Jason Dehart

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istoric preservation and commerce will blend together when an old Navy airstrip becomes a newage business park in the near future. Saufley Field is an “under-utilized” airstrip, located near the community of Belleview on the northwest side of Pensacola, which consists of about 100 acres of X-shaped airfield and several buildings. But a private-public partnership currently in the works may transform parts of the facility into an office complex with the feel of a college campus. Greg Clauson, commercial advisor for Coldwell Banker Commercial, said the venture is being administered under the Enhanced Use Lease process, which means the government has put it in the public domain to generate revenue. “We are negotiating to lease it from the Navy

for fair market value, under specified terms,” Clauson said. Not all of the facility’s 700,000 square feet of land area will be “developed.” There are four 30,000-square-foot aircraft hangars on site, as well as some desirable environmental features that will be targeted for preservation. “Some of that will be historical and will be maintained,” Clauson explained. “There are some beautiful specimen trees which will be preserved, and a walk-able campus environment will be created. Much like what you’d see at a campus university, but a business campus of some kind, an office park.” The airplane hangars have been there since the 1940s and exhibit architecture that is “absolutely gorgeous,” he said. “We are going to replicate that style in some of the new development and renovation of existing buildings,” Clauson added. “The hangars

for the most part stay as is, not much you can do to a hanger, but some of the other buildings (will be renovated).” The vision of the new park is simple. It involves offering up new executive office suites with all the amenities, such as media room, conference room and all the luxury of a built-out Class “A” office space. “If you were essentially an out-of-town office user you could set up an office here and have a presence in this market,” he said. Negotiations are expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2011. Shortly after the ink is dry, Clauson said final building inspections will be done in preparation for renovation work, but it’s unlikely any brand-new buildings will be constructed. “We probably wouldn’t build a new building … unless we had a tenant who required that,” he said. “We have enough existing space. We have plenty of buildings that (the Navy) is going to be turning over to us.” The working title for the new park will be the Center for Innovation and Technology at Saufley Field. And, in a region consumed by the militaryindustrial complex, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that kind of usage take place at Saufley Field. “Certainly it will have a share of defense contactors, but we will seek synergistic uses that share technologies like information tech, lab sciences and medical technologies,” he said. Meanwhile, the Navy will still retain control over the airfield — although it rarely uses the outlying field. Clauson said he believes the project is in a position to provide a great economic boost to the local economy. “To have this much land and vertical structure in inventory is a very unique opportunity,” he said. “We’ll become the economic driver … and that’s a good thing for the community.” n

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Finding the PERFECT FIT is what we do best!

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

Specializing in:

Æ On-site developer sales and marketing Æ Bulk Sales Æ Commercial Real Estate Æ Residential sales 26

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1953 Thomasville Road, Suite 101

850.325.1681

NaumannGroup.com


COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

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SPONSORED LISTING


850 Special Report

Real Estate Opportunities IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA

CAPITAL CORRIDOR LOCATION

ZONE

DETAILS

PRICE

AMENITIES

CONTACT

WEBSITE

6668 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32309 three miles north of I-10 on the SW corner of Thomasville Road (Hwy. 319) and Bannerman.

Commercial

15,525 SF (smaller units available)

$14.00 Per SF NNN

Open air community shopping center. At signalized intersection. Ample parking!

Brian Messer (850) 933-6587

naumanngroup.com/ commercial

CONTACT

WEBSITE

EMERALD COAST CORRIDOR

Niceville High School

Sims

Parkw

7.15 Acres

ay (H

wy 20

) Palm Blvd. S.

John

Palm Blvd. N.

Swift Creek & Bluewater Bay

Eglin Air Force Base

LOCATION

ZONE

DETAILS

PRICE

AMENITIES

Grand Boulevard Town Center Destin, FL

Class A Office Space

1,000– 70,000 sf Built in 2006

Please call for pricing

4 parking spaces Merlin Allan per 1,000 sf (850) 837-1886

grandboulevard.com

Grand Boulevard Town Center Destin, FL

Retail Space

500– 15,000 sf Built in 2006

Please call for pricing

4 parking spaces Art Butterfield per 1,000 sf (850) 837-1886

grandboulevard.com

Hwy. 20 (John Sims Pkwy.) Across from Niceville High School Niceville, FL

Commercial Land

7.15 Acres

Please call for pricing.

Hwy. 20 frontage near Eglin AFB & Walmart

Dora Cawood dcawood@ ruckel properties. com (850) 678-2223

ruckelproperties.com

813 PLUS Bayshore Drive Niceville, FL

Commercial/ Residential

300' Waterfront .73 + Acres

Please call for pricing.

mixed-use development opportunity

Kelly Murphy-Redd ruckelproperties.com kmurphyredd@ ruckelproperties. com (850) 678-2223

JG Plaza at Uptown Station Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Class-A Office Space

1,200– 9,000 sf Built in 2009

Please call for pricing.

5 parking spaces, per 1,000 sf

John Paul Somers (850) 259-9732

jgplaza.com

Uptown Station Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Retail Space

500– 25,000 sf Renovated in 2005

Please call for pricing.

5 parking spaces, per 1,000 sf

John Paul Somers (850) 259-9732

jgplaza.com

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Real Estate Opportunities IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA

850 Special Report

FORGOTTEN COAST CORRIDOR LOCATION

ZONE

DETAILS

PRICE

AMENITIES

CONTACT

Hwy 98 Port St. Joe

Commercial Building Sites

3 commercial parcels in Port St. Joe

Call for prices

Hwy 98 frontage, all utilities, high visibility

Jay Rish (850) 227-5569 jay@floridagulfcoast.com

WEBSITE

Marina Cove Subdivision, adjacent to PSJ Marina

Commercial retail/ professional building and sites

Commercial Building and lots in Port St. Joe

Call for prices

All utilities, stormwater, parking, ARC

Jay Rish (850) 227-5569 jay@floridagulfcoast.com

LOCATION

ZONE

DETAILS

PRICE

AMENITIES

CONTACT

WEBSITE

Oaseas Professional Center 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard Panama City Beach, Florida 32408

Class-A Office Space

BusinessPRO Agreements and Traditional Leasing

Please call for pricing.

Prime office space with Ocean Views available!!

Karen Duggan (850) 249-0276 Karen_Duggan@ OaseasResorts. com

OaseasProfessionalCenter.com

BAY CORRIDOR

SPON SORE D L I ST I N G S

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President . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brian E. Rowland editor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Linda Kleindienst Creative Director. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lawrence Davidson ART DIRECTOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tisha Keller TRAFFIC COORDINATOR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Caroline Conway

THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA

account executives. . . . . Mary Beth Lovingood, Lori Magee, Dan Parisi, Linda Powell, Rhonda Simmons, Chuck Simpson, Chris St. John contributing writers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jason Dehart, Linda Kleindienst, Ann McQueen

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PHOTO BY SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Cover image of Grand Boulevard at Sandestin © Steven Brooke Studios. Inset images by Scott Holstein and Lawrence Davidson. Reprinted from the June/July 2011 issue of 850 Business Magazine, a publication of Rowland Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved © 2011.


FROM CLASSIC TO CONCEPTUAL. FROM RED HILLS TO BEACHES. We have experts in every field we specialize in:

Commercial / Retail ■ Vacant Land for Commerical or Residential Development Acreage Including Large Recreational ■ Hunting Tracts ■ Plantations Coastal Property and Secondary Homes ■ FDIC Properties and Bank REO Dan Ausley dan@thelandgroup.us (850) 566-6761

253 E. Virginia Street, Suite B Tallahassee, Florida 32301 (850) 702-LAND (5263) thelandgroup.us 850 commercial real estate outlook 2011

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE IN THE (850)

Pictured from (left to right): John Player, Director of Brand Development for Charter Capital; Dana Hahn, Leasing Administrator Howard Group; Steve Bruce Founder and CEO Charter Capital.

Paid Advertisement

Charter Capital expands to new office space in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin® Why choose to be part of the fastest growing office community in Northwest Florida? The central location of Grand Boulevard’s Town Center at the entrance of Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort provides a vibrant and creative work environment, strikingly beautiful public spaces and state-of-theart business amenities. With convenient access to fine restaurants, national retailers, exclusive boutiques, professional services, two Marriott hotels and Publix. Grand Boulevard is a complete destination in itself.

Why did Charter Capital choose to expand their professional office on Grand Boulevard? “We have a growing client base here locally in need of investment management and wealth navigation: Grand Boulevard offers a holistic approach to the work environment and experience that you can’t find anywhere else in Northwest Florida.” — John Player, Director of Brand Development for Charter Capital

town center For leasing information, contact: Merlin Allan, Vice President of Real Estate --- or officeleasing@grandboulevard.com

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Gulf, Franklin + Wakulla Counties

forgotten coast Corridor

A N ATU R A L FI T Her knowledge of workforce development helped Kimberley Moore boost the Wakulla Chamber of Commerce.

The Talent Connection Kimberley Moore has worked to match the needs of local workers and Wakulla businesses by lee gordon

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  e all know someone who works harder, thinks bigger and strives for greatness everyday. Some would call them overachievers. But those who know Kimberly Moore call it more of an expectation. Even at a young age, it was clear that there was something different about her, something that set her apart from everyone else. Many young women spend their adolescence following the latest trends; Moore spent her early years crafting out a roadmap for success. And it’s no coincidence that in August 2005, at the age of 32, she became the first female, first African-American and youngest CEO of WORKFORCE Plus. With the unemployment rate in Florida above 11 percent, it’s up to Moore to play the role of job seeker,

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

SOU N D BY T E S

life coach and sometimes psychologist. Her position at WORKFORCE Plus oversees the counties of Leon, Wakulla and Gadsden, implementing a strategy for folks desperate to get back into the workforce. “As early as 9th grade I set a goal of becoming a CEO,” said Moore. “I recall vividly researching leaders and their thought processes, specifically related to how they created change and served as a positive influence and contributor. In retrospect, I have always been intrigued with the opportunity to serve as a voice for people, causes and issues.” The 39-year-old has helped thousands of people find work over the past decade, and that challenge has brought about additional opportunities. In 2009, Moore was nominated and voted in unanimously to

new hires >> Carol Dixon has joined the Port St. Joe branch of Superior Bank as a financial services representative. >> Keith L. Jones, CPA, of Port St. Joe was recently re-elected Region I representative and reappointed to the Florida Institute of CPA’s Board of Governors for a two-year term. >> Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative has added Lindsay Peak as the new Member Relations specialist and Jim Vickers as Military Affairs liaison. appointed by gov. scott >> James P. Norton, 44, of Port St. Joe, the senior vice president and senior trust officer for Vision Bank, to the District Board of Trustees, Gulf Coast Community College.

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serve as president of the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce. The post, which she held until January, gave her the unique perspective of working on behalf of workers and employers — and helping to foster new businesses in a recessionary economy. “Our workforce system is often viewed as unique based on our primary mission of serving employers and connecting them with the available talent found both in … and outside our region,” said Moore. “By all accounts the two groups are very distinct; however, at the same time what it boils down to is the opportunity to gain greater insight to their combined needs while establishing a nexus for the two coming together. The interaction … creates a win-win system for everyone in that as we learn the hiring needs of a specific employer our system is able to quickly identify a pool of candidates whose skill sets most align with the needs of the employer.” The Chamber job, she added, has given her a stronger appreciation of why the small businesses that make up nearly 80 percent of employers need strong community support to survive and thrive. Another first for Moore: She was the first Wakulla Chamber president not to live in the county. “Wakulla County is not as parochial as people think we are,” said Steve Brown, a former Chamber president and a retired businessman who founded Fortune Group International, a structural systems business. “We recognize that our businesses are all rental related and things that affect business in Tallahassee affect Wakulla. If Kimberley had not been involved locally, she would not have become a member of the Chamber.” Moore’s efforts worked to help bring in more business to Wakulla County while keeping the current business landscape healthy. “The current economic downturn has impacted the level of growth sought in our area much like the other 66 counties that make up the state,” said Moore, who lives in Leon County. “However our efforts to communicate the many assets available in (Wakulla) county have not gone unnoticed. This is due in large part to the focused advocacy created by and through the Chamber’s Government and Commerce Committee. Over the course of last year there were a number of new business start-ups. In terms of existing business, we have worked aggressively to determine the needs of our employers.” One of those new startups is owned by Chuck Robinson, who opened The Works Coworking Café in December and said Moore was a welcoming presence. “We are both very passionate about education and so she immediately jumped at a chance for us to work together on an idea I had involving our high school,” Robinson said. “It quickly made me feel welcomed and included in not only the 68

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Chamber but in the county, something that can be tough for a fledgling business.” The Chamber has established an Education and Resource Committee that focused specifically on providing real-time resources and education to support businesses at no cost. Additionally, formal partnerships were established to provide tools and resources for the existing business community. Among the county’s business development partners: the Florida State University Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, Florida A&M Small Business Development Center and Tallahassee Community College – Wakulla Center.

A Meteoric Rise to the Top Moore began her rise to stardom in Greenville, Fla. She graduated from Madison County High School and holds an Associate of Arts degree from Tallahassee Community College and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Florida State University. In addition, she has an MBA degree from Webster University. Her first job out of college was with the Florida Department of Revenue, where she served as a

850: What are your

key elements for being an effective leader? Lead by example: model the behavior that you would like to see Make sure everybody counts and everybody knows they count Know your objectives and have a plan on how to achieve them Embrace change, as change is inevitable Follow through on commitments, your word is your bond Lead with the planned outcome in mind

revenue specialist in the Child Support Division. From there she entered the workforce development division under the TCC umbrella. Once the school opted not to continue as the provider for workforce services, Moore headed to WORKFORCE Plus. In three years she rose through the ranks, earning the title of Chief Executive Officer and overseeing an $8 million budget. “In essence, living out the American dream of starting with a company and working my way up the career ladder,” she said of her career path. This year marks a decade of service in the

workforce development arena for Moore. It’s a job that isn’t for the faint of heart. Since the recession began in December 2007, there has been a constant demand for the services she and her staff provide. “I firmly believe that leaders and companies are not defined by their actions in good times, but instead when the pressure is on. You must be able to create solutions while at the same time continue to motivate your team/staff to rise to the occasion,” Moore said. As the CEO, Moore is a cheerleader and a window of hope; a tireless advocate to ensure that the outcomes desired are achieved, all the while keeping herself motivated to make a difference in her counties. “I am the first one in my office and the last one to leave because there are so many people depending on our system, and I won’t fail them,” she said.

Taking Wakulla County to New Heights The Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce was a natural fit. Moore’s current job allows her to lead the workforce development charge in Leon, Gadsden and Wakulla County. With the Chamber, she has been responsible for economic development and business expansion solely in Wakulla County. Her experience and understanding of the issues offered a perfect segue for working with the stakeholders in Wakulla County as they fought to bounce back from a very unsteady 2010. As Chamber president, her priorities for the county included establishing a business model for success as the county looks to expand in 2011 and beyond. Her focus was on membership, business retention and economic development, fostering a positive quality of life and providing timely economic and community information.

Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs Jobs in the Sunshine State was a hot button topic on the campaign trail this past November. Gov, Rick Scott pledged 700,000 new jobs in seven years. Moore would love to see that type of success. “I believe that any time a person wants to work and can’t secure employment, there is need for concern,” she said, adding that she is optimistic that Florida will work itself out of the recession over the next few years. “I believe the most important step that must be taken is ensuring that all stakeholders (education, workforce, business, and government) are on the same page. (We need to) create a workforce that is prepared to meet the current and future needs of Florida’s next economy,” Moore said. “Without the alignment or coordination, opportunities will be lost and our recovery period longer.” n


Panama City, Panama City Beach + Bay County

WAT E R S HE D PA RT NE RS HI P Jay Trumbell (left) and Johnny Patronis raise a toast to Econfina Creek, the source of their bottled water.

SOU N D BY T E S

We’ll Drink to That One’s got the water. The other’s got the bottle. A perfect business relationship. by wendy o. dixon

I

t’s no secret Bay County is home to breathtakingly beautiful emerald waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Tourists by the thousands flock to Panama City Beach to bask in the sun and swim in the warm salt water. But most have no idea that less than an hour away, an equally precious treasure hides — the purest spring water in the world. This according to Johnny Patronis, co-owner of Patronis Brothers Enterprises and Gainer Springs, which is part of Econfina Creek in north Bay County. The cascading waterfalls, glorious tree canopies and serene natural beauty make a hidden gem in Youngstown. Brothers Johnny and Jimmy Patronis have been doing business together all their lives — opening the Seven Seas restaurant in 1953, purchasing Gainer Springs in 1957 and opening Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant & Waterfront Market in 1967. While the younger generation of the Patronis family runs Capt. Anderson’s now,

Photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

BAY Corridor

both Johnny and Jimmy are still active in several joint ventures — including the sale of Bay County’s spring water to Culligan Water Services Inc.

A Rare and Precious Resource Econfina Creek was first called “Natural Bridge” for a natural limestone arch that crossed the pristine creek at the mouth of the spring. During the War of 1812, Gen. Andrew Jackson and his army crossed Econfina en route to Pensacola. In 1821, when the territory opened for settlement, one of Jackson’s land surveyors, William Gainer, returned to the sparkling creek and settled there. The Gainer Springs Group, named after William Gainer, is the most significant group of fresh-water producing underground vents located in the middle section of Econfina Creek. They produce 114 million gallons per day, nearly twice the requirement to make

MOVING IN >> Ajax Building Corporation, a Tallahassee-based construction services firm with more than 53 years in business throughout the Southeast, has opened its first office in Northwest Florida. The Panama City Beach location is at 8033 Highway 79. Ajax recently began construction on Northwest Florida State College’s $25.5 million Student Services Building in Niceville. >> Oaseas Resorts has purchased the former Beach Financial Center at the corner of Richard Jackson Boulevard and Middle Beach Road in Panama City Beach and has moved its corporate headquarters there. Local Honors >> Coldwell Banker United, REALTORS®, Gulf Coast Region recently presented awards and certificates to the company’s 2010 Panama City Region top sales associates. International Sterling Society, or top 20 percent of all Coldwell Banker sales associates world-wide: Karen Branham, Panama City Beach; Joan Richard, Lynn Haven. International Diamond Society, the top 15 percent of all Coldwell Banker sales associates world-wide: Jan Lambert, Panama City Beach; Dianne Gatta, Lynn Haven. International Diamond Society Team, the top 21 percent of all sales teams nationally: The Robert Ellis Team consisting of Robert Ellis, Shirlise Hamati, Terry Conzelman and John Conzelman of the Panama City Beach office. The International President’s Circle recognizes the top 8 percent of all Coldwell Banker sales associates worldwide: Linda Daniels, Lynn Haven. Specialty award winners included top listing agents: Linda Daniels, Lynn Haven, and Libby Sipple, Panama City Beach. Top listing team and top customer service team award: The Robert Ellis Team. Something New >> BookIt.com, a Panama City Beach-based online travel agency, is changing the way travelers select and book their vacations, one video at a time. The Word of Mouth program is a review system on the web that features video testimonials from guests as they are vacationing in 50 different locations around the world. Participating hotels say they have experienced a 121% increase in rooms sold and a 141% increase in nights sold. Appointed by Gov. Scott >> Dr. Merle P. Stringer, 68, of Panama City, to the Board of Medicine. He is a neurosurgeon with Brain and Spine Center LLC. >> Joe K. Tannehill Jr. to the District Board of Trustees, Gulf Coast Community College. Tannehill, 43, of Panama City, is the president and chief executive officer of Merrick Industries Inc.

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NATU R E FOR THE MASSES At the Culligan bottling plant in Panama City, Econfina water is trucked in (top, right), filtered, irridated and bottled (below), before being shipped to area Culligan customers.

it a first magnitude spring — one of only five such springs in Northwest Florida and 75 in the country. The creek’s main beneficiaries are the people who drink out of their taps in Bay County. The creek flows into Deer Point Lake Reservoir, which supplies Bay County’s drinking water. Johnny and Jimmy Patronis thought that bottling the creek water for sale to the general public just made good business sense. “When you’ve got a spring, it’s all you ever think about,” Johnny Patronis says. The icy creek’s location is idyllic. Just off State

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Road 20, it’s easily accessible for transportation vehicles that draw the water. And the stream is in a protected area, surrounded by 1,800 acres of Patronis family land and bordered by a little more than 39,000 acres of protected land owned by the Northwest Florida Water Management District. The Patronis brothers are the only ones with an individual water use permit within a mile buffer of Econfina Creek, though there are various users that operate under a general water use permit, such as a number of private residences that fall within the buffer. The seclusion has been a crucial blessing

for the creek, which gets nearly half of its average flow from Floridan Aquifer Springs (water filtered through sand and limestone). The rest comes from rainfall runoff. “One of the biggest threats to the water quality would be the release of nitrates from septic tanks if there was rural lakefront development,” says William Cleckley, the water management district’s director of the Division of Land Management and Acquisition. “We protect the water supply in Bay County by preserving the groundwater recharge area property.” Sandy soil created a perfect environment for the clear spring water, but not for farming. The absence of industrial centers and large farms with dangerous pesticides, combined with the natural addition of beneficial silica beds and limestone that filter nearby shallow sand ponds, provides one of the purest natural spring waters in the world.

A Partnership Emerges Econfina began working with Panama City-based Culligan Water Services Inc. in 2000, bottling the crystal clear spring water in five-gallon jugs, then eventually single serving bottles.


BAY Corridor

Jay N. Trumbull, 50, owns Culligan Water Services and a 15,000-square-foot bottling plant that each month produces 60,000 five-gallon bottles of Econfina water and 120,000 half-liter bottles. Both the Trumbull family and the Patronis family have been friends for generations. Johnny and Jimmy Patronis’ grandfather, Theo Patronis, first settled in Apalachicola, then Quincy, Patmos, Tallahassee and finally Panama City. Meanwhile, Jay Trumbull’s grandfather, Den A. Trumbull, started the Panama City Culligan dealership in 1950. His son, Den Trumbull, Jr., joined the company in 1955, and Jay Trumbull, current president of the company, came on in 1985. Close friends, Den Jr. and Johnny and Jimmy Patronis always talked about bottling the spring water in Econfina, and eventually started the permitting process by hiring a geologist and getting state approval. In addition to Bay County, Culligan, now distributes Econfina water to Fort Walton Beach, Mobile, Ala., Dothan and Tifton, Ga. and, most recently, Tallahassee.

Water is Water, Right? Well, No. Next time you take a sip of water, whether out of

“One of the biggest threats to the water quality [is] the release of nitrates from septic tanks ... We protect the water supply ... by preserving the groundwater recharge area property.” William Cleckley the tap or a bottle, think about the “mouth feel,” a term used by water experts as the primary way to describe the flavor. “Taste is pretty subjective, but you can tell a difference between hard and soft water,” says Kris Barrios, director of the field services section at the water management district. Rainwater is soft because it has no nutrients whereas ground water is hard. Econfina, Barrios explains, is somewhere in the middle. Water is primarily measured by Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), a measure of all the dissolved solids or minerals, including calcium, magnesium and caltrates. The fewer the better. High

levels will affect the taste of water and may also affect toxicity, says James P. McMahon, an ecologist with Sweetwater, LLC based in Brookside, Utah. Generally, a low TDS is considered by some health practitioners to be more hydrating. Purified drinking water like Dasani and Aquafina is not spring water, Trumbull says. “They take water and strip everything out of it to make it taste like Econfina.” What’s so special about Econfina, he says, is its low TDS measure. “Some people think you drink bottled water for the minerals, but you get minerals from food.” The majority of bottled waters do not contain optimal levels of fluoride, according to the American Dental Association, potentially decreasing the decay-preventive effects of optimally fluoridated water. “But the nice thing about Econfina is that it’s naturally slightly fluoridated,” Trumbull says. The tankers extract 6,000 gallons of water at a time and bring it back to the Culligan plant 20 miles away. Then the water is transferred to a 30,000-gallon stainless steel holding tank. From there, the water is pumped through several filters to take out any particles and put through ultraviolet light to kill organisms. But no change is made to the water itself.

The Ebb and Flow of the Bottled Water Business Beginning in the mid-2000s, and until very recently, the bottled water industry grew at close to double-digit percentage rates in both volume and sales, according to the Bottled Water Reporter, a publication produced by New York-based Beverage Marketing Corp., which tracks market trends in the beverage industry. Despite a movement by some environmental groups encouraging people to abandon singleserving water bottles in an effort to reduce the buildup of the plastic containers in landfills, the per capita consumption in the United States increased from 23.2 gallons in 2004 to 29.0 gallons in 2007, then took a slight dip in 2008 and 2009 with a 28.5 gallons and 27.6 gallons per capita consumption, respectively, according to the Reporter. “It’s interesting because the negative of the small bottles is that they live forever in a landfill,” Trumbull says. “So the alternative is to use the five-gallon recyclable bottles. While sales in the smaller bottles has been hurt, the five-gallon sales are starting to take off again.” Patronis says he won’t even think about the creek drying up. He has no worries about running out of supply to keep up with the demand. “We’ve got over 100 million gallons a day coming out of there. We only use 30,000.” n

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Taste of the region Business luncheons. Celebratory dinners. Deal-making cocktails. A sampling of the best fare the region has to offer.

A GUIDE TO FINE DINING IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Magnolia Grill FORT WALTON BEACH

TOM & PEGGY RICE, PROPRIETORS

(850) 302-0266

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Coastal Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa + Walton Counties

EMERALD COAST Corridor

R ENEWABL E PAYO F F The initial investment is steep, but Lamar Advertising’s solar billboards will return energy to the power grid and help the environment.

On Top of Going Green Lamar V.P. Bobby Switzer is leading the outdoor giant into a green future by kimberley yablonski

W

 ho would have thought the flip of a coin would impact future generations in such a way. That is how Lamar Advertising Company began 108 years ago when then Pensacola business partners Charles W. Lamar, Sr., and J.M. Coe decided to dissolve their partnership. Lamar actually lost that coin toss and was “stuck” with the part of the holdings that is, today, one of the country’s largest outdoor advertising companies. Now a public company, Lamar remains a family business under the control of third and fourth generation members of the Lamar and Reilly families. Robert “Bobby” Switzer, the great-grandson of Charles Lamar, Sr., is vice-president of operations and has been with the company for 35 years. He

Photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

started out in 1969 as a high school student, cutting grass underneath the billboards, painting holes, wiring the signs and doing “basically, whatever was asked of me.” When he set off for college, he vowed, “I would never work for the family company.” But, with a laugh, he quickly adds that in 1976, with a degree in zoology from the University of South Florida in hand, he returned to Pensacola and went to work full time at Lamar Advertising. In recent years, Switzer has headed one of Lamar’s biggest projects. The company, under his leadership, has a multidimensional plan to convert approximately 1,370 billboards throughout Florida to renewable energy. The $12.5 million project will place throughout

SOU N D BY T E S Lead News >> Grover Robinson & Associates, Inc., has merged with Coldwell Banker United, REALTORS®, commercial division. Joining the team as broker/associates are Grover Robinson, IV, and Clay Roesch. >> With more than 50 years of real estate law and title insurance experience, Conerly, Bowman & Dykes, LLP, of Destin, has launched Attorneys’ Title to help clients with closings on real estate transactions. >> Kevin D. Bowyer, partner with O’Sullivan Creel, LLP, has been selected to serve on the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Six Pillars Caucus System. He will join the Innovation and Economic Development caucus to help craft the first-ever, statewide strategic plan. >> Kerri Price is the new marketing coordinator for Alys Beach. >> ServisFirst Bank has opened an office in Pensacola, its first location

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EMERALD COAST Corridor the state, with solar and wind power billboards designed to return energy to the electrical grid. The U.S. Department of Energy is providing a $2.5 million grant to the project through the Florida Energy and Climate Commission and the Governor’s Energy Office. And Lamar is funding the remaining $10 million. The project, which targets eight markets from Pensacola to Daytona and Tallahassee to Fort Myers, is expected to be completed by April 2012. The installations will be on billboards along interstates and major roads to give the project the widest public exposure. “While this will eventually be good for Lamar’s bottom line, one of the main reasons we are undertaking this project is to show Floridians that this exact technology can be utilized to convert their homes to renewable energy,” Switzer

converted to renewable energy, we will return an untold amount of renewable, emission-free energy to the power grid while demonstrating in a very graphic manner to the public the payoff that comes with renewable energy. “Second, this is a smart business decision that in the long run will mean significant savings for Lamar while helping to preserve the environment for future generations. The lifespan of these systems allows them to be amortized, giving us a very logical business rationale for incorporating systems such as these on a widespread basis.” Switzer, personally, has also embraced green initiatives. His home and boat are solar powered. And his home has geothermal air conditioning units. “I try to do everything I can to reduce the amount of carbon emissions I use and reduce the power bill,” he said.

photo courtesy sacred heart health system

Even before skyrocketing energy prices, Lamar made changes to transition Lamar Advertising, and the outdoor advertising industry as a whole, to raw materials and products with a lower carbon footprint to decrease energy use and raw materials in manufacturing and to increase recycling of its products. said. “That’s why we are intentionally avoiding unproven technologies or methods. The largescale deployment of hundreds of small systems, like we are undertaking with the conversion of each structure, closely resembles the kind of renewable energy systems available to most homeowners.” This is not Lamar’s first foray into sustainable business practices. Even before skyrocketing energy prices, Lamar made changes to transition Lamar Advertising, and the outdoor advertising industry as a whole, to raw materials and products with a lower carbon footprint to decrease energy use and raw materials in manufacturing and to increase recycling of its products. Lamar prints its billboards on recyclable polyethylene, has been phasing out glue in its poster operations, switched to zero-VOC UV-curable printing inks in lieu of solvent-based inks and installed 26,000 energy-saving lighting fixtures in place of conventional billboard lighting. To make all these changes, the company invested approximately $15 million. “We know the initial investment in initiatives such as these billboard conversions is steep,” said Switzer. “But we are looking for a dual return. First, over the 20- to 25-year life span of the billboards

Switzer’s cousins, Lamar CEO and President Kevin Reilly, Jr., Charles Lamar III and his sister, Mary Lee Lamar Dixon, great-grandchildren of the company’s founder, did own most of the company at one time. Since Lamar went public some years ago those shares have been significantly diluted. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, La., the company’s 3,300 employees are spread out in 150 offices in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Lamar employs about 75 people in four offices across the Panhandle in Panama City, Fort Walton Beach, Tallahassee and Pensacola. In 1999, after the acquisition of Chancellor Media for $1.6 billion, Lamar became the nation’s largest outdoor advertising company, measured by number of displays. In 2005, Lamar generated revenues of more than $1 billion for the first time. Switzer envisions Lamar will remain a familyrun business. “I’m in my 50s and one of my cousins is in his 40s, so we are (going to be) around for a while. Currently, my son is working in the business, and in a few years there may be a few more family members joining. My son is the fifth generation, and hopefully more cousins will come on,” he said. >>

outside Alabama, which will be led by Rex McKinney as president and CEO. Other leaders of the new office include: Thomas “Bo” Carter, chairman of the board; Robert “Bobby” Fair, executive vice president and senior lending officer; Karen Wright, senior vice president-commercial banking; Cathy England, vice president-private banking; Susi Franklin, vice president-banking center administrator; Rick Johnson, vice president-commercial banking; and Portia Kozma, vice president-cash management. >> Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has completed a $6.5 million hotel-wide renovation project, which includes a new beachside restaurant, Barefoot’s Beachside Bar & Grill. The resort has added two new regional sales managers, Terri Marsh and Florencia Shiffer, and a new executive meetings manager, Melissa Weeks. >> Legendary Marine has launched an all-new division, LEGENDARY PERFORMANCE, focused solely on high performance service and repair. Joining the Legendary Marine service team are Scott Childs and Jeff Hopper, who bring 55 years combined experience in high performance service and racing. Both are former employees of Mercury Racing who have hands-on experience working at the famous Lake X and X-Site in Panama City. >> 30A.com has acquired the website domain SouthWalton.com. The URL joins a family of other brands owned by the company, including Grayton.com, 30-A. com, ThirtyA.com, 30Arealestate.com, 30Arentals. com, 30Abeaches.com, CoastalDuneLakes.com, 30Atv.com, 30Anews.com, TheBeachHighway.com and over 150 other domain names related to the region. >> Emerald Coast AdFed is changing its name to AAF Emerald Coast. Hospital News >> Fort Walton Beach Medical Center Acute Inpatient Physical Rehabilitation has been newly accredited as a Stroke Specialty Program, the only program with this accreditation in the area and one of just 20 in Florida. >> Sacred Heart Health System has selected Dana Bledsoe as the president of Sacred Heart Children’s and Women’s Hospital. Bledsoe began her healthcare career as a nurse and has spent the past 19 years bledsoe in leadership roles at pediatric hospitals. >> The Sacred Heart Cancer Center has broken ground on a new building at Mack Bayou Center in Santa Rosa Beach that will house outpatient treatment services and offices for cancer specialists. >> New to Baptist Medical Group: Dana Harrison as finance director, Tim Sweeney as senior financial analyst and Lynn Lambert as accountant. >> Renee Sutton, R.N., has been named as the new director of Baptist Health Care’s Hospital Case Management and Social Services. Other changes: Alicia Snyder has been promoted to executive director of Risk Management and Corporate Compliance; Mike Viola is the new director of Properties and Construction; Marcella Scapecchi is the new manager of the Sterile Processing Department. >> A $5 million expansion of the Gulf Breeze Hospital has added 10,000-square-feet and created several new specialty staff positions. >> Liz Adams, marketing media manager for Baptist Health Care, has been elected as the 2011-2012 Pensacola Young Professionals president. Hong Tran, director of strategic planning, is the new Quality of Life chair.

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CREATING CONNECTIONS WHILE THE TITLE OF THEIR NEW publication was “Unconquered,” the Seminole Boosters were stymied by the challenges of producing a quarterly, glossy, 84-plus-page magazine with just one in-house graphic designer. “We weren’t making deadlines,” said Jerry Kutz, the Boosters’ vice president of marketing and communications. “We’d get bottlenecked.” Kutz said he approached Rowland Publishing in early 2009 because of the company’s reputation for creating quality publications on time. He also appreciated the publishing experience of owner Brian Rowland. “He’s a good consultant who can translate what I want into what I like,” Kutz said. Since the collaboration began, Rowland Publishing has provided project management, design and editorial review services for seven issues of “Unconquered.” In addition to graphic designers refining the magazine’s look, seasoned editors from Rowland were able to make edits to the stories provided by the Boosters’ staff. “They like having that extra set of experienced eyes to look at them,” said Rowland Creative Director Lawrence Davidson. Rowland’s services allow the Boosters to include timely information in their magazine. Most recently, stories about new recruits were included in an issue that went to press just five days after National Signing Day. “When needed, it’s all hands on deck to get the project done,” Kutz said. “Rowland people are easy to work with and they keep you on pace.” “Unconquered” is sent to about 15,000 Seminole Boosters and also is used as a marketing and promotional tool. “The magazine is like having four brochures a year,” Kutz said. “The layout and design is

“Rowland people are easy to work with and they keep you on pace.” Jerry Kutz, Seminole Boosters vice president of marketing and communications

tied to our marketing plan.” ■

At Rowland Publishing, we think one of our best attributes is the innate art to listen, understand and then produce what the client wants. Our creative solutions will showcase your business without straining your budget. Call (850) 878-0554 or visit rowlandpublishing.com today. 76

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EMERALD COAST Corridor Honors and Awards >> The National Association of Federal Credit Unions has named Pen Air Federal Credit Union Chief Financial Officer David Tuyo the 2011 Professional of the Year for credit unions with more than $150 million in assets. >> SunQuest Cruises has been selected as “Best of Wedding Reception Venue for North Florida” by The Knot for its 2011 Best of Weddings – the second consecutive year SunQuest has won this honor. The Knot is a one-stop wedding planning service that offers advice to millions of engaged couples each year. Best of Wedding winners are determined by bride surveys. >> Camp Creek Golf Club — the award-winning Tom Fazio design owned by The St. Joe Company and located in Watersound — debuted at No. 48 on Golf Digest’s 2011-2012 list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses.” >> McDonald, Fleming, Moorhead, Ferguson, Green & De Kozan, LLP, has received the 2011 Friend of University of West Florida Award. The honor is given each year to the person or company that has provided the greatest overall support to and promotion of the university, the alumni association and the more than 65,000 UWF alumni. >> Gulf Power Company’s project to reuse millions of gallons of reclaimed water at its generating plant in Escambia County was named the top project among the 2011 Industry Excellence Award winners from the Southeastern Electric Exchange. >> Members of the Northwest Florida Coast Chapter of FPRA recently won 13 awards in the regional Image Award competition held in conjunction with the Pensacola FPRA Chapter. Winners included: Tracy Louthain with the Beaches of South Walton Tourism Development Council, who received five awards, including the Grand All award for the Council’s Deep Water Horizon initiatives; Nancy Stanley and Valeria Lento with the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort & Spa, who won two awards, including Grande All, for their H-Team communications strategies; Stacey Brady and Angela Triplett with the Howard Group and Grand Boulevard along with Zandra Wolfgram for the Le Grande Cirque campaign; and Andi Mahoney, White Wilson and Emerald Ladies Journal, winning two awards for the Little Black Dress Party and women’s health. Communicators of the year: Kay Phelan of Phelan & Lowry, Ltd., receiving the for-profit award; Marcia Hull, executive director of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, receiving the award for a non-profit organization; and Valeria Lento, communications manager at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort & Spa, who was named crisis communicator of the year. Appointed by Gov. Scott >> To the University of West Florida Board of Trustees: Jayprakash “Jay” Patel, 47, of Pensacola, chairman and chief executive officer of LHS Companies; Susan K. O’Connor, 59, of Gulf Breeze, president of The O’Connor Management Group; Garrett W. Walton, 62, of Pensacola, president of REBUILD Northwest Florida Inc.

business news ? Send your business-related news to 850 Editor, Linda Kleindienst, at editor@850businessmagazine.com. Deadline is the 20th of the month before publication.

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Questions for Bobby Switzer Q: What first drew you to the idea of using renewable energy for your signs? About four years ago, there was a lot of talk about the rising cost of energy and its effects on the environment, such as global warming. At the same time, we were introducing the digital signs that consumed more energy than the regular signs. When you take all those things into consideration — and the fact that the state had a rebate for businesses to put solar on their business — I put all the pieces together with the idea that we needed to do something that would conserve energy and maybe even produce energy to compensate for the new digital signs that were going to be more energy intensive. The state turned me down when I applied for the rebates and when I talked to the governor’s office, they suggested we apply for the grant. I was looking to do a small project and it turned into a huge project. Some of the funds from the federal government are from the stimulus package. I would not have done as big a project, or done it as aggressively, if not for the stimulus money. It helped create the project and the jobs.

“Getting rid of [a] 100-year-old process and using a recyclable product to get all the messages on the board is good for our business.” Q: What has been the best business decision you have made? What I do for the company is run the operations side of things. We create what others in the company sell. We are moving our product to be as sustainable as we can make it. Over the last few years, we moved away from paper and that has probably been the best move. Getting rid of the 100-year-old process and using a recyclable product to get all the messages on the board is good for our business. n

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Northern Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa + Walton Counties and Holmes, Washington, Calhoun, Jackson + Liberty Counties

I-10 Corridor

Angie Hill Does it All A nurse-turned-entrepreneur keeps her Blountstown business thriving by ana goni-lessan ngie Hill owns a Merle Norman franchise. And a boutique. And a party planning service, beauty salon and movie rental store. And all are housed in one 4,100-square-foot storefront. But she didn’t begin her career as an entrepreneur. After graduating from nursing school in 1992, she worked at Calhoun-Liberty Hospital and met her husband, Phillip, who was an emergency medical technician there at the time. After eight years, they decided to quit their jobs and move to Atlanta for a change of pace. There, she worked in a furniture store her father-in-law was opening. The Hills traveled between Atlanta and

Photos by SCOTT holstein

Blountstown for a few years, until Angie Hill’s friends told her of an ad in the paper that said Merle Norman, a beauty supply store in Blountstown on Highway 20, was for sale. “I’d always wanted to own one,” she said. “It was my thing. I love makeup.” The Hills bought the store, financing it with money Phillip Hill had saved by working two paramedic jobs. They had been planning to run the store from Atlanta until plans abruptly changed two weeks after the purchase. She was pregnant. “I didn’t want to raise little kids up there,” she explained. Large cities like Atlanta have their advantages, but living in a small town like

SOU N D BY T E S LOCAL NEWS >> Mowrey Elevator is expanding its corporate headquarters on Lafayette Street in Marianna into a 15,000-square-foot three-story building. In business since 1976, the company has grown to be the largest privately owned elevator manufacturer in the Southeast U.S. The company also has a 300,000 square-foot-manufacturing facility. >> After being shut down for more than a year by fire, the Red Bay Grocery coop on State Road 81 in eastern Walton County is back and open for business. >> Baptist Health Care has named Keith Strickling as the new controller of Atmore and Jay hospitals. He will also be responsible for patient access management and financial services for Atmore Home Health Care.

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Blountstown “is very ideal” for raising children and affords the opportunity to be close to schools, day care, doctors and hospitals, she said. So the couple decided to move back to Blountstown and to start setting up the store. It was a mutual effort by the couple to prepare for their new business venture. She began taking classes at Chipola College’s Cosmetology Program after the birth of her second child and, for the first year, Phillip Hill ran the store. When the salon part of the business first opened, she was the only stylist. But as business took off, she added a stylist each year for the first five years to meet the needs of her growing customer base. Everything was going well until the end of 2009, when the business began to feel the weight of the bad economy. “We felt like we had gotten stagnant,” Angie Hill said. So she and her husband sat down to rethink their game plan. At the time, the Merle Norman Salon & Spa was being operated out of what used to be a family home in a stand-alone location on Highway 20. Because the popular business had outgrown its parking lot, the couple decided to move. Looking back, Phillip Hill believes they should have made the move the year before. “We had just outgrown our building, plain and simple,” he said. The Hills found a good deal on a location in a shopping center off Main Street alongside Harvey’s Supermarket, one of only two grocery stores in town. Traffic count studies provided by the leasing company showed the Hills that the new location would be a great place for them to work in concert with other nearby businesses. The move has proven to be more successful than the couple first hoped. “We have had more business here because we’re networking with other businesses in the shopping center. Here they could be going to get milk and then pop in,” she said. “It was a good move.” Now the Merle Norman Salon & Spa has more space to sell other items — Yankee Candle Company products, gourmet food and handbags are just a few lines the boutique offers. Monogramming is also available for clothing, which Angie Hill contracts out to another local business in Liberty County. Behind the boutique and to the left of the salon is the party area. Three tables with chairs, a couch and a fireplace are set up, divided from the salon by a velvet wallpapered wall. Last December, the business hosted more than 30 people at a party the Calhoun County Clerk of Court gave as a Christmas present for her staff. For almost five hours, Angie Hill and her stylists gave manicures, pedicures, facials and haircuts. Staff parties aren’t her only specialty. She plans

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Angie Hill realizes hers isn’t a typical business. She credits her success to plenty of research and her readiness to fulfill the growing needs of her community. She urges potential business owners to think long and hard about their area and its needs. more children’s parties, evidenced by the glitter makeup and lotion bar in the boutique section of the store. “I started collecting the party dresses about seven years ago on the assumption that we would do the princess parties,” she said of the brightly colored costume dresses that hang on a rack in the back room. But even the new, larger location still couldn’t contain all she wanted to do. After the local Movie Gallery went out of business, she wanted to open a movie rental store of her own. To expand her space in the shopping center, she proposed a trade. Sh0e offered a neighboring business, a children’s consignment store named Pollywogs and Bullfrogs, her old store on

Highway 20. In exchange, she would take over their shopping center space so the Hills wouldn’t have to worry about traveling back and forth from one business to the other. Reel Time Movie Rentals opened in September. “We felt like Blountstown needed a large DVD rental spot and an area people could come to and get on the computer,” Angie Hill said. Besides renting movies, customers can enjoy wireless Internet, coffee and food. An open doorway connects the two businesses between the party planning area of the salon and spa and the movie store. Movies are constantly playing on a big-screen TV, and customers are invited to watch and relax. “And they do. They go over there to watch movies and get coffee or wait for their hair to get washed out,” she said. Angie Hill realizes hers isn’t a typical business. She credits her success to plenty of research and her readiness to fulfill the growing needs of her community. She urges potential business owners to think long and hard about their area and its needs. “Make sure your demographics support whatever business venture you plan on getting into,” she said. She also believes business owners don’t have to own their storefront, and that leasing is a viable option. “When you own your own property, there are surprise expenses,” she said. “With a lease, you know what you’re going to pay and renters don’t have to worry about property taxes or insurance.” Maintenance became an issue at the old location. Phillip Hill was in charge of the upkeep, but with his new job as interim administrator at the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in Blountstown, he didn’t have time to maintain the store like he had in the past. Angie Hill contends the change to leasing has benefited them greatly without a downside. “It’s a win-win situation for us,” she said. In the first nine months, she said her business has had a more than 20 percent increase in revenue. The 2010 holiday opening brought in more money in one day than any other day in the store’s nine-year history. The business has cut down on advertising in the newspaper by 60 percent and focuses primarily on direct mail and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. “If you’re not on FB or tweeting, you’re out of the game,” Phillip Hill said. Angie Hill said she doesn’t know whether to attribute the business success to the new location or to the economy, but she said something has brought about positive energy. “I can feel it here,” she said. n


Bruce Sellers and Paul Watts, COO Electronet Broadband Communications

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3 4 1 1 C a p i t a l M e d i c a l B l v d . Ta l l a h a s s e e , F L | 2 2 2 . 0 2 2 9 | w w w. e l e c t r o n e t . n e t 850 Business Magazine

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The Last Word

After dozens of conversations with real estate experts across the 850, we have put together a snapshot of what is happening, from Tallahassee to Pensacola. John Paul Somers of Destin may have summed it up best when he told me, “I’ve had great days and dark and gloomy days. (But) those who have capital to commit are saying … the fundamentals of this market are strong enough and they feel like we’re going to slowly rebuild from here.” So, in the end, the news was not all bad. We may not be totally out of the woods yet. And by no means will we be returning to our boom years in the very near future. But the black cloud that has been hanging over us — economic misery brought on by the Great Recession and then exacerbated by the Gulf oil spill — definitely appears to be lifting. And so, after all the reporting was done, I can honestly report that I let out a sigh of relief. Admittedly, in some places the activity is stagnant. But there are many areas where there are rays of sunshine peeking out. For instance: >> T  hey recently broke ground in Panama City Beach’s Pier Park for a new, 26,000-square-foot Marshalls. And it will be open by Christmas. >> T  wo new Super Walmarts are heading into the Emerald Coast— and the people who made the decision to put them there say they took a lot into consideration before giving the go-head, including the area’s population and its growth potential. >> I n Tallahassee, new multi-family projects are being developed around the universities. As J.R. Long of Structure Commercial Real Estate in Tallahassee so aptly points out, “As the economy suffers, people go back to school.” That, in turn, leads to a demand for housing. And retail is doing pretty well around the schools too.

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Where the banks aren’t willing to front the money, private equity groups are stepping up to the plate and taking financial positions in new projects. These are the folks who have been sitting on the sidelines, cash in their pockets, waiting for property prices to fall low enough so they know there will be a good return on their investment. “Between 2005 and 2007, we had amateur investors who were flipping. We talked a lot of people out of buying. Banks were loaning money on properties where it didn’t make sense,” Craig Barrett, CEO of NBI in Fort Walton Beach, told me. “Now we’re selling to savvy investors. I’ve seen them buy stuff for 10-cents on the dollar.” Make no mistake, Northwest Florida will indeed recover. That goes for the housing market, the commercial real estate market, the tourism economy — and the myriad ongoing economic development efforts by our cities and counties. Sure there are going to be blips. But this region has great potential. Land is affordable. It’s doesn’t have the congestion that has plagued most of South and Central Florida. Natural resources abound — from our lakes, beaches and forests to our fishing and hunting and multitude of recreational opportunities. If you’re a business looking to expand and you’ve just experienced the northern winter of 2010–2011 — don’t you think that looking to the south is an option? Some of our counties grew by double digits between 2000 and 2010 — despite two devastating back-to-back hurricane seasons smack in the middle of that time period. Our growth has been fueled by growth in the military and an influx of retirees (including lots of military). We’ve had more aerospace and defense companies opening shop here. We have a proliferation of fairly low cost land available for distribution centers, manufacturing and industrial sites — as well as housing. If we play our cards right, we can get a boost from the expansion of the Panama Canal and the fact we have a new international airport in our midst. On top of that? We don’t have a personal income tax, and the state’s political leaders are working to whittle down the corporate income tax. Keep your chin up, Northwest Florida. Good things are on the horizon.

LINDA KLEINDIENST, EDITOR lkleindienst@rowlandpublishing.com

photo by scott holstein

When we embarked on this month’s special report about the state of commercial real estate in Northwest Florida, I approached the project with trepidation. My initial thought: The last thing business leaders in our region need to hear right now is more bad news.



2011 June-July Issue of 850 Business Magazine