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STOUT BUSINESS CLIMATE Florida’s capital, thirsty for quality experiences, is fertile ground for entrepreneurial ambitions


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Planners see Tallahassee’s “Arena District” as well suited for projects that would increase the city’s capacity to host large conferences.


Startups are taking root, expanding operations, adding employees and bolstering the local economy.




initial investments in struggling neighborhoods, agency succeeds in spurring private-sector activity.


Florida’s executive director of the Department of Economic Activity helps businesses recover from punishing storms.


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16 R EAL ESTATE MARKET 26 F SU ARENA Land costs are high, making it difficult for builders to meet the demand for houses that middle-income earners can afford.


expansion of campus may be the future home of hotel, conference center and a new college.


PROJECT The road from Tallahassee’s airport to downtown will route new arrivals to town past impressive community assets.


Hospital, under the leadership of a new CEO, plans to open two emergency facilities in the year ahead.



Promoters of Tallahassee emphasize its high quality of life, schools and universities and highly trained human capital.


With the arrival of the M.T. Mustian Surgery Center, TMH will join an elite group of world-class hospitals.

41 J IM MORAN SCHOOL Entering its second year, the school is churning out a singularly dynamic and ambitious product: entrepreneurs.


SOMO By repurposing existing structures, investors along South Monroe Street are seeing to the neighborhood’s revitalization.

ON THE COVER: For the Ross family of Tallahassee, life revolves around beer, but in a good way. Family members including, from left, Jesse, Connor, Laura and Jordan form the nucleus of Lake Tribe Brewing. PHOTO BY DAVE BARFIELD

2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 3

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Entrepreneurs draw upon experience of others BY PETE REINWALD

EDITOR’S NOTE: Business incubation is a significant factor in job growth in and around Tallahassee. Following, we profile three businesses that benefitted from local entrepreneurial expertise and encouragement made available by Domi Station at critical stages in their development. Domi is a nonprofit startup incubator and co-working space offering programs, resources and events that help entrepreneurs start and scale sustainable companies.

A Socially conscious DivvyUp has contributed socks to homeless shelters in 26 states. Customers dictate designs by choosing a template and uploading a photo of a pet or loved one. 6 / 2019 TA L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

trip to a Tallahassee homeless shelter has spawned tens of thousands of socks and a business with sole. DivvyUp, the product of an effort to do good, hardly takes the competition in stride. In less than five years, it has gone national. “Our vision is to be the No. 1 custom-sock company,” said Jason McIntosh, a company co-founder along with Mitch Nelson and Spencer Bluni. DivvyUp calls itself an ondemand custom-sock company. You choose an online template, upload a photo of a loved one

or a pet — and, boom, you have bounce in your step because you have caused a new, specialized pair to be sent to a local homeless shelter. That’s the result of the company’s giving component. Customers usually receive their orders within about 10 days, the company said. In early August, prices started at $24 a pair. “We have a focus on custom pet socks,” McIntosh said. “Put your dog on socks, put your cat on socks. Our goal is to expand to anything you can imagine.”


MODELING WHAT THEY MAKE: (left to right) Spencer Bluni, Jason McIntosh and Mitch Nelson of DivvyUp socks enjoyed some down time at the business incubator Domi Station. DivvyUp contributes a pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair purchased.

Buyers can imagine. “These socks with my toddler’s face were a huge hit for Father’s Day,” Julie Shackleton of San Francisco wrote on the company’s Facebook page. “They bring a laugh every time my husband wears them.” DivvyUp got its start in early 2014 in Florida State University’s entrepreneurship progam. The company recalled it this way: A class project required students to get into groups and start a small business. A group that included McIntosh and

Nelson focused on starting a venture that would help the community. The group struggled with its first idea and eventually found its way to a homeless shelter, since demolished, on West Tennessee Street. “We simply asked the receptionist, ‘What can we do to help?’   ” McIntosh said. The receptionist’s response: Homeless clients need clean socks, which people tend not to donate. The students got a $400 loan from their professor and bought what they called “fun socks” to

sell. For every pair they sold, a pair would go to the mission. Within about six weeks, they gave 160 pairs of socks to the shelter. “They’ve always been very kind and generous,” said Susan Fiorito, director of Florida State’s Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. “I hope they have a world of success.” In working to gain traction, DivvyUp took full advantage of educational resources, mentors and connections at Domi Station, said the incubator’s executive director, Antonio Montoya.

“After pivoting their business model several times, DivvyUp hit an untapped market in 2017 and grew exponentially, selling over 200,000 pairs of socks worldwide and gifting another 200,000,” Montoya said. “DivvyUp clearly demonstrates the success that is possible by playing the long game. Now, it hopes that its model will be replicated by others who will benefit from their entrepreneurial experience in creating more success stories.” The company says it worked with leaders in the homeless community to create a sock that includes, among other features, dark materials to hide wear and antimicrobial treatment to prevent infection. DivvyUp has donated socks to shelters in 23 states, including 11 in Florida. Sara Jean Hargis of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition said most coalition partners suffer from severe funding shortages, and their clients appreciate the DivvyUp donations. “We really enjoy objects like this that are super practical,” she said. DivvyUp now has its own 17,000-sqare-foot production facility, which employed 26 people this past summer. That number may triple this holiday season, McIntosh said. DivvyUp emphasized its commitment to giving away a pair of socks for every pair it sells but said it has shifted its marketing approach. “We thought we should be offering customers true value,” McIntosh said. “We stopped leading with the giving and started leading with the value proposition. It allows us to do good behind the scenes.”

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A beer brand that trumpets American Indian themes believes it’s blossoming in a city that cherishes its Seminoles. Tallahassee’s Lake Tribe Brewing prods you to “Find Your Native Spirit” through offerings such as Long Paddle lager, Old Chief IPA and Pow Wow Session IPA. Its logo flaunts a flame, and its Facebook page encourages visitors to “Join the Tribe.” Yet the company’s founders said they never sought to seize a Florida State University-related opportunity. “That wasn’t our intention when coming up with the brand,” co-founder Jason Ross said. The company’s name and theme instead stem from the founding family’s experiences from years of camping with other families as part of the YMCA’s old Indian Guides — now Adventure Guides — program. The camping group called itself Lake Tribe, and it continues to get together, sharing an appreciation for good beer and the great outdoors, the company said. “It’s just a unique experience,” Ross said of entrepreneurship and the business. “It’s almost like a counterculture to the fastpaced lifestyle and bringing it back to enjoyable beer and

the amazing ingredients that you can try with beer and the amazing flavors. It’s all about restraint and enjoying things.” Jesse Ross, Jason’s brother, said he and his brother and father consider themselves especially big fans of beer and craft breweries. During a visit to a brewery around 2010, he said, “My brother and I started thinking, ‘Why not us?’  ” They brewed a batch, liked what they tasted and, about four years ago, started Lake Tribe Brewing Co. Jesse is president and chief brewer, Jason head of marketing and Connor, their father, head of operations. Lake Tribe, which employs about 10 people, joins a growing Tallahassee craft beer industry that also includes Deep Brewing Co., GrassLands Brewing Co., Ology Brewing Co. and Proof Brewing Co. The company insists it doesn’t see the others as competitors, emphasizing that fellow brewers tend to help rather than hurt each other. “I think it’s very much a camaraderie,” Jason Ross said. “We go to their events, and they go to ours. I think it’s the concept that the rising tide raises all ships.” Lake Tribe believes that its Native/natural theme raises all sips. In a salute to their father, the company created Red Cloud

8 / 2019 TA L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

STEPPING UP: Lake Tribe Brewing began by crafting a beer named with a nod to Connor Ross, its president of operations, in the foreground in photo. It has now produced 50 recipes. Top row, left to right: president and chief brewer Jesse Ross, operations manager and brewer Tyler Yorski and Jordan Ross.

IPA. Connor Ross had gone by “Red Cloud” in the YMCA Indian Guides program. “That was the very first beer that we brewed,” said Jesse Ross, who noted his and his father’s appreciation for IPAs. “It kind of naturally came out with a red hue and a little cloudiness. It kind of feels and smells like you’re walking though the woods.” The company says it has generated about 50 beer recipes and keeps 10 to 14 on tap. It began canning this past summer, beginning with Red Cloud IPA and Beckster’s Satsuma wheat ale, which it touts to include “locally grown Satsuma oranges.” Its brewery, near Capital Circle Northwest, includes a colorful,

high-ceiling taproom, where customers can watch sports programming projected on a wall. The site also features a woodsy seating area that includes new picnic tables, a bean-bag game area and space for a band; Lake Tribe often features live music on Fridays or Saturdays to accompany taproom hours on those days. The company recently decided to expand taproom hours to Thursdays. Along with the other Tallahassee breweries, Lake Tribe aims to keep them coming. “In our region, we’re just having fun teaching people about craft beer,” Jason Ross said. “I think we’re just starting to see what it can be, how much beer there is to go around.”



Our thoughts and prayers for a swift and complete recovery are with our friends, neighbors, and customers in Florida’s Panhandle.

Please join Universal Engineering Sciences, Inc. in making a donation to the organization of your choice that is providing aid to those affected by Hurricane Michael.

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They stood out, plane and simple. Around 2009, Faith Drewry and Lacey Smith showed up separately at a Tallahassee aviation event and noticed they were on the only women in the room. “And probably the only people under the age of 55,” Drewry said. They sat down together, quickly became friends and within about three years started a business, which the two pilots said has really taken off. Their FL Aviation Center flight school, at Tallahassee International Airport, boasts a fleet of six planes, a staff of 12

and a course or program for virtually every level of piloting. It also recently received regional recognition from a national pilots association. And while you might discern “Florida” from the FL, the company founders confided, “It’s Faith and Lacey,” Smith said. “It’s our inside joke.” Drewry and Smith have built their business as trailblazers with altitude. Citing 2017 data, the Federal Aviation Administration reports that women make up 7 percent of pilots in the U.S. and 6.4 percent of commercial pilots in the country. Reporting to Drewry, 40, and Smith, 39, is a team of



TAKING OFF: The FL Aviation Center, a flight school begun by Lacey Smith, left, and Faith Drewry, has been named the best such school in the Southeast, based on survey results reviewed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Since we opened our doors in 2014 we have helped


“At a time when we were just broke college kids with an idea, Domi provided a home and ecosystem that encouraged us to keep pushing forward. Thanks to the mentorship, community, and entrepreneurial spirit we discovered at Domi Station, DivvyUp now employs over 75 people and has gifted over 200,000 pairs of socks.”

Support our


D O M I S TAT I O N . C O M / D O M I 1 0 X

10 / 2019 TA L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L


seasoned flight instructors, all but one of them male, including one who has been a pilot since the 1960s. The company recently hired a woman instructor. “We’re just following our passion,” Drewry said. But “we’re always happy and excited to hear we’ve been lucky enough to inspire another woman to follow her dreams. “Young girls don’t think of it as a career option because they don’t see other women doing it. When they see a role model, another woman doing it, then it becomes a viable option.” FL Aviation Center offers courses and certification training toward, among other things, becoming a private pilot, a commercial pilot, a professional pilot or a flight instructor. The professional pilot program trains for private, instrument and commercial pilot’s licenses. The company also offers courses for the curious, even the nervous.

A $200 “discovery flight” pledges to teach a student to “execute a perfect takeoff, with little help,” to undergo climbs, descents and turns and to “follow your instructor through a smooth landing,” the school’s website says. A “fearful flyer” course puts the student at a simulator rather than in the sky. Students include younger people pursuing a career in aviation, business owners aiming to better reach their customers and “empty nesters fulfilling a lifelong dream,” Drewry said. “The one thing they all have in common is a passion for flying.” Drewry said her passion started early, following that of an aunt who was a pilot. She said she started flight training when she was 14 and got her pilot’s license at 19. Practicality drove Smith’s interest. As a horse trainer, she said, she pondered the time it was

taking her to reach customers scattered far and wide. “I figured it would be a lot faster to get to my clients if I could just fly,” she said. When they met about 10 years ago at the Tallahassee aviation event, Drewry offered to help Smith work on getting her license as she continued her own training, Drewry said. In 2012, they decided to buy a plane, a 1974 Piper Warrior, a four-seat, four-cylinder aircraft that you might find available today for about $40,000. Within months, they started the flight school. The school boasts that it offers many of the same features of other Florida flight schools without as much congestion. Nate Soucia, 32, said he has been training at FL Aviation Center since 2016. A part-time job as a dispatcher there allows him to pursue his certification full time, he said.

“I always wanted to fly,” he said. “It was something that I wanted to pursue and never thought I would be able to afford. But when I pursued it, I found that, ‘Wow, this is more affordable than I thought. This is something I could do.’  ” FL Aviation Center’s privatepilot program generally costs about $11,000 but can cost as low as $9,000, the company said. Drewry said a private pilot’s license typically requires 50 to 55 hours in an airplane with an instructor. Their company is getting attention. Based on a survey of students’ flight-training experience, the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association last year awarded FL Aviation Center as Best Flight School in the Southeast. “Our goal is to be the best in the country,” Drewry said, that is, “to really raise the bar” in aviation education.




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REVITALIZING NEIGHBORHOODS CRA projects lead to private investment




hat a difference 20 years — and $38.7 million in targeted investments — make. Cascades Park was an EPA superfund project, site of a toxic cocktail of coal tar left from the old city coal gasification plant mixed with leaked fuel from an old boat shop. Gaines Street was a “wasteland,” as City Commissioner Curtis Richardson puts it — a brownfield contaminated by old gas stations and a dry cleaner. Today, Cascades is a civic ornament. Quibbles over the aesthetic choices made by Gaines Street developers aside, the revamped thoroughfare is a major economic driver for Tallahassee and Leon County. These projects — and scores of additional street lighting, road and landscaping schemes, refreshed store facades and affordable housing — happened due to investments made by the Tallahassee and Leon County community redevelopment agency, or CRA. The agency oversees two redevelopment districts encompassing downtown Tallahassee, plus Frenchtown and the Southside. More than $15 million has gone to downtown projects and nearly $23.7 million into Southside-Frenchtown. Well documented is the fact that officials involved with the agency, including City Commissioner Scott Maddox, have been targeted by an FBI corruption investigation. Maddox declined to discuss the probe during an interview in his City Hall office. But there’s a larger question: Is the community better for the CRA’s existence? City and county elected officials insist the answer is yes. “The CRA has, without question, been a success. Both CRAs. Without question,” Maddox said in an interview. “When you look at the boost to our tax revenue, when you look at the eradication of blight and the redevelopment that has been spurred by the CRA, it has been an unmitigated success. “The question is, where do we go from here?” The city and county got together in 1998 to organize the CRA, and stood up the redevelopment zones during the subsequent few years. It operates under state legislation

Rendering depicts Cascades project in the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Downtown District. The project is the CRA’s most ambitious and complex to date.

intended to help local officials fight blight and slum conditions. The agencies invest in redevelopment, then capture tax receipts resulting from any subsequent increase in property values to finance additional projects. The initial city-county negotiations grew testy at times, Leon County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley recalled. Back then, she was the editorial page editor of the Tallahassee Democrat. “Who’s going to get cheated? How are we going to make this fair?” Lindley said, summarizing the disagreement. In the end, officials concluded that “the county stands to benefit when property values throughout the county are increased,” she said. “Then there’s just the general economic interest. CRA projects and county capital improvement projects really carried this county through the recession, because we were putting people to work on these jobs — government infrastructure.” Newcomers would be astonished by the differences between pre- and post-CRA Tallahassee. Downtown, for example, “most business had been moved out. There was Andrew’s, there were a few businesses, but a lot of the downtown buildings were empty,” Lindley said.

“Little by little over the past 20 years, all kinds of lobbyist groups and statewide associations moved in,” Lindley pointed out. “It’s not blighted down there anymore. There’s a building boom. Private folks are filling it with or without the help of the CRA.” For example, the CRA put money into a Tennessee and Monroe streets property that had been the site of a filling station. Standing there now is an office-retail building in which the Morgan & Morgan law firm maintains its Tallahassee office. “It’s a lot better than an old, abandoned gas station.” Lindley said. In all, the CRA has invested nearly $7.7 million in seven downtown projects, leveraging $168 million in private money, and realized an increase in property values of nearly $110 million through January 2016. “This is one of the best measures of a CRA’s effectiveness,” CRA director Roxanne Manning said via email. “But this single measure does not take into consideration the jobs and other tax revenues that are generated by these projects.” Now in the works, with CRA support, is the $100 million Washington Square project, a hotel-office-entertainment complex that will rise to 19 stories, and a $159 million 2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 13

WASTELAND TRANSFORMED: Landscaping improvements along Gaines Street represent an investment of Community Redevelopment Agency dollars.

mixed-use development by North American Properties going in on East Gaines Street. That last project — lamented by some for sacrificing historic structures and oak trees — is projected to infuse more than $350 million into the city economy, including nearly 700 permanent jobs. Large projects like these are necessary early in the life of a CRA to spin off tax takings to finance additional investments. “We are now able to reshape our programs to focus more on community and small-business incentives,” Manning said. Then there’s West Gaines Street, within the Southside zone. “Infrastructure, sidewalks, lighting, underground utilities, different kinds of landscaping amenities — all those palm trees and stuff down the middle of Gaines? That’s CRA money,” Lindley said. “It went from having low use — a lot of dumpy old buildings. All of a sudden, it’s got all this high-end real estate. We’ve seen more than a 100 percent increase in property tax revenues. A portion of that goes back into the Southside-Frenchtown CRA.” Richardson, himself a Southside resident, argued the investment has “done an excellent job.” “Particularly in the Gaines Street area,” he said. “That strip was a wasteland at one point. If you look at it now, a lot of that development was spurred by CRA investments in road improvements, water and wastewater, drainage improvements and sidewalks. Private sector investment in that area probably would not have occurred without that initial public investment through the CRA.” 14 / 2019 TA L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

One of Richardson’s first acts after joining the commission in 2014 — following service on the Leon County School Board and as a legislator — was to press for expansion of the Southside zone to include more of the Bond community and South City. “It took four years to accomplish that. But eventually, partly spurred by the success we achieved with the Downtown CRA and the Gaines Street area and also by this CRA investigation, we have turned our attention almost exclusively to the Frenchtown and Southside communities,” he said. In fact, the County Commission withdrew from the downtown CRA in August — which, in any event, is scheduled to sunset in 2030. However, the county remains committed to the Southside-Frenchtown district, agreeing to extend its life for eight years. Southside projects have included business improvement grants to Proof Brewing, in Railroad Square ($50,000), and Earley’s Kitchen ($29,000) in the South MonroeAdams corridor, among many others. In Frenchtown, the CRAs invested nearly $360,000 to redevelop the old Round Holiday Inn into the Four Points by Sheraton, and nearly $400,000 to buy a property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to house the farmer’s market, to name two examples. The agencies have plowed more than $100,000 into facade improvements in Frenchtown and Southside. These investments can pit one neighborhood against another and raise gentrification scares, according to Lindley. “That makes it messy. And then people say, ‘We need it in the general fund. Why are you so concerned about that downtown? Downtown’s doing just fine.’ “Well, that’s true — it is now doing just fine. Partly because of the CRA. But most people don’t have this history, and they don’t look back on it like that. They just think, ‘There the politicians go again, giving money to their favorite people.’ It’s really easy to write it off as money grabs, self-dealing — that most taxpayers aren’t benefiting.” Then there are the purely private investments spurred by the public commitments. For example, The Standard — a luxury student apartment complex on Virginia Street — relied entirely on private money, Richardson said. He feels officials can mitigate any drift toward displacement of longtime residents. He pointed to the redevelopment of the outdated Orange Avenue Apartments, which promises to “transform the Southside of Tallahassee.” The multi-year project will see the existing

structures torn down and replaced by a mixedincome, walkable neighborhood. “Not putting all low-income people together in one area, but that it will be seniorcitizen housing and low-income housing, but also market rate housing,” Richardson said. Officials are working on a redevelopment plan for Bond right now. “So many of those neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks or adequate lighting. Those are the kinds of issues we’ll be developing,” Richardson said. “Without the CRA, we would address those issues, but it would take much longer. Because we would have to build up our funding for those projects. Where we can get it done in five or 10 years now, it could be 40 or 50 years if we had to identify and complete those projects on a priority basis.” Maddox,who served on the City Commission from 1993 to 2003, was the city’s first elected mayor and returned to the commission in 2012, was an early supporter of the CRA but laments what he called “mission creep” — especially contributions to community festivals and other cultural projects. “I support infrastructure improvements with the CRA. I don’t support festivals, I don’t support interior renovations. I support facade grants, exterior and infrastructure, and with rare exception that’s all I’ve voted for,” Maddox said. “When the CRA spends $200,000 on interior renovations for a Piggly Wiggly, it is not unforeseeable that a Winn-Dixie that’s a block-and-a-half away goes out of business six months later.” (Which happened to Winn-Dixie’s Southside store last summer.) As for the future, Maddox suggested West Tennessee Street could benefit by the same traffic-calming features installed on Gaines Street — fewer traffic lanes with a median, bike paths, angle parking, pedestrian crossing signals, store fronts directly against the sidewalk. “We could make infrastructure improvements there that would be significant. That’s a gateway into our city. It’s equidistant between the downtown area and Florida State University. There’s a lot of potential to it,” he said. It might even help resurrect the Frenchtown of old — with jazz clubs, shops and homes all within walking distance. “Gentrification started a long time ago, and yes, it is a problem,” Maddox said. “That’s part of what the CRA does — the new urbanism of allowing people to live and work by making smart decisions.”




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Canopy, a Premier Fine Homes development, is designed to help meet a spiking demand for homes that middle-income earners can afford.


Housing market has some catching up to do


xperts characterize Tallahassee’s real estate market as challenging and warn it will take creative thinking to meet residents’ future housing needs. Florida’s capital city has experienced phenomenal growth over the last three decades. And given its beautiful live oakflanked canopy roads, universities, an internationally renowned magnetic lab and its status as a center of government, that growth is likely to continue. The real estate market is not keeping pace with the demand for affordable housing, however, and that is a trend that also will likely continue. Bill Wilson, president of Graceful Solutions, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing, said when people think of affordable housing, they often think of the very poor, unemployed or indigent. But there is a another group of people in need of “affordable housing” who are fully employed and making decent incomes. “A single adult in Leon County must earn $20,700 per year to cover the basic costs of living — housing, food, transportation, health care,” Wilson said. “For a family of two adults, one infant and a preschooler, the basic cost of living jumps to $52,250 a year. Forty-one percent of our neighbors — even those working full time or working multiple jobs — don’t earn enough to cover their basic needs.” Many Tallahasseeans are public employees.

While some local real estate experts believe home values could double in less than 10 years, there is no expectation that their wages will double in that same time. Jason Ghazvini, vice president of Premier Fine Homes, explained that the typical state worker or university employee is usually looking for a home in the $250,000-to-low $400,000s price range. “To build that type of home, you need a homesite or lot as a starting point that matches that price point,” Ghazvini explained. “Because there is so much demand to be in the northeast and other desirable parts of Tallahassee, the cost of those lots has gone up. As a builder, I have less supply, so I must pay a higher price for that lot which then means that I need to build a more expensive house on it. When that happens, I price myself out of the majority of Tallahassee’s market.” Wilson said construction costs run about $150 per square foot in Tallahassee, plus the land. “You’re over $200,000 before you even get started,” Wilson said. The high cost of building is due in part because a limited number of tradespeople and subcontractors are competing against each other for jobs, according to Wilson and Ghazvini. After the housing bubble burst around 2009, many tradespeople and subcontractors found themselves without work and moved on to other types of employment. Those who survived now find

themselves with as much work as they can handle, without much competition. That means they are very selective and set the price they are paid, again raising the cost of building a home. Tallahassee’s notoriously difficult permitting process and regulations add to costs as well. With costs so high, building homes below $400,000 is a challenge and supply is low. Joe Manausa, owner of Joe Manausa Real Estate, speaking at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce annual conference late last summer, pointed out that “currently, there are just under four months of supply of homes for sale in Tallahassee across all areas and price ranges (except for luxury homes).” Ideally there is six months’ supply. “This means there is far too little supply of homes to meet the current rate of demand. And demand is rising,” Manausa said. According to Manausa, new home sales represent only 8 percent of all homes sold in Tallahassee — a 28-year low. “When the supply of homes for sale is low and yet demand is rising, it is a call to homebuilders to bring more homes to the market at a faster rate. Unfortunately, this is not occurring in Tallahassee,” Manausa said. The threat of increasing interest rates only adds more pressure to act quickly. Ghazvini’s Premier Fine Homes attempted to meet this need with the development of Canopy, the largest planned development in




Tallahassee since SouthWood 35 years ago. Canopy, with 850 planned homes, is Premier’s single largest residential project to date. The 505-acre development, located at the old Welaunee Plantation east of Fleischmann Road between Centerville and Miccosukee roads, features homes priced $250,000 and up. Ghazvini said the development includes apartments, an assisted living facility, an upscale clubhouse, trails and other recreational amenities, all within close proximity to restaurants, coffee shops and other lifestyle demands of its residents. Premier’s other new home communities include Woodland Place, east of Capital Circle, just off Apalachee Parkway; Ox Bottom Crest, off of Ox Bottom Road; and SouthWood, off Orange Avenue. Justin Ghazvini said a trend emerging in Tallahassee is smaller lots, around a third of an acre, in exchange for affordability and lifestyle-driven amenities. “Yes, ideally, some homebuyers would like larger lots, but today, cost is the biggest consideration,” he said. He said buyers in Tallahassee want openconcept living with spaces that can serve multiple functions.

“People want their kids to sit at the kitchen island and do homework while mom or dad makes dinner,” he said. He said, additionally, buyers want big master bedrooms and baths. He also said tongue-and-groove ceilings and shiplap are in demand in higher-end homes, as well as areas for backyard living, complete with firepits, pools and fountains. Many homebuyers seeking larger lots are foregoing new construction in favor of renovating older homes, particularly in the northwest part of Tallahassee, near Lake Jackson. According to the Tallahassee Builders Association, the biggest recent increase in home sales volume occurred in the northwest. A total of 409 homes sold during 2017 versus 367 the year before.The average sales price also increased, with the average home price increasing to $173,892 from $157, 563 the previous year. The largest increase in the average sales price occurred in the southeast, growing from $213,500 to $243,250, while the number of homes sold remained about the same year over year. It was a similar situation in the southwest, where the number of homes sold remained constant but the average sales price increased to $108,425 from $95,703 the year before. The northeast, long the darling of

Tallahassee’s real estate market, moved more homes than the other three areas combined. The area saw the average sales price rise from $293,562 to $302,907. Each section of Tallahassee saw a reduction in the inventory of existing homes, except for the northeast, which had roughly 2 percent more homes active than the year before. The northwest inventory was down 9 percent; the southwest, 6 percent and the southeast, 3 percent. Excluding luxury homes selling for more than $1 million, the average time on the market for listed homes in all areas of Tallahassee was 64 days. According to Manausa, “Demand is not strong throughout all price ranges. Considering there are 33 months of supply of million-dollar homes, nearly three years’ worth, this is an extreme buyers’ market.” He said sellers of luxury homes received an average of 75 percent of their asking price after an average of two years on the market. Deep-pocketed homebuyers are in short supply and so, too, are homes that the average Tallahassean can afford. “It’s a challenge,” said Wilson, especially given a future that is coming quickly.





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2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 17

We champion the manufactured housing community

American Commerce Bank lenders Jeff Bush and Justin Wimberly at SECO 2018. ACB retired CEO Larry Mathews served as emcee for the event.

Local banks succeed as their communities succeed. American Commerce Bank (ACB) makes it a priority to champion community development efforts as well as the needs of our business banking customers. Playing a vital role in SECO

As Gold Sponsor for this year’s Southeast Community Owner’s Conference (SECO), the bank played a leading role in the event. “SECO is a non-profit that brings together manufacturers, lenders, insurers and other industry representatives to advance the cause of affordable and attractive manufactured housing and related housing communities,” said Johnny Jones, ACB’s Tallahassee Market President. “ Our bank serves as a premier lender to investors-owners and we are proud to partner with this vital community.”

One bank goes out of their way to get to know you and help you prosper in Tallahassee: ACB.

One city. One bank. “We pride ourselves in knowing our customers by name and in meeting the needs of businesses and their employees,” says Lena Miller, ACB’s Tallahassee Office Manager. “We’re all about bringing big banking products down to the community bank level. With today’s technology, it’s the best way to deliver industry-leading solutions to support the growth and success of our communities. So no matter where you live in Tallahassee, ACB is your ideal community bank.”

“Our bank serves as a premier lender to investors-owners and we are proud to partner with this vital community.” Johnny Jones, Tallahassee Market President, ACB

Communities everywhere want a better banking experience and ACB delivers.

People banking with people

We are a Community of One American Commerce Bank is redefining the banking “community.” We are a local bank (Tallahassee, Atlanta & Bremen, GA) offering a rare combination of knowledgeable tellers, savvy lenders and sophisticated on-line banking for both commercial and personal customers.

For more information about American Commerce Bank, stop by the office located at 536 North Monroe Street, or visit

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America is made up of small communities. Together we are

a community of one We’re in the business of helping our community to prosper. Think all banks are the same? Stop by our Tallahassee office and visit Johnny Jones (if you don’t know him already). Johnny will show you how we deliver big bank services at a community bank level. We get to know our customers so we can support your individual needs. It’s people banking with people. Together we are A Community Of One.

People banking with people 536 North Monroe Street • Tallahassee, FL 32301 • 850.681.7761 2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 19


FROM THE RED HILLS TO THE KEYS Tallahassee’s Cissy Proctor looks after state’s economic welfare


hat are the hottest jobs in Florida? Is your firm looking for skilled employees? Does your community need better infrastructure? How do you protect your business in a disaster? What do you do if you’re laid off ? These are just some of the disparate issues, and there are a bunch of others, that come under the purview of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in Tallahassee. “When I came into this office, I realized there were still a lot of people who didn’t know what we did as an agency,” said Cissy Proctor, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as DEO’s executive director in 2016. “I spent a lot of time over the last two-and-ahalf years making sure that I’m present in the communities, making sure they understand what we do and then making connections.” That’s why, on any given week, you might find Proctor meeting with community representatives, business owners and educators anywhere from Tallahassee to the Keys. “We’re taking the state to them,” said Proctor, who grew up in Tallahassee and is a graduate of Florida State University’s College of Law. “We’re listening to what their needs are, understanding the characteristics of those communities. “How do they want to grow, what do they want their economic development to look like in five years, 10 years and is there any part that we can play in that?” Proctor started playing a part in DEO in 2013 as the deputy director of legislative affairs. She moved up quickly. After six months, she became director of strategic business development, and in January 2015, she was named chief of staff. A year later, she was running the department. Proctor sees her role as a “spokesperson” who also seeks information and shares opportunities. It’s a tall order in a state of more than 20 million people. About 800 people move to Florida each day, she said. The DEO was created as a new state agency in 2011 “as one of the initiatives to make sure we rebuilt after the recession,” she said. The department was also an effort to

streamline services, merging three former agencies: the former Division of Community Affairs, the Agency for Workforce Innovation and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, Proctor said, while still “strengthening ties between economic, community and workforce programs.” The DEO promotes public-private networks and partners with agencies such as Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, CareerSource Florida, the Florida Ports Council and Space Florida. While it’s not all about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” that’s certainly a key component in DEO’s role. According to figures released by the department in August, Florida’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, unchanged from the July 2018 rate, and down three-tenths of a percentage point from a year ago. The rate was just below the national figure of 3.9 percent. Florida ranked third among states during the past year in overall job creation, trailing only Texas and California. Some other highlights of the DEO’s August report: ■ 375,000 Floridians were considered out of work from a workforce of $10.2 million. ■ The state gained 220,200 jobs over the year, an increase of 2.6 percent. ■ Leisure and hospitality was the industry gaining the most jobs: an additional 54,600 or 4.5 percent. ■ Other industries gaining jobs over the year: construction (up 7.7 percent); education and health services (up 2.3 percent); professional and business services (up 2.1 percent); trade, transportation, and utilities (up 1.3 percent); financial activities (up 3.5 percent); manufacturing (up 4.0 percent) and government (up 0.2 percent) ■ The one field losing jobs was information (down 0.3 percent), which includes jobs in telecommunications, publishing industries “except the internet,” data processing and broadcasting. “The creation of more than 1.6 million new private-sector jobs is not an accident,” Proctor said when announcing the report’s

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results. “Florida businesses are confident in our business-friendly environment and talented workforce.” The figures help educators and students look at where the jobs are. Other data looks at workforce needs for the future. Enterprise Florida compiles reports on what industries the state wants to attract or expand. The list is updated every three years, with the next report to be released in 2020. The current list of top targeted industries includes: ■ More corporate headquarters ■ Manufacturing, including aircraft and energy equipment manufacturing ■ Research and Development ■ Global logistics There’s a reason why bringing corporate headquarters is so vital to the state, Proctor said. “There’s a multiplier effect. If you bring a headquarters, folks that move here or are hired are going to go to the Publix down the street, go to the dry cleaner, send the kids to school, get their tires rotated. These are the impacts that really mushroom out from a company’s location.” Also touted on the list are the fields of pharmaceuticals, homeland security and defense, aerospace, diagnostic testing and financial services. ■ Among emerging technologies: ■ Cloud IT ■ Marine Sciences ■ Materials Science ■ Nanotechnology The DEO aims to “help businesses that want to grow in the state, and how they do that,” said Proctor. To help spur job growth, the DEO is working on collaborative efforts with local communities, often involving infrastructure needs. “Across the state we’re seeing cities and counties come together to look at economic development and growth with a regional approach,” she said. “Think about the I-10 corridor and the recognition that there is so much potential for growth there. But if


Cissy Proctor shared Florida job growth numbers and other economic indicators at the 2017 Gulf Power Economic Symposium, held at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

a company isn’t looking at that potential growth at all, or not looking at the I-10 corridor at all, they’re never going to think about just Tallahassee or just Gadsden County, so there’s a lot of focus there.” One recent boost for communities is the fairly new Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. In its first year, launched in 2017, the program received $85 million to cover needs like public infrastructure — roadway, sewer and water improvements, said Proctor. The grant also provides money for workforce training. Pensacola College, for one, received $1.9 million for programs to enhance skills that are in demand, including advanced manufacturing, aviation maintenance, welding, cybersecurity/information technology, nursing, transportation and construction trades. Another $85 million has been allocated for 2018-2019. Disaster preparation and recovery is another role for DEO, and it’s among the most challenging, said Proctor. “We have a big role before the storm hits, while it’s hitting and after it’s over.” Since Hurricane Michael, Proctor and other DEO representatives have traveled to impacted areas to survey damage and connect residents and business owners with assistance they need to rebuild their lives.

Within a week of landfall, the agency worked with the Florida SBDC to provide the first Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan. The program provides short-term, interest-free loans to affected businesses. Eligibility changes to the program now allow for small business owners with fewer than two employees located in any of Florida’s 35 counties impacted by Hurricane Michael to qualify. As of Nov. 1, more than 60 businesses had been approved for more than $1.8 million in loans. The agency is also administering the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program for Florida businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a result of Hurricane Michael. There were 11 Business Recovery Centers open throughout the impacted areas as of early November. Locations can be found at or The agency has multiple programs to help Florida businesses and residents recover after a storm. They may visit for more information about disaster recovery efforts as a result of Hurricane Michael. Even before the devastating storm, one long-term challenge has been trying to help communities that have yet to emerge from economic hardships since the recession. Florida has identified a dozen counties hard-

hit by a wide range of problems: Calhoun, Gadsden, Taylor, Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Glades, Hendry, Highlands and Indian River counties. Applications are being accepted for DEO’s Rebuild Florida program, launched in late September, to rehabilitate or replace single family and rental housing for lowand moderate-income families impacted by Hurricane Irma as part of a $616 million block grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “We know that many families across the state are still struggling, even one year after Hurricane Irma,” said Proctor. “This is money that comes in at least a year after a storm or disaster to help folks who continue to have unmet needs,” she said. “Maybe insurance didn’t fix your house fully or you got government assistance but it didn’t make you whole. We’re starting with homes in the hardest-hit communities, like the Keys.” To find out more about Rebuild Florida, go online to or It’s the kind of challenge that keeps Proctor on the road. “One way for me to understand, and for the agency to understand, and to help them as much as we can,” she said, ”is to be there and be present.” 2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 21

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The Current Agency runs on ideas BY PETE REINWALD



he Current Agency, which calls itself a one-stop digital and creative marketing company, boasts 6,600 square feet of work, play and mostly emptiness in the name of collaboration and chic. You’re an employee, and you want to relax a little? Have a seat on the sofa. Want to unwind? Play a little basketball in an adjoining events space. Want to regenerate? Take your work to a table outside. “I may be a little biased,” company founder and chief executive Chirag Shah said, “but I think we have one of the coolest offices in town. Not everybody can stay that they have a bar or a basketball court in their space.” The former thrift store east of Capital Circle on Apalachee Parkway has become a playground — better yet, a proving ground — of sorts for Shah, a 2012 Floirida State University graduate, who majored in marketing. Shah, 29, said his parents had urged him to take over the family hotel business in Marianna, where he attended high school. He said his parents came to the U.S. from India with little education and little money, but they succeeded in building businesses throughout the Panhandle. Shah said he told his parents: “If you can do that with so little, why can’t I do better?” He thinks he’s on his way. The Current Agency, which got its start in early 2014 as CPS23 Marketing, in early August sported four full-time employees and about 20 clients, Shah said. Among its clients are Capital City Music Therapy and Who We Play For, a nonprofit organization that aims to eliminate preventable sudden cardiac death in young people. Current says it works to, among other things, increase clients’ traffic and promote their brands through services in design, photography, video, social media and public relations.

Chirag Shah, owner of The Current Agency — where what’s past is last — was joined by intern Jessica Sizemore, at left, and creative director Savannah Swindle at their offices on Apalachee Parkway.

Shah launched CPS23 Marketing more than four years ago after an internship with Tallahassee’s Next Level Baseball, which provides experienced instruction for young players. As his internship ended, he said, he told Next Level founder Ryan Robinson that he was starting his own business. “And as I was walking out, he said, ‘Chirag, wait. Can I be your first client?’  ” Shah said. True story, Robinson said.

“He did incredible work, and he was very reliable and very dependable,” Robinson said of Shah’s internship. “Everything he did, he did better than what I expected. He built us a great website. He had great marketing ideas and implemented those.” Focusing his business on websites and social media, Shah reconnected with friend Savannah Swindle, who had attended Holmes County High School in Bonifay, not



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far from Marianna. She at the time attended the Savannah College of Art and Design. Swindle said she suggested that the company offer a creative-design component and agreed to help build the company without pay, as startup workers often do in such “bootstrap” situations. “He managed the digital side, I was on the creative side, and that’s still how we operate today,” said Swindle, 25, the company’s creative director. “That’s how we came together and started this — and had a lot of people doubt us.” They went from working out of their homes to working in coffee shops before they landed in a 1,200-square-foot space off Capital Circle Northeast. Yet they wondered about their name. They found that clients were having trouble keeping track of three letters — Shah’s initials — and two numbers. So they turned to the light bulb image that they had used in their marketing and settled last year on The Current Agency. “For a light bulb to turn on, you need a current, and current also means right now,” Shah said. “Current never goes out of style; current is always new.”

At The Current Agency, that theme burns brightly. Its new light bulb logo beams above its new building entrance. Its website asks potential clients: “Can we turn you on?” And when drained employees head to the hoop, they get a charge not from a game of H-O-RS-E, but W-A-T-T. “And whoever wins, we run with that employee’s idea,” Shah said. Current’s new building Offices at The Current Agency are designed to promote the free flow features a 3,800-squareof ideas. Even a giant purple octopus is not out of place. foot events space that the company calls “The Watt reduction. Some studies and reports suggest Factory,” which includes the basketball that because of noise, distractions and lack hoop and an area for rest, collaboration and of privacy, they promote the opposite effects additional play. Shah said he envisioned it as and that they’re on their way out. a spot for yoga, workouts and music therapy, Not so here, The Current Agency insists. even company retreats. “It’s definitely a collaborative environment The Current Agency thereby follows because it’s so open and we can work Silicon Valley, where open workspaces wherever we feel comfortable,” said graphic became a hit several years ago and designer Jessica Sizemore. spread nationwide for their promise of That goes for playing, too. communication, teamwork and stress-

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2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 25


THE ARENA DISTRICT An evolving vision begins to take shape BY ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER


lorida State University is narrowing the gap between “town and gown” with a planned eastward expansion of the main campus it has dubbed the Arena District. The approximately 30-acre site is anchored by the existing Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, which the university purchased in 2012. It has since invested $25 million in arena and meeting spaces improvements there. Plans are now on the drawing board to build a massive new College of Business and a convention hotel and conference center. The idea of this campus expansion was first expressed by former FSU president Eric Barron, who envisioned a district he dubbed The Madison Mile. “If you look at a map, midcourt at the Tucker Center to midfield at Doak Campbell is roughly a mile and the road that connects the two is Madison Street,” said Kevin Graham, executive director of the FSU Real Estate Foundation. Much of that stretch of road has been filled in with CollegeTown eateries and shops and newly constructed student apartments, and the vision has since evolved. “As our planning efforts matured, we started to focus more specifically on the land immediately surrounding the civic center site, itself,” he said. The university also acquired other smaller contiguous properties, including a fiveacre site across the street due south of the Tucker Center that will be home to the first new construction in the Arena District, the relocated College of Business, which has been named Legacy Hall. Situated on a sloping lot that will front a revitalized Gaines Street, the prominent location, planners foresee, will become a

new “front door” gateway to FSU. With a large, first-floor lobby and atrium area that includes eateries and retail, they are hoping to attract members of the community as well as students and faculty. The five-story, 218,392-square-foot structure is estimated to cost $88 million, including the building, technology and furnishings. Tallahassee-based Culpepper Construction Co. will team with Boston architects Goody Glancy to build Legacy Hall. Assuming funding for the building is finalized, groundbreaking is set for the second half of 2019, followed by 22 to 24 months of construction. The new building is expected to open in fall 2021. FSU has one of the smallest footprints in the state’s university system, with a main campus covering just 489 acres. (Other Tallahassee facilities, including the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, a golf course, swimming complex, intramural fields and a radio/ television station are located on 850 detached acres about three miles to the southwest.) Macomb Street is commonly understood as the easternmost boundary of campus. Developing the Arena District and giving an identity to the area that incorporates FSU’s Law School, College of Business, and Tucker Center formally expands FSU’s presence into downtown Tallahassee as well as its Gaines Street and All Saints neighborhoods. Preliminary plans show foot traffic patterns and amenities that will physically connect the Arena District with the campus. The more ambitious — and less finalized — plan for the district is construction of a hotel/ convention center complex on land currently used as a parking lot for the civic center. The Florida Society of Association

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Executives (FSAE) has 1,100 members and just under half of them are based in Tallahassee because it is the state capital. Civic leaders and association executives have complained for decades there isn’t a large enough space with a connected hotel to accommodate annual and regional meetings that might attract 750 to 1,000 attendees. “By bringing in a convention center and programming it with the other spaces that are available (and) bringing the utility of a convention hotel, we have an opportunity as a community to build this platform for economic growth,” Graham said. The Tallahassee/Leon County Office of Economic Vitality has agreed to contribute $20 million in sales tax revenue to the construction of a portion of the convention center. “I call it the ‘Magnolia Room,’   ” quipped Leon County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley. “The $20 million that the voters agreed to … is where you have breakfast and lunch and workshops.” FSU planners are aware a building blitz


FUTURESCAPE: Planners are confident that an eastward expansion of the FSU campus will come to encompass a new College of Business and a hotel and conference center, as envisioned by this rendering.

currently going on in Tallahassee will add considerably to the area’s available hotel rooms and meeting spaces. “Since the original vision for the Madison Mile, several things have changed in our marketplace,” Graham explained. “The Boosters have created the Champion’s Club at the stadium. There’s meeting space there. NAP is developing their project at Cascades. There’s meeting space in that facility. Washington Square is being developed. There’s meeting space in that facility. FSU is building the new student union, which will have a banquet hall with the capacity to seat somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500.” On the front burner are studies to determine exactly how the new hotel — which has been envisioned as having between 250 and 300 rooms — and the meeting spaces should be configured. “Over the next six to 12 months, we will be completing the market feasibility analyses that will inform what we need to build,” said Graham. “Once we understand what,

the next phase would be to start to plan and design the structures themselves.” If groundbreaking happens as anticipated in 2020, he said the complex should be completed sometime in 2022. But, he said, the idea of a connected hotel and meeting space is a valid one. “A convention center and a convention hotel should be designed together and constructed together. They’re symbiotic — they feed off of each other,” Graham said. Even if successful, Graham concedes that, like other convention centers, this one will probably need some sort of subsidy to

operate. “While a convention center brings an economic platform and the community benefits from that type of operation, the structure itself is expensive to operate,” he said. To the extent that there are annual operational shortfalls, “We’ll need to engage in a conversation with the city and county to understand how we share in the subsidy.” With empty spaces here and there to fill in the Arena District, plans are being offered for such things as expanding the Basketball Center or adding a restaurant, but nothing has been finalized. “Things will evolve over time,” Graham said.


KEVIN GRAHAM Executive Director, FSU Real Estate Foundation

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Congratulations to Kelly S. Dozier and Paula S. Fortunas for receiving

2018 PINNACLE AWARDS. Thank you for tirelessly supporting the health of our community.

Kelly Dozier

Paula Fortunas

TMH Board Member

TMH Foundation President (retired)

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A PRODUCT OF COMPROMISE Neighborhood concerns addressed as gateway project advances



lans to create a more scenic drive from Tallahassee International Airport to downtown have shifted toward Florida State University’s southwest campus, with FSU increasing its financial commitment to the project and local officials confident they found a solution that will spur economic development in the southwest quadrant of the city while easing neighborhood residents’ safety concerns. “There were compromises that brought everything along, which is how we were able to come to agreement,” said City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, who lives on the south side and serves as current chair of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency Board. “There were neighborhood concerns about an increase in traffic along South Lake Bradford Road, especially with no sidewalks there, and that is being addressed.” Tallahassee city commissioners and Leon County commissioners, meeting jointly in March 2018 as the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency Board, voted unanimously to amend the Airport Gateway

Plan to include two routes from Capital Circle Southwest to downtown: The Springhill Road gateway to North Lake Bradford Road and Gaines Street; and the South Lake Bradford Road route, now called the “complementary route,” which will connect to the new road through FSU via Orange Avenue. The new, and as-yet unnamed, road will connect to the recently completed FAMU Way Extension via Roberts and Stuckey avenues, near where Gamble Street meets North Lake Bradford Road. Once on FAMU Way Extension, it’s a direct line to Railroad Avenue near downtown. The Blueprint board in June 2018 approved issuing up to $100 million in bonds to fasttrack several projects, including the Airport Gateway and infrastructure improvements along Bannerman Road. Otherwise, work would proceed as the annual revenues were collected from the special 1 percent sales tax voters authorized in the Blueprint 2020 referendum held in 2014. “This represents a big infusion of dollars, support and planning for the south side and southwest,” County Commissioner Kristin


Dozier said. “From parks to utilities to stormwater management, all of that has an economic impact.” The Gateway Plan pulls together seven segments of road improvements, but two are state road projects funded by the Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency: the widening to four lanes of Orange Avenue west of South Adams Street and the widening to six lanes of Capital Circle Southwest between Crawfordville Road and Orange Avenue. The remaining section of Capital Circle includes the airport.

The FAMU Way Extension (above and top), recently completed, will form a link in a gateway project running from Tallahassee’s airport to downtown.

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The Gateway will be designed as a cohesive infrastructure project, but the work done in each segment will specifically address uses and needs there. For example, South Lake Bradford will be widened and landscaped to accommodate heavier traffic, and sidewalks and bicycle lanes are planned to improve safety. North Lake Bradford, closer to Doak Campbell Stadium and FSU’s main campus, is already four lanes but needs enhancements in streetscaping, landscaping and lighting. Richardson thinks Springhill Road will eventually be widened to four lanes from Capital Circle Southwest to Orange Avenue, where the current four-lane segment ends. He’s particularly pleased that sidewalks will be added along Orange Avenue. “Children walking from Liberty Park to Nims Middle School have to walk on the bike path once they cross North Lake Bradford Road, and they are in danger,” he said. “These are the neighborhood concerns that are being addressed. These areas have lagged behind, but the southwest quadrant is finally getting attention.” Blueprint’s 2019 budget, approved in September 2018, includes $1 million to

start the design process, with construction beginning within two years once the design phase is completed, likely in 2023. County Commissioner Dozier said preliminary engineering and community engagement is expected to start with the Stuckey and Levy segments and the new road through FSU. “Things are certainly moving, but we are several years away,” she said. Among the community engagement aspects that must be explored: protecting the area’s lakes and watershed, as land-use codes in recent years have changed; dealing with anticipated increases in traffic; and providing affordable housing in an area where property values are expected to increase because of the Gateway improvements. “It’s a delicate balance,” Dozier said. “I’m hoping we can mitigate some of these issues.” FSU is donating the land for the new road, as well as $3 million toward the Gateway project. Although the city will be responsible for maintaining the roadway, FSU will maintain the landscaping around it. “Southwest Tallahassee should be the focus of development in Leon County,” said Kevin Graham, executive director of FSU’s

Real Estate Foundation. “The Rez, the new golf course, the College of Engineering, the private sector that has harnessed the power of magnet technology, it’s all tied to economic development, and it’s significant.” The new golf course is a Jack Nicklaus Legacy Design, the first in North America. It is projected to open in fall 2019 and has been described as a championship golf course that will be unlike anything within 250 miles. “We think it’s going to give one more reason to be here, whether for retirement or to take a job,” FSU men’s golf coach Trey Jones said. “It’s going to be one of the top university courses in the country.” Both Jones and Graham see the $6 million golf course project as an asset to Innovation Park’s efforts to recruit tenants and create jobs, as well as FSU’s research programs and partnerships. Once the new road is built, it will provide the main access to the golf course. Until then, Levy Avenue off Lake Bradford Road and Dirac Road will be the connectors. “Once everything is done,” Jones said, “the golf course could be the front door to the university.”

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TO VEGAS AND BACK Alan Keesee returns to Capital Regional Medical Center BY PETE REINWALD


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850: How have things been going at Capital Regional? Keesee: The hospital’s been really striving and growing in the last three years since I left and went to Las Vegas. A lot more of the nursing ranks have been filled, and our nursing turnover has gone down dramatically. In volume, patient care has increased significantly. Like most health care providers in Tallahassee, we experienced one of the highest patient-care demands over (last) winter, with the tremendous flu season, and I’m proud to come back to a thriving, really healthy, organization. 850: Do you plan to do more hiring? Keesee: Absolutely. (The two new emergency departments) will be exciting because that will bring about 65 new jobs to the community, and we’ll be recruiting new board-certified emergency physicians to staff those 24

hours a day. There will be full-service emergency departments, plus imaging, laboratory services, life-saving treatment … and it will really be a service to that northwestern part of town, where on nights and weekends, there is no access to immediate health care, and the same for our Crawfordville neighbors and southern Tallahassee. 850: Do you see Capital Regional becoming, for patients, a growing alternative to Tallahassee Memorial? Keesee: I think it’s a wonderful resource to have multiple health care providers in town, in any town. We’re going to continue to grow the number of physicians we have in the community because we have an aging population, and when you look at the population growth in Tallahassee, the fastest-growing population segment is the 65-and-older segment, and


ive months before he returned to Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee, Alan Keesee found himself at the center of an event that shocked the country. Keesee was the administrator on call at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, the night that a gunman opened fire on a countrymusic concert from the window of a hotel room, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. Within two hours, more than 200 patients arrived at Sunrise, where Keesee worked as chief operating officer. “That night and since, humanity came out among the physicians, the nurses, the paramedics, the bystanders,” Keesee said. “Everyone worked with the singular focus to save lives.” Keesee in March began his new role as chief executive at Capital Regional, a 266-bed hospital that opened in 1979 near Capital Circle Northeast. The facility employs about 1,200, with plans to grow under parent company HCA. Keesee talked with 850 Magazine about plans for Capital Regional, including construction of two emergency facilities: on North Monroe Street, north of I-10, and on Orange Avenue and Capital Circle Southeast. He said he expected the Orange Avenue facility to open next summer and the North Monroe location to open in November. He talked about leading a hospital that operates in the shadow of much larger Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and about the health care implications of an aging population. He also discussed how that night in Las Vegas motivates him in Tallahassee, where he worked as chief operating officer from 2013 to 2015.

This rendering depicts a medical emergency facility slated for construction on North Monroe Street north of Interstate 10. It is one of two such centers that Capital Regional Medical Center will open in 2019.


they are the highest utilizers of our health care resources, so we constantly need new physicians to care for patients. We’ve been successful in recruiting two new cardiologists to town. We have a new general surgeon we recruited. We have three new radiologists we recruited, new pathologists and a whole host of other physicians we’ll be focused on. Capital Regional will remain as it has been for the last 40 years, a great resource for the community to seek care from highly qualified physicians.

FAMU, Florida State University. Their nursing-school programs really shine, and we’ve been successful at ensuring that they have access to clinical rotation early in their education. Another thing that we’ve done is we’ve created an advanced-training program post-graduation. Instead of coming straight to the floor, to the patient-care unit, you’re actually giving three months to our StaRN program to train a little more didactically as well as experientially, and that’s been a great resource.

850: Is there any special way that you’re recruiting new physicians and staff? Keesee: From a nursing standpoint, we’ve always enjoyed wonderful partnerships with colleges in town — TCC,

From a physicians’ standpoint, I think they see a growing, wellestablished community, with a lot of need clinically, and we’ve had a lot of success recruiting folks who are from Tallahassee. As one example, Dr. John Dortch was raised in Tallahassee, went to Chiles High

School, went to the University of Florida, got his residency and was at Emory, and we were able to attract him back to Tallahassee to join Capital Regional because that’s where his home is and his heart is, and he’ll be a great general surgeon for the community for many years. So looking regionally at where folks trained and where they’re from is a significant indicator of their longevity in town. 850: What about plans for marketing and advertising? Keesee: We did just procure a new orthopedic robotics system. We’re going to be launching that, and we’ll be the only provider in town with this advanced technology. There’s a new surgeon joining Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic who has trained on this device pretty

much exclusively in residency and fellowship, so we’ll be launching some education in the community, some community awareness, around what it means to have robotic orthopedic surgery, which allows greater precision, faster recovery. 850: How do you carry what you learned from the Las Vegas shooting to Tallahassee? Keesee: I think the expectation is that a hospital is in many ways here for the folks who are at the most vulnerable, lowest points in their lives, and we have to be here for them, as their ultimate neighbor. There is no other organization that’s open 24 hours, 365 days a year that will be able to heal folks regardless if it it’s a mental issue or physical issue. So I take that very seriously as an administrator.

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Ben Pingree, director of Leon County’s Department of PLACE, is bullish on Tallahassee. He cites the city’s quality of life, its schools and universities and its capacity to supply employers with a highly talented workforce.

‘MAGNETIC’ ATTRACTION Capital city morphs world-class research into world-class businesses BY ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER



hen Ben Pingree sat down for an interview in 2016 as Leon County’s new director of PLACE — which oversees the newly created Office of Economic Vitality (OEV) — his fourthfloor downtown office overlooked a huge lot that was empty, weedy and unsightly. But he knew there were big plans for that city block and that a huge, 19-story mixeduse project was “going to be rising like a phoenix” and block his view. Today, the view is still there, but dirt is being pushed and foundations are being laid for a $90 million project that will include a Lowe’s hotel, condos and restaurants. It is expected to employ 1,094 people during construction and 703 when completed. Other projects, big and small, are sprouting throughout the community — another apartment/entertainment complex just a few blocks away, a newconcept Greenwise Publix store near the campuses of FSU and FAMU, a modern apartment complex in Frenchtown. The story in many ways parallels Tallahassee’s economic progress and the work of the OEV over its first two years — it takes a while, but when the community’s movers and shakers break out of their silos and work together for the common goal of improving the area’s economic health, big things can happen.

“We are a medium-sized community in a highly competitive field of attracting and retaining jobs, (and) we are at our best and we will be most successful only if we collaborate together,” Pingree said. “I am very proud of how the increase of collaboration has occurred over the past two to five years in this community, and we are just starting now to reap the benefit from that intentional collaboration.” At a recent workshop, the OEV touted its accomplishments with a long list of activities and some hard facts, including 100 business consultations, four leads generated, three expansions and two recruitments, which led to 173 jobs and $18.3 million in capital investment. With a serendipitous convergence of circumstances, the functions of today’s OEV are a complete departure from how economic development was handled in the past. In the early 2000s, economic development was based in the local chamber of commerce and, without a consistent source of funding and years of recession, their efforts were lackluster. The recession put a full stop to expansions and the group ultimately disbanded. In 2014, local voters were being asked to continue the collection of a penny sales tax to fund infrastructure projects. Around the

Why Tallahassee? Short and Sweet. Any economic development agency worth its salt is going to have an elevator pitch — a succinct and persuasive explanation for why a business should locate in their area. Here’s how Ben Pingree, director of Leon County’s Department of PLACE, sells his hometown in 37 seconds: “We have an incredible quality of life. We have an unbelievably talented workforce. We have wonderful schools and housing opportunities. We have an affordable cost of living, are a Top 10 city to raise a family and a highly performing middlesized community. We are truly globally competitive in terms of research — we are unequivocally globally competitive in terms of magnetic research. We are world class. We are the tops. In the past, we have struggled with how to tie that world-class research to world-class businesses being formed with world-class high-paying jobs. For the first time in the history of this community, we actually have staff people and resources coming on right now that will do nothing but, day in and day out, look at that riddle and answer it.”

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same time, the Florida Legislature approved a change allowing that money to be used for economic development. Tallahassee/Leon County took advantage, setting aside 12 percent of the tax revenues for that purpose — to total an estimated $90 million over 20 years. That funding won’t start until 2020 — the city and county will support the OEV until then — but the new department is running full speed ahead, putting programs into place, planning for the future and always trying to make the area attractive to businesses to relocate and grow. One of its most ambitious efforts is to put Tallahassee on the map as the “magnetics capital of the world,” declared Pingree. The city is home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — MagLab for short — a premier research facility that draws scientists to do research with some of the world’s most powerful magnets. The goal, he said, is to identify the best commercial ideas and “build a business cluster around magnetics.” The department recently hired a staff person specifically tasked with attracting such businesses as well as hiring an economic development consultant specializing in tying research to industry. To aid in these efforts, the OEV joined with other entities to secure funding to construct a proposed 40,000-squarefoot high-tech incubator located near the MagLab. In addition to offices for startups, the plans for the facility include wet labs, a tissue and bioculture room, engineering/ light manufacturing spaces and a lab for prototype development. After just a year in existence, the OEV, in the fall of 2017, spent a frantic two weeks in pulling together a pitch for Tallahassee to be selected as the spot for Amazon to build its “HQ2,” which the company estimates would cost $5 billion and bring 50,000 “highpaying” jobs to the selected city. While the proposal was a “moonshot” and Tallahassee ultimately didn’t make the cut, officials insist the exercise was sincere and not a waste of time.

City and county officials are working to establish Tallahassee, home of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, as the “magnetics capital of the world.”

“The Amazon proposal gave us an excellent opportunity to take a closer and deliberate look at how we respond to project proposals. It also gave us an inside look into what companies like Amazon expect of responding communities,” said Cristina Paredes, who was recently tapped as director of the OEV. “As a result, we have built a solid template to respond to project proposals, which gives a holistic picture of our community that is then integrated with supporting data and site locations — all of which are customized for each project.” Her boss concurs. “I’m proud that we went after ’em,” said Pingree. “And, by the way, we went after ’em to win. While it may not have ultimately yielded substantial enough incentives to generate a win on that company — it was extremely compelling.” When large corporations like Amazon seek to move or establish operations in a new city, they often hire specialized economic development consultants to help them navigate incentives. “We were sending a message to the economic development marketplace — including those firms that do this for a living for megacorporations all around the world

— that we are in the game,” Pingree said. “It forced us to really think through the big ask, regardless of what the company name was — and could we (do it) in quick time.” So much so that, although Amazon didn’t pick Tallahassee, the company’s economic development director called the office to ask for an additional briefing. Not all of the OEV’s efforts are focused on attracting new business. A large part of their efforts include “growing our own,” says Leon County Manager Vince Long. “We know 90-plus percent of businesses that are expanding or creating jobs are doing so where they are. Moving anywhere else is not an option,” he explained. To aid in the endeavor, Long points out an OEV division devoted to encouraging minority- and women-owned businesses as well as a lecture series featuring “top trainers that maybe a small three-, four- or five-employee business could never afford to bring in.” “I think we are in a very good place, gaining a lot of momentum in the community as a true economic development hub,” the county manager continued. “I’m very happy with where we are, and I’m very optimistic about where we’re going.”

FACTS & STATS 292,332



4.4 percent





4 percent

$405.3 million




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TAXABLE SALES (April 2018)


2.4 percent


The Office of Economic Vitality prides itself on its comprehensive collection of statistical information. Here are a few numbers. See more numbers by visiting and clicking on “Data Center.”

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TAKING IT TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL TMH is fulfilling world-class aspirations BY STEVE BORNHOFT


or Mark O’Bryant, the president and CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, these are “pinch yourself ” times. The hospital is about to achieve a vision and live a dream. With the addition of the M.T. Mustian Center, scheduled to receive its first patients in May, TMH will become one of but a few quaternary-level hospitals in the region and can expect to attract patients from throughout the Southeast, given the highly specialized care that it will provide. Recently, O’Bryant and 850 editor Steve Bornhoft met in a Q&A session.

850: How so? O’Bryant: The Mustian Center will open a lot of doors for us in terms of what we are able to do. This is a state-of-the-art building. The operating rooms will be as nice and as advanced as any you will find in any major city. We are building the center, intending that it be a 50-year building. The most expensive spaces to build in a hospital are the ORs and the intensive care units. We wanted to build a facility that will accommodate not only growth, but also new technologies for a half-century. To do that, we engaged architects and subjectmatter experts and we looked at Shands, UAB, Emory and other facilities around the South, gathering ideas. And we looked at emerging technologies to determine what will be going into our new ORs. The smallest OR in the Mustian Center will be larger than the biggest one we have currently. The largest will exceed 1,000 square feet.

850: Speak to ICUs. O’Bryant: With our ICUs, we looked at flows, and we developed an internal corridor that will take activity away from the patient rooms and create a more quiet environment for our patients and their family members. That’s a very unusual design that you are not going to find hardly anywhere else. We actually brought in patient and family advisors and advocates as part of the design process. They helped ensure that we were not just accommodating staff with our plans, but that we were making rooms familyfriendly, as well. We are building 72 new ICU beds for our most critically ill patients, and that’s a huge number. 850: How will the arrival of the Mustian Center affect TMH’s reputation and its service area? O’Bryant: As we grow and expand, our role is changing. We are becoming what is called a quaternary center. We have always been a high-end, safety net hospital, a tertiary provider, but quarternary is the highest level of care. The most obvious examples are the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo clinics, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins. In Florida, Shands would be a quaternary center along with Tampa General and Jacksonville Memorial. The services that we will provide in that quarternary phase won’t just bring us patients for a 50- or 80-mile radius of Tallahassee. Our circle of

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influence will now extend hundreds of miles into Georgia, Alabama and even Mississippi. We are recruiting new specialists, including a very highly trained functional neurosurgeon, who would address movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease and employ procedures that reduce and eliminate tremors. We wouldn’t stand a chance with him if it weren’t for the Mustian Center. 850: After the Mustian Center comes online, how will the existing hospital be affected? O’Bryant: As we move patients and services into the Mustian Center, we are going to be using the space that will be created at today’s hospital to improve our endoscopy services, for example, and we will pick up a total of about 120 patient beds. As things stand, we are frequently at capacity. Most of the 120 beds will be ICU or intermediate level beds. Our belief is that, going forward, there won’t be as great a need for primary and secondary level patients to be hospitalized. With new technologies, we will be able to monitor them remotely. 850: How will employment numbers be affected? O’Bryant: Right now, we have about 5,200 colleagues employed at the hospital, and we are currently bringing on staff. We


850: As you approach TMH on your way to work these days and see the Mustian Center, a $270 million project, nearing completion, what do you experience emotionally? O’Bryant: That’s an interesting question. No one has ever asked me how I feel emotionally about what is happening here at the hospital. I am extremely, extremely excited. The Mustian Center is a transformative project.

have already received a certificate of occupancy for the bottom floor of the new building, and that is for supplychain functions. In total, we will probably add 150 new employees as we transition into the new center. 850: What will the Mustian Center do for staff recruiting efforts? O’Bryant: The kind of doctors, surgeons, intensivists, nurses and specialists that we want to bring here want to work in a facility that enables them to do their jobs in the best ways possible. As we look at recruiting world-class doctors and the best staff and retaining those people, the new building will be an immense help. I remind my staff all the time that no one goes to see their hospital, they go to see their doctor, but to get the top doctors, we have to have the best facilities. The doctors drive the clinical process, and the nurses and the allied staff carry it out. 850: What adjectives would you like to occur first in the minds of people when they think about TMH? O’Bryant: Quality. Patient-centered. That’s something we work on all the time. World-class. Community resource. The way I look at it, we are a community asset. We are not part of a corporate chain. We are owned by our community. We want people to be proud of TMH. We have a high quality of life in Tallahassee, and a big part of that is quality of health and there is no entity in town that is a bigger factor in quality of health than TMH. We look not just at intervention outcomes, but at improving the overall health of the people we serve.


850: What is your outlook on Nigel Allen, your new TMH Foundation president and chief advancement officer? O’Bryant: Nigel is a great guy. He has an excellent relationship across the community, understands the health care environment and is very knowledgeable about the world of philanthropy. He is a wonderful team member.

MARK O’BRYANT CEO, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

Upon completion, the M.T. Mustian Surgery Center is expected to enable Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare to attract world-class physicians and medical staff.

850: Talk to me about three TMH employees who operate out of the limelight, but who consistently make important, beyond-the-call-of-duty contributions to the hospital. O’Bryant: We have so many colleagues who answer that description, but I can certainly give you three or I could give you 300. Matthew Jenije is our lead pharmacist who focuses most closely on our pediatric and intensive care services. I saw him making rounds earlier today. He will work whatever hours are necessary and do whatever it takes. He is not a pharmacist who sits in an office. He works closely with our nurses and doctors to make sure that everything is exactly right, especially with our children. Because they come in different sizes, you can’t simply give them a standard dose. He doesn’t just work, he always wants to figure out how he can help people in ways that go beyond work. He’s our top fundraiser in the March for Babies every year. Another great person, Vickie Woodell. When you think of a hospital, you tend to think of doctors and nurses. Vickie is an assistant group practice administrator. She works with the United Way, and right now she is very involved in storm relief. If there is ever a program in our community that we’re involved with, I promise you that Vickie will be the first person in line to volunteer to help. And Dr. Carlos Campo. He’s not a flashy physician. He’s not someone who you would probably ever interview. Carlos is a pulmonologist and intensivist, and he will be here at every hour of the day to help people in intensive care, managing the details of their care. I could go on and on. We have people at all levels who see their lives as lives of service to others. To them, their jobs are not just a job. 2019 T A L L A H A S S E E B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 39





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The Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, opened in the fall of 2017, already has attracted attention as a dynamic developer of people likely to create jobs.

MORE MORAN Entrepreneurship school grows dramatically




ore than one year into its life, the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship believes it’s doing what it was conceived to do. It’s producing entrepreneurs. Plus, its leaders say, it’s bigger and bolder, and it has been on the move. The school settled at the start of this academic year into a new home in Florida State University’s Shaw Building. Meanwhile, it maintains a key presence at its original state-of-the-art location in the downtown Jim Moran Building, site of its startup incubator and headquarters of The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship. Since fall 2017, the school has grown from 80 students to about 600, largely the result of the absorption in January of FSU’s Retail, Merchandising and Product Development department and its 450 students.


The school said it plans new initiatives such as an entrepreneurship and innovation learning community for freshmen. It also plans to continue established programs such as its InNOLEvation Challenge, a business-model competition for students from all majors that started when FSU’s entrepreneurship program fell under the College of Business. The school touts itself as “the first interdisciplinary entrepreneurship school in the country with entrepreneurs as faculty from almost every college at FSU,” and school officials say they’ve gotten the national academic community’s attention. “When I go to conferences where there’s faculty from other universities, they’re hearing about what FSU’s doing,” said Wendy Plant, director of the Jim Moran School’s Center for Student Engagement. “I’ve had many people approach me with, ‘Gee, are you hiring?’ So the word is getting out that this is an exciting place to be.” The school opened in fall 2017 after a $100 million gift to FSU from Jan Moran and The Jim Moran Foundation. Jan Moran is the widow of the school’s namesake, an automotiveindustry pioneer who built his businesses in Chicago and later in South Florida. The university hailed the donation as the largest single gift to a public university in Florida’s history. “I think we’re very, very lucky,” said Susan

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Fiorito, director of the Jim Moran school. “Mrs. Moran’s gift was not only generous but also very insightful as to what our community needed to support entrepreneurship.” School officials tout the Jim Moran school as a resource for all students, not only for entrepreneurship majors. Any FSU student can apply to become a member of the school’s business incubator, where they can attend presentations on areas such as accounting, finance, marketing and law. “It’s my goal to be able to touch every student on this campus with some entrepreneurial idea, to give them access to ideas and people and competitions and classes, maybe workshops,” Fiorito said. Molly Cloonan, an economics major who graduated in May, said she had no interest in staring her own business in the spring of 2017, when her academic adviser suggested a course on social entrepreneurship. She came out of it with her own business: Social Safe, an app, aims to prevent sexual violence on college campuses. “Of all of the classes that I took at FSU, it was by far the most effective class I had because it was a lot more personal and a lot more hands-on,” Cloonan said. “I always tell people that I basically got a degree in entrepreneurship.” The social entrepreneurship course directed students to identify a social problem and to build a product to help solve it. Creators of the top three products competed in a businesspitch competition, which Cloonan won. She said professors Mark McNees,

founder of RedEye Coffee and an entrepreneur in residence at the school, and Sam Staley, who wrote a book on sexual assault at colleges, helped her with a business plan and with her business-pitch preparation. Then, through an individual study course with McNees, she said, she learned how to register her business and made contact with lawyers and tech-industry players, including a graphic designer. Along the way, she won awards and prize money. Cloonan’s app helps potential victims of sexual assault to contact friends and family before a situation escalates. It gathers audio and video evidence and includes GPS features that help law enforcement locate a potential victim. Success stories from the Jim Moran school’s first year also included, among others: ■ a group of students who won $15,000 in one competition for DiaTech, a biotechnology company that focuses on diabetes care; ■ Hannah King, recipient of a national Future Founders fellowship after she created Woven Futures, which supports indigenous Guatemalan women in craft making and sales; ■ Jessica Bachansingh, who won the Most Viable business prize for Gifts for Confidence, which teaches young Ethiopian women how to sew infinity scarves that they can market and sell. The Jim Moran school offers majors in retail entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship

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and commercial entrepreneurship. Fiorito said the school is pondering whether to let students build their own majors. “I think we need to be innovative and HANNAH creative in how we’re KING growing,” she said. The school’s new location, which keeps undergraduate students on campus, includes 31 offices, a student-collaboration room, two labs and a conference room. JESSICA Fiorito said the BACHANSINGH downtown location will continue to host speakers and statewide competitions. She said it also soon could house a graduate entrepreneurship program. “It’s been an absolutely amazing experience being a part of a college startup that’s actually an entrepreneurship school,” said McNees, the RedEye founder and entrepreneur in residence. “It’s been fast and furious like all of the other startups I’ve been part of — creating systems and curriculum and pivoting and learning along the way. We’ve had some amazing success out of the gate.”


Faculty member Mark McNees engages students in a classroom at the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship. At right, students John Wilcox and Nicholas Cooper display an award won in a competition sponsored by a biotechnology company.







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race yourself: South Monroe Street is about to get a whole new look and vibe. The area that has been tagged “SoMo” is slated for an infusion of commercial and residential investment that investors and local officials believe will create jobs and spur additional development in an area of Tallahassee that has long been overlooked. But unlike the “urban renewal” projects of the 1960s and ’70s, which decimated poor minority neighborhoods around the country and led to gentrification and displacement of residents, the vision for the South Monroe/Adams Street Corridor has a focus on its people. “Historically, we all know we have not invested in the south side as we have in other parts of town,” County Commissioner Kristin Dozier said. “We have the money and the planning in place to help the people who have lived and worked there for so long. We need to stay focused on the south side and be holistic about it.” Good things are already happening: It started with the opening of Cascades Park, creating a downtown destination, and the Capital Cascades Crossing Pedestrian Bridge, which provides safe access from the park to South Monroe and the Capital Cascades Trail. The extension of FAMU Way improved both aesthetics and safety. Proof

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Brewing Company relocated to the old Coca-Cola bottling plant. The old Graphateria Building has been redeveloped for Catalina Café and Red Eye Coffee Roastery. A juicing operation, South City Juice, is also moving in. Happy Motoring Co., a bar and food truck hub located in an old gas station, converted one of its regular food trucks to a food operation inside the building in October. “SoMo is in transition, and it’s more of a revitalization as opposed to a redevelopment,” said Happy Motoring co-founder Jake Kiker, an attorney who lives in nearby Myers Park. “The greatest potential is for the old automotive spaces. These are places with character and history.” Kiker is working with Demirel International on a proposed retail and residential project known as Cascade Gardens that would stretch along the east side of Monroe from Oakland Avenue to Pershing Street. The project would have commercial space on the ground floor, apartments above, attached townhomes and detached single-family houses behind. Bugra Demirel is engaged to be married and plans to live in Cascades Garden, Kiker said, and he’s trying to get an Aldi grocery store to locate there. “Bugra wants to make it neighborhood-friendly, with nice sidewalks, buried utility lines, sustainable and pedestrian-friendly,” Kiker said.


So much more is coming on the south side

Happy Motoring Co., a bar and food-truck hub located in a building that had been abandoned, represents a trend toward the reutilization of existing spaces along South Monroe Street — revitalization versus redevelopment.

Sprucing up the south side of town and boosting its economic engine have been discussed for years, and the area’s needs and deficits have been well-documented. In 2015, the city commissioned a study by the North Florida District Council of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit that helps cities create sustainable and thriving communities, on the status and future of “South City.” The study area stretched from FAMU Way south to Orange Avenue and Jim Lee Road west to Adams Street, incorporating much of South Monroe Street. The report noted that the area “has languished from a lack of economic development, offers few job opportunities for residents and suffers from a high crime rate. Residents have little access to healthy food options and recreational activities. Health disparities abound, particularly as they relate to low-birth-weight infants and infant mortality.” The report also noted the area’s residents are 83.5 percent AfricanAmerican, 60 percent female, 40 percent children and teens under 18 and 21.4 percent children under the age of 5; 76.4 percent live in female-headed households with income below the poverty line, 57.8 receive food assistance and 22 percent have no public or private health insurance. How do you begin to tackle such an enormous problem? You start with the basics. “If you build it, they will come” first entered the lexicon in the baseball movie “Field of Dreams,” but it’s applicable to urban revitalization, as well. Tallahassee-Leon County’s Blueprint initiative, a 1 percent sales tax that voters first approved in 1989 and renewed and expanded in 2000 and again in 2014, pays for infrastructure improvements to enhance safety and quality of life. Roads, sidewalks, storm-water mitigation and lighting are examples of infrastructure projects. Those improvements also attract private investment. Infrastructure improvements along the Gaines Street corridor saw a three-to-one return on investment in private dollars, Blueprint’s Public Information Officer Susan Emmanuel said. The Blueprint 2020 plan, approved in 2014, authorizes the tax through 2040. It also sets aside 12 percent of revenues for economic development and created the Office of Economic Vitality. The South Monroe/Adams Street Corridor figures prominently in both Blueprint’s infrastructure projects and the OEV’s strategic plan for economic development.

Blueprint’s Monroe-Adams Corridor Placemaking project will make South Monroe more pedestrian-friendly from FAMU Way/Oakland Avenue to Magnolia Drive by installing medians. Other planned streetscape improvements include sidewalks, lighting, signage and underground utilities. Street parking will be created where possible along side streets. The OEV is evaluating a South Monroe/Adams Corridor Catalysts proposal that uses a mix of public and private funding and involves Florida A&M University’s Small Business Development Center and its Urban Agriculture Project. It is slated for consideration in the fiscal year 2020 budget. Other proposals being reviewed and evaluated are creation of an Entrepreneurial Development Fund and working with the FAMU SBDC to evaluate partnerships with lenders “to maximize the investment of microloans to help minority- and women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.” City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, current chair of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency, said environmental contamination along South Monroe has hampered revitalization efforts in the past. “There are a lot of brown-fields that have to be cleaned up at the sites of old automotive shops, gas stations and dry cleaners,” he said. “We were able to get some federal grants for businesses that want to clean up property, which helps.” The city and county have other plans to boost the south side, including a new public safety complex off South Monroe, the redevelopment of Orange Avenue Apartments and creating a Star Metro “superstop” at the corner of Orange Avenue and South Meridian Street. “It will be a Star Metro transfer facility on the ground floor with retail space on top,” Richardson said. “We are going to be looking at a substantial transformation of the south side over the next five to 10 years.”


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Profile for Rowland Publishing, Inc.

2018 Tallahassee Business Journal  

2018 Tallahassee Business Journal