SFBW advisory board sees positive business outlook

As SFBW continues to expand its editorial footprint and business partnerships in the region, members from the editorial advisory board met to talk business and discuss ways to enhance the publication. Editor Kevin Gale led the discussion over lunch at the Grateful Palate in Fort Lauderdale. Chairman and CEO Gary Press, along with the editorial and business development teams, attended the luncheon to mix and mingle.

Attending board members were:

• Joey Epstein, certified public accountant and adviser at MBAF.

• Chris Nielsen, founder and executive vice president for experience design of Levatas.

• John Primeau, executive vice president at Centennial Bank.

• David Druey, division president at Centennial Bank.

• Matt Dernis, certified financial planner at Fortune 360 Group.

• Michelle Homoky, sales director at Celebrity Cruises.

• Mike Gorham, executive vice president at Brown and Brown of Florida.

• Patrick Lee, president at Shorecrest Construction.

• Steven Gurowitz of Interiors by Steven G.

• Lisa Ricci, executive vice president of marketing for Interiors by Steven G.

Gale asked about their current business outlook, compared to what they thought it would be at the beginning of the year.

“I’ll tell you that ours is better than it has ever been probably since before the Great Recession,” Gorham said. “What we predicted was 5 percent growth for the year, but we are at 14 percent, which is purely a driver of our clients doing better.”

Homoky continued that sentiment. “Not just Celebrity, but the overall cruising industry is building a lot of ships,” she said. “We are rolling out new ships. Our industry is growing by leaps and bound. It is anticipated that 20 something million people will have cruised by next year.”

Lee added that in construction, he’s securing more deals.

Gurowitz talked about the growing rental market and how developers are focused on offering amenity packages as though the resident is living in a luxurious condo. No matter which business you’re in, to stay competitive you must “think out of the box,” he said.

The advisory board met at Grateful Palate, which is on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale

Matt Dernis of Fortune 360 (far left) talked about the impact of rising interest rates

Ricci said, as interior designers, her company is working with renters—the market is ticking upward even though fewer people are buying homes.

Gale asked for thoughts about the stock market’s volatility so far this year. Dernis chimed in, saying it is normal to see volatility, but he has concerns looking ahead. “My concern is: Will there be economic growth? Is there going to be continuation of investment and then how is economic policy adjusted for that?” he said.

Gale asked Lee if tariffs have had any effect on his business, referring to reports that construction materials prices might increase. “We are not seeing anything yet and we are not seeing a trade war, but it’s still too early to know,” Lee said.

Epstein added that people are waiting to see what will happen.

Gale asked the group about how the Trump administration’s aim to cut back on regulations is impacting business so far. From a banking standpoint, Druey said it has helped loosen some of the underwriting guidelines, but problems exist.

“So the regulatory agencies that have been created prior, they help defend the consumer—but they actually hurt the consumer in the long run, and this is going back to the housing crisis,” he said. “The regulatory agencies on the banking and financial sectors create a lot of problems for us being able to go back and reinvest in small businesses, entrepreneurs.”

For what’s ahead, he’s sees a shift. “I think you are going to see banking will get more aggressive over small businesses and the entrepreneurial side because of that, and I think you’ll see some of the private equity people get out because those returns aren’t going to be as good,” he said.♦

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