Strong economy creates tight labor market

SFBW’s Apogee Awards recognizes the region’s most-distinguished C-suite executives for their leadership and dedication to their industries and communities.

In January, SFBW sought to tap their business insights with a roundtable discussion that also included some Apogee sponsors. The event was hosted by SFBW Chairman and CEO Gary Press and moderated by Editor Kevin Gale. It was held at BBX Capital’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the roundtable, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Business health in 2018

Alan Levan, chairman and CEO of BBX Capital: “Our year is going really well, we are hiring for a number of positions. We are a diversified holding company, so we have a number of businesses within BBX Capital. Business is good.”

 Michael Wolfson, sales and business development director at Cloud Computing Concepts: “C3 is a technology company. We have been doing well over the previous nine years. We recently took over our first company, which is going to give us a nice foothold in the Miami area. And we are looking at another company, so, yes, we are hiring. Our economic outlook looks phenomenal. Our customers have grown and are growing now, that means we have to upgrade their businesses and it’s a wonderful thing.”

Hiring trends: Catch them while you can

 Kenneth Heinrich, executive recruiter at Steven Douglas: “We are an executive search firm. So far this year, we’ve been very active, and we are seeing that in all the markets with the clients we work with. With unemployment at an 18-year low, we are seeing the candidates we are working with get not just one offer, but multiple offers. Our business is bringing the candidates to the clients. It’s matchmaking. Best advice I can give you is to move quickly. We see certain companies that want four, five, six rounds of interviews, and they are getting to the final stage and they say, ‘OK, great, we’ve picked our top three candidates. We’re ready to see them.’ And we say, ‘They’re all gone. They’ve accepted other offers.’”

 Evan Gluck, audit manager at EiserAmper: “I am seeing the same thing. I work in a CPA firm, and we are constantly hiring people. If you take too long, they’ll get hired by a competitor.”

 Jorge Garcia, CEO at Garcia Stromberg Architects: “We are concerned because we have so many great things happening at the same time. Funny enough, we are still a little bit jaded about it: ‘Jeez, do we really have to hire somebody else?’ The reason for acting slowly on that is, we are elated to think that we are once again in the seat where we can do what our philosophy always was … where we now have the choices of doing only the projects and endeavors that we really want to do for the people we want to do it for.

Joe Ziegler, chief financial officer at BioMatrix: “We are a specialty pharmacy, and our company is growing organically and via acquisitions. Our corporate office is in South Florida, and we have 11 locations around the U.S. We acquired a company in Philly about four months ago. We are hiring and moving quickly with the candidates. Before, when interviewing candidates, we used to be coy about how we felt about them. Now when I like someone, I’ll tell them.”

Eli Siboni, sales manager at Optime Consulting: “We are a marketing company, and we hire, perhaps, 40 to 50 percent of our people young. You have to act really, really quickly with them. And it helps to have a small database of candidates just in case they get other offers.”

Financial goals and innovation

 Joyce Lopez, account executive at Celebrity Cruises: “Royal Caribbean Celebrity Cruises reached its three-year, double-double goal—doubling earnings per share and reporting a double-digit return on invested capital. That means for us, the employees, they are going to give a bonus of 5 percent of our yearly salary to buy a purchase of the stock of the company. Also, Celebrity Cruises is introducing new ships: the Celebrity Flora coming out next year, and the Celebrity Edge coming out this year. Royal Caribbean has three new ships coming in years ahead.”

Apogee honorees and sponsors participate in a roundtable discussion at BBX Capital

 Brian Merbler, marketing director at Troon: “Troon manages private country clubs, and we also have agreements with luxury resorts and golf clubs. We are based domestically, in Arizona, and we are in 23 countries. It’s interesting to see the outlook for domestic is so strong, and we are off to a fantastic start. Looking at it from a macro view, everybody is doing good around the globe in different markets. In South Florida, we gauge confidence through projects we move forward with—all of our clubs have members. We’ve seen, in the last 12 to 18 months, several of our large-scale properties electing to do renovations or additions. We are doing one in Palm Beach Gardens with a $35 million clubhouse renovation. I think the confidence in the membership base—they are heavy hitters—is coming strong with votes to move big-ticket items. 

Patrick Lee, president at Shorecrest Construction: “The market is looking strong. 2016 and ’17 on the residential side were a little off for us. We started repositioning and chasing a lot of work than we historically did. We found that we were less successful, so we are now filling in the backlog more. There does seem to be a movement now. In 2017, people were more on their heels a little bit, and there are  more opportunities now as we turn the corner and people are getting more aggressive. We will be hiring.”

Driverless cars are coming

Levan: “We do business with Joel Altman from Altman Construction, and he was talking about the challenge with building parking facilities. He believes that in five years, there are going to be fewer cars.” 

Garcia: “I’m seeing code requirements that all parking garages will need to have adaptive use, meaning to provide more or new uses of the space for things like smoking floors and driverless cars.”

Levan: “When you think how extraordinary that is … it’s like when the internet came to be and people thought, ‘How does that impact me?’ Now, it affects everyone. From an economic standpoint, I think about how driverless cars will impact the people employed by driving cars—taxi and Uber drivers, truck drivers.”

Panelists Mike Wolfson of Cloud Computing Concepts, Eli Siboni of Optime Consulting, Joyce Lopez of Celebrity Cruise and Michelle Martinez Reyes of Greenspoon Marder enjoy one of the conversation’s lighter moments

Artificial intelligence impacts the marketplace

Garcia: “I was at a conference where folks from Microsoft and Google were talking about how the job market is becoming different. Today, it’s more about thinking than doing. In the hotel industry, they now have robotic maids and robots that work together on teams. Some of the hotel operators told me that using robots saves them money, and they are actually hiring more people to perform more customer service roles.”

Cybersecurity is top of mind

Katherine McNeil, director human resources at Global Jet Capital: “We do loans and leases for private jets [so] we have phishing traps designed by our IT director. It is a real issue how we manage our data security. Because we employ people internationally, data privacy rules are different in other countries. For instance, Europe is instituting new rigorous requirements for safeguards in transmitting information electronically.”

The White House and medical cannabis

Michelle Martinez Reyes, chief marketing officer at Greenspoon Marder: “We anticipate, even though [U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions is not supportive of the cannabis industry, that it may not have a long-term effect overall. On the West Coast, there is a lot of investment going on. On the East Coast, investment has been slow. We’ll see what happens in the next six to 12 months, but right now we are not too concerned. There’s too many special interests involved, and ‘Big Pharma’ has a strong grip on a lot of people. We’ll see what happens with opioids and how that develops, too, because the Trump administration said that they are doing an anti-opioid campaign, and nothing has happened yet. The broader issue is state rights versus federal, and that’s a much bigger slice of the pie. I think if that comes to the plate, then we might be looking at a Supreme Court case, but we’ll see what happens.” ♦

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.