The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance’s Mid-Year Meeting

A gathering packed with insights, intel and star power

When more than 600 business leaders gathered at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Mid-Year Meeting, Alliance President and CEO Bob Swindell and Alliance Vice Chairman, Gregory A. Haile, president of Broward College, held court.

High on the agenda was the Alliance’s report of its own corporate impact. Companies from Icon International to Project Play to West Marine have announced capital investments and the creation of new jobs (see sidebar). “Companies continue to choose Greater Fort Lauderdale’s highly competitive business climate and unbeatable quality of life,” Swindell said. “The Alliance is proud to share the story of our community as a premier business destination and talent hub.” The luncheon was presented by the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization and Florida Power and Light.

Jeb Bush, Florida’s 43rd governor, was the keynote speaker for the event. In his comments, he called for civility in the public square, remarking that vulgarity may attract viewers on Twitter, but that is not a strength, that’s a sign of weakness. We have the duty to cast out the ugliness, and it’s up to the [political] parties to be able to do that.

“Let’s recognize that politics is a mirror of us,” he continued. “It’s a byproduct of our culture … If we want a better system, we need to treat people better. We need to be honest and show courage.” He argued that more civility would yield results for constituents, both locally and nationally. His sentiments were met with several rounds of applause.

The Alliance also presented its annual World Class Faculty Award to Douglas Cumming, the DeSantis distinguished professor of finance and entrepreneurship at Florida Atlantic University College of Business. Cumming created a new course on crowdfunding for undergraduate and graduate students at FAU, which is linked to FAU’s Small Business Development Center, where students work on real cases with companies in Broward and Palm Beach County.

He developed the FAU Crowdfunding Tracker, which provides timely updated data on equity crowdfunding campaigns in Florida and states. His research on equity crowdfunding was the first of its kind in the world, and has informed securities regulators, crowdfunding platforms and associations on the optimal design of equity crowdfunding campaigns and regulations. He has advised securities regulators and policymakers on the regulation of mutual fund fees and government venture capital programs.

The results of Kaufman Rossin’s 2022 Broward Executive Survey were also shared. Key findings included this optimistic note: Nearly 74% of Broward leaders who responded to the survey predict 2022 will be better or much better than 2021. Employee retention is the No. 1 issue companies are facing, with other employee issues—recruiting and wages—close behind.

The top area in which companies plan to invest in the coming year is technology, with marketing, salaries and recruitment tied for second place.

In addition to Broward MPO and FPL, sponsors included Delta Airlines, City of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Memorial Healthcare System, Seminole Heritage Services, South Florida Business Journal, City of Hollywood, JetBlue, JM Family Enterprises, AutoNation, Becker, Broward Health, Capital Analytics Associates, Duke Realty, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Hotwire Communications, Starmark and Verizon. SFBW also was a sponsor.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance is Broward County’s official public/private partnership for economic development. Its mission is to lead Broward County to build a stronger and more diverse economy by stimulating the creation of new jobs and capital investment while facilitating the growth and retention of businesses in Broward County.

Services offered by the Alliance include assistance with business relocation or expansion and site selection; offering incentive programs and information; providing market research; and serving as a liaison for workforce development between CareerSource Broward, educational institutions and the business community.

The Alliance’s annual meeting and dinner is Oct. 13 at the Signature Grand.

The Alliance Impact

Alliance President and CEO Bob Swindell and the Alliance’s Vice Chair, Gregory A. Haile, president of Broward College, reported the following results of the Alliance’s ongoing work as the official public/private partnership for economic development in Broward County. Since the start of the Alliance fiscal year that began Oct. 1, Alliance-assisted companies have made a stunning $19.9 million in capital investments and are responsible for more than 757 new and retained jobs.

Companies assisted included:

  • CIG Financial, a company that specializes in the field of auto lending with private, public and independent auto dealers throughout the United States, will be creating 30 jobs in Fort Lauderdale.
  • Funtrition, a manufacturer of gummy vitamin products, will be creating 100 jobs, retaining 42 jobs and making a $9 million capital investment in Miramar.
  • Icon International, a company that provides a bartering service for companies of all sizes and industries, will be adding 100 jobs at its Fort Lauderdale office.
  • Norse Atlantic Airways will be locating its U.S. headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, creating 15 jobs, as it begins direct flights from FLL to Paris, London and Oslo this year.
  • Pherros Biosciences, a biotech company that will develop and produce novel drugs and treatments, will be creating 20 jobs and using 25,000 square feet of space in Deerfield Beach.
  • Project Play, a global leader in consumer products including toys, plush, action figures, collectibles and musical instruments, will be creating 150 jobs, retaining 75 jobs and making a $10 million capital investment in Plantation.
  • West Marine, a national brand that operates a chain of boating supply and fishing retail stores, is locating its national headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, creating 225 jobs, making an $800,000 capital investment and using 50,000 square feet of office space.
Drew Limsky
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