By Emon Reiser
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance assisted companies in creating 1,075 new positions and retaining 1,688 jobs in the first half of its fiscal year.
The official public/private economic development partnership on Monday outlined its progress at its Mid-Year Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six to more than 500 attendees. The South Florida Business Journal was a sponsor of the event.
"The Alliance is hard at work year-round telling the story of our community's premier business location status," said Bob Swindell, CEO of the Alliance, who provided opening remarks at the event. "Companies continue to see the competitive advantages of locating and expanding high-wage, high-value industries in Broward County."
Some of the Alliance's big wins this year include landing a $184 million investment from Canadian company Apotex Pharmaceuticals to add 150 jobs and retain 461 in Miramar by expanding its U.S. headquarters by 380,000 square feet. United Data Technologies will also make a $16.5 million capital investment in Miramar and add 142 jobs.
With the Alliance's help, Triangle Services will add 300 jobs in Fort Lauderdale with a $4.8 million investment in a facility specializing in airplane baggage and handling as well as office cleaning and other services. The economic development agency also assisted Bayview Financial in adding 200 new jobs and retaining 1,066 jobs in Fort Lauderdale. Cruise line Royal Caribbean will add 180 new jobs.
The Alliance's wins come as funding for the state's economic development agency Enterprise Florida is being challenged by lawmakers. The Florida Legislature on May 9 approved a budget that would significantly reduce funding for the agency. The budget is now on the governor's desk.
Despite the legislative action, Broward business leaders are optimistic about the future of Florida's economy, according to the Alliance's 2017 Broward Executive Survey, which was released at the luncheon. The survey showed that 70 percent of respondents' businesses are doing somewhat or much better now compared to last year.
But that's less than the 90 percent of respondents two years ago who expected a better outlook, according to the survey conducted by Kaufman Rossin.
About 82 percent said they expect to increase staff, compared to just 58 percent in 2015. Full results of the survey can be found at gflalliance.org/executive survey.
At the meeting, the Alliance honored the Marine Industries Association of South Florida as its 2017 Economic Development Partner of the Year, with MIASF CEO Phil Purcell and his team accepting the award. The association is the largest marine trade organization in the southeast U.S. and is instrumental in promoting and growing the 110,000 marine-industry jobs in Broward County.
The Alliance also bestowed its World Class Faculty Award winner, Robert Speth, a professor and researcher of pharmaceutical sciences at Nova Southeastern University. The award honors leaders in education as a way to promote excellence in Broward County's higher-education system.
"Hard work beats talent every time when talent doesn't work hard," Speth said, during his acceptance speech.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam, who declared his candidacy for governor this week, was the event's keynote speaker. His speech centered on promoting South Florida as a region that's not just welcoming for vacationers and retirees, but also students and entrepreneurs.
"The Alliance ... continues to make our business climate one of the best in the country," Putnam said. "We can make all of the other states jealous if we keep on stealing their talent, as we are."
Florida is essentially a business-friendly state that needs to get the word out about its many benefits to companies across the nation, he added.
He also emphasized that jobs requiring four-year degrees are not the only opportunities available and complimented the Alliance for working with local colleges and universities on certification and trade programs.
"Emphasizing four-year colleges for all isn't always the way to go when there are so many high-paying opportunities for trade jobs and jobs requiring certificates," Putnam said. "We need to work harder at promoting that message."
Swindell echoed that sentiment.
"There are great opportunities in trade. And we're going to continue to work hard with our colleges and high schools to ensure our kids know of those opportunities," Swindell said.
The Alliance's Annual Meeting and dinner will be Oct. 19 at the Signature Grand in Davie