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Ultimate CEO Swindell on what he loves about South Florida
Published Wednesday, June 6, 2018

2018 SFBJ Ultimate CEO honoree, Bob Swindell, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

Note: This is the secondin a weekly series highlighting the Business Journal’s 2018 South Florida Ultimate CEO Awards honorees. The award recognizes the area’s top CEOs, highlighting the breadth of talent and leadership across our unified tri-county region. We’ll feature at least one of these chief executives weekly as a lead-up to the Sept. 27 awards program at The Ritz Carlton, Fort Lauderdale.

Bob Swindell
CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance
Age: 56
Birthplace: Oakland Park
Residence: Fort Lauderdale

During his time at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Bob Swindell, his team and partners have helped attract or retain scores of companies, create or keep tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, and generate billions of dollars in economic impact countywide.

He’s been recognized by fellow Florida economic development leaders for his work, served as two-term chair of the Florida Economic Development Council, and was awarded the Florida Business Ambassador medal by Gov. Rick Scott.

However, some of Swindell’s most important worklies ahead. Swindell is collaborating with government, community, and business leaders to address county poverty and homelessness. The goal is to help improve the county’s workforce, raise prosperity and provide a much-needed safety net to those at risk.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than when I meet someone who works for a company we brought to South Florida,” he said. “But after that, the most rewarding thing will be looking back in two years and being able to say, ‘We saw [homelessness] as a crisis and didn’t just create a patchwork or hide the problem from public view. We came up with some innovative answers that provided real solutions.’”

Professionally, what drives you? It’s a love for Broward County, as hokey as that might sound. I grew up here and have watched the community grow over the years.

How has your mission changed in the past year? As an economic development organization, I know what our core mission is. But I’ve become a lot more aware of prosperity across Broward County and how we can drive prosperity into all corners of our county. We have record-low unemployment, but we have pockets of our community that still have unemployment over 16 percent and high rates of poverty. How do we really effect change in those parts of the county? We’re working with business leaders to see how we can provide humane and strategic solutions for unemployment and homelessness.

As a CEO, what’s your greatest strength and weakness? I’m pretty even-keeled, and I don’t get flustered. I’m a good consensus builder. As an organization, we’re a great convener. I’m a huge believer in developing trust and being honest with people. So we’re seen as an honest broker in the community. My biggest weakness is not saying no. People come with really important issues and persuasive cases that we need to take up a cause, and it’s hard to say no.

What do you appreciate most about the South Florida business climate? One thing I love about South Florida … is that it’s young, and it’s maturing right now. What I like about the corporate structure [in the county] is that it’s based on merit. If you move to this community and want to be involved and be part of its leadership, you can move up in the ranks pretty quickly if you deliver on what you say you’re going to do. In some communities, it’s all about who your father or grandfather was. In this community, because it’s agile and it’s a meritocracy, I find that refreshing.

What centers you? My husband centers me the most. We’ve been together 22 years. We’ve been married since the day it became legal. He’s just an incredible support in life and a great source of counsel when I have a tough decision to make. And the unconditional love of a Labrador retriever is unparalleled in the support system at home.

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