“Taking Care of Business- Leadership PBC Class of 2014 Style”
By Ray Ellis
On a cool and rainy Wednesday on January 8th, the Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2014 met up at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. There, we were warmly greeted by our AWESOME Business Day Chairs Mary Aguiar, Robin Henderson and Mindy Nichols. From the Kennel Club, we made our way to The Palm Beach Post.
Our first presentation was from Gary Hines (LPBC Class of 1988), SVP of Administration of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. Gary, a 24-year veteran of economic development, talked about the BDB’s goal of “Retention, Recruitment and Expansion.” Formed in 1982, the BDB of PBC is 1 of only 2 Accredited Economic Development Organizations (AEDOs) in Florida and 1 of only 37 in the US. Their budget is $2.4MM and they have 15 employees and 4 offices. There are 420 members (60% private and 40% public) and their retention rate is an impressive 82%. Last fiscal year, the BDB of PBC facilitated 23 projects creating 2,520 jobs and $158MM in capital investment. This fiscal year is looking equally if not more impressive. Most of their efforts are focused in the Northeastern US but certainly not exclusive to that region. Gary talked about the Top 10 reasons for doing business in PBC including quality of life, economic/population growth (Watch out New York!,) Transportation, International ports/airports and supportive local government. 8 industry clusters of focus include: Aviation/Aerospace/Engineering, Corporate HQ, IT/Telecommunications, Intl. Commerce, Life Science, Business Finance, Green Energy and Manufacturing. A recent coup for this fiscal year is the Office Depot/Office Max merger which, thanks in big part of the BDB team, retained 2,180 jobs and created 378 NEW jobs!!!
Our next presentation was from The Palm Beach Post. 20+-year Veteran Publisher Tim Burke made opening remarks and gave a brief overview of some exciting initiatives in this evolving industry. Clay Clifton, Nick Moschella (LPBC ’14!!!), Amy Royster and Frank Cerabino each spoke about their various roles and expanded on the initiatives which included paid and free strategy, online strategy and responsive design. Clay spoke about the fact that The Post is committed to keeping a free website and how they were just getting ready to roll out social hubs with the upcoming South Florida Fair. It will provide blog coverage and stories and stream in real time what is happening at the Fair using Vine, etc. Nick talked about the Post’s commitment to researching what their readers want including “hard news”, the Economy, Healthcare and Watchdog Journalism. Nick then discussed several of the Post’s most notable watchdog stories including TB expose’, state of mental health facilities and voting machines.
Amy discussed the transition of the newspaper industry and had a unique perspective from her former reporting background to her new marketing role. Amy highlighted Ideabarmedia.com which is a “sub-brand” of the Post and provides marketing consultancy to local businesses. Their services include: traditional marketing services, digital media services and research. Ideabar is also looking to develop products and she introduced us to palmbeachsproutz.com. Developed “in house” at IdeaBar, Palm Beach Sproutz is a mobile resource for all things “hippie” including Vegan restaurants, pesticide free item availability, etc. Frank was extremely entertaining and confirmed that there is no shortage of interesting people in PBC for him to write his 5 columns/week about. He noted that he writes for people we come across in the movie theater whose phones go off and they do not know how to shut them off. Frank shared many interesting (and hilarious) stories and encouraged the Class to read the paper to get a better understanding of where we live.
We headed back on the bus and our next stop was the Ice Cream Club. Husband and wife team Rick & Heather Draper welcomed the Class and we broke out in 2 groups to learn about the history of the Ice Cream Club who, coincidentally, was celebrating their 32nd Anniversary the very same day! The Class got to view the “mix room” and “ice cream room” and was treated to some amazing bear claw ice cream that was just off of the production line. Ice Cream Club is unique in that it uses low temperature pasteurization as well as the fact that they are not found in stores. They have a handful of retail locations but the majority of their sales come from food service channels. They are direct-to-store and have no distributors. They have 35 employees and produce 3 days per week and clean 3 days/week. We also got to go in the storage freezer which was 10 degrees below zero!!! This amazing company started with the purchase of a simple ice cream maker by 2 college buddies with a dream.
Stomachs full and running a bit late, we boarded the bus and headed over to NCCI Holdings. We had to break into several groups to navigate our way through this massive and impressive 310,000 s.f. facility. Established in 1922 (or 1923 depending on who you ask), NCCI is the “Center of excellence for Worker’s Compensation in the Country.” Their mission is to provide adequate loss/cost rates, objective reform evaluation, self-funded residual markets and tangible value for their stakeholders. Customers are insurance agents and carriers. NCCI operates as a not-for-profit (owned by insurers) and provides data, research and services and maintains the largest data base on employment industries in the US. NCCI helps states with premium rates in 40 jurisdictions. NCCI relocated to Boca Raton from NYC in the fall of 2000 and has 900 employees, 825 of those in their Boca headquarters. And what an impressive headquarters it is: 7 plasma televisions that keep their employees informed, an amazing wellness and fitness center (free), a daycare center (discounted rates), huge atrium, lending library and even a Starbucks! President and CEO Stephen Klingel gave a great presentation during lunch and gave the Class a great primer on Worker’s Compensation. After hearing Mr. Klingel it is not surprising that the average tenure at NCCI is 12 years!
Our next stop was Boca Raton-based mobile technology company 3Cinteractive. With headquarters much more intimate and edgy than our previous stop, we soon learned that 3C provides a platform and layer of services to large businesses (Walgreens, Red Box, Sports Authority, etc) to help them better engage with their customers via their mobile phones. They are a “toll booth” per se between large business and their clients. Founded in 2005 by 3 partners, they have grown to over 200 employees. Their mobile applications are powered by their cloud-based platform- Switchblade- which has helped their clients engage over 100 MILLION unique customers on their mobile devices. Director of Corporate Communications, Vinnie Fiordelisi, gave us a nice history and vision for this rapidly growing and innovative company. We were also treated by a special visit from John Duffy, 3C’s Founder and CEO. Similar to NCCI, 3C really takes care of their employees and offers them free lunch each day and Friday Happy Hours!
We headed back on the bus for a quick trip to Digital Media Arts College (DMAC), also in Boca Raton. Founded in 2002, DMAC is a private, boutique college that is exclusively Digital Arts. They have 300 students and are ACICS accredited and for-profit. There are 3 sides to the college: Animation, Graphic Design and Web Development. President & CEO, Sunny Sharma, gave a nice presentation about their history and vision and their desire to reach more potential students. What makes DMAC unique is their low professor/student ratio, personal attention and studio-like facility. We were treated by a nice video presentation of some of their talented student’s actual work- impressive!!! In fact, all of us have probably already seen many of their students work at the movies and don’t even know it.
After the presentation and tour, FPL’s Director of Public & Community Engagement (LPBC ’13) Thomas Bean gave a brief presentation about how FPL is “Changing the Current.” Thomas focused on the need to strengthen our grid and harden our infrastructure and improve our quality of life. FPL has 10,000 employees and is the largest employer (and taxpayer) in Florida. FPL is 99.98 reliable and boasts being one of the cleanest energy companies in the US. Not to mention the fact that the average FPL bill is 26% below the national average. FPL was also the first and only utility to bring commercial scale solar power to Florida.
The day coming to an end, we made our way to Palm Beach County’s ONLY cigar factory, West Palm Beach-based Mya Handmade Cigars. Owner George Rodriguez greeted us with a big smile. Mya opened their doors in 2001 and has a special blend, unique to the industry. They use 5 different blends to make their special cigars. The Class watched in awe as Master Cigar Roller Carlos worked his magic, seemingly effortless. Their (3) talented cigar rollers make 100-150 cigars each day! Mya has a great reputation in the industry and is also extremely charitable, supporting many different non-profits at their fundraisers. The tour ended with Cuban coffee and cigar samples.
Wired from the Cuban coffee, the bus headed back to the Kennel Club for cocktail hour and poker. Not before reading our respective group poems highlighting the day that had the entire bus rolling with laughter. In the end, Catherine Blomeke’s “Gangsta’ Rap” stole the show and her proud team each won a special prize for their efforts.
Business Day 2014 was truly a day to be remembered and was excellently choreographed by Day Chairs Mary Aguiar, Robin Henderson and Mindy Nichols. Thanks so much to the 3 of you for making this an incredible day for all!!!!