Marine Industries & Transportation Day - April 10, 2013
By Catherine Kent
CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE DAY
The Class of 2013 arrived at Rybovich Superyacht Marina on the morning of April 10th to kick off Marine Industries & Transportation Day.
As we crossed the marina to our welcome breakfast with Mike Antheil, Executive Director of Rybovich and a lobbyist for the Marine Industry Association of Palm Beach County, we passed rows of mega yachts spanning approximately 1.5 miles of dock space, the majority ranging from 130 to 300 feet.
The marine industry is a $2 billion industry in Palm Beach County, and thanks to Rybovich, Palm Beach County is taking over as the yacht capital of Florida and one of the premier yacht destinations in the world. Mike explained how Rybovich is raising professionalism in the industry, while the Marine Industries Association is creating incentives to attract marine business to Palm Beach County.
Anthony LaCavalla, our next speaker and Director of Guest Services at Rybovich, told the history of the yard, which was founded in 1917, purchased by Wayne Huizenga in 2004, and completed its last phase of marina expansion in 2012. Anthony described one of the unique features of Rybovich, and one of the reasons why it has been so successful at attracting yachts from around the world: the luxury crew amenities, which include gourmet dining, an extensive workout facility, and two Mercedes shuttles that take crew from the yard to various popular destinations in the area such as downtown Clematis and the Apple store.
Our next stop was AMF in Riviera Beach, home of the Miss Geico Racing Team. AMF’s garage was filled with the bright neon toys of world champion speedboat racers. Scott Begovich, the team’s throttleman, gave us a tour of the facility and a run down of the Miss Geico Racing Team. The team was founded in 2006 by John Haggin, Jr., Roxanne Pulitzer’s ex-husband. Thanks to Haggin’s financial resources, AMF was able to acquire a fleet of the biggest class of race boats. Their fleet, combined with their talent, gained the team a Geico sponsorship and the ability to break 200 miles per hour in a race. In addition to competing in between ten and twenty-three races a year, AMF re-powers boats for private clients; one hull in the garage was soon to be the world’s fastest Apache cigarette boat. Of their $3 million a year budget, $2 million is distributed in Palm Beach County through salaries, grants, and business with other local companies.
Our third destination was Flight Safety International, a graduate school for helicopter flight training and aircraft training center. Chad Copeland, army-trained Regional Sales Manager for Oil and Gas, explained the center’s mission. Owned by Berkshire Hathaway, Flight Safety International trains pilots from 153 countries in their facility, which is home to world-class, real-life flight simulators. These simulators so accurately portray the experience of flying an Apache helicopter, including every possible problem that may arise in flight, trainees are prepared to assume the position of pilot in command after completion of training without even going into the air. Oil and gas companies send their pilots to Flight Safety International so that they can use Apache helicopters to fly workers in and out of oil rigs.
We switched gears as we arrived for lunch at the Vista Center, where Nick Uhren, Senior Engineer of Palm Beach County Department of Engineering, talked to us about funding transportation in Palm Beach County. Funding for our public transportation system comes from a variety of sources, including federal, state, and local gas taxes; development impact fees; and toll revenues. Nick pointed out that while less than 2% of trips in Palm Beach County are made on public transit, over 70% of the gas tax is spent on it. The 2035 Cost Feasible Plan, which envisions $4 billion in planned investments to construct an intercity rail system with connecting commuter rails, has the goal of helping Palm Beach County “transition to transit.” However, the plan may never come to fruition because of political opposition.
Next, our classmate Charles Frazier, Deputy Director of Palm Tran, provided us with an overview of our county’s bus system. The overall goals of the transportation industry are to provide safe, effective, affordable, and reliable transportation. Palm Tran strives to accomplish these goals by providing 3,400 bus stops in Palm Beach County, servicing 12 million riders annually, and employing 300 bus operators along with 75 mechanics. However, as ridership has increased due to rising gas prices, meeting our county’s public transportation goals has become more challenging. Palm Tran’s stakeholders are faced with difficult decisions about the appropriate allocation of limited funding and resources. Gloria Gallaway, Marketing for Palm Tran, described our transportation system for disadvantaged riders. Those with physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities have access to special transportation in Palm Beach County to meet their needs. Discounted passes are available for those who are 100% under the poverty guidelines.
Also in the Vista Center, we heard from William Cross, Manager of Planning and Engineering with Tri-Rail, Bret Baronak, Senior Planner of Palm Beach MPO, and Tomas Boiton, CEO of Citizens for Improved Transit and a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County. William introduced an exciting new plan to build a large transportation hub in Miami connecting Tri-rail, Amtrak, and Greyhound with busses going directly to and from Miami International Airport by January of 2014. Bret explained how MPO, a federally mandated transportation organization, uses federal funds to improve our bike trail infrastructure so that people become more motivated to use bikes as a form of transportation. Tomas familiarized us with the concept of “transit-oriented design”--walkable, bikeable, mass transit communities--and encouraged us to support rail systems and local trolleys.
Our last stop was the Palm Beach Country traffic control room. While large screens at the front of the control room displayed cars going through various intersections in live time, Dan Weisberg, Director of Palm Beach County Traffic Division, explained how the flow of traffic is monitored and controlled with a combination of 400 miles of a dedicated fiber optic network and cameras placed at strategic intersections throughout the county. 700 traffic signals are connected to this infrastructure, allowing the traffic control center to detect vehicles at traffic lights, conduct traffic counts, and use special timing placement to clear congested traffic. In light of the recently proposed Royal Palm bridge closure in Palm Beach, Dan described the Traffic Division’s plan to significantly reduce the time it would take for an emergency vehicle to exit the island through a trauma program that would use traffic signals to clear traffic.
Marine Industries & Transportation Day provided the Class of 2013 with an opportunity to learn about the importance of private and public transportation in Palm Beach County. It will be exciting to see the developments in the marine and transportation industries in our county over the next several years, and particularly, how Leadership Palm Beach County graduates will continue to contribute to their growth and improvement.