By Bradford O'Brien


The day begins at the parking lot across from Café Centro, wait scratch that.

The day begins at the parking lot at the corner of 24th and Broadway with an announcement that Christina Macfarland gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Grace Macfarland. We proceed to board the bus and head over to the Port of Palm Beach.

On the ride over to the Port of Palm Beach, Robin Henderson and Rob Torrington, the Day Co-Chairs introduce themselves and gave us an overview of the day’s events. The ride was very bumpy and my notes are a little difficult to read but from what’s legible from my notes and reading their bio’s they are two very interesting individuals. Robin works as a Senior Client Manager for Bank of America Business Banking Division and has over 30 years experience working within the banking industry; and given Robin’s youthful appearance she must have started banking fresh out of grade school. Color me impressed.

Rob too has a career rooted in financial services. He serves as the Sr. Vice President, Wealth Advisor for UBS Financial Services. What I found interesting is that he enjoys playing golf, and this is where my notes get a little hard to read, Rob barely missed the cut at the Honda Classic last year?

8:15 we arrived at the Port of Pam Beach to a very appetizing breakfast provided by Florida Power and Light (FPL), thank you Thomas Bean and FPL!

8:30’ish we all settled into our seats with our plates of breakfast for our first speaker of the day. This is when I got a taste of what’s in store for me as the reporter. The first speaker is someone whom I have worked with and have tremendous respect for, Kelly Smallridge, President of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB). Kelly and her group have had a tremendous positive impact on the economy within Palm Beach County. Within the last year alone, the BDD facilitated 26 relocation and expansion projects which created or retained 2,159 jobs and $117 million of capital investment into Palm Beach County. That is a lot of jobs and to think of the ripple effect of $117 million of capital investment through Palm Beach County’s economy is staggering. A few of the industry clusters targeted by the BDB are Aviation/Aerospace/Engineering, Agribusiness, Business and Financial Services, and Equestrian.  Some of the key selling points of Palm Beach County to businesses include: the lifestyle, the many transportation options in and out of the county, affordable taxes, growing population, the skill sets the population possess, and the export opportunities. One of the things Kelly mentioned at the beginning of her presentation was that we all should be ambassadors for Palm Beach County and by doing so we can create a positive image of Palm Beach County from which we all benefit.

The next speaker was Carl Baker, the Operations Manager of the Port of Palm Beach (PPB). The PPB is the 20th busiest container port in the country and 4th in Florida. The PPB is a small port in terms of area approximately 156 acres, but handles the same volume as much larger ports. The PPB contributes $260 million in business revenue, $12 million in State and Federal taxes and over $7 billion worth of commodities move through the port each year. The PPB also accommodates a cruise ship and a casino boat.  The PPB contributes much of the port’s success to the vast rail connections that occur within the vicinity of the port.  Goods can be shipped with relative ease to distribution hubs within the region. The top export is food products at 38% and building material is the second most exported product. The top imports include synthetic resins, vegetables, peat aka rum (yum). The PPB both directly and indirectly are responsible for employing 2,858 people which equates to 191 million dollars in wages.

Next up was Glenn Jergensen, Senior Vice President for Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau (PBCCVB). Glenn started with the PBCCVB’s tag line “Discover the Palm Beaches and Boca Raton”. The purpose of the PBCCVB is to market PBC outside of PBC in order to promote the tourism industry here is PBC.  PBCCVB markets to consumers, travel writers, meeting planners, and travel trades.  They typically market through the traditional media but also take advantage of the current media like Facebook and Twitter. The PBCCVB estimates they bring 85 million visitors to PBC which contributes to the employment of 1,013,000 individuals.

10:15 we begin our trip to the Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fl. Being a resident of Wellington this is the part of business day that I was looking forward to the most. Upon arrival my feelings where that this was a different place and environment that I hadn’t experienced before. The Equestrian Festival to me had an air of enchantment to it. A nice lady named Barbara gave us our first introduction to the Equestrian Festival.  She explained the difference between “Jumpers” and “Hunters”. Jumpers is a competition where horses jump over obstacles while timed and scored. Hunters are judged on their rocking horse like gait and the ability to jump over obstacles while maintaining that gate. The history behind the name Hunters is that these horses where trained to emulate the movement of horses used for actual hunting. The rocking horse gait provides a more comfortable ride and is less fatiguing for the rider who may be hunting for extended periods of time.

12:15 we enjoy lunch provided by Equestrian Sport Productions.  What a fantastic lunch.  While eating, our next speaker Mark Bellissimo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Equestrian Sports Productions takes the stage. I remember thinking at this moment, did he just say that the air conditioner for this tent we were eating in hadn’t arrived yet. Bellissimo went on to say that the Winter Equestrian Festival is one of the biggest in the world and is made up of riders from 20 countries. According to the Sports Commission it is the largest contributor to the local economy within the sports and entertainment market.

Moving on quickly to Ken Kennerly, President, Palm Beach County Sports Commission (PBCSC). Ken is tasked with promoting PBC as a sports destination. The PBCSC was established in 1985. It is estimated that 4.2% of the total bed tax collections can be contributed to the PBCSC. Amateur events have a 46 million dollar economic impact and the sport event industry supports 4,000 jobs.

Geoff Lofstead, Executive Director at South Florida Section for PGA America, and Ken Kennerly President of the Honda Classic both play a key role in the Golf industry here in Palm Beach County. The golf industry has a 7.5 billion dollar impact on the economy in the State of Florida and 1 in every 85 people work in the golf industry. There a 127 golf facilities within PBC and it is estimated golf has a 925 million dollar impact on PBC’s economy. PBC is considered the golf capital of the world with the likes of Jack Nicholas, Greg Norman, Rory McElroy, and Tiger words calling PBC home.

Now it’s off to SV Microwave. Subi Katragadda is host for this stop. Subi is the General Manager of SV Microwave (SVM). SVM focuses on high performance radio frequency and microwave products. SVM manufactures off-the-shelf items as well as custom designed products. SVM manufactures out of a 40,000 ft² building and has 150 employees. SVM is the market leader in the push on connectors  SVM received the 2005 and 2008 manufacturer of the year in the midsize category.

We arrive at Palm Beach Post to a presentation by Buck Martinez, Senior Director of the Office for Clean Energy at Florida Power & Light (FPL). Some interesting facts about FPL are the following: 29.7 billion in market capitalization; one of the largest US electric utility; US leader in renewable generation; and FPL provides energy at the lowest cost and 25% lower than the national average. FPL is the #1 consumer of natural gas.

Our last two speakers of the day are Raul Vielma Director of Digital Solutions for The Palm Beach Post and Clay Clifton. The two gentlemen spoke to us about the changes that are occurring in the methods to which their customers receive the news. A noticeable shift has occurred from their consumers receiving the news in a print copy to now logging on the PBP website to get the news. Sorry there are not more notes on this topic but by this time in the day my hand was going numb. 

That does it for my notes over the Business Day and thank you to Robin Henderson and Rob Torrington, the Day Co-Chairs, to day sponsors FPL and Equestrian Sport Productions and to the 11 speakers that provided insight into the diverse economy here in Palm Beach County.