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The Future Is Now And It’s Exponential


A few years ago, I had a chance to see Salim Ismail give a rock em sock em talk to Leadership Florida.

Ismail, a co-founder of Singularity University, blew the audience away with a presentation on the future.

It was the first time we saw drones delivering packages and he concluded his talk by printing a belt on a 3-D printer.

It was science fiction come to life. We were in awe. And probably a little skeptical too.

Would we see these things on a mass scale in our lifetimes?

Well, a few years later drones are the talk of the media (and one flew over our table during Savor the Avenue this week), 3-D printing has come down in price to the point where China worries about its role as a manufacturing hub and self-driving cars are being talked about by Google and Tesla as being only a few years away.

I had a chance to see Salim Ismail again a few weeks ago at a workshop at Miami Dade College’s Idea Center. We were at an event sponsored by Rokk3r Labs, a magnificent technology accelerator in Miami and the Knight Foundation which is increasingly doing more and more important work in the areas of community building, the arts and technology in our region.

I first met the Rokk3r team about a year ago through a friend in Delray. They have gone from a handful of employees to over 85 in a short period of time. They are taking a leading role in building Miami’s tech scene, so when they invited me to see Ismail, I jumped at the opportunity.

Ismail is an evangelist for what he calls Exponential Organizations or E0s. The philosophy stems from his work at Singularity University, a unique school in Silicon Valley that taps into the latest thinking on technology from the best minds in the world including Tesla founder Elon Musk and the Google founder Larry Page and futurist/technologist Ray Kurzweil who has been called among the smartest men in the world.

Their basic belief is technological change is so rapid these days that you can’t have a fixed curriculum; it must always be evolving to keep pace with the world.

Ismail sees technology “disrupting” just about every industry you can imagine from health care and education to politics and land use.

For example, he opened his presentation with this showstopper: “ I have a three year old son. He will never have a driver’s license.”
What? Why?
Because Ismail believes that within 10 years and maybe sooner, we won’t be driving. Instead, we will use Uber like services to summon driverless cars. That means an end to accidents (the Google car has driven over 1 million miles without a fender bender), no need for auto insurance and an end to traffic.

That will enable cities to reclaim infrastructure and land now used for exclusively for cars. Ismail says it will provide the biggest real estate opportunity of our lifetimes.

Cars that we actually drive will be like horses; used for primarily for recreational purposes.

Of course, all this change and disruption will mean a loss of traditional jobs and industries, with incumbents who don’t adjust being wiped out, just like Blockbuster Video (by Netflix) and Polaroid (by the rise of digital cameras on smartphones).

The regulatory and political framework does not exist to accommodate this rapid change. Ismail says our politics are “light years” behind our technological prowess. (That’s not a revelation.)

Some in the audience of innovators and entrepreneurs were thrilled and others frightened by his vision. But he says the technology is already here and spreading– you guessed it–exponentially.

Organizations in every walk of life will either become E0s or be disrupted.

There’s no turning back, but there is a way to become an Exponential thinker and to turn your business and organization into an EO.

For a glimpse into the near future read Salim’s new book Exponential Organizations and visit his website:




Collaboration Key to Success


I recently had an opportunity to meet and talk with a diverse group of Lake Worth business leaders.

They were a mixture of retailers, restauranteurs and service providers, mostly from the downtown core.

They are a motivated group, eager to see their city grow, thrive and succeed. You can’t help but get swept up in their enthusiasm and passion for their city. They are hungry and you have to be hungry to succeed.

I’ve always liked Lake Worth.

The city has an amazing array of assets: two main streets (Lake and Lucerne), a beautiful beach and casino, a fun pier, a nice waterfront park and golf course, cute cottages, a vibrant art scene, some great restaurants and some nice festivals including the Street Painting Festival which is a whole lot of fun.

I’m part of a team that is trying to restore the historic Gulfstream Hotel on Lake Avenue. It’s a fun and challenging project and I’ve learned a whole lot about historic preservation, design and what it takes to build a successful hotel in today’s world.

A project like the Gulfstream would be a no-brainer in a place like Delray or Boca, established markets and proven destinations for tourists.

But in Lake Worth, The Gulfstream is being viewed as a catalyst, a market maker so to speak.

The risks are greater and so are the challenges. But the rewards, if successful, are that much more satisfying.

In Delray, I’ve seen entrepreneurs succeed and fail: especially when we were more of a start-up city; back when we were excited and confident but not quite 100 percent sure about whether the vision for the downtown would take root.

I saw many early pioneers open shops and restaurants and then go out of business—with the common lament that “they were just a little ahead of their time.” And I saw others make bets that paid off beyond their wildest imaginations.

On our beach, I grew to become great friends with Perry Don Francisco, the managing partner of the landmark Boston’s on the Beach. Perry and I were reminiscing last week and talking about the “early years”. He virtually lived at the restaurant—in a third floor apartment. At that time, Boston’s was a breakfast place, a lunch spot, a dinner destination, a nightclub, a caterer, a bar and a host to private parties. Eventually, Perry added the upper deck for fine dining and then an outdoor bar. Oh and there was a small hotel out back. Whew!

He juggled all of those different businesses and found time to serve on city boards, start a police support group, attend myriad chamber of commerce meetings and give to every worthwhile charity that helped kids and the community.

He was there during the struggle; he believed, he engaged and he made it happen. But it wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight.

Next door, Fran Marincola came from a Jersey boardwalk and opened a gelato shop that ultimately became the award winning Caffe Luna Rosa. Did he envision lines out the door for brunch when he started out almost 30 years ago, probably not? But it happened and along the way, he went out of his way to be involved in building the town through service on the Parking Board (talk about excitement), the Downtown Development Authority, Delray Marketing Cooperative, Beach Property Owners Association, DELPAC. the Sandoway House among other causes. He lives and breathes Delray and has helped employees find homes and a life in this community.

Further on up the street, it’s nice to see long time merchants like Hand’s and Vince Canning Shoes working well alongside new shops.

In Pineapple Grove, people scoffed when Scott Porten and Morgan Russell proposed “CityWalk”, which has given us great stores, services and a personal favorite Brule.

We saw the Miami City Ballet come and go, the Esplanade plaza change hands a few times and then flower with a gym, Christina’s, Papas Tapas, a Mystery Book Store and more.

The sky was supposed to fall when the old Post Office left. We fought to keep it, calling our reps in Congress, but Pineapple Grove made it and now the nooks and crannies; Artist’s Alley, Third and Third and the Arts Warehouse feel alive. There’s even rumors of a food market coming to a neighborhood that had been dormant for years.

There’s more to do, of course. Federal Highway is going to thrive, South of the Avenue is on its way and investment is coming to West Atlantic Avenue. Keep your eye on Northwest/Southwest 5th Avenue as well. We have a great CRA and they are focused.

So as I meet more and more people in Lake Worth, I think about my experiences in Delray Beach in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. Each city needs to find its own distinctive personality and leverage its own strengths, but there’s a commonality in what it takes to make it happen.

A great Police Department is essential.  People have to feel safe to visit, live, shop and invest. A friendly city government is also a must. That means a staff and elected leadership that doesn’t lower standards or cut corners but works hard to make deals happen and to shape positive outcomes that benefit both the business owner and the community. Yes, it’s possible.

And most importantly a supportive community that shops locally, welcomes entrepreneurs and supports them in ways large and small. The community piece is vital. A group friend told me recently that “money is fungible; it goes where it’s welcome.”

That saying resonates, so before intractable opposition forms, it is important for community leaders to get out front with a message of “how may we help you” versus “we’re going to stop you” or “you are on your own, good luck.” Again that does not mean lowering standards, but it does mean an attitude of trying to solve problems collaboratively, a distinction that many cities miss.

Can Lake Worth do it?


We are betting on it.




Vision is imperative

Vision is imperative

Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting with a friend who is hard at work on a book about mayors.

The book is focused on mayoral leadership and the author’s premise is that successful mayors articulate or champion a vision, involve the public, put a team in place to implement the vision and exercise political will to ensure that the vision is accomplished when the inevitable opposition to change arises.

It’s all good stuff. But what intrigues me is the author’s premise that cities need to create a new vision every 25 years or they will run into trouble.

I agree with that. And doing the math, I’d say that Delray is due a new or renewed vision.

The best visions are community building exercises in which all major stakeholders are engaged and asked to participate.

Delray’s revitalization began in the late 80s, when a group of committed citizens working alongside city staff developed Visions 2000.

Visions 2000 served as a blueprint for the next decade of policymaking and informed spending for the next ten years. It also enabled the passing of the landmark $21.5 million Decade of Excellence Bond, in which citizens voted to go into debt in order to improve the community.

Why? Because they not only believed in the vision, they helped to craft it. They also had faith in local government to deliver.

The Decade of Excellence helped to usher in a lot of private investment; business owners, homeowners, restauranteurs and developers began to risk capital because they believed in Delray and were excited by the vision. I can think of no more valuable economic development tool than to have an exciting vision.

But you can’t stop at a vision, you have to implement and Delray did so–remarkably well.

When the Decade of Excellence wrapped up and the projects were completed, a new vision for the downtown was formed –again with an inclusive process. While Visions 2000 brought a representative sample of citizens together, the Downtown Master Plan invited everybody willing to show up to the table.

In all, over 500 people participated in the charrette, plus several hundred who visited temporary design studios set up on Swinton Avenue.

Immediately upon completion, a steering committee in charge of the plan, morphed into an implementation committee which prioritized projects and worked with staff and related agencies to get projects designed, funded and under way. The process worked and unlike other cities that let plans sit on a shelf, Delray delivered.

But like everything else in a fast-changing world, visions need to change to meet current needs and aspirations.

As a result of past good work, Delray has a ton of options and possibilities that it didn’t have when the journey started 30 years ago.

We dreamt of creating a place attractive to the creative class and now they are here.

We dreamt of creating a vibrant food and beverage scene and it happened. Now the challenge is to move beyond food and beverage.

We dreamt of creating a walkable community with downtown residential options and mixed use projects and saw it happen.

We dreamt of becoming a cultural beacon for the region and it happened with the redevelopment of Delray Center for the Arts,  The Arts Garage and now Artist’s Alley and other efforts.

Parts of the vision are incomplete and or didn’t quite happen, but a great deal of it did. And it should be a source of enormous civic pride.

But complacency is a killer and cities should never rest on their laurels. Downtown is never done, we used to say. Success is never permanent and hopefully failure is never fatal.

Cities are not a zero sum game, you can concentrate on downtown and the neighborhoods. You can promote West Atlantic Avenue and Congress Avenue.

And you should.


FAU & Lynn: Driving Local Innovation

President John Kelly has energized not only FAU but the broader community.

President John Kelly has energized not only FAU but the broader community as well.

We pride ourselves on being local trend spotters here at

So we are proud to announce that we are seeing a positive trend taking shape in Boca Raton, which will impact the entire region.

Our two local universities FAU and Lynn are making major strides to deepen their excellence, expand their influence and increase their relevance to our local economy.

This is important because both FAU and Lynn are major drivers of intellectual capital and leaders in how our region is viewed by the world. If the Boca area is seen as an intellectual hub and a magnet for young talent, it virtually guarantees economic sustainability and quality of life for the entire community.

FAU has clearly been invigorated by the leadership of President John Kelly. Great leaders engage with the world and bring energy to institutions.  In his first year, Dr. Kelly’s drive and ambition for FAU has clearly penetrated not only the university community but the outside world as well.

A recent agreement to partner with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Institute is just one of many partnerships fostered as a result of his energetic leadership. It seems that wherever we travel these days, the topic of FAU comes up in conversation and usually in terms of collaboration and external outreach. In Delray alone, the university is working with Delray Students First, Dare 2 Be Great and the Achievement Centers for Children and Families.

VP of Public Service Jorge Calzadilla and his team have been making the rounds and turning heads in the community with their zeal to make an impact and to turn FAU into a university of national significance.

Calzadilla came with President Kelly from Clemson where he served 27 years and did remarkable work impacting children in South Carolina. If you meet Jorge, you can’t help but be swept up by his enthusiasm and vision for FAU.

On the research front, we recently had a chance to hear new VP of Research Dan Flynn discuss his plans to turn FAU into a major research institution complete with patents, start-ups, commercialization efforts, student research opportunities, faculty initiatives and major grants. Flynn has done it before at other institutions and sees no barriers to FAU becoming a world class research center utilizing the amazing natural resources provided by the ocean and the Everglades.

All of this is good news for students, our region, Boca and Delray, alumni and the general community.  Not only will a reinvigorated FAU attract talent, it will help our region retain its young minds. Already in some of our work with young students in Delray and Boca we are beginning to hear a desire to stay home and attend FAU or come back home for graduate work. And keep an eye on FAU’s Tech Runway and Research Park because within a decade or even sooner you will see the first superstar company launched right here in our backyard. All of the elements are in place.

This is great news for those of us who value economic development and it provides our region with an opportunity to go beyond food, beverage, services, construction, tourism and retirees to fuel our economy.

At Lynn University, President Kevin Ross and his leadership team are innovating on multiple fronts.

From a curriculum that is high on relevance and providing hands on experience in an increasingly global society to a very impactful partnership with a little company in Cupertino called Apple, Lynn’s campus crackles with excitement.

Dr. Ross has attracted a top-notch faculty attracted by the opportunity to innovate and a diverse student body that is placing a premium on making an impact on the world.

Whenever I visit with President Ross I’m reminded of a saying: “Normal” is what the majority does, which is why “different” is so much more interesting.


And Lynn has transformed its model to be both different and compelling.

To have both Boca universities performing at high levels at the same time is a unique and happy circumstance.

Switched on cities, progressive non-profits, schools and businesses will find ways to tap into the innovation and excellence happening at Lynn and FAU.

And that’s good news for Boca Raton and Delray Beach.





A Job Well Done; A Mission That Continues

Nancy K. Hurd on the campus that bears her name.

Nancy K. Hurd on the campus that bears her name.

We used to say if we could clone the Achievement Centers for Children & Families, we’d have a better world.

Whenever I’m asked for an example of a model non-profit, I immediately think of the Achievement Center.

For over 40 years, starting in a church classroom and growing into a major campus on Lake Ida Road, the Achievement Center has changed lives by striving to break the cycle of poverty in our community.

Yesterday, the center’s longtime– but now retired –executive director Nancy Hurd was honored when the campus was named after her. It was a small but joyous ceremony which was fitting for those of us who know Nancy. After all, she declined a big gala when she retired preferring to be surrounded by friends, family, longtime supporters of the mission and of course the children she dedicated her life to.

For generations of children in Delray, Nancy Hurd and her staff were angels. They provided love, care, education and a range of services to our most vulnerable children and their families. And they did it as well as it can be done. To see that work continue is heartwarming beyond words.

Under Nancy’s smart and strategic leadership, the Achievement Centers (which started out as the Delray Community Child Care Center) set the bar for excellence in service delivery, financial stewardship and real and lasting impact.

In life, you don’t meet too many people who impact generations, but Nancy Hurd is one of those few who have done it. Her passion for children, her pursuit of excellence and her big heart not only impacted our most needy families, but they inspired staff members, volunteers and board members to dig deeper, try harder and care more.

I am one of those she influenced. I first met Nancy when I was young reporter, new to Delray and anxious to write about interesting people. We hit it off right away and I returned to do many stories over the years for the old Delray Times.

When Gov. Lawton Chiles paid the newly expanded center a visit, the governor’s staff arranged for a private tour just before the big public event. Gov. Chiles was like that, a rare politician who really wanted to dig in and learn why this organization was so special. He also wanted to interact with the kids away from the press. Nancy made sure that I was included on that exclusive tour and it give me a chance to meet and talk with the governor. Nancy knew the experience would be meaningful to me and it was. We never talked about it, but the visit made an impression and showed me that politicians could have hearts.

Later, I would spend many years on Nancy’s board and I must admit it was easy work. The organization was so well-run that most meetings were spent just smiling at the results we were seeing.

Trust me, that’s not always the case when you serve on non-profit boards.

My term on the board allowed me to observe Nancy’s leadership style and I was especially impressed with her ability to spot and nurture talent. The best leaders develop other leaders.

Nancy and the board did a great job finding and developing the super talented Stephanie Seibel, who took the reins when Nancy retired.

The organization continues to thrive, which is the mark of a championship team; when superstars retire the success continues.

Nancy and I have become friends over the years. She was a great source of strength for me during the tough times that I experienced in public office. I knew I could drop by unannounced and get hugs from the cutest children on the planet and then get solid advice from someone I knew, loved, respected and trusted. I always left feeling better. Always.

Now when I drive by the campus every morning on my way to work, I will be able to see Nancy’s name on the Achievement Center’s sign. And I will remember her life’s work, her impact on generations and her influence on one young reporter.

Nancy didn’t say much at the ceremony. She was happy and clearly touched. But she did say that she couldn’t have imagined having a better life. And for the thousands and thousands of lives she has touched; we can’t imagine anyone living a better life.

Well done, Nancy. Your work and your impact will live on forever.






Raising the Level of Debate


I delayed this post until after the election, because I didn’t want to be accused of pushing one candidate over another (at least in this space).

(In the interest of full disclosure, while I did not endorse a mayoral candidate, I did endorse commission candidate Bruce Bastian).

You may recall that we blogged about the “silly season” right before the mail and robocalls began in earnest a few weeks back. We predicted pandering and boy were we right.

This does not make us proud or particularly prescient. In fact it depresses us because we deserve a more intelligent debate than what we just endured (and the operative word here is endured).

Now we’re sure that there are voters out there who really believe that all developers are evil and greedy and that candidates for Delray Beach elected office are magically raising test scores and have some magical elixir to relieve traffic congestion. To those who believe that, we ask that you be careful out there—please do not purchase any bridges without consulting an attorney.

You are not a hero if you bid a contract, you’re following the law. So promising to bid local contracts doesn’t make you Abe Lincoln and it doesn’t make you a candidate for a profile in courage.  All it means is that you are compliant with a city ordinance.  That said, you deserve a ton of credit for doing so. It has not been easy. It also means that you have paid attention to the mistakes of past elected officials.

And yes, they all make mistakes. In the interest of more disclosure, the commission I was on did bid the garbage contract but did not bid other contracts. We should have.

Bidding wasn’t a hot button issue in those days and we were hard at work on other things, but municipal contracts should be bid.  Period.

Still, I was overwhelmed by the vitriol and utter lack of ideas in this past campaign. So were many others who contacted us. As we predicted, everyone is fighting development, every developer refuses “to play by the rules” and every candidate is “going to fight congestion and overdevelopment”.

But I didn’t read about a single solution or idea. I visited websites, read every piece of mail and listened to every robocall (I even made one)—but ideas were rarer than snow in Florida.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • “Tougher rules and regulations for sober homes”—this is a new one.  I guess nobody else has ever tried.
  • “Congress Avenue is the answer”—The vision for revitalizing Congress Avenue is about 10 years old. Very little has been done since to advance the vision for a corporate mixed use corridor. We hope that changes.  But candidates talked about Congress as if they had discovered the Holy Grail. Congress does have potential, but I suspect that it was used as a pressure relief valve to guard against charges that candidates were anti-business. This way, you can rail against development downtown but pivot with your “vision” for a bustling Congress Avenue.  Smart growth is not a zero sum game. We need office space downtown and we need to redevelop Congress Avenue. You can and you should pay attention to both corridors, as well as Federal Highway, West Atlantic Avenue, south of the avenue and the four corners of Atlantic and Military. And all of those corridors need to be thought of as “complete streets” otherwise all you’ve done is create more sprawl, which is a huge cause of traffic.
  • Special Interest Groups: Everybody seems to hate them, but nobody seems to name them other than of course, developers, who are invariably “greedy” “irresponsible”, “not listening” “violating rules” and corrupting everyone in their relentless pursuit to ruin the village, city, community, neighborhood etc.

I can go on. And on. But you get the picture.

Social media was no better and seemed to reflect the nearly $300,000 spent in a concentrated period to say how awful Delray Beach has become. Really?!

If you were sent campaign mailers and didn’t know anything about the city you would have thought the town was ruined. To some it has been, but to many others it’s been improved. Me: I kind of like Delray.

There I said it. I like the vibrancy, the restaurants, most of the downtown housing projects (not all), the cultural amenities, the historic districts and some of the newer homes sprouting up (not all).

With success comes challenges—traffic, noise, etc.—but on balance I like my town. Check that: I love it.


Boca’s level of debate wasn’t any better. But it was heartening to see Jeremy Rodgers succeed with a simple message: Boca should be the best place to start a business and raise a family.


We don’t live in Nirvana, but we live in extremely desirable place. But if you read some of the vitriol on out there, you can’t help but scratch your head and wonder. And worry; especially when you see the posts knocking New Yorkers and northerners. It makes you wonder.

We spend a whole lot of time talking about the “village” and we seem to define it by how tall our buildings are, but perhaps we should spend some time thinking about how we debate issues of concern and how we treat each other.

Now that the silly season has concluded and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent spouting exactly nothing hopefully we can raise the level of debate.


Because there are real issues and opportunities that deserve a serious discussion; but you can’t make progress until you stop  blaming, start listening and start dealing in facts, not vitriol or platitudes.

The election dovetailed with college Spring Break and many of the kids we mentor at a foundation called Dare 2 Be Great were home to witness the adults at play.

The students I heard from were shocked by the lack of substance this election cycle.

One young man wrote: “Back home two days and can’t believe what I’m seeing and hearing. So disappointing!  Integrity has left the building. We need to do better.” Out of the mouths of babes; we need to do better. Yes we do.

One final note on the issue of dark money or funds raised by ECO’s: Personally, I have always donated directly to campaigns. But companies I have been involved with or worked for have been solicited to donate to ECO’s and have done so.  After this cycle, I think the practice, while legal, is ultimately detrimental to raising the level of debate and ends up actually backfiring on candidates the PAC’s are supposed to be helping. I suppose there are exceptions, but often funds are commingled and donors have no control over the messages they are financing. Ironically, many of the messages run counter to the donors interests. For example, developers contributing to ECO’s that send out mail pieces slamming development.  It makes no sense. Hopefully, it stops.

I do however believe that business has a strong interest in good government and a right to participate in the political process. It’s not wrong to have a commercial interest in a community. All strong towns need to have strong neighborhoods, strong schools and a thriving business community.

One positive takeaway from this election is that in a world of PAC’s, ECO’s etc. grassroots campaigning still works. There’s just no better substitute for knocking on doors. Commissioner elect Mitch Katz proved that.

Passionate candidates and passionate supporters still win local elections. And that’s the silver lining in the last cycle.






If You Could See What We See

Dare 2 Be Great supports promising Delray students with a goal of bringing them back home.

Dare 2 Be Great supports promising Delray students with a goal of bringing them back home.

We just came off an election in which development was the main issue.

The level of debate that we had will be the subject of a future blog, but when we think of development in Delray Beach or Boca Raton we would be foolish to limit our discussion to height, density and traffic.

We ought to be talking about human development and how we can develop young people and create more opportunities for our children and grandchildren. If you want to create a sustainable village, invest in young people. Fortunately, we have a number of worthy efforts to get behind.

Today, I want to tell you about Dare 2 Be Great.

About five years ago, I reconnected with Morgan Russell, an early investor in Pineapple Grove over breakfast at Christina’s.

I met Morgan early in my tenure on the City Commission and while most business people were focusing on Atlantic Avenue, Morgan had his eye on Pineapple Grove, a neighborhood just north of “the ave”.

Morgan lived in the Grove so that he could better understand its rhythms and nuances. He thought it could be a special type of neighborhood but he wanted to make sure that his investments would be made in “the path of progress.”  So one day we met and he looked me in the eye and asked if we were really serious about beautifying Pineapple Grove. I assured him that we were. It would be a public private effort, with the CRA, city and property owners splitting the costs. Morgan invested, along with others, and we did our part and Pineapple Grove blossomed.

So when we sat down years later—after losing touch for a bit of time—Morgan was determined to give back. But he wanted his philanthropy to be an investment in Delray Beach’s future and on a napkin we sketched out a plan to create the Dare 2 Be Great Foundation. We recruited a stellar board of directors and over the next four years we invested in local kids by sending them to college and providing mentoring opportunities. It has been a remarkable experience for all involved.

Along the way, we expanded our reach thanks to a generous donation from Carl DeSantis and a new partnership with Florida Atlantic University. As a result, we are able to help more young men and women.

Last week, we spent two days interviewing finalists for scholarships. Our criteria are simple; we want to support and mentor the next generation of leaders in Delray Beach. Scholars must live in Delray, have a 3.0 gpa, substantial community service and a desire to come back home and pay it forward. As long as they maintain their grades in college, we commit to them for four years and informally do all we can to open doors for them when they graduate.

The best part of the program for me is the interviews. After we pour through applications and essays, we invite the stand outs to meet the board so we can get a sense of who they are. This year we invited a few others outside the board to sit in. They too, were blown away by the talent in this community.

The interviews are always emotional; there are tears when we hear their stories and also laughter and joy when these remarkable young men and women share who they are and what they want to be.

We hear amazing stories of young people overcoming crushing poverty, family dysfunction, violence, peer pressure, racial tension and health issues to become remarkable people. This year, we interviewed kids who lost their parents to murder and illness and a young man who was homeless and walked six miles to school in order to “change my situation.” His mother told him books were the way out and he listened.

These are young people who don’t succumb to their problems, but succeed in a miraculous way, because of them. All are determined to better their lives and are motivated by their difficult circumstances to succeed through the power of education.  Not all of our scholars come from difficult circumstances, but most do. We are looking to help those who we believe have the potential to be extraordinary contributors to our community. As such, this is an investment in Delray Beach. A bet on kids, who dare to be great.

As a result, we ask them about their lives here and whether they are interested in coming back after they complete their studies. We should be proud to know that these incredible kids love our city and are passionate about coming back home and making a difference.

Whether they live in stable homes or homes that are rife with problems they have a common love for Delray Beach and a common pride as well.

They talk about enjoying the beach and the “ave” and others talk about loving their neighborhoods even though,  remarkably some have never been to the beach or to a restaurant downtown.

When the City Commission goes into budget sessions this year, they ought to know that programs put in place by prior commission’s changed lives– literally transformed lives –and that the money devoted to programs such as Eagle Nest, The Youth Council, Delray Center for the Arts, The Arts Garage and afterschool and summer programs touched a whole bunch of amazing and beautiful children.

We interviewed a young artist who was inspired by Delray’s many arts events and festivals. We talked to an amazing young man who found a passion for construction thanks to his work at the Eagle Nest, a city/CRA program.

In years past, we have interviewed kids who were inspired by the Criminal Justice Program at Atlantic High which is staffed by our police officers and this year we talked to a brilliant young mathematician who dreams of coming back home to be a professor/researcher at FAU and who aspires to teach other kids how to love math.

Every year, after we get done interviewing and drying our eyes, the board has the same three conclusions.

  • We wish everybody in Delray can see what we are seeing. The beauty of our diversity, the quality of our kids and the potential that radiates from them when they walk into a room.
  • We wish everybody can see the civic pride they exhibit regardless of their circumstances. They love this town and they want to come back and help and we owe it to them to build a city of opportunities so that’s its possible for them to be here. We need to grow beyond food and beverage; wonderful industries but we need more. Their aspirations need to be a part of our discussion over the future of our city. These are our children.
  • We can’t help them all. And we struggle with some very hard decisions. We need to grow this program and we need to touch more lives. We need more people to invest in the next generation. The return on investment simply cannot be measured. P.S. We have virtually no administrative costs. And yes it does take a village so your help is needed.

Please consider getting involved. There is no better way to impact Delray than to invest in kids, especially kids who dare to do great things with their lives.




Seeding Entrepreneurs in Delray & Boca

Loic at work.

Loic at work.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

And the business activity is not just tech related, its food, fashion and social entrepreneurship as well.

Sometimes, entrepreneurial activity comes from sources that you least expect: a chamber program for youth, a reality TV show and the Delray CRA’s Green Market in the Park are only some examples of places that have given rise to new local businesses.

About a year or so ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of 12-17 year old entrepreneurs participating in the Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

I have stayed in touch with a few of the bright minds and met last week with Jake Artzi, the CEO of BoVault, which is a cool startup that provides solar powered “vaults” that allows people to store their valuables while they go to the beach, the pool, the gym or exercise in the park. BoVault  is a next generation locker that uses biometrics and the sun to provide airtight security. Jake, a high school senior, has all the traits of a great entrepreneur. He’s passionate about his work, is constantly studying and improving his model and is out there knocking on doors to make it happen. He has a dream. And he will not be denied.

BoVault would be a smart solution for people who want a secure environment for wallets, keys, cell phones and other valuables while visiting Delray’s municipal beach or any one of Boca’s incredible parks.

I’m hoping that a smart city manager or elected official will give this young business a chance.  Vaults are provided free to cities or hotels and can become a moneymaker because the model includes a revenue share for clients.

The local food scene is also teeming with entrepreneurs. Even this old blogger is in the game (shameless plug: Tabanero Hot Sauce and Bloody Mary mix, with more extensions on the way some other examples are  Celsius a Boca-based beverage company (full disclosure I’m a former COO of the company, a shareholder and still involved with the team), Amy’s Cookies (the wonderful Amy Robinson) and a soon to open French Bakery which first gained traction at Delray’s Green Market.

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m. fans of Loic Autret French Artisan Bakery can take an exclusive tour of the new business located 814 N.E. Sixth Ave. directly south of Plastridge Insurance. A grand opening is imminent. Tours will be offered until 1 p.m.

I recently took an impromptu tour of the bakery which is just wonderful.

Loic Autret became such a popular vendor at the market that lines form before it opens and often every baked good is sold out.

So Loic, sensing opportunity, decided to open a permanent location. I think he will be a smashing success. Kudos to property owner Connor Lynch for recognizing talent and helping to make it all work.

We often don’t think of the Delray Green Market as a business incubator, but it is. It gives budding entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their goods, test the market and if successful think about expansion. That’s really cool and very powerful.

So are the personal stories behind the businesses.

Loïc Autret’s first career was in the military. He was a Paratrooper in the French Army. As he tells it; one day, he met a beautiful American woman and fell deeply in love. As he was considering leaving the army to follow her to Florida, he thought: “What would a Frenchman who doesn’t speak English do in the United States? What do Frenchmen know best? Romance? Naturally! Fine Cuisine? Of Course! Baking? YES!”

So Loïc enrolled in “Ecole de Gregoire Ferrandi”, an exclusive French Baking and Pastry School in Paris to learn his new trade before moving to Florida and eventually marrying his dream girl.

In the last ten years, Loïc shared his new found passion for baking with South Floridians at the Four Seasons hotel in Palm Beach, the Barton G restaurant in Miami and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Fort Lauderdale.

In 2013, Loïc started to make plans to open his own bakery one day. He has been honing his skills and perfecting his recipes while appearing at local green markets. And now his dream is coming true, with a built in fan base, courtesy of the Green Market.

Amanda Perna, also has a cool entrepreneurial story. Thanks to Karen Granger and the Delray Chamber I had a chance to meet Amanda at 50 Ocean recently for an event.

Amanda gained national fame on the hit show “Project Runway” and recently relocated her “House of Perna” fashion line from New York to Delray’s Artist’s Alley neighborhood. Take that Big Apple, Delray is cool too and we have better weather.

Amanda is a passionate entrepreneur who takes pride in her design skills and the fact that her clothing is sewn here in the United States, an important value for her.

Something very positive is happening. We are only at the beginning and the future is very bright.



7 Traits of Leadership: A Voter’s Guide

Vote tomorrow

Vote tomorrow

Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls in Boca Raton and Delray Beach for municipal elections.

In both cities, the stakes are high. But most likely a very small group of registered voters will decide who gets to serve.

That’s sad, because voting is a right that we should not take for granted and voting in a local election is especially important because local government touches our lives in a big way.

From how our town will look and feel to the amount of local taxes we will pay, city government is important but often ignored. It shouldn’t be.

It seems a big lament in society today is a lack of leadership at all levels of government.

I agree, but I also believe that our best and brightest often shun public service because of the negative climate of politics today. While it is true that” if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen”; it’s also understandable when smart, capable people don’t want to swim in a cesspool of dysfunction.

Communities should encourage vigorous debate and lots of accountability, but push back against vile behavior, misinformation, corruption and the politics of personal destruction.

If you do, there is a chance that your pool of leadership will expand and that’s always a good thing.

So while we won’t recommend candidates, we do urge you to vote and to study the issues and the candidates so that you can cast an informed ballot.  With a bunch of candidates running and a great many issues to be decided by the newly elected officials,  it’s important to understand what good leadership looks like.

Nobody is opposed to great leadership but few communities take the time to actually discuss what it takes to bring it about.  Often we fail to monitor leaders and hold them accountable for performance and for promises. Too often, we “suffer” poor leaders and decide to just “wait them out”.

One of the best books on leadership I’ve seen discusses this problem in-depth. In “Why We Are So Bad at Picking Good Leaders” the authors outline seven character traits that great leaders possess.

The rub, so to speak, is that if leaders are missing any of the seven traits, they are doomed to either come up short or fail.

The traits are: integrity, vision, passion, emotional intelligence, empathy, courage and judgment.

That’s as good a list of traits as I’ve seen.

While it’s hard to determine whether a candidate possesses these traits from a mail piece or a campaign sign, in a small town we should know those who seek to represent us a lot better than those we send to Tallahassee or Washington.

So we hope you attended a candidate’s forum, went to a meet and greet and had a chance to dissect the candidate’s message.  We hope you were able to determine if they exhibit any of the seven traits or whether they have a glaring weakness. It’s important, because we entrust our community to the brave people who step into the arena. They can either make Delray and Boca better or hurt our town; it’s important that we choose wisely and make our vote count.

One Of A Kind Deal For FAU

FAU, Max Planck and Scripps are making history

FAU, Max Planck and Scripps are making history

One of Florida’s leading public research universities and two of the world’s premier research institutions will create one-of-a-kind education programs that will attract the best and brightest students to Palm Beach County, and transform Florida Atlantic University’s John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter into a hub of scientific inquiry, innovation and economic development.

FAU, and the globally acclaimed Max Planck Florida Institute and The Scripps Research Institute, will build on existing relationships to further scientific discovery and education through shared resources and facilities.

The three institutions will provide undergraduate and graduate students the unprecedented opportunity to enroll in unique degree programs in collaboration with Max Planck and Scripps Florida at the MacArthur Campus.

The initiative will allow students to work and study alongside some of the world’s leading scientific researchers as part of their degree programs, while undergraduate research projects will be mentored by these same scientists.

The Institutes will collaborate to develop premier STEM programs — Science, Technology, Engineering, Math — and combine FAU Jupiter’s existing strengths in STEM areas, with support from the arts, to create a leading STEAM initiative.

FAU President John Kelly said the alliance will help cure diseases, develop drugs, educate students and generate jobs. FAU’s economic impact on Florida’s economy during 2010-2011, the most recently available data, was $6.3 billion. This initiative creates unique opportunities for FAU’s colleges of science, medicine, and engineering and computer science to greatly increase that number, Kelly said.

“This initiative comes from the core of economic development,” Kelly said. “FAU, Max Planck and Scripps will solve real-world problems and take strides to improve human health.

“We will create the knowledge economy of the future,” he said. “Moreover, we will provide students unique scientific research programs that will be the envy of the world.”

A shared facilities environment will provide students access to state-of-the-art scientific equipment. Max Planck and Scripps Florida researchers will have access to FAU faculty, teaching space, and research equipment.

James Paulson, acting president and CEO of The Scripps Research Institute, said the Scripps mission is to build a world-class biomedical research presence in Florida for the benefit of human health and to train the next generation of scientists.

“We believe this new agreement strengthens our existing collaboration with FAU and the Max Planck Institute and enables us to work more closely with our local partners to achieve these critical goals,” Paulson said.

David Fitzpatrick, CEO and scientific director at Max Planck, said, importantly, the collaboration will increase research funding in areas of common interest. The Max Planck Florida Institute’s research focus is neuroscience, specifically, gaining insights into brain circuitry. The institute utilizes some of the world’s most advanced technologies in brain research.

“Combining our resources makes this collaboration a potent force in the scientific and healthcare fields,” Fitzpatrick said. “The advances we can take in many important research areas will be significant.

“Together, FAU, Max Planck and Scripps will train the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” he said.