A Place For Humanity Amidst Change

A vintage Sears catalog.

When I read the news, I look for patterns.

What’s bubbling just under the surface? What trends are starting to emerge? Are there clues out there to tell us where we are going next?
It’s fun to discern what might be happening and it’s also helpful in business to try and see where the world is heading.
What I’m seeing lately are a bunch of stories that indicate angst about technology and a push back against the dominance of our digital society. It seems that we are beginning to really worry about the addictive power of our smart phones, the amount of data tech companies like Facebook and Google have on us, the corrosive impact that social media can have on society and the ubiquitous reach of Amazon.
So this could get interesting.
One of the best trend spotters out there is marketing expert Seth Godin. Here’s what he wrote on Black Friday:
“The buying race is over. Amazon won. The shopping race, though, the struggle to create experiences that are worth paying for, that’s just beginning.”
Godin was lamenting the herd mentality whipped up by media to shop on the day after Thanksgiving.
But while he acknowledged Amazon’s dominance, he also sees opportunity for physical retailers in the “real world” to compete by offering experiences, service, design, fun and community.
We better hope so, because there are a lot of jobs, sales tax for local governments and consequences for Main streets and shopping centers if retailers don’t figure out a way to compete more effectively.
Another go to source for trends is “Redef”, an email newsletter that aggregates great stories from a wide variety of sources.
One recent piece came from the LA Times which talked about the comeback of catalogs. In an era of seemingly endless growth for online shopping, the humble mail order catalog is getting new life as merchants strive to battle email fatigue. 
While nobody is predicting the return of the Sears catalog (or the iconic retail chain) there seems to be growing anxiety over a purely cyber world. 
Don’t get me wrong. Facebook is great in moderation. Amazon is convenient and Netflix is wonderful.  
But it would be sad if we lost face the face interaction we get at a great retail store and the experience of seeing a movie with a group of people. 
While these and other industries are under assault by the threat of mobile and internet technology, there is some evidence that the “analog” world won’t go without a fight. 
The New York Times has experienced a surge in print subscriptions, vinyl records and cassettes are staging a comeback,  physical books and independent bookstores are enjoying a mini renaissance and there are retail districts around the country that are doing very well. 
While AirBnB is thriving, smart Hotel brands like Aloft, Hyatt Place, Canopy, and Ace are also proving to be enduring competitors. Boutique hotels such as Cranes Beach House, historic properties such as the Colony Hotel and larger but stylish options like the Seagate remain desirable for travelers of all ages. 
As for theaters, there seems to be room for Netflix and iPic, Hulu and Alamo Drafthouse. 
While Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has reported on the phenomenon of people “Bowling Alone” which chronicled the struggles of civic groups and bowling leagues—there are a raft of new groups emerging:  One Million Cups, Creative Mornings, WiseTribe, Community Greening, Human Powered Delray and Better Delray carving out community. 
Locally, Rotary, Elks and Kiwanis remain vibrant and vital.
 
As for me, I don’t see technology retreating. I think we will see autonomous cars within the next 10 years, streaming services will grow and groceries will be delivered to our homes. But I do think that smart retailers who create experiences and relationships will thrive. Great restaurants will continue to draw crowds and while golf courses will continue to close— options like Top Golf (food, fun, night golfing) will fill the gap. 
I think the key will be placemaking. 
The cities that create vibrant, safe, walkable places will draw crowds and investment. Fred Kent, a part time Delray resident and founder of the Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org), has reported on the “power of 10” –the need for communities to create at least 10 activities in order for places to thrive.  PPS is right. 
We will look up from our phones–if there’s something compelling and active to draw us in.
 We will want to gather for concerts at Old School Square and Mizner Park. We may want to take a class or two online but there will also be a desire to interact in person with other students and a desire to go to happy hour even though you can order beer, wine and spirits online. 
I think a backlash is brewing. We will bend technology just enough to allow us to remain human. 
At least that’s my hope. 

Things We Love: November Edition

Fifth Avenue Grill’s holiday decorations are a Delray tradition.

Things we liked/loved in November…

Thanksgiving at Fifth Avenue Grill—great food, unmatchable holiday decorations and terrific service add up to a great experience. While we prefer staying home for the holidays, with kids spread out and other family traveling, we decided to go out. We had a memorable time.

The Cornerman Bar—Have you seen the Delray Boxing Gym? It’s incredibly cool. On the other side of the glass you can sit at a great bar and watch the action and be served by the amazing Marit Fitzpatrick. You can also enjoy Copperpoint beer and other libations and dream of hoisting your own championship belt. A very unique concept. Only in Delray as they say.

Breakfast gatherings at Ellie’s 50s Diner. Bob Smela and his lovely wife were pioneers on the North Federal Highway corridor more than two decades ago. Today, they and their great team are still thriving serving great breakfasts, awesome lunches and great dinners at fair prices. When I can, I like to go on Friday mornings when I’m sure to run into some great Delray people. Topics range from politics and business to family and our aches and pains. Count me grateful to have people to share with.

Old School Bakery—Billy Himmelrich and his team bake the best bread imaginable at a terrific facility on Congress Avenue in Delray Beach. When you visit, you’ll be taken by the great aroma of bread baking. Warning: the bread can be addictive.

The new Cornell Museum—thanks to a generous gift by the Blume’s—two wonderful people—the Cornell Museum has been re-imagined and it’s truly incredible. Don’t take my word for it—visit the new museum at Old School Square. You will be impressed. We guarantee it.

 Dinner at Café Martier—We love the historic ambience of this Atlantic Avenue gem. Great signature cocktails, an interesting menu and a choice between dining in a really historic restaurant or a very hip breezeway. It adds up to a winning experience. We recommend the falafel appetizer and the hummus is out of this world.

The Walk to Cure Arthritis—Ok the event is actually in December (Dec. 2 to be exact) at John Prince Park but we wanted to alert you because there is still time to be a sponsor and support the Arthritis Foundation. It’s a great cause and a great organization. Visit www.walktocurearthritis.org/palmbeach for more information and to get involved.

The Blackberry Cider at Saltwater Brewery—Ok, so most of you don’t go to a brewery to taste the cider, but we did and we loved it.

Deli On Rye—If you are looking for a p lace that can quickly whip up a great sandwich on those days when you are on the run, look no further than Deli on Rye on U.S. 1 in Boca. The friendly staff is lightning fast and the food is always good.

Special shout out to our good friend Chuck Halberg of Stuart and Shelby Development for his crowdfunding efforts that made sure our public safety personnel had good food and cheer on Thanksgiving. We are proud to support Chuck’s efforts, which are always heart felt and generous. Also, a shout out to Kate Volman and Ryan Boylston co-hosts/creators of Delray Morning Live. The Facebook show (which has a large and growing following/buzz) recently marked its one year anniversary. It’s a great forum to showcase community events, news, non-profits and people doing good things for Delray. Check it out on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 on Facebook’s Better Delray page. The show is archived so you can watch it at your leisure.

Have a great December!

 

Never Too Late, Never Too Old

The one and only Mavis Staples.

I read magazine stories last week about two women that were positively inspiring.
I thought I’d share.
The first story was actually an interview with Mavis Staples, one of the world’s truly great singers and proof positive that there is indeed a higher power.
That how good she is.
I’ve been a fan since I was 12, when my buddies Scott and Howie I and went to the Smith Haven Mall to see “The Last Waltz”, probably the greatest concert film ever made.
In that Scorsese classic, The Staples Singers perform the definitive version of The Band’s Classic song “The Weight.”
Watching Mavis trade lines with the equally amazing Levon Helm hooked me for life.

So I discovered the rest of the Staples Singers catalog—songs like Respect Yourself and Do it Again.  They are timeless classics.
So it was inspiring to see an interview in Time magazine to mark the release of Mavis Staples’ new album “If All I Was Was Black.”
It’s her 15th album as a solo artist. She’s 80.
So why keep keeping on?

In Mavis’ words:

“I’ve been doing this since 1960. When we met Dr. King in church, my father told us that if he can preach it, we can sing it. We’ve been singing the message songs ever since. Every year people tell me, ‘Mavis, my goodness, when are you going to retire?’ I’m almost 80 years old. But I’m not ready to retire. This is what G-d wants me to do. My voice is as strong as ever.”
Isn’t that so cool?
Why stop just because you reach a certain birthday?

The second story I read was both sad and inspiring.
Sharon Jones, another incredible soul singer, was a great talent who got discovered late in life.

She played with a band called the Dap Kings and found fame after years of relative obscurity.
Sadly, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died last year at the age of 60.

While she did live long enough to enjoy a Grammy nomination and a critically acclaimed documentary on her career, she is not around to see the release of her last album “Soul of a Woman” which was just released.

The review I read was glowing.
Always a supreme talent, she was reaching her artistic peak late in life—proof that greatness can be achieved in middle age and beyond.
That’s something that most of us know intellectually but it’s still good to see and feel it.
As Mavis Staples might say: You’ve got to earn it. Yes, you do. But it’s possible.

In our community, we get to see people of all ages succeeding in a range of endeavors.

I have long marveled at the energy and vitality of Delray’s police volunteers—many of whom work and serve well into their 80s and 90s. They are a treasured resource. So is another group in town.

On occasion, I get invited to have breakfast with a group known as “The Elders”. They meet at Donnie’s on 5th Avenue to discuss the issues of the day. It’s an honor and a privilege to be included and so I never turn down an invitation. The conversation is always interesting, deep, passionate, humorous, serious and wide ranging. My words can never describe the magic and depth at that table, which also includes some young up and comers as it should. Because it’s important for wisdom to be passed down, for stories to be shared, for insights to be revealed. Those stories, those insights and that wisdom was earned–a lot of times the hard way through the hard knocks of life and time.

As I get older, I find myself in an interesting position. To some up and comers in the community, folks my age (50 somethings) are the elders. Yet, the people that I know that are around my age are still learning and seeking insights from people of all ages. There’s a lot you can learn sitting with those who have navigated decades of life and there is much to learn from those who are young and provide fresh perspective.

It’s a cool time of life.

I have learned to be wary of those who feel they know it all–because none of us do. So as I scan the community looking for the next generation of leaders I look for those who would find value in meeting with and learning from other people. If they don’t seem open-minded or willing to learn from others, I have learned that they won’t succeed. They can’t succeed. You can’t live or lead in a vacuum. You can’t learn if you think you have all the answers.

It’s just that simple….

Thankful…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’d like to offer a short list of what we’re thankful for in Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
This is by no means a complete list, just some things that are top of mind these days.

Wise Tribe -this Delray Beach based organization is quietly but effectively building community and asking provocative and important questions via a series of events and talks. We’re grateful for their passion and willingness to convene.

Boca Bowl– Isn’t it cool that we have our very own Bowl game?

Boca’s Office of Economic Development—This very active office is crushing it. Just check out their social media feed. Always positive, always newsworthy and always announcing lots of jobs and partnerships with local companies and CEOs.

The holiday display at 5th Avenue Grill–Simply magnificent and a great Delray tradition. GM Glenn “Zippy” Fiedler and his staff do an amazing job.  Make sure to check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Delray’s downtown seasonal festivities– Lots of hard work goes into making Delray a holiday hot spot. We appreciate it. So do tens of thousands of visitors and residents.

Community Greening—this nonprofit has a simple but profound mission: plant trees in Delray and educate people about the benefits. If you want to see how this works up close head to Knowles Park on November 25 from 9 am to noon to help the group plant trees. You’ll have fun and they’ll give you pizza.
Sounds like a deal.

Creative Mornings —At the risk of being sappy, we just love the positive energy and smart conversation. This month’s meeting at Saltwater Brewery was lots of fun and an eye opener about the health of our oceans and planet.  They have built something very special at Creative Mornings. Very very special.

Delray Art League–This community institution is a local treasure. Not only do they produce wonderful works of art, but they support young artists with scholarships. You can catch this amazing group during its next Artists in the Park outing Dec. 2 at Veterans Park. You won’t be disappointed and the artists are also very nice.
Happy Thanksgiving!

The Power of Saying Yes

Peter Kageyama preaches the virtues of loving your city.

The talk could have been titled: “Just Say Yes.”

“Or for goodness sakes….relax and experiment.”

We’re talking about author/speaker Peter Kageyama’s keynote at last week’s “Community Conversation” at Old School Square convened by the Delray Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Kageyama is the author of “For the Love of Cities” among other books and pieces that encourage people to fall in love with their city and experiment. The St. Pete resident is a dynamic speaker who shows real world examples of how cities from Auckland to Anchorage and Grand Rapids to Greenville, S.C. have benefitted from “co-creatives”—people who move forward with ideas and projects that help you fall in love or stay in love with their cities.

Most of the projects are small—some are bold and some are simple and they can range in cost from $20 to a whole lot more—but the end result is often surprise and delight.

Kageyama believes cities should be fun places that encourage experiments and pop-up experiences—even if you have to break a few rules along the way.

Examples ranged from a lip dub version of “American Pie” in Grand Rapids that garnered 5 million views on YouTube to a $1,200 project in Greenville, S.C. that placed statues of brass mice in fun places downtown. It may sound silly—and it is—but the message is that’s Ok, cities should be fun.

But these projects also create value—Grand Rapids’ version of the Don McLean classic was in response to a report that the city was dying (Get it: “the day the music died”) and stirred hundreds of citizens to show the world that their city was alive and had pride. The statues of cute little mice in Greenville is an endless source of fun for visitors and locals alike and even led to a children’s book.

From murals and dog parks to public art and drum circles—cities that have personality win our hearts, minds and wallets.

And when you fall in love—you tend to commit, volunteer, invest, interact and put down roots. It’s community building and in a polarized world full of all sorts of sad and calamitous stuff these little “endearments” make a huge difference.

The cities that are fun will win and the cities that are boring will lose.

This debate has been simmering in Delray for a few years so Mr. Kageyama’s presentation was both timely and relevant. While Delray was named “America’s Most Fun City” there’s been a lot of hand wringing over festivals, parades, parks, 100-foot trees, tennis tournaments etc.

We hear about “full cost recovery” and the burdens that some of this stuff place on city budgets, staffing etc.

But we never really talk about the value of these types of activities or the cost of being boring.

Kageyama started his presentation with a pyramid giving a hierarchies of elements cities strive to deliver.

At the base is functionality and safety: cities need to function (permits, toilets flushing, roads in good shape etc.) and they need to be safe. The next level is the ability of a city to be comfortable: are there places to sit, is their shade, is our downtown walkable, can we ride a bike without being killed etc.)?

The next rung is conviviality—are we nice to each other? Is our public discourse toxic or civil?

The top of the pyramid is fun. Do we enjoy living here? Do we enjoy each other as neighbors? Does our city create opportunities for us to connect?

A local panel consisting of our Downtown Development Authority Director, Old School Square President, West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition Director, Chamber President and the head our Marketing Cooperative talked about the need to work collaboratively—which is the true definition of an All America City.

There was a palpable sense in the room—and I see and hear this in my travels around town—that Delray is tired of dysfunction, infighting, divisiveness and a lack of progress on key initiatives ranging from ideas to help South Federal Highway to enacting the hard work of the Congress Avenue Task Force. (Disclosure: I chaired the task force, it’s no fun to see the hard work of dozens of volunteers gather dust on a shelf).

But it’s not just the big ideas and vision that is lagging—it’s the small stuff too. The sense that city staff has been stifled, that talent is frustrated and that we are at risk of losing the creative spirit and sense of community that distinguished Delray.

Interim Chamber President Vin Nolan—an economic development professional—said it best when he said in cities “you are never done” and if you think you are then.. you really are done.

Rob Steele of Old School Square senses a desire to take Delray to a new level of creativity and inclusiveness. He’s right.

You can have progress, job creation, opportunities and fun without breaking the bank or losing your uniqueness and charm. Nobody said it was easy. But enlightened leadership welcomes ideas—isn’t afraid to experiment and looks for ways to engage citizens. Kageyama mentioned the Delray Affair—our city’s signature event, both historic and important.

Why not have a series of events that encourages us to have an affair with our city?

Why don’t we invite people to fall in love with Delray?

We can fix leaky pipes, collect parking fines and fill potholes—that’s the functional part and it’s important. But we can have fun too.

I think we’re ready.

Check that, I know we are.

 

The Power of Compound Interest

There’s a famous quote from Albert Einstein on the magic of compound interest: “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

Warren Buffett was another big believer in the concept. He once said: “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest.” (500 pages? Really Mr. Buffett?).

The definition of compound interest is the following: “Compound interest is the addition of interest to the principal sum of a loan or deposit, or in other words, interest on interest. It is the result of reinvesting interest, rather than paying it out, so that interest in the next period is then earned on the principal sum plus previously-accumulated interest.” Got it. It’s easy.

I’ve been thinking about compound interest as we head into yet another election season in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

And I’ve decided that I want to support candidates who believe in the concept and how it might apply to leading communities.

I’m looking for candidates who believe in learning from the past and those who believe in tapping into the vast knowledge that exists everywhere you look so that we earn interest and not pay the price for ignoring hard earned knowledge and experience.

I recently had lunch two former elected officials including a former mayor who is in the process of moving to Delray.

Inevitably, the conversation turns to shop talk—as we share war stories and opine about local politics.

One former elected said something that I agree with—he felt that the best local elected officials are those who are capable of changing their minds if given new information. That very simple act—seeing something another way–shows that an elected official is capable of evolving.

It also demonstrates that an elected official is capable of taking a position that may—hopefully only temporarily—cause them to lose some supporters.

Because if elected officials are beholden to their base or an influential handler, the chances of growth and success decline markedly. But if they are capable of growth, they will add supporters over the long- term and gain respect for their well-thought out positions.

Now that doesn’t mean that you ignore people or fail to represent them, but it does mean that you have the ability to lead with an open mind based on information that may come to light in the course of debate.

This ability to grow and evolve is in many ways the beauty of local government, where you don’t have to vote with a team as politicians tend to do in a partisan, legislative environment.

That type of blind faith in your team leads to gridlock or progress that gets built and then undone when the opposing team takes office—and the opposition always gets in at some point.

I prefer the compound interest approach to community building where one group builds upon the accomplishments of the previous group. That style tends to build traction and sustainability.

It helps enormously if you have elected officials who follow community driven visions and take the time to set goals.

City Commission’s and Council’s tend to fall apart when you have five free agents or factions working on their own pet projects or those who are hell bent on undermining their colleagues.

That doesn’t mean that elected officials can’t disagree or debate, but it does mean that once the vote is called and decisions are made it’s time to move on. Commission’s that endlessly litigate, refuse to make decisions or continually revisit old issues tend to get nothing done—which frustrates citizens and confuses staff.

I want to support candidates who get this—because frankly if they don’t– they are going to fail.

I don’t want elected officials who believe they only represent those who supported them or worse yet gave them money.

I talk to many business people who feel the need to “cover their bets” by writing checks to everyone even though it’s clear that they may prefer one candidate over another.

They do this is out of fear—because they are worried that candidates are watching and will exact retribution if they get elected.

For the most part, when you support everyone out of fear, you’re either trying to buy votes or insurance against revenge. If you think about that—it’s horrible. Who wants to live and invest in such a place?

Projects should be supported or opposed based on whether they follow the city’s rules, advance the community’s vision or are good for the city. Period. Not whether your name showed up on a campaign report or not.

Those who tend to cover their bets end up spending twice as much as they should and being trusted by neither campaign.

So pick a candidate and have the courage of your convictions. You’ll win some races and lose others, but if we elect the right candidates there won’t be anything to fear. And if you are the victim of retribution take a bunch of people to City Hall and speak up about it. Remember, elected officials work for us. We don’t work for them. It’s called servant leadership.

One final thought on compound interest: it doesn’t mean you can’t be a disruptor or that you must continue to do things the same old way.

In fact, the best elected officials take things to the next level; they push, question, challenge, work hard and don’t stop at the first sign of resistance. They are not afraid to lose their seats if it means doing what they feel is best. They embrace change; they evolve.

They are civic entrepreneurs willing to take calculated risks, push the envelope and ask ‘why not’ when they are told something can’t be done.

But they do study the towns they seek to lead. They learn from the mistakes and from what has worked in the past.

They don’t keep their own counsel…they seek and welcome input from a wide range of stakeholders. Those are the candidates who tend to win and tend to get things done during their terms in office.

The one’s who reap the rewards of compound interest, not those who pay it.

 

 

 

What She Found In A Thousand Towns

A love letter to some great places.

When it comes to great books, I’m on a roll.
I just finished “What I Found in a Thousand Towns” by Dar Williams.
Ms. Williams is a critically acclaimed folk singer. I don’t know much about her music although I plan to fill that deficit as soon as I can find the time.
But she’s a good writer and an even better observer of towns.
The book chronicles what Williams learned visiting 1,000 or so towns as a traveling musician for the past thirty years.
Not content to hang out in green rooms and hotels when she’s on the road, Williams has become an urban expert of sorts. She knows what makes towns work and her book is a travelogue of places I now yearn to visit.
Places like Moab, Utah, Beacon, NY and Phoenixville, Pa.
Her insights are smart and refreshing.
She doesn’t advocate large scale transformations —stadiums, spending huge on luring Amazon to your town etc. –but she does talk about the importance of coffee shops, performance spaces, walking trails, art and projects that bring people together.

She coins two important phrases: positive proximity and conscious bridgers.
Both are important to creating special places.
Positive proximity refers to activities, places and initiatives that bring people together.
They could be hills for sledding, playhouses, art centers, great parks, coffee shops etc.
It’s important for towns to have these places. They build community, create relationships and lead to all sorts of cool outcomes.
Conscious bridgers refer to people in your towns who connect people to others. They are alchemists, initiators, starters—sort of like community spark plugs— essential for ignition.
I’ve seen both positive proximity and conscious bridgers since becoming passionate about cities some time ago.
If you have both magic happens.
If you have a deficit in these areas…well let’s just say your town will suffer.
So encourage great places that bring people together and activities that encourage collaboration and teamwork.
And when you find a connector, embrace her and let her connect you. You won’t regret it and that’s how great towns happen.

Rankings, Ratings & Quality of Life

Leawood, Kansas seems like a great place but…

The personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2017’s Best Small Cities in America.

It’s interesting and provocative.

Boca Raton scored high on most measurements, but the analysis revealed some areas of concern. And Delray Beach—despite being the great city we know it to be—has some work to do if you believe the indicators.

First the highlights:

WalletHub’s analysts compared more than 1,200 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 across 33 key indicators of livability. They range from housing costs to school-system quality to restaurants per capita.

 

Top 20 Small Cities in America    

  1. Princeton, NJ   11. Newton, MA
  2. Lexington, MA   12. Melrose, MA
  3. Leawood, KS   13. Brookfield, WI
  4. Milton, MA   14. Sammamish, WA
  5. Brentwood, TN   15. Kirkland, WA

6 .Los Altos, CA   16. Saratoga, CA

  1. Carmel, IN   17. Dublin, OH
  2. Needham, MA   18. Palo Alto, CA
  3. Holly Springs, NC   19. Westfield, NJ
  4. Littleton, CO   20. Fishers, IN

 

Best vs. Worst

  • The Villages, Florida, has the highest homeownership rate, 96.25 percent, which is 108.1 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the lowest at 0.89 percent.

 

  • Plainfield, Illinois, has the lowest share of the population living below poverty level, 1.90 percent, which is 27.5 times lower than in Statesboro, Georgia, the city with the highest at 52.3 percent.

 

  • Fort Hood, Texas, has the shortest average commute time, 11.2 minutes, which is 3.9 times shorter than in Lake Elsinore, California, the city with the longest at 43.6 minutes.

 

  • East Lansing, Michigan, has the fewest average hours worked per week, 28.2, which is 1.7 times fewer than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the most at 49.1.

I would suspect that many of us who live in Delray and Boca wouldn’t trade living here for anywhere else—especially now that the good weather has kicked in. I don’t think there are too many people who would look at the rankings and sell their home in Lake Ida or Woodfield Country Club for a home in number 3 ranked Leawood, Kansas either. (No offense to Leawood, we’re sure it’s wonderful).

So where do we rank?

Delray ranked in the 60th percentile—the top cities were in the 99th percentile. Boca ranked in the 98th percentile.

Delray’s overall score of 57.62, trailed Boca which scored a 66.01. Number one ranked Princeton scored a 73.36.

Delray ranked 870th on affordability—not a surprise considering the run-up in home prices and the lack of new product on the market. Boca ranked 733rd on affordability.

Delray’s economic health ranked 436th with Boca coming in at 224—hard to imagine that there are that many cities healthier than Boca which seems to rake in companies and jobs by the truckloads. On the education and health measurement Delray ranked 728 and Boca 520.

Delray scored an impressive number 51 on the all-important quality of life ranking with Boca an even more impressive number 14. Interestingly, my guess is that residents of each city wouldn’t trade places—both cities are appealing for different reasons. Sarasota ranked number one in quality of life—and if you’ve visited lately you’ll see why.

On safety, Delray scored number 924 and Boca 543.

Lots to chew on certainly.

Rankings, awards, contests etc., are fun to debate, but in the end they are just numbers and things. It’s hard to measure a community’s spirit, aspirations, closeness, friendliness or ambience.

Still, they can be used to benchmark so that cities can strive to do better. Some cities—like Santa Monica—try to measure happiness. Delray used to survey residents on a range of issues and topics and policymakers at the time found the findings interesting and helpful. Cities can be noisy places—especially with the advent of social media—and sometimes (often) the squeaky wheels don’t represent the majority opinion on a given issue.

As for the Wallet Hub findings—I think we should take another survey in January and see if Boca /Delray would score somewhat higher than Princeton, N.J. as the place to be.

 

Growing Our Own

No bigger game than Amazon.

November is National Entrepreneurship Month.

I didn’t know that, but as far as I’m concerned we ought to be spotlighting and helping entrepreneurs 12 months a year.

Since 2008, there has been a net decline in new business creation in the U.S. One of the contributing factors appears to be a growing aversion to risk for young adults who grew up during the Great Recession.

 

A new survey by Junior Achievement shows that 9-out-of-10 parents would support their kids starting a business as adults, but only 1-in-3 teens say they would consider becoming an entrepreneur, identifying “risk” as one of the top reasons for not striking out on their own.

We need to reverse that trend—it’s not an overstatement to say that if we don’t we will lose our edge as a nation.

America was built by entrepreneurs: people in business, government, science, education and the non-profit world who took risks because they saw opportunity.

Entrepreneurs are the people who solve problems, build, create, sustain and design successful societies.

We’ve all been reading lately about the efforts of close to 250 cities and regions to lure a second Amazon headquarters and its promise of 50,000 jobs. It’s a big opportunity—no doubt a game changer for the lucky winner who will have to put up billions in incentives to make it happen. South Florida, including our own Business Development Board, is playing the game and to some extent I guess you have too.

But personally, I would rather make an investment in seeding a new generation of entrepreneurs than throwing money at an already wealthy company like Amazon. I prefer what they call “economic gardening” (growing your own) to chasing smoke stacks or the modern digital version.

Fortunately, there is a lot beginning to happen on the gardening front: FAU and Lynn University have good business schools, Tech Runway at FAU has potential and the business community in Palm Beach County is relatively strong. Boca Raton’s economic development efforts are impressive, West Palm Beach is coming of age and Boynton Beach has some very exciting projects under consideration. Northern Palm Beach County has a very strong business community anchored by a progressive Chamber of Commerce (shout out to our friend Chamber president Beth Kigel) and Lake Worth has tremendous potential especially in the energy sector.

As a two time board member of our BDB, I can attest that we have a solid economic development organization that in my opinion has been a little starved of resources by the county over the years (relative to budgets in Broward, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties).

I’m especially intrigued and excited by some of the emerging groups of young creative entrepreneurs that we are seeing pop up: Creative Mornings Palm Beach, Palm Beach Tech and One Million Cups are just a few of the groups emerging filled with energy, ambition and community building potential.

There are also some real interesting co-working spaces popping up.

I’m especially happy to see the growth and excitement behind Palm Beach Entrepreneur Week Nov. 10-18. (Like The Beatles song, that’s actually an 8 day week).

Highlights include a meetup at the Social House in Lake Worth, a Creative Morning at Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, a pitch competition in West Palm Beach, a Florida Venture Forum showcase at FAU’s Tech Runway and more… Check out the website for a full schedule: https://eweekpb.com/#landing-events

All this is really cool to see. But we need more.

More angel investors, more mentors, more venture capital, more news about entrepreneurs and more outreach into schools. The Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a great start. We also need more affordable space in key downtowns like Delray—not easy to do based on market forces and high prices.

We sit in a great location—close enough to Miami (an international city and a gateway to the Americas), close to an emerging Fort Lauderdale and within a county that offers a great quality of life.

If we reach our potential—the Amazon’s of the world will be asking to move here and ideally the next Amazon will be born here.

10 Things We Liked About October

 

Matthew Farmer serenaded Lifetime Achievement Award winner Frances Bourque and hearts swooned.

10 Things we liked in October.
1. Bat Mitzvahs. Especially Bat Mitzvahs at Boca Pointe. Especially Bat Mitzvahs that include blackberry mojitos and chocolate fountains. Oh and a great young woman and great people too. That we love.
2. Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” in Pittsburgh. We know lots of Pittsburghers in Delray and Boca and we like them all.
3. The Matzo Ball soup at Deli On Rye in Boca.
4. Sitting at the bar for lunch at the Gazebo in Boca, a local classic. Elegant and delicious.
5. Frances Bourque being recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delray Chamber. The founder of Old School Square is quite simply a local heroine. She made it all possible.
6. We loved seeing good guy Pedro Andrade recognized by the Chamber as Business Person of Year. The GM of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is terrific. Period.
7. Congrats to the Conde Center for Chiropractic Neurology for also winning an award from the Chamber for their business success and growth. Founder Dr. John Conde also finds time to give back.
8. Margaret and Robert Blume stepping up to lead the effort to rethink the Cornell Museum at Old School Square.
9. The pork chops at 5th Avenue Grill. We knew they had great steaks, but the pork chops are magnificent as well.
10. Believe it or not– but I’m told by a well known deli maven that Caffe Luna Rosa serves a great pastrami sandwich. Maybe the best.
See you in November a month devoted to giving thanks.