There’s Something Happening Here….

 

I don’t mean to brag, but just like The Beach Boys sing: I get around.

Mind you, not as much as I used to—my tank is half full these days, but I compensate by reading, surfing the web and listening to podcasts. We live in a wonderful world of content that resides at our fingertips.

If I see a movie or read a book I like, chances are I can find a podcast featuring the writer or a website that includes links to their work so I can go deeper.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about Florida real estate, especially South Florida real estate and what’s happening to our market.

If you’ve lived in Florida long enough, you’ve seen the booms and you’ve seen the busts. You’ve marveled at the prices paid for homes and buildings only to see those jaw dropping deals look like bargains a few years later. But this time it feels different. This time it feels like the very nature of our region is changing.

As I write this, our market is red hot. We are seeing prices that defy description. Land in downtown Delray is trading at $6 million an acre. Homes that a few years ago were selling in the high $200s are selling for four times that price today.

It all seems…well… it all seems  unreal.

And yet….

A whole lot of value has been built in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Yes, there’s traffic.

Yes, there are bad drivers and rude people.

Yes, we tend to complain about those things and a host of other maladies real or imagined.

But…

By just about any measure, this is a great place to live.

As a result, people are willing to pay a premium to live here.

After all, we check a lot of boxes.

Good weather + quality of life+ no income taxes = a robust real estate market.

Add in years of low interest rates, easy credit, and lots of money sloshing into the system and you get inflated values.

Yes, real estate is rising just about everywhere, but something different is happening here.

So, what do I mean?

Ok, a few random thoughts based on “getting around” talking to real estate people, reading articles etc.

  • Big finance is all in on South Florida. West Palm Beach is reeling in the firms, Goldman Sachs etc. So is Boca. And Palm Beach Gardens. Wall Street, anxious to have a post -Covid hedge against being locked down in NYC, sees our area with all its wealth and proximity to Palm Beach as a very attractive option compared to NY, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • West Palm Beach, under the able leadership of Mayor Keith James, is having a “moment.” I’ve always felt West Palm had potential beyond the ups and downs of Clematis Street or the various iterations of Rosemary Square or whatever it’s called this week. For a while, I thought the condos were going to crowd out the ability to land businesses, but there seems to be room left over for economic development and job creation. No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal is singing the praises of West Palm, noting that it has been “discovered” by many Palm Beach types who once never thought of crossing the bridge to own real estate or open businesses.
    One of the more exciting developments is the vision taking shape at Palm Beach Atlantic University. I had an opportunity to look at a scale model of the campus vision in the beautiful board room of the university. The plans include a major investment in health care on campus, a lifelong learning residential component and a center that will train future leaders while celebrating free enterprise. If it comes to fruition, it will be a big leap for downtown West Palm Beach.
  • The University of Florida is also flexing its muscles in Palm Beach County with plans to partner with some of the life science institutes that have sprouted here. I’m a little wary of how this encroachment affects FAU, but the UF brand and political muscle can’t help but make a difference in our region.
  • Speaking of FAU, I’ve had recent meetings with board members, President Kelly and professors. FAU’s ambitions are impressive. The best is yet to come at FAU. Keep a close eye on their medical school–what they are building there is beyond exciting it’s potentially transformational.
  • Lynn University (Disclosure: I serve on the board of Trustees) also has a grand vision that I am immensely proud of. Covid was a wild ride for educational institutions, and I’m endlessly impressed by the team at Lynn which consistently pivots to ride the waves of change. That’s good news for Boca and the surrounding area because Lynn radiates a whole lot of positives for our community.
  • We are also seeing health care take a major leap. The Baptist network—which runs Bethesda and Boca Community—has taken medicine to a new level. I also remain a strong booster of Delray Medical (Disclosure: I spent seven years on the board) and its sister hospitals owned by Tenet.

Health care has become a major economic driver and is essential in a world impacted by pandemic (s). In order for an area to maintain and grow its value, a good health care system is not an option, it’s table stakes.

  • There’s a lot of money moving into Boca/Delray. Take a drive through Lake Ida or Tropic Isle or La Hacienda (off of North Federal) and you almost can’t believe your eyes. So, here’s what’s happening—no judgment just observation. Older homes are being purchased for big money only to be leveled and replaced by even more expensive homes. In many cases, the new residents are replacing people who have lived here for decades and have decided to cash out and either move out of the area and or downsize. The new residents may only live here a few months a year. They are here to have fun at the beach and on Atlantic Avenue. They may never get involved in the community and they may never vote here. They are here for the amenities (again no judgment, we plan to do this in Maine in years to come so I get it.) Regardless, this changes the flavor of neighborhoods and the community. If I were still a policymaker, I would be keeping a close eye on this dynamic.
  • The wealthy and seasonal demographic moving to our community is also impacting schools. Enrollment in Delray Beach public schools is plummeting. This is a sea change from an earlier era when the School District had to add portables to keep up.
  • All these dynamics puts the squeeze on middle class families and those striving to get to the middle class. I often wonder where people who serve as essential workers will live. It is a huge challenge to create attainable housing when land and construction costs are soaring. Usually, the best way to lower costs is to add supply to meet demand. But long and uncertain entitlement processes and an aversion to density makes it hard to add supply—especially in areas near employment centers. Regardless, it will take a huge effort to provide the housing we need to accommodate those currently frozen out of the market. It isn’t fair to put it all on the development community who simply can’t make the numbers work without significant help from government.

Every study I’ve read lately is calling on government to step up with financing tools to bridge the gap but that will require political will, a willingness to take some risks to ensure housing opportunities and some policy innovation that frankly, to date. we haven’t had.

There’s more but that’s enough to chew on for now.

It will take a village to re-imagine our future. It’s coming whether we prepare for it or not, but it will be better if we prep.

Let’s just say that Florida seems to be the new “golden state”—as the bloom fades on “California Dreaming” “Here comes the Sun(shine)” state.

 

 

 

President’s Day Special: Time With Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest  is a History Channel special about George Washington

I absolutely adore Doris Kearns Goodwin.

And who better to talk about on President’s Day than one of our nation’s foremost presidential historians?

My admiration for Doris Kearns Goodwin goes way back, I love her books, enjoy her TV appearances and anxiously await her next work—which now includes film making (Check out “Washington” on The History Channel).

So when she came to FAU, we gobbled up tickets, got lucky and ended up in the front row in what was a sold out house. At age 77, after a Pulitzer Prize, Carnegie Medal and several best-selling books, Doris Kearns Goodwin is a rock star. That alone ought to make you optimistic about America.

Ms. Goodwin was in Boca to talk about her new book “Leadership in Turbulent Times.”
While the book is not about our current turbulent time, the great thing about history is that if we care to look, the past holds lessons for our present and our future.

“Leadership in Turbulent Times” is about Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson—presidents who Goodwin calls her “guys.”

When writing about her subjects, Goodwin “lives” with them so to speak; reading their letters, speeches and diaries and any relevant document that has to do with their lives and times. It does make one wonder how future historians will navigate our digital times. Goodwin muses that perhaps they will comb through emails (if they are kept) and tweets. It is an interesting question.

Regardless, in writing about FDR, TR, LBJ and Lincoln we as Americans can learn what it takes to be an effective leader. Not a perfect leader or a mistake free leader—they simply don’t exist, but a leader who makes an impact.

What makes Goodwin’s writing and speaking so interesting is she shares the “warts” (as she calls them) that all leaders have.

Lincoln lost several elections. He was almost comfortable with failure, but never gave up on winning.

FDR dealt with a Great Depression, a World War and a debilitating bout with polio. He built his upper body strength by crawling around for hours on the floor dragging his body.

LBJ’s legacy includes Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights and voting rights but also Vietnam. He told great tales, had boundless energy, won countless political fights but was broken by Vietnam, which inflicted untold damage on countless people.

Yes, all great leaders have warts. But they also have strengths that enable them to handle difficult times and leave a mark on the world.

Goodwin outlines six traits of great leaders. It’s a great list and very important to review as we vote in a few weeks for national and local candidates.

Here they are:

Empathy-–a feel for other people and an ability to identify with other points of view. Empathy is an essential trait of any successful leader and any successful human being, she added.

Resilience—an ability to learn and persevere when difficulties arise. In public life, in any leadership role, you are bound to get hit with a hay maker punch or two (maybe even more) but great leaders get up, dust themselves off and find a way forward. They are resilient and they get better as a result.

Communication—a leader’s ability to communicate can make all the difference. Leaders frame issues, raise important questions and are able to articulate controversial positions and why they must make some difficult decisions to benefit the greater good.

Openness to growth—an ability to evolve as you learn and as you gain experience. If you already think you know it all or are the smartest guy or gal in the room, you are off track. And you will fail as a leader. Leadership is a growth experience, but only if you are open to learning.

Impulse control- Sometimes knowing what not to say is as important as what a leader does say. Strong leaders know when to bite their tongue—and are better for it.

Relaxation—Our most iconic presidents knew that getting away from The White House could help them become better leaders. We need to balance our lives and find time to renew.

Pretty solid advice.

To these amazing traits,  I would add integrity, which is the basis for all leadership. Vision doesn’t hurt either.

What to watch for?
Narcissism, egomania, bullying, meanness and a need to win every argument. Leaders need to be able to let go—you win some, you lose some that’s the nature of life.

We can do worse than listen to our historians when we choose our present day leaders; that goes for the White House to City Hall.

I’ll stick with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wisdom any day.

 

In Praise of the Research Park

I’m a big fan of the Research Park at FAU and its CEO Andrew Duffell.

The park has become a major economic engine for Palm Beach County and beyond serving as warm and inviting place for talented entrepreneurs and researchers to build and scale their companies.

That’s important, because “economic gardening”–growing your own so to speak is smart policy.

As far as I’m concerned, Northern Virginia can have Amazon and its H2 Headquarters (and that’s where it’s going folks), I’d rather save incentive money and grow our own company’s right here at home. The Research Park is a good example of how that can work.

The Park’s impact has been profound– if somewhat unsung– in a region where it is hard to gain appreciation.

The 2017 numbers—which never tell the whole story—are nonetheless impressive. Consider:

  1. $387 million of investment capital raised
  2. $535.65 million in economic impact
  3. $67 million in annual payroll
  4. 3,088 total jobs sustained, that’s direct and indirect employment with another 250 jobs plus planned.
  5. 33 companies housed.
  6. 16 new patents in 2017.

On October 3, the FAU Research Park will host its annual awards banquet at The Addison in Boca.

It’s the fourth annual awards ceremony and it’s really a terrific idea to celebrate the success of the park and shine a spotlight on some of the standout players making it happen.

This is the power of having a university and a research park in our community. And the best is yet to come because I believe in the leadership of the park and their track record of results.

“The recipients of this year’s Research Park at FAU awards are all hugely impactful to the mission of the Research Park – to foster R&D at FAU and foster economic development in our region,” said Mr. Duffell, president and chief executive officer of the Research Park at FAU. “We are grateful to each for their unique contributions and hope that they inspire our stakeholders.”

The Research Park awards recognize distinguished contributions to the Research Park’s mission to create and sustain the ideal environment for innovation and invention, maximizing the academic and entrepreneurial talent and regional resources in South Florida to accelerate economic development and prosperity.

The award recipients for 2018 are:

Distinguished Researcher: Gregg Fields, Ph.D. is a professor, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Fields applies chemistry in novel ways to answer important biological questions, many of which assist in the diagnosis and treatment of major diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis and cancer. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a renowned researcher who holds six U.S. patents and has one application being reviewed. The technology developed by Fields has resulted in three commercial products, currently sold by five different companies. He has authored or coauthored more than 260 scientific publications and has presented more than 190 invited lectures.

 

Distinguished Entrepreneur: Daniel Cane is the chief executive officer and co-founder of South Florida-based Modernizing Medicine, Inc., a healthcare IT company that is revolutionizing the way in which healthcare information is created, consumed and utilized to increase practice efficiency and improve patient outcomes. Joining the Research Park in 2012, Modernizing Medicine has grown to more than 650 employees and has raised more than $332 million in total investment. In 2016, the South Florida Business Journal named Cane as a “South Florida Ultimate CEO.” In 2015, he was named “EY Entrepreneur of the Year®.” Cane earned the Excalibur Award for Palm Beach Small Business Leader of the Year for 2013. Additionally, he also was named “Palm Beach County Ultimate CEO” by the South Florida Business Journal and “CEO of the Year” by CEO World. Recently, he and his wife, Debra, donated $1 million to FAU’s A.D. Henderson University School for STEM education initiatives.

Mr. Cane is a local product hailing from Lake Worth. What makes Dan extra special is that despite the rigors of running a hyper growth company, he has taken the time to be visible and accessible to local entrepreneurs and organizations. It makes a difference, because Mr. Cane serves as an inspiration and a role model for those aspiring to make a dent in business.

 

Distinguished Leader: Steven L. Abrams has been a member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners since 2009, winning re-election twice. Abrams has a lengthy record of public service. He is the former mayor of Boca Raton, elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2003 without opposition. In the 2005 election for mayor, Abrams received the most votes in city history and was later named mayor emeritus when he stepped down in 2008 due to term limits. Abrams’ work in regional transportation has been instrumental in the success of the Research Park at FAU’s access to Tri-Rail and the new I-95 interchange at Spanish River Boulevard, making the Research Park at FAU the only research park to have a direct on-ramp to an interstate.

Mayor Steven has been a terrific friend over the years and has served with distinction wherever he has landed. Many years ago, we went after Scripps together leading our cities joint efforts to bring the institute to Boca. While we fell one vote short, Steven showed his mettle and his commitment to economic development. He’s a very worthy recipient.

 

Distinguished Organization: Small Business Development Center at FAU delivered substantial consulting and training services in 2016 that resulted in a significant return on investment, including delivering more than 13,000 hours of consulting to 1,360 entrepreneurs at no cost. The SBDC’s services resulted in the creation and retention of almost 6,000 jobs in our region, and generated almost $700 million in sales. The SBDC’s role in Florida’s economic development by assisting entrepreneurs in every stage of the business life cycle is invaluable and an important complement to the greater FAU community.

To purchase tickets to attend the event visit www.research-park.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s To The Healers

There are more than 650,000 social workers in America.

Last week, I saw 110 honored during a special induction ceremony at FAU’s Sandler College of Social Work.

It was the spirit boost I needed, because these young people are truly amazing yet seldom celebrated.

How I wish that would change.

Because now—more than maybe ever—we need to celebrate, recognize, respect, honor, cherish and support people who decide to devote their lives to healing our fractured society.

I went to the ceremony as a guest of keynote speaker Suzanne Spencer whose journey is inspiring to me and many others who have been fortunate enough to see her work in our community.

I got to know Suzanne through her work as the former executive director of the Delray Beach Drug Task Force, a critically important group that gathers a wide cross section of the community to discuss the scourge of substance use disorder in our city.

I went to several meetings and saw the sharing of information and resources among providers, counselors, insurers, prosecutors, law enforcement, health care and others who are on the front lines in the battle to save lives in our community. It was great to see people communicating and working together…I’ve been a fan of Suzanne’s ever since.

So when she invited me to see her speak to people graduating with a Master’s in Social Work, I was all in. Suzanne delivered—as I knew she would.

But while I expected and enjoyed her great speech, I was especially struck by the pictures of the graduates flashed across screens with their career intentions below their smiling faces.

They were going to devote their lives to child welfare, abuse, adoption, addiction, victim’s rights, mental health, education—social work. Is there anything more valuable than the healing of society?

And I found myself growing emotional as I saw their faces and listened to the speakers who are really the best that our society has to offer.

They care. They love. They are passionate, committed and dedicated to working with those who need help, nurturing and healing.

The specter of Parkland hung heavy in the room. It’s fresh. It’s local.

We live in a violent and volatile society, But while that level of mental illness is at the top end of what can and does go wrong all too often these days, it’s also the day to day issues that calls for an army of healers.

And I thought, who tends to the families of the two young Delray Beach men who were killed in separate scooter and dirt bike accidents in the past two weeks? Who is there to help the children left alone after a murder suicide recently in our community?
The tragedies—some publicized, many hidden—are an everyday occurrence in every community in America.

And it’s not just tragedies, accidents, violence, crime, abuse, addiction etc., that afflicts us—it’s how we relate to each other as people. The vitriol on social media, cable TV, in Congress, across borders, religions, political persuasions and on and on that erodes our social fabric and compels us to wonder where the healers are.

And I thought, here they are.

Here are the people who will make a difference in our world. They won’t get rich doing so, at least in the conventional sense, but they will surely enrich our world.

As Dr. Michelle Hawkins, Vice Provost of FAU reminded the MSW graduates: we have to teach the world to be kinder. We don’t have to be mean spirited, we can be kind-spirited.

Amen.

 

It Don’t Come Easy

I spoke to an urban planning class at FAU last night.
Adjunct Professor Glenn Gromann invited me and I enjoy speaking to students so I said yes. (And it doesn’t hurt when the adjunct professor makes your book required reading…wink, I will work for book sales).
It’s not the first time I’ve had the privilege of speaking to college students. Usually I tell the story of modern Delray Beach taking them through the decisions, policies and leadership choices that brought Delray out of the dumps. We cover the ups and downs, the mistakes and triumphs and the rationales behind decisions that to some may seem counter-intuitive.

I don’t have any formal training in urban planning–but I do have real world experience. I am so interested in the subject that I have read everything I could get my hands on and listened to smart planners, architects, urbanists and good developers at every opportunity. I even created a few–by reaching out, by attending seminars, joining the Urban Land Institute, visiting Seaside, joining the Congress for New Urbanism and studying placemakers like Jane Jacobs and Delray’s own part-time resident Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces.

I also understand the politics that go into moving an agenda forward–because change and new urbanism isn’t always embraced. Today, I find myself in the strange position of having to defend policies that clearly worked–that created vibrancy, value, quality of life, jobs, opportunities and future potential if we would just open our eyes to the possibilities. Often, I’m debating new residents who moved here attracted by what they saw (I suppose) but vehemently against everything else and resentful of those who played a role in building our town. It reminds me of the phrase: “I’m in the boat, pull up the ladder.” My main point to them: we aren’t done and we have a responsibility to the future to manage change and do it intelligently.
There are many planning and leadership principles to convey to tomorrow’s planners, developers, department heads and architects: the merits of new urbanism, the importance of visioning, the need to engage the community and the value of making investments. Every city needs to be able to provide running water and trash pickup but the cities that make a ruckus are those that do more: art, culture, dynamic downtowns, sports, festivals, food scenes etc.
We did that.
It took 20 years of hard work by a multitude of people. But it happened.
So I shared that journey. And as many times as I share the story, it never fails to move me. Because I know what it took and I have deep respect and admiration for the people who made it happen and I’m privileged and proud to tell their story and I suppose defend their efforts. Some previously important people (PIPS) go away, I’ve decided not too. It’s my town and I love it.
But I’ve started to add to the narrative. I’ve started to talk about what can go wrong. How cities can give back gains and how as aspiring planners or public administrators having great ideas, state of the art policies and stellar execution won’t be enough to make a lasting and permanent  difference.
In fact, you won’t be able to get to the policy part if you don’t understand politics. I shared how good ideas get squashed and how even sound policies suffocate if the wrong elected officials show up to stifle and or choke the life out of progress.
Students need to understand this. As citizens they need to know this and get involved. They need to vote. They need to run. They need to insist that elected officials serve them, not the other way around.

As prospective planners they need to know how corrosive “leadership” can impact their careers and if they go the private sector route they need to know how this can cost them. How it can break their spirits and their bank accounts.
As a result, they need to know that progress can be ephemeral and they need to be able to articulate to citizens why the planning principles they learn are good ways to build communities and manage growth.
But sadly, good planning principles often don’t cut it on their own.  You need to market those policies, constantly sell their rationales and educate voters as to why your plans and visions make sense.
Take for example, new urbanism or the newer “strong towns” movement. Both philosophies have sound thinking behind them and eloquent manifestos.
But…
It don’t come easy, as Ringo once  sang.
Students need to know that and prepare to engage the future communities they will serve.
Because you can guarantee that regardless of how much success you enjoy or how far you’ve come there will always be forces lining up to stop you and in some cases roll it all back.

We used to call it municipal math…30 years to build, two years to screw it all up, no guarantee you can get it back.
That’s the hardest lesson of all to learn and the most important.

This Week’s Goodshop: Unicorn Children’s Foundation

Shopfunding for Delray/Boca — This week’s cause:  Unicorn Children’s Foundation

 

In 1994, Mark Rosenbloom M.D. was told over and over again by fellow doctors that his three-year-old son’s lack of talking was something he would just “grow out of.” But, he didn’t. After a series of one misdiagnosis after another, Mark was so passionate he founded the Unicorn Children’s Foundation.

Focused on children with developmental and communication disorders like ADHD, autism, bipolar, dyslexia and other learning disorders, UCF develops groundbreaking therapies and treatments to help diagnose and assess these issues better. FAU and Nova Southeastern Universities are also involved.

And as a non-profit, every penny counts. That’s why they love Goodshop so much. Through online coupons, supporters of the Unicorn Children’s Foundation have raised hundreds of free dollars, just by shopping online.

Want to help out? To raise free funds for UCF while saving at thousands of online stores, join our shopfunding campaign, where a portion of every purchase will go back to the foundation. Here are some of the deals you can find:

24 Hour Fitness discounts: Free gym pass at any location, and 7.5% will go back to help kids in need.

Best Buy: Up to 35% off tvs, and 0.5% will go back to UCF.

Box Lunch coupon codes: 40% off select tees, and 1.75% will go back to research developmental disorders.

My M&M’s: 20% off and 5% will be donated back to support Mark’s cause.

 

We Can Do Better

My goodness, politics is depressing.

We’re a hyperlocal blog, so we won’t weigh in one the presidential race.

But we will opine on the local stuff which sometimes includes state politics.

I was recently engrossed in a particularly interesting issue of Florida Trend magazine which detailed the amazing scientific breakthroughs and research being done throughout the Sunshine State.

Story after story of remarkable advances in cancer research, biochemistry, cyber security, energy–you name it.

FAU was front and center with great pieces on the new director of The Brain Institute and stories about great work being done in areas ranging from oceanography to aging. (Just in time for us my friends).

And then we hit the politics section of the magazine. Ugh.

A piece about Florida’s ridiculous primary rules (I read it twice and can’t quite grasp it, but understand it’s ripe for manipulation and therefore is being manipulated surprise, surprise). And a piece about some imbecile state legislator seeking to circumvent term limit rules and extend his time in office another 8 years. Double ugh.

I’m not one of those anti-government people and not someone who thinks politics is always distasteful.

I believe in public service and I think politics can be a noble calling.

I also believe in good government and I have seen it in action.

Delray Beach had it for a long while and made progress as a result. I’ve always admired Boca’s efficiency and how their local government has been able to keep a big and growing city clean and beautiful.

I’ve also admired a great many local elected officials over the years (And have thought more than a few were real, serious and almost mind blowing clunkers).

Good government delivers needed or desired services effectively and efficiently. It’s ethical, transparent, accessible, customer focused, innovative and humane. If it’s clicking and working well, it can set a community apart.  But if it’s broken, it can screw it up horribly.

I believe good government facilitates and is aspirational. It should help where needed and get out of the way when that’s needed. But it’s clear that across America, something is wrong with our politics and you can’t have good government if your politics are dysfunctional, mean, visionless, disparaging and petty.

We can do better. We have to do better.

All across America that is our challenge. And like every other great challenge, the answer can always be found with people. We need to attract our best and brightest to politics–I think it’s clear we are not. At least not in the numbers necessary to solve our greatest challenges or even recognize our greatest opportunities.

We need more engagement. More leadership training. More civics and more knowledgeable citizens. If we fail–we’re toast.

Random Thoughts…

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in 'paying it forward'

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in ‘paying it forward’

This is the time of year that the Dare 2 Be Great board pours over applications for scholarships.
It’s a humbling experience to read through the resumes and essays of these incredible young men and women.
Many of the essays are inspirational and more than a few are heartbreaking.
The common thread seems to be resilience. It just seems that some people are built by adversity. They succeed regardless of life’s circumstances and overcome hurdles. It’s almost as if they succeed because they are determined to live better lives.
These kids inspire me. I wish we could help them all. It breaks my heart that we can’t. We’ll keep you posted on the Class of ’16.

It’s a Miracle
Congratulations to the Miracle League of Palm Beach County which pulled off its first successful dinner on the diamond last week.
Julia and Jeff Kadel and their team of volunteers have done a remarkable job bringing the great game of baseball to kids who might not otherwise have an ability to play.
So good to see this wonderful non-profit grow and thrive. And I’m pleased to see Celsius, a company I’m involved with, step up and sponsor.

An Affair to Remember

We hope you’ll visit the Delray Affair this weekend.
The 54th annual event is a great chance to see friends and to adopt a rescue pet.
That’s right.
We’ve adopted two pets at the Affair over the years: Randy and Sophie.
Both little dogs enriched our families beyond words. We also hope the city doesn’t “fee” this event to death.

It’s Delray’s signature event, a tradition and helps our Chamber of Commerce stay healthy and more than ever this city needs a healthy chamber.

Hello Rhys, Goodbye Kim
We wish Tech Runway’s founding director Kim Gramm well on her new job in Texas.
Kim did a lot to put FAU’s ambitious project on the map.
She will be missed.

We are excited to see our Leadership Florida friend Rhys Williams step into the role of leading Tech Runway.

Thanks, Alyona

We’ll also miss Alyona Ushe well as she departs Delray’s innovative Arts Garage.
Alyona won’t be far away as she will continue to work her magic in Pompano Beach.
It’s not easy to start something and make it relevant. Alyona put the Arts Garage on the cultural map in South Florida creating buzz and staging lots of memorable shows and performances.
She made an impact.

On Teaching, Walkability & The Future

 

Streets like this one in Denver, just feel good.

Streets like this one in Denver, just feel good.

I’ve always had a desire to teach.

I think it correlates with a strong yearning to learn.

My early career was in the newspaper field, where your job boils down to learning about subjects and then sharing (reporting) what you’ve learned with your readers.

Working at a community newspaper is a dream job—if you discount the long hours, low wages and dim prospects for the future. As a young man I did—because the job itself is fascinating.

You get to write. You get to satisfy your curiosity by researching things you’re interested in. You to get meet interesting people and cover fascinating subjects; no two days are the same.

I’ve always liked the excitement of deadlines, it focuses you and you have to produce, which is a cool way to work. When everybody around you is on a similar deadline, there’s an energy in the room that is hard to describe.

I would imagine that teaching has a similar adrenaline rush. If you’re in the flow and connecting with your audience there’s just nothing like it. My daughter is a brand new teacher in Tampa—I plan to talk to her about what she feels when she’s working with students.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that when a friend called and asked if I would speak to his urban planning class at FAU—I jumped at the chance.

Still, it’s nerve wracking to walk into a room full of strangers; most especially young people who are beginning to look even younger to me with every passing year.

Can you connect? Can you relate? Do I have anything to teach them? And what can I learn from all these young minds?

We talked about how cities evolve and transform– one of my favorite subjects.

I love to tell the Delray story, because I think we are a good case study and that past leaders and city staff used sound strategies for over 20 years to achieve success. Success, not perfection.

For example, we went from 35 percent vacancy and little going on downtown in the 80s to a glowing feature story in the Wall Street Journal last week.

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/a-sunny-escape-3-perfect-days-in-delray-beach-florida-1452796534-lMyQjAxMTE2NzExNjIxMzY0Wj

We talked a lot about Boca too.

But the best part is to hear from future planners, urban designers, developers and architects.

What do they see? What do they expect and want from cities? Here’s a few takeaways from an admittedly small sample, but the sentiments seem to match surveys I’ve seen.

Affordability—not just in housing but also reasonable costs for food and entertainment.

Mobility—The young aren’t car centric. Study after study show that millennials are delaying getting driver’s licenses, don’t feel a strong desire to own a car and appreciate and seek out walkable environments. They also believe in services such as Uber and Lyft and understand that driverless cars will change our urban environments.

Environmentally Sensitive and Realistic—They know that Florida is a popular place and that even if  “they want their own slice of heaven” i.e. a suburban home on ½ acre they know sprawl is bad for the environment and that we may need to grow vertically rather than sprawl to accommodate a growing populace.

Design Savvy—My small sample of future urban professionals were keen on good architecture and design. They appreciate art and culture, good looking buildings and a mix of uses.

They also talked about wanting their cities to be safe, diverse and chock full of amenities.

A few of the students have been interning in Delray. I hope that many end up staying here after they graduate FAU.

As for me, I kind of wish I was 20-something again, so I can experience it all again. The future is exciting indeed.

 

Building the Ecosystem: Addressing the Gaps

techrunway

All across America, communities are celebrating entrepreneurship.

As well they should be, because America was built by entrepreneurs and its future depends on their success.

Americans are an innovative people, freedom loving, creative problem-solvers who aren’t afraid of risks or dreaming big. No act of terror can shake those values, it’s in our DNA.

That ethos has made us an exceptional nation—and the pacesetters for the world. But here at YourDelrayBoca.com, we think local.

Luckily, there’s a nascent effort under way at FAU to foster the next generation of great entrepreneurs.

Tech Runway as it’s called sits in a barren part of the campus in an airplane hangar not far from Boca Airport.

It’s a cool building—you really ought to stop by and visit– and it’s buzzing with possibilities and excitement.

In the interests of full disclosure, I sit on the Tech Runway Advisory Board because the concept taps into the three ideas/values that drive me: leadership (Tech Runway seeks to be a leading voice in the emerging South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem), entrepreneurship (the runway is a launching pad for new companies) and community (Tech Runway seeks to be a gathering place for those who want to see an entrepreneurial ecosystem take shape).

Last week, thanks to Connor Lynch, Stacey Hallberg and Northern Trust, we hosted 60 plus business, civic and entrepreneurial leaders at the bank in downtown Delray to discuss Tech Runway’s vision and to elicit buy-in and support from local movers and shakers.

Our new board chair David Roth—an accomplished entrepreneur behind the brands Wakaya Perfection and Fiji Water—keynoted the event along with FAU President Dr. John Kelly.

I had the honor of speaking at the event and outlined Delray’s long time vision to be a hub for creative professionals offering jobs and opportunities for young people. But it was President Kelly who ignited the crowd with his aspirations for the university.

Dr. Kelly summed up the mission of Tech Runway perfectly: “we’ll be educating future scientists, propelling undergraduate research and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs to take their ideas from concept to commercialization. This infusion of intellectual capital will create a powerful new economic engine for South Florida.”

Kelly’s goal is to turn FAU into one of the top public universities in America and he has assembled a stellar team to lead the way. The Runway is an important component in the big picture.

Delray and Boca—as the cities closest to FAU—have a unique opportunity to benefit from the investment and the talent that is being attracted to the university and to projects like the Research Park and Tech Runway. As mentioned in other columns, Lynn University is emerging as a player as well.

So what’s missing? Quite a bit, but creative office space in urban environments and investment capital are two glaring gaps that need to be filled if we are to fulfill our potential and realize the vision.

Young entrepreneurs are seeking urban, walkable and vibrant environments—much like what Delray and Boca Raton has to offer. They are also seeking a community of like-minded people who they can partner with. These “collisions” are harder to arrange in traditional suburban style office parks.

Building “creative” space, co-working facilities and the like in a high cost environment is not easy, but we must find a way or we risk losing our best and brightest to other cities and regions.

In Boca, Dr. Kelly thinks the 20th Street corridor and its warehouses represent an opportunity. Durham, North Carolina converted similar space to entrepreneurial uses to great success.

In Delray, we have opportunities on Congress Avenue, but also downtown if we can find a way to talk intelligently about growth and sustainability. Like I’ve said, the downtown is not done. We are missing the work and learn part of live, work, learn and play. We can’t lose our will now.

Boca too has an enormous opportunity and many units are being planned for downtown Boca. Hopefully, the city is also leaving space for creative style offices, not Class A, but space that entrepreneurs would seek out and enjoy.

The other missing ingredient is angel, seed and venture capital.

We have plenty of wealth in these parts, but we need more local investing and we need to attract some accomplished VCs too. VC’s and angels look for deal flow, the more the better.

Historically, we haven’t had much, but that’s changing in South Florida, thanks to efforts such as Tech Runway.

If we can support, nurture and invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs we will do a lot to diversify and improve our local economy.

There have been efforts in the past. But this effort looks and feels different. I think this one is going to work.